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New legal challenge revives ‘huge war’ over Hunters Point’s toxic legacy

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Marie Harrison warned for years that the Hunters Point shipyard, where she once worked on the southeastern edge of San Francisco, was a slow-motion public health disaster.

Parts of the former naval yard were contaminated during the Cold War by fallout from ships brought there after being tested for nuclear bombs. It’s toxic legacy that made residents like Harrison, mother of Bayview-Hunters Point’s Environmental Justice Movement, wonder if it might be related to nosebleeds, breathing problems, and neighbors’ tumors.

The Navy and public health officials long denied any connection, and Harrison’s challenges ended abruptly two years ago when she died of a lung disease. Then, last year, their neighborhood became the COVID-19 epicenter of San Francisco.

Today Harrison’s daughter Arieann sees the community at a new crossroads with the construction of 12,000 new homes planned for the shipyard and neighboring Candlestick Park. It has raised well-known concerns about toxic land, accelerated gentrification, and gross health inequalities – all while reinvigorating Harrison’s sense of activism.

“At the same time, there is a huge housing and environmental war going on,” said Arieann Harrison. “They collide.”

Late Thursday night, lawyers for the younger Harrison and 9,000 other Bayview-Hunters Point residents, who are part of a class action lawsuit, ordered a judge to stop construction on the former shipyard, unless multi-billion dollar developer Lennar Corporation and offshoot FivePoint Holdings are involved can prove that they control the release of toxic materials as required by state law.

Lennar declined to comment on the legal challenge, which a federal judge will consider in a hearing scheduled for July 29. In a statement, a spokesman for the San Francisco Department of Health said the department “does not need to stop construction”. “For additional dust monitoring, as all work on the construction site must already comply with the health regulations that require daily dust control and monitoring.

What happens next in the decades-long development battle that has already spawned a jumble of lawsuits could help shape the next chapter in the Bay Area. Hunters Point is one of several long-contaminated former military or industrial sites across the region slated for significant development amid a housing shortage that has driven prices to record highs.

From Treasure Island to Vallejo’s Mare Island to a former chemical and pharmaceutical site in Richmond, developers say the large plots with long history of pollution are now some of the largest and best opportunities for new construction in the Bay Area.

But local residents organizing legal disputes in mostly non-white working-class communities like Bayview-Hunters Point argue that the promise of new jobs and affordable housing shouldn’t overshadow health concerns. Environmentalists add that projections of sea level rise make the construction boom in the bay even more risky.

“It’s like breaking a record in the bay in similar communities,” said Bradley Angel, executive director of activist group Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice. “Lawsuits will fly and there will be protests. The fight is on. “

A story of distrust

Arieann Harrison works for a social service in the low-rise neighborhood of Bayview, across from a gourmet sausage packaging factory. While their customers grapple with homelessness and instability, banners in front of new condominiums just behind the hill of the old Hunters Point shipyard advertise a “balanced lifestyle” and “luxurious retreats”.

House prices have risen to an average of $ 695,000 in Hunters Point and $ 960,000 in Bayview over the past few decades, according to the National Realtors Association, even after some banks suspended home loans at the yard. In 2010, when the real estate crisis led to foreclosures on black homeowners, the median was $ 110,000 in Hunters Point and $ 360,000 in Bayview, according to an analysis by Jackson Fuller Realtors.

Harrison has been watching the pressure build-up for much longer. She was born in 1967 during the civil rights movement, shortly after a white San Francisco police officer shot a black teenager and sparked a riot in Bayview-Hunters Point. The shipyard closed in 1974 and the following decades brought unrest over unemployment, displacement, drugs and violence. More recently, Harrison, known locally as “the resource queen,” battled the city’s support for a local women’s center and suffered dire health diagnoses for her uncle, sister, mother, and father.

“That feeling that nobody cares – I’ve seen it over and over,” Harrison said. “I think what’s going on in the community deserves international attention.”

Local residents claim in the new legal filing that they were not notified of the resumption of construction, and they fear the dust raised by the construction could be harmful to nearby schools and homes. Therefore, they are asking developers to cease work for four to six months to allow for more extensive testing by outside scientists and come up with a plan to monitor the work for the future.

The motion for an injunction is part of a U.S. district court case that dates back to 2018 when attorney Charles Bonner first sued for damages of up to $ 27 billion, or around $ 675,000 for each of the roughly 40,000 residents from Bayview-Hunters Point. Bonner said settlement negotiations were ongoing with the developers, but he was also preparing to go to court if necessary.

“Historically, this community has been totally devastated and completely ignored over the past 75 years,” said Bonner. “Now is the time for this to stop.”

The Navy and other agencies, meanwhile, have spent decades and hundreds of millions of dollars cleaning up contamination at the shipyard. In 2004, regulators declared the yard’s hill section clean, but activists say the recent discovery of radioactive objects near the site undermines these reports.

The U.S. EPA, the California Department of Toxic Substances Control, and the San Francisco Department of Public Health have declared the hill area is safe for residents. More than 500 homes have been built, with around 20% reserved for middle-income buyers under a comprehensive community service agreement that has divided residents as property prices rise and good local jobs remain scarce.

Much of the former shipyard remains classified as a federal superfund site and must be tested and cleaned before people can live there. Construction resumed during the pandemic, and FivePoint has announced that the Navy will transfer other cleared land to the city for future development between 2023 and 2028.

Complaints cloud the way. Lennar and FivePoint recently reached a $ 6.3 million settlement with early new home buyers at the shipyard who say the cleanup scandal hurt their property value. FivePoint has also sued the Navy for “negligent oversight” of the cleanup.

Both the developers and local residents are among those suing the Navy’s cleaning company Tetra Tech EC. Federal prosecutors alleged the company had compromised and faked radiation tests, and the Navy ruled their data was suspicious and areas of the shipyard needed retesting. Tetra Tech EC has denied any wrongdoing, despite the fact that two former supervisors were sentenced to eight months in prison in 2018 for falsifying records.

‘You will never know’

Long before Keyvn Lutton fell ill, she and her artist partner moved to Bayview when they “had a bloody time” trying to find a studio in San Francisco in the mid-1980s. They were the only white residents in a neighborhood with black homeowners, but she made friends with other activists who fought against the shipyard development – and then watched in horror as many became seriously ill.

Lutton himself underwent several brain tumor removal operations from 2007 to 2009. In 2013 she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Another blow came when her miniature poodle, Penelope, developed her own tumor and died.

“With all the things we got upset about, it turned out that what we were doing was right,” said Lutton, although doctors to this day take turns encouraging and asking whether this could all be related to the shipyard reject. “It’s like you’ll never know,” she said.

A persistent doctor urges city and environmental authorities to do more to study and possibly compensate people with health problems. Ahimsa Porter Sumchai, a longtime activist and medical doctor who previously worked with war veterans exposed to Agent Orange and nuclear fallout, is leading a unique biomonitoring project that has tested 55 Bayview-Hunters Point residents to date and found recurring elevated levels of toxins and carcinogens such as cadmium and thallium.

Sumchai said many of her previous warnings had been dismissed as the “Chicken Little Says Heaven Is Falling” drama, but she hopes a renewed focus on the links between race, the environment and health could lead officials to the yard to visit again. If the health issues are found to be widespread, she will continue to push for a health registry, such as the one created after the Flint, Michigan water crisis and the World Trade Center.

“The pandemic has radically changed things,” said Sumchai. “We have to look at the redevelopment plan, and the reality is that we have to give up some uses at the shipyard.”

For residents like Harrison, who have long questioned the cleanup, the question now is whether adequate control of environmental damage can be done to address health concerns while also creating jobs that many in the community want. It still hurts to know that whatever happens, most new homes will be way out of reach.

“I know there is a way the haves and the have not got to work together, and it’s about being fair,” said Harrison. “That’s not fair.”

Lauren Hepler is a contributor to the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: lauren.hepler@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @LAHepler

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Women’s Health

In Response to NH Executive Council Vote to Defund Granite State Family Planning Organizations, NH Delegation Urges Biden Admin to Swiftly Award Supplemental Assistance Directly to Impacted Providers

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17.09.2021

(Manchester, NH) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) headed a letter today with U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Representatives Annie Kuster (NH-02) and Chris Pappas (NH-01) The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra urged HHS to make additional grants directly to the New Hampshire family planning providers that were recently withdrawn by the New Hampshire Executive Council and are not receiving Title X program funding.

On Wednesday, the delegation slammed the Executive Board after it voted to terminate several contracts for family planning organizations, effectively cutting off critical services to women’s health care providers across New Hampshire, such as planned parenting.

Today the delegation wrote: “As a result of the actions of the Executive Board, several family planning providers are facing budget constraints that will affect the availability of health care for thousands of granite staters, mostly women, who rely on family planning providers for their vital health. “Including breast cancer screening, cervical cancer screening, birth control and other reproductive health services. Low-income women and rural women will be disproportionately affected by the reckless decision of the Executive Board. We are deeply concerned about the health care gap that will be inevitable without immediate federal support. “

They continued, “With the situation looming in New Hampshire, we ask HHS to review all available means to provide immediate support to affected family planning providers in our state. We appreciate HHS efforts to repeal the harmful Title X-Gag rule and restore federal funding for family planning providers in New Hampshire and across the country. However, the family planning providers in New Hampshire need immediate help. We therefore demand that the providers be provided with additional funds quickly and directly in order to close the funding gap they are confronted with. “

You can read the letter in full here.

Wednesday’s Executive Council vote is particularly egregious as it follows the Trump administration’s years of attacks on women’s reproductive health, particularly President Trump’s implementation of the Title X Gag Rule, which controls the majority of family planning providers in New Hampshire rules out federal grants. In June, Senator Shaheen sent a letter to Secretary of Health and Welfare Xavier Becerra urging him to support family planning providers in New Hampshire who will lose government funds under the New Hampshire Draft Budget. This support is urgently needed to help these vendors fill the funding gap until the Biden administration can complete its repeal of the Trump administration rule.

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Taliban Seize Women’s Ministry Building for Use by Religious Police

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KABUL, Afghanistan – The Taliban have converted the women’s ministry building into offices for the Religious Morality Police, which once fueled fears of their oppression of women and the brutal enforcement of Sharia law by the militant government two decades ago in Afghanistan.

The renovation of the building in Kabul, the country’s capital, indicated at least a symbolic slap in the face from a ministry that embodied the rise of women in Afghanistan after the Taliban was ousted in 2001.

A video posted by Reuters showed women employed by the ministry protesting in front of the building because the Taliban had denied them entry and told them to go home.

It remains unclear whether the Department of Women was abolished by the Taliban, who regained power after the collapse of the US-backed government last month. But when the Taliban announced their incumbent cabinet members for the new government earlier this month, there was no appointment to oversee women’s affairs.

And in another ominous sign of renewed gender discrimination among the Taliban, the Ministry of Education ordered male teachers back to work and said secondary school classes for boys would resume on Saturday. There was no talk of girls.

The Ministry of Women’s new resident, the Ministry of Inviting, Guiding, and Promoting Virtue and Preventing Vice, appears to be just a slightly renamed name for the notorious Taliban standards of conduct enforcer who made the group a global pariah in the 1990s.

The Ministry’s police officers have been known to beat or flog women who ventured outside their homes without full body covering and male escorts. They banned girls from school after elementary school and banned women from looking for work. Unmarried couples risked death by stoning for adultery.

While the Taliban leaders have recognized that Afghanistan has evolved after two decades of American-led occupation, they have also left women fearful of what the future may bring. No women have been appointed to positions of authority under the new Taliban government, and steps have been taken to separate men and women in public spaces.

Earlier this week, Minister of Higher Education Abdul Baqi Haqqani said women could continue to study in universities and postgraduate courses, but only in gender-segregated classrooms in appropriate Islamic clothing.

The building that formerly housed the Ministry of Women is in a former liberal district of Kabul that is full of cafes and a popular Turkish-run shopping mall with clothing stores, a counterfeit Apple store, and restaurants ranging from fast food chains to high profile Restaurants littered -end steak house.

Now a white Taliban flag is waving over the armored gate of the building complex, adorned with a sign for the ministry, who is its new resident, while Taliban security forces stand guard.

Understanding the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan

Map 1 of 6

Who are the Taliban? The Taliban emerged in 1994 amid the unrest following the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan in 1989. They used brutal public punishments, including flogging, amputation and mass executions, to enforce their rules. Here is more about their genesis and track record as rulers.

Who are the Taliban leaders? These are the top leaders of the Taliban, men who for years have been on the run, in hiding, in prison and dodged American drones. Little is known about them or how they plan to govern, including whether they will be as tolerant as they say they are. A spokesman told the Times the group wanted to forget about their past, but there would be some restrictions.

The walls surrounding the site are still adorned with murals and signs depicting the work of the Ministry of Women, but some have had women’s faces vandalized, a type of vandalism that has occurred elsewhere in Afghanistan since the Taliban regained power is to be observed.

A sign that reads “Supporting women who are victims of violence is our human duty” shows a woman with a black eye. Another is from the United States Agency for International Development, which has been a major resource for Afghanistan, and read, “Keep your city green and clean.”

Even critics of the American military’s long stay in Afghanistan have recognized the progress made by Afghan women over the past two decades. Under the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, women’s health, literacy rates and employment all rose. Assistance and shelter were given to abused women. Women entered the legislature and other positions of power.

A revealing barometer of growth was shown in the changing composition of the workforce. A World Bank study found that women made up 22 percent of the workforce in 2019, compared to 15 percent in 2009. A survey conducted two years ago by the Asia Foundation also showed growing public support for women in the workplace, with 76 percent of Afghans support women’s right to work outside the home.

The news of the Taliban’s conversion of the Ministry of Women came when the United Nations Security Council reassigned the organization’s six-month mission to Afghanistan. The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), which was established in the aftermath of the US invasion in 2002, is the primary tool for monitoring Taliban’s behavior following the chaotic US military withdrawal last month.

Stéphane Dujarric, the UN spokesman in New York, said he knew nothing about the development of the Ministry of Women and could not comment on it. Nevertheless, there have been “worrying developments in recent times, but we are continuing our dialogue and our advocacy for women’s rights, for girls’ rights, especially in the field of work and education”.

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Addressing the pandemic’s toll on women’s health in the workplace

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Released: September 18, 2021


Alex Perry, CEO at Bupa UK Insurance

September 16, 2021

The global pandemic was a world changing event and it is inevitable that it has had, and will continue to have, an impact on almost every segment of society. While it continues to affect lives and livelihoods around the world, we can already see the resulting consequences affect gender equality. McKinsey estimates that women’s jobs are 1.8 times more vulnerable to this crisis than men’s jobs; The burden of unpaid childcare during school closings and the care of relatives during the lockdown was disproportionately borne by women with the closure of schools, and unfortunately the rate of domestic violence is also increasing.[1]

The pandemic is adding to another area of ​​gender inequality – health. It has shed a harsh light on some of the persistent health inequalities, and research by Bupa in the 2021 Census of Workplace Wellbeing found that a significantly larger proportion of women than men think the pandemic is negatively affecting them Life has an impact on health and wellbeing – two-thirds of women (66%) versus 57% of men.

While it is inevitable that the scale of a global pandemic will affect almost everyone, its impact on women and their working lives is undeniable – our census showed that a third (32%) of women felt that their mental health was affecting their work , and many are struggling with the transition to working from home. A quarter (26%) have seen blurred lines between work and personal life with the World Health Organization (WHO)[2] This suggests that many women find themselves in an impossible situation of multiple caring responsibilities, with some returning to traditional household roles as well as their professional workload. While every woman’s situation is different, it is clear that COVID-19 continues to exacerbate existing inequalities for many. In addition, the long-term effects of the pandemic will have social and economic repercussions for women for many years to come.

[3]How can organizations react effectively and create conditions for optimal equality for women? In recent years, companies have recognized the importance of diversity and inclusion in the workplace. This is stronger today than ever as companies with more diversity are more likely to outperform less heterogeneous ones in terms of profitability. The pandemic is therefore providing a unique opportunity for companies to rethink how they can support women at all stages of life so they can realize their career potential, with no better starting point than women’s health. Employers have a responsibility to support their employees and create an inclusive culture where everyone can thrive and do their best mentally and physically.

There are still some taboos and information gaps surrounding women’s health. One of the few benefits of the pandemic is that we are prioritizing our health more than ever. Let’s take this golden opportunity to rethink how we can better support the health and wellbeing of women, starting in the workplace.

References

Effects of COVID-19 on Women and Gender Equality | McKinsey

https://www.euro.who.int/en/health-topics/health-determinants/gender/news/news/2021/3/inspiring-change-womens-leadership-in-health-care-is-vital- during-the-covid-19-pandemic-and-beyond

https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/diversity-and-inclusion/diversity-wins-how-inclusion-matters#

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