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Orlando Summit Seeks to Empower LGBTQ Youth to Live Authentically in Personal, Professional Lives – WMFE

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The summit takes place on Saturday in Orlando. Photo: Flickr Creative Commons

More than 200 LGBTQ youth and their parents are expected to attend the Orlando Youth Empowerment Summit this weekend in Orlando.

Local leaders and LGBTQ groups will offer workshops to LGBTQ youth on topics from becoming more politically active and getting their first job to the basics of putting on makeup.

Zebra Coalitions Robin Daily says along with these resources, the conference will highlight people in the community who can provide mentorship.

To be able to be in that space and see people that are already working in these fields being their authentic selves and living their lives is very empowering for the youth.

Daily says its the first time since the conference started in 2014 that there will also be a full-day training for parents.

For anyone who has a child in their life that simply doesnt fit into societys notions about gender. Whether theyre transgender, non-binary or just gender expansive or if its just someone in the community either a parent or caregiver that wants to learn more, understand more about gender.

Along with these sessions there will be a live lip sync battle, musical and drag performances, and confidential HIV and STI testing by Hope & Help.

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Orlando Summit Seeks to Empower LGBTQ Youth to Live Authentically in Personal, Professional Lives - WMFE

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Mooresville couple teaches children to defend themselves – and so much more – Statesville Record & Landmark

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Personal empowerment safety program radKids of Lake Norman has been equipping youth in the area with hands-on training to help enhance their quality of life for years.

Husband and wife duo David and Karen Fisher started the program in 2013 and are nationally certified instructors.

I became a mom in 2009 and 2010 and I realized that as my children became older that they needed situational awareness skills as much as adults do, Karen said. So I started looking around for specific programs and found radKIDS. It is a national child safety program. They go to schools or they bring in community initiatives like police departments or school districts to nationally certify instructors.

This program sparked Karens interest. She not only wanted her kids to be a part of this experience, but herself as well.

I actually became very interested in becoming an instructor, so I contacted the executive director about becoming an instructor and being an independent person like myself and like my husband, we are not in a police department, we are not in a school, we are just independent on our own, Karen said.

After months of persistence, the Fishers were able to take an instructor class and become certified.

In November 2013 we were off and running but we started it at our house with a little preschool program with like six kids preschoolers and from there we kind of just ramped up the program, Karen said.

From humble beginnings the program has continued to grow through word of mouth.

Long story short we have empowered over 2,500 children in our community at this point, Karen said.

It is a 10-hour, drill-based program including role-playing that puts the kids in certain scenarios that they might face in their real life, Karen said.

The scenarios give the kids options and plans on how to keep themselves safe, creating a memory base for reactions.

Procedural memory is what we all need children through senior citizens to (have to) react instinctively to danger, violence or harm kids deserve that just as much as adults, Karen said.

When the Fishers start a new class, one of the first questions they ask the children in attendance is Who is in charge of your safety?. That gets them thinking.

Ninety-nine percent of them, if not 100 percent, will say my mom or my dad, Karen said. Then I will look around and say, Where is your mom or dad now? They are not with you so who is in charge of your safety and that really gets them thinking, Wait, wait my mom and dad arent with me so if they arent with me who is going to keep me safe?

After they answer, the Fishers will then explain that the children themselves are in charge of their own safety.

That is when the empowerment begins that is the seed and within those 10 hours it grows abundantly into a full awareness program for them, Karen said.

Throughout the program there are three things all radKIDS know, she said.

First, no one has the right to hurt them because they are special. I ask the kids on the first day of class to close their eyes and point to the most important person in the room they point to me or him or if their parent is in the room they will point to their parent and very rarely they will point to themselves so we change that mindset.

Second, they dont have the right to hurt anyone either, including a conversation about drugs, alcohol, smoking, self-harm things like that but if someone is trying to hurt you, you have the right to stop them.

Third, if anyone does try to hurt, trick or make them feel bad, its not their fault.

These three things are addressed in drills to include defense against bullying, gun safety, fire safety, home safety, outside safety, bike safety, vehicle safety, school safety, internet safety, strangers, 911 and good, bad, unwanted touch.

They are able number one to recognize any type of danger, violence or harm and if they can recognize it quickly they can avoid it and stay safe, Karen said. And if they cant avoid it we teach them how to respond and escape if necessary.

The radKIDS program also helps the children differentiate when a person might be a threat to them based on their behaviors.

The funniest thing I like to inform them of is if you cant talk to strangers how can you make new friends, Karen said. As adults, all of our parents taught us dont talk to strangers, dont talk to strangers which makes us think that strangers are bad.

Not all strangers are bad in fact most strangers are actually good strangers, Karen said.

So instead of talking about the dangers of strangers we start trying to give them hints or clues to the differences between good people and bad people, Karen said.

They also teach physical resistance skills, which Karen calls realistic fight skills.

Its not martial arts, it is save-myself skills, do whatever you have to do to get yourself out of that situation and get safe so on top of all the drills that we do and the talks that we have they learn the skills, Karen said.

The children get to work with pads and a punching dummy to practice physical resistance. They then use those skills in a simulated realistic environment at the end of the program.

David simulates an attack on a child in a padded aggressor suit, picking up the child. The children can fight back without injuring him while keeping everyone safe.

They get worried and afraid and scared of the situation, but not in a bad way because it is controlled and I am right beside of them, Karen said.

They do get that feeling of if this were real this is what it would look like and feel like and sound like and smell like and all of that so that becomes embedded in their brain you have to pepper, you have to hammer fist in the nose, you have to kick him in the groin, you have to elbow them, you have to do all of this. And Im allowing you to do this because you are not going to do it unless you are allowed to do it.

So its really empowering; it can be a life changer. We have had multiple saves meaning disclosures from children who have been sexually abused or physically abused, she said.

The Fishers have previously reached out to child protective services or law enforcement to help some children who were able to recognize the signs that were taught to them through radKIDS.

Every time I get choked up when a child I have bonded with says I need to talk to you in private and I know what is coming, Karen said. I feel like I am put here for this to save them. If I never taught this class again after one of those disclosures I would be OK because I saved that one child and thats what it means to me.

Those are challenging things to face, but also the driving force behind the program.

It (radKIDS) takes you from Help me, help me to How dare you try to hurt me, David said. Besides raising my own children, this is the second best thing I have done in my life.

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Mooresville couple teaches children to defend themselves - and so much more - Statesville Record & Landmark

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Put people power over the bureaucrats – The Australian Financial Review

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When business leaders spend more resources designing products that meet regulatory whims rather than the needs of the people, we have a problem. When regulators feel as if they need to issue guidance on how boardroom notes are taken, then we have gone past any reasonable understanding of consumer protection.

So is it any surprise that in the United States, the most profitable investment a firm can make is in lobbying? Jesse Norman, the British MP and author, recently pointed out that some lobbying efforts in the US had a return on investment of 1200 per cent.

Too often, our challenges seem intractable because the argument is framed as being between the candle and the darkness when the answer is the light globe

Which makes you wonder how much of this is a driver of the lower productivity we have faced in the post-GFC era. Those people who have traditionally allocated capital to areas of our economy that could most benefit from it have been spending increasing amounts of time dealing with legal requirements, such as how boardroom notes are taken, rather than new products or services.

The director and officer liability insurance market is a great example of innovation-killing lawfare. Overseas litigation funders, who in many cases do in Australia what they cannot do at home, are getting returns in this country of close to 1000 per cent. The number of shareholder class actions has quintupled over the last decade and the cost of director and officer liability insurance has risen 500 per cent over the past two years.

Hard-working Australians are seeing their investment returns cut. More seriously, over the long term, businesses in Australia are becoming more cautious and less innovative. The losers are all of us: investors, consumers and Australians.

This Liberal government knows that if we are to overcome the challenges and seize the opportunities of this century, innovation must be enabled, not disabled. Too often, our challenges seem intractable because the argument is framed as being between the candle and the darkness when the answer is the light globe.

We need to keep incentivising people in business to take well-informed risks without fear of legal regulatory retribution. This is how we will overcome the challenges of climate change, productivity, creation of meaningful employment, education and the many other opportunities before us.

So as the Liberal party approaches the last quarter of its first century, we are reminded that the only way to a fair country is through freedom, for no one person knows the path of happiness for every person; that care and compassion comes not from the generosity of the state but from those who know and love us; that historys surest pathway to serfdom is by replacing equal rights with equality of outcome; and this is the only way anyone has created a just society.

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Put people power over the bureaucrats - The Australian Financial Review

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Empowerment self defense workshops to begin on Tuesday – The Bowdoin Orient

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This semester, the Office of Gender Violence Prevention and Education and the Sexuality, Women and Gender Center (SWAG) are partnering to provide a series of empowerment self defense workshops. All four workshops will focus on assertive communication, boundary setting, bystander intervention and physical self-defense.

We ask that people commit to going to all four sessions so that theyre really building community within the group and building trust in each other, said Lisa Peterson, associate director of gender violence prevention and education. The material kind of builds on itself.

The four workshops will be led by a pair of facilitators from Prevention. Action. Change. (PAC), a Portland-based group that focuses on countering abuse, assault and harassment. Peterson complimented this organization, noting the language it uses to achieve its goals.

Prevention. Action. Change. focuses on exploring and sharing the ways that we can all take up more space in the world by expressing what we want, need and feel and then intervening early to prevent and respond to harassment abuse and assault, Peterson said.

The programs organizers hope to draw around 20 participants, a group size which will allow them to work with as many people as possible while still ensuring that all participants can practice the skills they learn and create a sense of community. The program is open to all self-identifying woman, gender non-conforming and non-binary individuals.

Its really taking the lens of thinking about the ways in which we construct gender as a society and how folks of those genders have been socialized to exist in the world and empowering folks to articulate what their [needs and desires are], and to feel confident and feel valid in doing that, Peterson said.

Rachel Reinke, associate director of SWAG, echoed this sentiment, adding that the program emphasizes personal power and agency.

It provides more options for what that power can look like, she said. I think that was something really appealing about this particular program because there are so many approaches that are being taken throughout all the sessions.

Both Peterson and Reinke emphasized that the workshops provide a comprehensive approach to dealing with gender violence on campus.

While similar workshops have been offered twice in the past, the length of this years workshop makes the program different from that of previous years. Following feedback that previous workshops were too short in their first year and too long in their second year, the Office of Gender Violence Prevention and Education have decided to try four two-hour long sessions over the course of the semester.

We hope that [the new format] will be the right balance of ensuring that folks have enough time together to really delve into the material, but that its also manageable with class schedules, said Peterson.

With participants filling out anonymous surveys each year, Reinke reiterated that student feedback is essential to the programs success.

The four workshops will begin next Tuesday night.

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Empowerment self defense workshops to begin on Tuesday - The Bowdoin Orient

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How Silicon Valley Broke the Economy – The Nation

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Steve Jobs, John Sculley, and Steve Wozniak, 1984. Steve Jobs, John Sculley, and Steve Wozniak, 1984.

One of Apple cofounder Steve Jobss most audacious marketing triumphs is rarely mentioned in the paeans to his genius that remain a staple of business content farms. In 1982, Jobs offered to donate a computer to every K12 school in America, provided Congress pass a bill giving Apple substantial tax write-offs for the donations. When he arrived in Washington, DC, to lobby for what became known as the Apple Bill, the 28-year-old CEO looked more like a summer intern than the head of a $600-million-a-year corporation, according to The Washington Post, but he already showed signs of his famous arrogance. He barraged the legislators with white papers and proclaimed that they would be crazy not to take us up on this. Jobs knew the strength of his hand: A mania for computer literacy was sweeping the nation as an answer to the competitive threats of globalization and the reescalation of the Cold Wars technology and space races. Yet even as preparing students for the Information Age became a national priority, the Reagan eras budget cuts meant that few schools could afford a brand-new $2,400 Apple II computer.Ad Policy Books in Review

The Apple Bill passed the House overwhelmingly but then died in the Senate after a bureaucratic snafu for which Jobs forever blamed Republican Senator Bob Dole of Kansas, then chair of the Finance Committee. Yet all was not lost: A similar bill passed in California, and Apple flooded its home state with almost 10,000 computers. Apples success in California gave it a leg up in the lucrative education market as states around the country began to computerize their classrooms. But education was not radically transformed, unless you count a spike in The Oregon Trailrelated deaths from dysentery. If anything, those who have studied the rapid introduction of computers into classrooms in the 1980s and 90s tend to conclude that it exacerbated inequities. Elite students and schools zoomed smoothly into cyberspace, while poorer schools fell further behind, bogged down by a lack of training and resources.

A young, charismatic geek hawks his wares using bold promises of social progress but actually makes things worse and gets extremely rich in the processtoday it is easy to see the story of the Apple Bill as a stand-in for the history of the digital revolution as a whole. The growing concern about the role that technology plays in our lives and society is fueled in no small part by a growing realization that we have been duped. We were told that computerizing everything would lead to greater prosperity, personal empowerment, collective understanding, even the ability to transcend the limits of the physical realm and create a big, beautiful global brain made out of electrons. Instead, our extreme dependence on technology seems to have mainly enriched and empowered a handful of tech companies at the expense of everyone else. The panic over Facebooks impact on democracy sparked by Donald Trumps election in a haze of fake news and Russian bots felt like the national version of the personal anxiety that seizes many of us when we find ourselves snapping away from our phone for what seems like the 1,000th time in an hour and contemplating how our lives are being stolen by a screen. We are stuck in a really bad system.

This realization has led to a justifiable anger and derision aimed at the architects of this system. Silicon Valley executives and engineers are taken to task every week in the op-ed pages of our largest newspapers. We are told that their irresponsibility and greed have undermined our freedom and degraded our democratic institutions. While it is gratifying to see tech billionaires get a (very small) portion of their comeuppance, we often forget that until very recently, Silicon Valley was hailed by almost everyone as creating the path toward a brilliant future. Perhaps we should pause and contemplate how this situation came to be, lest we make the same mistakes again. The story of how Silicon Valley ended up at the center of the American dream in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, as well as the ambiguous reality behind its own techno-utopian dreams, is the subject of Margaret OMaras sweeping new history, The Code: Silicon Valley and the Remaking of America. In it, she puts Silicon Valley into the context of a larger story about postwar Americas economic and social transformations, highlighting its connections with the mainstream rather than the cultural quirks and business practices that set it apart. The Code urges us to consider Silicon Valleys shortcomings as Americas shortcomings, even if it fails to interrogate them as deeply as our current crisisand the role that technology played in bringing it aboutseems to warrant.

Silicon Valley entered the public consciousness in the 1970s as something of a charmed place. The first recorded mention of Silicon Valley was in a 1971 article by a writer for a technology newspaper reporting on the regions semiconductor industry, which was booming despite the economic doldrums that had descended on most of the country. As the Rust Belt foundered and Detroit crumbled, Silicon Valley soared to heights barely conveyed by the metrics that OMara rattles off in the opening pages of The Code: Three billion smartphones. Two billion social media users. Two trillion-dollar companies and the richest people in the history of humanity. Many people have attempted to divine the secret of Silicon Valleys success. The consensus became that the Valley had pioneered a form of quicksilver entrepreneurialism perfectly suited to the Information Age. It was fast, flexible, meritocratic, and open to new ways of doing things. It allowed brilliant young people to turn crazy ideas into world-changing companies practically overnight. Silicon Valley came to represent the innovative power of capitalism freed from the clutches of uptight men in midcentury business suits, bestowed upon the masses by a new, appealing folk hero: the cherub-faced start-up founder hacking away in his dorm room.

The Code both bolsters and revises this story. On the one hand, OMara, a historian at the University of Washington, is clearly enamored with tales of entrepreneurial derring-do. From the traitorous eight who broke dramatically from the Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory in 1957 to start Fairchild Semiconductor and create the modern silicon transistor to the well-documented story of Facebooks founding, the major milestones of Silicon Valley history are told in heroic terms that can seem gratingly out of touch, given what we know about how it all turned out. In her portrayal of Silicon Valleys tech titans, OMara emphasizes virtuous qualities like determination, ingenuity, and humanistic concern, while hints of darker motives are studiously ignored. We learn that a visionary and relentless Jeff Bezos continued to drive a beat-up Honda Accord even as he became a billionaire, but his reported remark to an Amazon sales team that they ought to treat small publishers the way a lion treats a sickly gazelle is apparently not deemed worthy of the historical record. But at the same time, OMara helps us understand why Silicon Valleys economic dominance cant be chalked up solely to the grit and smarts of entrepreneurs battling it out in the free market. At every stage of its development, she shows how the booming tech industry was aided and abetted by a wide swath of American society both inside and outside the Valley. Marketing gurus shaped the tech companies images, educators evangelized for technology in schools, best-selling futurists preached personalized tech as a means toward personal liberation. What emerges in The Code is less the story of a tribe of misfits working against the grain than the simultaneous alignment of the countrys political, cultural, and technical elites around the view that Silicon Valley held the key to the future.

Above all, OMara highlights the profound role that the US government played in Silicon Valleys rise. At the end of World War II, the region was still the sleepy, sun-drenched Santa Clara Valley, home to farms and orchards, an upstart Stanford University, and a scattering of small electronics and aerospace firms. Then came the space and arms races, given new urgency in 1957 with the launch of Sputnik, which suggested a serious Soviet advantage. Millions of dollars in government funding flooded technology companies and universities around the country. An outsize portion went to Northern Californias burgeoning tech industry, thanks in large part to Stanfords far-sighted provost Frederick Terman, who reshaped the university into a hub for engineering and the applied sciences.Current Issue

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Stanford and the surrounding area became a hive of government R&D during these years, as IBM and Lockheed Martin opened local outposts and the first native start-ups hit the ground. While these early companies relied on what OMara calls the Valleys ecosystem of fresh-faced engineers seeking freedom and sunshine in California, venture capitalists sniffing out a profitable new industry, and lawyers, construction companies, and real estate agents jumping to serve their somewhat quirky ways, she makes it clear that the lifeblood pumping through it all was government money. Fairchild Semiconductors biggest clients for its new silicon chips were NASA, which put them in the Apollo rockets, and the Defense Department, which stuck them in Minuteman nuclear missiles. The brains of all of todays devices have their origin in the United States drive to defeat the Soviet Union in the Cold War.

But the role of public funding in the creation of Silicon Valley is not the big government success story a good liberal might be tempted to consider it. As OMara points out, during the Cold War American leaders deliberately pushed public funds to private industry rather than government programs because they thought the market was the best way to spur technological progress while avoiding the specter of centralized planning, which had come to smack of communist tyranny. In the years that followed, this belief in the market as the means to achieve the goals of liberal democracy spread to nearly every aspect of life and society, from public education and health care to social justice, solidifying into the creed we now call neoliberalism. As the role of the state was eclipsed by the market, Silicon Valleyfull of brilliant entrepreneurs devising technologies that promised to revolutionize everything they touchedwas well positioned to step into the void.

The earliest start-up founders hardly seemed eager to assume the mantle of social visionary that their successors, todays flashy celebrity technologists, happily take up. They were buttoned-down engineers who reflected the cool practicality of their major government and corporate clients. As the 1960s wore on, they were increasingly out of touch. Amid the tumult of the civil rights movement and the protests against the Vietnam War, the major concern in Silicon Valleys manicured technology parks was a Johnson-era drop in military spending. The relatively few techies who were political at the time were conservative.

Things started to change in the 1970s. The 60s made a belated arrival in the Valley as a younger generation of geeks steeped in countercultural values began to apply them to the development of computer technology. The weight of Silicon Valleys culture shifted from the conservative suits to long-haired techno-utopians with dreams of radically reorganizing society through technology. This shift was perhaps best embodied by Lee Felsenstein, a former self-described child radical who cut his teeth running communications operations for anti-war and civil rights protests before going on to develop the Tom Swift Terminal, one of the earliest personal computers. Felsenstein believed that giving everyday people access to computers could liberate them from the crushing hierarchy of modern industrial society by breaking the monopoly on information held by corporations and government bureaucracies. To change the rules, change the tools, he liked to say. Whereas Silicon Valley had traditionally developed tools for the Man, these techies wanted to make tools to undermine him. They created a loose-knit network of hobbyist groups, drop-in computer centers, and DIY publications to share knowledge and work toward the ideal of personal liberation through technology. Their dreams seemed increasingly achievable as computers shrank from massive, room-filling mainframes to the smaller-room-filling minicomputers to, finally, in 1975, the first commercially viable personal computer, the Altair.

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Yet as OMara shows, the techno-utopians did not ultimately constitute such a radical break from the past. While their calls to democratize computing may have echoed Marxist cries to seize the means of production, most were capitalists at heart. To advance the personal computer revolution, they founded start-ups, trade magazines, and business forums, relying on funding from venture capital funds often with roots in the old money elite. Jobs became the most celebrated entrepreneur of the era by embodying the discordant figures of both the cowboy capitalist and the touchy-feely hippie, an image crafted in large part by the marketing guru Regis McKenna. Silicon Valley soon became an industry that looked a lot like those that had come before. It was nearly as white and male as they were. Its engineers worked soul-crushing hours and blew off steam with boozy pool parties. And its most successful company, Microsoft, clawed its way to the top through ruthless monopolistic tactics.

Perhaps the strongest case against the supposed subversiveness of the personal computer pioneers is how quickly they were embraced by those in power. As profits rose and spectacular IPOs seized headlines throughout the 1980s, Silicon Valley was championed by the rising stars of supply-side economics, who hitched their drive for tax cuts and deregulation to techs venture-capital-fueled rocket ship. The groundwork was laid in 1978, when the Valleys venture capitalists formed an alliance with the Republicans to kill then-President Jimmy Carters proposed increase in the capital gains tax. They beta-tested Reaganomics by advancing the dubious argument that millionaires making slightly less money on their investments might stifle technological innovation by limiting the supply of capital available to start-ups. And they carried the day.

As president, Ronald Reagan doubled down with tax cuts and wild technophilia. In a truly trippy speech to students at Moscow State University in 1988, he hailed the transcendent possibilities of the new economy epitomized by Silicon Valley, predicting a future in which human innovation increasingly makes physical resources obsolete. Meanwhile, the market-friendly New Democrats embraced the tech industry so enthusiastically that they became known, to their chagrin, as Atari Democrats. The media turned Silicon Valley entrepreneurs into international celebrities with flattering profiles and cover storiesliving proof that the mix of technological innovation, risk taking, corporate social responsibility, and lack of regulation that defined Silicon Valley in the popular imagination was the template for unending growth and prosperity, even in an era of deindustrialization and globalization.

The near-universal celebration of Silicon Valley as an avatar of free-market capitalism in the 1980s helped ensure that the market would guide the Internets development in the 1990s, as it became the cutting-edge technology that promised to change everything. The Internet began as an academic resource, first as ARPANET, funded and overseen by the Department of Defense, and later as the National Science Foundations NSFNET. And while Al Gore didnt invent the Internet, he did spearhead the push to privatize it: As the Clinton administrations technology czar, he helped develop its landmark National Information Infrastructure (NII) plan, which emphasized the role of private industry and the importance of telecommunications deregulation in constructing Americas information superhighway. Not surprisingly, Gore would later do a little-known turn as a venture capitalist with the prestigious Valley firm Kleiner Perkins, becoming very wealthy in the process. In response to his NII plan, the advocacy group Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility warned of a possible corporate takeover of the Internet. An imaginative view of the risks of an NII designed without sufficient attention to public-interest needs can be found in the modern genre of dystopian fiction known as cyberpunk, they wrote. Cyberpunk novelists depict a world in which a handful of multinational corporations have seized control, not only of the physical world, but of the virtual world of cyberspace. Who can deny that todays commercial Internet has largely fulfilled this cyberpunk nightmare? Someone should ask Gore what he thinks.

Despite offering evidence to the contrary, OMara narrates her tale of Silicon Valleys rise as, ultimately, a success story. At the end of the book, we see it as the envy of other states around the country and other countries around the world, an exuberantly capitalist, slightly anarchic tech ecosystem that had evolved over several generations. Throughout the book, she highlights the many issues that have sparked increasing public consternation with Big Tech of late, from its lack of diversity to its stupendous concentration of wealth, but these are framed in the end as unfortunate side effects of the headlong rush to create a new and brilliant future. She hardly mentions the revelations by the National Security Agency whistle-blower Edward Snowden of the US governments chilling capacity to siphon users most intimate information from Silicon Valleys platforms and the voraciousness with which it has done so. Nor does she grapple with Uber, which built its multibillion-dollar leviathan on the backs of meagerly paid drivers. The fact that in order to carry out almost anything online we must subject ourselves to a hypercommodified hellscape of targeted advertising and algorithmic sorting does not appear to be a huge cause for concern. But these and many other aspects of our digital landscape have made me wonder if a technical complex born out of Cold War militarism and mainstreamed in a free-market frenzy might not be fundamentally always at odds with human flourishing. OMara suggests at the end of her book that Silicon Valleys flaws might be redeemed by a new, more enlightened, and more diverse generation of techies. But havent we heard this story before?

If there is a larger lesson to learn from The Code, it is that technology cannot be separated from the social and political contexts in which it is created. The major currents in society shape and guide the creation of a system that appears to spring from the minds of its inventors alone. Militarism and unbridled capitalism remain among the most powerful forces in the United States, and to my mind, there is no reason to believe that a new generation of techies might resist them any more effectively than the previous ones. The question of fixing Silicon Valley is inseparable from the question of fixing the system of postwar American capitalism, of which it is perhaps the purest expression. Some believe that the problems we see are bugs that might be fixed with a patch. Others think the code is so bad at its core that a radical rewrite is the only answer. Although The Code was written for people in the first group, it offers an important lesson for those of us in the second: Silicon Valley is as much a symptom as it is a cause of our current crisis. Resisting its bad influence on society will ultimately prove meaningless if we cannot also formulate a vision of a better worldone with a more humane relationship to technologyto counteract it. And, alas, there is no app for that.

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How Silicon Valley Broke the Economy - The Nation

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How South Africa’s Black Economic Empowerment Initiative Empowered the Powerful – OCCRP

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by Khadija Sharife and Mark Anderson

16October 2019

Regiments Capital, a boutique South African securities investment firm, earned more than 891 million rand ($58.7 million) in shares by taking advantage of a government initiative designed to mitigate the inequality of 50 years of apartheid, an OCCRP investigation reveals.

Regiments has already been implicated in several schemes that allowed the controversial Gupta family to siphon money out of state-owned entities.

The relationship between the Guptas and Regiments began in 2012 when Salim Essa, a key associate of the family, started a discussion with the investment firm on how to capture 775 million rand ($52.6 million) over a period of two months from state-owned companies.

Essa would go on to take half of Regiments profits from the schemes. He eventually founded another firm, Trillian, where he and another Regiments director scored billions in public contracts.

The United States Treasury included Salim Essa in a sanctions order on three of the Gupta brothers that was issued on Oct. 10.

Read more OCCRP reporting about the Guptas business activities and influence in South Africa.

Regiments may even have had the Guptas in mind when they conspired with a former executive at South Africas state investment firm to make lucrative deals under the auspices of the countrys post-apartheid Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) program.

The program was intended to reduce inequality for South Africas disenfranchised black citizens by getting big white-owned companies to sell stakes in businesses at a massive discount to eligible black partners. Companies could gain political clout through this process, while the new investors, who often had close ties to the ruling African National Congress, acquired valuable assets at little or no cost.

On their own, neither Regiments nor its co-founder, Eric Wood, who is not black, would have easily qualified to participate in the empowerment program. So Wood forged a partnership with Tshepo Mahloele at the time a key official at the state-owned Public Investment Corp (PIC) that allowed them to form a new Black Economic Empowerment entity: a consortium of influential political and business insiders who manipulated the initiative to buy shares in one of the countrys largest banks at a secret cut-rate price.

To artificially prop up the shares market value despite this hidden deal, the consortium obtained hundreds of millions in financing from a state investment fund that covered the difference. Then, as the market value of the shares rose, the consortium arranged to sell them to the PIC at a profit. It then tried to create yet another empowerment entity to buy them back for yet more profit. Altogether, Regiments holds shares worth 891 million rand ($58.7 million) from its BEE deals.

Supporters of President Cyril Ramaphosa's ruling African National Congress (ANC) celebrate election results at a rally in Johannesburg in May. Ramaphosa campaigned on an anti-corruption platform, promising to crack down on graft within the ANC. Credit: Mike Hutchings/Reuters

The PIC is Africas largest fund, overseeing 2 trillion rand ($131 billion) in assets, and is meant to manage government investments, including the pensions of public employees. The fund owns significant stakes in many of South Africas most valuable companies and controls over 10 percent of the market capitalization of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. The consortium hijacked these funds for their private gain.

Last October, South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa established a Commission of Inquiry to probe allegations of impropriety at the PIC between 2015 and 2018. The focus of its investigation is whether senior officials, including Mahloele and his former boss, Jabu Moleketi, abused their power for personal gain. (A separate government inquest, the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture, is currently probing links between the Guptas and the administration of the last president, Jacob Zuma.)

Dan Matjila, the former head of South Africa's state asset manager, the Public Investment Corporation (PIC), appears at an inquiry into alleged wrongdoing and poor investment decisions during his tenure, in July. Credit: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters

Partly because of manoeuvers like this, South Africas 20 years of black empowerment efforts have done little to alleviate apartheids lingering economic imbalance. Last year, the World Bank declared South Africa one of the most unequal countries in the world.

Instead, most of the benefits of high-stakes BEE deals have accrued to politically connected people like Mahloele, who already had seats at the boardroom tables of Johannesburgs affluent Sandton suburbs.

The monies subsidising these aspirant plutocrats were sourced from public funds in a country where over half its people live in poverty. Once again the poor are subsidizing the illicit lifestyle of an elite, said Hennie van Vuuren, the director of Open Secrets, an organization that promotes transparency in government in South Africa.

After the fall of apartheid in 1994, there was widespread demand in South Africa for financial reparations that would overturn the countrys legacy of inequality and allow control of the countrys wealth to spread beyond the white minority. In response, the government enacted programs like Black Economic Empowerment (BEE).

But in practice, BEE resulted in strategic investment deals that concentrated ownership in the hands of a select group of politically connected black South Africans. The deals spearheaded by Regiments and Mahloele illustrate how the countrys elite hijacked BEE for their own benefit.

"No political democracy can survive and flourish if the majority of its people remains in poverty, without land, without their basic needs being met, and without tangible prospects for a better life," the party wrote on Nov. 23, 1994 in an official government newspaper.

But it wasnt until 2001 that the BEE program was formalized by the government. The release of the BEE Commission report in the same year paved the way for new legislation that required South Africas biggest companies to prove they had sufficient black ownership and met employment quotas and career development objectives.

Following outcry that the original BEE strategy didnt benefit ordinary people, a new program, Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment, was announced in 2003. The legislation forced the countrys biggest companies including Anglo-American, BHP Billiton and ABSA bank to prove compliance with new quotas and ownership laws. Despite these efforts, in practice BEE has resulted in investment deals that concentrated ownership in the hands of a select group of black South Africans.

In testimony to the PIC Commission, Mahloele said he had resigned from the PIC that March (before Woods April email). But he was in a position to continue making decisions afterwards: In the previous year, the PIC had appointed him to head a multi-billion-dollar infrastructure investment fund. The fund was managed by a shelf company called Harith. Once owned by the PIC, Harith was handed over to Mahloeles control in 2007.

In April 2006, Eric Wood, then a director of Regiments, sought out an email introduction to Mahloele, who had been in charge of the PICs alternate investment arm, including a social development fund called Isibaya. This fund is intended to make investments for the public good, but since it is not listed on the stock exchange, decisions are often made at the discretion of managers like Mahloele with little oversight from the PIC.

Later that year, Capitec, currently South Africas fifth-largest bank by assets and a lender that catered to the countrys poor, held a BEE sale of around 12 percent of its shares, at a heavily discounted price of a penny per share. The offer appeared to be made accessible to just a handful of politically connected insiders, including Mahloele.

Regiments and Mahloele worked fast to take advantage of the sale. They set up a new consortium of BEE investors, carefully chosen to maximize political clout and qualify for BEE status. They included:

This consortium, which they named Coral Lagoon Investments, quickly bought all 10 million empowerment shares issued by Capitec for a penny each, a massive discount from their market value of 30 rand per share.

The extremely low price of the deal was negotiated in secret, with media reporting that the Capitec shares had been bought at their market value.

To protect Capitecs share value which would have plummeted if it became known that 10 million shares had been sold for so little the Coral Lagoon consortium members obtained 285 million rand ($18.68 million) in financing from the states Industrial Development Corp (IDC) to cover the difference. The companys share value thus reached the level the market expected.

Such usage of public funds to prop up the value of corporate shares sold through BEE schemes is not unusual in South Africa, and has contributed to public dissatisfaction with the program.

Internal documents reviewed by OCCRP show Regiments and Keabetsoe were firmly in control of the Capitec deal, with Regiments taking the lead on its financial structure and Keabetsoe appearing to handle other aspects.

According to Mahloeles testimony, he left his job at the PIC in March 2006 to focus on growing his private business ventures. That year, the duo also formed a new holding company, Ashbrook Investments 15 Ltd., and put Coral Lagoon ostensibly under its control.

The Capitec shares Coral Lagoon held were valued at 1.5 billion rand as if they really had been bought for 30 rand each. Wood and Mahloele were already profiting from the dividends, but now they sought to cash in by selling a portion of the shares to the PIC Mahleoles former employer. Using sophisticated hedging and vendor financing schemes, they earned a huge profit on the deal, enabling them to repay the 285 million rand they owed the IDC and make millions for themselves.

Regiments and Keabetso may have had access to confidential information that helped them. The two companies entered into a secret non-disclosure agreement with a third company, Circle Capital whose role, and owners, were unknown. The agreement allowed them to gain access to certain information pertaining to a listed company, apparently Capitec, though no name was given. No other shareholder was included.

According to another mysterious agreement that makes no obvious business sense, each Coral Lagoon shareholder owed Circle Capital 7 million rand; no reason was declared.

In February 2012, the PIC, through the Isibaya Fund, which had previously been run by Mahloele, purchased half of the shares in Capitec that Coral Lagoon held for 826 million rand ($54.5 million), or 156 rand per share. Since they had been purchased for just a penny a share, this was a massive windfall for the Coral Lagoon consortium, worth billions of rand, at the expense of the South African public.

Court records show that Regiments share of Capitec was ultimately valued at 891 million rand ($58.7 million), a vast increase from its original stake of 9 million rand ($600,000).

Rather than becoming a shareholder, PIC simply warehoused the shares until they could be repurchased at a lower price by a new Black Economic Empowerment company, which Regiments assumed it would also take the lead in forming.

A February 2011 letter to Capitec from top executives of Regiments and Keabetso outlined the plan. The letter said that a new black economic empowerment transaction was being structured and negotiated between the PIC, Coral Lagoon, and a new BEE company that would be even better positioned to take advantage of future black empowerment deals.

Capitecs financial director, Andre du Plessis, told reporters in 2012 that the bank was unaware of the possibility that the ANC could benefit from the transaction.

Private correspondence obtained by OCCRP indicates that Regiments may have intended the Guptas as beneficiaries of the PIC-related deals. The investment firm also tried to formalize its control over the deal, announcing that it intended to handle all legal, secretarial and accounting functions for Coral Lagoon.

But what Regiments didnt realize was that Mahloeles team had been working behind the scenes to get there first.

On May 12, 2015, Capitec suddenly announced that a new BEE company called PetraTouch (later renamed to Lebashe Investment Group) had acquired the warehoused shares at 461 rand ($30) per share. Capitecs share price plunged by 6 percent at the news, suggesting markets were not happy that the PIC had sold the shares it was holding to a new BEE group.

The sale was touted in South African media under the curious headline Capitec wants this BEE deal to be fair, implying the previous sale had not been. The story described PetraTouch as a new company led by an unknown black investor, Warren Wheatley.

Wheatley told media that the sale was not one of your old BEE transactions, and that PetraTouchs owners were not big political names and are new entrants.

Regiments seemed shocked by the move, according to private correspondence obtained by OCCRP. The firms staff frantically tried to determine how the warehoused shares had been snatched out from under them and who exactly was behind PetraTouch, a company none of them had heard of.

They soon learned that it had very close links to somebody they had heard of: their purported business partner, Tshepo Mahloele.

PetraTouch was registered at an address that Mahloele had used on other company registration forms. Another major shareholder in PetraTouch used the same address. And Fawzia Sidwell, Mahloeles personal assistant at Harith Fund Managers, another firm he founded (and which had also received PIC funding), was copied into most emails between PetraTouch and the PIC.

Even more disturbingly, several other shareholders had close ties to the chairman of the PIC, Jabu Moleketi, a powerful figure in the ANC and former deputy finance minister. They included:

Regiments staff also said that Moleketi had been a shareholder in Keabetsoe Holdings all along, allegedly making him an original member of the Coral Lagoon consortium, even as he had been leading the PIC.

It wasnt just Regiments that was in the dark. Capitec was apparently never fully informed of the identity of the shareholders behind Keabetsoe or, later, PetraTouch. If it had, as a listed banking entity it might have been required to publicly disclose information related to politically exposed persons.

This, in turn, would have exposed Moleketi and Mahloele as the lopsided beneficiaries of a deal meant to benefit and empower those dispossessed by the apartheid regime. And rather than being new entrants, the beneficiaries of the new sale appeared to be the exact same people who had already profited from the previous one.

The final twist of the knife for Regiments was the discovery that a former employee, Jonathan Loeb, who left to start his own business in 2014, had been providing financial services to PetraTouch. He had even revealed to them Regiments hedging techniques, which PetraTouch used to buy the warehoused shares without spending a dime. The new deal had been touted in the press as fairer because the consortiums members were putting their own money down, but this turned out to be untrue.

PetraTouch did not stop there. The company sought to purchase more shares of the bank from Coral Lagoon. Although the Regiments side of the consortium was miffed and declined to sell, Keabetsoe and other ANC shareholders appeared to agree.

PetraTouch made the purchase with 1.5 billion rand ($101 million) loaned by the PICs Government Employee Pension Fund, which has 1.2 million active members and more than 400,000 pensioners and beneficiaries. This amounted to nearly one percent of the PICs total investment in private companies, according to Wheatleys testimony before the PIC Commission.

In a letter Bantu Holomisa, the leader of the opposition United Democratic Movement and a fierce government critic, reportedly sent to the Commission, he alleged that Mahloele and Moleketi had used PetraTouch as a portal to access PIC funds.

A BEE cartel of executives had easy access to PIC coffers and systematically looted public pension funds, Holomisa said in April.

Moleketi said the claim that he had exploited public funds was extremely hurtful.

In an email to reporters, Capitec said: Capitec did not select the members of the Ash Brook consortium. Directors of Petratouch was [sic] involved in the Ash Brook BEE consortium which held shares in Coral Lagoon. We knew these directors from the initial Coral Lagoon BEE consortium.

Regiments did not respond to questions sent by email.

In a response to questions from OCCRP, a representative of Petratouch (now called Lebashe) wrote, Over time, additional investors, including Mr Moleketi became shareholders in the entity. Mr Mahloeles prior employment at the PIC provided no advantage to the transaction.

Speaking to the matter of politically exposed persons, the spokesperson said the companys techniques were necessary: This system, called Apartheid could be classified as unfair In order to climb out of institutionalised poverty we had to develop and utilise other resources at our disposal. Sophisticated financial engineering was used in this instance.

However, the beneficiaries of the Capitec deal, both black and white, were wealthy individuals.

Ironically, the court has ordered that the money held by Regiments in Capitec shares be used to repay Regiments vast theft from a different pension fund (as previously reported by OCCRP). Though Regiments has agreed to the deal, Eric Wood, the companys co-founder and one of the beneficiaries of the Capitec deal, has sought to block the agreement. The case is still pending.

With billions of rand in profit being made on the back of the PIC, the Commission of Inquiry has extended its scope to investigate claims by whistleblowers around the illicit activities of former PIC officials. At stake are the pension funds of thousands of retired government employees whose futures have been invested in these dodgy deals.

Michiel le Roux, a Capitec board member and shareholder, is the founder of the Millennium Trust, a funder of the Platform for the Protection of African Whistleblowers, where Sharife is a director.

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How South Africa's Black Economic Empowerment Initiative Empowered the Powerful - OCCRP

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Fixing World Crises: The Women of ‘SEVEN’ are Succeeding and Inspiring – DC Metro Theater Arts

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SEVEN is a powerful documentary piece of theatre that brings the writing talents of seven award-winning playwrights to bear on the personal interviews of seven world-changing women from around the globe. It is an example of collaboration and self-empowerment by and for women that provides hope for those fighting to end gender-based violence, inequity, and oppression. Produced by L.A. Theatre Works, this play works beautifully for the style of shows that they specialize in. LATW does radio theatre, in which the cast speaks into microphones while facing the audience directly. This style emphasizes the power of the voice in theatre and storytelling, and it works wonderfully for SEVEN, which performed one night only at George Mason Universitys Center for the Arts.

Conceived by Carol Mack, one of the seven playwrights, the play was created in collaboration with Vital Voices Global Partnership. Mack, along with Ruth Margraff, Paula Cizmar, Catherine Filloux, Gail Kriegel, Anna Deavere Smith, and Susan Yankowitz, have written of the moments that led to change for the following women: Hafsat Abiola-Costello, Farida Azizi, Anabella DeLeon, Mukhtar Mai, Inez McCormack, Marina Pisklakova-Parker, and Mu Sochua. (For more on SEVEN, read David Siegels DCMTA feature.)

Acting is superb across the board. Hafsat Abiola-Costello (Sarah Hollis) is a Nigerian studying at Harvard, when she hears of the murder of her mother, and later, her father. She becomes a charismatic advocate for human rights and democracy. Farida Azizi (Laila Ayad) brought medical supplies and instructions to rural women of Afghanistan despite the threats of the Taliban. Anabella DeLeon (Maritxell Carrero) earned a law degree and became a congresswoman in Guatemala despite coming from abject poverty. Mukhtar Mai (Lovelee Carroll) brought her rapists to justice in Pakistan, then went on to build schools increasing literacy. Inez McCormack (Ellis Greer) became a trade union and human rights activist, playing a critical role in the 1998 Good Friday Peace Accords in Northern Ireland. Marina Pisklakova-Parker (Shannon Holt) began a helpline for battered women on her own, which has grown to the resource center for all of Russia, coordinating over 120 organizations for the prevention of violence. Mu Sochua (Tess Lina) was sent out of Cambodia by her parents for her own safety before they were both killed. Working to stop sex-trafficking in Cambodia and Thailand, she won a seat in Parliament, and has been co-nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. She now travels the world calling for action, as an exile who had to flee Cambodia for her own safety when the government was dissolved 2 years ago.

The play interweaves these stories artfully, thanks to Director Alexis Jacknow. There is a great deal being shared, but it is portrayed clearly, and movingly, and it is certainly inspirational. The audience was on its feet at the end of the performance.

The design aspect that stands out the most was the evocative imagery of the projections, designed by Sean Cawelti. Some projections were literal references to the dialogue, and some images evoked moods without specific interpretation. Costume Design by Carin Jacobs creates clear identification for the homelands of the plays characters. While the Sound Design by Mark Holden is generally excellent, the moments which used phone calls were often distorted enough to make understanding difficult. To be fair, the mood of the phone calls was often more important than the words themselves.

Speaking to worldwide issues, SEVEN has been translated into more than 20 languages and has been seen in 32 countries. If given the opportunity to see the production, dont miss it.

Running Time: One hour and 10 minutes, with no intermission.

SEVEN performed for one night only, October 18, 2019, at George Mason Universitys Center for the Arts, 4373 Mason Pond Drive, Fairfax, VA. Vital Voices is an international non-profit organization that empowers and champions women leaders around the world. For tickets to other shows in George Mason Universitys Great Performances Season, call the box office at 888-945-2468, or visit their calendar of events.

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Fixing World Crises: The Women of 'SEVEN' are Succeeding and Inspiring - DC Metro Theater Arts

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You can rent Barbie’s Malibu Dreamhouse on Airbnb for just US$60 a night – National Post

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Why have a Muskoka weekend when you can spend a few fall days in Barbies Dreamhouse? (Minus Ken, unfortunately.)

Said very real property is currently listed on Airbnb, via Mattel, and Barbie is listed as a verified host, so you know youre in good hands.

The fabulous life-size Dreamhouse will be available for booking for four guests for a one-time, two-night stay on October 23, 2019 at 11 a.m. PDT, for only US$60 a night, plus taxes and fees, to commemorate Barbie brands 60th anniversary, reads the press release. The house will offer enthusiasts the chance to experience her signature brand of hospitality, empowerment and inclusivity.

The once in a lifetime opportunity is located in the heart of Malibu, naturally, and boasts three floors with ocean views, a personal theatre, an infinity pool, a full walk-in closet, a DJ booth, etc.

Along with your stay, comes a meet-and-greet with celebrity hairstylist Jen Atkin, a makeover, fencing lessons with Olympic medalist Ibtihaj Muhammad, a cooking lesson from professional chef Gina Clarke-Helm, and a tour of the Columbia Memorial Space Center with pilot and aerospace engineer Jill Meyers.

In turn, Airbnb will make donations to charities involved with The Barbie Dream Gap Project, which is dedicated to empowering girls.

Like Barbie herself says, When you belong anywhere, you can be anything.

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You can rent Barbie's Malibu Dreamhouse on Airbnb for just US$60 a night - National Post

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Peace in the Holy Land – Nations Media

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The following is an exclusive print story from our archives. Sami Awad comes from a long lineage of Palestinian peace activists, and he is fighting for the peace of Jesus to win out in the land he calls home.

A chosen people, a promised land, the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the wall, the two-state solution, settlements, terrorism, armageddon, and two people groups who feel their very existence is on the line: to call the conflict in the Holy Land complicated is a gross understatement.

Peace in the Middle East has become an implausible saying likened to the day pigs fly. Were told its a hopeless cause and that 3,000 years of land rights and religious tension will continue until the end of time, or when Jesus returns, depending on your outlook. Fortunately for those living within the tension, there are a few people who have not given up on peace. Sami Awad is one of them.


On the darkest night of his life, Sami Awad lay in an Auschwitz bunker looking at the pictures children sketched on the walls: kids playing drums, riding bicycles, and kicking balls. In a place full of evil, the children of Auschwitz drew pictures to remind themselves of innocence.

By the time Sami traveled to the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camps, six decades had passed since the international horror of the Holocaust. He came to bear witness to the lives lost and to learn how fear motivated the wars atrocities. What he discovered instead was a narrative of fear living on in the hearts of people todayincluding his own.

In many ways, Samis story begins not in the bunker where he underwent a spiritual transformation. It doesnt even begin in Bethlehem where he grew up under Israeli military occupation. His story begins generations earlier, with an ancestry of peacemaking shaped by the teachings of Jesus. It was these teachings that set Sami on a journey out of fear and into love.

Samis father was raised in a Palestinian-Christian family in a diverse neighborhood in Jerusalem. For decades Christians, Jews, and Muslims lived together peacefully. Then in 1948, war between an Arab coalition and the State of Israel shattered the peace. Samis grandfather was killed in this violence, shot by a sniper while raising a white flag on his roof to show that unarmed civilians lived below. The Awads buried his body in the courtyard of the house and fled.

Samis grandmother spent her life promoting peace, despite the injustice she experienced as a widow and refugee. Revenge and retaliation have no place for us as a family and in our faith, she often told her children and grandchildren.

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Peace in the Holy Land - Nations Media

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Outlook Has Shined Light On Womens Efforts To Get Their Voices Heard: Indranil Roy, CEO Outlook – Outlook India

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