500-Pound Black Bear Breaks Into California Homes: The bear nicknamed “Hank the Tank” has been stealing food from homes and causing damage but no harm.

A 500-pound black bear nicknamed “Hank the Tank” has been breaking into homes around Lake Tahoe, Calif., stealing food and causing damage. He was last spotted walking down a street in the Tahoe Keys.

The bear, as of now, has caused damage to over 30 Lake Tahoe properties and prompted over 150 calls to the South Tahoe police department. He has also broken and entered at least 28 homes over the course of his rampage.

The most recent incident occurred on Friday, Feb. 18, when Hank smashed a window of a house on Catalina Drive. He squeezed through the window as the family was still in the home. When police arrived, they banged on the door and the outside of the house, and Hank escaped out the back door.

The motive for the break-ins, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife says, is that the bear is “severely food-habituated,” meaning that he has lost his fear of people and associates them with providing food.

Despite Hank’s immense presence and ruthlessness, he has not caused any harm to humans or pets in the area. But, because of the extensive damage to homes, wildlife officials are considering relocating the bear.

Options for relocation include a zoo, a wildlife preservation, another facility or, an alternative, euthanization. Relocation to the wilderness would not be healthy. Since the bear is food-habituated, “they [would] starve because they’re not used to hunting for food,” Peter Tira, a spokesman for the CDFW said.

Ann Bryant, executive director of BEAR League, a group that promotes humans living in harmony with bears, stresses that there are options better than euthanasia. Tira affirms that euthanasia is always the last resort. This is especially the case since Lake Tahoe’s bear population is at a healthy density.

With this in mind, authorities are still trying to capture the bear, who has been avoiding being caught for over seven months. The “conflict bear,” the CDFW calls him, has not yet been matched with a placement option that meets the organization’s Black Bear Policy.

As of Feb. 22, Hank has still not been captured by wildlife officials. The CDFW suggests that homeowners be smart about the disposal of their food waste, since bears like Hank are driven by the scent of food.

An Instagram post by the South Lake Tahoe Police Department urges people to apply for bear boxes, structures that can be installed on a property to safely store food and hopefully prevent further break-ins.

Sources: BEAR League, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, CNN, NBC Bay Area

Conversion Therapy Unanimously Criminalized in France: The National Assembly passes a new law that illegalizes conversion therapy throughout the European country.

On Jan. 25, France passed a new law criminalizing conversion therapy. The National Assembly passed it unanimously, and it had already been passed by the majority vote in the French Upper House. With President Emmanuel Macron’s signature, the law will go into effect. Macron has already tweeted in support of the bill, writing, “being oneself is not a crime,” Macron stated. 

Under this new bill, anyone convicted can face heavy fines of up to €30,000 and two years in jail. If the act is perpetrated against a minor or vulnerable adult, fines can increase to  €45,000 and up to three years’ imprisonment. The law also “opens the possibility for campaigners to file civil suits on behalf of victims, an advance hailed in parliament as a breakthrough for people who hesitate or are unable to alert police themselves,” France24 stated.

The official definition of conversion therapy, according to GLAAD, is “any attempt to change a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression,” GLAAD explained. Statistics on their website show that highly rejected LGBTQIA+ people are 8.4 times more likely to attempt suicide, 5.9 times more likely to report high levels of depression, 3.4 times more likely to have used illegal drugs, and 3.4 times more likely to be at high risk for HIV and STDs. 

Stonewall, an LGBTQIA+ organization in the United Kingdom, reported in 2021 that thirteen countries had passed some kind of law against conversion therapy, but the United States is not one of them. As of right now, twenty states and over 100 municipalities have passed laws to protect LGBTQIA+ people from conversion therapy. An estimated 698,000 adults in the United States have undergone conversion therapy; 350,000 recieved it as minors. 

The American organization Born Perfect states on their website that “Few practices hurt LGBT youth more than attempts to change their sexual orientation or gender identity through conversion therapy,” Born Perfect shares. Born Perfect was created by the National Center for Lesbian Rights in June 2014, and their website professes that “We believe that every LGBT child is born perfect and that any young person’s identity as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender should be honored, celebrated, and supported. We are committed to ending these dangerous and stigmatizing practices across the country once and for all—relegating them to the dustbin of history, and ensuring every child knows they were #BornPerfect,” Born Perfect shared. This organization is actively working to end conversion therapy in the United States, and if you’d like to learn more about their work, check out bornperfect.org.

Sources: France24, BBC, GLAAD, UCLA.edu, Stonewall 

March for Life Supporters Gather in D.C.: The 49th annual March for Life takes place as marchers advocate against abortion.

On Jan. 21, 2022, thousands boarded buses, cars, trains and planes to reconvene in Wash., DC. for the 49th annual March for Life. A steady stream of pro-lifers, bundled up against the freezing weather in scarves and coats, processed up Constitution Avenue chanting, praying or simply carrying signs with slogans, such as “A Person’s a Person No Matter How Small.”

Participants in the March for Life join each year in opposition to the Supreme Court ruling on the Roe v. Wade case of Jan. 22, 1973. The Supreme Court decided that a woman could legally abort her baby according to the first section of the Fourteenth Amendment, which states: “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws,” the Constitution explains.

This ruling resulted in the national legalization of abortion, an event which has been hotly contested to this day. One of the goals of participants in the March for Life is for the Supreme Court to overturn this decision to nationally legalize abortion via Roe v. Wade and grant the individual states the ability to make their own decisions regarding abortion’s legality. 

Points frequently addressed by both sides of the abortion issue include whether a baby in the womb is legally considered to be a person with rights, whether the mother has the right to have an abortion, and how to best assist mothers with unplanned pregnancies. Advocates of abortion support Planned Parenthood Clinics as a way for mothers to end their pregnancies, while the pro-life movement supports Crisis Pregnancy Centers which offer counseling and assistance to mothers with difficult pregnancies. 

The March for Life carried special significance this year as those on both sides of the abortion issue anxiously await a summer 2022 decision from the Supreme Court concerning the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health case which will either overturn or uphold the Roe v. Wade decision, potentially putting abortion’s legality back into the hands of the states. 

Sources: NPR, NBC News, Constitution.congress.gov

Delaware County Homeless Shelters Still Face Consequences of COVID: A look into the present state of several homeless shelters in Delaware County.

Community Action Agency of Delaware County’s three homeless shelters have reached capacity, causing officials to rely on a motel/hotel voucher system. On Feb. 2, the Delaware County Council passed a $350,000 raise to Community Action Agency of Delaware County for shelter operations, specifically to aid the motel/hotel voucher system until June 30. People experiencing homelessness that are placed in motels or hotels will also go through housing assistance programs until they can receive an alternate housing placement. 

Edward T. Coleman, the director of Community Action Agency of Delaware County, shared the ways that the COVID-19 pandemic has increased homelessness in the area. “For years and years, there’s always been a motel program, going back to when we started. Now, because of COVID, it’s been used a lot,” Coleman stated. Volunteers have hopes that the COVID will continue to be addressed, allowing the shelters to maintain capacity numbers. 

Gina Ruggieri, the director of the Life Center of Eastern Delaware County, has emphasized how the COVID-19 pandemic mitigation restrictions generated logistical difficulties at the shelter. The shelter decreased the amount of beds available to ensure that social distance could take place. Ruggieri explained that the shelter has decreased to 32 beds from an original full capacity of 50 beds. “It had been down to 30 about a month or two ago but Ruggieri said they added two more because they had an increase in women needing shelter,” Delco Times shared. 

The Life Center of Eastern Delaware formerly had a daily dinner program in which churches and community organizations brought and served dinner to the residents of the shelter and other people experiencing homelessness. However, since the COVID-19 pandemic, the daily dinner program had to cease since a lot of people were not comfortable serving on-site due to the rise of COVID-19 cases. Instead, groups provide meals on a drop-off basis. “It’s definitely been a constant change of protocol and procedure to keep everybody safe in a practical way. We’ve been doing everything that we possibly can to help,” Ruggieri stated. 

In addition to the housing and feeding of people experiencing homelessness, Delaware County shelters have been trying to increase their volunteer tax program. The volunteer tax program supplies free tax preparation services for county individuals, as well as the multiple locations amongst the county where these services are provided. Volunteers receive IRS training and certification through the agency and receive flexible hours with particular needs on weekdays, evenings, and weekends. 

Through the volunteer tax program, financial literacy is allotted as the counselor works alongside the client to find out the optimal way to use their refund with choices such as paying off bills, retiring, debt or investing. ““This is really a great opportunity for people to take advantage of free tax preparation and financial literacy. It’s provided free of charge for people whose incomes are limited. It’s a friendly place to go where we can talk about what needs they have,” Coleman explained.

For anyone interested in volunteering with Community Action Agency, they are asked to call 610-874-8451. 

Sources: Delco Times

Biden Administration Allocates $1.6B to Repair and Rebuild Pa. Bridges: Bridges in Chest County and Delaware County are expected to receive funding as a result of the Bridge Funding Program.

Standing besides the U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Pa. Gov. Tom Wolf publicized the start of the largest bridge formula initiative in American history. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law promises that Pa. will receive $1.6 billion to repair and rebuild over 3,000 bridges throughout the commonwealth — including bridges in Chester County and Delaware County. In fiscal year 2022, Pa. will attain over $327 million dollars of government funding for bridge reparation. 

With 3,353 Pa. bridges in poor condition, Pa. is nationally ranked as the second state with the highest quantity of bridges in substandard condition. Gradual deterioration of Pa. bridges presents safety risks to community members and vehicles. With the impacts of climate change, leaders have advocated for the modernization of bridges to withstand a variety of weather conditions over a long period of time.The implementation of this initiative is expected to allow businesses to expand and communities to connect while prioritizing the safety of all people. “Every state has bridges in poor condition and in need of repair, including bridges with weight restrictions, that may force lengthy detours for travelers, school buses, first responders, or trucks carrying freight,” Deputy Federal Highway Administrator Stephanie Pollack explained.

On a national level, the Bridge Funding Program is expected to restore a total of roughly 15,000 bridges. This program has also been dedicated to provide funding for Tribal transportation facility bridges and “off-system” bridges. “Off-system” bridges include facilities that are locally owned and not a part of the federal-aid highway system. Although states usually match federal funding with a minimum of 20 percent state or local funding, the implementation of this law explains that federal funds can be utilized for 100 percent of the rehabilitation and reparation of these locally owned “off-system” bridges. 

 “Strong infrastructure is critical to the quality of life for all Pennsylvanians, especially strong, safe bridges,” Gov. Wolf stated. 

Sources: Chester County Press, Delaware Valley Journal

Iran-Backed Houthi Airstrikes in Yemen Cause Nationwide Internet Blackout: A look into the historical background and ongoing conflict leading to Jan. 2022 airstrike in Yemen.

On Jan. 24, one of several airstrikes hit a telecommunication building in the strategic port city of Hodeida, causing a nationwide internet blackout. Yemen has become an Iranian Proxy War Against Israel, while the UAE faces militant consequences of the Abraham Accords, which aims to promote peace in the Middle East.

Yemen’s civil war began in Jan. 2015.  The Houthis takeover captured much of Sanaa, Yemen’s capital, by late 2014.  Reneging on a UN peace deal, the Houthis consolidated control of Sanaa and continued their southward advance, while Hadi’s government resigned under pressure and later fled to Saudi Arabia.  With Hadi in exile, Saudi Forces launched a military campaign — primarily fought from the air — to roll back the Houthis and restore the Hadi administration to Sanaa.

The Houthi movement emerged in the late 1980s as a vehicle for religious

and cultural revivalism among Zaydi Shiites in northern Yemen.  The Zaydis are a minority in the Sunni Muslim-majority country but predominant the northern highlands along the Saudi border.  The Houthis became politically active after 2003, opposing Saleh for backing the U.S.-led invasions of Iraq, but later allying with him after his resignation as president.

The alliance between the Houthis and Saleh was a tactical one:  Saleh’s loyalists opposed Hadi’s UN-backed government, and feeling marginalized in the transition process, planned to regain control of Yemen.  Saleh shifted his support in 2017 to the opposing, Saudi-led coalition and was assassinated by Houthi forces. 

Iran is the Houthis’ primary international backer and has reportedly provided them with military support, including weapons.  The Saudis perceive the Houthis as an Iranian proxy rather than an indigenous movement.  For Saudi Arabia, accepting the Houthis’ control of  Yemen would mean allowing a hostile neighbor to reside on its southern border, and it would mark a setback in its long-standing contest with Iran.  After Saudi Arabia, the UAE has played the most significant military role in the coalition, contributing some ten thousand ground troops, mostly in Yemen’s south.

In Nov. 2019, Hadi and the separatists signed the Riyadh Agreement, which affirms that the factions will share equal power in a postwar Yemeni government.  The separatists reneged on the deal for several months in 2020 and formed its own government with equal representation of northerners and southerners. The formation of a Yemeni government signaled some progress in bridging Yemen’s internal divisions; but would be immediately challenged by Iran.

Sources: BBC, CNN, Council on Foreign Relations, Foreign Policy, U.S. Department of State

 

The Crisis Text Line Responds to Scrutiny Over Sharing Data with For-Profit: The nonprofit organization stops sharing data with artificial intelligence company after immense criticism.

Trigger warning: This article discusses themes of suicide and mental illness. 

The Crisis Text Line is a globally-recognized mental health support service that uses text messaging to help people through traumas such as self-harm and suicidal ideations. Since initially launching in 2013, Crisis Text Line has exchanged 6.7 million conversations through text, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp. The organization has stretched from the United States to Canada, the U.K. and Ireland. Unaffiliated with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, the Crisis Text Line has recently faced scrutiny for selling caller data to for-profit organizations. 

Loris.ai, the organization’s for-profit branch, has been using information from the nonprofit to produce and sell customer service software. “Crisis Text Line says any data it shares with that company, Loris.ai, has been wholly ‘anonymized,’ stripped of any details that could be used to identify people who contacted the helpline in distress,” Politico stated. Despite the anonymity of people’s identification, media outlets have questioned the ethics surrounding the nonprofit’s usage of private information for company expansion.

Ethics and privacy experts expressed several concerns with this revelation. First, studies of other datasets have demonstrated that tracing records to individuals is possible despite goals of anonymity. Second, it is questionable whether people who are seeking help are consenting to having their data shared regardless of anonymity. Although the helpline provides a link to a 50-paragraph disclosure when individuals first seek help, ethics and privacy experts have wondered if people going through immense mental turmoil are in the headspace to fully consent. 

Responding to criticism, both entities have emphasized that their goal is global improvement. Loris.ai explained that their aim was to make “customer support more human, empathetic and scalable,” Loris.ai shared. On Feb. 1, several days after Politico published a viral article critiquing the sharing of data, The Verge published an article explaining that the Crisis Text Line has stopped sharing conversation data with Loris.ai. 

“We hear you. Crisis Text Line has had an open and public relationship with Loris AI. We understand that you don’t want Crisis Text Line to share any data with Loris, even though the data is handled securely, anonymized and scrubbed of personally identifiable information,” Crisis Text Line explained. Loris.ai will remove any data that has been acquired from Crisis Text Line. 

Sources: Crisis Text Line, Politico, The Verge

Italian Government Enforces New Vaccine Mandate: Italian residents over 50 years old face vaccine regulations to control rising COVID-19 numbers.

As Italy struggles with rising cases of the Omicron variant, the Italian government approved a mandate that requires the vaccination of people who are 50 years or older. On Jan. 5, this mandate was formally approved and publicized to the residents of Italy. Roughly 78-percent of Italy’s population are entirely vaccinated with 36-percent having attained the booster shot. Italy aims to raise these percentages with the goal of prioritizing the safety of healthcare staff and Italian citizens. 

During a Cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Mario Draghi explained that this decision was based on concerns surrounding the higher risks of hospitalization for older individuals who are unvaccinated. This decision aimed to “reduce the pressure on hospitals and save lives,” Draghi stated. 

Draghi’s politically diverse Cabinet counterparts held different viewpoints on the matter; however, the decree achieved approval within a nearly three hour meeting. Right-wing members argued that the mandate was being passed “without scientific foundation, considering that the absolute majority of those hospitalized with COVID are well over 60,” Reuters explained.

Health Minister Roberto Speranza informed reporters that individuals who are 50 years or older will receive a “super green pass” prior to entering their workplaces. The “super green pass” is given to people who are vaccinated or who have newly recovered from COVID-19. “Refusal results in suspension from work without pay, but not dismissal,” Reuters stated. This workplace precondition for workers in both private and public sectors will go into effect on Feb. 15. 

The Cabinet additionally declared that individuals working in university settings are required to be vaccinated regardless of their age. Individuals obtaining services in beauty parlors and establishments alike must have a negative COVID-19 test if they are not vaccinated or have not newly recovered from the virus. This regulation also applies to shopping mall stores, post offices, and banks. 

Sources: The Associated Press, Reuters

Photo: Reuters

Man receives Moderna vaccine at the Music Auditorium in Rome, Italy.

Interfaith Philadelphia Explores Identity in New Course: A look into an interactive and six-session course titled, “Exploring Identity: How Faith and Race Shape Us and the Ways We Lead”.

Originally founded in 2004, Interfaith Philadelphia strives to establish hope and reconciliation amongst communities. This organization unites people of varying religious backgrounds as they “get to know each other as people and to learn how to value and respect the ‘other’ while maintaining (and often strengthening) their own religious identities,” Interfaith Philadelphia explained. In light of this mission, the organization is providing a six-session course titled, “Exploring Identity: How Faith and Race Shape Us and the Ways We Lead”. 

The development of this course has involved the collaborative work of Interfaith staff, Rev. Dr. Phaedra Blocker, Trina Gary and Asheq Fazlullah. Dr. Blocker, an affiliate professor at Eastern University, and Gary will serve as facilitators for the course. The curricular team started with a retreat in which they examined aspects that are important for people “to know and experience on a journey to religious and cultural literacy, and then took those pieces and began to work — separately and together — on a format and sequence,” Dr. Blocker stated. Eventually, this course will become a part of a larger certificate program through Interfaith Philadelphia’s Leadership Institute. 

Expectations for participants of the course include the opportunity to “explore their own stories and the influence of life, experience, culture, race, spirituality, and social context,” Interfaith Philadelphia explained. Participants will be encouraged to consider how they create space to delve into and appreciate the identities of other people. 

Dr. Blocker hopes that this course will have profound impacts on participants. First, Dr. Blocker hopes that people will exit the course knowing themselves better. “As I teach my spiritual formation students, it’s important that, as we seek to be transformed by God, we have a good sense of who the person in that process of transformation is,” Dr. Blocker stated.

Second, Dr. Blocker believes that, as Martin Luther King Jr. stated, we must “learn to live together” rather than “perish together as fools.” In doing so, people must nurture a profound sense of dedication to honor our collective humanity. “This requires that we learn to look beyond — and I don’t mean ‘look over,’ but ‘look through’ — the labels and categories and rhetoric that we sometimes apply to those different from us, to really see and appreciate each person (including ourselves) as a cherished and individual image of God,” Dr. Blocker explained. 

Participants will meet each Tuesday from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. throughout the time frame of Feb. 22 to March 29. For aspiring participants of this course, further information can be retrieved at https://www.interfaithphiladelphia.org/exploring-identity

Photo: Interfaith Philadelphia 

“Exploring Identity” will involve deeper engagement with others and insightful reflection.

2021 Photo Gallery: Eastern students recollect 2021 through photographs encompassing the history we have lived through this past year.

 

CNN

January 2021: Traffic piles up as drivers wait for COVID-19 tests outside of the Los Angeles Dodgers Stadium.

 

 

 

Reuters 

January 2021: Police munition causes explosion as 2,000 to 2,500 supporters of Donald Trump storm the Capitol Building following President Biden’s election.

 

 

The New York Times

March: Marie Fabrizio, 95, sees her son, Dan Fabrizio, 59, at her assisted living home for the first time in a year following the pandemic lockdown.

 

 

 

Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post

March: Vice President Harris swears in Deb Haaland as the 54th secretary of the Interior, making Haaland the first Native American cabinet secretary.

 

 

News18

Expressions of gratitude are given to healthcare workers as they have confronted the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

ABC News

April: Black Lives Matter activists protest for Ma’Khia Bryant, a 16-year-old who was fatally shot by a police officer.

 

 

 

Tasos Katopodis/UPI/Shutterstock

August 2021: Team USA receives gold medal in the women’s 4×400 relay during the Olympics in Tokyo.

 

 

Wakil Kohsar / AFP via Getty Images

August: Afghans climb on a plane in Kabul’s airport in hopes of leaving Afghanistan.

 

 

 

Caroline Brehman/EPA

November: Brittany Spears’ fans celebrate at the Stanley Mosk Courthouse after discovering that Spears’ conservatorship has been terminated.