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In Community We Trust – PopularResistance.Org

In Community We Trust

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Above photo: Berkshire Farm Preserve Note, Schumacher Center.

The Berkshire region of Massachusetts has been a pioneer in cultivating economic self-reliance for 40 years. Early experiments with micro-credit lending through the Self-Help Association for a Regional Economy (SHARE) made way for the development of multiple local scrip initiatives to help businesses in times of need. The story of Deli Dollars and Berkshire Farm Preserve Notes is a story of hope for these times.

The following excerpt from “Democratizing Monetary Issue: Vision and Implementation in the Berkshire Region of the U.S.” by Susan Witt demonstrates a local economy’s capacity for resilience when people have the power to issue their own money.

For media coverage on early currency experiments in the Berkshire region, visit the BerkShares website.

Frank Tortoriello was the owner of a popular deli on Main Street in Great Barrington. He turned to SHARE when he lost his lease and the bank refused him a loan to renovate his new location. But Frank didn’t need SHARE’s circle of grandmothers; he already had a circle of his own in his customers. SHARE suggested that Frank issue Deli Dollars as a self-financing technique. The notes would be purchased during a month on sale and redeemed after the Deli had made its move. A local artist, Martha Shaw, designed the note, which showed a host of people carrying Frank and his staff, all busy cooking, to their new location. The notes were issued in 1989 and were marked “redeemable for meals up to a value of ten dollars.” The Deli would not be able to redeem all the notes right after reopening, so SHARE advised Frank to stagger repayment over a year by placing a “valid after” date on each note. To discourage counterfeiting, Frank signed every note individually like a check.

SHARE recommended that the notes be sold for $10 each, but Frank thought that would be too good a deal for the Deli. With his customers in mind he sold $10 notes for eight dollars and raised $5,000 in thirty days: contractors bought sets of Deli Dollars as Christmas presents for their construction crews; parents of students at nearby Simon’s Rock College knew Deli Dollars would make a good gift for their kids; the banker who turned down the original loan request supported Frank by buying Deli Dollars. The notes even showed up in the collection plate of the First Congregational Church because church-goers knew the minister ate breakfast at the Deli. Regular customers were pleased to help support what they saw was a sure thing: they knew firsthand how hard Frank worked and believed in his ability to make good on redemption. Frank repaid the loan, not in hard-to-come-by federal notes but in cheese-on-rye sandwiches

Jennifer Tawczynski worked at the Main Street Deli and carried the idea home to her parents Dan and Martha Tawczynski, who owned Taft Farm, one of two farm markets in the area at that time. The Tawczynskis came to SHARE with the idea of issuing “greenbacks” to help them meet the high cost of heating their greenhouses through the winter. Customers would buy the notes in the late fall for redemption in plants and vegetables come spring and summer.

Berkshire Farm Preserve Notes were jointly issued by two Great Barrington farms, The Corn Crib and Taft Farm, to finance start-up in the spring, and could be redeemed once produce was ready to be harvested. Designed by Martha Shaw.

At around the same time the other farm market in town, the Corn Crib, was damaged by fire. Customers of the Corn Crib came to SHARE with the idea of issuing notes to help owners Don and Ruth Ziegler recover from the ravages of the fire. SHARE suggested that the two farms together issue a Berkshire Farm Preserve Note. Martha Shaw designed the note with a head of cabbage in the middle surrounded by a variety of other vegetables. The notes were issued in 1991 and read “In Farms We Trust.” The ten-dollar notes were sold for nine dollars each, thus providing a discount to participants. The Massachusetts Commissioner of Agriculture traveled from Boston to purchase the first Berkshire Farm Preserve Note, and five national TV networks featured Berkshire farmers using Yankee ingenuity to survive a difficult winter. The Berkshire Women with Infants and Children (WIC) program purchased Berkshire Farm Preserve Notes in order to give them to families as part of a local initiative to supplement the federal food program. The notes did not carry the food-stamp stigma, which made them more appealing to the struggling families. The Berkshire WIC program also knew it was supporting local farmers at the same time it was supporting local families.

The notes could be purchased at either farm and were redeemable at either farm. At the end of the redemption period SHARE acted as the clearinghouse for the notes. The farmers received the income (ranging from $3,000 to $5,000 per farm per year) from the sale of the notes. The farmers also found that the notes drew a committed base of customers who would travel out of their way to buy from their local farms rather than purchase the jet-lagged vegetables from supermarket chains.

Deli Dollars started a consumer movement in the Berkshires. The Berkshire Farm Preserve Notes, Monterey General Store Notes, and Kintaro Notes that followed gave Berkshire residents a way to vote for the kind of small independent businesses that help to make a local economy more self-reliant.

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Coindesk News

Steem Hard Fork Confiscates $6.3M, Community Immediately Takes it Back

The Steem blockchain has just split, or hard forked, controversially seizing the tokens of key community members who opposed TRON’s recent acquisition of the ecosystem’s biggest dapp, Steemit.

At 14:00 UTC on Tuesday, Steem implemented hard fork 0.23, significantly codenamed “New Steem,” shunting some of the former Steem “witnesses” – blockchain validators – and stakeholders who created a splinter group called HIVE out of the ecosystem, it seems for good.

New Steem, which was only announced on Monday, will “seize some user accounts that participated in criminal activities by actively contributing to the threat against the Steem blockchain and/or to the theft of STEEM holders’ assets,” said a Steemit blog post, announcing the fork.

The hard fork’s GitHub page lists all of the users who will have their tokens seized: 64 in total. A letter sent on Tuesday by a legal firm representing affected members – calling on exchanges to not support the hard fork – says that a total of 23.6 million steem tokens will be seized – worth roughly $6.3 million at press time, according to CoinGecko.

One affected community member, Dan Hensley, told CoinDesk in an email that he’s losing around $1 million-worth of steem as a result of the fork.

See also: Steemit Sets Up Shop on Tron Network

The hard fork is the latest episode in an ongoing struggle for control of the Steem blockchain. It began soon after Justin Sun’s TRON Foundation acquired Steemit – Steem’s most prominent dapp – for an undisclosed sum back in February.

Concerned Sun would use Steemit’s sizeable token allocation to run roughshod over the rest of the community, the Steemit ecosystem quickly executed a soft fork that effectively nullified its voting power. A few weeks later, they implemented a splinter blockchain, HIVE, which duplicated over all tokens from Steem.

However, the allocations owned by Sun and some incumbent witnesses, around 83.2 million STEEM tokens in total, were immediately confiscated and stored in a separate wallet. The Steemit post says the exclusion of selected Steem players from HIVE was illegal and a “clear violation of the property rights of STEEM holders.”

While Sun himself has denied any involvement in the hard fork, on Monday he claimed he was working with law enforcement to recover his confiscated HIVE tokens.

See also: Tron’s Takeover of Steemit Is Internet History Repeating Itself

It’s hard not to see the New Steem hard fork as an example of a tit-for-tat move. But that’s not how they phrased it. One current Steem witness known only as “Triple A,” told a Korean news site that the HIVE dissenters’ tokens were seized, not because its own assets had been seized, but because these select accounts had “continued to attack the Steam blockchain ecosystem.”

These include allegations that HIVE members have damaged network stability, spread fake news about the blockchain – picked up by the “misleading media,” according to Sun – and generally tried to discredit and besmirch the Steem community’s name. Triple A also claimed some HIVE members were guilty of verbally abusing community users and even “threatening murder.”

Emotions are fraught. Echoing Triple A’s comments, the Steemit blog post states: “The Steem blockchain has been under constant attack from malicious accounts and this has heavily influenced user experience, Dapps useability, and the stability of the chain itself.”

Its post goes onto say that Steem witnesses who helped implement HIVE’s “hostile split action” had effectively “betrayed STEEM holders.”

See also: Why Crypto Should Care About Justin Sun’s Steem Drama

That’s not how affected Steem users see it, though. The legal letter calls the fork a “planned theft” and threatens legal action against any exchanges that voted in favor of it. “[Y]ou may become an accessory to criminal offences including grand larceny and securities fraud as well as expose yourself to civil liability for damages,” the letter warns.

It’s probably unlikely that exchanges like Binance and Huobi, some of Steem’s largest stakeholders, will want to involve themselves in this dispute. Binance CEO Changpeng “CZ” Zhao, who was initially supportive of the takeover, recently washed his hands of it. “We didn’t know it was, like, a contentious fork,” he said in an interview with Laura Shin at Ethereal Summit.

“Every Steem witness that is human has quit. Justin denies involvement with the heist yet replaces the witnesses that quit with a sock puppet minutes later to do his bidding. Exchanges are the last line of defense,” Hensley said.

There remain unanswered questions: chief among them is what happens to the seized steem tokens? The letter says these will be transferred to a new wallet account, “@community321.” Set up just under two weeks ago, what entity actually runs or owns the account has yet to be revealed.

Soon after the fork, it was claimed that the tokens had been moved en masse to the Bittrex exchange in an attempt to return them to their original owners. The Steem Witness Twitter account seemed to confirm the news, but pledged the “assets will be recovered.”

CoinDesk reached out to the TRON Foundation for comment, in its capacity as the owner of Steemit, but hadn’t received a response by press time.

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The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups.

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News NPR

Community Health Centers Struggling As Fewer People Seek Care During Pandemic : NPR

Public health officials worry that the mostly low-income and immigrant populations served by community health centers aren’t getting proper health care and testing.

Maskot/Getty Images/Maskot

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Maskot/Getty Images/Maskot

Public health officials worry that the mostly low-income and immigrant populations served by community health centers aren’t getting proper health care and testing.

Maskot/Getty Images/Maskot

Community health centers had been at the front lines of health care in the nation’s poorest neighborhoods even before the spread of the coronavirus. But in the midst of the pandemic, patients who fear deportation or infection are forcing many centers to close.

Public health officials worry that the populations that these centers serve — mostly people with low incomes and immigrants — aren’t getting proper health care and testing, may be unable to quarantine themselves and could contribute to spreading the coronavirus to the wider population.

“People are worried about COVID-19,” says Joslyn Pettway, acting CEO of Covenant Community Care in Detroit, a nonprofit health center. “If patients don’t come in for a visit, we lose money.”

Covenant serves more than 20,000 patients each year through five locations with a staff of about 200. Pettway was forced to furlough about 50 staff members and shut down two full-service dental centers, because dental care is not essential, even though 1,400 patients are on a waiting list.

The lack of patients seeking health care is a direct result of Michigan’s tough battle against the coronavirus. As of May 18, the state had more than 51,000 confirmed cases, with Detroit registering more than 10,000 confirmed cases and 1,255 deaths, according to Michigan state health data.

“Our patient population has been hard hit, no doubt about it,” Pettway says. “Those health disparities that we’ve seen due to COVID, they existed long before COVID. COVID just brought it to light.”

Joslyn Pettway is acting CEO of Covenant Community Care in Detroit. So far Covenant has tested at least 244 patients for the coronavirus, and it is planning to open a drive-in testing site.

Courtesy of Covenant Community Care

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Courtesy of Covenant Community Care

Joslyn Pettway is acting CEO of Covenant Community Care in Detroit. So far Covenant has tested at least 244 patients for the coronavirus, and it is planning to open a drive-in testing site.

Courtesy of Covenant Community Care

There’s no better time to argue for affordable access to care for everyone, she adds. The coronavirus pandemic shows why we need to keep pushing to expand access to medical care for everybody, regardless of the person’s status, Pettway says.

“Nobody is excluded from the impact of COVID. And so people who are unable to access care for a variety of reasons, they increase the spread of the virus,” ultimately impacting all of us, she says.

Community health centers, like Covenant Community Care, were launched in 1965 as part of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Office of Economic Opportunity, propelled by the civil rights movement and the War on Poverty. Their aim then, as it is now, is to provide comprehensive and affordable primary care to medically underserved populations, regardless of their insurance or immigration status and their ability to pay for services.

Pettway says it’s not atypical for Covenant patients to delay care, especially preventive care. To many low-income residents, preventive health care is a luxury. They either can’t take the time away from work or lack transportation or child care.

“They were already struggling before the pandemic,” she says.

Covenant has been hit hard by the pandemic. Only one site is open for in-person urgent visits, such as testing for the coronavirus, newborn checkups or an abscess that needs to be drained. The other four locations are currently serving patients virtually.

Using $997,490 from the federal CARES Act, Pettway invested in telehealth software in March to keep the Covenant centers running.

“We are working very hard not to shut down locations,” she says. “The need is massive in Detroit.”

Family nurse practitioner Sage Davis set up the telehealth program for Covenant Community Care.

Sage Davis

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Sage Davis

Family nurse practitioner Sage Davis set up the telehealth program for Covenant Community Care.

Sage Davis

Before the coronavirus, Sage Davis, a family nurse practitioner at Covenant, relied heavily on the full panel of a patient’s vital signs, lab work and physical exam. Now she doesn’t have that information to make decisions about a patient’s treatment.

Davis is making different calculations, along with her patients.

“What’s the risk of possible exposure going to medical facilities? And then, what’s the risk if we don’t get those lab work right now or we don’t get this imaging right now?” she asks. “It takes a lot of clinical judgment to determine if this is something that we really do need to get right now or if it’s something that can wait. We really are looking at the patient in front of us and just treating our patient.”

Davis, who is managing the center’s transition to telehealth, says she constantly reminds her patients to call back if things get worse or change. A decision made today gets reviewed and assessed, she says.

“I do have options for sending people to an in-person visit if they need it,” and that gives Davis peace of mind.

One of the silver linings of telehealth, Davis says, is that before COVID-19, patients stepped out of their environment to come into the center for care.

“Now we’re in their environment in a way,” which Davis says is helpful.

For example, let’s say a patient with diabetes and joint problems walks up the stairs slowly and unsteadily to get a thermometer.

“I can see in the video the amount of time and effort it takes her to climb that set of stairs,” she says. “Whereas in my office, I’m cognizant of her joint problem, but I don’t see her climbing stairs.”

Around the U.S., 1,400 health center organizations across 14,000 locations in rural and urban areas serve more than 29 million people, most of whom are low income, are uninsured or on Medicaid and Medicare, or are immigrants, according to the National Association of Community Health Centers. Almost 2,000 sites have shut down since the pandemic hit.

“Financially, these centers are getting a blow in this pandemic,” says Dr. Ron Yee, chief medical officer for the National Association of Community Health Centers.

“When you cut your visits by half, that’s going to change your revenue, even though you may make up for it a little bit with virtual visits,” Yee says.

Dr. Edgar Chavez of Universal Community Health Center in Los Angeles says that it’s scary to see people relax social distancing rules. “Just because the government says you can open, you can go back to work, doesn’t mean the virus has disappeared,” he says. “The virus is still around and can infect people.”

Juan Gallegos

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Juan Gallegos

Dr. Edgar Chavez of Universal Community Health Center in Los Angeles says that it’s scary to see people relax social distancing rules. “Just because the government says you can open, you can go back to work, doesn’t mean the virus has disappeared,” he says. “The virus is still around and can infect people.”

Juan Gallegos

Virtual visits don’t get reimbursed at the same rate as regular in-person visits. For example, he says, an online visit is currently being reimbursed at between $13 and $93, while community health centers receive between $100 and $150 in reimbursement for an in-person appointment.

But it’s not only the coronavirus crisis that concerns Yee. Community health centers operate on short-term funding, and it expires on Nov. 30, unless Congress acts.

“I’m very worried about the future of our centers,” Yee says.

And doctors and nurses are struggling in this crisis.

“Right now health centers are projected to lose about $7.6 billion between April and September to get through this, to stay whole so that we can be up and running when we get through this pandemic,” he says, adding that this projection is based on a 60% decline in visits systemwide.

Community health centers are playing a vital role in this pandemic. As of May 1, more than 300,000 patients had been tested for the coronavirus.

In California, a large number of patients at community health centers are recent immigrants, says Dr. Edgar Chavez, who serves as medical director at Universal Community Health Center, a cluster of three centers in South Los Angeles.

Chavez says patients fear that being tested for the coronavirus will land them on a list to be deported. This mistrust of the government and reluctance to seek medical care stem from the Trump administration’s public charge rule, Chavez says.

Chaves is working virtually, and his staff is calling patients and checking in on them for depression and anxiety as well as to see if they need to be tested for anything.

“Telehealth can only go so far with chronic care. You still need that lab data point,” he says with a sigh. “We are going to have a lot of people that go without Pap smears, go without mammograms, go without all these different things that we use to improve and maintain their health.”

Chavez says he worries about the health of his patients.

“People aren’t eating well. They are not exercising, and they are anxious,” he says. “I fear that we are going to be hit with a huge wave of uncontrolled patients with chronic care-related conditions, especially diabetes, hypertension and heart disease.”

Chavez’s voice trails off.

“It is very tough,” he says. “We’re doing the best that we can, but we’re going to be facing a pretty, pretty tough situation.”

The need was already massive before this public health crisis hit and it will get worse after the pandemic is over, health care providers say.

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Coindesk News

Reddit Rolls Out ‘Community Points’ on Ethereum to Incentivize Positive Behavior

Reddit has expanded its “community points” trial, offering users a way to earn a “piece of their favorite communities,” built on top of the Ethereum blockchain.

In a slide presentation, published Wednesday evening, Reddit revealed its plans to utilize the Ethereum network to incentivize the creation of “quality posts and comments.” The points can be spent on premium features and used as a measure of reputation in the community, the social media platform said.

Users are rewarded based on their contribution to their favorite channels, with the community ultimately deciding how many points each user receives. Users can hoard their points or spend them on unique features such as badges, custom emojis and GIFs in comments.

“We continuously run experiments to explore features that engage our users and communities. With Community Points, we’re working exclusively with two communities to test this feature and gather feedback from our users,” a spokesperson for Reddit told CoinDesk. The spokesperson did not name the two communities, but an image on the announcement suggests they are r/Cryptocurrency and r/FortNiteBR.

In addition, users will be able to leave a tip for comments they like or posts they see as valuable. Users will also be able to transfer community points directly to another Reddit member’s Vault as well as any Ethereum wallet address.

In order to start contributing, users need to sign up to the “Vault,” Reddit’s local blockchain wallet, accessed via scanning a QR code through the official Reddit app.

Reddit’s “Vault” where users can store and trade their community points
Source: Reddit

According to the post, community points are controlled by the user where users retain full control, meaning moderators nor Reddit itself can take points away or decide how they should be spent.

As it currently stands, it can be hard for other members to see how much one user has contributed to a community. Reddit’s points hope to fix that by making the process more transparent with a total balance displayed next to their name.

There is a warning though. A private key is provided once a user creates their Vault, which is stored locally on their smart device. Meaning if the user doesn’t create a back up of their key and loses their phone, they will be unable to access their community points, with Reddit claiming even they will be unable to help.

How’s it work?

According to Reddit, community points are run by “a suite of smart contracts that manage balanaces, distribution/claiming and purchasing memberships.” They utilize and leverage existing parts of the Ethereum ecosystem, such as the ERC-20 token standards which in turn have been reviewed by Trail of Bits, an independent blockchain security firm.

The transactions on Ethereum cost “gas,” which are tiny amounts of Ethereum’s native crypto, ether (ETH). Reddit has stated that since most users don’t own any ETH, the social platform is ready to cover the cost of gas “for now,” for those using its in-built Vault, but those using other Ethereum wallets may be required to pay for the cost of gas themselves.

The platform said it plans to adopt a better scaling and gas solution in the future “as they emerge” while the rollout of community points remains in beta throughout the remainder of the summer.

Posts on both the r/Cryptocurrency and r/FortNiteBR subreddits by a Reddit administrator introduced the new tokens, called moons and bricks respectively.

It’s unclear how far Reddit plans to take the tests or what its next steps might look like, but Wednesday’s announcement is an expansion of an already-running trial. A user shared details about the potential Community Points last month, though at the time the spokesperson said the program was confined to a single subreddit.

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News RT

Ukrainian police demanded data on members of Jewish community ‘to fight organized crime’ – leaked document — RT World News

Outrage is brewing in Ukraine after the leak of an inquiry letter in which the national police demanded the Jewish community in a small city disclose the names and addresses of its members, supposedly to fight organized crime.

The letter was apparently sent in mid-February by a senior police official to Yakov Zalishchiker, the Jewish leader in the city of Kolomyya in the western Ivano-Frankivsk region. The official said he needed to know the names, phone numbers, and addresses of Orthodox Jews and university students “of Jewish ethnicity” who belong to the community.

The data was said to be necessary to fight “transnational and ethnic criminal organization,” which is the task of the department whose head sent the inquiry. Photo of the letter and Zalishchiker’s written refusal to comply were published on Sunday by Eduard Dolinsky, director of the Ukrainian Jewish Committee.

“It’s a total disgrace and open anti-Semitism,” Dolinsky told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “It’s especially dangerous when it comes from a law enforcement agency that we have to fight the very thing it is perpetrating.” The man regularly posts news about honors bestowed on Ukrainian nationalists who slaughtered Jews, Poles, and other ethnic groups, often on behalf of the occupying Nazi forces.

The police demand drags up haunting memories of the Holocaust, several Ukrainian public figures said, expressing outrage after learning about it. “First the mayor of Ivano-Frankivsk gives a state funeral to a veteran of the SS-Volunteer Division ‘Galicia’ with people dressed in Nazi uniforms standing around. Now the local police want a list of local Jews,” MP Maks Buzhansky said on Facebook. “What did you expect from them?”

Buzhansky was referring to a January event in the provincial capital. A veteran of the Waffen-SS unit, which was manned by Ukrainian nationalist volunteers and commanded by officers from the dreaded Nazi secret police, was laid to rest. The funeral was attended by top city officials and featured the unit’s flags and uniforms.

“Why don’t you call yourself ‘auxiliary police’ and add the Wehrmacht logo on the form,” prominent Ukrainian lawyer Andrey Portnov sarcastically suggested. “Those idiots are doomed.”

Kolomyya is home to 60,000 people, but the Jewish community headed by Zalishchiker lists only 81 members. It has been locked in a legal battle with the city authorities over the status of three Jewish cemeteries, one of which dates back to the early 17th century. In 2018, the authorities designated them as city parks. Zalishchiker said the move was meant to legitimize a cross memorial at one of the graveyards, which several nationalist groups erected one year prior.

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