From the Director's Desk

While the current recession has trapped countless people under the weight of a foreclosed home, unexpected loss of employment, or the evaporation of a life’s savings, those who were struggling before this economic meltdown to meet their basic needs are more vulnerable than ever. This is certainly the case in Richmond, California where the housing crisis has resulted in more than 2,000 foreclosed properties, most of them in the city’s poorest neighborhoods.

Simultaneously, cutbacks in public transit services, fare increases, and the related dependence on automobiles, oil, and freeways are increasing the isolation of poor communities. At Urban Habitat, while continuing our long-term commitment to land use issues, equitable development, and regionalism, we have also been working hard to win basic rights in the two key arenas of housing and transportation.

As a founding member of the Richmond Equitable Development Initiative (REDI), a diverse coalition committed to ensuring that the city’s low-income people and communities of color benefit from development policies and financial investments, Urban Habitat has been advocating the right to affordable housing for Richmond residents for over four years.

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Everyone Has the Right to... From the Editor

By B. Jesse Clarke

When President Franklin Roosevelt addressed the United States Congress in January 1941, he called for “a world founded upon four essential freedoms”—freedom of speech and expression, freedom of worship, freedom from fear, and freedom from want. Popular conceptions of rights at the time moved beyond the constitution’s narrow framing of civil and political rights to include basic social and economic rights.

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Court: Abu Ghraib Victims Can Sue Torturers

Submitted by News Desk on Mon, 05/04/2009 - 11:07am

By William Fisher
A federal court has ruled that four men who were tortured and released without charge can sue CACI, the U.S. contractor hired to do interrogation

NEW YORK, Apr 16 (IPS) -- In a ruling that could have widespread implications for government contractors overseas, a federal court has concluded that four former Abu Ghraib detainees, who were tortured and later released without charge, can sue the U.S. military contractor who was involved in conducting prisoner interrogations for the Pentagon in Iraq.

U.S. District Judge Gerald Bruce Lee, appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1998, denied a motion to dismiss the detainees' claims by the contractor, CACI International. The Arlington, Virginia-based company is a major contractor to the Defense Department.

Report Challenges Negative Image of Immigrant Elders

Submitted by News Desk on Fri, 05/01/2009 - 5:02pm

Editor’s Note: Six million older immigrants live in the United States, a figure projected to triple by 2030. Advocates for these elders have set out to bring their voices –- and new respect for them as community contributors –- to the public and agency decision makers, who often dismiss them as mere clients seeking benefits.

If treated as partners, rather than mere users of public services, immigrant elders can help cash-strapped agencies solve problems in their communities, according to a new report.

Pittsburg third-graders catch on to fish safety program

Submitted by News Desk on Wed, 04/22/2009 - 12:39pm

If Ruben Rodriguez, Korvail Jenkins or Sierra Smith one day becomes an environmental leader, their third-grade teacher wouldn't be a bit surprised.

The students in Suzanne Licht's class at Pittsburg's Highlands Elementary have been learning a lot about aquatic life in the Bay and Delta over the past couple of months. The class participates in Kids for the Bay, a hands-on program held once a week.

The five in-depth sessions help students learn about watersheds, runoff pollution, food chains, Bay organisms, and environmental justice, said program coordinator Deborah Zierten.


Obama Gets Gender Right: Women in Top Spots, Policies Signal Shift Toward Equality

Submitted by News Desk on Wed, 04/22/2009 - 12:25pm

As the 100th day approaches, it is time to take stock of what the Obama Presidency has meant so far for women. Dating back to FDR, the first 100 days of a new Administration have been a kind of preview of what is to come over the next four years. In George W. Bush’s first 100 days, he blocked funding for international family planning clinics, signed an order stating that women receiving Medicaid benefits could not use funds to pay for the emergency contraceptive, RU-486 and shut down the White House Office on Women’s Issues -- a friend to progressive women’s issue he was not.

I Married an Illegal Immigrant: A First-Hand Account of How Screwed Up This Country's Rules for Foreigners Are

Submitted by News Desk on Mon, 03/30/2009 - 12:04pm

The one argument in the immigration debate with absolutely no merit is that the system is fine.

Immigration is an issue that always spurs heated debates. There are some decent arguments floating around, some kooky ones and one that reveals that the person making it is utterly clueless about the issue. That argument, in a nutshell, is that the system's fine.



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