Zuckerberg, Undocumented Immigrants ‘Hack’ for Immigration Reform

By Jessica Guynn
Los Angeles Times

SAN FRANCISCO _ Facebook Inc. Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg brought undocumented immigrants to Silicon Valley to "hack" for immigration reform.
Twenty immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally as children began taking part in a 25-hour "hackathon" Wednesday at LinkedIn's Mountain View, Calif., headquarters.
The young software programmers broke into small groups to spend all night coming up with new applications as part of an effort to put the spotlight back on what they say is an urgent need for Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform.
Silicon Valley tech companies are pushing for legislation that would overhaul the nation's immigration laws and loosen restrictions on visas for skilled workers such as engineers.
Zuckerberg called immigration "one of the biggest civil rights issues of our time."
"We are at a critical moment in the movement," he said. "It is really important to keep pushing ahead."
Despite the technology industry's efforts to put pressure on the Republican-led House to vote on immigration reform before the end of the year, observers say it's likely that the issue will spill over into 2014 and possibly 2015.
"The tech industry has made some headway but not nearly enough" to blast through the bottleneck in Washington, San Jose State University political science professor Larry Gerston said.
Zuckerberg and other young technology leaders who have put millions of dollars into an effort to reform immigration may be big fish in Silicon Valley "but not when they start swimming with the big boys over in the Potomac," Gerston said.
Joe Green, president of Fwd.us, Zuckerberg's lobbying group, said Silicon Valley is not shrinking from the challenge of getting this kind of legislation _ whether a comprehensive bill or a series of smaller bills _ through Congress. The House has refused to take up the comprehensive bill that the Senate passed in June.
One of Fwd.us' tactics is to influence the national conversation by showcasing enterprising young undocumented immigrants who surmounted steep odds to learn how to code, Green said.
Among the apps the hackers are building include one that will help high-profile people share their support for immigration reform with their fans and followers on social media and another that would educate undocumented immigrants on their rights using virtual game play.
"We didn't take this on because it's easy. But we think there is a lot of common interest in getting this done, far more than the headlines suggest," Green said. "Leadership from both parties have said publicly that they want this to happen. They need to get moving on it. But we do believe it will happen."
Technology veterans including Zuckerberg, LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman and Dropbox co-founder Drew Houston were on hand to advise the young coders Wednesday.
Zuckerberg organized his first hackathon in his Harvard dorm room, and Facebook employees routinely pull all-nighters to build new products and features. Fwd.us borrowed the concept from Silicon Valley as a way to draw attention to young undocumented immigrants who call themselves Dreamers.
Justino Mora, a 24-year-old UCLA student, said his group would focus on building a mobile app to tell people who their representatives are in Washington, where those representatives stand on immigration reform and ways in which people can take action, either by signing a petition or sending a message to their representatives.
Fwd.us has pledged to get the projects up and running.
"I am definitely frustrated with Washington, but I haven't lost hope," Mora said. "I have a lot of faith not only in the democratic system but in the American people and in the immigrant rights community."
(c)2013 Los Angeles Times
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Colorado Proposes Reducing Methane Leaks From Energy Production

By Neela Banerjee
Tribune Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON _ Colorado proposed new rules Monday to reduce methane leaks from oil and gas operations, the first effort in the country to address emissions of the greenhouse gas that is a by-product of the domestic fossil fuel boom.
Carbon dioxide from the combustion of fossil fuels is the main driver of climate change, but while less methane is emitted overall, it is an even more potent heat-trapping gas than carbon. Emissions in the United States of methane dropped slightly from 2011 to 2012. But methane emissions from oil and gas operations have risen in Colorado and other states where energy production is roaring, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
The state has rules in place to curb emissions of methane, the primary component of natural gas, during drilling. The new rules call for detecting and repairing leaks of methane throughout a company's infrastructure once a well is producing: at equipment at the well-site, above-ground pipelines and at compressor stations.
"The rules will help Colorado prepare for anticipated growth in energy development, while protecting public health and the environment," Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said in a statement. "They represent a significant step forward in addressing a wider range of emissions that before now have not been directly regulated."
The rules would also reduce emissions of volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, an air pollutant that can be created from the burning of fossil fuels. Because high output of VOCs tracks with high methane pollution, the new rules base their monitoring requirements on the tons of VOCs companies generate annually.
Under the rules, the bigger the polluter, the more often it has to monitor its infrastructure for leaks, which must be repaired within 15 days. Companies must report their repairs and allow state inspectors to check facilities for leaks.
The proposed rules were drawn up in discussions between the state, the Environmental Defense Fund and three major oil and gas producers, Noble Energy, Encana and Anadarko. The state will be taking public comment on them for 90 days and a public hearing will be held on the rules in February 2014.
(c)2013 Tribune Co.
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California Diver Cited for Using Rubbing Alcohol to Capture Fish

By Bettina Boxall
Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES _ When a California Department of Fish and Wildlife officer patrolling off the coast of Santa Catalina Island on Nov. 13 peered down through the clear water, he witnessed something he'd never seen before.
A scuba diver was squirting a liquid into rock crevices and then collecting the little orange, blue-stripped fish that emerged, according to the department.
After watching the diver repeat the process, the warden, equipped with only a mask and snorkel, descended, flashed his identification and ordered the diver to the surface.
The liquid turned out to be rubbing alcohol, which the department says the diver was using to drive bluebanded gobies into open water off the island's northeast coast.
"And then he would just scoop them up. How fair is that?" said department spokesman Andrew Hughan.
Identified as a 46-year-old Ventura County man, the diver was cited for two misdemeanor violations of the state Fish and Game Code: Use of a chemical while collecting marine aquaria and unlawful take of marine aquaria off Catalina Island.
Hughan said the diver informed wardens he was a licensed collector of aquarium fish, was paid $10 a fish by buyers and did not know that using a chemical or collecting off Catalina was illegal.
Although divers with permits can capture fish in ocean waters to sell to pet shops, the practice is banned around Catalina to protect local resources.
Wardens seized the diver's scuba gear, and he will have to appear in court. "He's not going to jail, but we're hoping for a significant fine," Hughan said.
The gobies, 172 of them and apparently unharmed, were returned to the sea.
(c)2013 Los Angeles Times
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Let’s Celebrate Nontraditional Students

By Juleyka Lantigua-Williams
McClatchy-Tribune News Service

This is National Nontraditional Student Week, which is celebrated the first week in November to recognize millions of students who do not fit the standard college student mold. In fact, 75 percent of college students today are nontraditional, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics.
The official definition of nontraditional students starts with adults older than 25, and those returning to school while working, raising children or serving in the military.
I've spent the last four years working with this unique population as an English professor at a community college. These students represent the economic and social realities of our country today. Many of them overcame great odds to be in college. Often, they're the first to go to college in their entire family.
And every day, they make sacrifices just to get to class _ after dropping children off at school, or clocking out of a second shift or returning from weekend training at a military base. They bring such a high level of commitment to their education that they earn the respect and admiration of younger students whose biggest challenge can sometimes be setting the alarm for class. They also come into the classroom with a deep reserve of experiences, knowledge and skills that enable them to put thought to action and find practical applications for what we're learning in ways that surprise and enrich our community of learners.
Unlike the stereotypical college student, one at a private four-year college enjoying an intellectual vacation from the real world courtesy of mom and dad, nontraditional students are neck-deep under the folds of the real world. They get home to help with homework before sitting down to write papers and complete research assignments. They miss class when spouses and parents are sick, but drag themselves in even with fractured bones. They photocopy course materials from library reference copies because textbooks are expensive and utility bills can't be paid with financial aid.
Because they tend to have such full and complicated lives, 49 percent are enrolled part time, 38 percent work full time, and 27 percent have dependents. After college, they go into careers that constitute the backbone of our society _ in civil service, in education, in health care, in police work, in hospitality and personnel management. They emerge as eager entrepreneurs who set up small businesses in their very own neighborhoods, thereby multiplying the economic impact of their degrees.
Today's nontraditional students are breaking the cycle of poverty and opening the doors to opportunity for generations to come. They deserve our respect and gratitude.

Senate Votes to Ban Discrimination Against LGBT Workers

By Michael A. Memoli
Tribune Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON _ A bill to extend historic new protections to gays in the workplace won easy Senate approval Thursday, bolstered by rare bipartisan support that illustrated the dramatic shift in the politics around gay rights amid growing public acceptance for same-sex marriage.
Seventeen years after a similar proposal failed by a single vote in the Senate, 10 Republicans joined a unanimous Democratic bloc to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, known as ENDA, which would prohibit public and private employers, employment agencies and labor unions from using sexual orientation or gender identity as the basis for decisions about employment, promotion or compensation.
"This is a really tremendous milestone _ a day I will never forget in my service in the Senate," said Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., the first openly gay person elected to the Senate. "For folks like myself in the LGBT community, the opportunity to be judged in the workplace by your skills and qualifications, your loyalty, your work ethic is an important pronouncement for this nation."
Backers of the measure said the bipartisan vote puts additional pressure on Speaker John A. Boehner to bring it to a vote in the full House. President Barack Obama said in a statement that "one party in one house of Congress should not stand in the way of millions of Americans who want to go to work each day and simply be judged by the job they do.
"Now is the time to end this kind of discrimination in the workplace, not enable it," he said.
A spokesman for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., who sets the floor agenda, reiterated Thursday that a vote on the bill was "currently not scheduled in the House."
Democrats warned that Republicans would pay a price for inaction. "If the House of Representatives does insist on going down this road, they'll be sending their party straight to oblivion," Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., told reporters.
Such a statement would have been unthinkable only a decade ago, when most Americans opposed same-sex marriage and were skeptical about gay rights. President George W. Bush's campaign in 2004 galvanized its supporters with a string of state ballot measures banning same-sex marriage that helped draw Republican voters to the polls in key states.
Today, as polls show most Americans support same-sex marriage, many Republican lawmakers and candidates see the issue as a trap. Republicans who support gay rights run the risk of alienating conservative voters, particularly tea party supporters. Those who vote against such measures are portrayed by Democrats as extremists and out of touch.
Ari Fleischer, a former Bush spokesman, wrote in an opinion piece published Thursday by Politico that the House should allow the bill to come to the floor and act in a "more inclusive and welcoming manner." Gay rights, he said, "are gateways into whether young people see the GOP as a party worthy of support."
Last November saw the first successful referendums to allow same-sex marriage in four states. Just this week, Illinois lawmakers gave final approval to legislation that would make the state the 15th to allow such unions.
Although 34 Republicans voted against ENDA in the Senate, few spoke out against it during the floor debate. Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., warned that the bill violates the "cherished value of freedom of expression and religion."
The bill includes an exemption for religious groups that was strengthened by a Republican amendment to ensure that the government could not retaliate against those organizations in awarding contracts and grants.
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., who said he still had concerns about the effect the bill could have on some employers, nonetheless voted for it and expressed hope that the House could make further changes.
Congress hasn't passed major gay rights legislation since 2010, when it voted to end the "don't ask, don't tell" policy that barred gays from openly serving in the military. In 2007 the House, then controlled by Democrats, passed a version of ENDA that did not include the provision for transgender individuals. Thirty-five Republicans voted for it at the time, though only 10 of those continue to serve in the House today.
One of them, Rep. Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., would not commit to supporting the Senate-passed bill.
"Congressman Ryan does not believe someone should be fired because of their sexual orientation," said Ryan spokesman Kevin Seifert. "That said, any legislation to address this concern should be narrowly crafted to guard against unintended consequences."
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said this week that 95 percent of Democrats in the House are ready to vote for the Senate-passed bill. Just 10 percent of Republicans are needed to ensure passage.
The Republican senators who supported the current bill include longtime sponsors like Mark Steven Kirk of Illinois and Susan Collins of Maine _ the only Republican senator seeking reelection next year in a state Obama carried in 2012.
Other GOP backers include three who will be running for reelection in 2016 in battleground states: Sens. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Rob Portman of Ohio and Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania.
Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah, who voted against ENDA in 1996, supported it this time.
"I have always believed that workplace discrimination _ whether based on religion, gender, race, national origin or sexual orientation _ is inconsistent with the basic values that America holds dear," McCain said.
But Republicans facing competitive primary challenges from conservative or tea party candidates voted against the measure. With an eye toward 2014 re-election, many are looking to shore up their conservative credentials. Among them was Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who on Thursday also introduced the so-called Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would ban abortions about four weeks earlier than the standard set by the U.S. Supreme Court under Roe vs. Wade. Thirty-two Republicans signed on as cosponsors.
Senate Democrats called Graham's bill a nonstarter, predicting that Republican positions on gay rights and abortion would cost them at the polls.

Guatemala’s Ixil Maya Seek International Help in Rios Montt Case

By Benjamin Reeves
McClatchy Foreign Staff

GUATEMALA CITY _ Representatives of Guatemala's indigenous Ixil Maya have filed a petition with the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights in Washington accusing the Guatemalan government of failing in its legal obligation to investigate and prosecute genocide.
The petition, which was filed Wednesday, was in response to an order by one of Guatemala's highest courts requiring a lower court to consider amnesty for former President Efraim Rios Montt, whose forces conducted a bloody campaign against Guatemalan indigenous groups in the early 1980s.
"We presented a petition ... because we want Guatemala to be held accountable for the crimes committed against the Ixil people," said Marcia Aguiluz of the Center for Justice and International Law. "We want the Inter-American system to give a judgment that Guatemala must investigate and judge these people."
Prosecuting Rios Montt for what took place during his rule has been a challenge from the beginning. The lead Guatemalan prosecutor on the case, Edgar Perez, has received multiple death threats. Since August 2010 he has traveled with nearly constant protection provided by the human rights group Peace Brigades International, which said it has thwarted a number of attempts on his life, including an attempt to tamper with the brakes on his car.
Rios Montt, 87, was convicted in May of genocide against the Ixil people. Over a two-year period in the early 1980s, as many as 95 percent of Ixil villages were razed and several thousand people, roughly 5.5 percent of the Ixil population, were killed.
But Guatemala's Constitutional Court overturned the conviction 10 days later and ordered a retrial, which was expected in early 2014. In October, the Constitutional Court ordered the lower court to reconsider whether Rios Montt was eligible for a 1986 amnesty, even though a subsequent Guatemalan law and international law says such amnesties did not apply to crimes against humanity.
A final blow came Tuesday, when the Constitutional Court informed plaintiffs in the genocide case that there could be no retrial until early 2015 because the court's calendar is full for 2014.
Advocates of trying Rios Montt expressed concern that he might die before further legal action takes place.
"There are, of course, concerns about unjustified delays," said Roxanna Altholz, associate director of the International Human Rights Law Clinic at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law. "Rios Montt is an older man, and these crimes occurred over 30 years ago."

High School Violinist Plays on the College Level

Written By: Reagan P.

James River High School sophomore violinist, Brighton Payne, has been selected to play with the Richmond University Symphony.

Payne, who has been playing violin continuously for the past ten years, her parents first signed her up for Suzuki violin at the Swift Creek Academy of Performing Arts (SCAPA) at the age of six.

“She had the cutest tiny violin,” said her mother, Michelle Payne.

Throughout her schooling, Payne has continued to play the violin at SCAPA. Her Teacher there, James Allen, recommended her to audition for the University of Richmond Symphony.

Payne wasn’t able to arrive at the audition due to being out of town, and later was invited to play with the symphony in rehearsal, and then play for conductor, Alexander Kordzaia, one on one.

“After that he pretty much told me I was in,” Payne said.

Payne however isn’t the only student in high school playing with symphony. The University of Richmond Symphony is a mixture of high school students, college students, and other adults.

Payne has been playing violin for the past nine years, and is entering her tenth year playing violin. She’s played in countless different pieces at ‘festival’ where she performed a solo in front of judges and received ratings of superior (highest rating possible).

In middle school, her orchestra teacher, Jill Foster, selected Payne to play in All County Orchestra. A yearly event that is available to select students who audition in front of their teachers.

All three years of attendance Payne’s seventh grade performance seems most memorable.

“One time at All County somehow they didn’t get my name. So they just gave me a chair,” Payne said.

Payne’s chair was the last chair, when she had auditioned she had earned first chair. By the end of the rehearsal that day Payne was moved to first chair of the seventh grade All County Orchestra.

“They usually don’t change chair in All County,” Payne said.

Payne, who didn’t look at being last chair as a set back, looked at the situation as the chance to prove them wrong. That she had earned the first chair and wanted it back.

The following year she attended Central Regional Orchestra (CRO), where the conductor of the Richmond University Symphony conducted the students. Payne recalls that the music was a lot more difficult than she had thought it would be.

“One of the pieces we lost the music to, so we had to read off the people in front of us,” Payne said, remembering another one of the challenges she faced at CRO.

Currently Payne is a sophomore but has expressed getting a minor in music, but aspires to become a teacher. Payne also said that she would apply to scholarships for music, only if the scholarship doesn’t limit her major to music.

As for going to University of Richmond for college she claims “It’s a little too close to home,” but it has a beautiful campus.

Payne’s first two concerts with orchestra happened on the 27th of September, and the 9th of October. The Symphony’s next concert is scheduled for December 4th.

Written By: Reagan P.