The President of the National Union of Students (NUS) has been accused of “deeply dysfunctional” and “antidemocratic” behaviour by fellow union members.Shakira Martin has been criticised repeatedly on Facebook and Twitter, with colleagues from within the National Executive Committee (NEC) coming forward to denounce herleadership style.A member of the NEC, Myriam Kane, told Cherwell: “The reason why I’ve decided to speak out now about this issue is because a number of others within NUS had enough, were getting nowhere with internal procedures, and started speaking out publicly.“The environment was becoming toxic to the point I have to mentally prepare myself before going to conferences, or NEC meetings, where Shakira will be present.“I don’t know what the next attack will be on me (Shakira all but names me in her video posts), or how I can fulfil my duty as NEC member holding her accountable when I avoid saying her name because I’m scared if I don’t she’ll make it personal.”A member of the NUS Postgraduate Student Campaign, Amelia Horgan, has also criticsed Martin’s manner when engaging with colleagues.Speaking to Cherwell, she claimed that 10 per cent of NEC members had been blocked by Martin on social media for disagreeing with her.She continued: “Martin threatened to take our phones away if we tweeted negatively about the meeting. Of course, personal attacks should not be tolerated, but the NUS Presidenthas a problem with any kind of criticism. “The NUS President does what she wants – from ignoring democratically-passed policy, to threatening officers, talking down to volunteers, and to blocking anyone who dares criticise her.“Her behaviour is unacceptable and the chaos it causes is deeply damaging to the NUS.”Martin said in a post on social media: “These 6 months I have experienced some of the worst harassment and provocation but I have stayed quiet up until this point for the sakeof needing to ‘get on with the job’.“Not only this but I have been baited and provoked on purpose and recorded in my own workplace by those who claim to support working class black women like myself but would happily push me to the limit and watch me break.”Aliya Yule, a former Oxford student, told Cherwell: “I was elected to NEC this year with high hopes and expectations, which were quickly shot through with the realisation of how deeply factional organising divides NUS.“I don’t think having different groups with different political priorities – and different values – is necessarily a bad thing, but the way that it plays out is horrific.“I think Shakira has had a really difficult time, and there have been examples in the press of deeply racist and patronising coverage of her, and I am sure that some of her behaviour is a product of how hostile NUS can be.“But for all my time in student organising, never has it been so difficult to be able to voice opinions without fearing being blocked or yelled at in person or via Facebook live videos, and it’s absolutely hampering the ability of us to work in NUS.“What kind of example does it set, or what kind of message does it send to people excited to get involved, that this is the kind of behaviour that’s acceptable?”Martin will stand for election again in March at the 2018 NUS National Conference.Oxford students will be able to vote for their own NUS delegates in the upcoming Oxford SU elections.Martin did not respond to Cherwell’s request for comment.
The email added that “the view of the Dean and Censors is that a break from college is emphatically not detrimental to examination performance.” Christ Church This article was updated at 11:37 on Friday 13 of March to contain information about Merton’s policies. Some colleges are allowing vacation residence, but are not providing complete funding, including St Hugh’s. St Hugh’s stated in an email that they were “unfortunately not in a financial position to provide [free vacation residence] for free to all students impacted [by Covid-19], but we have been advising students who might be in need of financial support to go through the usual processes that are available.” Christ Church “strongly recommend that all UK undergraduates return home at the end of 8th week”. Exceptions will be made for some student students, including those with “8th and 9th week exams”, those with extended terms who are requested to “not remain in residence outside these dates”, and those who “have identified themselves to the Academic Office”. Those with other circumstances could contact the college. Magdalen Colleges have altered their policies on vacation residence in response to cases of Covid-19 at the University. Hertford Hertford stated in an email to their undergraduates that UK based students would be “required to return home at the end of 8th week”. Exceptions will be made for some students, including those with “exams or submission deadlines in 9th or 10th week”, Students “engaged in approved course lab work” and students with an “exceptional welfare need”. Any students with other circumstances could contact the Accommodation Office. Hertford will allow students to leave belongings in their room, and have allowed students an extra day to move out. New College’s JCR President announced in a JCR meeting earlier this term that the college will provide “for people who may have had to travel home in vac [to] get free vac res to stay in college”, according to the JCR minutes. New College An email from Christ Church’s administration says that this move is an attempt to “ensure that our students and staff remain as healthy as possible while protecting academic need”. Merton Christ Church and Hertford have both informed UK-based undergraduates that they should vacate their accomodation at the end of eighth week, including those who had expected to stay. Magdalen has informed all undergraduates to return home. Merton have informed undergraduates to return home, and are asking all students to clear their rooms of their belongings. Magdalen College stated in an email to students that: “Unless you have University examinations or required course submissions next week, are unable to travel overseas, or have an urgent need to stay in College, we strongly advise those of you who have previously been granted permission to reside in College accommodation over the Easter Vacation to return home this weekend”. Merton has asked all undergraduates to vacate college. Exceptions include “those from Category 1 countries and those sitting examinations in Oxford during 9th week”. Merton are asking students to leave by noon on Tuesday. They are also requiring students “to clear your room and take your belongings home”. By contrast, New College has agreed to provide free vacation residence. Cherwell have contacted the colleges for comment. We will update this story as we get more information. St. Hugh’s
SPONSORED BY DEFENSE ATTORNEY IVAN ARNAEZ.DON’T GO TO COURT ALONE. CALL IVAN ARNAEZ @ 812-424-6671.On Thursday, December 10, 2015 at 3:40am the Vanderburgh County Sheriff’s Office responded to the area of Mill Road and Folz Road upon report of a vehicle stalled in the roadway.The responding sheriff’s deputy found a black 2014 Dodge Charger stopped in the intersection. The driver of the vehicle was found asleep behind the wheel. The vehicle’s engine was running and the transmission was in gear.The deputy woke the driver, who identified himself as Mr. Joshua Randall Woods. Mr. Woods smelled of alcoholic beverages and the odor of raw marijuana was detected in the vehicle. Mr. Woods explained to the deputy that he was on his way home from a bar. Mr. Woods admitted to drinking, but denied having smoked any marijuana.Mr. Woods was subsequently arrested for Operating a Motor Vehicle while Intoxicated. A search of his vehicle revealed 131 individual “hits” of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), nearly a quarter pound of marijuana and drug paraphernalia. Nearly $8,000 in cash was seized from Mr. Woods.ARRESTED:Joshua Randall Woods (pictured above), 23, of Evansville. Operating a Motor Vehicle while Intoxicated (.124 BrAC) as a Class C Misdemeanor, Dealing Marijuana as a Level 5 Felony, Dealing a Schedule One Controlled Substance as a Level 5 FelonyFacebookTwitterCopy LinkEmail
“There’s no doubt about it. People’s views of packaging are changing,” says Mark Barthel (left), special advisor on retail innovation for the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP), which aims to reduce packaging and food waste, and encourage recycling.”As retailers, bakers and their customers become increasingly aware of their environmental footprint, the economic and environmental opportunities presented by packaging innovation are becoming increasingly apparent.”He continues: “Packaging optimisation – the process of designing out unnecessary materials – is one area of focus. Less materials mean lower material costs, less packaging for customers to dispose of and the saving of precious space in landfill sites. Often, it also reduces energy consumption. Not surprisingly, interest in packaging optimisation is gathering pace, as more retailers commit themselves to packaging reduction targets.”WRAP’s retail team was formed to work with the industry to reduce the amount of packaging and food waste that ends up in household bins.The Courtauld Commitment, made with food manufacturers and larger bakery producers, seeks to reduce the 6.2 million tonnes of food thrown away by UK homes each year. In late 2006, Northern Foods joined up to the agreement.”Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the impact that their lifestyle choices and purchasing decisions have on the environment and are looking to the products they buy to help them reduce their environmental footprint,” added Barthel.
Oscar Handlin, Carl M. Loeb University Professor Emeritus, died from a heart attack on Sept. 20 at his Cambridge home. He was 95.Handlin taught at Harvard for nearly 50 years, and was director of the Harvard University Library from 1979 to 1984. According to Robert Darnton, Carl H. Pforzheimer University Professor and University librarian, Handlin’s legacy at Harvard’s libraries is extensive: Handlin oversaw the construction of Pusey Library, the adoption of the Library of Congress cataloging system, and the preparation of what is now the HOLLIS catalogue.The author of more than 30 books, Handlin was a noted historian, and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1952 for “The Uprooted: The Epic Story of the Great Migrations That Made the American People.”“As a historian, he spoke to an enormous public and explained the central importance of immigration as a theme in American history,” said Darnton. “I took his course in American social history when I was a student. His lectures ended precisely at noon. He had a flat, undramatic style of lecturing, but we walked out of the lecture hall excitedly debating the points he raised. We continued to debate them throughout lunch — in fact, in some cases, for the rest of our lives.”Handlin leaves behind a wife, Lilian (Bombach) Handlin, a brother, Nathan, and children David, Joanna Handlin Smith, and Ruth Handlin Manley. He also leaves four grandchildren and a great-grandchild.A memorial service will be held at a future date.
Researcher outlines how ‘bias score’ could be calculated in online delivery Related GAZETTE: Is Airbnb aware this is going on?EDELMAN: We know that Airbnb is aware of the problem. We have received quite a few emails from concerned guests and prospective guests. They alerted us to their negative experiences and the problems that they had. Many of them also forwarded us their correspondence with Airbnb. They’d write in to support, they’d complain, “I requested this property. I was rejected, and the host said the property was taken. But then I looked the next day, and it was still listed as available.” The guests who reported this problem were systematically African-American.GAZETTE: How do these findings compare to your earlier research on Airbnb rentals and to prior literature about racial discrimination in instruments like resumes and online dating profiles?LUCA: We’ve now looked at these problems both from the perspective of Airbnb guests facing discrimination and hosts facing discrimination. You’re absolutely right that discrimination seems to be far-reaching, but fortunately some solutions are available. Part of our insight from this project is that a platform’s choices determine to a large extent the amount of discrimination that occurs on the platform.Fortunately, experience from other contexts is quite promising on this front. Economists Cecilia Rouse and Claudia Goldin [of the Harvard Economics Department] wrote an important paper about discrimination in musicians’ auditions for symphony orchestras. They begin with the observation that orchestras used to be dominated by men but over time became more balanced. They show that much of this shift was driven by a simple change — having musicians audition behind a screen, so that the evaluator could hear but not see the person playing. When musicians played behind a screen, women and people of Asian-American descent were more likely to be chosen. One doesn’t imagine that the evaluation committee set out to discriminate. But putting up a screen helped decision-makers ignore what the musicians looked like and focus on substance.Airbnb could implement the same kind of concealment. Hosts need certain information to evaluate a guest: the number and score of reviews the guest received from prior stays through Airbnb, whether the guest has linked accounts from other services, whether the guest has Facebook friends who have been good Airbnb guests. In fact, Airbnb collects and organizes all this information. But with that information on hand, what exactly does a host gain from seeing a guest’s name and picture? The factual information is so much more valuable. Once a host knows all of that about a guest, should the guest’s name or photo make a difference? Making names and photographs less prominent (or removing them altogether) would reduce the extent of discrimination, while retaining the valuable information that Airbnb appropriately and usefully provides.There are other possibilities, too. Airbnb has a function called “instant book” which allows a guest to choose to stay in a property without a further screening process by a host. By skipping the step in which hosts have the opportunity to consider irrelevant information about race, this eliminates the problem of discrimination. Of course, many hosts are hesitant to allow their properties to be made available for instant booking, so this isn’t likely to be a complete solution.GAZETTE: Although the company argues that it doesn’t decide who gets to rent a property — the hosts do — does Airbnb bear any legal or moral responsibility for the actions of their customers, since they’re facilitating these transactions?EDELMAN: These questions are timeless. They go back to Cain and Abel: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Lawyers call this question secondary liability: To what extent is one person or company liable when another takes some action that causes harm to, typically, a third person? Airbnb is providing a listing service: designing that listing service; controlling what information is available; collecting fees in proportion to dollars spent. These facts provide a reasonable basis for a finding that Airbnb is liable for the underlying discriminatory treatment. Now, Airbnb would argue the opposite, that they’re just a passive booking platform.These questions have not been litigated yet as to Airbnb. Some of them have been litigated as to Uber, bedfellows with Airbnb in transforming a different portion of the economy. In Uber, the Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission just last month issued a lengthy decision that, among other things, had to engage with these same questions. To what extent is Uber responsible for the decisions and actions of its drivers? They held that Uber holds itself out as an integrated offering. The service is designed, managed, built, billed, and controlled by Uber. On Airbnb, the guests and hosts have somewhat more say than drivers and passengers on Uber. For example, an Airbnb guest picks a specific host, whereas an Uber passenger really doesn’t pick a particular driver, nor vice-versa. Certainly it would be an interesting case, hard-fought on both sides. I don’t think the answer is certain. Ultimately, Airbnb styles itself as being a liberal, nondiscriminatory, forward-thinking company, and actions speak louder than words. So I’m hoping to see some actions in the steps Airbnb takes to reduce discrimination going forward.GAZETTE: What should lawmakers do to curb this practice, and are there broader policy implications for other companies in the “sharing economy?”EDELMAN: To the narrow question of discrimination, lawmakers could write a law that left no doubt about their jurisdiction’s requirements. But I’m not sure that there would be an easy political consensus on such a law. Some people are firmly of the view that a host offering rooms in his or her own dwelling is not a normal landlord and should not be subject to the full nondiscrimination laws that apply in other contexts. Other people would see the Airbnb host basically running a little hotel, and wouldn’t want to offer any exception to legal duties that have been on the books for decades already. So it might be hard to get consensus to pass a law on this subject. Separately, I wouldn’t be shocked if state and city nondiscrimination authorities wanted to take enforcement actions based on what we’ve already found. In fact, a couple of them have been in touch with us already. They seem to think, as we do, that there’s no place for discrimination in online marketplaces. The technological innovations that accompany the “sharing economy” have made once-tedious transactions like selling stuff in your garage, finding a ride, or picking up freelance work faster and easier than ever. But according to a new working paper from researchers at Harvard Business School (HBS), the very online platforms that ease access for users can have ugly unintended consequences, including racial discrimination. In a study of Airbnb’s rental practices, HBS Associate Professor Benjamin Edelman, Assistant Professor Michael Luca, and doctoral student Daniel Svirsky looked at about 6,400 listings in Baltimore, Dallas, Los Angeles, St. Louis, and Washington, D.C., last July. After creating 20 identical but fictitious profiles of 10 men and 10 women, they assigned half of each group an either distinctively white- or distinctively African-American-sounding name and then sent messages to Airbnb hosts inquiring about housing availability for a single weekend.Hosts were 16 percent less likely to approve profiles of people who appeared to be African-American than profiles with white-sounding names, the study found. That discrimination rate remained constant regardless of whether the hosts themselves were white, African-American, male, or female. It also held steady regardless of whether a rental was pricey or inexpensive, or whether the guest and host would share the property during the stay. Edelman, Luca, and Svirsky spoke with the Gazette about their findings and the potential legal and policy implications of this research. GAZETTE: Can you explain what you were trying to find in the study?EDELMAN: There’s so much to like about new online services. They can be faster and cheaper and more convenient. The glass is definitely at least half-full. But how could they be better? We see a few areas for improvement. One that really caught our eye was the prospect of discrimination, where certain users are treated differently due to irrelevant factors such as race. So we set out to see whether that was, in fact, a problem on Airbnb, a popular platform for short-term accommodations. We found that indeed it was a problem. In particular, black guests tend to have trouble getting approved to stay in a host’s Airbnb listing. And that problem actually seems to be quite far-reaching across the spectrum of properties, across the United States, across a variety of dimensions.GAZETTE: Did these results surprise you?EDELMAN: Looking at the Airbnb site, we suspected there would be a problem because Airbnb presents hosts with information that almost invites them to discriminate. In particular, when applying to a host, a guest’s name and face are extremely prominent. Given what is known about discrimination and biases, and given the design of Airbnb’s service, it would have been surprising if guest race didn’t have an effect. That said, we were surprised by the persistence and prevalence of discrimination. For example, we found discrimination both among small mom-and-pop hosts, and also for larger hosts who rent out multiple properties and have little interaction with guests.GAZETTE: Was it surprising that even African-American hosts discriminated against African-American guests?LUCA: We didn’t have a strong instinct one way or the other. But we were not shocked by this finding. Whatever preconceptions there might be about African-American guests, it’s not necessarily the case that African-American hosts will have different preconceptions. As economists, we were particularly interested in the interaction between the race of the host and the race of the guest, since this yields clues about the factors that drive discrimination. There’s a difference between what is referred to as statistical discrimination (where hosts are trying to use race as a proxy for something else, like wealth) and other types of discrimination, such as in-group bias, where hosts prefer guests of the same race. The policy prescriptions are often different, and so are the implications for where and when we should expect discrimination to surface. Taken in aggregate, our results point toward discrimination that is not simply in-group bias.GAZETTE: The discrimination by hosts was constant across a range of factors, including their race, gender, class, and how often they rented their homes. Even the city where the property was located did not appear to influence the bias against African-Americans. Why is this happening?SVIRSKY: On a practical level, discrimination is occurring due to the design of the Airbnb platform. Airbnb makes it awfully easy for hosts to consider factors that they probably shouldn’t be thinking about. As to why the discrimination is happening, our data doesn’t let us see what goes on in a host’s mind. Certainly one might expect that a city like Los Angeles would be different from Dallas, but in our data that wasn’t the case. The one exception we found is among hosts who have at least one review from an African-American guest. As one would expect, these hosts discriminated less. The ubiquity of discrimination — from LA to Baltimore, from professional hosts to amateur ones — suggests that many types of hosts make inferences based on race, even hosts you might not expect. But the one exception we found suggests that such race-based discrimination is not universal. If, for example, hosts are using race to engage in statistical discrimination, then at least one group of hosts is using a different set of statistics. Seeking fairness in ads
Propagating plants from seed, identifying invasive vines and growing pretty peonies in the South will all be covered on “Your Southern Garden” with Walter Reeves May 8 at 12:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. on Georgia Public Broadcasting.University of Florida horticulturist Tom Wichman will reveal the secret to successfully propagating plants from seed. Then, host Walter Reeves will show a simple tip for picking up tiny seed. When two similar invasive vines show up in Reeves’ landscape, he goes on a mission to identify creeping cucumber and golden passionvine. And, if you think peonies can only be grown up North, Reeves has some tips for Southern success. Finally, Nancy McDonald, a greenhouse owner who specializes in houseplants, shows how to choose houseplants that will thrive in different conditions.“Your Southern Garden,” produced by the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and UF IFAS Extension, is a one-of-a-kind program specifically for the Southeast. The program is made possible by underwriter support from Scotts Miracle-Gro and sponsorship from McCorkle Nurseries.
The Vermont House of Representatives has passed H.73, a bill increases transparency and accountability in state government. The legislation will provide for greater access to public records and allow for better enforcement of the Vermont Public Records Act (PRA). The public records law as it currently stands is very complex and full of exemptions, making enforcement inconsistent across agencies. H. 73 seeks to make access to public records more readily available and the process understandable. The bill also sets up a process to review the necessity of current exemptions. ‘The current public records act is confusing for both individuals requesting access to records and those agencies providing the records,’ said Speaker Shap Smith. ‘By clarifying current law, state government will be more responsive to its citizens’with transparency, efficiency and accountability.’ Designed to address the current shortfalls of the PRA, H.73 contains the following provisions: · Creates public records training for all public agencies;· Establishes a resource at the Vermont State Archives and Records Administration to provide guidance and advice to municipalities for complying with the PRA;· Clarifies the agencies’ responsibilities to respond to a records request;· Forms a study committee to evaluate and recommend changes to the 215 exemptions of the PRA. The bill advanced in the House to third reading yesterday, 134-5. The bill passed this afternoon on a strong voice vote. It has been sent to the Senate for its consideration.Source: Speaker’s office. 5.7.2011
Hit the Appalachian Trail on a warm weekend and you might think there are no secrets left along this 2,180-mile trail. After all, a visit to one of the A.T.’s hotspots like McAfee Knob or the Roan Highlands can leave you feeling awestruck by the crowds alone. But contrary to popular belief, hikers can still find solitude on the A.T. Here are the last great undiscovered hikes on the world’s most famous footpath.Siler Bald, N.C. Not to be confused with Siler’s Bald in the Smokies (though it’s named after the same family), Siler sits south of the uber-popular Nantahala River and yet, the legitimate high-elevation bald sees a fraction of the hikers that flock to its nearby counterparts.“People go to Wayah Gap and hike north to Wayah Bald and its fire tower. Hike the other direction, and you’ll hit Siler Bald, which has just as good of a view,” says Andrew Downs, trail resource manager for the Appalachian Trail in North Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia. Downs adds that in general, any part of the A.T. south of the Nantahala River is going to be less crowded than the trail to the north between the river and Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Access is limited because of the presence of the Southern Nantahala Wilderness Area and the biggest population center south of the Nantahala River is Franklin, which isn’t exactly a metropolis.Siler has the goods hikers crave. At 5,216 feet high, the grassy mountaintop gives you a 360-degree view that stretches into Georgia to the south, includes a piece of Lake Nantahala to the west, and the Wayah Bald fire tower to the north. Expect wildflowers around the bald during the spring and blueberries in the fall.Logistics: Park at Wayah Gap and hike two miles south to Siler Bald. The climbing is gradual and the payoff is big. Turn the trek into a multi-day by continuing 14 miles south to Albert Mountain, where a fire tower will give you another nearly mile-high 360-degree view. An abundance of shelters in this stretch will help keep your pack light.White Rocks and Blackstack Cliffs, Tenn./N.C. This section of the A.T. follows the North Carolina and Tennessee border, tracing the crest of the Bald Mountains Range that divides the two states. Interstate 26 is nearby, as are a few recreation areas popular with equestrians, but the Appalachian Trail hugs the ridgeline, too far removed from any large population centers to attract the casual hiker. So the views you’ll bag from the A.T.’s rocky outcroppings will be all your own.An eight-mile lollipop loop will deliver you to stunning views from two separate cliff bands and take you over the most underrated ridge walk on the trail. White Rocks Cliff is a quartzite outcropping on the Tennessee side of the trail with views into Greenville, Tennessee below. Blackstack Cliffs is a similar outcropping on the opposite side of the trail with a big view into Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina. Shortly after hitting these two cliffs, you’ll find yourself climbing the stone steps to Firescald Ridge, for nearly two miles of narrow ridge walking and rock hopping with endless views in all directions.Logistics: Pick up the A.T. six miles north of Allen Gap at Camp Creek Bald, then follow the white blazes north as the trail shimmies along the edge below the summit. You’ll hit the side trail to White Rocks Cliffs in two miles, and a couple hundred yards farther you’ll see the spur trail to Blackstack Cliffs. Keep hiking the A.T. north beyond Bearwallow Gap to the rocky, precarious, and stunning route over Firescald Ridge. The Carolina Mountain Club sweat blood to move the A.T. over the most dramatic route possible along this ridge. After rock hopping your way across the crest, you can create a loop by taking the old A.T., which is now marked Bad Weather Trail, south back toward Bearwallow Gap, Blackstack Cliffs, and your car.Chestnut Knob, Va. As everyone knows, the A.T. runs north and south, but in Southwest Virginia, as the trail leaves the High Country of Mount Rogers, it cuts west toward Pearisburg and the West Virginia border. Here, it becomes a washboard trail, climbing up and over peaks like Walker Mountain and wrapping around Burke’s Garden, a farming community and valley known as “God’s Thumbprint,” because it’s surrounded by a 360-degree ridge, like someone squished their thumb into the mountains. Here lies what might be the most remote and least traveled section of the Appalachian Trail below the Mason Dixon. Road access is scarce, federally designated Wilderness areas are plentiful, and hikers are few and far between.“Just getting to the A.T. in this corner of Virginia is part of the adventure,” says Steve Yontz, trail maintainer for the Piedmont Appalachian Trail Hikers. “Honestly, the easiest way to access the A.T. at Burke’s Garden, is by hiking the A.T.”Make the effort, and you’ll be rewarded with constant views for nearly two miles on Chestnut Knob, a high elevation bald that was grazed by livestock until the late 1980s. On a clear day, you can see Mount Rogers 80 miles south, and even Grandfather Mountain farther into North Carolina. Go north from Chestnut Knob onto the crest of Garden Mountain, and you’ll get more views into pastoral Burke’s Garden below.Logistics: For a short trip, access the A.T. from Walker Gap and hike south a mile to Chestnut Knob and carry on south until the trail runs out of views. Retrace your steps and go across the gap north onto Garden Mountain for an extra leg-stretch. But if you truly want to experience the solitude and beauty that this stretch of the A.T. affords, start where the A.T. crosses Hwy 11 and climb Walker Mountain on your way to Chestnut Knob. You’ll put in big miles, but walk through old farmsteads, bag big views, and get to stay at Chestnut Knob shelter, which offers excellent star gazing thanks to the lack of ambient light.The Roller Coaster, Va.To say that any section of the Appalachian Trail in Northern Virginia is “undiscovered” is a bit of a stretch. “There’s no unpopular section of the trail in this day and age, but certain pieces aren’t necessarily in the limelight like the more well-known destinations,” says Bob Sickley, Mid-Atlantic trail resource manager for the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. The Roller Coaster, a 13.5-mile length of trail packed with non-stop ups and downs, is one of those under-appreciated stretches of trail. Consider it the “overshadowed little brother” to the A.T. inside nearby Shenandoah National Park. The Roller Coaster is the A.T.’s swan song in Virginia, offering the last memorable piece of trail before reaching the “psychological half-way point” at Harper’s Ferry, W.Va. Known for its constant elevation change, you’ll climb more than a dozen significant hills for a total of 5,000 feet of gain as you make your way toward West Virginia. The tread is rocky, and the climbing is short but steep without a switchback in sight thanks to an unusually narrow right of way for the trail.The Roller Coaster is a hell of a workout, and a great place to test your mettle if you’re just breaking into backpacking. You’ll also get to enjoy the primo view of Shenandoah Valley to the west from Raven Rock, aka Crescent Rock.Logistics: Pick up the A.T. at Ashby Gap, where the trail crosses Route 50 and head north towards the Blackburn Trail Center. Prepare yourself for nearly constant ups and downs with 200-500 feet of elevation for each hill. The section offers a no-brainer overnight opportunity, thanks to the Bears Den Trail Center, a popular hiker hostel located 100 yards off the trail roughly half way through the Roller Coaster.Bly Gap, Ga. and N.C. The 16-mile stretch of the A.T. between Dick’s Creek Gap in Georgia and Deep Gap in North Carolina is in a sort of “no-man’s land,” far enough removed from hot spots like the Southern Terminus at Springer and the booming Nantahala Gorge. Hike the whole 16 miles, and you’ll cross the Georgia/North Carolina border at the halfway mark, but not a single road. In fact, the majority of the A.T. in this remote corner of the Appalachians hugs the western edge of the Southern Nantahala Wilderness Area, a relatively large but unknown federally designated Wilderness that covers the N.C./Ga. border. Access is so limited, that if you wait out the thru-hiker rush that comes in early spring, you’ll probably have the two trail shelters all to yourself.The climbing starts early as you leave Dick’s Creek Gap and yo-yo your way up and down ridges on your way to the state line. But consider the Georgia section of trail a warm up for the climb up Courthouse Bald in North Carolina, where the trail gains 1,500 feet via a series of relentless switchbacks. The views in Georgia are limited, but there’s a killer campsite and long-range view into the mountains of North Carolina at Bly Gap, 8.5 miles into the hike. From Muskrat Creek Shelter, take a .5-mile blue blaze to Ravenrock Ridge, a cliff with one of the most underrated views along the entire A.T. Other highlights include blooming rhodo in June. And did we mention the complete lack of roads?Logistics: Begin at Dick’s Creek Gap, where US 76 crosses the trail and head north. The climbing comes fast and builds as you move towards Deep Gap, N.C. where USFS 71 provides your “take out.” The forest road is gated during the winter. Two shelters sit on this portion of the trail, but their awkward location (Plumorchard Gap Shelter is just 4.5 miles into your hike) make it more practical to set up camp at Bly Gap just inside North Carolina. If you’re looking for a longer hike, the possibilities for side hikes through the Southern Nantahala Wilderness Area are plentiful. •
By Kay Valle/Diálogo August 16, 2018 In late June 2018, the U.S. government, through U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), donated a humanitarian aid warehouse to Honduras to store emergency supplies. SOUTHCOM’s Humanitarian Assistance Program presented the warehouse to the Permanent Contingency Commission of Honduras (COPECO, in Spanish), as part of a $1.1 million donation, June 22nd. The warehouse helps consolidate Honduras’s self-sufficiency in case of natural or man-made disasters. The donation also strengthens the Central American nation’s capacity for risk management. “This structure is crucial for COPECO, because it strengthens our response and preparation capabilities in emergencies, as it enables us to store more supplies to assist the population,” said Lisandro Rosales, national commissioned minister of COPECO. “I have no words to describe how beneficial this is for the country.” Immediate response The South Atlantic Division of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, assigned to SOUTHCOM’s area of operations in Latin America, was behind the design, awarding, and building of the warehouse. Standing 40 feet tall and about 119 feet wide, the depot was built in COPECO’s Tegucigalpa facilities. The project took about eight months to complete. With this brand-new warehouse, COPECO’s Tegucigalpa facilities now have two spaces to store basic supplies. “Now COPECO has about 35,000 meters of storage at a national level,” Rosales said. “In other words, it means we have the capability to keep ourselves stocked and be able to help immediately when required.” Each warehouse has the capacity to store basic supplies for about 500 families in the first 24 hours after an emergency, said Oscar Mencía, director of COPECO’s Preparation and Response division. The warehouses enable COPECO to provide support to people during the wet and dry seasons. “During the dry season [of 2014-2015], COPECO distributed 300,000 food sacks so that families affected by the drought could hold up for 15 days,” Mencía told Diálogo. “This was carried out with the WFP [World Food Programme], and supplies were distributed in the dry corridor departments [the northeast of the country].” The warehouses can also help neighboring countries when necessary. COPECO stored about 30,000 pounds of food, 2,000 hygiene kits, bottled water, and other supplies that were sent to Guatemala after the Fuego Volcano eruption of June 3rd. “This help is very important, as it strengthens not only COPECO, but also Honduras and COPECO’s operational part, the UHR [the Honduran Armed Forces Humanitarian Rescue Unit, in Spanish],” said Colonel Mario Alberto Matute Pacheco, commander of UHR-Honduras. “These warehouses make our work easier; we count on them to solve people’s needs.” Vulnerability zones COPECO requested help from the U.S. government to build the latest warehouse in 2014. So far, a total of five warehouses were built with U.S. support: two in the Francisco Morazán department and one each in Puerto Lempira, Gracias a Dios department; Danlí, El Paraíso department; and La Ceiba, Atlántida department. “The warehouses were requested [in these towns] because of the vulnerability and high population of the areas,” Mencía said. “For example, the warehouse in La Ceiba supplies four departments [Atlántida, Islas de la Bahía, Colón, and Gracias a Dios] that are more vulnerable to events such as floods or tropical storms.” According to its Global Climate Risk Index 2018, the German non-profit organization Germanwatch categorizes Honduras as one of the countries most affected by natural disasters in the last two decades. From 1997 to 2016, Honduras had 62 extreme climate events, with a death toll of more than 300,000 people and an economic loss of more than $500 million, the report said. COPECO’s National Plan for Integrated Risk Management 2014-2019 emphasizes the devastating effects of natural disasters—hurricanes, floods, droughts, and mudslides, among others—that impact the economy and curb development. According to the report, 27 percent of the country’s municipalities are vulnerable to disasters whose occurrences continue to increase each year. “Our country constantly needs donations like that of SOUTHCOM due to its vulnerability to natural or man-made disasters,” Col. Matute said. “This kind of donation increases the unit’s response to threats.” Thanks to SOUTHCOM’s warehouses, COPECO’s response capability will continue to increase, as two additional depots will be built in 2019, in the Valle and Lempira departments. In addition to the warehouses, the U.S. government designated about $15,000 for low-cost projects such as hygiene kits to be kept at warehouses. “We want to continue growing, so we can respond to the population,” Mencía said. “We will always need the support of SOUTHCOM for the departments that are in need.”