Month: July 2019

A disabled peer has launched a furious attack on M

first_imgA disabled peer has launched a furious attack on MPs, after he was forced to admit defeat in the battle to prevent the government cutting out-of-work disability benefits for tens of thousands of claimants by £1, 500 a year.The decision, which will mean a loss of about £30 a week for new employment and support allowance (ESA) claimants placed in the work-related activity group (WRAG) from April 2017, has angered disabled peers, disabled activists, and disability organisations.The government measure was described this week by campaigners and peers as “drastic and without justification”, “harsh”, “dreadful”, “punitive” and “counter-productive”.MPs had twice blocked attempts by peers to throw out or delay the cuts, but the Lords finally had to admit defeat this week because parliamentary convention means MPs have the final say on matters that have financial implications for the government.Lord [Colin] Low (pictured during the debate), who has led attempts in the Lords to defeat the WRAG measure, said: “The Commons have spoken decisively and we must bow to their wishes, but we do so under protest.“Do not let anyone kid you that this is democracy in action. There is more to democracy than just being elected.”He said the House of Lords was “much more democratic” than the Commons because it was more representative of the population, more accessible, more open and more responsive.He said: “Organisations representing the needs of poor and dispossessed people find it much easier to get their point across and have it taken on board in the House of Lords than in the House of Commons.”And he said that Tory whips – whose job it is to enforce the government’s wishes among its MPs – had been “working overtime” before the measure was voted on last week, and he accused them of “handing out bribes and blandishments like there was no tomorrow”.Lord Low said he and his colleagues in the Lords had listened to disabled people, while the House of Commons had “preferred to listen to the government”, which failed to provide “any convincing reason” for their decision to cut WRAG payments.He said the WRAG cut was “emblematic of the way in which this Conservative government have chosen to treat disabled people”. He said: “The fact is that ministers are looking for large savings at the expense of the poorest and most vulnerable.“That was not made clear in the general election campaign; then, the prime minister said that disabled people would be protected.“By this action, the government have betrayed the trust of disabled people and they should not be surprised if they forfeit it for the rest of their time in office.”His fellow disabled crossbench peer, Baroness [Jane] Campbell, told her fellow peers: “The minister is asking us to have faith again today, but I hope and pray that we do not look back on this day as the moment when we pushed some of the most severely disabled people in Britain over the edge.”She said she found it “very difficult when the niceties of parliamentary protocol trump the lives of disabled people”.Baroness Campbell said that words had failed her last week when she heard the arguments made by ministers in favour of the WRAG cut.She said: “In my view, our arguments were pretty indisputable, especially with regard to the absence of evidence that cutting severely disabled people’s employment and support allowance would incentivise them to work.” A third disabled crossbencher, Baroness [Tanni] Grey-Thompson, said she was “deeply disappointed” at what had happened.She said: “I and others spent a great deal of time last week working through every possibility of tabling another amendment to send this dreadful and punitive part of the bill back to the other place.“Unfortunately, because of parliamentary procedure, that was not possible.”She added: “I apologise to the people affected by this bill that, at this point, we could not do any more.“This may be the end of the legislative process, but it is the start of the negative impact the bill will have on thousands of people’s lives.”Lord Freud, the welfare reform minister, paid tribute to the three disabled peers who he said had “argued so passionately against the changes that we are introducing”.He said their concerns would be “right at the forefront of our minds—certainly of my mind” as the government finalises its forthcoming white paper on employment support for disabled people.The bill has now cleared all of its parliamentary hurdles and only has to receive royal assent before it becomes law.After the debate, Disability Rights UK said in a blog that the cut was “drastic and without justification”, was “terrible news” for disabled people, and “will do nothing to incentivise employment – quite the opposite”, while the government was “profoundly wrong to make this harsh and counter-productive cut”.The charity added: “The risk that we are clearly facing is that from 2017, many disabled people will just be worse off – when already disabled people are so disproportionately affected by poverty.”last_img read more

A note from the editor Please consider making a v

first_imgA note from the editor:Please consider making a voluntary financial contribution to support the work of DNS and allow it to continue producing independent, carefully-researched news stories that focus on the lives and rights of disabled people and their user-led organisations. Please do not contribute if you cannot afford to do so, and please note that DNS is not a charity. It is run and owned by disabled journalist John Pring and has been from its launch in April 2009. Thank you for anything you can do to support the work of DNS… The government is facing calls to halt the progress of its mental capacity bill through parliament because of its “shocking” failure to consult any disabled people’s organisations about the controversial legislation, in a clear breach of the UN disability convention.The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has admitted in a freedom of information response that it failed to consult any organisations led by disabled people while drawing up its mental capacity (amendment) bill.Instead, it resorted to discussions with big charities like Mencap and Sense, which are run and controlled by non-disabled people, a clear breach of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).It released the list of organisations it consulted in a freedom of information response to the disabled people’s organisation (DPO) Inclusion London.But DHSC this week admitted that it believed – wrongly – that consulting non-user-led charities like Mencap and Sense on disability-related legislation meant that it was complying with the convention.Inclusion London said it was “extremely disappointed but unfortunately not surprised” by the department’s “continued apparent inability to understand the difference” between disability charities and DPOs. And it said it was “outraged” by the failure to consult any DPOs about the bill “despite repeated requests from organisations of people with learning difficulties and self-advocacy groups”, while Inclusion London said the government had also failed to publish any accessible, easy read information about the bill.Inclusion London called on the government to halt the passage of the “hugely important bill” until it had carried out a “meaningful consultation” with DPOs.And it called on the government to take its duties under the convention seriously and start engaging directly with DPOs “as required by the UNCRPD”.Tracey Lazard (pictured), chief executive of Inclusion London, said the government appeared to be “deliberately and persistently misunderstanding the very real difference” between DPOs and those charities “that are run and controlled by non-disabled people that do not represent us or reflect our lived experience”.She said the evidence pointed to the government “deliberately choosing not to consult or engage” with DPOs, and she added: “This is quite simply unacceptable and goes against everything the UNCRPD stands for.”She said: “In any other circumstances there would be an outcry if a bill that focuses on a specific community then excludes that community from having any information, knowledge or say over that bill.”But she said this now appeared to be “standard government practice” where disabled people were concerned.Last week, DNS reported how more than 100,000 people had signed a petition – drawn up by a network of DPOs, including Inclusion London – demanding the government make major changes to the bill because of fears that it would make it easier for many disabled people to be deprived of their freedom.There are particular concerns about the powers that the bill – which will affect an estimated 300,000 people in England and Wales with impairments including dementia, learning difficulties and brain injuries – will grant care home managers, local authorities and NHS organisations.Some amendments to the bill have been made in the last few days, but they have not satisfied the concerns of disabled campaigners. The bill began its report stage in the Lords yesterday (Wednesday).The timing of DHSC’s admission is particularly embarrassing for the government, coming just days after a UN rapporteur delivered a stinging report on its efforts to address the extreme poverty experienced by disabled people and other disadvantaged groups.It is also little more than a year after the chair of a UN committee said the government’s cuts to social security and other support for disabled people had caused “a human catastrophe”.In the freedom of information response, DHSC listed 28 organisations that it consulted with about the bill between March 2017 and July 2018, including the General Medical Council, the Law Society, the National Autistic Society, Mencap, Sense, Rethink, the Care Providers Alliance, Age UK, the British Association of Social Workers and BUPA.It also said it consulted with representatives of local government, the social care sector and the NHS.But not one of the 28 organisations is led and controlled by disabled people.The UNCRPD makes it clear that, when developing laws and policies relating to disabled people, governments “must closely consult with and actively involve persons with disabilities, including children with disabilities, through their representative organizations”.It defines “representative organizations” as those that are “led, directed and governed by persons with disabilities”, a definition which the committee on the rights of persons with disabilities included in its “general comment number seven”, which was adopted in September.When Disability News Service (DNS) asked DHSC why it failed to consult any DPOs about the new legislation, and whether it accepted that this was a breach of the UN convention, a spokeswoman said there was no such breach “as we have consulted (and continue to consult) with ‘representative organisations’, as required”.She added: “The [UNCRPD] requires government to consult with ‘representative organisations’.“We have complied with this by consulting throughout the process with third sector organisations, such as Mencap and Sense, who represent disabled people and whose members have fed back their views.“We have also engaged directly with individuals with dementia and learning disabilities, and their carers, to ensure the bill delivers effective reform whilst strengthening safeguards.”When DNS pointed to the convention and general comment number seven, another DHSC spokeswoman declined to change the comment, and said: “We consider that we have complied with the convention by consulting throughout the process with third sector organisations, such as Mencap and Sense, who represent disabled people and whose members have fed back their views.”DHSC also says the bill is based on proposals from the Law Commission, which itself carried out four years of engagement with service-users, local government and service-providers.last_img read more

The Andrew Marr Show Jeremy Corbyn refused to say

first_imgThe Andrew Marr ShowJeremy Corbyn refused to say that Labour would table a motion of no confidence in the government on Tuesday night or Wednesday morning, but said it would be “soon”. The leader denied being against free movement, but did not say it would be kept under a Labour Brexit deal. He also confirmed that Labour winning an election would mean Article 50 extension. Corbyn said he would “rather get a negotiated deal” than hold another EU referendum. Finally, he defended John Bercow.On a vote of no confidence in the government: “We will table a motion of no confidence in the government at a time of our choosing. It’s going to be soon, don’t worry about that… We’ll have the vote and then we’ll see what happens.”On Labour’s Brexit policy in its next manifesto, Corbyn explained how the Clause V meeting (including the national executive, shadow cabinet, etc) that would be held to decide the position showed he is not a “dictator”.On whether Labour is campaigning to leave: “No… We’re campaigning for a country that is brought together by investment.”On free movement: “I’m not against the free movement of people. What I want to end is the undercutting of workers’ rights and conditions.” Later, he said free movement “would be open to negotiation”, but added: “Diane Abbott has made it very clear our migration policy will be based on the needs and rights of people to work in this country.”On EU citizens’ rights: “We would unilaterally legislate to guarantee them all permanent rights of residence in Britain.”On extending Article 50: “Clearly, if Theresa May’s deal is voted down, and clearly, if a general election takes place and a Labour government comes in… there would have to be time for those negotiations.”On another EU referendum: “My own view is that I would rather get a negotiated deal now, if we can, to stop the danger of a no deal exit from the European Union on the 29th March, which would be catastrophic.”On Speaker Bercow: “I think he’s a very good Speaker… The attacks on him are really unfair and unwarranted.” Jeremy Corbyn says Labour will do “everything we can to stop” a “catastrophic” no-deal #Brexit #Marr— BBC Politics (@BBCPolitics) January 13, 2019Ridge on SundayJohn Mann, Labour MP for Bassetlaw and 2016 leave campaigner, confirmed he would be voting for May’s deal on Tuesday.On voting for May’s deal: “A day is long time in politics so things can change, but as it stands it is likely I will vote for the deal.”On ‘no deal’ and extending Article 50: “There is no such thing as no deal. The no deal option actually means thousands of deals into the future with the European Union. I think the mess and chaos and uncertainty that will cause negotiating all those thousands of deals is the worst option other than putting it off. The worst of anything would be delaying Article 50 for me.” Labour MP John Mann says that it is “likely” that he will support Theresa May’s Brexit deal, and says a number of Labour MPs will likely do the same #Ridge— Ridge on Sunday (@RidgeOnSunday) January 13, 2019Rebecca Long-Bailey, Labour MP for Salford and Eccles and Shadow Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Secretary, gave similar answers to Jeremy Corbyn on Marr.On Labour’s objections to May’s deal, Long-Bailey highlighted “the customs union backstop” instead of a “permanent customs union deal with a right for Britain to have a say in future trade deals”, the “extremely ambiguous” political declaration and the need for a “strong single market relationship”.On a vote of no confidence: “We’ll wait and see what happens on Tuesday and we’ll act at the appropriate time.”On whether Labour would campaign for Brexit in a general election: “Our current manifesto states that we respect the result of the referendum and we want a deal that puts our economy first. Now ultimately of course, when we go through the next manifesto making process, we’ll have those discussions within the Labour Party but that is our position.”On Barry Gardiner saying that Labour would hold another referendum after winning an election and negotiating a new deal: “That’s not official party policy at this stage.” Shadow Business Secretary @RLong_BaileyMP says Labour will call a confidence motion in the government “at the appropriate time”, but gives no clarity as to when that might be #Ridge— Ridge on Sunday (@RidgeOnSunday) January 13, 2019Pienaar’s PoliticsSadiq Khan, London mayor, explained his reasons for backing a fresh EU referendum, but acknowledged that there are valid reasons for which Corbyn has been hesitant to give his support.On Labour supporting another referendum: “I’m hoping if the option of a general election is defeated in parliament, I’m hoping there is a public vote… It would be cathartic.”On Corbyn’s reluctance to back a ‘people’s vote’: “There is a good reason for that. Jeremy Corbyn, not unreasonably as leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition, wants to be the Prime Minister.”center_img Audio Player Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume. Tags:Sadiq Khan /John Mann /Labour /Jeremy Corbyn /Rebecca Long-Bailey /Brexit /Pienaar’s politics /Ridge on Sunday /Sunday shows /last_img read more

Planning Director Wants Both More Housing Analysis of Displacement

first_img Tags: development • housing Share this: FacebookTwitterRedditemail,0% 0% “We know that there is simply not enough housing regionally or in San Francisco to meet our needs,” Rahaim wrote. “We know that producing housing at all income levels is critical, and that is why we are working with you and other elected officials to strengthen our affordable housing policies.”Sonja Trauss, the founder of the Bay Area Renters Federation, known as BARF, which is allied with the YIMBY party, saw this as an attempt to appeal to both affordable housing advocates and those who, like herself, believe the city must build new housing at any level.“He’s like, I’m concerned about displacement, and then he goes into how we really have to build at all income levels,” Trauss said. “Those are each dog whistles for two really opposite philosophies.”The appeal on 1515 South Van Ness was made by the Calle 24  Latino Cultural District Community Council and its leaders, who argued that constructing high-income housing would exacerbate displacement.  Keeping 25 percent of the units there at below market rate rents as the developer had promised,  would not be enough to offset the negative effects, they said. The Board directed the city to conduct further study on how market-rate development impacts displacement and gentrification.Rahaim pointed to the collaboratively developed Mission Area Plan 2020, the Planning Department’s Interim Controls for the Mission District, and the 24th Street cultural corridor as efforts the department has made to quell displacement. “We are working every day with the community, Planning Commission, elected leaders, and our City partners to undertake a series of policy and implementation efforts aimed at pursuing this goal,” he wrote. “These include efforts to stabilize our neighborhoods and existing housing stock; to create more housing options for San Franciscans at every income level and strengthen our affordable housing requirements; to deepen our understanding of the complex forces behind these issues; and adapt our housing supply to the unique needs of every San Franciscan.”Diana Flores, a tenants rights advocate with the advocacy group Causa Justa::Just Cause also lauded the MAP 2020 plan for its community input.“Unless we have that kind of engagement, most projects are going to have some sort of resistance to the changes that are coming into neighborhoods, where folks are trying to vocalize these changes and the city is not making any space for them to be heard,” she said.On Monday, Calle 24’s president Erick Arguello characterized the letter, and these efforts, as a signal that neighborhood organizers have been effective. “I think it took the community to really make its case and really share what’s happening in the neighborhood,” Arguello said. “It’s hard for folks on the outside to see what’s really happening on the inside.”Trauss and Arguello both lauded the city’s efforts to acquire small multi-unit properties, known as the Small Sites Acquisition Program.  These efforts keep existing long-term tenants in place and expand the city’s permanently affordable housing stock without having to build new units.Incoming District 9 supervisor Hillary Ronen said she was heartened by the letter, but focused on developing concrete legislative changes to address displacement. “I’m really happy that the planning director is being proactive and taking the displacement crisis so seriously and I’m heartened that they’re going to do… analysis of the problem,” she said. “But the proof is gonna be in what sort of policy changes and legislation that we put into place.”In the letter, Rahaim refers to efforts to bring 1,000 units of affordable housing to the Mission. In her run for Supervisor, Ronen promised to bring five times that in the next 10 years.The letter comes at a time when new strategies for housing development and mitigating displacement are already clashing.  Newly elected State Senator Scott Wiener announced the introduction of legislation to streamline local planning processes, igniting speculation what exactly that would mean and whether it would diminish the influence of local advocacy groups. Rahaim wrote that the department has also begun drafting legislation related to preserving production, distribution and repairs spaces and protecting neighborhood businesses in the next six to 12 months, as well as a study on zoning changes to increase the city’s affordable housing capacity.The Planning Department is now tasked with reviewing the social and economic effects of the 1515 South Van Ness project on the 24th Street Latino Cultural Corridor.The Board of Supervisors will consider another appeal Tuesday brought by the same group that appealed 1515 South Van Ness. This time, Calle 24 is appealing the approval under environmental and conditional use laws of 2675 Folsom Street, a 117-unit building.The Planning Department will consider the Mission Action Plan 2020 will in 2017.Planning Director Letter by MissionLocal on Scribdcenter_img SF Planning Director John Rahaim wrote a letter to the Board of Supervisors on Friday, expressing concern over displacement, pointing to efforts to address it, but also arguing for more housing – regardless of who it is built to house. The letter responded to an earlier and unanimous November vote by the Board that effectively sent a 157-unit building at 1515 South Van Ness Avenue back to the drawing board.“I want to let you know that I personally share many of the concerns raised at the hearing about the serious challenges to our city’s racial, cultural, and economic diversity posed by the current economic climate,” Rahaim wrote. “We are exploring how we undertake a broader socio-economic analysis of displacement, gentrification and growth with a focus on equity.”While he touched on key talking points of anti-market-rate activists like the decline in the Latino population in the Mission, he also underscored a key argument made by the YIMBY (yes-in-my-back-yard) party’s argument that the supply of housing in the region is simply inadequate to accommodate the influx of new residents.last_img read more

San Francisco needs a Marshall Plan — for toilets

first_img“You see that guy over there?” James points with his chin, not his finger, at a paletero wheeling his ice cream trolley through the Mission. “He could fix that front wheel. He don’t want to. But that’s his thing. People feel sorry for him. And that’s how he sells so much ice cream.” Everyone’s got a hustle and James has seen it all. He’s doing a lot — cleaning the city’s “Pit Stop” toilets; checking after each user exits that nobody has left anything within those toilets you wouldn’t want to step on; monitoring the commodes’ water levels; sweeping up the area surrounding his place of business; and offering directions to tourists (or the merely disoriented) in fluent English, Chinese via an app, and hand gestures when all else fails. While doing all this, he is listening. He is watching. He is keeping detailed notes on a spreadsheet.“You see that guy over there?” James points with his chin at another man. A sedentary man with an unkempt, white beard and soiled, ill-fitting clothes who is sleeping beneath the noonday sun. This man, James explains, is an outcast among outcasts. But he’s still welcome to avail himself of the toilet and sink — with running water and soap. “He’s a human being. Gotta treat him like everyone else,” James says with a shrug. “I see the good in people. That coulda been me. And I’m here to help.” Last week, we wrote about the growing cavalcade of “filth porn” articles crossing the line between exploring the deplorable conditions on San Francisco’s streets and reveling in them, and offering little in the way of context or explanations, let alone solutions. Subscribe to Mission Local’s daily newsletter There is no one remedy for San Francisco’s myriad woes, and beware anyone offering simple solutions for this city’s intensely complex problems. But, in much the same manner that the ultimate solution to homelessness is homes, the means of preventing urine and feces on the street is toilets, and the way to reduce needles being scattered everywhere is to provide lockboxes where they can be easily deposited. Of course, the world is more complex than this, but you’d think the city would start with the simplest solutions. Well, it has. Sort of. That’s where Pit Stops come in. Three of these commodes/needle drop-offs/doggie bag dispensers opened up in the Tenderloin in 2014, staffed by former long-term prisoners hoping to make new lives. Four years later, there are 24 of them, including four in the Mission. More than 50 men and women (it’s about 90 percent men), nearly all of them contracted through the nonprofit Hunters Point Family, now monitor the city’s Pit Stops; they’re the ones in the uniforms that, perhaps not coincidentally, resemble those of a pit crew. (James, incidentally, is a real person. But that’s not his real name. Monitors aren’t supposed to give media interviews and the last thing we need to do is make more trouble for a person working this of all jobs. While we were interviewing one of James’ colleagues, a homeless woman defecated on the floor of the Pit Stop and told us “it’s chocolate.”).  Your humble narrator has spent a goodly portion of his career writing about programs that don’t work in this city. But, by all accounts, this is a program that’s working. In August, nearly 50,000 citywide uses of the toilets were recorded on the checklists each Pit Stop monitor fastidiously maintains; prorate that and it comes out to almost 600,000 flushes per year. Last year, more than 8,700 needles were deposited in the Pit Stops’ lockboxes; one monitor told me of nearly 100 being dropped off at one time. Put simply, the money spent providing for hundreds of thousands of bathroom uses per year  — millions since the program’s inception— is money you don’t spend power-washing urine and feces off the street. It’s money you don’t spend gathering needles out of gutters and planters and sand boxes. It’s money you don’t spend cleaning up dogshit, either.  “I’m here to help.”Not only is providing a place for people to sanitarily relieve themselves or safely dispose of needles a decent thing to do, it’s also bottom-line beneficial: As is the case with every other element of administering to the homeless population, things cost so much more when you react, rather than act. The Pit Stop program’s annual budget is now $3.1 million. Out of context, that’s a fair amount of money; a single Pit Stop can cost between $170,000 and $205,000 a year to operate, with labor making up most of the costs. But, as a point of comparison, the city spends upwards of $1.19 million per year on toilet paper. San Francisco, meanwhile, puts a jaw-dropping $65 million toward cleaning its streets; Mayor Mark Farrell dolloped an additional $12.8 million into street-cleaning in the latest budget cycle alone. It is, frankly, difficult to say this glut of street-cleaning funds is money well-spent. Without providing people with a place to relieve themselves, putting ever more money into street-cleaning is a bit like buying a bigger bucket instead of patching the hole in the boat. As we noted last week, cleaning the streets is reactive. Even Mayor London Breed’s headline-grabbing “poop patrols” are merely proactively reactive. Power-washing filth off the streets will always be a necessity in this and every city. But, even viewed merely as a spreadsheet item and giving no consideration to human dignity, Pit Stops aren’t just an expense — they’re an investment. In June of 2014, there were 742 requests for steam-cleaning in the Tenderloin. Three years and multiple Pit Stops later, in June of last year, there were 298. The cost of action is almost always met or exceeded by the cost of inaction.Prior to Pit Stop monitors keeping an eye on things, San Francisco Public Works lore was rich with many tales of the misbegotten JCDecaux toilets. These include drug-use and trysting; a man setting up a mattress and living in one; and another man doing much the same and charging people to enter.You will not be surprised to learn that neighborhood residents have pushed back against needle lockboxes. This needs to be overpowered; in much the same way that handing a condom to an awkward seventh-grade boy does not render him a Lothario, it is far-fetched to claim that installing a disposal site for needles will increase usage in an area. Moving from four stations to 24 in four years is fast. But this city needs to go faster. We need a Marshall Plan for toilets. Rather than solely heed the reductive call for more power-washers and more money literally going down the drain, this city should take the intuitive step: To prevent filth on the streets, provide toilets. To prevent needles underfoot, provide deposit boxes.“We have demonstrated that we can respond according to the city’s need,” said Jonathan Gomwalk, the San Francisco Public Works employee who oversees the Pit Stop program. “Whatever we can do to prevent people from having to squat between two parked cars to perform a natural function, we will do.” “When you catch people in that moment of vulnerability, you can see it in their eyes: They do not want this.”  center_img Email Addresslast_img read more

From the Archives Can a New Generation of Texans Revive the Dream

first_img Subscribe now, or to get 10 days of free access, sign up with your email. Cancel anytime. Hope you enjoyed your free ride. To get back in the saddle, subscribe! Enter your email address First Name If you fill out the first name, last name, or agree to terms fields, you will NOT be added to the newsletter list. Leave them blank to get signed up. You’ve read your last free article Sign up for free access This article originally appeared in the July 2019 issue of Texas Monthly with the headline “From the Archives: To the Future!” Subscribe today. Last Name Never Miss a StorySign up for Texas Monthly’s State of Texas newsletter to get stories like this delivered to your inbox daily.center_img This Week in Texas(Weekly)The best stories from Texas Monthly Editor’s Desk(Monthly)A message from the editors at Texas Monthly The State of Texas(Daily)A daily digest of Texas news, plus the latest from Texas Monthly Sign UpI agree to the terms and conditions. Mission to MarsBy Katy VineFrom “The Martian,” originally published in February 2018In a cavernous warehouse behind a strip mall about three miles from the Johnson Space Center, Franklin Chang Díaz has been tinkering with an unorthodox idea for the past thirteen years. The lab for his eleven-person company, Ad Astra, is roughly the size of a Barnes & Noble. But in the center of the room, rather than rows of romance novels, there are three stacks of gadgets resembling hi-fi stereo components. Along the back wall is the main event: a forty-ton stainless-steel cylindrical chamber that sits like a thirteen-foot-tall beer keg tipped on its side. If Franklin is right, this is the engine that will take us to Mars.Jeff Bezos in West TexasBy Dan SolomonFrom “How Do We Feel About Space Exploration Companies Buying up a Bunch of Cheap Texas Land?,” originally published in November 2013If you pass through Van Horn, you might be surprised to encounter the beautiful and historic Hotel El Capitan, which was [recently] renovated to the tune of $2.5 million. There’s little that makes Van Horn, whose per-capita income is $13,775, an obvious location for a higher-end hotel with an upscale restaurant/bar on its ground floor. But if you spend an evening in the Hotel El Capitan bar, you’re likely to get your first clue: there will probably be some contractors who work with Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin aerospace company enjoying steaks and watching basketball, before heading out in the morning to install, say, a liquid nitrogen system at the “Corn Ranch” facility that Blue Origin operates nearby.Elon Musk in South TexasBy Domingo MartinezFrom “Countdown to Liftoff,” originally published in August 2016While an environmental-impact statement produced by the FAA acknowledges that [SpaceX’s launchpad] will bring traffic and noise to the Las Palomas Wildlife Management Area–Boca Chica Unit and the Laguna Madre, it seems a bit optimistic about lasting consequences. It projects that wildlife habitat will shift naturally and wetlands will hardly be affected. Larger birds and animals—the piping plover, the northern aplomado falcon, the ocelot and jaguarundi, the sea turtles—won’t be affected, it says. Only time will tell whether this turns out to be true. Still, it’s a risk that needs to be taken: compromise is the way of the world, and for [Brownsville] to move into the now, the now needs the beach.That’s Not How Bruce Willis Did It in the MovieBy Madelyn HerzogFrom “NASA Presentation on Asteroid Detection ‘Not Reassuring,’ ” originally published in March 2013In a presentation to the House, NASA officials revealed their plan of action if they were to discover an asteroid three weeks away from obliterating the Earth: they would “pray.” Already a subscriber? Login or link your subscription. Subscribe Why am I seeing this?last_img read more

THE Flying Springbok Tom Van Vollenhoven flies i

first_img“THE Flying Springbok” Tom Van Vollenhoven flies in to England today from his home in South Africa as the special guest of the Club for the Grand Final and will personally present each Saints player with his Grand Final shirt at a private player gathering on Friday.Saints’ Chairman Eamonn McManus stated: “Tom has flown in with his wife Leonie as our special guests for the game. He will present each of our players individually with their match shirts.“He is one of the all-time rugby greats and Saints’ greatest ever winger. He knows what it is like to play in and to win big finals against Wigan and what it means to this Club and to its fans.“He is an absolute gentleman as well as the leading figure in our great history. It is magnificent that he’s with us again as we write our latest page.”‘Vol’ played rugby union for North Transvaal and the Springboks before attracting the attention of St Helens in 1957.He scored four tries for the Boks in seven appearances and that phenomenal strike-rate continued at the Saints.In 11 seasons he crossed 392 times in 408 appearances in a legendary career which is still talked about and revered today.last_img read more


first_imgWILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — It’s one of the most written-about maritime mysteries in history and it happened right here in North Carolina.A commercial schooner found run aground off our state’s coast in the 1920s — some claiming it was a victim of the Bermuda Triangle.- Advertisement – Check out the video above to learn about the schooner Carroll A. Deering.Then visit every 1st and 3rd Thursday of each month for another installment of “Cape Fear History & Mysteries.”last_img

NHSO Man wanted after robbing gas station clerk at gunpoint

first_imgThe suspect approached the clerk, brandished a firearm and demanded money. (Photo: NHSO) NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — The New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office is investigating an armed robbery at a gas station Monday morning.It happened around 2:00 a.m. at the Shell gas station in the 4600 block of Gordon Road, near I-40.- Advertisement – New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Lt. Jerry Brewer said a man wearing dark clothing, with a black bandanna around his mouth came inside with a gun. He said he wanted money.He took an unknown amount of cash and then took off.The investigation is ongoing.Armed Robbery at Quick Buy Shell station on Gordon Rd. (Photo: NHSO)last_img

Setbacks storm impacts still seen around downtown businesses

first_imgWILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) —  It has been three months since Florence and several setbacks have come to downtown businesses.Since the storm, weather again has played a role impacting business. For instance the cancellation of the holiday parade. Riverfest and the Holiday tree lighting as well as the OverFlo concert have been the most notable influences to bring business downtown.- Advertisement – A handful of stores, bars and eateries sit vacant. Their status is different at each location.Shops like Rollz, Indigo Sol, Farmin’ on Front and Waffle House remain closed up. That’s just naming a few. For Rollz, the new eatery has since moved to the Independence Mall food court with a hunger to return to Front Street.Related Article: Blue Ribbon Run aims to raise awareness of colorectal cancerFarmin’ on Front indefinitely closed as well as Waffle House. Port City Java’s recently updated the status of its downtown business.“We love this location and being part of the downtown community,” said CEO Steve Schnitzler. “It took a while to work out construction details and it is not always easy to move as fast as we would like after a storm of this magnitude. However, we are working through construction now and plan to open again soon. We were down but not out!” Wilmington Downtown Inc. president Ed Wolverton tells us water damage significantly impacted the building the coffee staple operates in.There are stores like Indigo Sol that the owners are making an effort to return to. They expect to reopen the Front Street shop around Christmas. Right next to it, is Swahili Coast, a shop that had its window blown out and similar damage inside.“During the hurricane the roof failed in this building and there are four stories above us and they all flooded,” said Caroline Fisher who co-owns the shop and serves as Creative Director.This is the first week Fisher and her co-owner Tony Peele could reenter the storefront. They have several storefronts from the Cotton Exchange to Chandler’s Warf. They plan to reopen the Front Street location by Christmas.For, Fisher, she says it’s too early to give up yet on the closed shops.“I think in the coming months is when we’re going to see if people can still make a go of it,” Fisher said.Wilmington Downtown Inc. tells us 90% of businesses are back in the downtown area.“Things that are empty are being renovated right now,” said Wolverton with WDI. “Many of them are going to bounce back. We were very limited with what we had in a vacancy standpoint.”Some stores, however, are hurt by how neighboring merchants stay closed. Joseph Sharp says neighboring businesses to his Chandler’s Warf store are on the fence with staying open.“If those businesses are losing customers, then I am losing customers,” said Sharp.Sharp’s tech repair store relies a lot on other downtown workers or locals needing his service. He says that foot traffic has plummeted, impacting his sales by 60 to 70%. He’s been in the business for more than a decade and remains optimistic.Both Sharp and Fisher are in that group that remain downtown, perhaps stubbornly, but because they still see growth coming to the area.“There is a sense of pride in being a retailer and a restaurateur in downtown Wilmington,” said Fisher.Wolverton tells us the WDI is working on initiatives to boost the draw to downtown. Currently there is an ongoing storefront holiday display competition to entice more shoppers.last_img read more