Exonerated death row survivors fight to abolish death penalty in U.S.

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Exonerated death row survivors fight to abolish death penalty in US.

After spending years on death row in American jails, Ron Keine, Shujaa Graham, Greg Wilhoit and Albert Burrell were reborn the day they were declared innocent and released.

This is the story of four friends who, after enduring years of mental suffering and isolation from society, became activists and are campaigning to end the death penalty.

Still suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and depression after being incarcerated for so long despite their innocence, they joined the association of death row exonerees, Witness to Innocence. Calling themselves the “Resurrection Club”, they travel from state to state, supported by their wives and children, to lobby for an end to the death penalty.

More than 150 death row survivors have been found innocent and exonerated in the US and many have joined Witness to Innocence. This is a story of friendship and love, a trip through the US – from Texas to Washington DC – to end an inhuman and unjust criminal justice system.


FILMMAKERS’ VIEW

By Guillermo Abril and Alvaro Corcuera

In November 2009, we first heard about the 100-plus people in the United States who were once sentenced to death for a crime they didn’t commit.

Juan Melendez, a man from Puerto Rico who spent 18 years on death row in Florida, showed us a documentary about his life in Madrid. He talked to us about Witness to Innocence, the only organisation in the US which brings together death row exonerees and their relatives, and told us they were going to meet soon.

Soon after, 21 survivors gathered in Birmingham, Alabama. One of us travelled there to write an article for El Pais Semanal, the magazine we work for in Spain. We decided we needed to attend another Witness to Innocence meeting, this time with a camera. That’s how the idea for “Surviving Death Row” was born.

We didn’t have any experience in making documentaries – we were print journalists. The first step was building a team. We brought in Luis Almodovar, a colleague at El Pais, as director of photography for the film.

Using our own money in the beginning, we were motivated by our passion. We travelled with cameras for the first time to Richmond, Virginia, in 2011, to a similar gathering to the one that had happened in Alabama a year and a half earlier. This was the first of five trips in the years to come.

Capital punishment is still legal in 31 US states and 2,905 people were on death row as of July 1, 2016. Last year, 20 executions took place in the US. Texas has executed the most convicts since the death penalty was reinstated in the US in 1976: about a third of the nearly 1,500 people dead as a result of capital punishment.

In the summer of 2011, we made a two-week road trip through Texas. The exonerees spoke at universities, schools, churches, radios and community centres, trying to turn around widespread public opinion in favour of the death penalty in the region. Greg, Albert, Ron and Shujaa were four of those exonerees, travelling together in a van. They would become the main characters in our film.

We were deeply affected by our visit to Albert’s home, a run-down trailer on his sister’s ranch. Albert had spent 13 years on death row and we discovered he had a small mental disability. He showed us his horses and we accompanied him to his various jobs, which included working as a junk seller.

On later trips, we travelled to Oklahoma, Missouri, Mississippi, Detroit and Washington DC and visited more exonerees in their homes.

Greg told us how he had been forced to give up his daughter for adoption when he was wrongfully sentenced to death for killing his wife. Ron showed us the ruins of the American dream in downtown Detroit where he grew up as a kid and where he still rides his Harley. Shujaa invited us to his family’s house on Father’s Day where he shared a meal of Southern-style crabs with his wife, sons and grandsons. His wife talked to us about the day she met him in prison. She was a white nurse. He was a “dangerous” African-American inmate, according to the authorities. They have been together since he was freed in 1981.

Watching the exonerees when they got together was a moving experience. They had long, deep conversations. Besides being friends, they were “pain mates”, as we called them: people who shared the experience of surviving a miserable place. Only after they left prison had they realised that there were others like them, who understood what they had gone through. When they met, they did not have to justify anything. Nobody judged them or asked them questions. They just laughed and enjoyed their freedom together.

Source: http://bit.ly/2lb5ivl

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Millions of heterosexual Chinese men will never marry or have intimate relations with women.

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Millions of heterosexual Chinese men will never marry or have intimate relations with women.

In China, there is a name for unmarried men over 30. Shengnan, meaning “leftover men” have yet to find a wife – and in a country with a growing gender gap, that’s a big problem.

By 2020, it’s estimated there will be 30 million more men than women looking for a partner

China has many millions more men than women, a hangover of the country’s one-child policy, which was overturned in 2015, though its effects will last decades more. The gender imbalance is making it hard for many men to find a partner – and the gap is likely to widen. By 2020, it’s estimated there will be 30 million more men than women looking for a partner.

In his book, The Demographic Future, American political economist Nicholas Eberstadt cites projections that by 2030, more than a quarter of Chinese men in their 30s will not have married.

Now, with far fewer women than men, the race to find a suitable partner—and win her over before someone else does—has led some men to go to great lengths to find a wife. They’re spending vast sums on creative, sometimes unsuccessful, measures to win a woman over.

(Credit: Getty Images)

There are already many more men than women looking for a partner in China – and that gap looks set to widen (Credit: Getty Images)

Ninety-nine iPhones—and a no

In 2015, a Chinese businessman in his 40s reportedly sued a Shanghai-based introductions agency for failing to find him a wife, having paid the company 7 million yuan ($1m) to conduct an extensive search.

In another case, a computer programmer from the southern city of Guangzhou bought 99 iPhones as part of an elaborate marriage proposal to his girlfriend. Unfortunately, he was turned down, with his humiliation exacerbated as photos of the event were widely shared across social media.

Young generations have more choice and they are following their hearts rather than parents

Part of the problem is that the old – and new – ways of meeting people are not always working. Chinese New Year has long been an opportunity for single people to meet a partner.  Most people visit the houses of family and friends during the festival, which occurs between late January and mid-February, so singletons have many chances to meet potential partners.

(Credit: Getty Images)

The pressure to find a partner is even more pronounced during Chinese New Year (Credit: Getty Images)

But that longstanding tradition of meeting a potential partner has given way to modernity. Online dating is growing fast in China, as elsewhere, and messaging apps such as WeChat are increasingly popular ways of getting to know people.  “China dating is becoming more and more open and more and more familiar with the ways of Western countries in recent years,” says Jun Li. “Young generations have more choice and they are following their hearts rather than parents.”


Upending tradition

The myriad ways to connect coupled with the female majority have upended the way people meet and court in China.

Hiring a girlfriend can cost up to 10,000 yuan ($1,450) a day

Jun Li, from Suzhou in Jiangsu province, in China’s east central coast, is single and in her 20s. She has noticed growing numbers of men on the singles scene “organising as teams” and hiring public entertainment venues for dating events.

Other men are turning to psychologists and stylists to make themselves more appealing. And to avoid prying questions from inquisitive parents, some are even resorting to hiring “fake” girlfriends to present to their parents using apps such as Hire Me Plz. . Reports suggest hiring a girlfriend can cost up to 10,000 yuan ($1,450) a day.

Modern dating leaves more options for women in China (Credit: Alamy)

Modern dating leaves more options for women in China. Here, a speed-dating food event (Credit: Alamy)

The problems for men in finding a partner are most acute in poorer rural areas, made worse by long-held traditions that the husband must be able to offer a decent level of financial security before he can secure a wife.

Hong Yang, who is now married and in her 30s, describes this as China’s “mother-in-law economics”. “If men want to get married, the future mother-in-law will request that he first buys a house before discussing the next step. It’s one reason why house prices have been so strong in recent years,” she says.

Age gaps of 10 to 20 years or more are common in Chinese marriages

But this financial burden on men is also making it harder for many women to find a partner. That adds to the issue, with large numbers of men, partly because of the financial costs of marriage, are opting to marry later. And when they do settle down they are often looking for younger women. Age gaps of 10 to 20 years or more are common in Chinese marriages.

“It’s hard for women to find suitable men after they reach 32 years [old],” says Hong Yang. “Many eligible Chinese men want to marry younger and pretty girls.” Women, in turn, look for financial stability, which leans toward older men, experts say.

(Credit: Getty Images)

Growing numbers of men are getting involved with dating events, says Jun Li (Credit: Getty Images)

Of course, the reverse can also be true. Well-educated and financially independent women who remain single are called “unwanted girls”, says Heather Ma, who is married, in her 30s and living in Shanghai.

The parent trap

Parents are a big source of pressure to find a partner, pronto. And they’re ever-present, says Roger Zhou, 39, who is now married and lives in Suzhou.

“Parents think they are responsible to help their adult child start a family,” he says. “So they pressure their child to find a partner, go dating and to prepare for a wedding”.

Parents face big social criticism if their daughter or son does not get married

That’s led to another problem. Parents getting involved—really involved.

“The blind date, which is arranged by parents, is still very popular,” says Melinda Hu, who is 32 and single. “Parents face big social criticism if their daughter or son does not get married so normally a girl’s parents are eager to let their daughter go on a blind date and get married before reaching 30.”

Parents scouting the competition at the marriage market wall in Shanghai (Credit: Alamy)

Parents scouting the competition at the marriage market wall in Shanghai (Credit: Alamy)

Then there are the outdoor marriage markets. At one of the country’s largest in Shanghai, the “matchmaking corner” is inundated by parents who post hand-written adverts for their single children with details such as the income, education and personality. Some parents have been known to visit the market every week for years with no success.

The shift in how people meet and how men woo partners, is, above all, putting a greater emphasis on love rather than on practical considerations such as financial security.

The ripple of ‘one-child’

The growing social problem of ‘leftover men’ is largely a result of China’s one-child policy, overturned in 2015. For decades, the policy restricted couples to having only one child. A long history of preference for sons led to large numbers of girls being abandoned, placed in orphanages, sex-selective abortions or even cases of female infanticide.

Jun Li, for instance, says she is in no rush to get married preferring to wait for the man who is worth her “heart and soul”.

In China, just like the rest of the world, the universal rules of romance still apply.

Source: http://bbc.in/2lews3R

Starbucks will hire 10,000 refugees.

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Starbucks will hire 10,000 refugees.

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz sent out a company-wide letter following President Donald Trump’s decision to sign an executive order that bans citizens of seven majority Muslim countries from entering the United States.

Schultz’s letter detailed plans to hire 10,000 refugees in the countries where the coffee chain operates. This was met with some backlash on social media, with some users calling for a boycott of Starbucks.

The executive order, signed on Friday, temporarily halts citizens from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen from entering the US.

“We are living in an unprecedented time, one in which we are witness to the conscience of our country, and the promise of the American Dream, being called into question,” Schultz wrote.

He continued: “These uncertain times call for different measures and communication tools than we have used in the past. Kevin and I are going to accelerate our commitment to communicating with you more frequently, including leveraging new technology platforms moving forward. I am hearing the alarm you all are sounding that the civility and human rights we have all taken for granted for so long are under attack, and want to use a faster, more immediate form of communication to engage with you on matters that concern us all as partners.”

A number of CEOs, including Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, have knocked Trump’s decision to sign the orders.

Schultz’s letter went on to detail some of the actions the company is taking, including plans to hire 10,000 refugees.

“We have a long history of hiring young people looking for opportunities and a pathway to a new life around the world. This is why we are doubling down on this commitment by working with our equity market employees as well as joint venture and licensed market partners in a concerted effort to welcome and seek opportunities for those fleeing war, violence, persecution and discrimination,” Schultz wrote.

He continued: “There are more than 65 million citizens of the world recognized as refugees by the United Nations, and we are developing plans to hire 10,000 of them over five years in the 75 countries around the world where Starbucks does business. And we will start this effort here in the U.S. by making the initial focus of our hiring efforts on those individuals who have served with U.S. troops as interpreters and support personnel in the various countries where our military has asked for such support.”

Afterward, the hashtag #BoycottStarbucks started trending on Twitter.

Starbucks already has a program in place dedicated to hiring military veterans.

Others on social media used the hashtag to show their support for the company.

In addition, Schultz also wrote about Starbucks’ operations in Mexico. Social media users in Mexico had called for boycotts of US companies, including Starbucks.

“We have been open for business in Mexico since 2002, and have since opened 600 stores in 60 cities across the country, which together employ over 7,000 Mexican partners who proudly wear the green apron. We have sourced coffee from Mexico’s producers and their families for three decades and last fall, we also announced the creation of a farmer support center in Chiapas to help accelerate our collective ability to grow and export some of the world’s finest coffees from this important growing region, while donating more than $2 million to support the livelihood, food security and water quality of coffee producing communities in Oaxaca,” Schultz wrote.

He added: “With the support of thousands of Starbucks partners and millions of customers, we have also donated half a million coffee trees to support 70,000 families, and we will be expanding the initiative this year to generate another 4 million tree donations. Coffee is what unites our common heritage, and as I told Alberto Torrado, the leader of our partnership with Alsea in Mexico, we stand ready to help and support our Mexican customers, partners and their families as they navigate what impact proposed trade sanctions, immigration restrictions and taxes might have on their business and their trust of Americans. But we will continue to invest in this critically important market all the same.”

Last week, Trump put out additional orders aimed to crack down on illegal immigration, including a measure expanding the authority of local law enforcement officers to enforce immigration laws, among other policies. Trump also announced that it was his administration’s policy to immediately begin construction of a wall along the US-Mexican border.

Source: https://yhoo.it/2kU2HpQ