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Native American Dakota Tribes Fighting High Prices, Poor Food Quality

There’s only one grocery store on the reservation, says Lisa Hope-Heth, but she refuses to shop there

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Tribal Dakota people riding horses, courtesy: Wikimedia commons

South Dakota, March 25: South Dakota’s Crow Creek Indian Reservation is home to the descendants of the Dakota people, who thrived in Minnesota before they were forced onto the reservation in the 1860s. Crow Creek sits in the center of the state along the Missouri River, and its more than 1,000 square kilometers stretch across three of the poorest counties in the United States.

There’s only one grocery store on the reservation, says Lisa Hope-Heth, but she refuses to shop there.

“A lot of the prices are too high. Some of the meat is not always fresh. And the bread – you know how in some larger stores when bread doesn’t sell and it gets stale, they take it off the shelf? I sometimes think that we get that bread.”

She once worked as a meat cutter, so she knows old hamburger when she sees it. She also recognizes when meat that has been sitting on the shelf too long is reground with slightly fresher meat, then repackaged and put back on the shelf for sale.

When Hope-Heth needs groceries, she must either drive 40 kilometers south to the town of Chamberlain or 100 kilometers northwest to Pierre.

“For people that do not have vehicles, they don’t have that choice,” she said. “They have to go to the local places. If they want to go farther, they have to hire somebody to take them. And they’ll either have to pay $50 for gas for the ride or pay in EBTs and groceries.”

EBTs, she explains, are electronic benefits transfers. The U.S. government’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program provides food benefits to low-income individuals and families. These are transferred electronically and accessed via a plastic credit card.

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On Crow Creek and elsewhere in Indian Country, EBTs are used like currency to pay for favors or services. And this means that beneficiaries often run out of food money before the month is up.

In 2014, in an effort to eliminate food insecurity among First Peoples, the First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) began a year-long study on food pricing. They recruited volunteers to monitor prices of basic food commodities such as milk, bread, ground beef and eggs on eight reservations across the country.

“What we found was that the price of food was higher, which is a funny thing, since reservation communities have much lower income and are much more likely to be in poverty,” said A-dae Romero-Briones, an associate director of research and policy for Native Agriculture at FNDI.

At the time of the study, for example, a gallon (3.79 liters) of milk was priced an average of $3.76 in urban centers across America, but one South Dakota grocery store, was charging a dollar more. Similarly, a store in New Mexico was charging Cochiti Pueblo people nearly $1.50 more than the national average price for a loaf of bread.

“We are now in the process of trying to figure out why this is,” Romero-Briones said. “Price tells us a whole lot of different things about the market. The cost of shipping food to remote areas is one likely culprit.”

That may, in part, explain the dearth of fresh fruits and vegetables on Crow Creek.

“You can usually find potatoes, apples or tomatoes,” said Tally Monteau-Colombe, executive director of Hunkpati Investment, a nonprofit group that works to eliminate poverty on Crow Creek. “That’s what they call ‘fresh food.’” Everything else comes in cans.

The Crow Creek tribe, with help from the U.S Department of Health and Human Services’ Indian Health Service, provides diabetic tribal members $10 vouchers every month to buy vegetables.

“But if they have to pay $4.39 for a pound (.45 kg) of tomatoes, that $10 doesn’t go far,” Monteau-Columbe said.

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‘Weapon of health destruction’

When Native Americans were driven from their homelands, they lost control of healthful and complex food systems that had sustained them for tens of thousands of years. The U.S. Army provided them with basic commodities — refined wheat flour, salt, sugar and lard, ingredients that were alien to Native diets but went on to become fry bread, a salty, fried dough that is found on reservations across the country, what Romero-Briones calls a “weapon of health destruction.”

“I love the stuff – in moderation, of course. And it speaks to the ingenuity of the grandmas who figured out how to make worthless flour, salt, and lard from commodity baskets into something we now charge $5 or more for at public gatherings,” she said.

Today, at least one third of Native Americans live on reservations and depend on government-issued commodities and inexpensive packaged food, high in fat, salt and chemicals, which has contributed to alarming rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

Alarmed, Crow Creek, like many tribal communities across the country, is now working to regain control of its food supply. Hunkpati last year launched a fresh food initiative on the reservation to get the community to grow its own produce and promote healthier eating.

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“We set up a community garden and orchard, which we hoped would be enough to sustain the community, and hired local youth to take care of the garden,” said Monteau-Columbe.

For a while, the garden thrived, but when funding ran short, they could no longer afford to pay for its upkeep.

“Now it’s defunct. But we still kept the orchard going,” she said.

Today, the tribe is able to harvest its own chokecherries and wild plums, staples of the traditional Dakota diet. Hunkpati has held classes to teach tribe members how to make traditional foods, like wochapi, a thick berry sauce served with game or fry bread, and wasna, a pounded mix of lean dried meat, chokecherries and grains. Portable and packed with protein and natural sugar, it was a mainstay of the original Dakota diet.

The Crow Creek Fresh Food Initiative also provides support to food entrepreneurs and others who want to grow their own food by providing garden kits and plowing and tilling services. It hosts a farmer’s market, selling locally-grown produce at affordable prices, even accepting EBT cards instead of cash. And this summer, thanks to new funding, the group hopes to be able to construct a series of raised-bed vegetable gardens and, if they are really lucky, build a community greenhouse. (VOA)

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Will sexual misconduct scandals make Men more cautious towards Women?

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Sexual scandals may wary men's behavioral instincts
FILE - In a Feb. 3, 2015, file photo, Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg is photographed at the company's headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif. Some women, and men, worry that the same climate that’s emboldening women to speak up about harassment could backfire by making some men wary of female colleagues. Sandberg recently wrote that she hoped the outcry over harassment doesn’t “have the unintended consequence of holding women back.” (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)
  • Sexual Scandals are the new low in business industry
  • Americans were already edgy about male-female encounters at work
  • Gender comes as a barrier in interaction

Some women, and men, worry the same climate that’s emboldening women to speak up about sexual misconduct could backfire by making some men wary of female colleagues.

Forget private meetings and get-to-know-you dinners. Beware of banter. Think twice before a high-ranking man mentors a young female staffer.

“I have already heard the rumblings of a backlash: ‘This is why you shouldn’t hire women,’” Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg wrote in a recent post .

“So much good is happening to fix workplaces right now. Let’s make sure it does not have the unintended consequence of holding women back,” said Sandberg, author of the working women’s manifesto “Lean In.”

Sexual Scandals
From left, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., accompanied by Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Illinois., and former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson, speaks at a news conference where she and other members of congress introduce legislation to curb sexual harassment in the workplace, on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017, in Washington. Gillibrand and fellow female Democratic senators have united in calling for Sen. Al Franken to resign amid sexual misconduct allegations. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Ana Quincoces, a Miami-based attorney and entrepreneur who owns her own food line, says her business and its success involves working mostly with men, and sales and other activities are often concluded over lunch or drinks. Those opportunities, she says, are dwindling, because many of the men she knows through her business “are terrified.”

“There’s a feeling of this wall that wasn’t there that is suddenly up because they don’t know what’s appropriate anymore — it’s disconcerting,” Quincoces said. “I feel that they’re more careful, more formal in their relationships with co-workers. And I can’t say I blame them, because what’s happened is pervasive. Every day there’s a new accusation.”

She said many of the men she knows are now avoiding one-on-one social occasions that were normal in the past.

“This is going to trickle down into all industries. … It’s going to become the new normal,” Quincoces said. “It’s a good thing because women are not afraid anymore, but on the other side, it’s a slippery slope.”

Americans were already edgy about male-female encounters at work: A New York Times/Morning Consult poll of 5,300 men and women last spring found almost two-thirds thought workers should be extra careful around opposite-sex colleagues, and around a quarter thought private work meetings between men and women were inappropriate.

But in a season of outcry over sexual misconduct, some men are suddenly wondering whether they can compliment a female colleague or ask about her weekend. Even a now-former female adviser to the head of Pennsylvania’s Democratic Party suggested on Facebook that men would stop talking to women altogether because of what she portrayed as overblown sexual misconduct claims.

Certain managers are considering whether to make sure they’re never alone with a staffer, despite the complications of adding a third person in situations like performance reviews, says Philippe Weiss, who runs the Chicago-based consultancy Seyfarth Shaw at Work.

Philadelphia employment lawyer Jonathan Segal says some men are declaring they’ll just shut people out of their offices, rather than risk exchanges that could be misconstrued.

“The avoidance issue is my biggest concern, because the marginalization of women in the business world is at least as big a problem as harassment,” Segal says. A recent report involving 222 North American companies found the percentage of women drops from 47 percent at the entry level to 20 percent in the C suite.

Vice President Mike Pence has long said he doesn’t have one-on-one meals with any woman except his wife and wants her by his side anywhere alcohol is served, as part of the couple’s commitment to prioritizing their marriage. The guidelines have “been a blessing to us,” the Republican told Christian Broadcasting Network News in an interview this month.

Employment attorneys caution that it can be problematic to curb interactions with workers because of their gender, if the practice curtails their professional opportunities. W. Brad Johnson, a co-author of a book encouraging male mentors for women, says limiting contact sends a troubling message.

“If I were unwilling to have an individual conversation with you because of your gender, I’m communicating ‘you’re unreliable; you’re a risk,’” says Johnson, a U.S. Naval Academy psychology professor.

Jessica Proud, a communications professional and Republican political consultant in New York City, said it would be wrong if this national “day of reckoning” over sexual misconduct resulted in some men deciding not to hire, mentor or work with women. She recalled a campaign she worked on where she was told she couldn’t travel with the candidate because of how it might look.

“I’m a professional, he’s a professional. Why should my career experience be limited?” she said. “That’s just as insulting in a lot of ways.” VOA

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US to begin Jerusalem Embassy move preparations: Tillerson

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Photo: wikimedia commons

Washington, Dec 7. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has stated that the State Department will “immediately” act on President Donald Trump’s order and start preparations to move the American embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Earlier on Wednesday, Trump announced in a televised speech that he officially recognises Jerusalem as the Israeli capital and instructed the State Department to relocate the US embassy to the city, reports Xinhua news agency. (Read: Trump to Announce US Recognition of Jerusalem as Israeli Capital, Move Embassy)

Tillerson, who is on a Europe visit, said in a statement on Wednesday night that the US has consulted with “many friends, partners and allies” about the relocation ahead of Trump’s decision.

Though hailed by Israel, Trump’s announcement immediately drew strong opposition and widespread criticism from Arab and European countries that such a move would inflame tensions and fuel violence in the Middle East.

Tillerson said that the US had taken measures to protect Americans in the region.

“The safety of Americans is the State Department’s highest priority, and in concert with other federal agencies, we’ve implemented robust security plans to protect the safety of Americans in affected regions.”

Trump’s announcement marked a dramatic departure from his predecessors’ foreign policy.

Although the US Congress passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 which required the relocation of the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, former Presidents, including George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, consistently renewed a presidential waiver to delay the relocation out of consideration for national security interests.

The status of Jerusalem, revered by Muslims as the third holiest site in Islam and the holiest site by Jews, lies at the core of the dispute between Israel and the Palestinians.

The international community does not recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and no foreign countries have their embassies in the city.(IANS)

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How Technology is Streamlining the US Lending Sector

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cash-lending

Today, people are more connected than any other time in history. Since people are constantly using computers and smartphones, most industries have adopted technologies that help in easier and faster service delivery to customers.

In the finance industry, the development of technology has transformed the landscape in the lending sector. In this article, you’ll learn more about how this industry has been affected by technology.

Technology creates better borrower experience

Basically, the lending process requires an exchange of some data between the borrower and the lending institution. Depending on the lender and the amount in question, you may be required to submit tens of pages of information before the application is approved.

As such, the process can be daunting given that you are expected to fill multiple forms as well as provide several documents.  Without patience and some free time, getting through the loan application with traditional banks is close to impossible.

However, when the lending process is digitized the amount of paperwork is reduced dramatically. This is because account activity, credit history, income history as well as tax compliance can be fed into the system with the click of a button. This has made the collection and verification of information quite easy. Besides streamlining the application process, the amount of time it takes to get a loan has also reduced.

In addition, some lenders have developed some innovative mobile solutions that enable customers to submit an application from anywhere. The most outstanding feature about mobile loans is that there is a constant interaction between the lender and the borrowers. This goes a long way in improving service delivery.

Increased transparency

In the past, borrowers had no access to a lender’s system that hold the borrower’s personal details as well as loan application status. This implies that most borrowers were in the dark for the most part of the lending process. When the need to communicate comes, the loan teams were the most potent option. This has been the reason why loan officers were getting hundreds of phone calls from clients who were dying to get the updates about the loans.

Courtesy of technology advancements, now it’s possible to view the status of your loan application as well as your account status with a lender. This helps borrowers to stay updated during the entire online installment loans process. In addition, you can get instant communication about any requests that a lender may have that is critical to the borrowing process.

As a result, there is a high collaboration between borrowers and lenders which makes the involved parties satisfied.

A less painful borrowing process

Traditionally, it takes an average of 18 days to get a loan approval. To get through the borrowing process, you need an extra 50 days if you are applying for a mortgage. But when you consider that it’s possible to purchase something from miles away at the comfort of your home and get it in a few hours, the long lending process seems like a bad joke.

To match the level of service delivery in this digital era, the financial sector has incorporated technology for a better experience. The innovative technology makes it possible for borrowers to navigate through the process thanks to great design and real-time customer support.

This makes it easy to switch from traditional lenders who implement outdated technology and business models. The comfort of knowing that you can get help from the lender in a matter of seconds has made the process painless.

It helps you save money

On average, a lender spends about $8,000 to finish one mortgage. This is because they have to pay employees to look into tons of information and collate in various databases. In a manual process, the tasks are repetitive and consume a lot of time. The tragedy here is that the borrower will cover these costs in the form of loan fees and charges.

But when innovative technology is used, much of the redundant tasks during the application process is scraped off. This means borrowing becomes cheaper for both lenders and borrowers. Besides the huge savings on cost, the process takes less time.

Over-reliance on human capital is eliminated and this implies there are fewer errors when gathering information. While this doesn’t conclude that technology has taken the place of experienced manpower, it helps create time and resources that are focused on other tasks with higher value.

Risks associated with technology in the lending sector

While technology has a way of making life more bearable, it comes with several risks. Basically, most of the information is transmitted online and this makes it easy for criminals to intercept the information. With data security being one of the biggest concerns in this industry, most companies are investing heavily in precautionary measures to keep their customers safe.

Therefore, if you are working with a reputable loan company that has implemented the necessary safety measures, you don’t need to worry. However, this doesn’t mean that you should submit a loan application to every online lender out there.

All lenders are not created equal and there are a few predatory businesses out there that can take advantage of vulnerable borrowers and charge astronomical interests. As such, you should restrain yourself from getting into an agreement with any lender who doesn’t have a track record of outstanding customer service and a demonstrated commitment to helping customers.

Finally, identity theft is real and can cause a serious problem if a criminal gets your personal information. Therefore, you should be careful when requesting loans through online platforms. As a rule of thumb, choose to work with businesses that have strict privacy policies as well as having the necessary security measures to prevent data theft.

Final words

Innovative technology has taken the financial industry by a storm and it has created a serious revolution in the industry. Unlike in the past, loans are now easily accessible to more people and the lending process is less painful.

Considering the current trends, it’s clear that more resources are going to be invested in this industry and create better technologies. While there is still much that needs to be done with regards to improving certain loans like mortgages, technology has transformed the sector.