Humanizing the Arab World in America (U.S. News & World Report and International Women’s Media Foundation)

SEATTLE – WHEN terrorists crashed planes into the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, Yussef El Guindi stopped writing. The Arab-American playwright’s career had only just started to take off, but stunned by the magnitude of the tragedy, he avoided his craft for weeks.

He also started noticing nervous glances in his direction as he walked down the street. He was pulled aside for airport security checks. He quietly wondered what police would make of his research materials: books on Islam, Palestine and guns.

When he returned to his craft two months later, it was with a deep determination to counter the one-dimensional view of Arab-Americans all around him. He started writing a play that followed an Arab-American writer as he’s endlessly interrogated by government agents after they discover his collection of pornography and the Quran. “Back of the Throat” became El Guindi’s first full-length published play and won the 2004 Northwest Playwrights’ Competition.

Almost two decades later, the Muslim writer who was born in Egypt, raised in London and lives in Seattle, has published 10 additional plays, won more awards and has been called by the artistic director of one theater as “the definitive voice of Middle Eastern American theater.” In other ways, little has changed in the United States. El Guindi says restrictive laws aimed at immigrants, harsh rhetoric and underlying fear and suspicion of Arab-Americans and other minority groups have strengthened his resolve to tell those stories, including his latest, “People of the Book,” which opened this month at Seattle’s ACT Theatre.

The new play fulfills his long-held desire to address the repercussions of the Iraq War and misinformation spread about it. As in all of El Guindi’s plays, he seeks to create complex Arab and Muslim characters. They help illustrate a seemingly obvious, yet often overlooked, idea: Just because two people are from the Middle East, doesn’t make them the same.

“The most radical thing I’m doing is creating three-dimensional Arab and Muslim characters,” he says. “I’m humanizing the people who are dehumanized in news stories.”

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‘A problem in every national forest’: tree thieves were behind Washington wildfire (The Guardian)

When two men discovered a rare and valuable towering bigleaf maple tree in Washington state’s Olympic national forest last year, they allegedly set about trying to steal it.

But there was a problem – the tree was home to a bee hive. The men reportedly tried to use a wasp killer to get rid of it. When that didn’t work, one allegedly poured gasoline on it, and lit it on fire.

The result, according to a federal indictment unsealed this week, was an August wildfire that raged across the eastern half of the ancient forest, setting 3,300 acres of public land ablaze and costing $4.5m to fight.

Known as the Maple fire, the smoke from the blaze also served to exacerbate an already bad summer for the region’s air quality. There were fires raging in Canada and eastern Washington, and as smoke from these blazes struck Seattle, at some points the city reportedly had the worst air quality in the world.

Justin Andrew Wilke and Shawn Edward Williams have been charged with multiple federal felonies related to timber theft and could face years in prison and thousands of dollars in fines if convicted.

The bigleaf maple’s wood was covered in a distinct pattern, which if harvested is extremely popular for woodworking and potentially worth thousands of dollars. Before the fire, the pair had allegedly spent months illegally harvesting these high-value maple trees and selling the wood, which is used to make furniture and musical instruments.

Wilke was also specifically charged with “setting timber afire” and “using fire in furtherance of a felony” – the latter comes with a mandatory 10-year sentence, according to Seth Wilkinson, the lead prosecutor on the case.

“Timber theft, which involves destruction of a public resource, is in itself a really serious crime in this area,” said Wilkinson. “But this one is magnified many many times because of the consequences here, which involved the destruction of thousands of acres of national forest.”

Click here to read the full article.

Brigham Young University sexual assault articles (AP)

Police review Brigham Young’s handling of sex-assault cases

June 1, 2016

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah’s Department of Public Safety has launched an investigation into whether Brigham Young University’s police department is appropriately sharing sexual assault case information.

BYU’s police department asked for the investigation so that an external party could examine whether it is correctly sharing these reports with other departments in the school and county, said Marissa Villasenor, spokeswoman for the Department of Public Safety.

The fact-finding investigation was initiated on Tuesday and follows the barrage of recent complaints over the school’s practice of opening honor code investigations into students after they report being sexually assaulted.

All BYU students must agree to abide by the honor code and violators can be expelled or otherwise punished. The code, which was created by students in 1949, prohibits such things as “sexual misconduct,” or “obscene or indecent conduct or expressions.” As it is currently written, reporting students could also be investigated for how much sexual contact they consented to before the assault.

Click here to read the full article.

BYU launches sexual assault policy feedback website

May 19, 2016

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Brigham Young University launched a website for people to provide feedback on the school’s sexual assault policy, and is looking into revisions such as an amnesty clause that could give victims immunity from honor code violations committed in the lead-up to a sexual assault.

The Mormon-owned school launched the website Thursday, following the barrage of recent complaints over its practice of opening honor code investigations into students after they report being sexually assaulted.

The website is the first big change since BYU created an advisory council to examine its sexual assault policies a few weeks ago. The group is made up of four faculty members, including assistant nursing professor Julie Valentine.

Click here to read the full article.

Report: Fewer sex assaults reported at BYU than many schools

May 12, 2016

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Students at Brigham Young University reported fewer on-campus sexual assaults than many other major Western universities over the past decade __ a finding that victims’ and others say could indicate a problem of under-reporting by people who are attacked.

The Mormon-owned school reported an average of about 1.5 sexual assaults for every 10,000 students a year from 2004 through 2014, the most recent data available, according to an analysis of U.S. Department of Education data by The Associated Press.

All but one of the universities in the Pac-12 conference reported a higher annual average, with many reporting more than twice the number at BYU, the analysis shows. The data only includes sexual assaults on campuses.

Click here to read the full article.

Police criticize BYU investigations into sex assault victims

Apr. 29, 2016

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Several Utah police officials are joining in calls to change Brigham Young University’s practice of opening honor code investigations into students after they report being sexually assaulted, as more sexual assault victims reach out to police to say they have felt silenced by the policy.

The decision by three Provo police leaders to call for changes at the Mormon-owned school marks a significant development in the insular, predominantly Mormon community.

BYU has already launched a review of the practice, but officials there haven’t said yet if they’ll make changes.

Click here to read the full article.

BYU students investigated by school after reporting rape

Apr. 20, 2016

PROVO, Utah (AP) — Madeline MacDonald says she was an 18-year-old freshman at Brigham Young University when she was sexually assaulted by a man she met on an online dating site.

She reported the crime to the school’s Title IX office. That same day, she says, BYU’s honor code office received a copy of the report, triggering an investigation into whether MacDonald had violated the Mormon school’s strict code of behavior, which bans premarital sex and drinking, among other things.

Now MacDonald is among many students and others, including a Utah prosecutor, who are questioning BYU’s practice of investigating accusers, saying it could discourage women from reporting sexual violence and hinder criminal cases.

Some have started an online petition drive calling on the university to give victims immunity from honor code violations committed in the lead-up to a sexual assault.

Click here to read the full article.

Videos

Video

One year into the Donald Trump presidency, thousands of people took to Seattle’s streets for the Women’s March 2.0 on Jan. 20, 2018. Protestors rallied for a myriad of issues, including immigration and healthcare. Seattle was one of hundreds of other cities that held rallies on the anniversary of 2017 Women’s March.

*****

More than half of all U.S. states have legalized medical marijuana. But despite multiple legislative attempts and urging from a multitude of local patients, Utah has not. The decision has left some patients with no access to medicine that they say is a crucial treatment option. Ashley Rice is one of those patients. She has a genetic condition that causes frequent seizures.

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Neca Allgood is the president of Mama Dragons, a support group for mothers of LGBTQIA children, and the mother of a transgender son. But at the same time, she has also remained an active member of the Mormon Church, a faith whose doctrine or institutional policies appear to sometimes stand in opposition to her work for acceptance and support of her son and all members of the LGBTQ community.

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Massive waterfalls in Yosemite National Park and rivers raging in mountains throughout the western United States are thundering with greater force than they have for years — and proving deadly as warm weather melts the deepest mountain snowpack in recent memory.

Article and video by Hallie Golden and Scott Smith

*****

Some of the many protesters camped out in New York City for the Occupy Wall Street movement are far from new to the scene of social activism. In fact, they have been participating in rallies for over 50 years after protesting during the Vietnam War era. Now they’re back at it again.

Video by Hallie Golden

*****

Anayely Gomez has been living in New York since the age of three, but as one of the 3,200 undocumented college students in the U.S., she is struggling to get through college. Although she can attend college through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, affording the cost of higher education has been a struggle. Programs like the Tuition Assistance Program help students like Gomez afford a college education.

Video by Hallie Golden

Stories

 
The Beacon Food Forest grows community agriculture in Seattle- Curbed

The Beacon Food Forest in South Seattle is a 1.75-acre maze of fruit trees, herbs, and vegetables. It not only feeds the surrounding community, but also offers a brief nature-infused respite in the heart of this major metropolitan hub. Read my story here.

 

 Fremont Bridge Music- Curbed

Paurl Walsh is the Fremont Bridge’s artist-in-residence this summer. He devotes about 10 to 15 hours a week on his composition in the drawbridge’s 13-by-8 northwest tower office. Read my story here.

 

White Center Food Bank- Curbed

What happens when a food bank transforms into a grocery store? That’s exactly what happened at a major food distribution center near Seattle. Read my story here.

 

Octopus Census- CityLab

Once a year, the Seattle Aquarium enlists local divers to search for the largest octopus in the world—the giant Pacific octopus. This year, volunteers at dozens of dive sites discovered 29 of these majestic creatures. Read my story here.

 

Portraits

Animals

 

About

Hallie Golden is a freelance journalist in Seattle. She writes regularly for such publications as The New York Times, The Guardian, CityLab and Seattle
Magazine. Her stories address some of the region’s most important social justice issues, including the area’s high number of murdered and missing Native American women. 

She previously worked as a contract reporter and editor for The Associated Press in Salt Lake City and Philadelphia. She covered state and federal politics and crime, and has written on such topics as U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz’s resignation, and a Utah judge who called a convicted rapist a ‘good man.’

She also worked as an editorial fellow in Washington, D.C. for Atlantic Media’s Nextgov, where she spent a year investigating the federal government’s use and misuse of technology.

Golden graduated from Stony Brook University, with degrees in journalism and music. 

She has received awards for both her writing and photography, including a Robert and Rhoda Amon award for outstanding journalism.

Multimedia Skills

Computer: Final Cut Pro, Photoshop, Illustrator, WordPress Content Management System

Equipment: Nikon DSLR: D3000 and D7000, Canon video camerabasic CSS and HTML, Microsoft Excel

Now you see it, now you don’t (The Economist)

PLUTO, the ancient god of the underworld (pictured above), dealt with the dark and the dingy. Perhaps it is appropriate that a new email service allowing users to pull back murky messages from the depths of a recipient’s inbox bears his name.

Every email you send has the potential for permanence and repercussions. Whether it’s that raunchy picture you sent a partner before breaking up, or that email you mistakenly forwarded to your boss detailing what you hate about him, once an email is sent you lose all control. David Gobaud and Lindsay Lin, Harvard Law students, have spent months creating Pluto Mail—a free messaging service that aims to make such embarrassing events relics of the past.

It was released in beta on March 1st and gives users the ability not only to set self-destruct parameters for sent emails, but also edit those that have been sent already. Pluto Mail also allows authors to see when their message has been opened. Currently, the service has about 2,000 users and about as many on its wait-list. It allows just a few new recruits to join each day.

Although there have been past attempts at similar email programs, Pluto Mail has two advantages. It neither requires that users change their email service nor that email recipients have Pluto Mail accounts. This flexibility comes at a cost, however: it eliminated the possibility of Pluto Mail being able to completely delete sent emails.

Click here to read the full article!

Reporting From Russia

Artistry Through Turbulence

More than 20 years after an epic struggle, he finds harmony in the same place: his paintings.

Aslangery Uyanayev was part of a group of artists who squatted at Pushkinskaya 10 in St. Petersburg, Russia, to demonstrate the power of art during a time of tyranny. Today, he lives in the same place, with scuffed floors beneath dried-out brushes, plastic dishes of muddy water and canvases covered with vivid, chaotic paint strokes.

In 1991, Uyanayev joined with other protesting painters, musicians and writers at the end of the communist era (when many artists and art forms were restricted). As the chaos of a transforming country grew around them, the group’s aim was to establish an independent cultural center. They ended up doing much more. The artists’ work, including many informal concerts and art shows, formed a type of protective buffer between them and the tumultuous times in which they lived.

“We moved into the house with the world collapsing around us,” said Uyanayev.

Click here to read the rest!

Young Musician Bucks Russian Musical Culture

The 15-year-old’s frustrating memories of German class do not stem from grammar drills or vocabulary words, but from balloons.

The balloons were from all the celebrations that Olja Voronenko’s school held in lieu of class. All of the celebrations were held to kill time in a school that didn’t have enough classrooms for teaching.

These were no celebrations for Olja, an aspiring violinist. As her teachers sat up front, sipping tea, and the students around her relished the free period, she struggled silently. “I had a lot of unorganized lessons, so I always felt guilty that I couldn’t spend that time on the violin,” she said.

This shy resident of St. Petersburg, Russia, with the piercing gaze is trapped in a school system that is ill-equipped to accommodate, let alone nurture, creativity.

Click here to read the rest!

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