Needs go unmet 6 months after Maria hit Puerto Rico

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Generators are still humming. Candles are still flickering. Homes are still being repaired.

Puerto Rico was hit by Hurricane Maria exactly six months ago, and the U.S. territory is still struggling to recover from the strongest storm to hit the island in nearly a century.

“There are a lot of people with needs,” said Levid Ortiz, operating director of PR4PR, a local nonprofit that helps impoverished communities across the island. “It shouldn’t be like this. We should already be back on our feet.”

Some 250 Puerto Ricans formed a line around him on a recent weekday, standing for more than two hours to receive bottles of water and a box of food at a public basketball court in the mountain town of Corozal. Many of those waiting were still without power, including 23-year-old Keishla Quiles, a single mother with a 4-year-old son who still buys ice every day to fill a cooler to keep milk and other goods cold amid rising temperatures.

“Since we’re a family of few resources, we have not been able to afford a generator,” she said. “It’s been hard living like this.”

Crews already have restored water to 99 percent of clients and power to 93 percent of customers, but more than 100,000 of them still remain in the dark and there are frequent power outages. Justo Gonzalez, interim director for Puerto Rico’s Electric Power Authority, said he expects the entire island to have power by May, eight months after the Category 4 storm destroyed two-thirds of the island’s power distribution system — and just as the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season is about to start.

More from the Washington Post via Google News 

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Venezuela town issues own currency amid cash shortages

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Local officials said that the currency would make it easier for residents and visitors to trade during the town’s festivities, which start on Monday.

They said rampant hyperinflation and a scarcity of bolivares, the national currency, had affected trade in Elorza.

The new currency can be bought at the mayor’s office via bank transfer.

The paper bills feature the face of independence hero José Andrés Elorza and, like the town, are named after him.

“People don’t have bolivares to spend, that’s why we have created bills of two denominations… and we’ve already sold 2bn bolivares worth,” mayor Solfreddy Solórzano, from the governing PSUV party, said.

Local businessman Canuto García explained that the town came up with the idea after it noticed that at local festivities in nearby cities “money did not flow”

More from BBC News

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Veganism Is Being Redefined in Black Communities More people are connecting the health implications of a vegan diet with the struggle against race-based oppression.

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Food is a key part of any culture. Take the USA: Could there be a more potent symbol of all things Americana than BBQ? For many, to go against this national pastime amounts to a form of treason. Which is why it should cause little surprise to learn that a new culture has begun to take root among African Americans: veganism.

In years past, this dietary decision was largely associated with being, like, super white. In part, this could be due to the fact that avoiding all animal products is seen as a bourgeois indulgence, enjoyed by the sorts of people who like to proclaim that “All Lives Matter.” That perception is starting to shift.

“The black vegan movement is one of the most diverse, decolonial, complex and creative movements,” said Aph Ko, founder of the website Black Vegans Rock, in a recent New York Times article. And Ko should know. Back in 2015, she compiled a list of “100 Black Vegans” to highlight the fact that veganism is more than just an animal welfare-based lifestyle choice. Listed among Ko’s cohorts are a diverse group of individuals such as civil rights activist Coretta Scott King, neo-soul superstar Erykah Badu, the Williams sisters, and comedian Dick Gregory.

The Times listed a number of other notable vegans: Kyrie Irving from the Boston Celtics is just one of a number of professional basketball players to stop eating meat, prompting Kip Andersen (director of the documentary “What the Health”) to proclaim in an article for the Bleacher Report that the NBA should be renamed the National Vegan Association.

Animals and race

A number of factors account for this growing trend. The Times’ Kim Severson notes that the Black Lives Matter movement and “What the Health” have helped expand veganism to “connect personal health, animal welfare and social justice with the fight for racial equality.”

“I always assumed ‘Black veganism’ was just white veganism experienced and perpetrated by black people, and not a framework to analyze various oppressions,” writes Sincere Kirabo on BlackYouthProject. But after reading a book Ko published with her sister Syl last year, Aphro-ism: Essays on Pop Culture, Feminism, and Black Veganism from Two Sisters, Kirabo reconsidered this point of view. “Now I’m rethinking the entire way the defining biases of our society create dehumanizing standards that not only impact me as a Black person,” he writes, “but also extend to animals, inform our food options, and empower the anti-Black food industry.”

What is the “anti-black food industry”? How can a diet be decolonial? Time for a quick history lesson. A core element of both slavery and colonialism was the promotion of an ideology that dehumanized black people. When Aph and Syl Ko describe veganism as a form of liberation, explains Kirabo, they are talking “less about meat consumption and more about the necessity of re-framing racism to include the relationship between anti-Blackness and anti-animal sentiment as codified into the white supremacist capitalist patriarchy.”

This is not a new line of thinking. Anti-colonial writers like Frantz Fanon and Aimé Césaire first drew the connection between the colonial construct that disadvantaged certain humans and non-human animals alike. By understanding this historical context, the connection between racial oppression and our carnivorous culture begins to make more sense.

This might be a cognitive leap for some, but consider the fact that both racism and meat-eating are motivated by a sense of superiority. As such, Kirabo writes, describing the Ko sisters’ logic, “animality is a Eurocentric concept that has contributed to the oppression of any group that deviates from the white supremacist ideal of being—white Homo sapiens.”

A means to an end

Another way to understand this logic is through the simple facts of health. A 2012 analysis of national meat consumption showed that according to averages delineated by race, African Americans were overall the largest consumers of meat in America. This figure is no coincidence. As Nzinga Young points out in the Huffington Post, due to centuries of entrenched systemic poverty, black Americans have had to adapt to “making do” with what they have. In practice, this has translated, Young continues, into “eating everything from common staples like chicken and fish to chitlins, pigs’ feet, and other discarded animal parts our ancestors ate in desperation.”

In other words, meat-eating became an essential part of survival. Ironically, much of the foods that form part of this culture are centered around unhealthy eating habits. In her article, “How Black Veganism Is Revolutionary and Essential for Our Culture,” Danni Roseman explains how this situation has arisen from the fact “that the unhealthiest of foods were the cheapest and most easily available to low-income, black and brown families.” The existence of food deserts, which are predominant in poorer communities, have also contributed toward these unhealthy eating habits. As a result, a number of diet-related diseases have become endemic to the culture.

“Food is political,” writes Roseman, adding how these unhealthy eating habits have led to a rise in “illnesses that kill black people at astounding rates.” Roseman cites information provided by the CDC, which shows that “over 40% of black men over [the age of] 20 have hypertension and 44% of black women.” That’s not to mention that two of the three leading causes of death in this community are strokes and heart disease.

“It’s not just about, I want to eat well so I can live long and be skinny,” said vegan-friendly chef Jenné Claiborne in an interview with the Times. “For a lot of black people, it’s also the social justice and food access. The food we have been eating for decades and decades has been killing us.”

In order to counter this trend, Claiborne has become a specialist in vegan-friendly soul food. In her new book, Sweet Potato Soul, Claiborne combines the traditions of Southern cooking with recipes from West Africa and the Caribbean. The book is the latest in a series of similar titles joining restaurants around the country that have helped bring about the rise in black vegan culture.

(Other popular books that are part of this endeavor include Amie Breeze Harper’s anthology, Sistah Vegan: Black Female Vegans Speak on Food, Identity, Health, and Society; Tracye McQuirter’s By Any Greens Necessary: A Revolutionary Guide for Black Women Who Want to Eat Great, Get Healthy, Lose Weight, and Look Phat; and the Afro-Vegan cookbook.)

Diet as resistance

As Roseman points out, “if you’re dead, or perpetually functionally ill, you cannot march, you cannot protest, you cannot protect your family or yourself.” Framed in this light, a growing number of people are starting to connect the health implications of a plant-based diet with the ongoing struggle against race-based oppression.

For Kirabo, this goes beyond “people planting gardens and advocating for animal rights.” He argues that veganism is a “sociopolitical movement that renounces white-centered definitions of the world” and through that process “re-examines social norms imposed on us and calls out politics many of us take for granted.”

In other words, choosing not to eat animal products is a way of asserting a form of independence. “[We] take back control of [our] own diet in a system in which [we] are not in control of many of the things that we purchase,” performance artist and activist Jay Brave said in an interview with the BBC.

In the Times article, Zachary Toliver, a PETA columnist who appeared on Ko’s original list of black vegans, said, “I no longer feel like an endangered species out here.” Instead, Toliver and the growing community he represents are redefining what it means to be black and vegan. In the process, this movement is reframing the way society understands our relationships to animals, food and each other.

By Robin Scher/AlterNet

Posted by The NON-Conformist

3 Cheers for Capitalism: #MeToo Swimsuits, Girl Scout Cookies at Pot Shops, and Jimmy Buffet Not Begging For Food If you ever wondered why free enterprise and capitalism triumphed over command economies and communism, I’ve got some answers right here.

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Last fall, Katherine Mangu-Ward and I participated in a widely attended and watched debate about “capitalism” with the socialist editors of Jacobin magazine (you can watch it right here and you can listen as a podcast). Actually, to be fully accurate, I should say the Jacobin folks thought we were debating late capitalism.

That’s the preferred term to describe what the hard left believes are the final days of private property, free enterprise, wage labor, and all the epiphenomena related to what Marx called capitalism. I first encountered late capitalism (the phrase, not the supposed objective reality) when I started graduate school for literary studies in 1988. Almost everyone assumed that the Cold War would be resolved in favor of the Soviets and communism. When that turned out to be way off, many academics switched to using advanced capitalism, which got most of the opprobrium across without betraying too much teleological optimism.

When the Great Recession hit, late capitalism came back into vogue. Finally, markets and economies were collapsing all around the globe, comrades! And yet…here we are, a decade or so later and capitalism is still doing pretty well. To be sure, it’s nowhere near perfect, but what economic historian (and Reason contributing editor) Deirdre McCloskey calls “the Great Enrichment” proceeds apace, with fewer and fewer people living in what the U.N. calls “extreme poverty.” As everyone except Pope Francis will tell you, that’s because of free-er trade and more (not fewer) markets. As Ronald Bailey has documented, higher levels of economic freedom correlate strongly with longer lives, less disease, better environmental indicators, and even higher rates of life satisfaction.

Communists, socialists, progressives, and critics ranging from Fredric Jameson to Bernie Sanders to Thomas Frank to Naomi Klein to Hans Magnus Enzenberger continue to marvel at and grouse about the ways in which capitalism “absorbs” economic and philosophical challenges, “commodifies” them, and then keeps on truckin’. Capitalism’s genius, it turns out, is a form of repressive tolerance that, as economist Joseph Schumpeter observed, brought more and more stuff to more and more people. “The capitalist achievement,” he wrote, “does not typically consist in providing more silk stockings for queens but in bringing them within reach of factory girls.”

Or, to put it in slightly different terms, capitalism allows more people to express themselves through work and live relatively high on the hog. Which brings to me three examples torn from today’s headlines that show why capitalism persists—and why that’s not a bad thing at all.

1. Sports Illustrated’s #MeToo Swimsuit issue. What do you do with a classically sexist excresence of capitalism such as Sports Illustrated‘s annual “swimsuit issue” in an era of heightened sensitivity? You commodify your dissent (“SI swimsuit models celebrate more than just their bodies”), even if that means devoting pages to women wearing no bathing suits at all:

2. “Girl Scout sells 300 boxes of cookies outside pot dispensary.” Well, of course she did! The nine-year-old entrepreneur, who isn’t being named, sold about 50 boxes an hour by showing up outside a San Diego pot store, according to her father. And to its credit, the Girl Scouts organization is cool with it all.

urbanleafca, Instagramurbanleafca, Instagram

FFS, even communists are getting with the program: Young Pioneer Tours, a company that takes its name from (mandatory) youth groups in Russia, China, Cuba, and elsewhere, markets its trips to the former Soviet Union, North Korea, and elsewhere as “group tours for people who hate groups.”

WikipediaWikipedia3. Awful musician Jimmy Buffett is not only not living hand-to-mouth, but is insanely wealthy. If you’re lucky, you only know one song by the bard of “parrotheads,” 1977’s ode to alcoholism, “Margaritaville.” Better yet, you know no songs by Buffett, whom, as Eric Cartman observes in a South Park episode, “nobody likes…except frat boys and alcoholic chicks from the South.” As The New York Times reports, though, Buffett is worth around $550 million and presides over a growing empire of bars and casinos, has a Broadway show based on his music, and owns more houses than he can keep track of (though it goes unmentioned, Buffett is also a prolific author). Under what other economic system could something like this happen without pillage and plunder? Although I call him an “awful musician” (hey, I’ve listened to Last Mango in Paris) one of the things that is great about capitalism is that my tastes (or yours, for that matter) don’t get to dictate anything other than what I consume. Capitalism is the application of classical liberal principles to economics, so pluralism and diversity are the rule, not the exception. People who like Jimmy Buffett can dine at Margaritaville restaurants, catch his show on Broadway, and read his books. And the rest of can avoid him like the plague. That’s an outcome all of us should be able and willing to live with.

So three cheers for capitalism, which enables free expression, social and commercial innovation, and generally rising standards of living. It’s not perfect, but it beats the alternatives.

By Nick Gillespie/Reason

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Chick-fil-A Is Closed on Sundays. But These Workers Still Made Food for Orlando Response Effort

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Chick-fil-A employees near Orlando, Fla., went to work on Sunday after the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in the city, breaking a longstanding restaurant policy of remaining closed on Sundays. Employees provided food to people who were donating blood and to law enforcement officers who were part of the response effort, AL.com reported. Chick-fil-A…

via Chick-fil-A Is Closed on Sundays. But These Workers Still Made Food for Orlando Response Effort — TIME

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The changing state of American fast food in charts

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Florida town threatening volunteers who feed homeless

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Authorities in Daytona Beach, Florida have increased efforts to dissuade unofficial organizations from feeding the city’s homeless, threatening trespassing fines to longtime Good Samaritans should they counter the city’s official social services plan.

Image: Getty

A group of volunteers who have prepared food for the Daytona Beach homeless population – or anyone who is hungry, the organizers say – for the past year were given citations and trespass warnings by law enforcement this week.

The city, like dozens of local municipalities across the United States, is attempting to discourage groups outside the approved channels from offering assistance, in hopes of funneling charity to centralized homeless services in the area, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reported.

“The ordinance is there, so if we catch you, we’re going to cite you,” Police Chief Mike Chitwood said. “If you want to feed people, and you want to do a good, Christian act, we encourage you to coordinate with the social service agencies.”

Chico and Debbie Jimenez, founders of Spreading the Word Without Saying a Word, and their volunteers were targeted this week at Manatee Island Park despite their reportedly responsible, respected efforts to feed the hungry. Their citations amounted to threats of a $273 fine for trespassing and $100 fine for facility use without a permit.

“We feed anybody that’s hungry,” Chico Jimenez said.

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