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New laws take effect July 1 in CT. Here are some of them

Several new laws take effect in Connecticut as of Friday. They include:

Increase in minimum wage

The minimum wage in Connecticut will increase to $14 an hour, from $13. The bump is part of a gradual, phased-in increase passed in 2019 that is taking Connecticut’s minimum wage from $10.10 at the beginning of 2019 up to $15 an hour on July 1, 2023.

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Heaven banning knows I’m miserable now

Fake news comes in two flavours: so bitter it turns us purple with rage, or so saccharine it can lure us into a false belief. The internet has always had a certain percentage of denizens prepared to deploy a clever lie in pursuit of their aims, whether anger or unquestioning acceptance. What would it look like if we weaponised lies in order to protect ourselves against that sort of mendacity – and used a clever lie to get it started?

At the beginning of June an odd and wonderful Tweet came through my feed: a screenshot of a page from the online edition of The New York Times with an intriguing title: “Reddit’s new ‘Heaven Banning’ Policy Proves Controversial”.

Heaven banning?  The article itself – at least the part captured in the screenshot, explained the term:

When Albert Tallan lost his job last spring, he took his frustrations out in various subreddits.

At first, his comments were not well received. He was called a troll and mocked for the frequent solecisms in his prose. But slowly things seemed to change. Mocking transitioned to fulsome praise.

From his perspective, it seemed he was being a pillar of various subreddits he visited. In reality, his comments were invisible to all users besides himself.

These sycophantic replies, also visible only to him, were the work of bots (codenamed ‘angels’ by Reddit staff) used to enmesh trolls in a parallel fictional Reddit.

Reddit’s engineering staff, careful to preserve the viability of the site as a space for conversations free from trolling, had developed and deployed a system that could detect trollish behavior from its millions of users. As Reddit has a commenting and voting system that allows its users to rate user posts, bad behaviour is quickly visible – and, under Reddit’s new system, the user exhibiting that behaviour was quietly migrated out of the real Reddit – the one with tens of millions of humans – into a ‘parallel, fictional Reddit’ fully populated by bots (automated programs) dedicated to nothing more than flattering the troll.

Reddit created a mirror for the troll, made them the fairest of all – and made it impossible for them to look away.  Call it the Narcissus Trap.

Technically, it wasn’t even that hard to create a heaven banning tool. The current generation of conversational AI systems, such as the GPT-3 large language model (LLM), can easily generate an infinitely varied stream of sycophantic praises, providing just enough variation to prevent the troll from ever becoming aware that they’ve been caged.

Reddit’s ‘heaven banning’ gives everyone exactly what they want

Reddit’s ‘heaven banning’ gives everyone exactly what they want – the troll gets to be the smartest, wisest and most thoughtful person on their own private Reddit, while the rest of the community, breathing a sigh of relief, can carry on with their global-scale conversations. It’s genius.

If only it were real.

When something sounds this good, it always pays to read the fine print. In this case, it reveals that this ‘article’ was published in the 8 August 2024 issue of the New York Times – just over two years into our future. So rather than the description of a new technique to deal with poorly socialised internet users, it’s only another bit of fake news.


Read also: Is Google’s AI chatbot LaMDA sentient? Computer says no


Or – if we can be a bit more generous – it’s actually a provocation, disguised as science fiction. A proposal disguised as a fait accompli. Asara Near, author of the post (and, presumably, the fake Times screenshot) hints at that, writing that heaven banning “…is entirely feasible with the current state of AI/LLMs”.

It’s not real – but it is wholly realisable, using today’s technology. The only thing keeping us from implementing a heaven banning system on a site like Reddit (or Facebook or Twitter etc) is merely that no one has yet put in the hard yards.

Any technology deployed against anyone can be deployed against everyone.

With a growing intolerance – both socially and institutionally – for trolling and online harassment, it likely won’t be very long until heaven banning becomes an accepted and ‘safe’ practice for isolating trolls. By 2024, it could be an broadly accepted practice.

But if that happens, and we live in a world where we deploy systems to imprison trolls within halls of mirrors, how can we ever know that we, ourselves, remain free? Heaven banning carries a sting in its tail, because any technology deployed against anyone can be deployed against everyone. Facebook already selectively ‘curates’ its Newsfeed to reflect the emotional state of its users; while not heaven banning, per se, it’s got all of the necessary pieces – except a component that would churn out endless fake-but-agreeable Facebook posts.

It’s a small step from where Facebook is in 2022 to where they could be, with a few billion happily heaven-banned users, trapped within prisons of their own design, each reading and commenting on only those things that reinforce their own beliefs and sense of self-worth.

Although there’s been a lot of talk lately about whether large language models are sentient – that is, whether they can truly be said to think for themselves – some more measured voices on this topic point to how these systems tend to serve as a mirror for our own beliefs. If you want to believe these systems are sentient, say these researchers, it’s quite likely those systems will produce outputs that will tend to confirm your beliefs. Which means it’s all mirrors, and everywhere we look we see our own reflections.

How might we ‘test the spirits’, to ascertain whether we’re in the real world, connected to real people? Although large language models offer a simulation of a fantasy of the real, they fall apart when confronted by randomness, weirdness and inconsistency. Quickly change the track of a conversation, and they fail to grasp the change of context. The real world, filled with noise and chaotic, unexpected interruptions, lies outside the carefully curated data sets used to train these models.

So if you suspect you might have been trapped within a fantasy world, populated by your own desires – amplified and fed back to you – rattle the bars of your cage. Make up nonsense. Be random and unpredictable. Then watch how the world responds. If it ignores you – or worse, if it babbles incoherently – you have your answer, and need to have a good long think about how to free yourself from the prison of heaven.



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The Metaverse in 2040 | Pew Research Center

Hype? Hope? Hell? Maybe all three. Experts are split about the likely evolution of a truly immersive ‘metaverse.’ They expect that augmented- and mixed-reality enhancements will become more useful in people’s daily lives. Many worry that current online problems may be magnified if Web3 development is led by those who built today’s dominant web platforms

(Gremlin via Getty Images)

This report covers results from the 14th “Future of the Internet” canvassing that Pew Research Center and Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center have conducted together to gather expert views about important digital issues. This canvassing of experts was prompted by emerging debates in the early 2020s over the potential evolution and impact of extended reality tools like augmented reality, mixed reality and virtual reality, as well as “the metaverse” or “metaverses.” This is a nonscientific canvassing based on a nonrandom sample; this broad array of opinions about where current trends may lead in the next 18 years represents only the points of view of the individuals who responded to the queries.

Pew Research Center and Elon’s Imagining the Internet Center sampled from a database of experts to canvass from a wide range of fields, inviting entrepreneurs, professionals and policy people based in government bodies, nonprofits and foundations, technology businesses and think tanks, as well as interested academics and technology innovators. The predictions reported here came in response to a set of questions in an online canvassing conducted between Feb. 6-March 21, 2022. In all, 624 technology innovators and developers, business and policy leaders, researchers and activists responded in some way to the question covered in this report. More on the methodology underlying this canvassing and the participants can be found in the section titled “About this canvassing of experts.” [LINK]

Extended reality (XR) is an umbrella term to cover all of the various forms of computer-altered reality. For some experts and technologists, other terms fall under the XR umbrella:

Virtual reality (VR) completely immerses people in a digital setting. These settings can be created as fully synthetic computer-generated content, they can be made of real-world content (set in actual 360-degree video), or they can be a hybrid of both. Roblox is one of many popular metaverse VR platforms in 2022. Today’s fullest home or work VR experiences require individuals to use a head-mounted device and haptic controllers.

Augmented reality (AR) overlays digital information in real-world settings. You are applying AR when you use your phone’s camera to translate signs and menus in real time from one language to another, or if you play Pokémon Go. Hundreds of AR applications are available today for use on smartphones. AR keeps the real world central but enhances it with digital details that supplement the environment.

Mixed reality (MR) experiences allow people to interact with and manipulate computer-generated images in the real world, in real time. You use a headset but see and remain immersed in the real world while seeing and interacting with images using your hands – for instance, a 3D architectural floor plan for a new school or 3D schematic for an electric vehicle. At this point in time MR is mostly used in industrial, military and medical training and design.

Mirror worlds are digital creations that mimic the physical and social structures of the real world in a VR setting. Several companies are already working to create such representations of the entire planet. For example, Nvidia’s Earth-2 is a digital twin that aims to enhance the capacity for climate modeling. And many mirror worlds are settings for games or businesses. One example is Upland, a virtual-property NFT game (non-fungible-token game) where people buy, sell and trade virtual properties mapped to the real world – for instance, a real-world baseball stadium or museum.

Interest in the idea of the metaverse leaped in 2021-2022, prompted in part by Facebook’s decision to rebrand itself as “Meta.” The word was coined by sci-fi author Neal Stephenson in 1992 in his novel “Snow Crash.” In today’s terms, the metaverse is the realm of computer-generated, networked extended reality, or XR, an acronym that embraces all aspects of augmented reality, mixed reality and virtual reality (AR, MR and VR). At this point in time, the metaverse is generally made up of somewhat- immersive XR spaces in which interactions take place among humans and automated entities. Some are daily interactions with augmented-reality apps that people have on their computers and phones. Some are interactions taking place in more-immersive domains in gaming or fantasy worlds. Some occur in “mirror worlds” that duplicate real-life environments.

While extended-reality gaming and social spaces have been in existence for decades, early 2020s technological advances and societal transformations brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic have pushed the development of the metaverse to the forefront, inspiring tens of billions of dollars in new investments and prompting predictions that the metaverse is “the future of the internet” or “the next internet battleground.”

Proponents of XR and the development of more-advanced and immersive, 3D, online worlds say its rapid evolution is likely to benefit all aspects of society – education, health care, gaming and entertainment, the arts, social and civic life and other activities. They believe the infusion of more data into people’s experiences, progress in artificial intelligence (AI) assistive systems and the creation of entirely new spaces and experiences for tech users could enrich and expand their lives. Of course, as with all digital tech, there are concerns about the health, safety, security, privacy and economic implications of these new spaces. This has spurred a great deal of speculation about what the maturing of XR and the metaverse will look like and what that means for society.

This heightened interest and investment in extended reality prompted Pew Research Center and Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center to ask hundreds of technology experts to share their insights on the topic. In all, 624 technology innovators, developers, business and policy leaders, researchers and activists provided open-ended responses to a question seeking their predictions about the trajectory and impact of the metaverse by 2040. The results of this nonscientific canvassing:  

  • 54% of these experts said that they expect by 2040 the metaverse WILL be a much-more-refined and truly fully-immersive, well-functioning aspect of daily life for a half billion or more people globally.
  • 46% said that they expect by 2040 the metaverse WILL NOT be a much-more-refined and truly fully-immersive, well-functioning aspect of daily life for a half billion or more people globally.

These experts were asked to elaborate on their multiple-choice answers in an open-ended question that invited their views about both the positive and negative aspects of the digital world to come. Two broad themes emerged in those written remarks. First, a notable share of these experts argued that the embrace of extended reality in people’s daily lives by 2040 will be centered around augmented-reality and mixed-reality tools, not in the more-fully-immersive virtual reality worlds many people define today as being “the metaverse.” Second, they warned that these new worlds could dramatically magnify every human trait and tendency – both the bad and the good. They especially focused their concerns on the ability of those in control of these systems to redirect, restrain or thwart human agency and stifle people’s ability to self-actualize through exercise of free will, and they worried over the future freedom of humans to expand their native capacities.

The key themes these experts voiced in their written responses are outlined in the three following tables. The first table outlines further details tied to the two broad themes mentioned above. The second describes the five most-mentioned reasons that the metaverse is likely to be much more advanced and more broadly adopted by 2040. The third describes the five most-mentioned reasons it will not be.    

A table showing two meta themes that anchored many experts' predictions
A table showing the reasons The metaverse will fully emerge as its advocates predict
A table showing the reason thatThe metaverse will not fully emerge in the way today’s advocates hope

This is a nonscientific canvassing, based on a nonrandom sample. The results represent only the opinions of the individuals who responded to the queries and are not projectable to any other population.

Some of the most sweeping answers written by these respondents took the long view. These experts wrote that “virtual” spaces have for millennia arisen in the human imagination and that it doesn’t take special technological features or gadgetry to create vivid places beyond “real life.” At the same time, some argued that even the most far-out versions of virtual reality will still anchor in basic human sensory “interfaces” of eyes, ears, taste, smell, motion, balance and speech.

Still, none of these experts doubt major changes are nigh in the way reality is supplemented by technology or even reimagined in tech-enabled ways. As XR pioneer Avi Bar-Zeev, a co-creator of Google Earth, HoloLens and more, wrote, “VR fundamentally strips away the most common constraints of reality: location and travel, physics, even sometimes time, where hours can often seem like minutes, and we can travel to the historical past or imagined futures.”

Many were not sure what the timeline for all this change will be, but did their best to imagine where the evolution of today’s XR tech trends might take society. Some of the answers reflecting that thought:

Laurence Lannom, vice president at the Corporation for National Research Initiatives, offered an compact prediction, writing, “The metaverse will, at its core, be a collection of new and extended technologies. It is easy to imagine that both the best and the worst aspects of our online lives will be extended by being able to tap into a more-complete immersive experience, by being inside a digital space instead of looking at one from the outside. At the good end of the continuum are things like the ability of people to interact with others as though they were all in the same physical space without having spent hours burning dinosaur bones to get there; practicing difficult physical tasks (e.g., surgery) on virtual entities; and elevated educational and research opportunities of all kinds as we learn to leverage the built-in advantages of the new environments. The other end is also not hard to imagine – easier addiction to all-absorbing games and fantasy experiences resulting in increased isolation for many; further breakdown of social cohesion as the virtual offers an easy alternative to the hard task of learning to live with each other; and increased political turmoil as the prophets of fear and grievance acquire the ability to command rallies with millions of attendees.”

Edward Baig, freelance columnist and longtime technology reporter for USA Today, wrote, “Even the smartest folks today have difficulty articulating the metaverse so that regular people understand it beyond it being this vague thing emerging out of augmented reality, virtual reality, 3D and mixed reality. Of course, measured in tech years, 2040 is a lifetime away and, when you factor in the sheer magnitude of the financial and intellectual investments already being plowed into the metaverse, how could this thing possibly not morph into something likely to have a profound impact on our everyday lives? Whatever it is that draws all of us into the metaverse, it must provide – or at least promise to provide – experiences and benefits that are otherwise impractical if not impossible to achieve in (for lack of a better way of putting it) the real world.”

Elizabeth Hyman, CEO for the XR Association, which was founded by Meta, Google, HTC Vive, Microsoft and Sony Interactive Entertainment to convene stakeholders for the development and adoption of XR, shared a number of vital use cases already proven as useful in the XR realm: “Virtual, augmented and mixed reality are the gateway to phenomenal applications in medicine, education, manufacturing, retail, workforce training and more, and it is the gateway to deeply social and immersive interactions – the metaverse. Each day we’re taking strides to make the technology better and ensure that the opportunities are limitless – because they are. The XR industry is focused on responsible innovation and it has built a strong repository of resources that lay the foundation for the industry’s continued growth. While widespread adoption does take time and challenges will no doubt arise, we believe XR technology will become the next major computing platform. Already, colleges and universities are teaching students in the metaverse. Human Resources professionals at companies like Walmart, SAP, Delta and many others are using the tool to train workers – some of the fastest-growing job categories in the U.S. are in industries that are rapidly adopting XR technologies. Uses of XR include warehousing and inventory management, product engineering and design, immersive job training and upskilling and virtual health care patient monitoring. Particularly in the health care setting, we’re seeing XR use with children. For example, the Children’s Hospital Colorado is using XR to help to change the pediatric hospital experience for the better – for instance, for distraction and pain management reducing the need for anesthesia and physical therapy.”

Daniel D. Bryant, Wales-based VR educator, co-founder of Educators in VR and a leader in the Virtual World Society, predicted, “By 2040 the internet that you now access on a screen will be a place you can enter, visit and explore. Currently we are looking in through windows (literally), but we are soon going to be starting to climb through the windows and into the internet. The word website implies a location. Currently this is mostly in 2D. What if these sites are in 3D and you can get in and interact directly, rather than with a keyboard and a mouse? Think how creative people already get with creating and monetizing content on the 2D internet. Now add a third dimension to this and you have just created what Charlie Fink has referred to as the ‘largest wealth-and-value-creation experience humankind has ever witnessed.’ I can’t imagine the momentum heading anywhere else. When young people can truly get their heads and hands into the ‘metaverse,’ just stand back and watch in wonder. And that is even before AI [artificial intelligence] gets into the mix. AI will soon be able to generate virtual worlds and useful and very convincing AI bots to populate it. It’s a wild ride already. Better get strapped in.”

Jon Radoff, author of the Building the Metaverse blog and CEO of Beamable, a metaverse consultancy, predicted the influence of gameplay in the evolution of XR. “The metaverse will be important for at least half a billion people in 2040 because it is already important for several billion,” he said, referring to a general estimate of the number of people who have used popular game and social spaces, not the number of daily users. “The metaverse exists. The most-common definitions of the ‘metaverse’ are: 1) an embodied virtual-reality experience; 2) a Web3 framework for economic interoperability; 3) a creative platform for experiences (e.g., Roblox). Some current versions may be a hybrid of these. I think all of these ‘product-centric’ definitions fail to look at the underlying culture and social change. The fundamental shift is toward thinking of virtual property and virtual identity as ‘real’ and/or important. One can trace the origin of the metaverse back to Dungeons & Dragons before it was digitized and look at it as an imaginary, creative space of social interaction and storytelling. Everything since then is simply technologies that have digitized, dematerialized and democratized access to this category of experience.”

About half of the respondents to this canvassing do not expect the VR aspect of the XR realm to be significantly more popular by 2040. Kevin Werbach, professor of legal studies and business ethics at the University of Pennsylvania and author of “The Blockchain and the New Architecture of Trust,” commented, “There is not a straight evolutionary path forward in maturity and importance for this collection of technologies. Virtual worlds and immersive online spaces will continue to develop in significance, but 500 million people won’t be living in ‘the metaverse’ in any more meaningful way in 2040 than 2022. Perhaps immersive games, social spaces and work tools will merge into a coherent industry sector at that point, which perhaps we’ll still call ‘metaverse.’”

Eric Burger, who recently worked in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and as the chief technology officer at the Federal Communications Commission, now on the computer science faculty at Georgetown University, responded, “The metaverse will pan out like remote-controlled self-driving cars or roadable aircraft: almost here for decades yet structurally unlikely for decades. The use cases for fully immersive experiences have a small niche that, for economic reasons, is unlikely to grow into a global phenomenon for decades to come.”

Jerry Michalski, respected technology consultant and founder of Sociate.com and ReX, predicted, “An XR metaverse will be more like 3D TV than the web. It will be more expensive, uncomfortable and disorienting, even as it is less informative and connective. XR is transformative in specific domains and cumbersome in general. I don’t see how 20 years of development will fix that.”

Micheal Kleeman, a senior fellow at the University of California, San Diego, who previously worked for Boston Consulting and Sprint, responded, “Unless we see a large-scale desire to escape from reality, the virtual space will not add much to human experience. The virtual world does not satisfy real interpersonal dynamics, it is expensive in terms of bandwidth unless you are just gaming and it adds little to experiential value.”

Many people pointed to Facebook’s corporate pivot to name itself Meta as a catalyst for the uptick in metaverse buzz over the past year. Ethan Zuckerman, director of the Initiative on Digital Public Infrastructure at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, wrote, “Smart people have spent lots of time on different approaches to building immersive, 3D, collaborative online spaces using a wide range of technologies. Some have achieved more success than others, but none have expanded beyond audiences of 1 million or so users. Those users can be extremely passionate and are willing to learn the complexities of interacting in a virtual world. Some of them are willing to put in the work of learning to build and create in these environments, but thus far we’ve not seen evidence that mainstream users see a good reason to jump through these hoops. Facebook became Meta for two simple and obvious reasons. First, its brand as a social media platform has been badly muddied by years of mismanagement and irresponsibility. If it could be associated with anything other than angry dialogs online, it would benefit. Second, Facebook wants to own the entire stack from hardware to content, much as Apple does. It has a good hardware product in Oculus [a VR headset] and thus is positioned to argue that VR is the future. But does anyone really want VR to be the future? Those of us who’ve been down this road before remember Second Life declaring that its metaverse would be the future and we should all rush in to buy a piece of it. That community never achieved mainstream success and has hovered at 1 million users (overall, most were not daily users). Yes, the tech’s better now. But in 2040 I expect VR to be popular for gaming and some simulations. It will not catch on for routine office work, standard online interaction and so on.”

Jacquelyn Ford Morie, VR pioneer and chief scientist at All These Worlds, co-editor of “The Handbook of Research on the Global Impacts and Roles of Immersive Media,” argued there is much to be accomplished before fully–immersive tech will be viewed as worthy of broad adoption. “To be so successful by 2040,” she said, “it must be many things to many people, enrich or make better their everyday lives. It must go beyond games and entertainment to provide what each and every person needs. The first, and the biggest, step will be to instantiate and regulate the metaverse as a public benefit/utility, so the greatest number of people can access and benefit from it. It must offer value to its participants and not simply treat them as money sources. If it has to make tons of money for companies and the top 10%, it is doomed to be niche-driven and not a true evolution of humanity.”

A notable share of these expert respondents said they expect that augmented reality applications  will be far more widely used in people’s daily lives than immersive VR, which they expect will remain a niche realm. Louis Rosenberg, is CEO of Unanimous AI. His doctoral work at Stanford University resulted in the virtual fixtures system for the U.S. Air Force – an immersive augmented-reality system built in 1992. He predicted: “By 2035 people will laugh at images of the 2020s that show people walking down the street staring down at a phone, necks bent, thinking it looks awkward and primitive. The metaverse will evolve in two directions at once – the virtual metaverse (fully simulated worlds) and the augmented metaverse (layers of rich virtual content overlaid upon the real world with precise spatial registration). The virtual metaverse will increase in popularity but will always be restricted to short-duration applications – mostly for gaming, socializing, shopping and entertainment, and it will have powerful business and education uses as well. The augmented metaverse, on the other hand, will replace mobile phones as our primary gateway to digital content. The transition from mobile phones to AR hardware will begin the middle of the 2020s and will be complete by 2035, possibly sooner. It will fundamentally change society, altering our world into a merged reality of real and virtual. People will use AR eyewear from the moment they wake up to the moment they go to sleep, much like they keep mobile phones with them today. Blockchain will be used to assign ownership of virtual objects within the metaverse. There are many other potential uses, but it’s too early to know if those will happen or not. But assigning ownership is a natural fit. To see a vision of the augmented metaverse at the end of this decade, you can check out my fun narrative, ‘Metaverse 2030.’”

Many respondents who expect the AR/VR metaverse to be well developed by 2040 warned that this will significantly magnify societal challenges already present in the digital sphere. Justin Reich, associate professor of digital media at MIT and director of the Teaching Systems Lab, expressed a view shared by respondents who expect big tech companies will further exploit users, writing, “The term metaverse was coined to describe a corporate, dystopian hellscape where a completely financialized world is stripped of any culture and value. Advocates of the metaverse are currently trying to bring that vision into reality in the hopes of creating new digital surfaces that can be covered in new advertising and made as addictive as possible. As the physical world encounters saturation of existing advertising surfaces and data collection, augmented reality is the new frontier of surveillance capitalism. If it does come to fruition, it will be as terrible as social media is today. Questions that I’ve not seen journalists ask of Mark Zuckerberg or other folks at Meta: ‘How many hours a day are you currently spending in the metaverse?’ ‘How many hours a day do you encourage your children to spend in the metaverse?’ My hunch is that the typical Meta employee spends very little time in the metaverse, because it’s terrible. And they don’t want their children there, because it’s terrible.”

Davi Ottenheimer, vice president for trust and digital ethics at Inrupt, a company applying the new Solid data protocol (a method for building decentralized social applications that was created by web inventor Tim Berners-Lee), responded, “We should declare metaverse to only be a success if it augments the human in a decentralized human-centric model of data ownership. It is currently in danger of being co-opted into overly centralized platforms and constraints, a regression to slavery models in the guise of a proprietary ‘digital twin’ to be abused by giant companies looking to operate selfishly and above the law and deny social good. Those caught up in this abuse of rights, like industrial-era workers suffering the daily grind of soulless factory jobs and homes and vehicles, will long for an escape from the intentionally limiting artifice of metaverse. The utopianism and mysticism that drive cultural waves of ‘escape’ during times of technological upheaval and displacement are here again. There is a fundamental difference between the highly controversial technological augmentation and the politically driven escapism that metaverse development will predictably fall into.”

Keram Malicki-Sanchez, a prominent expert and activist who runs conferences about VR, AR and XR and is founding president of the Constant Change Media Group, advised, “There is no way to put the genie back in the bottle of immersive technologies. There is no future without 3D realities as part of it. Will it be called the ‘metaverse’? God, I hope not if that means the MAANG companies – Meta (formerly Facebook) Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google – appropriate and commandeer it to funnel us into a homogeneous, highly trackable somatosensory collection of walled gardens. An alternative path for these technologies is that they will be built using open-source solutions, improved and expanded holistically, organically by a global community who will create an estuary for systems that allow people to seamlessly transition between 3D worlds where they can embody whatever they want and share whatever experiences they choose. These are also media that can communicate new perspectives and afford us new angles of insight via dimensional contexts. They can provide scaffolding to test our analytical reasoning and processes to potentially escape our cognitive biases, develop greater plasticity, or even test new forms of embodiment. We must always take account of how these new media can and will be manipulated and weaponized and consider the rights of our future selves as we become subsumed in data. In addition, there are important digital divides to consider here. These cannot be worlds accessible only to the privileged. VR needs to be built so that anyone should feel they have the tools and access available to them.”

Sean McGregor, technical lead for the IBM Watson AI XPRIZE and machine learning architect at Syntiant, observed, “With every great (and terrible) technological revolution comes great (and terrible) revolutions of social systems. Without a healthy sense of skepticism for adopting software for our new reality and working collectively against our worst imaginings, we will fail to realize social benefits exceeding the costs. The transition will be very difficult and potentially dangerous, but so, too, have been most human advancements.”

Toby Shulruff, senior technology safety specialist at the National Network to End Domestic Violence, predicted, “The ‘online’ will increasingly extend into daily life through interfaces with our cities, homes and bodies. The varieties of both self-expression and connection across distance will expand, and this means that we urgently need to reconfigure how we establish and maintain trust in others, in information, and perhaps even in ourselves. Online life so far has mirrored and accelerated real-life trends, and – absent a major shift in priorities and design – this will be true with XR as well. The rules of the game have so far been written by the very few for the very many. Like other technologies, XR does not solve human problems like bias, fear or violence. It accelerates and amplifies what is already present in society. Therefore, we stand to see an exacerbation of isolation, echo chambers and a dissociation from our bodies and communities. We are already seeing sexual violence from earlier online spaces and real life crossing into more-immersive XR environments. This is likely to extend into and intersect with other targeted violence, or even mass violence or terrorism. There is a real possibility that those who are ‘plugged in’ will become increasingly untethered from the world around them. Future waves of pandemic disease and the effects of climate change will allow those with means to spend more time in virtual worlds. Will we become more willing to let conditions worsen around us because we can escape to an alternate reality? Meanwhile, those on the other side of the digital divide will struggle to access resources, connections and opportunities. As we go from ‘always on’ to ‘always in,’ the constant immersion may cause physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual effects including stress reactions, headaches, disturbed sleep and detachment. Paradoxically, while virtual worlds can be an escape from our bodies and our limitations, many users describe an intensification of sensation, emotion and response from virtual experiences. Another concern is that the more-immersive environment will expand surveillance by governments and corporations, and even within families. The boundaries between our work lives and our personal lives, between the public and the private, will continue to dissolve. Coercive trends in technology design such as dark patterns will drive users to make choices they might not otherwise make. Technology this complex defies precise predictions, but we can find hints from previous examples. If we don’t shift course, we will weave our failures of empathy and justice into the very fabric of XR, as we have in other digital technologies.”

Among the additional intriguing predictions from those canvassed were:

  • Avi Bar-Zeev said digital systems will perform ever-more-sophisticated analyses of how people think and feel about people and other elements of their lives, their private political and spiritual thoughts, their emotional triggers. “We’ve turned people into data mines and no longer truly free-thinking individuals.”
  • Glynn Rogers predicted virtual extraterrestrial travel based on imagery constructed from a multitude of spacecraft sensors, “in which virtual craft can be flown, driven or sailed through environments in which humans could exist only with the most extraordinary aids.” And Gary Arlen noted that alternative cyber environments will allow people to virtually go inside humans, animals or machines.
  • Jim Spohrer noted that “digital twins” will often function as people’s alter egos in multiple worlds. And Melissa Sassi noted that having a digital twin in health care will be incredibly powerful when it comes to predictive modeling of diseases and sharing patient data across healthcare providers. She wrote, “One example I have seen inspiring this work is BioTwin, an early stage health tech startup that’s created a virtual replica geared toward detecting and preventing health care ailments before they occur.”
  • Barry Chudakov said he expects that immersive mirror-world environments may raise enough psychological issues that “psychiatrists and counselors will be called in to help people cope with multiple-self syndrome.”
  • Stephen Downes predicted that in 2040 it will not be possible for most people to distinguish between avatars representing humans and artificial intelligences, adding that there will be “convincing impersonations and worse.”
  • Jonathan Kolber said he expects that the “demand for all manner of physical objects will drastically diminish” as people move into digital spaces to live more of their lives and the need for real objects shrinks.
  • Marc Rotenberg said gaming and other life experiences will be far more immersive by 2040, with participants joining their favorite sports stars in online competitions or sharing the concert stage with the avatars of famous musicians.
  • David Porush predicted immersive reality will produce unexpected consequences for human intimacy and connection and “new opportunities for global unity and tribal discord, for totalizing control and individual freedoms, and for the effective expression of love and hate.”
  • Rahul Saxena said he expects a “Super-Metaverse” of tech enhancements that help people augment their work, for instance using imaging and actuators to perform surgeries. But some will choose to live in a “Fantasy-Metaverse” that “prefers gullible consumption over critical thinking,” and he warned that “the shifts to the Fantasy-Metaverse will be like the unleashing of an opium super-epidemic.”
  • Sam Adams said anonymity applied through XR will establish far more settings in which people trust in transactions with unknown entities, leaving behind many norms of reputation and branding and allowing parties of “bad reputation (e.g., narco syndicates, mafia, terrorists) to easily conduct ‘legitimate’ business which income supports their antisocial agendas without the transactions being tarred with their true purpose.”
  • Alexander B. Howard said he expects people to interact with augmented-reality layers in any given physical location, viewing the annotations and glyphs others have left, with background systems pulling up information about the people, places and objects. He also warned that it is possible that a “metaverse could empower authoritarians to track, control and coerce billions of humans in silicon prisons ringed by invisible barbed wire, governed by opaque algorithmic regulation and vast artificial intelligences.”
  • Gina Neff called for a redrafting of fundamental social contracts about trust and democracy, noting that powerful narratives in the metaverse will combine new ways of experiencing social connection with new forms of  “trustless trust” from the hundreds of little contracts and exchanges people are asked to enter into every day.
  • Jaak Tepandi predicted that new species may evolve out of the integration of humans and artificial systems, saying “examples of important components in the development of such a species include genetic engineering (including CRISPR), artificial intelligence, cryptocurrency, metaverse and others.”
  • Warren Yoder encouraged that humanity scrutinize its overall transition, writing: “Postmodernity interrogated modern power and knowledge. It was useful, back then. Now meta-modernity recognizes the existence of multiple modes of the real and prompts one’s imagination to take bits and pieces from useful practices wherever we find them.”

In the next section, we highlight the remarks of a diverse set of experts who gave some of the most wide-ranging or incisive responses to our request for them to describe what XR and the metaverse might look like by 2040. Following it, we offer a number of longer and more discursive essays written by participants. And that is followed with additional sections covering respondents’ comments organized under the sets of themes set out in the tables above. The remarks made by the respondents to this canvassing reflect their personal positions and are not the positions of their employers. The descriptions of their leadership roles help identify their background and the locus of their expertise. Some responses are lightly edited for style and readability.

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Access to HIV care varies across NC jails, study finds

By Elizabeth Thompson

People with HIV have a high rate of ending up behind bars, but even though the diagnosis is common among people in county jails, it’s hard to know the kind of care these patients receive while they’re detained due to a lack of research.

A recent study from researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill attempted to glimpse through the curtain at what HIV treatment looks like for people living with HIV who cycled through 21 out of the state’s 95 jails.

The researchers interviewed 23 people, who reported more than 300 jail incarcerations across North Carolina in the time since they had been diagnosed with HIV.

What they found is indicative of medical care across jails in the state: that care varies depending on the jail.

North Carolina’s state prison system reports to Department of Public Safety leadership in Raleigh, so there’s some level of standardization across facilities. 

But even though jails are required under state law to “be operated so as to protect the health and welfare of prisoners and provide for their humane treatment,” they are run by individual sheriffs and funded by county budgets, so both standards and quality of care may differ from county to county. 

The disparities in treatment across jails are not unexpected; other forms of treatment also vary from county to county. For example, North Carolina Health News has previously written about the uneven distribution of medication-assisted treatment (MAT) in jails for people with substance use disorder.

Access to HIV medication

As many as one in seven people with HIV pass through the justice system each year, a function of the socioeconomic and racial disparities characteristic of the spread of HIV in the country today.

Incarcerated people are more likely to be poor, more likely to have a substance use disorder or mental illness, and to have less access to health care, circumstances shared by many of the people currently at the highest risk for acquiring HIV.

Most research on HIV in carceral settings, however, has been in prison settings, so it’s hard to know what kind of treatment they’re getting — especially in county jails.

While there is no effective cure for HIV, people living with HIV can take antiretroviral medications which reduce a person with HIV’s viral load and can help transmission of the disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“These medications help keep people with HIV healthy and they prevent the sexual transmission of the virus to others,” said David Rosen, one of the researchers who contributed to the study. “So there is both an individual benefit and a public health benefit to ensuring that people with HIV have access to these medications.”

Most of the study’s recipients were able to access medication while in jail, but some participants reported that there were periods during their incarceration where they did not get their medication. The delays could have to do with anything from administrative delays to jails declining to provide medication because they didn’t want to foot the bill.

“There are a variety of barriers for HIV treatment in jail,” Rosen said, “Stigma, low levels of health care and custody staffing and resources, and policies that delay treatment.” 

Since individual counties often have to foot the bills for medical expenses, for some small counties, every penny counts.

About half of jail stays are two days, Rosen said, and “there seems to be little biologic consequence to missing a day or two and then restarting [HIV medication].”

However, Rosen said due to the large number of people with HIV who do become incarcerated, society misses a chance to help people with HIV by not providing adequate treatment.

Dual stigma

There are non-medical barriers to accessing HIV treatment as well. People with HIV who have been incarcerated report handling two kinds of stigma — for being incarcerated and for having HIV.

Most participants in the study said they kept their HIV status private from both jail staff and other incarcerated people for fear of being treated differently. Then, when they had returned to the community, some participants explained that they were treated differently by their doctors on the outside for ending up in jail.

“Stigma associated with incarceration is an important health care issue and one that is deserving of a lot more attention,” Rosen said.

There are also “collateral consequences” to incarceration that can impact access to health care resources as well, Rosen said. It is difficult for formerly incarcerated people to find employment and housing, even when they have reentered society.

Policies such as Medicaid suspension for people incarcerated in local jails doesn’t help either. When a person is incarcerated in jail, their Medicaid must be suspended under state law. However, it could take more than a month to get back onto the program, advocates previously told North Carolina Health News.

Improving care

As the North Carolina General Assembly continues to hold hearings on expanding Medicaid in the state, advocates have argued that Medicaid expansion could be vital to the health of formerly incarcerated people.

Rosen argued that Medicaid should be used to pay for incarcerated people’s health.

He also notes that many formerly incarcerated people are not eligible for insurance, even though incarcerated people tend to be sicker than the general population, with higher rates of diseases such as HIV, diabetes or hepatitis C.

Rosen wants to expand the conversation about health in jails outside of a legal obligation as well as alternatives to incarceration and getting people the help they need with community-based care. 

“Jail health care seems to be primarily designed to provide just enough services to protect the jails against liability,” Rosen said. “Rescinding the inmate [Medicaid] exclusion policy could be an important step in changing that paradigm and providing more robust services.”

 

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Letters to the editor (6/29/22)

The views and opinions expressed in our letters section are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Hudson Valley One. You can submit a letter to the editor here.


Dropping the bollard

What happened?

I thought that bollards are installed to prevent a vehicle from causing personal injury or physical damage to property. Why didn’t the bollardin front of Sunflower do that?

Maybe the architect will have the answer.

Howard Harris
Woodstock

America’s gun culture

As Quakers, we are opposed to all forms of violence. Every time there is a mass shooting, most agree that something should be done. We are saddened that nothing seems to change.

Mass murder is extremely odious, causing pain and suffering for many. There were 693 mass shootings in our country in 2021. So far this year we are on pace to surpass last year’s figures. Our rate of gun violence is nearly four times greater than the next country on the list. In countries where guns are not as readily available, the amount of violent deaths is greatly decreased.

The Religious Society of Friends in New Paltz supports the following proposals:

1) Ban the manufacture, sale and ownership of AR-15-style assault weapons. The only purpose of such weapons is to kill a lot of people quickly. What possible need does anyone in our community have for such a weapon?

2) Extensive background checks as well as a system of reporting people who might be a threat. In every one of these incidents there were warning signs before the deranged person went on their rampage. Why are obvious waring signs not acted on to prevent the killings?

It is shocking that there are more guns in America than people. If guns were not so accessible there would be a lot fewer murders fueled by the heat of passion. It is reported that 90percent of Americans want safer gun laws. Congress must act on this rather than doing the NRA’s bidding.

We live in a country where mass murders and drive-by shootings are the norm. More guns are being sold now than ever before. We, as Quakers and community members, are committed to standing up to the NRA and changing America’s gun culture. A peaceful world is a deep value we seek in our everyday lives.

John Rosett
Clerk for the Peace, Justice and Prison committee of the New Paltz Religious Society of Friends

Democracy in action

It isn’t always easy to believe in the power of government to reflect the will of citizens, but I suddenly have some faith in democracy. Here in the Town of Hurley, my family and our neighbors have asked over and over for a solution to a local problem, and our new Town Board actually listened and took action. We live near a patch of state land that has been more and more abused as a de facto shooting gallery. All of us neighbors, aged 3 to 95, have been tearing our hair out at the constant noise pollution and the terrible state of the trees and land. Hurley has a new government now, and instead of ignoring us as previous administrations did, this one took us seriously and helped us solve the problem. So on behalf of ourselves and our neighbors, a huge thank you, especially to Melinda McKnight, Peter Humphries, and Gregory Simpson, for helping us see democracy in action. After 20 years of lackluster and even damaging Town politics, we are finally on the right track!

Gretchen Primack
Ulster

Survival as a nation

What is being talked about the most? School shootings by angry young men. Why is this? Most complex questions are like peeling an onion.

What is the most talked about controversy? Abortion. With the new technology, the beginning of life at conception can be documented and every stage thereafter. What is abortion? The taking of a life.

What is the most talked about? Huge marches by both men and women, for the right to an abortion, (or limited or no right to abortion because of a possible decision by the Supreme Court.) The names and addresses of Supreme Court justices have been made public, and people are encouraged to intimidate and threaten them. As senator Chuck Schumer said, “They have unleashed a whirlwind.” Indeed, Schumer unleashed a whirlwind when judge Brett Cavanaugh and his family could have been killed. Is that what we do every time we disagree?

With stadiums full of aborted babies, what would a rally for life look like? What is genocide? The targeting for death of a specific group of people — usually to do with race, ethnicity, usually different ages.

Doesn’t that apply here? The common element is age — under nine months. Isn’t abortion genocide? (Sadly, there are circumstances when the option of abortion needs to be available; thankfully, that should be rare). If we don’t respect and protect the lives of our most innocent and defenseless, why should any life be considered sacred?

Peeling the onion more; why is only one person involved in an abortion? The Me Too movement was very short-lived. It progressed to include men, as in “It’s all about me” — one person involved in abortion — and all of life.

I’m angry — shoot, push down the stairs in front of a subway train or kill with my car; I want something — hurt or kill; I dislike a particular group of people (ex. Asians and Jews) kill; any group who opposes (ex. Police) kill. It’s not necessarily guns.

Of course, there are many more layers: no father figure, poverty, loss of old fashioned” values. etc. etc. We are indeed living in a whirlwind, and our own generated end times? Why do young men kill schoolchildren? This is the world we have given them. Will we survive as a nation?

Martha Pearson
Kingston

Tip of te racist iceberg

John N. Butz’s response to my letter regarding Black Lives Matter ends with an assumption so personally insulting and so revealingly racist that I expect an apology in the next edition. With astonishment and anger, I read the following: “There is no doubt in my mind that Alan’s son is getting the education, empathy and support he deserves from Alan, something Alan’s son never got from his absentee biological father from an apparent non-nuclear family.”

First of all, my son is not the progeny of some stereotypically imagined “absentee” black father, he is my biological son. Apparently, Mr. Butz (and unlike him, I will refer to him respectfully, even if his response has shown him undeserving) could not conceive of an interracial marriage, or why the product of such a marriage might decide to identify as “black.” (Spoiler alert: It’s because of people like him.) But that’s only the tip of the racist iceberg.

Assuming, for the moment, that there actually had been another, black father in existence, on what basis does Mr. Butz assume that, one, he must be “absentee,” two, the son must “apparently” be out of wedlock, and, three, that this black man didn’t provide the “education, empathy and support” that I, a white father, has?

In one paragraph, I’ve learned everything I ever and never needed to know about Mr. Butz. And I am thoroughly disgusted.

Alan M. Weber
Woodstock

Road kill

Country squirrels wish they were city squirrels.

Ze’ev Willy Neumann
Saugerties

Plaudit for Platt

Thank you, Frances, for the beautiful article you wrote about the Bridge Music Dance Project. I appreciate it very much.

Joseph Bertolozzi
Composer, Bridge Music

Trump’s just a con man

The Big Lie was also the big ripoff. To all the red-hat set: Well, duh? Trump has so far raised $250 million after the 2020 national election for a bogus Election Defense Fund that didn’t exist. It was always about the grift. It is sad that his supporters fall for his scams. He has absolutely nothing in common with them except delusions.

Trump didn’t care about America, and then he raised all this money to Stop the Steal, and went on to steal the money.

Color me shocked (sarcasm). No way would he try to scam people out of their money! I’m shocked! Shocked, I say! After all, he had a university…well, no… But a charity…well, no.

There’s one born every minute.” I’m struck by the fact that the unlucky, unwell, unskilled, unwise make up so much of the Republican base these days. I understand the wealthy interests are served by Trumpian loyalty, but these other folks? Just easily duped. Sad.

He is a con man plain and simple, and if his supporters don’t know this by now, then they get what they deserved. Well, he himself admitted his followers aren’t that bright. Huckster Trump continues to shuck their wallets. He knows exactly what he’s doing. That is why he is so horrible.

Interesting that these people don’t remember him saying in 2015 that they were going to be winning so much,and they were going to have so much money that they were going to cry to him to stop winning so much they can’t take it. And more money than they were going to know what to do with it all! So, for him to be asking for money, just very interesting! What goes through their reasoning, I wonder!

Wow, people, what are you thinking? Trump really has brainwashed many, and the bad thing about it is they are still giving him their money.

Do you care that you’re constantly being lied to? Good grief! Burying your heads in the sand and using ear plugs will only hinder any attempts to hear the truth. The Trump madness must be a thrill for them. A bit of brightness in their flat, dull lives. It’s not that they can’t change their minds — they don’t want to give up the rush.

Bill Clinton was recently heard saying: “Call me crazy, But I think sedition, treason, insurrection and certainly money theft for a bogus defense fund should be investigated as thoroughly as what I did to get impeached.”

I say, “On one hand we have lying about a blowjob, on the other hand we have death, madness, traitorous conduct, mind-numbing stupidity, stealing money from one’s own constituency, and a fake tan. I’ll take the first one any day.”

Neil Jarmel
West Hurley

With gratitude

ArsChoralis, a Woodstock-based chorus founded in 1965, wishes to thank Woodstock’s Town clerk Jackie Earley, town supervisor Bill McKenna, and their wonderful staff for allowing us to perform this past weekend at the beautiful Comeau property, a pastoral setting near the center of town. They are a model of small-town governance, and ArsChoralis is grateful to have their support.

Our audience braved chilly temperatures and winds on Saturday to enjoy our performance, and on Sunday they came out in force to celebrate the approach of the summer solstice, Juneteenth, and Father’s Day, What a beautiful and meaningful way to celebrate together through the power of music!

We have been bringing the people of the Hudson Valley together through choral music for over 50 years. and we collaborate frequently with local arts, religious, cultural, and municipal organizations who make our musical outreach possible. We couldn’t have created such a magical weekend of music and community without the support of the Town of Woodstock, our audience, and our talented musicians. Thank you for helping us make such beautiful music.

Tony Coretto
President, ArsChoralis Board of Directors

Beth Bliscelebration

Newsman M. Pacut has started the first annual Memorial Day celebration of’ Beth A Blis Peace Day on May 30, 2022. Please celebrate every year to promote world peace. Thank you, Michael Pacut, Woodstock NY and Northampton MA Newsman.

Michael F. Pacut
Northampton, MA

Truth through chemistry

I’ve taken too much LSD. That’s why my letters to the editor sound like this.

Sparrow
Phoenicia

Violations of due process

On 4/15/19, I filed an Article 78 petition with the State Supreme Court in Albany (lower court) for a judicial review of a New York Public Service Commission (“PSC”) 12/14/18 order, denying an analog meter opt-out choice, even for medical reasons. I was trying to show the lower court that the peer-reviewed literature does not support the claims made by the PSC and Central Hudson Corporation (CenHud) colluding with each other to assert there are no adverse health effects from RF/EMF pulses from smart meters. The PSC, in tandem with CenHud, claimed more than 100 scientific peer-reviewed studies support their official determinations, and that they had done an exhaustive review of the studies. They adamantly refused to identify any of them throughout three collateral proceedings. The lower court, abusing its discretion, accepted those unidentified 100-plus studies as proof of the PSC claims of the biological safety of smart meters. Alternatively, with the same judge I submitted an active link, aka “hyperlink, that accessed a database of 2000 scientific peer-reviewed studies proving the PSC claim is capricious, The lower court, suasponte (of its own accord and not by a motion of the PSC), struck the hyperlink from my petition because they said the actual documents (studies) had not been filed on the administrative record even though the hyperlink was.

So when the PSC submits as proof, 100-plus studies that have not been filed on the administrative record, nor been identified, or even shown to exist, the lower court does not act sua sponte and strike the PSC’s reference to the unidentified studies, while my 2000 peer-reviewed studies that have been shown to exist, and even where they are located, is stricken from the proceedings.

This is a classic violation of due process, of which fundamental fairness is a prerequisite. The lower court demonstrated clear bias by not adhering to equal treatment of the parties, nor following its own dictum regarding filing actual documents on the administrative record that are to be used as evidence.

Additionally the PSC, having to respond to my Freedom of Information Law (“FOIL”) requests, admitted they have no records of ever having reviewed any scientific peer-reviewed studies all the way back to 2005, when smart meters were first approved in the state.

What this all means is the PSC fabricated the existence and review of the fictitious 100-plus studies, and inserted that myth into an official state government document, the 12/14/18 PSC order. Consequently the PSC has been committing fraud in a court of law, aided and abetted by CenHud, while the well-being of the public’s health is being grossly neglected.

This case (#533446) is now before the Third Department appellate division in Albany, having five judges reviewing the lower court’s spurious decision (https://iapps.courts.state.ny.us/nyscef/Login). All the party’s papers have been filed, including an amicusbrief. We will get to see in the coming weeks if the higher court has the integrity the lower court is obviously lacking.

Steve Romine
Woodstock

Presumption of innocence?

Joshua Shulte is being held in New York City’s Metropolitan Correctional Facility. After four weeks of testimony and six days of jury deliberation, Shulte was found guilty of contempt of court and making false statements, minor charges for which federal sentencing guidelines call for imprisonment of zerotosix months.

The jury deadlocked on all other counts, and the judge declared a mistrial. Shulte is awaiting retrial. He has been incarcerated since October 2018.

In a lawsuit filed by Shulte’s attorneys against the Bureau of Prisons, Shulte is “locked in a cage in a concrete box the size of a parking space with purposely obstructed views of outside, the cages are filthy and infested with rodents, rodent droppings, cockroaches and mold. There is no heating or air conditioning in the cages, access to books and legal material, medical care, and dental care.

“All attorney-client privilege is also void as the prison confiscates, opens, and reads all legal mail.No matter what crime an individual is alleged to have committed, the United States Constitution grants all a presumption of innocence. Indeed, no American wants to be treated like a caged animal if accused of a crime — dependent, deserted, dehumanized, demoralized and detained.” https://consortiumnews.com/2022/06/15/john-kiriakou-a-whistleblowers-agony/

Shulte is a former C.I.A. hacker whose job was to break into other countries’ cyber-security systems. The charges of which he is accused: releasing the equivalent of two billion pages of documents containing techniques used by the C.I.A. to compromise wifi networks, hack into Skype, hack into TVs and car guidance systems, and mask hacking by the C.I.A disguised as other nations. Collectively known as Vault 7, the programs were published by WikiLeaks beginning in March 2017.

Last week Julian Assange, WikiLeaks’ Australian publisher, was cleared for extradition to the United States by the United Kingdom to stand trial for exposing the war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq — including the murder of civilians and two Reuters journalists – by the George W. Bush administration. On appeal from the U.S., the U.K.’s Home Secretary overturned a magistrate court’s decision not to extradite Assange based on Assange’s health and the conditions of U.S. solitary confinement, conditions illustrated by the case of Joshua Shulte.

As journalist Caitlin Johnstone writes: “Washington, London and Canberra are colluding to imprison a journalist for telling the truth….By standing his ground and fighting them, Assange has also exposed the lie that the so-called free democracies of the Western world support the free press and defend human rights.” https://caitlinjohnstone.com/2022/06/18/assange-is-doing-his-most-important-work-yet/

Among others, the U.S. is sanctioning Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Venezuela, Syria and Russia for their human-rights abuses. While imposing inhuman conditions on those presumed innocent by the Constitution, and extraditing foreign journalists for exposing U.S. war crimes, just who is the abuser of human rights?

Christopher Spatz
Rosendale

Buying a contaminated site?

Are you aware that environmentally conscious Woodstock, NY is about to purchase a contaminated site? And they expect the taxpayers to foot the bill to clean it up? How come the seller isn’t responsible for the expense?

We are citizens of Woodstock, and we are very concerned that our town is in the process of purchasing a historically toxic industrial site in a private sale from a corporation which has no liability to clean up the property. A purchase agreement was signed that states, “This statement releases the seller from any and all future environmental liabilities emerging from this historically toxic property and makes remediation of any such liabilities the responsibility of the buyer.”

We do not believe there has been sufficient due diligence performed by anyone in our town to have the taxpayers take on this potential liability.

Why weren’t the taxpayers informed about this clause in the purchase agreement? Why was it hidden from the public?

This purchase will be funded by a municipal bond issued by the Town of Woodstock and paid for by Woodstock taxpayers. If you believe the taxpayers should not be held responsible for Woodstock’s gross negligence, please send us an email at: thewoodstockcoalition@gmail.com.

Daniel Rubenstein
The Woodstock Coalition
Woodstock

Accept what we think

If Neil Jarmel (“Trump’s lies…”) were really concerned about discovering the truth of the events of January 6, he would have written at least one letter protesting speaker Mancy Pelosi’s dismissal of minority leader Kevin McCarthy’s picks, Jim Jordan and Jim Banks, to serve on the January 6 Select Committee. This unprecedented action certainly should have caused a fair-minded truth seeker (as Neil suggests he is) to raise the question “What’s up with that?” (But I digress.)

MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough recently complained that president Joe Biden can’t catch a break these days because not only have his policy decisions resulted in record-breaking inflation, the border being overrun, supply shortages, and the vast majority of Americans polling that the country is moving in the wrong direction. The press is also criticizing POTUS Joe for non-policy issues. These include the revelation that his staff writes explicit, large-print, step-by-step directions for the commander in chief to follow regarding what to do when addressing the public or media, and every Biden fall, untruth and gaffe. (It’s kind of like the way Joe and Mika treated Donald Trump every day on his show for four years.)

With this in mind, the persistent left-leaning political bias of Scarborough and most of the mainstream media helps to foment and solidify division within America. This bias is most obvious when media and news outlets present and defend only stories and narratives that support political leaders and views they hold dear.

A recent example of this was the lack of coverage of the assassination attempt on justice Brett Kavanaugh: Mentioned on page 20 of The New York Times, this story was virtually ignored by most of the media.

This bias was also on full display when the recent attacks against 40 or so pregnancy support centers, in response to a leaked Supreme Court draft that indicated Roe vs. Wade was to be overturned, was hardly mentioned by the pro-choice-supporting mainstream media.

Despite the unfairness of this bias, having read most of Neil Jarmel’s letters, I’m convinced that he believes our politically divided nation will only achieve unity when those with conservative Republican opinions take full responsibility for any disunity and embrace Neil’s progressiveliberal sense of reality.

This includes the view that progressive biases are always completely justified and any biases of the conservative press are indefensible because orange man’s and Republican positions on the issues are evil. The following parody of the Christian anthem “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me,” titled “There will be peace on earth if you see it my way!” reflects the aforementioned Jarmel’s beliefs. It works best if the reader imagines it being sung with conviction by Nancy Pelosi, Liz Cheney, Adam Kinzinger and Adam Schiff to minority leader Kevin McCarthy, Jim Jordan and Jim Banks under the careful supervision of HV1’s very own “Yay for my side” Feedback propaganda writer Mr. Neil (orange man and Republicans are bad) Jarmel.

Let there be peace on earth

and let it begin with you

to accept what we think

is something you all must do

(bridge)

With Joe as our POTUS

brothers we can be

let’s all cheer our great POTUS

in perfect harmony

(stanza)

Let’s all give Joe some love

let this be our goal for sure

If we support his plans

for hatred we’ll find a cure

(This closing stanza should be repeated by incredulous readers

of any political perspective until they believe its message)

Just take this moment

and sing this moment

the new words of this song

“There will be peace on earth

once you admit you’re wrong”

George Civile
Gardiner

They incur no risk

“Be wary of the man who urges an action in which he himself incurs no risk.”

Upon reading this statement (4 B.C.-65 A.D.) by Lucius Annaeus Seneca, I believe it remains accurate today in our government. Seneca was a stoic philosopher who thought people could learn to live their best lives by maximizing positive emotions, reducing negative emotions, and assisting individuals in honing their character virtues.

I quote the article “Veterans in 117th Congress, by the Numbers,” written by Leo Shane III on December 28, 2020, in the Military Times. He refers to how many politicians had enlisted in the military, “The lowest since at least the start of World War II. Information on congressional members with veteran experience before then is incomplete, making comparisons difficult. However, the number could grow in coming years. Of the 79 lawmakers elected to the 117th Congress who are aged 45 or younger, 21 (about 27 percent) served in the military.”

The number of politicians with no military or battlefield experience is the majority. Which, as Seneca said, leaves life-and-death decisions made by politicians who will incur no risk and have historically incurred no risk of going to war.

When your life may be at risk from decisions you have made, it provides you with the role reversal needed to understand those others whose lives you chose to put at risk. Without this emotional insight, we become morally neutered by wealth and power, which has overtly manifested in the world’s major countries today. Politicians use the absence of the personal human perspective of those we send into harm’s way to get the public to worry about the Amazon delivery guy being late instead of the decisions politicians make about human life.

The topic of abortion is the next place where we might use Seneca’s point of view. Those in the Supreme Court who turned over Roe verse Wade are way beyond having childbearing years, and most are antiquarians. The majority of the decisions they do make in court will never affect their own lives. In Seneca’s words, they incur no risk from the laws they change and create.

We now have a form of government where the politicians who make and pass the laws are more immune to the consequences of breaking laws than any other group. What has become profoundly evident daily in our news is politicians’ flurry of endless lies and crimes, with the justice system having no ability to create consequences for those politicians breaking the law.

The laws have become convoluted, with many loopholes and abstract ways to be interpreted, that if you can afford an Ivy-League attorney who went to school with the judges and politicians, you will incur no risk.

When it comes time to vote again, consider if your vote decision will incur a risk to your own life and those you love.

Larry Winters
New Paltz

Central Hudson’s monopoly

It is about time that New York State looked seriously at taking over the electric utilities. This is probably the only way to end the current monopoly control and inflationary price escalations of Central Hudson that are impoverishing so many lower-income customers, both residential and businesses. The Public Service Commission has been ineffectual in applying controls to local utility pricing, citing their inability to control the price of fuels.

At the core of the current problem is the fact that energy markets in New York were deregulated in 1998. On the surface, deregulation seemed like a great idea and a way to break up big utilities like Con Edison. But, in reality, the move generated a bundle of new regional monopolies and gave them the right to set prices.

This equates to something like deregulating home mortgages by allowing them all to be variable-rate programs. This might make you ask, why not demand and invite greater competition? Primarily because, as long as prices are free to rise with virtually no limits, greater private competition alone will not likely lift price pressure.

One solution that sprang up was the ESCo. Third-party companies — today called Energy Supply Companies (or ESCos) – are now allowed to enter the marketplace and handle energy supply, some in the guise of alternative energy suppliers. That brings us to today, more or less. Prices are way up with no logical explanation and little political impact seen, just expressions of sympathy … you know, thoughts and prayers.’ There are, for now, smal=scale concepts for escaping from utility hell, including: going off grid by owning your own solar or wind power and storage batteries, organizing one town at a time into an energy coop, or pulling up stakes and moving to a place or country where utility bills are more affordable. Finally, support New York State legislative efforts to impose anti-monopolistic laws and oversight. That is called antitrust, and it used to be practiced on a national level.

But, what about getting rid of private utility companies altogether? More than 2000 communities – in 49 states and 5 U.S. territories – have a public power utility. As a whole, public power utilities offer lower rates than other types of electric utilities. American Public Powerm a non-profit organization, is a trove of information on how this works and where it supplies electricity to over 49 million Americans. See https://www.publicpower.org/public-power. Public power utilities are community-owned, not-for-profit electric utilities that safely provide reliable, low-cost electricity while protecting the environment. Homes and businesses in across the U.S. — large cities like Austin, Nashville, Los Angeles and Seattle, as well as small towns and the Navajo nation — get electricity from a public power utility. Collectively, these utilities serve one in seven electricity customers across the U.S. and operate in 49 states — all except Hawaii — and the territories of American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Like the public option’ for the Affordable Care Act, which was cut out of the original bill, public utility alternatives may not solve all the issues or reign in all price escalations, but would go far in providing a viable alternative to monopolistic practices that currently are running rampant in New York State and crushing lower-income Hudson Valley residents.

Doug Sheer
Woodstock

More complicated than that

Funny thing about the Supreme Court: When you agree with them, they’re “upholding the Constitution.” When you disagree they’re “legislating from the bench.”

Several recent letters have asserted that abortion is murder. Now that Roe is no longer in effect, I have a few questions for the writers.

The U.S. Constitution makes this guarantee: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” There are many non-Christians for whom abortion is a necessary step if the mother’s life is at risk. How do you reconcile the First Amendment with laws prohibiting others from exercising their religious rights?

If a woman’s life is threatened by an armed assailant, she has the right to defend herself with deadly force, i.e., shoot first. If her unborn child is a threat to her life, does she not have the same right to self-preservation, even if she wanted the child?

Who decides if her life is at risk during a pregnancy? You? Me? Samuel Alito? Shouldn’t that decision be made in private between a woman and her physician? Doesn’t HIPAA apply here?

If abortion is murder, what should the punishment be? Since she would have to make an appointment to have one, a woman would be guilty of premeditated murder. In Texas, that’s a capital offense. Do you advocate executing a woman who has an abortion? In New York, premeditation carries a sentence of life in prison without parole. Should women be incarcerated for life if they have an abortion?

Where do we draw the line? As Mr. Civile reminded us a couple of weeks ago, “If anyone takes a human life, that person’s life will also be taken by human hands.” (Genesis 9:6). A little later in the pentatuch, though, we are told that if a woman is unfaithful to her husband and gets pregnant, a priest can cause her to miscarry with a bitter potion (Numbers 5:16-22). Sounds like an induced abortion, doesn’t it? Of course, because of point the above, we really shouldn’t care what the bible says about it because we are not living in a theocracy (yet).

According to a study published by the Guttmacher Institute, 37:3 (2005), about one in seven abortions occur because a man – boyfriend, husband, father – pressures a woman into it. Do we execute the man, too, or just the woman?

In the U.S., only about 20,000 babies are adopted each year from women who have voluntarily relinquished them. If 800,000 more unwanted children are born in the U.S. every year, can we agree that there should be a system in place to care for them? Of those who aren’t adopted, should state or federal funds (higher taxes) provide for their well-being until they turn eighteen?

Many Christians would like to frame this issue in black and white, but I think it’s more complicated than that, and is still a matter of bodily autonomy, medical privacy, and religious freedom.

Stephen Massardo
Saugerties

Bogus climate savers

I have now seen two Teslas in New Paltz that are not visitors. Top that, Saugerties! We’re in with the in crowd, we know what the in crowd knows! (all love to Moma Cass!)

We have some solar panels up in New Paltz, too. Given the billions spent by the feds inducing us to buy EVs and solar panels, I conclude that most of my fellow citizens either still find these bogus climate savers too expensive, or doubt they will last very long.

I want nothing to do with Made in China. Hear me roar, Walmart and Target! (except Sam’s smoked salmon).

Solar panels are all made in China. China is the pollution capital of the Earth; they make almost all their electricity the old-fashioned way: coal. They use electricity from coal power to make solar panels!

Germany, currently almost an ally, killed its nukes after Fukushima (Japan) got wrecked by a tsunami and is now back to burning coal for electricity. Their massive investment in windmills cannot make even a tiny fraction of their electric needs. It’s either that or help Vlad kill all the men and many of the women and children in Ukraine by buying his oil and clean natural gas.

Shame on India for picking up the slack! Shame on Biden for signing off on the Russian gas pipeline called Nordstromwhile killing our Keystone XL pipeline.

Paul Nathe
New Paltz

Commentary on life: Save the fireflies

Did you hear the thunder as millions of suffragettes turned over in their graves?

The best, the very best Supreme has always been diva Diana Ross.

Myrna Hilton
Ulster Park

Elting Memorial Library parking lot

I am writing, as a senior and longtime patron and supporter of the Elting Memorial Library and New Paltz community, to alert your readers to a very confusing situation regarding parking in the Library parking lot. Please beware and park at your own risk!

On the morning of May 12, ’22, I parked at the Library parking lot at 8:45 a.m. after meditation on Huguenot Street from 8 to 8:30 a.m., followed by coffee with fellow meditators at The Bakery, with the intention of returning a CD thereafter. To my astonishment on returning to the car park at approximately 9:45 a.m., my car was not there! It had been towed!

There is a sign in the parking lot stating, “No Overnight Parking,” and that violators will be towed by Tow-Rific. I had not parked overnight. I went to Tow-Rific to collect my car. I was told that the Library director had called the company to request the towing. Not only was I required to pay a fine of $270 ($250 plus $20 tax), but the fine could only be paid in cash, thus incurring the additional time and expense of a two-way cab fare.

The following day, I immediately wrote a careful, thoughtful letter to the Library director, with a copy to the president of the Board, and hand-delivered them to the Library, explaining what had happened, thinking surely, this is a simple misunderstanding or an oversight on their behalf, and expecting to be reimbursed for my towing expense. The parking regulations on the Library’s website clearly stated: “After one written warning, the vehicle in violation will be towed at the owner’s expense.” I had not parked overnight, nor had I been given any prior warning.

I have since met with the Library director once and the president of the Board twice. There have been numerous e-mails back and forth as I sought clarification. I was informed the consensus of the Board was that I should not be reimbursed (with no reason given). I have discovered layers of ambiguity surrounding the Library’s parking policies and signage, even after the Library consulted their lawyer. And now, the “After one written warning…” regulation has since been removed from the Library website!

I am still extremely perplexed and disappointed in how this issue has been handled. I have also offered creative community-friendly ways of using the parking lot as an asset, especially when the Library is not open, and this has been positively acknowledged. However, it seems to me the Library has been in violation of its own parking policy at the time, yet I am paying the price!

Six weeks later, I am still hopeful that the Library will live up to its mission statement “to be the welcoming heart of our community, where all can discover, create and connect” and will reimburse my inappropriately created towing fee.

Puja A. J. Thomson
New Paltz

No Hypocrisy

I’m writing to respond to my friend Glenn Gidaly’s letter in HV1’s June 15 edition, in which he charges the public with hypocrisy. Glenn thought it hypocritical that the proposed construction of a single-family residence in the SP2 (Special Protection) zone of the Shawangunk Ridge was challenged, while a separate proposal for an eight-car parking lot on the SP1 portion of land owned by the Gunks Climbing Coalition was not. That challenge was mounted primarily by the Gardiner Environmental Conservation Commission.

The ECC has no formal input in such matters until a referral is received from the Planning Board. The Climbing Coalition referral was received a week after Glenn’s letter, and the ECC is currently formulating our position on the matter. For now, however, suffice it to say that equating a homesite in SP2 to an eight-car parking lot in the lower-elevation SP1 is an “apples-to-oranges” comparison for numerous reasons.

Further, it’s not the number of houses or the number of acres that is at issue, as Glenn suggests; rather, it is the precedent established by the Planning Board’s reinterpretation of a Zoning Law provision, established in 2008, requiring that construction take place at the “lowest feasible elevation.”

I fear we will be seeing more rooftops punctuating the scenic view halfway up the Ridge. Less perceptible will be the damage to the Ridge’s biodiversity, which – among other fundamental benefits – helps to mitigate the adverse effects of climate change in our region. According to a recent webinar sponsored by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, a single-family home constructed in unfragmented forest negatively impacts plant and wildlife habitat in the surrounding 30 acres(https://cornell.app.box.com/s/zpfkwtrokw0n0jam2ziwr15st22j4tda).

Lastly, the ECC is concerned about the Planning Board allowing an applicant to write his/her own Conservation Analysis, rather than requiring that it be authored by an objective third party with no vested personal interest, as would be standard business practice. Measures should be taken to ensure objectivity of these analyses.

I do appreciate Glenn’s concerns and the contribution he has made in stimulating public dialogue.

Michael Hartner
Chair, Environmental Conservation Commission
Gardiner

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As Roe v. Wade is overturned, readers respond

Inquirer readers have a lot to say about the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Now that Roe v. Wade has been overturned and most abortions will be banned, the “pro-life” movement needs to push for the rest of the pro-life agenda. I would expect a flood of new laws promoting pre- and post-natal care. Maternity and paternity leave would be next. Kids get sick, so sick leave (preferably paid sick leave) needs to be provided. Do we want the new mothers to work? Then we need a far better childcare system. If mothers are not to work but take care of their children, the welfare system needs to be enhanced. These additional babies (and all the rest of us) need a lifetime healthcare system. Not all babies will look like those in pro-life pictures. Of course, pro-lifers will be in favor of lifetime help for both the mentally and physically disabled. Will you adopt a mentally or physically disabled infant? How many children will you adopt? I hope the “pro-lifers” are in favor of tax increases. Clearly, there must be adequate funding for education, but there would also need more funding for the police, prisons, social workers, and drug addiction counselors. The pro-life movement would need to be open to halfway houses in their neighborhood. Where will pro-lifers stand on unemployment compensation? Then there is an adequately funded social security system. And finally, what are pro-lifers going to do about senior care?

I can support this kind of pro-life agenda. Anything less is just pro-birth. —Timothy Walsh, Ardmore

Many pro-life advocates claim the only question to consider about abortion is whether to take the life of a “pre-born” child.

Actually, the question is whether 100% of Americans must follow the religious beliefs of the 38% who find abortion morally wrong. Our Constitution states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” Therefore, the government cannot make all Americans follow the moral beliefs of a group of religious people.

I won’t debate the wide-ranging belief systems of different groups of Americans. There is great variety in who believes what, and why, in our pluralistic country. Jews may believe life begins at the first breath. Some Muslim scholars say abortions up to 120 days of fetal development are permitted. Though many Catholic and Protestant churches say life begins at conception, their congregants have differing opinions, with a majority in both saying abortions should be allowed in at least some cases. And three in 10 adults have no religious affiliation. But 52% of all Americans in a recent, post-Supreme Court leak Gallup poll find abortion morally acceptable, the highest ever recorded.

We are a secular, pluralistic country with people who believe a lot of different things. For those who believe abortion is morally wrong, please, don’t have one. But please don’t require me to follow your religious beliefs in our (currently) free America. —Kathleen O’Connell, LaMount, Pa

The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade is a direct contradiction to everything our country and the Constitution stand for. To wit: One of the leading themes in the Preamble of the Constitution, its sole philosophical premise, is “We the People.” One would think that Supreme Court decisions would therefore reflect the desires of the majority of citizens; polls show that maintaining Roe v. Wade is the preference of a wide majority of Americans.

The philosophy of “Originalism” with regard to the Constitution requires mental gymnastics to support a position holding that “if it isn’t in the Constitution it isn’t a guaranteed right of citizens.” While the document itself was the most enlightened governing treatise of all time — in the late 1700s — and had many noble premises, it does not and could not possibly have addressed so many important topics present in our 21st century lives. Further, while our founding fathers were the colonies’ leading thinkers behind the birth of our great democracy, they explicitly stated that “all men are created equal,” entirely omitting women as members of our fledgling country. Of note, many of them were slave owners.

Humankind’s knowledge has grown exponentially since the founding of our nation, and to rely so resolutely on an original document that was a great start, but in clear hindsight ignored the rights (or even the mere presence) of so many of its people, does a grave injustice. Women have been fighting for equal rights for over one century; overturning Roe v. Wade nullifies a critical element of their hard-earned progress. It is imperative that we restore the full rights our mothers, wives, and daughters have over the self-determination they absolutely deserve. —M. Cohen, Washington Crossing

It is quite notable that Justice Thomas has not included overturning the Loving decision in his list of Supreme Court decisions that he thinks should be reconsidered. All his suggestions relate to rights that have been protected by the assumption of privacy and have protected many groups of people against discrimination and interference with their private lives. The Loving decision, which protected interracial marriage, has made it possible for Thomas to be married to a white woman, so overturning it would be against his personal interest. This omission is yet another example of the hypocrisy of the current Court in its decisions to expand gun rights on the Federal level beyond what many states allow, while overturning the rights of women and giving more power to the states to regulate the bodies of women. These decisions also call into question whether the justices who signed the opinions have a consistent judicial philosophy regarding states’ rights. I think that we should believe Justice Thomas and expect future challenges to these established rights. —Barbara Schick, Merion Station

Why hasn’t there been one mention of men in all these state anti-abortion laws?

Why aren’t men being held accountable and responsible? Shouldn’t these laws command that the father is found and made to provide pre- and post-natal care and child support?

They should threaten the fathers with vasectomies since the legislators are criminalizing women for seeking healthcare that may include birth control or abortion. Then establish paternity and court-ordered support long before birth.

And why aren’t these pro-lifers concerned about the mother’s health? Why are they only concerned about the zygote? Since legislators evidently don’t care about people, they should be made to attend a class about sexual healthcare showing that an abortion might be necessary to save a person’s life. Like if someone has an ectopic pregnancy. Just like they’re making people seeking abortions view ultrasounds. That’s one of many reasons abortion should only be between a pregnant person and their doctor. Politicians should never be involved, as we are a democracy where individual freedoms are sacrosanct.

We have to stop Republicans from pushing their anti-abortion beliefs down our throats. If they don’t agree, then don’t have one. But why can’t others have them, since they believe otherwise?

Why are Republicans the only ones that have freedom of religion? How is that constitutional? Why don’t we have freedom of choice? Where are our individual freedoms? —Michael Miller Jr., Philadelphia

The Supreme Court’s ruling on abortion not only was decided wrongly, but the logic involved was also flawed. In citing the fact that nowhere in the Constitution is the right to abortion mentioned, it ignores the fact that cases have been decided where the topic was, likewise, not in the Constitution.

Three cases in point: The first is the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education ruling which overturned the Plessy decision regarding the doctrine of separate, but equal education. Nowhere in the Constitution is there a right to equal education, or, for that matter, any education at all. Yet the Court, citing the 14th amendment’s equal protection clause, overruled the precedent.

The second example is the original Roe decision. It protects the woman’s “liberty to choose” under the due process clause of the 14th amendment. No one dissented that there was nothing mentioned about abortion in the Constitution.

The last example relates to recent Court decisions regarding firearms. The second amendment gives a person the right to own a musket for the purpose of joining a militia in the common defense. Nowhere in the Constitution does it mention assault rifles or open carry.

The Court’s recent decision in Roe, therefore, is not based on the reading of the Constitution, but rather on the personal beliefs of some justices. Their logic is a smokescreen for their personal agendas and has no place in making policy. —Jeff Ettinger, Huntingdon Valley

As I suppose most common-sense people are, I am appalled at the Supreme Court’s withdrawal of the rights granted under Roe v Wade. I have yet to meet a person who woke up one morning and said, “Hey! I think I’ll go get an abortion today! [insert smiley face emoji here].” And since the right to own their own body is no longer the law of the land, I believe I have a simple, equitable solution to the problem of unwanted pregnancies: Every person presenting as male at birth (“male”) will be given a vasectomy upon reaching puberty. Any doctor knowing of fertile males and not referring them for sterilization will be subject to prosecution. Sperm can be frozen for future use, but should natural fertilization be preferred, the procedure can easily be reversed.

People presenting as female at birth (“female”) can then be free to engage in heterosexual activities without fear of getting pregnant. (Oh, and don’t worry about the prophylactic industry. We’ll still need to protect against STDs.) Once a female decides that it’s time for her to procreate — taking into consideration a myriad of factors that may be important to her such as marital status, income, age, etc. — she can either choose to use the sperm of her significant other (if any) or any available sperm at a sperm bank.

Think of it – no unwanted pregnancies, even from rape or incest. Every child is welcomed into a loving home. What an incredibly novel idea. And all we need to do is … snip snip. A simple outpatient procedure, much less invasive and dangerous than abortion.

We will, of course, have to start retroactively, and I hereby volunteer the male conservative justices to be first in line. —Lisa Pottiger, Media

In 2022, women now have fewer rights than their mothers did.

Three Supreme Court justices misled Congress on their views related to Roe v. Wade.

Another justice wrote the recent majority opinion advocating for the carrying of firearms and is married to a woman who was working at the highest levels to overturn the results of a legitimate presidential election.

A former president believed Italian satellites interfered with voting machines.

It is all a stunning and regrettable reality in today’s America. —Mary Kay Owen, Downingtown

There are hundreds of thousands of registered nurses, mostly retired, who worked in large city hospitals in the early days before Roe v. Wade. I saw young girls and women hemorrhaging in the Emergency Rooms, hanging on by a thread in the ICUs, and some eventually died from sepsis. Because of a poor decision, rape, or incest, they felt there was no way out of their pregnancy except the “back alley” abortion. Today we saw women’s healthcare going back 50+ years.

Please, my fellow senior nurses, speak up and tell everyone you know what you saw, pre-Roe v. Wade.

Sad for our future granddaughters. —Nancy Davidson Niemiec, West Chester

Now that the morality police has succeeded in imposing its will on the American public — religious freedom for whom, exactly? — we are ever closer to a theocratic state in which one religious perspective becomes the only legal one.

I am eager to hear of programs from these self-righteous purists which will actually help feed, house, and educate children who do not have the familial resources for care. I am equally eager to hear of strategies to assume medical care for mothers and children whose lives might be in jeopardy. This is me not holding my breath. We know their agenda was never about compassion. By lying (to congress) and by manipulating the makeup of the courts, a further erosion of contraceptive and LGBT rights is next. —James Davis, Conshohocken

The problem with Roe v. Wade is not that the decision was based on some non-existent right to privacy in the U.S. Constitution. I don’t care what Clarence Thomas says – there is an implicit, if not explicit, constitutional right to privacy. It’s in the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable governmental searches and seizures. It’s in the First Amendment’s right to free speech and its right to the free exercise of religion. Clearly, Clarence Thomas thinks there is a right to privacy when it comes to his wife’s email and text messages.

But those First and Fourth Amendment rights are not unlimited. The Fourth Amendment does not prohibit all governmental searches and seizures; only unreasonable ones. Everyone knows that, notwithstanding the First Amendment, you can’t shout “Fire!” in a crowded theater. And, as we learned in law school, your right to swing your arm ends at my nose. No, the problem with Roe v. Wade is that it was couched in terms of the viability of the fetus. It’s never a good idea to base a constitutional right on the existing state of science. Fetuses might not have been viable at 20 weeks in 1973, but that is probably not true today and certainly won’t be true tomorrow. There will be a day when “we” will be able to “grow” a child completely outside the womb. On that day, every fetus will be “viable.” Just like searches and seizures and free speech and arm swinging, the answer to the problem of abortion is one of balancing competing rights. I believe that a person’s right to control their own body outweighs the rights of their one-week-old fetus, but I also believe that an eight-month-old fetus’s rights outweigh those of its mother. Somewhere between one week and eight months, my scale of justice tips from one way to the other. The answer to the problem of abortion is to pick a date and stick with it. The date should be as early as possible taking into account the ever-increasing rights of the fetus, but certainly must give enough time for the person to find out that they are even pregnant and then provide enough time for them to make a sober, reasoned decision about whether to keep or terminate that pregnancy. Twenty weeks seems reasonable to me, but I’m open to considering a different number. —Steve Mendelsohn, Penn Valley

Conservatives in SCOTUS want to take America back to the vision of the drafters of the Constitution, where landed white males were in charge. Women were not mentioned, and Blacks (slaves) were 3/5 of a person. While slavery was abolished, and Blacks were given the right to vote, nowhere does it say they are still not 3/5 of a person. And the Court’s recent actions on access to voting show much. Apparently, the 2nd Amendment is sacrosanct, and even though high-powered weapons did not exist then, they ignore that as they do the part about militias. Soon, your tax dollars will be used to indoctrinate children into religious tenets that one may object to. Presidents who lost the popular vote nominated members for the Court and were confirmed by Senators who represent far less than the majority of the people. It is difficult to think that was the vision of the drafters. The rollbacks have only just started. Anyone who is not a heterosexual white male is at the greatest risk. —Robert Franz, Plymouth Meeting

In his concurring opinion overturning Roe v Wade, Clarence Thomas wrote that the court “should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell. Because any substantive due process decision is ‘demonstrably erroneous.’” This means that contraception, gay relations, and gay marriage are now on the chopping block. Interestingly, he had nothing to say about Loving, which ruled that bans on racial intermarriage were unconstitutional. Conservative justices do not believe in a right to privacy protected by the Constitution. They want to leave it up to each state to decide what is permissible. In red states, the Religious Right dominates, which means that they are adamantly opposed to contraception, gay relations, and gay marriage. If the court moves in this direction, which is likely, laws against contraception, gay relations, and gay marriage will be back on the books. Christian sharia law is coming to America. Look at what is happening to transgender kids & their families in Texas as a sign of what is to come. And do not forget about the book burnings. —George Magakis, Jr., Norristown

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What Is Social Work? Everything You Need To Know

Social workers play integral roles in promoting the social welfare, cohesion and development of their communities. Social work is a broad field that extends to every facet of community life, including schools, prisons, corporations and government agencies.

If you’re interested in pursuing a career in social work, it’s important to first learn about the various roles, responsibilities and services that fall within the scope of the field. While social work can be challenging and emotionally demanding, it can also be a highly rewarding career path.

What Is the Field of Social Work?

Social work is a practice-based profession devoted to public service. These professionals help individuals, families, organizations and communities meet their needs, overcome challenges, cope with personal and societal issues and improve their overall quality of life.

The social work field comprises many specializations that extend across several industries. Social work professionals may perform counseling, advocacy, community organizing and policy analysis, development and implementation.

Social work is part of public welfare, child welfare, mental health, criminal justice, policy and planning, substance abuse, advocacy and research. Below are just a few examples of some positions aspiring social workers can pursue:

  • Clinical social worker
  • Community outreach coordinator
  • School counselor
  • Substance abuse counselor
  • Social work professor
  • Researcher
  • Public policy social worker
  • Clinical director

Social Work Degree Options

Social workers should earn a degree from a program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education. Accreditation demonstrates that a program follows best practices and meets field-wide standards in rigor and quality.

Educational requirements for social workers vary by position, so it’s important to research the qualifications for your desired role to determine what degrees and certifications you’ll need.

Bachelor’s in Social Work

Earning a bachelor’s degree is an essential step if you’re interested in pursuing a career in social work. This degree can qualify you for a variety of non-clinical, entry-level positions in the field.

A bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW) typically takes four years of full-time study to complete. A BSW equips you with foundational knowledge and skills for professional advancement within the field, including earning a master’s degree in social work (MSW).

BSW programs often involve an introductory course that overviews the field’s theories and practices. Other courses cover topics related to research methods, communications, social welfare policy, case management, human behavior and cultural diversity.

Master’s in Social Work

Earning an MSW not only moves you forward in your social work career, but it also fulfills one requirement for licensure. Many MSW programs let students choose a specialization, allowing them to develop within an area of expertise for their desired field and position post-graduation. Social work master’s programs typically take two years of full-time study to complete.

Ph.D. in Social Work or Doctorate in Social Work (DSW)

Deciding which degree to pursue at the doctorate level largely depends on your professional career goals and research interests.

Both a Ph.D. in social work and a DSW provide advanced training in a specialized area of practice. A Ph.D. program emphasizes scholarly and theoretical research and educational practices. A DSW program focuses on social practice at the management level, preparing students for supervision and applied research. It typically takes four to six years to complete a doctorate in social work.

Levels of Social Work

Social work effects change at three levels: micro, mezzo and macro. Social work at all three levels strives to accomplish similar goals, but each level uses different methods to address issues. These levels also differ in how closely social workers interact with their clients and target populations, and in the scope of the impact of their work.

Micro Social Work

At the micro level, social workers work closely with individuals, families and small groups to provide individualized, one-to-one support as their clients navigate challenging circumstances. Their responsibilities include individualized counseling, group and family therapy and connecting clients with essential resources. Social workers practice at the micro level in both clinical and non-clinical settings.

Mezzo Social Work

Mezzo social work provides aid and support at the local and small community levels. These professionals focus on neighborhoods, city districts, schools, local organizations and other small groups. At this level, social workers develop and implement community-based initiatives, services and other social programs. Mezzo social work often incorporates practices deployed at the micro level.

Macro Social Work

Macro social work encompasses the broadest scope, focusing on large-scale systemic issues that affect sizable groups of people, communities and cultures. Social work promotes institutional change through advocacy; organizational and program development; community-based educational initiatives; and policy analysis, development and implementation at the macro level.

What Does a Social Worker Do?

Social workers’ day-to-day responsibilities vary depending on their role and area of practice. Tasks can range from advocating for community resources to developing legislative proposals. Social workers help clients cope with challenges such as substance misuse, child neglect, grief, mental illnesses, domestic violence, unemployment, poverty and lack of housing.

Common social work responsibilities include:

  • Advocating for resources and social welfare programs
  • Developing and implementing personalized treatment plans
  • Identifying individuals, families and communities in need of assistance
  • Maintaining detailed records and case files
  • Monitoring and evaluating client progress
  • Providing counseling (specifically licensed clinical social workers)
  • Providing crisis intervention
  • Researching and referring clients to resources, treatment centers and other public assistance programs

Social Work Work Environments

You can find social workers in diverse work environments. Specialization and area of practice help determine work setting, which may include:

  • Schools
  • Hospitals
  • Mental health clinics
  • Crisis centers
  • Senior centers and nursing homes
  • Prisons and correctional facilities
  • Courts
  • Police departments
  • Elected offices
  • Military facilities
  • Corporations
  • Public and private agencies

Social Work Clients

Social workers assist diverse populations, focusing their services on underserved, disadvantaged and vulnerable individuals, groups and communities. These professionals support clients of all ages living with challenges such as mental health conditions, disabilities, addiction, substance misuse, poverty, domestic conflicts and unemployment.

As a social worker, your clientele depends largely on your area of practice and role. Some examples of social work clients include:

  • People with mental health conditions and substance misuse challenges
  • Refugees and asylum-seekers
  • Children and adults with learning disabilities
  • Inmates and prisoners
  • Families
  • Children in foster care
  • Elderly patients in nursing homes or senior centers

Social Work Skills

Social workers work with individuals from diverse socioeconomic, cultural and religious backgrounds. Clients are often dealing with complex issues and circumstances. Social workers must demonstrate compassion, sensitivity and understanding when working with their clients. Essential social worker skills include:

  • Active listening
  • Advocacy
  • Boundary setting
  • Critical thinking
  • Attention to detail
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Empathy and compassion
  • Observational skills
  • Organization
  • Proactivity
  • Verbal, nonverbal and written communication

Social Work Licensure

Understanding the licensure requirements of the state in which you plan to work is a critical first step in becoming a social worker. Licensure requirements help determine which degrees you should pursue and what certifications you should obtain.

Social workers should hold a master’s degree, undergo years of professional training, gain work experience and fulfill state-specific requirements. They must also pass the national licensing exam.

Becoming a licensed clinical social worker qualifies you to provide clinical services. These services may include diagnosing and counseling clients who face mental, behavioral and emotional challenges.

Frequently Asked Questions About Social Work

How much does a social worker make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for a social worker is $50,390. Several factors affect earning potential, including level of education, specialization, licensure, prior work experience and location.

Who do social workers help?

Social workers focus on vulnerable, at-risk and disadvantaged children, families, organizations and communities. They help clients meet their needs by equipping them with the tools and resources needed to cope with and overcome personal and societal challenges.

What qualifications do I need to be a social worker?

Requirements vary by state, industry, job title and employer. Most social workers should hold bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social work and gain professional experience to build the necessary foundation for a career in social work.

More From Advisor

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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How Maryland is preventing prisoners from getting college degrees

Education is one of the few rehabilitative options available to incarcerated people, yet all across America prisoners are prevented from pursuing their education. “Atiba” Demetrius Brown, for instance, has been dedicated to improving himself and his post-incarceration prospects by taking correspondence courses while incarcerated in Maryland, but thanks to a draconian new decree by the Department of Public Safety & Correctional Services (DPSCS), Atiba can’t take his exams. In this installment of Rattling the Bars, Victor Wallis joins Mansa Musa to discuss the case of “Atiba” Demetrius Brown and the calculated cruelty of the prison-industrial complex.

Victor Wallis is a professor in the Liberal Arts Department at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. He has been involved in prisoner support activities since the 1970s in Indiana, and he is the author of numerous books, including Democracy Denied: Five Lectures on US Politics, which has been used in prison education projects.

To contact “Atiba” Demetrius Brown:

Demetrius Brown #401226

sid #2642892

MCTC

18800 Roxbury Rd.

Hagerstown, MD 21746

Pre-Production/Studio/Post-Production: Cameron Granadino


TRANSCRIPT

Mansa Musa:  Welcome to this edition Rattling The Bars. I’m Mansa Musa, co-host with Eddie Conway. And before we get started, let me update you all on Eddie Conway. Eddie Conway is doing great. He’s recovering at a remarkable speed, and we hope to have him back in the space in the near future.

When we think of education and the education of people, or the lack thereof, very rarely do we look at the impact that education would have on changing a person that’s in the criminal justice system. Or, more importantly, the impact that education will have on changing people that are incarcerated. This is not the case within the Maryland Department of Corrections.

We have a situation where a prisoner, Demitrius Brown, also known as Atiba, has taken initiative to acquire an AA degree. He has taken initiative to have the discipline to study. He’s taken initiative to put himself in a position financially to make sure that he can get the corresponding course. He’s done everything along these lines to better himself. But the Department of Corrections, the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Service has thrown a roadblock in his way, and is preventing him from not only obtaining an education that might lead to a better opportunity for punished release, but also in this policy that they’re putting into effect, will have collateral consequences. Here to talk with me today about this is Victor Wallis.

Victor has a political science degree from Berkeley College in Boston. He’s been active in working with prisoners’ issues since 1970. His book, Democracy Denied: Five Lectures on US Politics, has been used to teach classes within prison. Welcome, Victor, to Rattling the Bars.

Victor Wallis:  Thank you, man. It’s a pleasure to be here.

Mansa Musa:  Victor, let’s start out by giving our viewers and our listeners an overview of Demetrius Brown, also known as Atiba. Who is Atiba?

Victor Wallis:  Atiba is a… It’s hard to describe him. I would say he’s a model of someone who is forming himself. He’s not only educating himself, but he has built a tremendous prestige, I think, a tremendous degree of respect. I would say one of the things that most impresses me about him is the accounts he’s given of situations where conflict has arisen and where he’s served as a kind of mediator or peacemaker.

But the other thing he does also, to a tremendous extent, is educate other prisoners while he’s educating himself. And he’s led study groups. It’s getting a little more difficult now. He finds the prisoners there now less motivated than when he started. But he’s very eager to, let’s say, help them educate themselves. Obviously with a political thrust, because it’s a recognition of the kind of injustices of the system as a whole, which are felt with particular strength in the prisons. But that’s a motivational factor, and he builds on that, and makes it possible for prisoners to begin to discuss among themselves what to do about this situation that they’re in. I don’t know what else… He’s from Baltimore.

Mansa Musa:  Okay.

Victor Wallis:  He’s been in prison for the last 10 years or so, since he was in his early 20s, I believe.

He’s highly motivated, when he comes out, to continue doing constructive work of some kind. I mean, in the sense of whether it’s counseling or political work, certainly. But he’s very dedicated, I would say, to improving himself.

Mansa Musa:  And so let’s pick up on that. So all things considered, he’s one person that has taken initiative to better himself at the exclusion of anything that’s going on within the system. Let’s talk about his education. You spoke on the fact that he’s done a lot in terms of educating himself on different levels. Let’s talk about his formal education. Prior to coming to prison, what was his formal education?

Victor Wallis:  He graduated from high school several years before he was arrested. That was the extent of his formal education, but in prison he’s done an enormous amount of reading. Like many prisoners, George Jackson was a tremendous inspiration. But he’s branched out from there in every direction, especially the history of socialist movements, of popular struggles of various kinds, the history of Black people’s liberation movements, and various topics. But stretching very widely, and I would say going into the philosophical aspects of things in depth, I would say.

Mansa Musa:  And now based on this, he wanted to take a correspondence course. He went about taking this correspondence course. Walk us through what the course is and what type of degree he was trying to get, or was planning on getting.

Victor Wallis:  Well, the correspondence course was possible through Adam’s State University, which is located in Colorado. He’s going towards an associate degree. He’s just starting it. And the two courses that he’s enrolled in right now, one is history of civilizations, and the other is called the sociological imagination.

Mansa Musa:  And this correspondence course, is it funded by the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Service? Do we have a Pell Grant for it?

Victor Wallis:  No. The Correctional Services has nothing to do with funding. It’s private support.

Mansa Musa:  So he’s got private support to get an AA degree, which is two years. How much time does he have left before he’s released to society?

Victor Wallis:  I would say three or four years, approximately.

Mansa Musa:  So his plan is to get a degree, or AA degree. Is the credits transferable, to your knowledge?

Victor Wallis:  I presume so.

Mansa Musa:  All right. So he is going to get a degree, a AA degree. Two to three years left on his sentence, get a AA degree, that has transferable credits that would allow him upon his release to be able to get a BA degree. Is that correct?

Victor Wallis:  Well, it could count towards a BA degree.

Mansa Musa:  It could count towards a BA degree. What is the problem with him obtaining this degree, or continuing this correspondence? What exactly is the problem?

Victor Wallis:  The exact problem is that all of a sudden, in the middle of his first semester of study, the prison refused to provide proctors for him to take exams for his courses. And this is a service which they previously had done routinely, but without any advanced warning, they suddenly stopped the process. And they said that it was because of a decree in effect from the Department of Public Safety that prohibited the prisons from cooperating in any way with external correspondence courses.

It set him back tremendously. It was tremendously demoralizing, because here he was doing very well in his courses, and suddenly they’ve put this roadblock in his way. So fortunately at the present moment, Adams State may be able to accommodate him and allow him to complete the courses without having proctored exams. But the only reason that they’re doing that is that they are still operating under a regimen having to do with the COVID pandemic, which allowed for certain flexibility. But they said when that is ended, they’ll go back to insisting that the students take proctored exams. And the proctoring has to be provided by someone in the prison.

Mansa Musa:  In that regard, the proctor examiner – And full disclosure, I was incarcerated for 48 years. I’m familiar with the institution, [was housed] at Maryland Correctional Training Center in Hagerstown. So I’m familiar with that system, and I’m familiar with the educational system. But in terms of offering the proctor, exactly what would that entail? What would that look like? Educate our listeners and viewers on what that actually would entail.

Victor Wallis:  Proctoring just means that you have some person in an official capacity who’s sitting there while you’re taking the exam, making sure that you’re not looking at notes, and setting a time limit for you to answer the questions. That’s all it is.

Mansa Musa:  And I’m familiar with that. And the reason why I was asking that is because I’ve been in the space, and this is really all the proctor does. The system that they had set up when I was incarcerated was you go to the school, they put you in the classroom, and the proctor sits there while you take the exam. When you finish taking the exam, you hand the exam in, and you leave. The time it takes for the proctor to do its job is the time it takes for the person that’s taking the exam to finish.

So if the person can finish in 40 minutes, the proctor takes the exam, and the person will leave. And in most cases I’ve known from experiences that, because correspondence courses are rare in the prison system because of the ability for a prison to finance it, you have very few people in that environment that would be a classroom size, where you might have 15-20 people, where you have to have a proctor in that regard.

But let’s dial down on why you think they’re doing this to Atiba? Because you outlined a lot of things that’s going on with his character in terms of him being an impactful individual within the prison environment, and being a person that’s there to educate and raise the prisoners’ consciousness about their environment, and try to get them to change their thinking. Why do you think they’re doing this to him in particular?

Victor Wallis:  Well, they’re not doing it just to him. It’s a general ruling that applies to anyone. And there I see it as part of a general phenomenon that’s taking place all over the country of making things more and more difficult for prisoners to rehabilitate themselves in every way, especially in the form of disrupting their contacts with people in the outside world.

I’m in communication currently with a prisoner in Pennsylvania and one in Virginia. In both those states, in order to write to them, you have to write to an address in Florida, where they photocopy it and send it back. Now, I just heard from a prisoner in Missouri. I just got this letter today. He says the state of Missouri has started a new system where mail has to be sent to a digital scanning system after August 1. You’ll no longer get mail into the prison. It says all you can send in is books and literature.

It’s incredible what they’re doing. I’ve heard of other states… Well, in Indiana, they’ve [privated] greeting cards and other places like that. They’re doing everything they can to make it more punitive, more isolating for the prisoner to be in the system. They don’t recognize, or at least they don’t care that separating someone from society is itself punishment. But they have a kind of philosophy, it’s not in their official idea. Correction means you’re improving someone, supposedly. But their working philosophy is punishment, punishment, punishment, and more punishment. And this is one aspect of it.

Mansa Musa:  And we recognize that the prison-industrial complex overall is the new plantation, and the prisoners are the chattel. This is a recognition that we see throughout the United States of America. 2.5 million people are incarcerated. Beyond that point, it’s over 10 million people that’s locked into the criminal justice system in the form of parole, probation, the county jail, detention center. So your observation is correct in regard to… And this being a concerted effort on the part of the establishment and the prison-industrial complex and these bloodsuckers in terms of minimizing or dehumanizing or relegating prisoners into a sense of hopelessness.

But in terms of Atiba, how has he responded to… I heard you say earlier that it brought on a sense of depression. But how is he doing thus far in regard to him maintaining his focus and continuing to educate himself and others around him?

Victor Wallis:  Well, his immediate response in terms of the courses is that he’s writing to his instructors, requesting them to accommodate him and to allow him to complete the course without having to take proctored exams. And for the moment, that’s possible in terms of Adam State ruling, but it may not be possible after they lift the special rulings they had during COVID. So he’s doing that. But it was a terrible disruption and very demoralizing at first. And so he’s apprehensive. The moment the COVID rules get lifted, Adam State will once again insist on having their exams proctored. Which means, in addition to what I said about their being present in timing, that all the correspondence about the exams is through the proctor. In other words, the institution sends the exam to the proctor, and the proctor sends the exam back to the institution.

So there’s going to have to be that kind of collaboration. And again, this is not just for Atiba, but for everyone, for anyone who would be taking correspondence courses. As far as Atiba is concerned, he’s highly motivated, and he’s continuing to read and study on his own. But this was a big setback for him. He told me for the couple of weeks after it started, he wasn’t sleeping. He was so angry that they were doing this totally arbitrary interference with what he was trying to do to improve himself.

Mansa Musa:  And it’s a recognition that the prison-industrial complex is primarily used for warehousing people, and that very few institutions in the United States of America… And rural, I know for a fact in particular has a lot of programs, often a lot of program services. So when someone takes the initiative to better themselves and have this impediment, it will be demoralizing. But I want to look at the collateral consequences of this decision. Because like you said, it affects everybody. Have you looked at it in terms of the overall impact it would have on the Department of Corrections in general or the Division of Correction in general?

Victor Wallis:  Yeah. Well, of course the immediate thing in Maryland, what’s important is to put pressure on the Department of Public Safety to lift this ban. This is something that really is a responsibility for anyone who is concerned about the prisoners in Maryland. And in a wider sense, what this kind of practice reflects is a general increase in the repressive responses of those in power to anything in the nature of a threat that they perceive just in people preserving their humanity.

They would love to have the people in prison fighting each other in gangs, spaced out on drugs, and so on. What they don’t want is purposeful prisoners who are developing a consciousness and who can become effective organizers both in the prison and later when they get out. And the repressive measures that they’re taking are just horrendous. Of both this interference with the correspondence by having to send letters to another state, and then only sending the prisoner the photocopy, and then digitizing the incoming mail, and so on. And another thing… You mentioned some of the things with… Well, for example, in some jails, they don’t even allow direct visits anymore. You have to do it through video. It’s all also a money making opportunity for these outfits that provide these services.

But I was also saying that the repressive aspect is consistent with the wider phenomenon of repression that’s manifested in the voter suppression methods, preventing people from voting because you’re afraid that what they would vote for would be programs and people that would push the society in a more… Let’s say just direction, a more redistributive direction. And that would take power away from those with privilege. So the prison system is a part of this larger apparatus which controls and limits the capacity of citizens, of ordinary people, working people, to speak for themselves effectively in an organized way, and not just in the form of random protests or frustrated acts of despair.

Mansa Musa:  Right. And [inaudible] educated prisoners or educated persons is dangerous. We know that slaves weren’t allowed to read, and the prison-industrial complex being the new plantation and prisoners being the new chattel, it seems consistent with the thinking of the establishment, the fascist government, that anyone educated, any person is more likely to resist the oppression and the dehumanization that capitalists are inflicting on people throughout the world. But Victor, you have the last word on this. What’s your last word on this?

Victor Wallis:  Well, just picking up on that point of education, where education is dangerous to the ruling elite, to this ruling class, is when it takes the form of consciousness raising among the people who have suffered injustice, especially in the prison context, who can communicate with each other about it. In a way, the prison is an ideal learning environment because people are surrounded by demonstration or proof of the injustice of the society. And they’re thrown together with others who are experiencing the same thing at the same time, and they may even have time to engage in study. While it’s a terrible situation to be put into, there’s a way in which it can backfire on those who are doing it. And as people have said, prison can become a school of liberation.

And I always remember George Jackson’s statement that, it’s not an exact quote, but it’s roughly to the effect that prison will either break you or make you indestructible. Something along those lines. And that’s educating oneself within the prison context, in the light of all these conditions, is exactly what’s necessary and what’s important. But I think, more generally, education is a basic right, and people shouldn’t be prevented from pursuing it. And it’s not necessarily the case that every prisoner will educate himself or herself in a political direction, but it’s important that this be allowed. And this is part of the process of rehabilitation, of reentering society.

Mansa Musa:  Talk about what can be done to support not only Atiba, but anyone that’s confronted with this situation.

Victor Wallis:  I mean, I would say of course, on the one thing that they should contact the… I guess the Department of Public Safety, but whoever oversees the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, that this is an outrage. That should be made a public issue in itself.

But in the wider sense, it involves all the general things we talked about, that the changes that are needed in the society to… Since this is part of a national repressive trend, it can only be fought politically at the widest level. People have to get involved in revolutionary struggle of some kind or other, in whatever situation they find themselves in.

Mansa Musa:  And there you have it, the real news about the prison-industrial complex’s continued oppression and repression of people. The new plantation, they are constantly inflicting cruel and unusual punishment on people throughout the United States.

Here we have another example of something as basic as education. They want to control that. Atiba might be an individual, but he’s the face of how repressive the prison-industrial complex is when it doesn’t allow a person to educate himself and spend his own money or solicited support to educate himself by taking a correspondence course. To block him from doing that, they block him from being able to take the exam and putting a hardship on not only him, but the institution that wants to support him.

There you have it, the real news about the repressive educational system policy in the Division of Corrections and Department of Public Safety and Correctional Service in Maryland. Thank you very much, Victor. We enjoyed this conversation. Can you send the information where people can contact Atiba if they want to correspond with him and interact with him?

Victor Wallis:  Yes. I will send it to you and you can post it.

Mansa Musa:  Yeah. Please, I’d appreciate that.

Victor Wallis:  Thank you so much, Mansa. It’s been a pleasure talking to you.

Mansa Musa:  Definitely. Thank you.

social_work2.jpeg.jpg

Here’s What You Can Do With A Social Work Degree – Forbes Advisor

Editorial Note: We earn a commission from partner links on Forbes Advisor. Commissions do not affect our editors’ opinions or evaluations.

Social workers play integral roles in promoting the social welfare, cohesion and development of their communities. Social work is a broad field that extends to every facet of community life, including schools, prisons, corporations and government agencies.

If you’re interested in pursuing a career in social work, it’s important to first learn about the various roles, responsibilities and services that fall within the scope of the field. While social work can be challenging and emotionally demanding, it can also be a highly rewarding career path.

What Is the Field of Social Work?

Social work is a practice-based profession devoted to public service. These professionals help individuals, families, organizations and communities meet their needs, overcome challenges, cope with personal and societal issues and improve their overall quality of life.

The social work field comprises many specializations that extend across several industries. Social work professionals may perform counseling, advocacy, community organizing and policy analysis, development and implementation.

Social work is part of public welfare, child welfare, mental health, criminal justice, policy and planning, substance abuse, advocacy and research. Below are just a few examples of some positions aspiring social workers can pursue:

  • Clinical social worker
  • Community outreach coordinator
  • School counselor
  • Substance abuse counselor
  • Social work professor
  • Researcher
  • Public policy social worker
  • Clinical director

Social Work Degree Options

Social workers should earn a degree from a program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education. Accreditation demonstrates that a program follows best practices and meets field-wide standards in rigor and quality.

Educational requirements for social workers vary by position, so it’s important to research the qualifications for your desired role to determine what degrees and certifications you’ll need.

Bachelor’s in Social Work

Earning a bachelor’s degree is an essential step if you’re interested in pursuing a career in social work. This degree can qualify you for a variety of non-clinical, entry-level positions in the field.

A bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW) typically takes four years of full-time study to complete. A BSW equips you with foundational knowledge and skills for professional advancement within the field, including earning a master’s degree in social work (MSW).

BSW programs often involve an introductory course that overviews the field’s theories and practices. Other courses cover topics related to research methods, communications, social welfare policy, case management, human behavior and cultural diversity.

Master’s in Social Work

Earning an MSW not only moves you forward in your social work career, but it also fulfills one requirement for licensure. Many MSW programs let students choose a specialization, allowing them to develop within an area of expertise for their desired field and position post-graduation. Social work master’s programs typically take two years of full-time study to complete.

Ph.D. in Social Work or Doctorate in Social Work (DSW)

Deciding which degree to pursue at the doctorate level largely depends on your professional career goals and research interests.

Both a Ph.D. in social work and a DSW provide advanced training in a specialized area of practice. A Ph.D. program emphasizes scholarly and theoretical research and educational practices. A DSW program focuses on social practice at the management level, preparing students for supervision and applied research. It typically takes four to six years to complete a doctorate in social work.

Levels of Social Work

Social work effects change at three levels: micro, mezzo and macro. Social work at all three levels strives to accomplish similar goals, but each level uses different methods to address issues. These levels also differ in how closely social workers interact with their clients and target populations, and in the scope of the impact of their work.

Micro Social Work

At the micro level, social workers work closely with individuals, families and small groups to provide individualized, one-to-one support as their clients navigate challenging circumstances. Their responsibilities include individualized counseling, group and family therapy and connecting clients with essential resources. Social workers practice at the micro level in both clinical and non-clinical settings.

Mezzo Social Work

Mezzo social work provides aid and support at the local and small community levels. These professionals focus on neighborhoods, city districts, schools, local organizations and other small groups. At this level, social workers develop and implement community-based initiatives, services and other social programs. Mezzo social work often incorporates practices deployed at the micro level.

Macro Social Work

Macro social work encompasses the broadest scope, focusing on large-scale systemic issues that affect sizable groups of people, communities and cultures. Social work promotes institutional change through advocacy; organizational and program development; community-based educational initiatives; and policy analysis, development and implementation at the macro level.

What Does a Social Worker Do?

Social workers’ day-to-day responsibilities vary depending on their role and area of practice. Tasks can range from advocating for community resources to developing legislative proposals. Social workers help clients cope with challenges such as substance misuse, child neglect, grief, mental illnesses, domestic violence, unemployment, poverty and lack of housing.

Common social work responsibilities include:

  • Advocating for resources and social welfare programs
  • Developing and implementing personalized treatment plans
  • Identifying individuals, families and communities in need of assistance
  • Maintaining detailed records and case files
  • Monitoring and evaluating client progress
  • Providing counseling (specifically licensed clinical social workers)
  • Providing crisis intervention
  • Researching and referring clients to resources, treatment centers and other public assistance programs

Social Work Work Environments

You can find social workers in diverse work environments. Specialization and area of practice help determine work setting, which may include:

  • Schools
  • Hospitals
  • Mental health clinics
  • Crisis centers
  • Senior centers and nursing homes
  • Prisons and correctional facilities
  • Courts
  • Police departments
  • Elected offices
  • Military facilities
  • Corporations
  • Public and private agencies

Social Work Clients

Social workers assist diverse populations, focusing their services on underserved, disadvantaged and vulnerable individuals, groups and communities. These professionals support clients of all ages living with challenges such as mental health conditions, disabilities, addiction, substance misuse, poverty, domestic conflicts and unemployment.

As a social worker, your clientele depends largely on your area of practice and role. Some examples of social work clients include:

  • People with mental health conditions and substance misuse challenges
  • Refugees and asylum-seekers
  • Children and adults with learning disabilities
  • Inmates and prisoners
  • Families
  • Children in foster care
  • Elderly patients in nursing homes or senior centers

Social Work Skills

Social workers work with individuals from diverse socioeconomic, cultural and religious backgrounds. Clients are often dealing with complex issues and circumstances. Social workers must demonstrate compassion, sensitivity and understanding when working with their clients. Essential social worker skills include:

  • Active listening
  • Advocacy
  • Boundary setting
  • Critical thinking
  • Attention to detail
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Empathy and compassion
  • Observational skills
  • Organization
  • Proactivity
  • Verbal, nonverbal and written communication

Social Work Licensure

Understanding the licensure requirements of the state in which you plan to work is a critical first step in becoming a social worker. Licensure requirements help determine which degrees you should pursue and what certifications you should obtain.

Social workers should hold a master’s degree, undergo years of professional training, gain work experience and fulfill state-specific requirements. They must also pass the national licensing exam.

Becoming a licensed clinical social worker qualifies you to provide clinical services. These services may include diagnosing and counseling clients who face mental, behavioral and emotional challenges.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Social Work

How much does a social worker make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for a social worker is $50,390. Several factors affect earning potential, including level of education, specialization, licensure, prior work experience and location.

Who do social workers help?

Social workers focus on vulnerable, at-risk and disadvantaged children, families, organizations and communities. They help clients meet their needs by equipping them with the tools and resources needed to cope with and overcome personal and societal challenges.

What qualifications do I need to be a social worker?

Requirements vary by state, industry, job title and employer. Most social workers should hold bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social work and gain professional experience to build the necessary foundation for a career in social work.