Greetings to all you Gnusies, Gnubies, occasional drop-ins, silent regulars, and first-timers! Come sit with us to find and share messages of hope and to celebrate all the ways good people are solving problems and triumphing over evil-doers. The task we have set ourselves here in Gnuville is to search out hope no matter how difficult the situation might be. We learned during TFG’s four years of error and terror that hope can be found even in the darkest times. And now, with death and destruction overrunning Haiti and Afghanistan, these past few days have been dark indeed. Which means that our mission of bringing hope to our readers is now more important than ever.
Don’t forget that the Good News Roundup is a collaborative effort. We warmly encourage you to add your own good news finds in our comment section, The Best Comment Section on the Internet™, where sanity reigns, Gloomy Guses and Debbie Downers are encouraged to see the light, and pie fights are forbidden.
I know I have a reputation for long GNRs, and this one is probably the longest ever. So I recommend you take it in small bites, unless you have a totally free morning ahead of you.
I chose that cartoon when the worst thing that was happening was GQP idiocy over masks and vaccines, but in light of the news of the past few days it seems even more apt.
I think a lot of us are feeling like screaming or sobbing into our pillows. Gnusies are an empathetic bunch, and our hearts hurt right now. So what can we do?
One thing all of the diverse crew of GNR writers agree on is that the cure for feeling hopeless or helpless is to do something, no matter how small our individual gestures might seem. As a favorite meme of mine puts it:
So I recommend following niftywriter’s weekly advice to “Put our beautiful bleeding liberal hearts into it!!”
One way to do that is to search out organizations that are offering assistance on the ground to the people of Haiti and Afghanistan. I’ve managed to gather a few:
Humanitarian efforts in Haiti have had several days to ramp up, and some of the NGOs have long-established presences there.
- Partners in Health has been bringing top-quality medical care to Haiti for decades. The link will take you to their home page which has a donation link to provide medical assistance for earthquake victims.
- Mercy Corps also has had a continuing presence in Haiti and is accepting donations to help provide desperately needed emergency food, clean water and shelter materials.
- Haiti Communitere (which accepts donations through a platform called Omprakash) is a Port-au-Prince-based organization which offers support to local community-based organizations, all of which will be working to address the needs of earthquake survivors.
IMPORTANT NOTE: DO NOT DONATE TO HAITI RELIEF THROUGH THE RED CROSS! They raised over $500,000 for Haiti after the 2010 earthquake but now can’t account for what happened to most of those funds. For details, see this NPR story.
The chaotic current situation has made it difficult to determine which aid organizations are active in Afghanistan at the moment. However, the following organizations have prior experience there and are poised to offer assistance to Afghani refugees:
- The International Rescue Committee has worked in Afghanistan since 1988 and is highly effective in providing aid to refugees. They also recommend that you share the FB post below on your social networks:
- Helping Hand for Relief and Development. I hadn’t heard of this organization, but I was reassured by the fact that Charity Navigator gives them a score of 98.3 out of 100. They are currently providing “cooked meals, clean drinking water, shelter provisions, medical assistance, and sanitation” in Kabul.
- Islamic Relief USA. This is another organization I didn’t know about that Charity Navigator rates highly (85.5 out of 100). They’ve worked in Afghanistan for 20 years, with a focus on famine relief, though they also provide refugees with shelter, water, and hygiene supplies.
What else can you do?
- Be choosy about what news you consume. While it’s important to stay informed during this tumultuous time, don’t succumb to doomscrolling and clickbait. If you find that your news diet is making you sick, stop gorging.
- Take care of yourself emotionally and physically. Try to get out into the fresh air every day for at least an hour. Early morning always feels to me like the most healing time to do this, especially in hot weather. Eat healthy meals and go easy on booze, which tends to follow its initial energetic high with a let-down into depression.
- Try to spread as much kindness and cheer as you can. Nothing makes us feel better than making someone else happy.
I’m sure you all can offer some other suggestions, so please do so in the comments!
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Good news in politics: Biden is doing the right thing in Afghanistan
I’ll start with some quotes from an excellent DKos diary by xaxnar:
Thank you, President Biden
Thank you for the courage to pull our troops out of Afghanistan. Thank you for putting an end to 20 years of wishful thinking, lies, corruption, billions of dollars wasted, and blood and sacrifice that ultimately served no purpose of ours.
The American people had grown so numb to America’s longest war, we could have kept doing the same things over and over for another 20 years to no better result. Once more we’ve found we can’t bomb democracy into a country. We can’t shoot our way into building up a nation. We can’t install a working government with drone strikes or by pouring money down a rathole. ✂️
Give Biden credit for the will to make the tough decision and accept the consequences. It’s what adults do. That the man can still remain optimistic after suffering terrible tragedies in his personal life is a miracle. That he is being forced to preside over one more tragedy on this scale is beyond irony. As he has found the strength to go on in the past, let us pray he can lead us through this darkness as well.
xaxnar also recommends an article I was already planning to quote from today:
After Sunday It’s Even More Clear Biden Was Right
By Josh Marshall in Talking Points Memo:
It is crystal clear that the Afghan national army and really the Afghan state was an illusion. It could not survive first contact with a post-US military reality. As is so often the case in life – with bad investments, bad relationships – what we were doing there was staying to delay our reckoning with the consequences of the reality of the situation. ✂️
We have been in a perpetual occupation in pursuit of no clear national security interest of the United States. At a certain point you have to realize that and act accordingly. I find convincing this suggestion that Biden refused a more phased or circumstances-based withdrawal precisely because he had seen up close how Barack Obama had been rolled by the Pentagon a decade ago. ✂️
The intensity of the current handwringing over the fall of Kabul is an almost perfect measure of the denial about the failure of the current mission. Indeed, they are two sides of the same coin. What was keeping us there this long? THIS! Look at it around you today. The collective unwillingness to endure this reality is what has kept the US in the country for at least a decade. Processing ten years of denial in ten hours is rough.
We’ve been in Afghanistan for either ten or twenty years because no one in authority was ready to endure this moment and not look back. I don’t know if Biden will pay a domestic political price for this denouement. But watching it all unfold I’m even more certain he made the right decision than I was a day ago. Does anyone think we’ll look back a year from now and think, wow, I wish we were still garrisoning Afghanistan? I doubt it.
Someone had to make the decision that Bush, Obama and Trump did not and apparently could not. Biden did.
Biden’s address on Afghanistan
Despite his smoothing over some of the shameful history, I think this was exactly the statement he needed to make. Click the link to read it in full. I’ve chosen to quote what I felt were the key points.
From the NY Times:
We went to Afghanistan almost 20 years ago with clear goals: get those who attacked us on Sept. 11, 2001, and make sure Al Qaeda could not use Afghanistan as a base from which to attack us again. We did that. We severely degraded Al Qaeda and Afghanistan. We never gave up the hunt for Osama bin Laden and we got him.
...Our only vital national interest in Afghanistan remains today what it has always been: preventing a terrorist attack on American homeland.
I’ve argued for many years that our mission should be narrowly focused on counterterrorism, not counterinsurgency or nation-building. That’s why I opposed the surge when it was proposed in 2009 when I was vice president. And that’s why as president I’m adamant we focus on the threats we face today, in 2021, not yesterday’s threats.
...We conduct effective counterterrorism missions against terrorist groups in multiple countries where we don’t have permanent military presence. If necessary, we’ll do the same in Afghanistan. ...
When I came into office, I inherited a deal that President Trump negotiated with the Taliban. Under his agreement, U.S. forces would be out of Afghanistan by May 1, 2021, just a little over three months after I took office. U.S. forces had already drawn down during the Trump administration from roughly 15,500 American forces to 2,500 troops in country. And the Taliban was at its strongest militarily since 2001.
The choice I had to make as your president was either to follow through on that agreement or be prepared to go back to fighting the Taliban in the middle of the spring fighting season. There would have been no cease-fire after May 1. There was no agreement protecting our forces after May 1. There was no status quo of stability without American casualties after May 1. There was only the cold reality of either following through on the agreement to withdraw our forces or escalating the conflict and sending thousands more American troops back into combat in Afghanistan, and lurching into the third decade of conflict. ✂️
The truth is, this did unfold more quickly than we had anticipated. So what’s happened? Afghanistan political leaders gave up and fled the country. The Afghan military collapsed, sometimes without trying to fight. If anything, the developments of the past week reinforced that ending U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan now was the right decision.
American troops cannot and should not be fighting in a war and dying in a war that Afghan forces are not willing to fight for themselves. We spent over a trillion dollars. We trained and equipped an Afghan military force of some 300,000 strong. Incredibly well equipped. A force larger in size than the militaries of many of our NATO allies. We gave them every tool they could need. ...We gave them every chance to determine their own future. What we could not provide them was the will to fight for that future.
There are some very brave and capable Afghan special forces units and soldiers. But if Afghanistan is unable to mount any real resistance to the Taliban now, there is no chance that one year — one more year, five more years or 20 more years — that U.S. military boots on the ground would have made any difference.
Here’s what I believe to my core: It is wrong to order American troops to step up when Afghanistan’s own armed forces would not. ✂️
So I’m left again to ask of those who argue that we should stay: How many more generations of America’s daughters and sons would you have me send to fight Afghanistan’s civil war when Afghan troops will not? ...I’m clear on my answer: I will not repeat the mistakes we’ve made in the past. ✂️
I also want to acknowledge how painful this is to so many of us. The scenes that we’re seeing in Afghanistan, they’re gut-wrenching, particularly for our veterans, our diplomats, humanitarian workers — for anyone who has spent time on the ground working to support the Afghan people. For those who have lost loved ones in Afghanistan, and for Americans who have fought and served our country in Afghanistan, this is deeply, deeply personal. It is for me as well.✂️
We will continue to support the Afghan people. We will lead with our diplomacy, our international influence and our humanitarian aid. We’ll continue to push for regional diplomacy and engagement to prevent violence and instability. We’ll continue to speak out for the basic rights of the Afghan people, of women and girls, just as we speak out all over the world.
I’ve been clear, the human rights must be the center of our foreign policy, not the periphery. But the way to do it is not through endless military deployments. It’s with our diplomacy, our economic tools and rallying the world to join us. ✂️
I will not mislead the American people by claiming that just a little more time in Afghanistan will make all the difference. Nor will I shrink from my share of responsibility for where we are today and how we must move forward from here. I am president of the United States of America, and the buck stops with me. ✂️
I know my decision will be criticized. But I would rather take all that criticism than pass this decision on to another president of the United States, yet another one, a fifth one. Because it’s the right one, it’s the right decision for our people. The right one for our brave service members who risked their lives serving our nation. And it’s the right one for America.
Thank you. May God protect our troops, our diplomats and all brave Americans serving in harm’s way.
And I’ll close my news about Afghanistan with some typically thoughtful and well-informed comments by Beau of the Fifth Column:
Let’s talk about who’s to blame for all this...
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More good news in politics
Round one of child tax credit payments slashed hunger rates, U.S. data shows
Goodie mentioned this important story on Saturday, but since childhood hunger has been my over-riding issue for 40 years, I just have to bring it up again and add a few details. Be sure to note the final point that struggling families use government assistance for basics like food, not for frivolous purchases. Activists working on food equity issues have pointed that out for decades, while conservatives continue to replay the old “welfare queen” narrative. This is great ammunition for us to use to discredit that narrative once and for all.
The percentage of American families with kids who report not having enough to eat fell dramatically after the first child tax credit payments were distributed last month, according to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
The government’s finding shows that the monthly payments are having a major and immediate impact on millions of households, potentially bolstering President Joe Biden’s push to extend the tax credit past the end of this year, when it is set to expire. ✂️
The monthly payments of up to $300 for each kid under five and up to $250 for each kid under 18 are the result of one of the most sweeping provisions in the American Rescue Plan, though the policy did not garner much media attention at the time. The payments are set to continue each month through December.
Before the first tranche of tax credit payments hit bank accounts in mid-July, about 11 percent of households with children reported that they sometimes or often did not have enough to eat in the past week. After the money went out, the rate dropped to just over 8 percent — a decrease of nearly 24 percent — and the lowest rate recorded since the beginning of the pandemic. ✂️
The government has near real-time data on how households are faring during the pandemic through a tool known as the Household Pulse Survey, which launched in April 2020 to help policymakers understand what was happening in the economy throughout the crisis. The survey has routinely shown that hunger and other forms of hardship decrease after Washington doles out stimulus checks, bumped-up unemployment payments, increased Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits or other forms of aid.
But wait, there’s more even better news!
Biden Administration Prompts Largest Permanent Increase in Food Stamps
I’ve been waiting for 40 years for government food assistance to reflect reality and become the lifeline it was intended to be. Glory Hallelujah!!
From the NY Times:
The Biden administration has revised the nutrition standards of the food stamp program and prompted the largest permanent increase to benefits in the program’s history, a move that will give poor people more power to fill their grocery carts but add billions of dollars to the cost of a program that feeds one in eight Americans.
Under rules to be announced on Monday and put in place in October, average benefits will rise more than 25 percent from prepandemic levels. All 42 million people in the program will receive additional aid. The move does not require congressional approval, and unlike the large pandemic-era expansions, which are starting to expire, the changes are intended to last.
For at least a decade, critics of the benefits have said they were too low to provide an adequate diet. More than three-quarters of households exhaust their benefits in the first half of the monthly cycle, and researchers have linked subsequent food shortages to problems as diverse as increased hospital admissions, more school suspensions and lower SAT scores.
Under the new rules, average monthly benefits, $121 per person before the pandemic, will rise by $36. Although the increase may seem modest to middle-class families, proponents say it will reduce hunger, improve nutrition and lead to better health. ✂️
In technical terms, the Agriculture Department has revised the Thrifty Food Plan, a list of two dozen food groups the government uses to estimate the cost of an economical, nutritious diet. Its value was first set in 1962 and, other than being adjusted for inflation, had not grown since then, despite a revolution in what Americans eat.
Biden, accusing drugmakers of ‘jacking up prices,’ calls for action
From The Washington Post:
President Biden stepped up his battle over drug costs on [August 12], calling on Congress to pass legislation that would let Medicare negotiate directly with pharmaceutical manufacturers and penalize drugmakers that increase prices faster than inflation.
Biden’s remarks from the White House were less a set of new policy ideas than a reminder that he is eager to make headway on an issue of keen concern to voters — one he describes as critical to helping Americans recover economically from the pandemic.
“Alzheimer’s, diabetes, cancer — they don’t care if you’re Democrat or Republican,” Biden said in the East Room. “This is about whether or not you and your loved ones can afford prescription drugs.” ✂️
Biden’s remarks came as he began an intensified effort to promote the American Families Plan, a $3.5 trillion spending package that focuses on areas from health care to education. His comments were intended in part to counter Republican charges that the plan is recklessly expensive, portraying it instead as a collection of vital measures that will help ordinary Americans.
New Jersey Supreme Court chooses Dem-favored tie-breaker for House redistricting
by Stephen Wolf in Daily Kos:
The New Jersey Supreme Court has chosen former state Supreme Court Justice John Wallace, who'd been nominated by Democrats, as the tiebreaking member on the state's congressional redistricting commission after the two parties couldn't agree on who should fill the role. Wallace was named to the Supreme Court in 2003 by then-Gov. Jim McGreevy, a Democrat, but was denied renomination in 2010 by Republican Gov. Chris Christie, the first time since the adoption of the state's current constitution in 1947 that a sitting justice had not been reappointed.
Wallace, who is Black, will be the first person of color to serve as a redistricting tiebreaker for the state. While his ultimate preferences can't be predicted with absolute certainty (The New York Times editorial board, in decrying Christie's move, called him a "political moderate"), the fact that Democrats put his name forward is the surest sign they think he'll be more inclined to side with their members on the commission. As a result, we can expect that New Jersey's next congressional map will either favor Democrats or at least be more neutral than the current districts, which tilt toward Republicans.
Wolf goes on to bemoan the redistricting map (“Republicans are poised to draw 4 or 5 out of every 10 congressional districts nationally. Democrats, meanwhile, will only be able to draw fewer than two out of 10”). Hero voting rights lawyer Marc Elias doesn’t deny this reality, but he does discuss one of our important options — litigation — which has worked well in the past.
Redistricting 101: Why Maps Go to Court
From Democracy Docket:
Why do lawsuits matter?
Challenging unlawful maps in court is important to guarantee districts are fair and representative of the people they encompass. For example, in 2010, the GOP-led Pennsylvania legislature redrew its map so that 13 of the 18 districts were solid Republican districts, despite the statewide vote evenly splitting 50/50 between parties in presidential, senatorial and gubernatorial elections. The map was so politically gerrymandered that almost half of the Commonwealth’s counties were split between at least two different congressional districts. Pennsylvania’s Seventh Congressional District, one of the most gerrymandered districts in the country at the time, was barely contiguous — meaning different parts of the district barely connected with others. Some points of the district were only connected by a single building — one connecting point was a medical facility, and another was a restaurant, Creed’s Seafood & Steaks. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court found the map deprived voters of their right to a free and fair election guaranteed by the Pennsylvania Constitution, and now Pennsylvania’s congressional map is an even split of nine Democrat and nine Republican districts.
After the 2010 Census, Virginia passed congressional and legislative maps that were racially gerrymandered because they purposely packed African American voters into districts to limit their voting power. Courts found these maps to be unconstitutional because race was a predominant factor in their drawing, and they were struck down. Under new maps, Virginia’s U.S. House delegation flipped from majority Republican to majority Democrat, and Democrats grew in power in the state legislature.
New York Republicans face uphill battle without ‘boogeyman’ Cuomo
By Anna Gronewold in Politico:
It was their best chance in a decade to claw back control of Albany: An incumbent governor crippled by scandal, under state and federal investigation and haunted by the same “Cuomo fatigue” his father faced a quarter century earlier.
Instead, New York Republicans might face a history-making woman with a moderate record, upstate birth certificate and thick Rolodex built up over six years working politicians, business owners and local leaders all over the state. Even the party says its new opponent is formidable. ✂️
Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, set to become governor on Aug. 24, announced on Thursday she intends to run for reelection next year. Many think she can win. And even the GOP state party chair, Nick Langworthy, thinks Hochul should be taken seriously. He says she has a knack for on the ground campaigning that others — Cuomo included — lack.
“She shouldn’t be underestimated in terms of her skills as a politician,” Langworthy said in an interview Thursday. “She’s one of the best retail politicians I’ve ever seen. She will go places that other elected leaders will not.”
GOP candidates for Senate in Pennsylvania oppose jobs act that would help constituents
This looks like it will not end well for the GQP. The popularity of the Infrastructure Act could really help us put a Dem Senator in Toomey’s old seat.
From The American Independent:
The bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act that passed the Senate on Tuesday would mean billions in infrastructure funds for Pennsylvania. But every major Republican candidate for the state's open Senate seat is campaigning against the $550 billion plan.
According to the Cook Political Report and the University of Virginia's Center for Politics, the 2022 race to succeed retiring Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) will likely be one of the most competitive in the country.
According to a Philadelphia Inquirer roundup on Thursday, all of the major Republican contenders for the seat oppose the bipartisan package — which invests in transportation, water systems, electrical, and broadband infrastructure across the country. ✂️
Each of the Democratic candidates running for Toomey's open seat has indicated support for the bipartisan bill.
A May poll found 74% of Pennsylvania's backed Biden's American Jobs Plan, an even larger $2.25 trillion infrastructure plan, versus just 22% opposition.
National polls have shown the final package is supported by large majorities of voters.
Kevin McCarthy offers supporters t-shirts branding them 'moron'
You do you, Qev. And rest assured we’re laughing with you, not at you 😉
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy sent out a fundraising email on [August 11] offering supporters who donate to his campaign red t-shirts that have the word "moron" emblazoned on them in big, bolded text.
The shirts are an effort to capitalize off Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's comment calling McCarthy a "moron" in July for opposing a new mask mandate put in place on the House side of Capitol Hill by Congress' attending physician. ✂️
The bright red t-shirts include McCarthy's own definition of "moron," which is written in smaller text on the shirt. It reads, "A term coined by Nancy Pelosi referring to freedom-loving Americans who oppose mask mandates." ✂️
And just to clarify how much of self-own this is, CNN has some delicious poll numbers (quoted in the same Politico article):
CNN reported on Wednesday that Republicans hope their opposition to mask requirements will help them win in the 2022 midterm elections. However, polling shows that cynical ploy could backfire, as large majorities of voters support wearing masks.
For example, a Kaiser Family Foundation survey released Wednesday found that 63% of parents of school-aged children say unvaccinated students and staff should be required to wear masks. And a Navigator Research poll from Aug. 6 found that 64% of registered voters support the reintroduction of mask mandates amid the current surge of COVID-19, including 60% of independent voters.
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Good news from my corner of the world
Hiking trail from Corvallis to Oregon coast finally complete, after nearly 50 years of effort
From the Oregonian:
Backpackers who have aspired to hike from the Willamette Valley to the Oregon coast finally have a dedicated trail to do it.
The Corvallis-to-the-Sea Trail has been little more than a pipe dream for nearly 50 years, but on Aug. 21 it will officially open with a ribbon cutting ceremony, offering yet another outdoor adventure in Oregon.
Running about 60 miles from downtown Corvallis to Ona Beach south of Newport, the long-distance hiking and mountain biking trail crosses through a dense Coast Range forest, using old logging roads and newly cut trails. Like the neighboring Oregon Coast Trail, some sections of the hike also require walking along the shoulders of open roads. ✂️
Gary Chapman, president of the C2C Trail Partnership that made the trail a reality, said people have already been exploring the Corvallis-to-the-Sea Trail, which has technically been open (though unsigned) for more than a year. Now that signs are in place and maps are being printed, it’s finally time for a proper celebration. ✂️
Chapman said the C2C Trail Partnership already has plans for future projects. Eventually they would like to add loop trails for day hikers and backpackers looking for quicker adventures. The partnership would also like to get hikers off the shoulders of roads, if possible.
Some local music
I’ve shared music and video before from our friend Jason Okamoto. This is his newest, a tribute to his grandfather. Jason explains, “[This was] inspired by my family's time in the Tule Lake Japanese American relocation camp during WWII. My grandfather was a No No Boy. This term came from answering "no" to two loyalty questions given to the interned.”
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Good news from around the nation
The Vindication of Andrew Cuomo’s Accusers
Good news for justice, victims of bullying and sexual harrassment, and the rule of law. But there’s more work to do, as one of Cuomo’s accusers notes.
By Eric Lach in The New Yorker:
A hallmark of the Cuomo scandals has been a peculiar sense of surprise at the unsurprising. For years, people in New York politics traded tales of Cuomo’s bullying, vindictiveness, and domineering ways. And yet, when [Lindsey] Boylan, [Ron] Kim, [Charlotte] Bennett, and others came forward with specific stories, they had the force of revelation. That the attorney general’s report would be devastating for Cuomo should have been anticipated, considering the amount of evidence that had been turned up against him this winter by the press, without the benefit of subpoena power. Still, many were taken aback by the report’s severity and breathtaking detail. Even Cuomo, who had signed off on the attorney general’s investigation because, he said, he was owed “due process,” seemed unable to accept that due process had gone against him. Boylan was not surprised at either the content of the report or how it was received. “It was worth the wait,” she said. “It was worth the wait to be able to counter this master manipulator who doesn’t care about truth, who doesn’t care about fact, who doesn’t care about abuse. It had to be airtight.” ✂️
Bennett first came forward in an interview with the Times that was published on February 27th. She told me that she’d kept a count in her head of the number of days since. Tuesday had been the hundred and sixty-fourth day. While she waited for a resolution, she felt that her life had been, in many ways, on pause. And, considering what it took for the Governor to resign, she said, she viewed this week’s events as more of a first step than an end point. “He was not resigning because he knows he acted inappropriately,” she said. “He knows he acted inappropriately. He resigned because he had no next move to make. And, in that sense, we have a lot of work to do.”
Transforming Colorado into one of the most pro-immigrant states in the U.S.
More evidence that face-to-face interactions can overcome prejudices and misinformation.
From the American Friends Service Committee blog:
In 2006, Colorado passed the most oppressive anti-immigrant laws in the country. Among them: barring state funds to treat undocumented Coloradans at clinics or provide them in-state college tuition; excluding qualified individuals from professional licensing; and a meausre that required local law enforcement to collude with Immigrant and Customs Enforcement (ICE)—resulting in the unlawful detention of thousands of Coloradans over the years. Lawmakers intended to make it so hard for our immigrant neighbors, to punish them so much for lacking a piece of paper, they would leave.
Today—15 years later—Colorado has become a leader in pro-immigrant legislation, thanks to the leadership of immigrants supported by AFSC and a deeply collaborative space we’ve cultivated among partner organizations. Those years of work culminated in 2021 when the Colorado Legislature passed a dozen progressive bills to protect and expand the human rights of immigrants. AFSC’s three top priorities passed: establishing a fund to provide universal legal representation for immigrants, a data privacy law to prevent state agencies from sharing information with federal immigration authorities, and an agricultural workers’ bill of rights.
These changes wouldn’t have happened without the persistence of AFSC’s Not1More Deportation Table, a group AFSC convened in 2012 to provide mutual aid and support for people and their loved ones facing deportation. ✂️
Members of the Not1More Table engage legislators and community members alike. ...Meeting directly with legislators has made a huge difference, Liceth says. “My participation in the Not1More Deportation Table has given me the opportunity to see the positive impact that telling our stories can have on elected officials, since many of them don’t know about our suffering or are misinformed. When we share our lived experiences in front of them, some of them change their opinion. They stop seeing us as statistics and start seeing us as active members of our community with needs like theirs.”
Steelworkers Union is Helping Turn Massive Abandoned Steel Mill into Producer of Wind Turbines
This is a welcome win-win-win for the environment, organized labor, and a major American city.
From Good News Network:
Once the largest steel mill in the world, the Sparrows Point shipyard in Maryland will provide new jobs in Baltimore as a manufacturer of wind turbine parts.
The United Steelworkers union (USW) announced this month that it will partner with US Wind as it transforms the former steel mill into a manufacturing facility supporting the growth of offshore wind energy.
US Wind plans to use the site to make the monopile foundations needed for their offshore wind developments, including their maiden MarWin project consisting of 22-turbines.
The union has pledged to work with the company to recruit and train local workers, while supporting workers’ rights to unionize and collectively bargain.
“The loss of the Sparrows Point steel mill, which once employed thousands of workers, was a huge blow to the Baltimore community and to U.S. manufacturing as a whole,” said USW International President Tom Conway. “Now, we have a chance to create the jobs of the future right here on this historic site and ensure that they are good, union jobs that will again support families across this region.”
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Good news from around the world
Australia pledged reparations for indigenous people
From Positive News:
The Australian government announced on [August 12] that it will pay reparations to members of its indigenous population who were forcibly removed from their families as children.
More than 100,000 indigenous children — known as the Stolen Generation — were taken from their families between the 1900 and 1970. Former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd described it as a “great stain on our nation’s soul”.
Members of the Stolen Generation who are still alive will now be able to claim AU$75,000 (£39,800) in reparations. They will also be given support to address their health needs.
The Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the reparations scheme was intended “to say formally, not just that we’re deeply sorry for what happened, but that we will take responsibility for it.”
The Healing Foundation, which represents indigenous communities, said the reparations were “a major step in the healing journey of Stolen Generations survivors”. It urged the government to provide trauma support to those affected as part of the scheme.
New coffee shops to help homeless people in UK and Ireland
From Positive News:
A social enterprise that uses profits from selling coffee to help homeless people find their feet is opening 55 takeaway outlets in the UK and Ireland.
Change Please trains homeless people as baristas, offering them a Living Wage job, plus help accessing housing, a bank account and mental health support.
This week the social enterprise announced that it will be taking over 55 ATM Coffee outlets in train stations, airports and hospitals. Its CEO, Cemal Ezel, said the expansion proves that “you can offer an amazing product and do good at the same time”.
Meet the plastic-hunting ‘pirates’ of Cornwall
This story would fit in the environment section, too, but since it involves citizen activism, I put it under world news.
From Positive News:
om the tip of Cornwall to the Isle of Skye, with a message of “all aboard”, people are seeking out hard-to-reach marine plastic from the water.
Based on their roving home on the former Dutch icebreaker Annette, Steve Green and his partner Monika Hertlová...have coordinated more than 300 volunteers, many of them local to their base on the Helford River in Cornwall.
Steve Green is pirate-in-chief of Clean Ocean Sailing (COS), a group of sailors, surfers, swimmers and divers, who are united in their love of the ocean, and sickened by the amount of rubbish [in it].
With a fixed crew of the couple’s two-year-old, Simon, and labrador Rosie, the 113-year-old, 55-tonne boat also acts as a mobile basecamp. People disembark in a flotilla of smaller boats to reach the most inaccessible parts of Cornwall’s commanding coastline – and clear them of as much junk as they can. ✂️
Since COS began in 2017, the group has recorded and removed 250,000 individual pieces of plastic from their local coves – with a combined weight of over 50 tonnes. Green says that about 85 per cent of this has been recycled and repurposed. Some of it is melted down and pelletised at the Ocean Recovery Project in Exeter, before being donated back to COS in the form of recycled sea kayaks to help them find yet more rubbish.
A system of mutual support built on local friendship is the backbone of COS’s success. Many locals who are unable to donate time instead offer the group goods, such as beers, groceries and pasties, to help keep the boat afloat.
“An awful lot of Cornish people aren’t particularly financially motivated. It’s almost an island attitude: we all lean on each other and look after each other. It is an ideal place for a testing ground for a circular economy,” says Green. ✂️
Back in Cornwall, Simon Myers and his son Milo are among those who have volunteered with COS. Like many of the group, they believe that their strength lies collectively in tackling global issues on a local scale. ✂️
For Green, it’s not only about picking up the rubbish: “It’s [also about] other people seeing us doing that and perhaps they start to think about not dropping it in the first place – or even better, not buying it. That’s what’s really going to change the world.”
Amen to that!!
Good news in science and the environment
Artificial Intelligence may diagnose dementia in a day
From the BBC:
Scientists are testing an artificial-intelligence system thought to be capable of diagnosing dementia after a single brain scan.
It may also be able to predict whether the condition will remain stable for many years, slowly deteriorate or need immediate treatment. Currently, it can take several scans and tests to diagnose dementia.
The researchers involved say earlier diagnoses with their system could greatly improve patient outcomes.
"If we intervene early, the treatments can kick in early and slow down the progression of the disease and at the same time avoid more damage," Prof Zoe Kourtzi, of Cambridge University and a fellow of national centre for AI and data science The Alan Turing Institute, said. "And it's likely that symptoms occur much later in life or may never occur.”
Prof Kourtzi's system compares brain scans of those worried they might have dementia with those of thousands of dementia patients and their relevant medical records.
The algorithm can identify patterns in the scans even expert neurologists cannot see and match them to patient outcomes in its database.
Edible packaging – the beginning of the end for single-use plastic?
From Positive News:
Turning base metal into gold was the holy grail of medieval alchemists. Tantalising, but unachievable. So, what would be an equivalent quest in the 21st century? How about turning the scourge of plastic waste into something useful – like soil-nurturing compost? Or even an edible snack?
Sounds as likely as alchemy. But it’s here, and it’s happening, thanks to the German startup Traceless. This female-led firm has devised a technique to turn agricultural waste, such as starch or brewery residues, into a range of ‘plastic’ films, coatings and rigid materials. Since the resultant materials are made entirely from plant residue, they’re completely compostable, breaking down in two to nine weeks, depending on their thickness. That means they can go straight into the home compost bin, or added to anaerobic digesters to help generate biogas.
They are even safe to eat – although the taste might leave something to be desired. And as Traceless co-founder Dr Anne Lamp explains: “Should they end up in our environment or oceans, they break down completely into CO2 and H2O, leaving no residues, or they get eaten by animals [with no ill-effects]”. ✂️
Since Traceless uses farming waste, it’s not competing for land with food crops – unlike, for example, some biofuels. It doesn’t rely on any harmful additives, solvents or chemicals. And compared to conventional oil-based plastics, the production methods save up to 87 per cent when it comes to carbon emissions.
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Other edible alternatives to plastic
Seaweed water pods
Instead of plastic water bottles, runners at the 2019 London Marathon were handed edible, H2O-filled pouches to slay their thirst. Dreamed up by Notpla, the drinks pods are made from seaweed and plant materials, which can be swallowed whole, or left to degrade as harmlessly as, well, seaweed on the shore.
A shore thing
Evoware has also looked to the ocean for answers. It works with seaweed farmers in Indonesia to harvest the raw material for its compostable cups and packaging which, like Notpla, is safe to eat, too. Seaweed is increasingly feted as a source of healthy nutrients.
Smoke without fire
Researchers in the US are exploring a novel combination of cows’ milk and clay, which, blended together, can produce a strong, ultra-thin compostable material – so light and airy that it’s been nicknamed ‘solid smoke’. Its potential uses range from packaging to insulation, without leaving behind any harmful residues.
The last straw
Anyone justly horrified by photographs of turtles struggling with plastic straws will be cheered by Loliware’s ‘hypercompostable’ seaweed-based alternatives – safe for humans and sea creatures alike.
Solar-Powered Refrigeration Trucks Will Cut Pollution From Idling Diesel Engines
From Good News Network:
The transporting of tons of food to local supermarkets are normally cooled by diesel fuel. Idling diesel tractors burn about a gallon of fuel every hour while releasing more than 22 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
Under the terms of a new agreement, XL Fleet will supply battery and power electronics systems for the first 1,000 units of eNow’s new electrified refrigerated trailer solutions.✂️
eNow’s solar systems capture the sun’s energy with roof mounted solar modules, and then store the energy in auxiliary batteries used to power lift gates, in-cab air conditioning, refrigeration and lighting.
Approximately 50,000 new diesel-powered refrigerated trailers are sold annually in the U.S., and XL Fleet’s partnership with eNow accelerates a sustainable all-electric solution.
XL Fleet and eNow are collaborating on the design and development of the system, especially an integrated lithium-ion battery and power electronics technology that will be installed underfloor on the Class 8 trailers, providing approximately 12 hours or more of run time between charges.
‘It could feed the world’: amaranth, a health trend 8,000 years old that survived colonization
This is a long piece, but well worth clicking on and reading in full. I guarantee you’ll find it inspiring.
From The Guardian:
Since the 1970s, amaranth has become a billion-dollar food – and cosmetic – product. Health conscious shoppers embracing ancient grains will find it in growing numbers of grocery stores in the US, or in snack bars across Mexico, and, increasingly, in Europe and the Asia Pacific. As a complete protein with all nine essential amino acids, amaranth is a highly nutritious source of manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, iron and antioxidants that may improve brain function and reduce inflammation.
“This is a plant that could feed the world,” said [Beata]Tsosie-Peña [who coordinates the environmental health and justice program at Tewa Women United].
For her it also has deep cultural value. She is part of growing networks of Indigenous women across North and Central America who have been sharing ancestral knowledge of how to grow and prepare amaranth. Seed exchanges, including those in New Mexico and California, are part of a larger movement to reclaim Indigenous food systems amid growing recognition of their sustainability and resilience in a time of climate crisis and industrialized agriculture.
“Supporting Indigenous people coming together to share knowledge” is vital to the land back movement, a campaign to reestablish Indigenous stewardship of Native land, and liberation of Native peoples, Tsosie-Peña said. “Our food, our ability to feed ourselves, is the foundation of our freedom and sovereignty as land-based peoples.”
This is a story of two histories: the remarkable survival of amaranth through colonization and the women like Tsosie-Peña who, in the last 20 years, have expanded networks of Indigenous people celebrating its ancient cultivation.
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Good news for and about animals
Brought to you by Rosy, Nora, and Rascal.
My three co-editors chose just one story today. Why this one? Because all of them think squirrels are just fascinating.
Squirrels Use Gymnastics to Navigate Treetop Canopies
From Scientific American:
...outside the stadiums of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, a different kind of acrobatic feat is performed every day. Both closer to the Olympics, in the forests of Japan, and in treetops all around the world, squirrels leap meters through the air to get from branch to branch. The stakes are different in this natural arena: the squirrels scurry around to find morsels of food, all the while trying to evade occasional airborne predators such as hawks. But the speed and ease with which they navigate the challenging and unpredictable canopy environment is “spectacular,” says University of California, Berkeley, biomechanics researcher Robert Full. The animals easily land leaps several times the length of their body. And we do not really know how they do it, Full says. “How do they know that they have the capability in their body to achieve those jumps?” he asks.
The coordination between a squirrel’s body and mind is not just a curiosity for human observers, Full explains. The well-executed moves could influence the design of smarter robots, incorporating some of the squirrels’ best physical traits: their flexible spine, grippy paws and grabby claws. And squirrels are not just daredevil acrobats; they are adept learners, too. “They have really good memories,” says Gregory Byrnes, who studies biomechanics at Siena College in Loudonville, N.Y. ✂️
Though the animals are ubiquitous, Full says, we are just starting to understand and appreciate how they scamper through the treetops. “They make great choices, and they’re very creative,” he adds. “They’re extraordinary.”
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From the archives
What Happens When a Bad-Tempered, Distractible Doofus Runs an Empire?
Spoiler: it’s not about The Former Guy! But the similarities are uncanny.
By Miranda Carter in the New Yorker, June 2018:
One of the few things that Kaiser Wilhelm II, who ruled Germany from 1888 to 1918, had a talent for was causing outrage. A particular specialty was insulting other monarchs. He called the diminutive King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy “the dwarf” in front of the king’s own entourage. He called Prince (later Tsar) Ferdinand, of Bulgaria, “Fernando naso,” on account of his beaky nose, and spread rumors that he was a hermaphrodite. ...Ferdinand had his revenge. After a visit to Germany, in 1909, during which the Kaiser slapped him on the bottom in public and then refused to apologize, Ferdinand awarded a valuable arms contract that had been promised to the Germans to a French company instead.
Not that this deterred the Kaiser. One of the many things that Wilhelm was convinced he was brilliant at, despite all evidence to the contrary, was “personal diplomacy,” fixing foreign policy through one-on-one meetings with other European monarchs and statesmen. In fact, Wilhelm could do neither the personal nor the diplomacy, and these meetings rarely went well. The Kaiser viewed other people in instrumental terms, was a compulsive liar, and seemed to have a limited understanding of cause and effect. ✂️
About a decade ago, I published “George, Nicholas and Wilhelm: Three Royal Cousins and the Road to World War I,” a book that was, in part, about Kaiser Wilhelm, who is probably best known for being Queen Victoria’s first grandchild and for leading Germany into the First World War. Ever since Donald Trump started campaigning for President, the Kaiser has once again been on my mind—his personal failings, and the global fallout they led to.
Trump’s tweets were what first reminded me of the Kaiser. Wilhelm was a compulsive speechmaker who constantly strayed off script. Even his staff couldn’t stop him, though it tried, distributing copies of speeches to the German press before he’d actually given them. Unfortunately, the Austrian press printed the speeches as they were delivered, and the gaffes and insults soon circulated around Europe. ... August Bebel, the Socialist party leader, said that every time the Kaiser opened his mouth, the party gained another hundred thousand votes.
When Wilhelm became emperor, in 1888, at twenty-nine years old, he was determined to be seen as tough and powerful. He fetishized the Army, surrounded himself with generals (though, like Trump, he didn’t like listening to them), owned a hundred and twenty military uniforms, and wore little else. ✂️
In fact, Wilhelm didn’t accomplish very much. The general staff of the German Army agreed that the Kaiser couldn’t “lead three soldiers over a gutter.” He had neither the attention span nor the ability. “Distractions, whether they are little games with his army or navy, travelling or hunting—are everything to him,” a disillusioned former mentor wrote. “He reads very little apart from newspaper cuttings, hardly writes anything himself apart from marginalia on reports and considers those talks best which are quickly over and done with.” The Kaiser’s entourage compiled press cuttings for him, mostly about himself, which he read as obsessively as Trump watches television. A critical story would send him into paroxysms of fury.
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www.politico.com/… Women in NY Politics Say Cuomo Was Just the Beginning. “Cuomo’s replacement, Kathy Hochul, says she wants to clean up New York’s toxic culture. These women say that’s not going to be easy.”
www.newyorker.com/… The Unmaking of Biblical Womanhood. A fascinating long read with the sub-headline “How a nascent movement against complementarianism is confronting Christian patriarchy from within.”
www.washingtonpost.com/… Thinking about how dogs think. “Dog cognition is now a widely respected field, a growing specialty branch of ...more general animal-cognition research… . This field, and animal cognition, really, is all within our lifetimes...It’s not as if nobody ever looked at dogs, but they weren’t looking at their minds.”
www.motherjones.com/...The Logic of Corporate Accounting Took Over Our Language, and We Hardly Noticed. The origins and insidious misuse of “return on investment.”
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Wherever is herd…
A tip of the hat to 2thanks for creating this handy info sheet for all Gnusies new and old!
Morning Good News Roundups at 7 x 7: These Gnusies lead the herd at 7 a.m. ET, 7 days a week:
- The Monday GNR Newsroom (Jessiestaf, Killer300, and Bhu). With their five, we survive and thrive.
- Alternating Tuesdays: NotNowNotEver and arhpdx.
- Wednesdays: niftywriter.
- Thursdays: Mokurai the 1st and 2nd Thursdays, oldhippiedude the 3rd, MCUBernieFanthe 4th, and Mokurai the 5th (when there is one).
- Fridays: chloris creator. Regular links to the White House Briefing Room.
- Saturdays: GoodNewsRoundup. Heart-stirring and soul-healing introduction and sometimes memes to succumb to.
- Sundays: 2thanks. A brief roundup of Roundups, a retrospective, a smorgasbord, a bulletin board, an oasis, a watering hole, a thunder of hooves, a wellness, a place for beginners to learn the rules of the veldt.
hpg posts Evening Shade diaries at 7:30 p.m. ET every day! After a long day, Gnusies meet in the evening shade and continue sharing Good News, good community, and good actions. In the words of NotNowNotEver: “hpg ably continues the tradition of Evening Shade.” Find Evening Shades here.
oldhippiedude posts Tweets of the Week on Sundays at 6:00 p.m. Central Time — New time! Our second evening Gnusie hangout zone! In search of a TOTW diary? Look here or here.
For more information about the Good News group, please see our detailed Welcoming comment, one of the first comments in our morning diaries.
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The continuing disasters the people of Haiti have had to cope with are almost unimaginably crushing and have been for decades. But hope for change and better days can’t be entirely crushed. Here’s a song from the group that’s arguably the greatest and most influential in Haiti, Boukman Eksperyans. The title “Jou Nou Revolte” was translated online as “Your Revolution Now.”
This final musical video, recorded just three months ago, is both heartbreaking and hopeful. We all know how much danger these radiant girls are in now. But I want all of you to feel their joy and to hold onto the hope that the flame that has been lit in them will prove to be stronger than oppression.
❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️
Thanks to all of you for your smarts, your hearts, and
your faithful attendance at our daily Gathering of the Herd.
❤️💙 RESIST, PERSIST, REBUILD, REJOICE! 💙❤️