Minnesota chapter of ‘Global Deaf Muslim’ works to increase awareness and accessibility

From calls to prayer… to reciting scripture… to church hymns… much of religious practice is centered around sound and the spoken word.But people who can’t hear may feel cut off from fully accessing their religious communities.One organization is trying to make it easier for Deaf members of the Twin Cities’ growing Muslim community to participate in religious activities. Global Deaf Muslim was started in Rochester, NY, in 2005 to work for the inclusion and awareness of Deaf Muslim issues. Continue Reading

Fighting teen pregnancy in Minnesota

Nine Hennepin and Ramsey County organizations will have some extra help fighting teen pregnancy in 2012, thanks to grants announced in December by the Ripley Memorial Foundation.  The foundation has awarded a total of $59,500 to metro-area programs aimed at reducing teen birth rates in at-risk communities.While Minnesota has one of the lowest overall teen birth rates in the nation, the numbers are less encouraging for teens of color.  According to a recent report from Teenwise Minnesota, the 2009 birth rate for white teens in Minnesota was about ten percent lower than for white teens nationwide, but birth rates for black, Native American, Latina, and Asian teens in Minnesota all exceeded the national averages for their respective categories.Katherine Meerse, board president of Teenwise Minnesota, a non-profit devoted to promoting science-based pregnancy prevention programs, said there’s no single explanation for these numbers, but pointed out that these disparities reflect other race-based inequalities in Minnesota.“I think it’s complicated, and when you look at other issues—whether poverty rates, dropout rates, or other types of health issues—you see similar types of disparities.”Reports from Teenwise Minnesota show that teen birth rates for Latino youth in Minnesota increased by 23.7 percent between 1990 and 2004, while birth rates for other groups decreased overall during the same period. With a birth rate of 80.7 per thousand in 2009, more than five times that of white teens, Latino teens have the second highest birth rate of any ethnic group in Minnesota (Native American teens have the highest.)“Teens can feel lost. Their parents are busy pursuing their ‘American Dream,’ sometimes working two or three jobs,” said Roxana Linares, executive director of Centro, a Minneapolis-based social service organization serving Latinos. Continue Reading

“99 Tents” in Minneapolis People’s Plaza — and then there were none

After OccupyMN supporters pitched tents on Wednesday night (11/30), sheriff’s deputies moved in at four a.m. to seize and lock away the tents, effectively evicting OccupyMN from the Hennepin County Government Plaza, which it had renamed the People’s Plaza during nearly two months of occupation. According to the Star Tribune, two OccupyMN protesters who then set up a tent at Minneapolis City Hall were arrested by Minneapolis police, who also “ripped down a tent that had been set up on the sidewalk.”OccupyMN had called on supporters to brave the weather and pitch “99 tents for the 99%” as part of a cold weather camp-out to address homelessness, the foreclosure crisis, and free speech. A crowd of almost four hundred gathered in Minneapolis at the Hennepin County Government plaza Wednesday evening to demonstrate against the county’s restrictions on tents and sleeping in the plaza, which has been the site of OccupyMN protests for nearly two months.  The November 30 demonstration began with a 5:30 PM rally featuring speakers from labor organizations, anti-war groups, student movements, and local government.  Minneapolis City Council Member Cam Gordon (Green Party – Ward 2) and state representative Karen Clark (DFL-Minneapolis) were among those to address the crowd in what has become known as the “People’s Plaza” to those in the OccupyMN movement.As the rally drew to a close around 7:00 PM, participants began to set up tents in the plaza, violating a November 23 order from Senior U.S. District Judge Richard Kyle.  While controversy has brewed over the right to erect tents since the earliest days of the Occupy movement, both here in Minnesota and around the country, “99 Tents” organizer Sam Richards says last week’s order upholding the county’s tent ban really helped spur the Wednesday night demonstration.“We saw the court case kind of going the way we didn’t want it to, even though we were told we had a sympathetic judge and a strong case and everything,” says Richards.  “And so we said, well, if we’re not going to win in the legal process, we’ve got to just win our rights on the ground. And that’s what we’re doing here tonight.”According to OccupyMN organizers, the 99 Tents demonstration also aimed to draw attention to   foreclosure and housing issues. Osha Karow, an organizer with OccupyMN since the movement’s beginning, said the event is an act of solidarity with the homeless, who often face a double standard when occupying the plaza and other public spaces.“We noticed kind of a hypocrisy in the system, whereas we were given more lenience than homeless people are given just day to day here in Minneapolis,” said Karow. Continue Reading

Cereal Crimes: Report says “natural” might not be

A report released earlier this month by the Wisconsin-based Cornucopia Institute warns that health-minded cereal eaters may not be getting their money’s worth, and some Minnesota brands may be to blame.The report, titled “Cereal Crimes,” which was released to the public October 12, claims that many products labeled “natural” are actually conventional foods marketed to eco-conscious consumers, often at a premium price. While products bearing an “organic” label must meet strict federal guidelines set by the USDA, there are no legal restrictions on the use of the word “natural” on food packaging, with the exception of some meat products. The report suggests that cereal brands using the “natural” label have taken advantage of consumer confusion over the terms “natural” and “organic.” It says that shoppers attracted to the “natural” label may assume, wrongly in many cases, that the products are free of pesticides, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and synthetic ingredients.“We’ve had a lot of feedback already after we released our report from consumers who felt betrayed,” said Charlotte Vallaeys, Director of Farm and Food Policy at the Cornucopia Institute.According to market research conducted by the Hartman Group and cited in the Cornucopia report, 61 percent of consumers surveyed believed that foods bearing the “natural” label are free of GMOs. The Cornucopia Institute sent cereal samples to an independent laboratory to test for genetically engineered corn and soybeans and found that several non-organic “natural” brands contained high levels of genetically modified ingredients. Continue Reading