Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Ideas, Actions, and Inspiration for a Better Tomorrow - October 24 Edition

Travel, Friendship

"Halfway to the coast, Genny announced that she hadn’t brought a gun. I glanced at the glove compartment of the Toyota Corolla with a sting of surprise and relief. Her nephew had given her shooting lessons for her last birthday, when she’d turned 76, but apparently she’d decided not to take up the offer of a pistol for our road trip. “They say you shouldn’t have a gun if you have any doubt whether you would shoot it or not,” said Genny, turning her eyes from the road to look at me. “I don’t own a gun, but the one thing I do know is: I would shoot.”

We were only two hours into our trip, and I was already nervous about what else I might learn about Genny on our way. We had been pen pals since a chance meeting in North Carolina four years ago; she was an avid reader and a curious soul, and our shared love of books and meeting new people had kept us corresponding after I returned home to England. But Genny rarely talked about herself. The idea that she—at five feet tall with white hair and impeccable Southern manners—might be the Thelma to my Louise had never occurred to me.

Outside the passenger window, the yellow wash of South Carolina’s soy fields gave way to clouds of cotton, ready for harvest. I considered what I did know. Like me, Genny had lived alone in a city most of her life—Charlotte in her case, London in mine. Like me, she had never married. Our shared circumstances had forged a bond that made us feel, instinctively, that we would be good traveling companions. So I’d asked Genny if she’d take a trip with me, and we’d chosen the coast of South Carolina, a place she knew and loved."

Puerto Rico, Disaster Relief

"The five living former presidents put aside politics and appeared together for the first time since 2013 at a concert on Saturday to raise money for victims of devastating hurricanes in Texas, Florida, Louisiana, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Democrats Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter and Republicans George H.W. and George W. Bush gathered in College Station, Texas, home of Texas A&M University, to try to unite the country after the storms.

Texas A&M is home to the presidential library of the elder Bush. At 93, he has a form of Parkinson’s disease and appeared in a wheelchair at the event. His wife, Barbara, and George W. Bush’s wife, Laura, were in the audience.

Grammy award winner Lady Gaga made a surprise appearance at the concert that also featured country music band Alabama, Rock & Roll Hall of Famer ‘Soul Man’ Sam Moore, gospel legend Yolanda Adams and Texas musicians Lyle Lovett and Robert Earl Keen.

The appeal backed by the ex-presidents has raised $31 million since it began on Sept. 7, said Jim McGrath, spokesman for George H.W. Bush."

New York City, Libraries, Children

"Library books are free, until they aren’t: Patrons who rack up $15 in late fees at the city’s public libraries are blocked from taking out more books until the fine is paid.

Among those with suspended privileges are 160,000 children, most of them from the city’s poorest neighborhoods, who cannot afford to pay.

“Learning is a right. Reading brings you to new worlds,” said Octavia Loving, a 17-year-old student at Special Music High School, as she stood amid the stacks at Countee Cullen Library in Harlem, one of the neighborhoods with the highest concentration of children with blocked cards, according to library officials. “They shouldn’t block us from reading because of money.”

On Thursday, the city’s three library systems — the New York Public Library, which serves Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island; the Queens Library; and the Brooklyn Public Library — will forgive all fines for children 17 and under and unblock their cards. The one-time amnesty is being underwritten by the JPB Foundation, a philanthropy that supports civic causes, which will make up $2.25 million of the shortfall in revenue from the forgiven fines."

Criminal Justice, Poverty, Bail

"In May 2016, Maranda Lynn O’Donnell, a waitress and mother of a 4-year-old girl in Harris County, Texas, was arrested for allegedly driving with a suspended license, a misdemeanor offense. She did not have $2,500 to bail herself out, so she was locked up in jail for two days, unable to go home to her daughter. The same day, Robert Ford was arrested for allegedly stealing cosmetics worth $100, also a misdemeanor. He too was sent to the Harris County jail, where he remained for five days, unable to shell out $5,000 for bail. The day after that, Loetha McGruder—who was pregnant with two children at home, including one with Down syndrome—was arrested and detained for falsely identifying herself to an officer. With bail set at $5,000, she remained in jail for four days.

All three of the defendants are plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit that aims to overhaul the bail system in Harris County, Texas, home of the nation’s third-biggest county jail system. The suit, filed in May 2016 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, calls bail setting in the state’s largest county a “wealth-based detention scheme” that punishes defendants accused of misdemeanors for being poor and encourages them to plead guilty to avoid jail time.

In April, Chief Judge Lee H. Rosenthal decided in their favor, writing that it was unconstitutional to jail people because they can’t afford bail. Rosenthal ruled that Harris County would have to ask defendants about their financial backgrounds and release them if they didn’t have enough money to pay their bonds. The county challenged the decision, and the case now sits with the 5thU.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, known as one of the most conservative courts in the country. In light of this setback, the plaintiffs and their lawyers have been searching for allies to support their case. They now have a powerful group on their side: religious leaders that say they have a duty to fight for the poor."

Aging, Adventure

"A Pennsylvania woman has celebrated her 94th birthday by going skydiving along with her granddaughter and great-granddaughter.

Williamsport resident Eila (AY’-lah) Campbell says she figured she might not “make it for another year” at her age, so she took the 10,000-foot (3,048-meter) plunge on Sunday at Hazleton Regional Airport."

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