Writing From 2015

I moved to Jersey City in the summer and I’m now working out of New York. [Brooklyn September 2015]

With another year gone, here’s my best and favorite pieces of my own, published over the last year in 2015:

Teach Your Members And Staff Leadership By Showing Them The World, Associations Now

Published shortly after the New Year, I wrote this leadership-oriented piece on my trip to Nepal and how associations can utilize such opportunities for their members.

Here’s Hard Proof This December’s Weather Has Been Truly, Truly Bizarre, Kicker

I let my weather nerd out to cover how temps in the North Pole went above freezing all because of a strong El Niño (and maybe climate change).

It’s Official: Ben Carson Is Sarah Palin, Kicker

We took a look at how eerily similar the current GOP presidential candidate is to a past GOP vice presidential candidate.

Six Reasons Why Beautiful Puerto Rico Is A Living Hell Right Now, Kicker

Puerto Rico is one huge underreported story where the country was (and still is somewhat) struggling with debt, drought, water and doctor shortages, unemployment and poverty.

Fighting Homelessness: Libraries On The Front Lines. Associations Now

Did a little reporting to dive into how libraries are an unrecognized space and resource for combating homelessness in America.

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I traveled to Nepal for three weeks. [Boudha, Kathmandu October 2015]
ON GLOBAL BUSINESS AND INTERNET

North America loves its meetings; the “new” association is global and accessible; the Internet has a huge economic impact; new wireless spectrum has been slow to reach customers, study finds; global tea industry grows; international diamond producers form an association; e-books aren’t killing physical books and booksellers hold up strong.

ON GLOBAL TERRORISM AND POLITICS

Afghanistan’s Kunduz and Syria’s Homs show how difficult the War on Terror is; here are the brutal tactics of the Islamic State; weakening encryption isn’t the answer, a tech group says; the historic Iran Deal in plain English; ten questions about the refugee crisis you were too embarrassed to ask; who and why droves of people are leaving their homes.

ON PROTEST AND MORE POLITICS

Why Ferguson went through a second round of intense protest; a generation sick of college debt took to the streets one day; wage inequality highlighted in a web campaign; the gun control debate following a summer of gun violence; and of course that time when Clinton hit Chipotle.

NEAT STUFF

The story behind California’s mandatory vaccination law; that weird glitch that screwed with airlines, stocks, and the web one day; and “it’s not same-sex marriage anymore, it’s marriage.”

Thank you all and here’s to another year of writing  in 2016!

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Are libraries the last standing spaces of democracy?

Last week, I wrote about how American libraries are working on strengthening its work with the homeless for AssociationsNow.

The American Library Association has a history in addressing the issue of homelessness and has issued policies, standards, programs and more on the population in need. They’ve done strong work in helping libraries across the country welcome them into their spaces.

But, perhaps it means much more.

This quote, as told by the nation’s first social worker stationed at a library, struck me and my backing of public space + democratic standards:

“Libraries are the last bastion of democracy.”

Think of it that way. Think of libraries as the last few public spaces in this country. (Especially with city spaces now posting rules post-Occupy.) What else do we have? The street? Parks? I’m not saying some should put on an occupation or protest in a library but think about the diminishing spaces for the first amendment, AKA democracy. (That’s for another post.)

They’re the kind of public space that is organized, educated, helpful and resourceful. It is a respectful, accepting, equal, and hospitable community space accessible for all.

Think of it this way. Think of libraries as the standing local spot that brags of its democratic standards. (Churches of democracy?) Everyone can access it and everyone is welcome. Everyone can learn from the sources hosted in the stacks and on the screens.

It is a refuge for the homeless, as I found in my reporting, but it can be a refuge for many other Americans. A friend texted me this:

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It made me think about what I learned in reporting for this piece. Libraries have gone unrecognized as an undeniably resourceful public space for many in today’s electronic and mobile age.

And imagine if these “bastions of democracy” were to disappear since we don’t recognize them for what they are? We do, after all, live in an e-book world and Google search world. (“Let me Google that for you…”)

What would be the next true public space? What would be the next standing ground of democracy? Live on, libraries. Live on.

On Global Higher Education

Today I learned that less than 40% of Americans hold a college degree.

The latest numbers out of the United States Census Bureau show 68 percent of Americans 25 years or older don’t have a bachelor’s degree or higher. That’s only 32 percent who do. The numbers from 2014 have the number jump a tad bit if we’re including American associate’s degrees. That makes it 62 percent without higher education.

And it gets worse, only about 7% of the world have a degree.

Citing statistics from 2010, it was found that 6.7 percent of people in the world can say they have higher education experience under their belt.

Thinking about it, that’s half a billion people out of a global population of seven billion plus. And that makes you stop for a second, more than six billion people didn’t go to college.

I am definitely grateful for my education and look forward to more. I currently hold a bachelor’s degree from a four-year private university. I plan to attend graduate school for a master’s sometime in the future.

Although, higher education sometimes isn’t all what its cracked up to be. It still doesn’t matter, billions and billions of people don’t have access to education and learning opportunities.

We just can’t feel or say it’s a public good. Because it’s not.

I feel us degree holders tend to stay in a bubble. While it’s good to surround ourselves around people who are educated and support our goals, it can make us not see the world for what it is. Reminder: Nearly 70 percent of Americans do not have a degree. More than 90 percent of the world’s population didn’t go somewhere for higher education.

I remember growing up and seeing college as a normal part of life. I went to school for about 16 years — started preschool at three, graduated high school at 19 years — before attending a university. The average number of years a child goes to school is between 8 and 11 years, according to the United Nations Development Programme.

College was always there for me. It was a part of my path to adulthood. Nearly everyone I knew attended a higher education program. After all, I am a white, middle-class Millennial living in a highly developed country. 59 percent of Millennials have attended/are attending college, according to to a study by Harvard University.

We can’t say we are privileged with our degrees. That’s because there are many people who have worked hard to get their higher education. They went into debt, got support, or received scholarships to cover the cost.

However, the discussion of higher education should take a look at these numbers. There billions who cannot have access to education because of strapped funds, limited options, rising admission costs, acceptance rates, local and personal education, and more.

Just imagine how degree holders are in a small, small exclusive circle with learning opportunities billions don’t have access to. Think of that for a second.

Looking back on Hurricane Sandy, six months ago

It’s kind of difficult to imagine Hurricane Sandy hit the Northeast region of the United States six months ago. Only half a year ago, a massive hurricane slammed New York and I was here in the city when it happened. I put my boots on and took it to the streets.

It was nearing the end of October and I had just begun interning at the New York Daily News as a social media intern, working as a resident advisor and getting into the groove of things two months into the fall academic semester. As a reporter in my free time, I was actively following the storm updates as Sandy hit Haiti and grew in size moving up the East coast in the Atlantic.

Then it got serious. Reports from weather services across the globe began to call it the storm of the century, saying it’d bring massive damage to the region with a slew of hurricane weather, fierce winds and even a bit of a nor’easter.

Came October 29th of 2012, a Monday in Lower Manhattan, when the hurricane hit. The preparations in Lower Manhattan began as a record amount of areas were ordered to be evacuated. Sandbags and boarded up windows were seen everywhere with empty streets at every corner.

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And as nightfall fell, a cruise was seen headed South on the Hudson river as the storm was heading up North towards the Northeast region of the United States. Reporters were out in Battery Park and gawkers were exploring the water’s edge with sand bags along sections of the Park at Manhattan’s lowest point.

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The city hunkered down and braced for the worst of the storm, which was during the night’s darkest hours. The large and continuous storm surge had streets flooded. Sandy’s strong winds streamed down and throughout the area. And then the power went out.

A large majority of the city went dark.

The morning sky came and I then ventured back out, only this time in a dark Lower Manhattan. The city was waking up to downed trees, streets filled with debris and some leftover flooding.

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Looking downtown, towards the South Street Seaport (Pier 17), on the East River. The Seaport will be closed all summer of 2013 for a huge rebuilding project.

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Looking uptown, off the East River, missing boards left gaping holes on the wooden sidewalk.

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And way down by the New York Daily News office building at the tip of Lower Manhattan was an interesting sight: an abandoned taxi. This taxi had thankfully no one in it, but lots of debris consisting of trash, tree branches, and what else.

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Another day, I had grabbed a photo of Lower Manhattan all dark one afternoon from the Brooklyn Bridge.

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I took a walk from City Hall to 42nd street (the length of SoPo (a new neighborhood called South of Power, as Midtown and uptown had regained their power systems in Manhattan) for Halloween night. In the photo below, you can see the outline of the buildings, and that they’re all dark.

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The days dragged on, and the power slowly came back. The news cycle never died. Election day came and went. The weeks and months flew by and now here we are half a year later. There are some boroughs still struggling with damage after the storm and with funding for redevelopment and revitalization, such as parts of Staten Island, Breezy Point and more.

New York is well and back at it. The Northeast region made it through.

Here’s a photo to end this post on –

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*All photos are mine.

Recap: My 18 hour day reporting at Occupy Wall Street September 17th

Exactly last Monday, I took to the streets to report the Occupy Wall Street movement’s one-year anniversary actions in New York City. I went down to Zuccotti Park at around 6AM and didn’t finish my day until 12 midnight. It was a day jampacked with endless walking, maneuvering around massive crowds and live tweeting. (I also worked with The Gothamist providing coverage, as well as, publishing original reporting.)

Here are a few shots I took throughout the day in the Financial District of New York’s Manhattan on 17 September 2012 – click on the photo to enlarge and get more info:

* All photos are mine

D.C. dreams

Since school started and all, I thought it was about time –

What I’ve done this summer:

  • Lugged three stuffed suitcases, with the help of my mother and sibling, from Massachusetts to Washington D.C., a brand new city knowing only a handful of people
  • Survived Washington’s hottest summer in the city’s history – 25 days (and now up to 50 days since I’ve left) of sweltering 90+ degree temperatures
  • Rode bikes through Georgetown’s Waterfront with my sibling on my first night in the city
  • Lived in a college apartment with two other student interns and no income
  • Interned at Voice of America full-time, working 40 hours a week
  • Saw the capitol’s Memorial Day parade
  • Spent time learning and educating myself at twelve different Smithsonian museums, not including the Newseum and the National Zoo – my two most favorite locations
  • Attended various protests and demonstrations in the nation’s capitol, where free speech is advocated and respected; the March on Washington for AIDS, multiple AIDS/HIV marches, an Occupy anti-fracking protest
  • Saw Al Sharpton, Wyclef, Ben Taylor, a member of the Jackson clan, a Nick Kristof lookalike
  • Worked an eight-day work week
  • Became accustomed to Washington’s Metro system
  • Flew out to Arizona for a short weekend attending the AG Bell conference to speak at two sessions, spend time with my mother and catch up with old (and new) friends
  • Went to the Capitol’s Fourth of July concert rehearsal to only have it end early for a severe thunderstorm warning
  • Walked through Watergate
  • Long dinners out in Georgetown with friends
  • Mingled among working journalists in a journalism meetup at the National Press Club in Washington D.C.
  • Went to a Nationals Game and watched them win!
  • Worked an entire weekend covering the Egypt elections curating and live reporting poll updates, protests, gatherings and election results with VOA and on my own
  • Saw the nation’s capital’s Fourth of July parade on Constitutional Avenue
  • Rode paddle boats with two of my closest friends in Washington D.C.’s Tidal Basin
  • Had dinner on the National Mall on the Fourth of July with thousands of other people watching the Capitol’s fireworks with the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial in sight
  • Ran through the water fountain on the Georgetown Waterfront
  • Went on a reporting trip to the Gallup Organization’s headquarters with a VOA reporter
  • Rode the second longest escalator in the world, or something like that
  • Was a member of the audience at the World Jump Rope Championship held at a gym on George Washington University’s campus
  • Got two pieces published, watched an international radio news broadcast in action, and had my own desk space in the middle of a newsroom
  • Experienced DC’s nightlife
  • Put my feet in the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden’s fountain
  • Bid farewell to DC and traveled back home for 6 days for family time, back to back appointments and to quickly pack everything back up for my trip to New York for school
  • A quick day trip to Ogunquit, Maine resulting in a massive sunburn
  • Survived my second year of RA training

I’m so glad to have had the opportunity to spend a summer in a brand new city, especially Washington D.C. and it being on my list of cities to live in sometime in my life, and to intern at such an esteemed and well-known news organization. I was able to gain a lot of confidence, experience and learn more about myself during this summer.

And now I’m back in New York!

I’ll leave you with a few favorite photos:

Gearing up for May 1st


[A sign hangs from an apartment building off of Union Square, with the words “Strike” and “May 1st” on it; taken on Sunday night April 29th, 2012 by Patrick deHahn]

Wondering where Occupy Wall Street went? Just wait for Tuesday.

May 1st, along with the May Day and International Workers Day history, is a day the movement hopes will bring the United States’ revolution back into the spotlight as participants will attempt to put on a general strike and nationwide demonstrations.

According to the OccupyWallSt.org site, up to 125 cities have planned activities for “A Day without the 99%” and to fight for “economic justice.” Major cities taking action other than New York are the Bay Area cities in California, Seattle, and Chicago, the site says. There are international events planned, however, they do state that this is International Workers Day and that not every event will be “Occupy” sponsored.

New York events

Many, many events are planned for OWS in New York, both permitted and unpermitted city events. First off, people will congregate in Bryant Park to pull off a “pop-up occupation” like its encampment in Zuccotti without the tents and more about the tabling, teach-ins, etc. At this set-up, they will also split up and try to do “99 pickets” where they will do “creative disruptions” at area corporations, banks, companies, organizations, etc. They will do all this at Bryant Park from 8 AM – 2 PM.

There are numerous events occurring at the same time the congregation at Bryant Park will be happening, including a high-school walkout, an university pop-up occupation and more.

There will be a “wildcat march” at Sara D. Roosevelt Park, an unpermitted event.

At 2 PM, they will march from Bryant Park to Union Square. This is both a unpermitted and permitted march – two sites are conflicting the confirmation of whether or not it’s permitted. This march will include Occupy Guitarmy adding music to the march saying “You can’t arrest a song. You can’t beat a song with battons.”

The march from Bryant Park as well as other “convergences” and “contingents” will all gather at Union Square for a permitted rally. There will be performers Tom Morello, Dan Deacon, Immortal Technique, Das Racist, Bobby Sanabria and special guests at the rally. This is expected to go from 4 PM – 5:30 PM. They want to essentially pull off a mass gathering at Union Square with all the unions and organizations participating.

And then at 5:30 PM, all rally members will hold a “solidarity march” from Union Square to the Wall Street area. This is also permitted and will end at 2 Broadway, which seems to be off Bowling Green and Battery Park, quite close to the Wall Street bull. There are more performers expected to perform at the culmination of the march.

At around 8 PM, there is an “Occupy Wall Street after party” planned and under the event description, it only says that “details are forthcoming…”

Occupy tactics

From observing and following Occupy Wall Street tactics, there are quite a few that protesters may use at the “99 picket” events, during the marches if things get chaotic and definitely for whatever the after party plans are. All these tactics have been tested and tried out during the Friday “spring training” marches on Wall Street the past few months.

One is the “going civilian” tactic where marchers are stuck with a large and persistent police presence, they all split up and go into all different directions to meet again as a mass in a different target location. They’ve done this while marching to Wall Street and separating to meet in time to do the “human gong” in lieu of the NYSE closing bell.

Another is having multiple groups. This is OWS only trying to make NYPD’s job harder and they do multiple things with separate groups in different locations doing all kinds of events. They will utilize this at the “99 picket” Tuesday morning.

There are many tactics that OWS has implemented and tried out all last year and during this year’s “spring training.” However, one I found the most interesting was what I saw on this past Friday, April 27th, was utilizing a smart communication system. What they did was have separate Twitter accounts for each “picket” and they would tweet out vital and important alerts on NYPD updates and on what they’re doing, as well as if there were any arrests.

What was also interesting was that the Twitter account @OWSTactical had tweeted before the “spring training” event Friday. (The tweets are now deleted. I couldn’t screen-capture them as I read them on my phone.) They said the “picket” Twitter accounts were run by communications looking “from above.” What this means, I don’t really know. Were people in the buildings above, were they watching live streams (most likely, as there were live streams assigned to each “picket”), or were they actually on the ground with the groups themselves?

Either way, this is a tactic that they may use on May 1st. When asked, the official @OccupyWallStNYC account said to follow @OWSTactical and @OWSMayDay for good tweets on Tuesday. Here’s another photo of the tactic here:

NYPD and City preparations

A lot is up in the air about Tuesday and these uncertainties are not all participant-oriented, some of these concerns include the NYPD and New York City actions. From what Occupy has experienced with the NYPD in the past, the movement is cautious of what kind of force the city government may send out on the streets.

Village Voice’s Nick Pinto (@macfathom) obtained some exclusive photos of the city police department “training” for what seems to be the May Day events. He shared that they were training cops on Randall’s Island with what looked like “mock protesters.”

The first photo (L) shows mounted cops with riot gear on.And the second photo (R) shows more police drills involving riot gear and masses of police officers. 

   

Pinto then later confirmed that this did indeed happen and that NYPD has been training for mass protests such as the May 1st events.

What this means for Occupy Wall Street is that the NYPD is preparing for mass congregations and for whatever may happen Tuesday. What the movement doesn’t know is how civil and how big the police force may be, what they only know is that they are training and preparing Ray Kelly’s police force and Mayor Bloomberg’s “seventh largest army in the world.”

Village Voice’s Sam Levin (@samtlevin) talked to New York City’s mayor Mike Bloomberg about May Day among other things related to OWS. This is what he said, in short:

More from Bloomberg on OWS and May Day NYPD tactics:

“We are prepared for everything we can think of all the time. Our tactics are something that we don’t talk about in advance for obvious reasons.”

Bloomberg continued, “People have a right to protest. We will protect that right. They don’t have a right to disrupt other people and keep other people from protesting or just going about their business.”

Bloomberg also shared his opinion on protesting:

There’s even more here at Levin’s article.

Conclusion

Well, that’s all there is to preparing for May 1st, Tuesday, Occupy Wall Street’s nationwide general strike and demonstration events. In relation to New York City and Wall Street’s city location, this will be the central part of the OWS’s events on May 1st, both nationally and internationally. This day could prove the movement’s staying power and large support if all goes well.

It wouldn’t be a huge event if there weren’t any uncertainties. A few include whether or not people will actually come, and how big those numbers will be. Another is if the day will be labeled a success or a failure – and what will happen on May 2nd and beyond.

The movement and onlookers will only have to wait and see on Tuesday. I’ll be covering it.

UPDATES:

Here is a reportedly official NYPD document on tomorrow’s OWS May Day events tomorrow – Google Doc: http://bit.ly/ID41C7 NOW CONFIRMED.

There are calls to action to shut down city bridges and tunnels, will they actually happen? Here are the sites and locations they want participants to take on: http://bit.ly/ID51Gv

And last but not least, there are unconfirmed reports that NYPD officers have been visiting activists’ homes in New York City ahead of tomorrow’s actions. Take note that this is unconfirmed and should be taken with a grain of salt.