News Briefs: The State of Human Rights

Published April 2009 Vol. 13 Issue 3

In February 2009, the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, part of the U.S. Department of State, submitted its annual Human Rights Report to Congress.

Some of the strongest statements in the report were directed at leaders in Zimbabwe and the Democratic Republic of the Congo:

The Robert Mugabe regime in Zimbabwe “unleashed a campaign of terror that resulted in the killing, disappearance and torture of hundreds of opposition party members and supporters following the March [2008] elections that were not free and fair.”

 

Human rights abuses often emerged in the form of media censorship and persecution of journalists.

 

Conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, according to the report, resulted in as many as 45,000 Congolese deaths each month last year and a total of over one million “internally displaced persons.”
In the Western hemisphere, the Colombian government “continued its efforts to improve human rights.” While killings decreased by 6 percent and kidnappings by 14 percent in 2008, collaboration between armed groups and insubordinate military persists—as does armed conflict with terrorist organizations.

Human rights abuses often emerged in the form of media censorship and persecution of journalists. In Egypt, police detained and allegedly tortured bloggers. The Afghan government convicted a student journalist of blasphemy for distributing an article he downloaded on women’s rights in Islam. His death sentence was reduced to 20 years in prison by an appeals court.

The 2008 report will be used as a resource for shaping U.S. policy, conducting diplomacy and allocating U.S. aid resources. The report offers a country-by-country breakdown of the state of human rights across the globe, drawing attention to positive as well as negative developments.

The full report is available for viewing online at
http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2008/index.htm

Art Feature: Back to the Future: A second look at earthship principles

Published: April 2009 Vol. 13 Issue 3

photography & text by Ross Evertson

Earthship designed and built by Joe Callahan of Boulder, Colorado. Photos by Ross Evertson.
I was raised in the carpet and drywall world of suburban Denver.  The homes of my friends all looked and felt so similar to my own, each one was like a visit to a parallel universe (some of them even shared the exact same floor plan, and everyone decorated the same way—the primary difference was the odor, if the parents smoked, or if there was a baby). There was something comforting to the sameness at that age, but as I got older that sameness became almost depressing and it was rare for me to ever find that level of comfort in the home of anyone else, friend or stranger.

It was particularly bizarre, then, when I first stepped into an earthship. It did not look like any home I had ever been in before. Beneath the iconic south-facing floor to ceiling windows is an indoor garden, fed by greywater from the sinks and shower. The soft forms of the structure flow all around. As organic as the stucco walls feel, they are covering a traditional earthship building material—used automobile tires filled with tightly compacted dirt.

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Feature: Street Structures - Finding home on bivouac beds

Published: April 2009 Vol. 13 Issue 3

photography and text by D. Glies Clasen
EDAR photographs by Julie Yurth Himot

Mark Hedrick plays his harmonica trying to relax after a long day on the streets.Each night around 9 or 10, the traffic slows, and most weeknights, the city falls into a slumber.

That’s about the time the homeless men and women in Denver begin moving toward their campsites. 

They set up their bivouacs, temporary encampments under little or no shelter.

The lucky ones might have a tent or roof. 

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Local Buzz: New Boulder group focuses on community, opportunity for homeless and working poor

Published April 2009 Vol. 13 Issue 3

BOULDER – Looking at community as a means of making opportunity and preserving life, a new nonprofit is taking roots in Boulder, working to fill the gaps in services for the homeless and working poor.

Directed by Jim Budd, a formerly homeless person, BOHO, or Boulder Outreach for Homeless Overflow, is working with local agencies to explore and provide routes out of homelessness. In addition, Budd wants to ensure that no one has to sleep outside when the elements are life-threatening.

“One fundamental purpose of community is to preserve life,” Budd says, explaining that despite current efforts to shelter and otherwise assist the homeless, disabled people sleep on the ground every night in Boulder. “All people are vulnerable to the earth’s elements,” he says.

Budd also wants to develop a common market for goods, services and other commerce—including jobs. He says this is one way to create more paths out of homelessness for the people who are able to take them.
For more information on BOHO, contact Budd at 720-413-2673.

—Tara Flanagan

News Briefs: Nation’s homeless face more laws against them

Published April 2009 Vol. 13 Issue 3

A much-anticipated report gauging how American communities deal with their homeless will likely be released by summer 2009. Every two years the National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH) and the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty (NLCHP) publish a joint study documenting trends in U.S. cities toward the criminalization of homelessness.

In recent years, cities across the nation have increasingly passed stricter vagrancy laws that ban activities such as sleeping or sitting in public spaces, eating in public places and begging or panhandling. Denver joined the growing ranks of cities making it tougher to be homeless three years ago when it began enforcing new ordinances to curb panhandling downtown and along the 16th Street Mall.

According to the NCH’s ‘A Dream Denied,’ a report which studied cities nation-wide, between 2002 and 2007 there was a:

12% increase laws prohibiting begging in certain public places
18% increase in laws that prohibit aggressive panhandling
14% increase in laws prohibiting sitting or lying in certain public spaces
3% increase in laws prohibiting loitering or loafing

Michael Stoops, the Director of NCH, confirmed that although they haven’t finished compiling all the data yet, in their preliminary research NCH sees the trend toward criminalization continuing.

—Sarah Harvey