Known as EAT (Everyone At the Table), the café has a defining feature: it operates on a pay-what-you-can model. In other words, although the restaurant suggests a donation of $15/meal, “patrons are welcome to pay less, more, or nothing at all”.
The idea behind the café is not new. In fact, there are about 50 similar restaurants throughout the United States. But EAT Café is working hard to set itself apart. While most of its counterparts are “cafeteria-style” and “hosted in church basements”, EAT Café is a full-service restaurant offering a 3-course meal (like kale salad, ginger-gazed chicken, and apple cobbler). According to Mariana Chilton, a partner from nearby Drexel University, “I wanted to make sure that this would not be confused with a soup kitchen”.
The goal is not just to alleviate hunger in Philadelphia, where 1 in 4 people are food insecure. It is also about providing food without shame in an environment where all kinds of people can “meet up and intermingle.” After all, “there’s a lot of shame and isolation that goes along with the experience of hunger”.
However, for EAT Café to have a lasting impact in the community, it needs to be “sustainable” beyond 2019 (when its grants expire). Currently, the café benefits from the generous donations of a number of partners. Metropolitan Bakery, for example, donates bread for each meal, La Colombe provides discounted coffee, and the Drexel Urban Growers supply vegetables. But EAT Cafe believes that it will require 60+% of its ingredients to be donated. Additionally, the restaurant estimates that it needs to serve about 130 meals/night (costing $3.25/meal) for an average of $15 each.
Unfortunately, EAT Café is off to a slow start. In its first week, it served just 125 meals. General Manager Donnell Jones-Craven believes that the key will be “getting the word out”. To this end, he plans to invest in a larger sign, to leverage twitter, and to speak with community groups. But the best spokespeople for EAT Café are the patrons themselves! Matso Baatarkhuu, a struggling student from Mongolia, says “I was about to starve and this place saved my life… It’s not just that it’s this pay-what-you-can model, but they also have great, respectful service. They really take care of you.”
Pentagon Should “Abort Mission” to Recoup Veteran Bonuses
November is a time to honor America’s veterans. But instead, the Pentagon is waging a bitter battle with nearly 10,000 of them.
The battle can be traced back to 2006 – the height of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. To fill its ranks, the Pentagon offered incentives (monetary bonuses, loans, tuition repayment etc.) to soldiers with certain assignments, such as intelligence and civil affairs. However, in a desperate attempt to meet re-enlistment targets, the California National Guard offered the incentives widely. In total, it provided at least $15,000 to 9,700 soldiers.
The “rampant fraud and mismanagement” was uncovered in 2010. One guard pled guilty to filing false claims of $15.2 million and was sentenced to 30 months in prison. But it didn’t end there. In a series of “accusatory” and “aggressive” letters, the Pentagon demanded repayment from the 9,700 soldiers.
These struggles have sparked an outcry from veterans, non-profits, and the public. One veteran said “It’s an insult to my service! We wonder why veterans are homeless [and] why they don’t trust the system”. The American Legion added “[The soldiers’] decision to volunteer…was based on the understanding that the government would provide promised incentives…the roughly 9,700 veterans did not cause this problem but, instead, honored their commitments faithfully”. Finally, a Platoon Sergeant said, “We can bail out the banks, but we can’t bail out the veterans that fight and die for this country?”
Last week, the Department of Defense responded. After recouping $22 million from veterans, Secretary Ashton Carter announced that the Pentagon would temporarily suspend its repayment program. Yet, veterans are not completely out of the line of fire. The Pentagon plans to review each case one-by-one until July 1, 2017. Thus, veterans will have to endure months of wondering “whether the bill collector is going to come after them.” Some “still may be ordered to surrender the money”.
NFL players are known for their brutality on the field. But increasingly, they are grabbing headlines for their violence off the field – often in their own homes.
This past week, police released journal entries, emails, and letters written by Josh Brown, a top placekicker with the New York Giants. In the documents, Brown admits a history of domestic violence against his wife. Specifically, he reveals that he has “physically, verbally and emotionally abused” his wife and treated her like a “slave”. In fact, he claims that he has “been abusive to women all the way back to the age of 7”.
Brown joins the ranks of a long-list of NFL players. In the last few years alone, Jonathan Dwyer broke his wife’s nose, Bruce Miller pushed his fiancee, Greg Hardy battered his girlfriend, Johnny Manziel hit and threatened his girlfriend. And, perhaps most infamously, Ray Rice punched his girlfriend in an elevator, leaving her unconscious.
In response to these events and the resulting public outcry, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell committed to “take steps towards preventing domestic violence and sexual assault before they happen”. Among other actions, the NFL instituted mandatory domestic violence training for all players and staff, created Critical Response Teams, and partnered with a domestic violence hotline. Furthermore, the NFL overhauled the Personal Conduct Policy for players. The policy now includes a 6 game “baseline” suspension for players who commit domestic abuse.
But a policy can’t deter offences if it is not enforced. And, as it turns out, “only one player has received the six-game suspension that…Goodell promised”. Hardy got a 4 game suspension, Dwyer got three, Brown got one, and Manziel and Miller got…zero! These rulings are not only insulting but inconsistent, helping players “appeal their punishments, often successfully”.
Not surprisingly, fan and media outrage is growing. In a passionate opinion piece, columnist Nancy Armour lambasted the NFL’s “continued disregard for women”. She highlighted the hypocrisy of the NFL’s breast cancer awareness campaign, saying “As the league plasters its fields with pink ribbons all month…to fool us into thinking it cares for the health of its female fans, you only need to look at the New York Giants’ roster to see what a farce it is”. She describes Brown’s one game suspension as “little more than a timeout”, noting that Tom Brady was forced to miss four games for “deflategate”.
Some NFL players are even weighing in. Philadelphia Eagles center Jason Kelce said “It’s a joke a guy like [Brown] is able to play this quickly”. Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith, who watched his mother suffer abuse during his childhood, added via Twitter “what a shame NFL acts like it cares.”
As of press-time, the NFL has decided to put Brown on temporary leave with pay. To many, it is another empty gesture. So what will force the NFL to take this issue seriously..to finally “re-order its priorities”? Maybe we need to hit them where it hurts – by boycotting NFL games, tv coverage, and merchandise.
All You Need to Know about the US Presidential Debates
The 2016 presidential election is now less than 50 days away. So, the time has come for the candidates to square off – face to face – in the presidential debates!
The first of the three debates, held in Long Island, will start at 9:00 EST on Monday, September 26. NBC Anchor Lester Holt will moderate, posing questions on “America’s Direction”, “Achieving Prosperity”, and ”Securing America”. Each debate segment will begin with a question, followed by two minute answers, brief rebuttals, and a “deeper discussion on the topic”.
Such debates have become “a de facto election process” since their debut in 1960. But this year’s match-up will be far from conventional. It will be the first to feature a woman on the debate stage (Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton). It will pit “the two most unlikable presidential candidates in the history of US polling” against one another. And according to network executives, it could attract a record audience of 100 million viewers (via television and internet streaming)! That would surpass the audience of most Super Bowls, as well as the finales of M*A*S*H and Cheers.
To prepare for this epic showdown, the candidates have adopted diverging approaches. Clinton has taken 4 days off the campaign trail to engage in drills and mock debate sessions (with different Trump personas). She has studied a “thick dossier on Mr. Trump” based on “months of research and meetings”. Trump, on the other hand, has “largely shun[ned] traditional debate preparations”, believing that “debates are not won or lost on policy minutiae“.
So which candidate will win? Will the debate even have an impact? Political scientists maintain that “presidential debates rarely have a huge effect on the outcome of the election”. After all, most Americans watch the event “to confirm what we already think we know” and ultimately “return to their ideological silos, absorbing instant analysis from left-leaning anchors on MSNBC or commentators at right-leaning outlets like Breitbart News”. There can be an effect on voters who are weakly partisan or undecided, but it is typically minor.
Additionally, any observed effects “are often caused by factors wholly beyond the candidates’ control”. These factors include media coverage, reactions on social networks, and candidate appearance. As proof, experts point to the famous Kennedy vs. Nixon debate, in which Nixon looked “pale and clammy” as he battled illness. They also cite the 2008 debate, in which 72-year old McCain saw his support decline after appearing in high-definition.
Of course, in the end, the voters will decide! So be sure to tune into the first presidential debate on September 26. Additional debates will follow on October 9 in St. Louis and October 19 in Las Vegas.
As Apple celebrates the release of the new IPhone 7 and amidst all the exciting things happening in the technology industry, something else remarkable is occurring. Apple is forging a path and taking key steps towards responsible sourcing of resources used in their electronic products. The tech firm is doing this by combating the deadly trade of “conflict minerals”.
Thousands of businesses were affected by this bill. In May of 2016, Apple was among the first to issue a progress report highlighting their commitment to ensuring that the minerals used in their products do not finance armed conflicts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo or anywhere else in the world.
Many other companies such as Intel, Signet Jewelers and Ford have joined this effort of responsible sourcing and are providing transparent reports of where product materials originate. Despite these great strides by large corporations, human rights abuses continue in Africa and across the globe signaling there is still much work to be done.
DRC’s next-door-neighbor, Sudan, faces similar conflicts. Last week, The Sentry, an initiative of The Enough Project, filed a report of a two-year investigation into South Sudan’s war economy and its links to a network of international facilitators that includes mining and electronic companies. George Clooney led the press conference, “War Crimes Shouldn’t Pay: Stopping the looting and destruction in South Sudan.” Using the tools of financial pressure such as refraining from buying products that source “conflict minerals”, The Sentry’s report seeks to unveil innovative ways into countering mass atrocities.
Conflict-Free Campus Initiative (CFCI) is also focusing on using the tools of financial pressure by directly targeting the purchasing of technology on college campuses. Led by college students, CFCI’s aim is to put pressure on university officials to buy electronics that are not made with “conflict minerals”. CFCI is also a branch of the Enough Project’s Raise Hope for Congo campaign, and STAND – the student-led movement to end mass atrocities. Together these organizations seek to hold the perpetrators and financiers of mass violence responsible for their abuses of human rights
A team of four shelter dogs served as “ball dogs” at the 2016 Brazil Open. Rescued from the streets of Sao Paulo, the dogs (Frida, Costela, Mel and Isabelle) “dutifully retrieved the balls” during an exhibition match between Roberto Baena of Spain and Gastao Elias of Portugal. They then surrendered the balls to the players and trainers, although sometimes “reluctantly”.
The initiative was no cost saving measure. According to organizer Marli Scaramella, president of the local ABEAC shelter, the event aimed to “educate people about the charity and raise awareness about all the dogs…looking for a home”. As an added bonus, it “show[ed] people that a well-fed and well-treated animal can be very happy”.
Andrea Beckert, who trained the dogs over several months, confirmed the goal. She explained, “These are dogs that were mistreated. We want[ed] to show that abandoned dogs can be adopted and trained”.
Of course, training the pups was no walk in the park. The dogs were often distracted as they learned their commands (“pick the ball,” “let it go,” “stay” and “come”). Also, because they were abused, they scared easily. “We had to make them adapt, feel the environment, the court, the noise of the balls, and the noise of the people”.
But, in the end, the dogs delivered! In fact, they “got more attention than the players themselves”, sparking frequent claps and cheers. Now, the dogs “just need to work on dropping the ball a bit quicker”…
For over a week, the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro have showcased the feats of the world’s top athletes. But on the outskirts of the city, in the neighbourhood of Lapa, something else remarkable is occurring. A new restaurant is using the leftover ingredients from Olympic caterers and other partners to prepare gourmet meals for Brazil’s poor.
The idea originated with Lassimo Bottura, a master chef who runs the Michelin three-star Osteria Francescana in Italy. Inspired by Pope Francis’ advocacy work, Bottura built a fancy soup kitchen in an abandoned theatre during the 2015 Milan World Expo. He recruited 65 international chefs, including Brazilian David Hertz. After witnessing the success of the effort, Hertz implored Bottura to partner with him on similar restaurant during the Rio Olympics.
The result – Refettorio Gastromotiva – has already won a gold medal in our books. After all, the restaurant has highlighted “Olympic waste: the more than 230 tons of food supplied daily to prepare 60,000 meals for athletes, coach and staff”. It has also demonstrated how such waste can help feed the world’s 800 million hungry people.
Of further note, the restaurant has employed students of Gastromotiva. Since 2007, the non-profit cooking school has trained 2500 Brazilians from the country’s favelas (urban slums) to be cooks. In doing so, it has used “the power of gastronomy, food, and all its elements to transform society, bring people together, and help reduce social inequality”.
Finally, by feeding Rio’s poor in an upscale setting, Refettorio Gastromotiva has supplied needed nutrition and human dignity. In the words of Bottura, “One of the most important things of this project is we give dignity, rebuild dignity. It’s not just about good food”. Cota e Silva, a fellow chef, adds “We want [the guests] to feel spoiled – for at least one night”.
The feedback speaks for itself. One guest, Valdimir Faria, said “Just sitting here, treated with respect on an equal footing, makes me think I have a chance”. Another, Rene da Conceicao, called the food “the best he’d had in 40 years” and claimed that he felt “like a boss”.
The timing is ideal. Over the past year, Brazil has “plunged into its deepest recession in decades”. In Rio alone, approximately 25% now live in favelas and 5500 are homeless. To exacerbate matters, Rio’s state government closed or reduced service at 16 meal centers in June. This contrasts the lavish spending ($12 billion) on the Olympic Games, which has “only heightened a sense of abandonment among the homeless”.
Fortunately, Refettorio Gastromotiva will not close with the Olympic Games on August 21. Instead, it will “morph into a lunchtime restaurant” for paying customers. The proceeds will then fund evening meals (made with surplus food) for the homeless. Additionally, the restaurant will continue to train Gastromotiva students. In support, the City of Rio has given the non-profit a free 10 year lease on its current building.
Bottura’s Olympic dream is that the restaurant will flourish and inspire other such projects around the world. Several cities, such as Montreal and Los Angeles, already plan to open ritzy soup kitchens next year. If this dream materializes, Refettorio Gastromotiva will be the true Rio Olympics legacy project.
The commuted inmates included Ronald Evans, who was sentenced to life in prison as a teen for his role in a small drug distribution ring. They included Ramona Brant, who was given a life sentence for failing to report her drug dealing boyfriend. And they included Norman Brown, who was sentenced to life in prison at 22 for conspiracy to distribute cocaine.
Identifying candidates for clemency was a “laborious process”. In 2014, the Obama administration developed expanded eligibility criteria, prioritizing non-violent offenders who: served over 10 years, behaved well in prison, lack close ties to gangs or drug cartels, and “would have received shorter sentences if…convicted a few years later”. At least three levels of lawyers at the Justice Department and White House then reviewed each applicant against these criteria. Successful applicants were sent to the President for approval, while unsuccessful applicants were often given additional drug treatment, educational programming, or counseling.
So what is the motivation behind Obama’s mercy? It is partly philosophical. The president believes that inmates’ sentences should accurately reflect their crimes. Additionally, he feels that inmates who have “demonstrated the potential to turn [their] lives around” and the “capacity to make good choices” deserve a second chance.
Still, criticism abounds. Some have accused Obama of being “soft on crime”. They fear recidivism (although most commuted inmates will remain supervised following release). Others believe Obama has not gone far enough. The Clemency Resource Center at NYU says that more than 11,000 petitions are pending and 1,500 meet the administration’s criteria. Attorney Deborah Leff maintains that some inmates deserve pardons, allowing them vote and “apply for jobs without criminal records”.
Even Obama acknowledges the weaknesses of his clemency initiative. “Despite these important efforts,” he says, “only legislation can bring about lasting change to the federal system”. For this reason, “it is critical that both the House and the Senate continue to cooperate on a bipartisan basis to get a criminal justice reform bill to the President’s desk”.
Justice for Juno! Court Rules that Pets aren’t “Property”
Dogs across Oregon are wagging their tags after a landmark ruling last month. The state’s Supreme Court found that dogs are not mere property, but rather “sentient beings capable of experiencing pain, stress, and fear”. As such, they can be examined and treated for medical purposes without a warrant.
The officer seized Juno and delivered him to an OHS veterinarian. Dr. Hedge could immediately discern from the visible ribs and vertebrae that Juno was malnourished. In fact, on a scale of 1 – 9, she rated Juno as 1.5 (emaciated). Less obvious, however, was the cause of Juno’s condition. Was it a parasite, disease, or simply neglect by his owner?
To determine, Dr. Hedge drew a blood sample for laboratory testing. The test “revealed nothing medically wrong with Juno that would have caused him to be thin”. Instead, the blame rested with Juno’s owner, Amanda Newcomb. Newcombe was subsequently charged by with second-degree animal neglect.
Justice served! Well, not yet…Newcombe maintained that Juno was a pet and pets are property. Thus, the drawing of Juno’s blood without a warrant violated her 4th amendment right (against unreasonable searches of her property). In response, the prosecution argued that Juno has a right to medical care and freedom from neglect. Moreover, if it is legal to examine a child for abuse, it should be legal for Juno too.
The trial court sided with the prosecutor and convicted Newcombe. But in 2014, the Oregon Court of Appeals reversed the decision, despite the howls of animal activists. It wasn’t until June 2016 that the Oregon Supreme Court reinstated the original trial court ruling. Victory!
Of course, the court did limit the ruling’s scope. Specifically, the court stated that it applies only to animals that have been seized lawfully on suspicion of abuse or neglect. Furthermore, it only permits “medically appropriate procedures” to diagnose and treat an animal in ill-health.
Regardless, this is a “significant ruling“. It adds “nuanced contours” to humans’ “dominion” over animals and associated privacy rights. At the same time, the ruling “has very practical implications”. According to Lora Dunn of the Animal Legal Defense Fund, it enables seized animals to be examined and treated much more quickly than before, as securing a warrant “can take hours”. The Oregon Humane Society agrees, stating that “This ruling removes what could have been a major roadblock to cruelty investigations”.
With only 1 week left in its current term, the U.S. Supreme Court has yet to decide on a highly controversial abortion case. Known as Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, it is poised to result in “one of the most important rulings on women’s rights in many decades”.
The case revolves around a Texas law (HB2), approved by the Republican-majority state legislature in October 2013. The law requires all abortion providers to adhere to a “long list of conditions in order to keep their practice open”. In particular, they must: 1) offer comparable facilities as ambulatory surgical centers and 2) have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles.
Proponents argue that the law is designed to improve the standard of care and safety for women undergoing abortions. In the words of Texas Attorney General, Ken Paxton, “The common-sense measures Texas has put in place…protect the health of Texas women”. They ensure that women are not subject to “substandard conditions at abortion facilities”.
Others, however, are calling the law a TRAP…..a “Targeted Regulation on Abortion Providers”. They maintain that such laws primarily aim to make it “almost impossible for [abortion] providers to stay open”. As proof, they note that over 160 American clinics have closed since 2011. Texas now has only 19 clinics, while some states (Arkansas, Mississippi, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming) have only 1. This means that some American women must wait longer, pay more, or travel 400+ miles for necessary care.
In these ways, TRAP laws endanger women’s constitutional rights. In 1973, the famous Roe v. Wade case declared abortions legal across the U.S. Later, in 1992, another Supreme Court ruling concluded that state regulations of abortion providers must not cause an undue burden to the woman.
But more importantly, TRAP laws may endanger lives. Rather than elevating the standard of care, they may drive women to perform their own abortions or endure high-risk pregnancies. Incidentally, many states with TRAP laws are also at risk of Zika, a virus that can cause severe birth defects.
Now, it is up to the Supreme Court to choose–essentially, on women’s right to choose. Following oral arguments on March 2, the eight remaining justices seemed “split along ideological lines”. A split decision would uphold the opinion of the Fifth Circuit, which ruled in favor of the abortion clinic conditions. However, it would not set a nationwide legal precedent. The justices could also defer the decision to the next term.