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Mangaluru: Apostolic Carmel Congregation celebrates 150 years of its presence in India –

Posted: November 18, 2020 at 9:56 pm

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Media Release

Mangaluru, Nov 18: The Apostolic Carmel Congregation celebrated the 150 years of its foundation just two years ago. The first Carmelite order founded in Bayonne, France, for the mission of education in India took its momentous step just two years later with the three pioneering Sisters landing on the shores of Mangaluru, at Bunder on November 19, 1870. These three Sisters along with three Sisters of the Cloistered Carmel from Pau, France, who set foot on the soil on Mangaluru, embarked on their mission of the empowerment of girl children through education. The Cloistered Carmel in the mean time provided the power house of prayer to the diocese of Mangaluru. It is the day immortalized in the history of Mangaluru.

The contribution of the Apostolic Carmel since 1870 was significant in that it was a time girls received little or no education and were married off while they were in their early teens; besides there were very few families who could afford education for their daughters. The Hunter Education Commission noted that in 1881 only 0.2% of the women of this part of India were literate. This was the scenario which the Apostolic Carmel Congregation met with. It did not daunt them but rather, inspired the brave Sisters to venture into female education, towards their economic independence and personal empowerment and in particular, faith education.

Mother Veronica, nee Sophie Leeves, an English woman, was chosen by God to initiate this great mission of caring for girl children. The plight of girls while she was serving the poor children in Calicut, Kerala and the call of God I want you in Carmel resulted in joining the Carmel and the founding of the teaching order of Carmel on her return to Europe. While she was not destined to launch on this tremendous task in India, in person, Mother Marie Des Anges, a French lady who was prepared by her for the mission in India took over the mantle as the first Superior General of the Apostolic Carmel and guided the congregation. However, it was the daughter of the soil, Mother Mary Aloysia nee Mary Rosario, who joined the Apostolic Carmel during its initial years who laid the sturdy bedrock for womens education in India and Sri Lanka.

The first school, a veritable temple of learning with 40 students at St Anns, Mangaluru took a leap forward in terms of enrollments to 160, the following year was acclaimed for its quality by the British administration of the time as to be on par with even British education provided at the Madras Presidency. This was solely on account of the quality education provided by her and the pioneering Sisters. The impact of their education on the lives of girls was so great that parents from different localities earnestly approached the management of the congregation to open schools in different places. St Anns Convent now served as the Mother House and schools were established at Dongerkere, later shifted to Urwa as Lady Hill High School, at the request of the Brahmin community; at Bendore St Agnes School, and St Marys School, Falnir and thereafter in Udupi and other suburbs of Dakshina Kannada in order to reach out to the poorest of the poor. At most places it was service for the poor through the opening of orphanages for poor girls. Simultaneously, Calicut,Kannur and other locations in Kerala too came under the influence of the Apostolic Carmel education. It did not take much time before requests poured in from the northern states and even Sri Lanka by the 1920s. Indeed the British administration that saw the quality of the teachers personally trained by Mother Aloysia, prevailed upon her to start a teacher training institute (1890) which gave a great boost to the girls from the whole of south India. Equally impressed was Dr Lakmanswamy Mudaliar, the chairman of the Mudaliar Education Commission when he visited St Anns as the chairman of the Affiliation Commission. He acclaimed that the existing primary teacher training institute was a sound proof for the quality that would be provided at St Anns Training College for graduate teachers he accepted for affiliation to Madras Presidency in 1943.

However, one of the main contributions of the Apostolic Carmel, with its characteristic foresight, is St Agnes College started by this daring woman, Mother Aloysia, the second Superior General. St Agnes College is the first women college on the west coast of India and the first college for girls to be started by an indigenous personin the entire country and provided guidance and direction to many a newly started womens college after that in South India. Four more Apostolic Carmel Colleges adorned other parts of our country, namely, the prestigious Patna Womens College, Bihar; Providence Womens College, Calicut, Carmel College, Goa and lastly Carmel College, Modankap, which at present provide job-centred and postgraduate courses with research centres established.

Today girls in thousands continue to be educated in different parts of the world through 150 AC convents in India and over50 outside our country, namely, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Kuwait, Bahrain, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and finally in Europe itself. The girls educated in these institutions have not only made a mark in various field of life and profession, many young women have dedicated their lives as religious Sisters in the Apostolic Carmel as also in several other congregations and have been heading many of these religious congregations. Apart from education as its main mission, the Apostolic Carmel has been catering to the needs of the less privileged children through orphanages, social service centres, technical institutions, community colleges, schools and residences for differently abled children and adults, crches, health care centres, counselling centres, homes for the destitute, needle work centres, homes for the aged and social welfare centres. The Sisters have also adopted other ministries, institutions, programmes of the parishes and services to the surrounding villages. These include prison ministry, SHGs, rescue homes, adult education and care for delinquents, to name a few.

A modest celebration of thanksgiving will take place on November 19, at the Rosario Cathedral, marking the event of the arrival of the pioneers at this hallowed spot exactly 150 years ago. While Bishop Marie Ephrem, OCD welcomed them to India, Fr Dr Peter Paul Saldanha, the present Bishop of Mangaluru will preside over the thanksgiving Eucharist with the Apostolic Carmel Sisters. At this celebration of the150 years of sacrificial love and committed service of the Apostolic Carmel Sisters, along with the collaboration of the staff, students, parents, alumni, benefactors and well-wishers, the congregation wishes to express its profound gratitude to all the Keepers of the Flame which was once lit by their founder, the venerable Mother Veronica. The Sisters of the congregation acknowledge with deep humility and respect, all the services, temporal and spiritual, rendered by church leaders and other individuals who have contributed towards the growth and development of the Apostolic Carmel, and thereby, of the society itself.

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November 18th, 2020 at 9:56 pm

At new OKC Black-owned bookstore, "We just want them to come into a place and see themselves" –

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Two entrepreneurs are counting their blessings these days.

Cousins Kenyetta Richard and Courtney Strickland opened Belle Books Boutique & More in September in northeast Oklahoma City.

On Sunday, the pair will be giving out free turkey dinners during a drive-thru Thanksgiving food distribution at their new bookstore, 1742 NE 23, Suite 8. Richard said they will give out free turkeys and all the holiday fixings like pie, canned goods and rolls to make a Thanksgiving meal.

"We had noticed four or five family members in other states who became entrepreneurs about the same time. We all decided to honor our grandparents by having a community Thanksgiving event like this," she said.

The cousins also hope to instill a love of reading in children with the recent launch of the new Ellison's Young Readers Club, in partnership with the Ralph Ellison Foundation.

The pair said the free program includes a story time featuring a book written by a Black author and crafted around the themes of positive self-esteem and affirmation for Black children, Black history, social justice, education and community empowerment. Geared for children in kindergarten through first grade, the literacy program will be offered from 10 to 11:30 a.m. on the third Saturday of each month. Registration is required, and each child will receive a copy of the featured book and a snack. In-person participation is limited to less than 10 children, but the program also will be streamed live on Facebook and Instagram.

Children and parents who have a genuine interest in Black history, education, social justice, personal growth and community empowerment are encouraged to join.

'Good for the soul'

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November 18th, 2020 at 9:56 pm

Join the club: Womens Empowerment provides a safe space – District

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Written by Abigail Petipas, Photo courtesy of Womens Empowerment Club

SCADs campus is full of students who come from all backgrounds and cultures. Womens Empowerment has created a place that also wholeheartedly welcomes diversity.

The club was founded with the intent of providing a safe space for anyone who can relate, identify or empathize with the female experience. Focusing on the importance of intersectionality within activism, the club provides a platform for anyone who wants to engage in an open dialogue about the female perspective.

We get a full perspective on a lot of peoples views that come to our club, said Saria Mary Netto, ICC Liaison. I think its just really important to understand what other people go through.

The club meets every Wednesday at 8 p.m. and meeting times can be found on their Instagram. During their meetings, they present different presentations each week on topics such as self-care and body love. The presentations allow for an open dialogue between club members.

I think what people come here for is that they really love having a safe space. I think people feel really heard by us, said Ari Cooper Bermdez, former club president and club mentor.

Meetings are structured to create a space where members are encouraged to speak about their own personal experiences. Discussions on current events are also welcomed, since each meeting begins with a recap of events that pertain to the female experience.

Its a super easy, fun way to know things. Instead of having to go and read an article about politics, you can just go with your friends and talk with SCAD students, said President Jenna Guiterrez.

The Womens Empowerment Club is open to all. For more information, visit here or send an email to @wec.scad.

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November 18th, 2020 at 9:56 pm

Death doulas help the dying meet their end with affirmation instead of anxiety – Houston Chronicle

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Andrea Aycock can only sometimes look at the photos of her hands clasped with her mothers just before she died in May. But shell always cherish the helping hand she got from Anna Adams, an end-of-life doula in San Antonio who preserved that personal moment and so many more for Aycock in her mothers dying days.

Anna came and took care of her, said Aycock, a call-center operator in San Antonio. (She) just mainly comforted me.

Just as birth doulas help expectant parents bring new life into the world, end-of-life doulas help the dying cope with their next journey. They help the dying and their survivors face death with empowerment and affirmation instead of fear and anxiety.

Also known as death doulas, these trained professionals provide the terminally ill and their families physical and emotional support before, during and after death. These are nonmedical services that often include relaxation exercises, funeral planning, educating the family on their loved ones condition and simple companionship.

Adams sees death awareness becoming more commonplace in the United States in the way that Da de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebrations have grown more mainstream and that there are more calls for the services of end-of-life doulas.

San Antonio death doula groups:

Savior Doula, 210-721-3422

TX Doula, 206-627-0257 or 206-627-0258

National death doula groups:

Doulagivers:, 917-830-5364

National End-of-Life Doula

The International End of Life Doula Association:, 201-540-9049

General information for death and dying:

San Antonio Death Cafe community,

Cultures like the Mexican culture that have these beautiful traditions of staying in connection with that (dying) process are so admirable and so beautiful. Doulas want to make sure that is available to all people, said Shelby Kirillin, an end-of-life doula in Richmond, Va., and program-development manager for the International End of Life Doula Association (INELDA) in Jersey City, N.J.

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Kirillin sees the rising awareness of death doulas as part of what she calls a death positive movement, where more people are getting back to supporting their dying loved ones at home and engaging with their death more up close and personal, much as their ancestors did.

In the last 100-plus years in our Western culture, that has been taken away from us, Kirillin said. How to be with someone who was dying, how to touch them. That was something that we knew how to do.

INELDA is one of just a handful of death-doula organizations in the nation and was launched five years ago. Co-founder Henry Fersko-Weiss created the first end-of-life doula program in the United States at a New York hospice in 2003.

Kirillin estimates INELDA has 40 certified death doulas across the country yet has trained 3,000 individuals in death-doula care. Many sign up to learn more about facing death and dont pursue death-doula work, she said, while others branch off to do their own training.

Most services come in three phases.

The first is planning and preparation, which involves getting a terminal patients affairs in order and asking some tough questions that call for honest answers. Where does that person want to die? Whom do they want present for those final moments? What do they absolutely need to say or do before theyre gone?

Kirillin said that first phase often addresses the dying individuals regrets and unfinished business, as well as any advance directives, wills, etc. Often referred to as legacy work, such planning makes it easier for family to understand and respect the dying persons wishes.

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Fran Morgan is in that early stage with her dying mother, Rosalee, who receives hospice care at the private residence of a family friend.

With Anna in the picture, she will be advocating for all of the things that need to happen, said Morgan, a retired telecommunications-company manager in San Antonio. It will release me from those responsibilities, and I can just be with my mom and cherish those final moments.

That second phase is called the vigil, usually the last four or five days of the dying persons life, when end-of-life doulas and family members spend more time at their bedside.

I call them my angel vigils, Adams said.

During her doula vigils, Adams, 38, often creates a soothing space for the dying with soft music and dim lighting. Sometimes shell add a favorite scent with aromatherapy. Most times, she just gently massages her clients arms and holds their hands.

And in those final moments as they take their last breaths, Adams comforts them with what they most want to hear, be it Bible verses, soothing music or just someone to say its going to be OK.

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The final phase of a death doulas work addresses survivors grief. Kirillin said that involves circling back with the family a few weeks after their loved ones death to check on their emotional well-being.

Kirillin stressed that end-of-life doulas do console families but are not licensed grief counselors and will refer families to such resources if necessary.

When it came to caring for Aycocks mother, Adams mostly helped with her bedside care and keeping her visiting nurses on task. Adams also explained to Aycock any of her mothers diagnoses she didnt understand.

Then there was that time Adams took those hand photos of Aycock and her mother. Difficult as it is for Aycock to look at those photos, much less share them, she still holds them close.

She holds Adams work even closer.

It is the best help that you can get, Aycock said. They provide comfort not only for your loved one that is going through the transition but for you.

Morgan expects to experience more of that care from Adams. Im looking forward to the relationship that were going to have, said Morgan, who started working with Adams in October. For now, my initial experience (and) impression is she certainly has the heart for what shes doing.

Adams first experience comforting the dying came when she was 16. Fresh from certification as a nursing aide, Adams tended to a best friends cousin for several months at her home with bathing and conversation. That care continued when that cousin transferred to hospice care and well up to her death.

So we just had a bonding moment. I gave her that sacred zone, Adams said. That kind of piqued my interest.

Adams went on to pursue a career in hospice, then for the past four years worked as an EMS manager and dispatcher for a private company. But something pushed her back into working with the dying.

I told my family, God wants me to do this. God is keeping me in line with this, Adams said.

At the start of this year, Adams got her end-of-life doula certification. Over the summer, she partnered with fellow certified doula Sonja Koenig to launch TX Doula Movement, an online training and certification course for death doulas, senior care doulas and doula consultants.

Adams knows of just a handful of death doulas in San Antonio, but she expects that number to double later this year when about five of her TX Doula Movement students complete their certification. Adams plans to launch her own doula-training service next year.

Adams said the coronavirus has not deterred her from her work, save for having to incorporate more video consultations with families and masks and frequent hand-washings during visits. She has yet to provide end-of-life doula services to someone with COVID-19, but one of the hospice companies she works with takes in COVID-19 patients.

I dont have a problem working with COVID patients, Adams said.

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Adams said most hospitals still dont work with death doulas, but hospice services are slowly warming up to them as adjuncts to their own care.

It is relatively new, but were seeing it more, said Rachel Hammon, executive director of the Texas Association for Home Care & Hospice in Austin.

Holistic Hospice Care is one of two hospice centers in San Antonio that works with Adams. Administrator Erica Sandoval said Adams has been a welcome bridge between families and clinical teams.

She can get on (everyones) level, Sandoval said. And shes very calm and very patient. And she just wins their trust, and they feel very comfortable with her.

Like Adams, Sandoval sees parallels between death doulas and Da de los Muertos, such as the memory books the doulas make for their clients and the Day of the Dead tribute altars families make for their lost loved ones.

I definitely think that theres a good association to that because they are (both about) wanting you to cherish their memories and enjoy the last moments and everything that you can remember of the individual, Sandoval said.

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November 18th, 2020 at 9:56 pm

Free Guy Director Shawn Levy Says the Movie Is More Timely Than Ever –

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Free Guy Director Shawn Levy Says the Movie Is More Timely Than Ever

There has never been a better time to watch the story ofFree Guythan the times we are living in now. At least, thats what the movies director Shawn Levy suggested while talking withTotal Film.Levy discussed why the story of Ryan Reynolds Guy comes at the right time. In the movie,Reynolds portrays a nonplayer character named Guy in a video game set in a Grand Theft Auto-like world. Thanks to the help of Comers Molotov Girl, he will embark on a mission to save his digital realm from oblivion. The moviewill feature some cameos from some real-life celebrities, including late Jeopardyhost Alex Trebek, who has recently passed away.

As I was finishing up the sound mix for the movie, Levy said (via Games Radar). I was almost freaked out by how increasingly timely it feels. Because its not just that our real world feels like some augmented reality; its that it feels slightly dystopian. But the theme of the movie which is a belief in the power of individuals to rally and have an impact on their world thats what the impetus for making this film was about: personal agency, personal empowerment. And if ever there was a need for a reclamation of those themes, its now more than ever before.

Total Filmalso debuted a couple of promotional pictures from the movie, featuring Reynolds and Jodie Comers characters ready for their daily share of action. The photos do not add any details to what fans have already seen in the recently released trailer.

Free Guyis currently in a holding pattern for release. Disneys 20th Century Studios pulled it from its December 11 date, awaiting a post-COVID future.

Do you expectFree Guyto be timely? Let us knowin the comments section below.

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November 18th, 2020 at 9:56 pm

Meet the 40-year-old who has empowered over 1.5 lakh women through self-defence – YourStory

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The welfare and safety of women is an integral pillar of democracy. However, gender-based abuse and discrimination against women are repressing them from participating in the workplace, economy, and the society as a whole.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about one in three (35 percent) women across the world experience physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime. When it comes to India, the scenario is even more bleak.

As per the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), a total of 4,05,861 crimes against women were registered in the country during 2019, and this marked an increase of 7.3 percent when compared to 2018 (3,78,236 cases).Majority of the atrocities included murder, rape, dowry death, suicide abetment, acid attack, and kidnapping. A poll of 548 global experts released by Thompson Reuters in 2018 ranked India as the worlds most dangerous country for women, ahead of Afghanistan, Syria, and Saudi Arabia.

With a view to change this, 40-year-old Aparna Rajawat laid the foundation for a non-governmental organisation called Pink Belt Mission in 2016. Though the NGO is based in Agra, it empowers women from across the country with all the tools required to stay aware, fight violence, and respond to challenges.

Aparna training women on self-defence.

Pink Belt Mission has designed and implemented three different programmes centered around self-defence, education, and vocational training. So far, it has impacted the lives of over 1.5 lakh young girls and women.

Meet the actor-cum-martial artist who is empowering girls to fight sexual violence with self-defence lessons

Born and brought up in Agra, Aparna had two elder brothers who used to bully her. While they would spend their time flying kites and playing gilli danda, she was restrained to being at home most of the time.

Aparna Rajawat, Founder, Pink Belt Mission.

Just when Aparna was about to turn 18, she met with an accident that resulted in multiple fractures, due to which she had to discontinue these activities for a while. Later, she went on to direct all her energy towards academics. She pursued her Masters in English Literature from Dr B.R. Ambedkar University and then completed her MBA at Manav Bharti University, Solan. Though she kicked off her career in the field of sales, she subsequently became a tour manager for international trips.

Aparna was touring abroad when she heard about the gangrape and murder of a 23-year-old girlinside a moving bus in Delhi. The horrific incident, which occurred in December 2012, reminded her about the stark reality of exploitation against women in India.

That was when Aparnas resolve to empower women grew stronger. After spending a few years doing research and laying the groundwork, she set up Pink Belt Mission.

Pink Belt Mission has designed and implemented three different programmes for the empowerment of girls and women.

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To start with, Aparna pooled in her personal savings to meet the NGOs day-to-day operating expenses.

Since education is one of the best tools to enable women to achieve their social, economic, and career goals, the first initiative was focused on the same. At the outset, we identified young underprivileged girls in and around Agra who had either dropped out of school or were struggling to obtain education. And then, we began sponsoring their school fees, says Aparna.

Till date, Pink Belt Mission has sponsored the education of more than 28 girls.

Aparna making her way into the Guinness Book of World Records for organising the largest self-defence training class with 7,401 girls.

Another programme that the NGO is known for is to do with vocational training. For this, Aparna collaborated with Mansi Chandra, a businesswoman who runs a shoe factory called Tara Innovations in Agra. Mansi taught unskilled and unemployed women the nitty-gritties of shoe making, handling machinery, and managing assembly lines. At the end of it, she also employed 150 of them in her factory.

While these two initiatives have been running consistently, Pink Belt Missions signature programme is that of training girls and women in self-defence. The organisation has been taking help from the UP police force (including the Women Power Line), Rajasthan State Commission for Women, and UNICEF to connect with schools as well as colleges and implement the programme.

Aparna teaching girls to fight abuse and discrimination.

Since its inception, the NGO has trained approximately 1.5 lakh girls and women, who in turn have equipped many more across Gorakhpur, Agra, Noida, Jaipur, Varanasi, Pune, Lucknow among other cities.

33-year-old Asha Singh is one of them. Asha, an IT professional who works in Agra, attended the self-defence workshop organised by Pink Belt Mission in 2018 and found it to be extremely empowering.

Pink Belt Mission is presently looking to garner funds from both individuals and corporates in order to expand its reach.

One of the biggest challenges that I have been dealing with is lack of support from government authorities. I have written to the Uttar Pradesh government multiple times expressing my interest to work with them on the Mission Shakti campaign. Sadly, I have not received any response from them so far. I feel that the NGO can benefit a lot more women with a little bit of assistance from the government, says Aparna.

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November 18th, 2020 at 9:56 pm

WCH city manager makes appeal to the community – Record Herald

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Washington C.H. City Manager Joe Denen

Editors note: Washington Court House City Manager Joe Denen submitted the following to the Record-Herald as an appeal to the community as COVID-19 cases continue to surge.

We approach the holiday season with anticipation of the joy that renewing family bonds brings to us all. Like many of us, I have grown weary of the virus news. I yearn for a return to mental and physical normalcy; however, like you, I know that we have a duty to perform for the benefit of the whole community, our families and/or friends.

We know what should be done. We understand what social distancing is. The necessity of hand washing, or the use of hand sanitizer, is now second nature. The advisability of mask wearing or the use of other facial coverings is not new news.

I have no desire to argue the political nature of the virus question. We hear and experience division in our public lives all to often. I am writing to ask you to again rededicate your attention to slowing the virus.

Nearly all of us know a person that has become ill with Covid-19. Fortunately, many of those illnesses have been mild. Unfortunately, a growing number of us have had the experience of losing a friend, co-worker, or family member to this disease.

I recognize that hand washing, masks and social distancing are not technological wonder weapons in our struggle with Covid-19; however, these sanitary practices are the tools we have at hand. Locally, we are experiencing an apparent upswing in virus spread. Therefore, I now ask you to help protect yourself, your family, our community and our economy by doing what you can do to help.

Wash your hands, keep your distance and increase use of your mask. Shop locally and limit travel outside of our community and be especially careful around elderly people or people with health issues that increase their risk of illness. Do not live in fear live with the empowerment that you can and are making a difference.

While the holiday season will lift our spirits, the season presents challenges and choices. Family in times of distress and uncertainty is a powerful source of strength; however, if we completely disregard virus precautions this holiday season, we may expose our families, our very source of strength, to the illness we seek to defeat.

I am worried about the approaching holiday season. I think about my parents, uncles, aunts and others. I think about the time lost in personally seeing these people these past several months. I despair at the thought of smaller or more radically changed family celebrations.

I will not presume to tell you what to do. The goal is getting more people to adopt simple if inconvenient virus precautions. Telling you what to do is not likely to get the desired result. People naturally resist bureaucratic regulation and in consequence we drown in debate.

We have this spring, summer and fall argued enough for the next decade. The hour for argument has passed. The hour for composed thought and action is upon us. All that I ask is that you reevaluate your attention to virus precautions. This holiday season please think about how your family will address the need to limit the virus threat.

The virus has complicated our personal lives, our work lives and delivered to many sickness and to some death. To those families that have suffered loss, I offer condolences. I ask you to renew your dedication to virus precautions so that the risk of suffering to your family and friends may be limited.

You, not the government, or social media, or the news media can make a difference. You make choices every day. Do I pause and wash my hands? Am I impatient in the line at the grocery and crowd closer to the person in front of me? Do I have virus symptoms that I am ignoring? Choice after choice, daily a multitude of opportunity to make a difference.

I understand that not all choices are simple. Childcare has presented many families with hard practical choices. Who stays home with quarantined children? How do we adjust to changes in the schools schedule? Is it safe for grandparents to care for children? Those choices are hard choices and many families do not have an abundance of options.

While a vaccine offers hope and our local Health Department prepares every day for the arrival of a safe and effective vaccine, we must bridge the gap. Further, even after a vaccine begins to be available, the need to maintain virus precautions will remain for some time into our future.

Not an endless future of illness and deprivation, but a realization that closing the chapter on Covid-19 will require our cooperative efforts.

Let us be thankful that we have the blessings of family and friends. Thankful that simple tools and the discipline to use those tools offers a means to do battle with the virus. Thankful that local doctors, nurses and hospitals have gained valuable experience treating people ill with the virus.

I am thankful for you, thankful that you care, thankful for your calm, thankful for your grit. I ask you to please make a difference.

Washington C.H. City Manager Joe Denen C.H. City Manager Joe Denen


WCH city manager makes appeal to the community - Record Herald

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November 18th, 2020 at 9:56 pm

Craig Russell revolutionized Canadian drag, and he finally has the outrageous biography he deserves –

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Craig Russell in 1988, two years before his death.

Queeries is a weekly column by CBC Arts producer Peter Knegt that queries LGBTQ art, culture and/or identity through a personal lens.

30 years ago, we lost one of the most fabulous entertainers Canada has ever birthed: Craig Russell. Anactor and female impersonator(he disliked the label "drag queen,"although his influence on the drag that would come after him is considerable), we here at CBC Arts have honoured the legacy of Russell multiple times. I wrote a piece looking back at the impact of his 1977 film Outrageous! back in a 2017 edition of this column, and our 2019 interactive project Superqueeroes featured a tribute to Russell byToronto drag icon Allysin Chaynes.But none of that remotely compares to the glory that is now available viaBrian Bradley's new biography Outrageous Misifts: Female Impersonator Craig Russell and His Wife, Lori Russell Eadie.

The book released last month through Dundurn Pressdetails not only Russell's life but the life of Lori Jenkins, the woman he surprised a few folks by marrying in 1982 (he publicly identified as gay, after all). The two remained married until Russell's death, and OutragousMisifitsextensively documents their strange and beautifulunion, which started with Jenkins being a obsessed fan of Russell's. It's more than worth a second-wave quarantine read, particularly if you have interest in the history of Toronto's gay community, as Bradley's book essentially doubles as a primer for decades ofthe city's gay scene.

I chatted with Bradley about the undertaking, and how he hopes it contributes to legacy of both Craig and Lori.

Congratulations on writingsuch a remarkably thorough and well-researchedbook.What was the most challenging part of such an undertaking?

The most challenging part was not so much in finding sources or archival material in fact, I thought places like the ArQuives, Toronto Archives and Toronto Reference Library made it easy. I was also blessed to receivepersonal items including journals, day planners, scrapbooks, things like that. The hard part was taking the time to really evaluate what Craig really meant by his actions or things he said.

Craig stayed in persona most of the time, and it was through impersonation that he expressed himself. He sometimes said things he did not mean as a cover for emotion, or [to]shape his narrative in the way he wanted to. I feel like I spent more time thinking and analyzing what was really behind words and actions more than anything.

Tell me a bit about your own history with Craig Russell. When did you first hear of him and how did that evolve into the becoming an expert biographer?

I first heard about Craig when I was not quite 14 and pretty naiveto the world, to people andto myself as an emerging queer person. It was a commercial for a CBC Life andTimes documentary about him, and it left me gobsmacked. I remember thinking how feminine he was, how curious his work was I knew nothing of Craig and all that he did. I didn't aspire to be like thatI aspired to understand it and learn about his place.

When I started my work around 2008, when I knew a lot more about gay culture and the arts, it was obvious there was a lot to learn about this person, so many intrigues to be understood. I thought I would churn out a fun, outrageous feature story, but I came to see it was his humanity, and the humanity of the woman who identified as his wife, that had the most appeal despite all the fun, sensational, outrageous things that happened around them. Their humanity needed to be explored and situations explained. Both Craig and Lori experienced an incredible amount of trauma in a time when trauma was not talked about. I needed to learn and write about it not to exploit them, but to show how human they were despite seeming so different.

What are some of the main things you want readers to take away from the story of both Russell and Lori Russell Eadie?

In terms of Craig and Lori, I want people to take away how human they were, how trauma shapes us and how despite our trauma, we can overcome. It is important we all take the time to consider people moreto bring understanding, support and love when sometimes our inclination may be to take space or give judgment. I have demonstrated how special and talented Craigand Lori were they were masters at their crafts and all they contributed to our cultural history. One was front and centre, the other backstage and away, and both have equal value to our history. People like Craig entertainers get recognized,and they deserve to be. People like Lori don't get recognized as much, but they have an equally interesting and valuable story to tell.

Beyond a biography, the book also serves as an essential resource on the history of Toronto's gay community, something still way too undocumented. What's one thing that stands out to you that you learned about that history from writing the book?

There were many key events in history that were absolutely pivotal in shaping queer history and the road to rights and inclusion. Some events are relatively known, like the bathhouse raids in 1981;other eventsnot so much, like our own Battle of Church Street that was akin to the Stonewall Riots, [or] John Damien's decade-long fight after he was fired by a provincial government entity for being gay, or the unrelenting struggle with oppression as the hands of law enforcement acting out of ignorance. My only regret in writing Misfits is that I could not go deeper with these points in history and share other voices and experiences. It was loud and clear though that after decades of work for rights, inclusion, safety, community, voice and place, we haven't reached a place of complete inclusion,and at times there is as much volatility in the queer community as there was 50 years ago.

Anyone who knows me knows I am a softie. So with that in mind, the one thing though that stands out the most that I really learned about our queer history was the strength and empowerment of people when they found community and identity in an unfair era when it was easier to blend in. It was so clear to me how much people need community, then and now, and that finding community and embracing identity was so empowering [that]it helped people face the lack of acceptance that was around them, be that on a street, in a bar, anywhere else.

I think of the story of the Toronto drag queen,going out and feeling fabulous at the St.Charles, who was pelted with eggs by one of the ignorant gawkers outside. She didn't cower, run home afraid or stop going. She went home, changed [clothes] and went right back out to do what she wanted to do. Craig was an example of this. He was an obvious target in a pretty hateful era, and his safety was at risk going out as much as everyone else's. A friend of his asked him to tone it down to be safe, [but]Craig wouldn't. He told them he could get away with a lot more dressed up as Tallulah Bankhead than he could being little Craig Eadie from Toronto.

What do you hope this book lends to the legacy of Craig and Lori?

I hope it shows them as much part of our queer and cultural history as it shows them as two people who were just like everyone else, who need the same things, who aren't unlike you. We need to let people explore who they are and let them have that journey. While we may appear so different and that is okay, [we should] also understand emotionally we all have the same needs. We need to be kinder to each other. We all need to be seen, understood and loved.

You can order your copy of Outrageous Misfits here.

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November 18th, 2020 at 9:56 pm

Stream It Or Skip It: ‘I Am Greta’ on Hulu, a Powerful Portrait of an Activist at the Peak of Her Influence – Decider

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It has been 117 weeks since Greta Thunberg first went on strike. Hulu exclusive documentary I am Greta chronicles a year in the life of the teenage Swede who became the unlikely and reluctant global face of environmental activism, starting with her renowned 2018 school strike and concluding with a two-week cross-Atlantic sailing trip because its environmentally sustainable and taking an airplane really, really isnt to New York to address the 2019 Climate Action Summit. And it may be one of the years best docs.

The Gist: Aug. 2019: A static camera fixes on Greta Thunberg as she sits on a sailboat, which bounces heavily on choppy waves. She describes the last several months of her life as a surreal movie. Cut to: images of devastating forest fires and floods, with the voices of world leaders, politicians and commentators disregarding humanitys effect on global climate change. Jump back to: Aug. 2018. Greta sits on the sidewalk outside Swedens parliament building with a hand painted sign reading SKOLSTREJK FOR KLIMATET. I dont need to translate it. You should know what it says. If you dont, well, Ill say it again you should know what it says.

Gretas father, Svante Thunberg, says she knows more about climate change than most politicians, partly thanks to her having an almost photographic memory for the facts and stats that interest her. She speaks plainly about the roots of her interest: She saw a film in school about climate change, and subsequently fell into a years-long depression during which she wouldnt eat or speak for long stretches of time. Eventually, she decided to act on her existential fears and speak out. She implored her parents to stop eating meat and traveling by air. She compiled fact sheets about how Earth is in the beginning stages of an extinction event. Her school strike became an international story thanks to social media and news outlets. Before she knew it, Arnold Schwarzenegger was talking up her activism, and she was standing in front of world leaders, fearlessly chastising them for their inaction and ignorance. The future of our planets children is bleak, she insists, and its very much the fault of the preceding generations.

The school strike became a global movement, with teens around the world ditching school to organize rallies and raise awareness for climate change. She and her father attend the rallies, traveling across Europe by train and electric car, sustaining themselves on organic beans and pasta. They go to the United Nations summit in Poland. Svante tries to get her to tone down the harsh rhetoric in her speech, and she refuses. Shes told shell be lucky to meet the U.N. secretary general; she ends up sitting right next to him, which doesnt affect her tone in the slightest: Since our leaders are behaving like children, we will have to take the responsibility they should have taken long ago. He looks bemused? A little pissed? Vaguely tolerant? Frankly, who gives a shit how he feels. Shes uncompromising, and she needs to be, and he needs to hear it.

Soon enough, Gretas having lunch with Schwarzenegger. She meets Frances President Emmanuel Macron, and he seems to not quite know how to interact with her. Shes not much for small talk; her brow is always furrowed. Behind her stern expression, Greta has an infectious giggle, but we hear it only rarely in this film. Shes frequently greeted like a rock star at rallies, taking the stage to the roars of thousands of school-striking teenagers. She meets the Pope. She gathers allies for her movement as she goes. Dickheads like Jair Bolsonaro, Vladimir Putin, Piers Morgan and Donald Trump insult and bully her, and she shrugs, laughs it off. We get glimpses of stressed-out Greta she misses her dogs, her horse, her sister, her mother but for the most part, in the moments shes in the spotlight, shes nonplussed by all the attention. She steps to the podium at a London climate conference: Is the microphone on? she asks. Is my English OK? Because you lied to us. You gave us false hope. Go get em, Greta.

What Movies Will It Remind You Of?: Thematically, I Am Greta is a logical extension of An Inconvenient Truth and its sequel. Its also a Snowden-like study of a prominent and righteous world figure captured at the peak of their influence.

Performance Worth Watching: A 16-year-old girl telling world leaders in so many words to get their shit together will not be upstaged here, there, anywhere, ever.

Memorable Dialogue: Why would I need an education if theres no future?, Greta retorts when a stranger asks why she isnt in school.

Sex and Skin: None.

Our Take: In one scene, an interviewer clueless, I might add asks Greta about how she suffers from Aspergers syndrome. She calmly replies that she doesnt suffer, she just has it. She considers it her superpower, and I am Greta is underscored by its omnipresence. Without Aspergers, would she have the singular focus to follow through on her urgent need to deliver the message about climate change? No, the film suggests. And thats why its a fascinating profile of Greta, and inspiring without being manipulative.

On one level, the doc is a portrait of personal sacrifice the bathroom on the sailboat? Its a bucket but Greta doesnt seem too interested in typical teenage stuff. Her quest isnt easy, but her father says it makes her happy, and its not a stretch to say its therapeutic. Its also a portrait of a physically small person with a loud, assured voice, a person who on one hand seems so fragile, a single life battling literal and figurative hurricanes and fires, but on the other, she exudes extraordinary strength, manifest in the courage it takes for her to look an existential threat right in the eye. Superpower? Sure seems like it.

I am Greta is biographically thin. Youll need to read elsewhere that her mother was an opera singer who traveled the world, but quit because her daughter insisted she stop traveling by airplane. The pragmatic aspects of her European tour go unaddressed (who pays for all the travel?), something that may have grounded the narrative somewhat. But the films occasional quiet, poetic moments transcend the divulgence of mere details. It assumes we already know how the ice caps are melting, and global temperature is rising, and weather systems are haywire, causing more intense hurricanes and wildfires than ever before you know, all the stuff Al Gore talked about, but didnt shove right in the faces of world leaders because hes a politician. I am Greta is a portrait of civilian power, of Gretas personal empowerment in the face of a greater purpose. Its poignant and potent.

Our Call: STREAM IT. I am Greta doesnt have to do much beyond capturing its subjects earnest, genuine charisma and it does so, quite capably.

John Serba is a freelance writer and film critic based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Read more of his work at or follow him on Twitter: @johnserba.

StreamI am Greta on Hulu

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Stream It Or Skip It: 'I Am Greta' on Hulu, a Powerful Portrait of an Activist at the Peak of Her Influence - Decider

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November 18th, 2020 at 9:56 pm

A Corps Leaders Perspective: Chief of Ordnance passionate about serving in U.S. Army – Public Affairs Office of Headquarters, US Army Combined Arms…

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More than five months into her tenure as Chief of Ordnance and commandant of the Ord. School, Brig. Gen. Michelle M.T. Letcher has well-established the fact she is a hard-charger.

First and foremost, Im really passionate about my service, said the Illinois native who took over her duties June 16.

I love serving in the United States Army, she continued, and I really do believe the work all of us do collectively contributes to our national security and a world that is safer, more stable and secure. I feel like I have to drive really hard because I want to leave my children a world that is more secure and safe. My service is very personal to me. I probably push pretty hard because there are so many things we can do to make many things so much better.

Although Letchers assertion is an upfront declaration about who she is as a Soldier, it only provides snippets about her methods of operation, her values and how she views her role as CoO.

Its an honor and a privilege (to be a part of the Ordnance Corps), but I dont know if I see myself as the head of the organization, but rather a teammate with responsibilities inside the organization, she said. Ive always found Ordnance Corps Soldiers and leaders to be innovative and very passionate about their skillsets. The thing that excites me is being a part of the team here and the changes I already see in place to constantly move our Army forward. Its truly inspiring.

Letcher heads an organization chiefly responsible for training personnel and developing doctrine. The Ordnance Corps is the third largest branch in the Army, comprised of more than 100,000 active and reserve component Soldiers trained in the mechanical and maintenance career fields as well as explosive ordnance disposal, ammunition and explosives safety. The ordnance schoolhouses located here and at various locations throughout the country trained more than 175,000 personnel last year.

As diverse and complicated the mission is for the corps and schoolhouse, Letcher said she approaches her duties and responsibilities with consideration to four fundamental questions: What do we want to accomplish this year? What do we want to accomplish in developing the corps? Where do we see the design of the corps in the future? How do we care for our people?

The latter is an issue monumentally important to Letcher.

Obviously, across the Army were conducting listening sessions as we try to get after sexual harassment/sexual assault, suicide awareness and extremism, she said. So, communicating with Soldiers at all levels and understanding each other (is important). We can help build the Army they want to serve in. Its a reflection of all of us in society. It cant be a reflection of a few in society. For me, the People First aspect is really where leaders apply themselves.

Gen. James McConnville used the People First term in speeches and interviews upon being named Army Chief of Staff in 2019. It became part of a broader strategy emphasizing the requirements to attract and retain Soldiers and civilians and focusing on the human element as the basis for all successes.

Letcher said she has long-believed Soldiers and civilians are the strength of an organization and aspires to build a culture of trust serving as a foundation for empowerment and innovation within the Ordnance Corps.

I want people in the organization to help me shape where we take it, then help me measure where we want the organization to go, she said. What I hope well see gets away from the way weve always done something to building a transformational force.

Complacency and outdated convention, added Letcher, are among the impediments to thriving workplaces. Whats important is providing challenge and opportunity as a means to motivate and excite people so they can feel real positive about transformational change and get us out of our comfort zone and (away from the idea of) saying thats the way its always been.

Letcher also said she encourages a diversity of skillsets and attributes people bring to the team and harnessing all of those positive attributes to drive change.

Mindful of how much progress the Army has made in the area of diversity over the course of her 25-year career, Letcher commended Project Inclusion a recent service-wide initiative for promoting acceptance and expanding opportunities for all who choose to serve.

Tying this to her personal experience, she said, When I came in the Army, women couldnt serve in combat roles. Ive watched the Army transform quite a bit since I became a second lieutenant in many positive ways. Its really just opening that aperture so people feel empowered to communicate.

As an experienced leader, Letcher said she values listening just as much and endeavors to teach others to do it well.

One of the discussions I have with lieutenants and at the (59th Ordnance) Brigade is, after 25 years in the Army, I can have a conversation with you and tell if something is off. Our young captains and lieutenants dont have that experience. One thing I help leaders do is help them identify risk. In the past, if Soldiers did something wrong, wed just write them up as bad Soldiers. Today, we ask ourselves why did that Soldier miss a formation? Is something going on at home? How do we teach people to understand the next layer of what a problem is? Its all about getting involved. Its what Gen. (Paul Funk, TRADOC commander) would say is being positively intrusive. Leaders have to figure out whats the right time to ask the right questions and help people get on the other side of what theyre going through.

When making decisions, Letcher said she is first and foremost informed by policies and regulation but also by gut feeling.

One thing I think leaders sometimes underestimate and you have to know yourself is intuition. As you become more experienced, your intuition becomes more informative. It guides me to paying more attention to something. I call that friction on the battlefield. If I intuitively pick up there might be a problem somewhere, Ill try to figure out if its something I need to solve. I also go back to Army doctrine, regulations and policies, to determine if something systemic is causing the problem or hindering its solution.

At the leader level, problem-solving is essential, but the ability is useful to all ranks, said Letcher.

If you come up on a problem whether youre in the Ordnance Corps or not the first thing you should do is ask, What can I do to help solve the problem? Can I solve this at my level? Sometimes you come across people who pass the problem along (and some problems have to be brought up the chain of command), but empowering people to solve problems at the lowest levels is really, really important. And as a leader, empowering them to do it without undercutting their ability to take ownership is even more so.

Due to her quarter century of service, Letcher can list a number of experiences that have made it easier to empathize with troops. She enlisted as a quartermaster, training as a 57E laundry and bath specialist here prior to commissioning as an air defense artillery officer in 1995. She became an ordnance officer in 1997, and since then, has completed numerous assignments to include deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq.

On the domestic front, Letcher is married to another Soldier, Col. Kenneth W. Letcher. When the COVID-19 pandemic began, she was commanding general of the Joint Munitions Command at Rock Island Arsenal, Ill., and suddenly found herself fulfilling roles of mother and father following the deployment of her husband.

I had three boys to raise and educate at home, she said. I had the same challenges as others and tried to balance it all while working fulltime not teleworking as a single mother. I think these challenges are important to share because I dont think they come off the table with the position held.

As the mother of boys 11, 14 and 16 years of age, Letcher said it is a difficult challenge for many to strike the correct balance between work and family life. She and her husband received a bit of advice on the subject from her husbands former boss, then - Lt. Col. and now - Gen. Stephen Lyons: Its about quality time and not quantity time.

So, what we do is that when were present, were present, said Letcher, noting they try to reframe from work preoccupations. For me, I dont bring my computer home at night. If Im going to work, I stay at work, but if Im going home I mean I have my phone but I dont bring work home. My husband does the same thing. We are very present.

Letcher, the 42nd Chief of Ordnance, is only the third woman to hold the position in the organizations 208-year history.

Brig. Gen. Rebecca S. Halstead (2006-2008) and Brig. Gen. Heidi J. Hoyle (2018-2020) preceded her.

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A Corps Leaders Perspective: Chief of Ordnance passionate about serving in U.S. Army - Public Affairs Office of Headquarters, US Army Combined Arms...

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