Policy changes for Title IX on college campuses?

Election year means new changes from the new person in office, and new policies replacing the old ones.

One thing that this election year has decided to change is former President Barack Obama’s Title IX guidance for colleges.

Title IX makes sure educational institutions do not discriminate against genders. Members of any gender may not be excluded from participation or be denied benefits in educational programs.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos plans on changing Obama’s Title IX and replacing it with a new policy she is working on. The new guidance is shorter and quick to the point compared to the old policy. It is in the form of a question-and-answer document and allows schools to decide how to handle cases of sexual misconduct on their campus.

“The tone of the new guidance is much more permissive than that of the Obama-era directives,” said Peter F. Lake, who leads the Center for Excellence in Higher Education Law and Policy at Stetson University.

Trump’s administration also rescinded documents from Obama’s Title IX guidance, including a 2011 Dear Colleague letter and a 2014 question-and-answer document.

Many colleges have announced that they will not be changing their current sexual misconduct policies. Colleges take sexual assault seriously and are not planning on changing their policies until more details are talked about.

In a background call with reporters, a senior department official said the government had left open the option of what schools do in this interim period but had no expectation about whether colleges would adopt a higher standard.

Crystal C. Coombes, senior deputy Title IX coordinator at the University of South Florida, spoke with the Chronicle of Higher Education and said her institution will stick with the preponderance standard for now.

“We believe it works well for us,” said Coombes.

DeVos did give credit to the Obama administration by bringing this issue to light and creating a policy to help, but she thinks the policy should be updated and changed.

“The system established by the prior administration has failed too many students,” said DeVos. “Survivors, victims of a lack of due process, and campus administrators have all told me that the current approach does a disservice to everyone involved.”

DeVos believes that changing the policy would be good and help all of those who are involved in sexual violence cases, including the people  accused of sexual violence and the victims.

“All students deserve protection. All students,” DeVos said in a news conference in July. “There has been a lack of clarity in this area. I heard from both groups in ensuring that the process is fair to both parties, and they’ve acknowledged that it isn’t today.”

Most people are not behind DeVos policy plan change and some fear that this will not help the victims at all, but only those accused of sexual violence. They think things will go back to how they use to be and victims won’t have their voices heard.

Title IX may have new policy changes. Some people may think the change is a good idea, while others may argue that there shouldn’t be any change. The government is taking careful consideration of both groups when creating the new policy.

Tampa Police Museum educates its community

TAMPA- There’s no doubt that police officers have a risky job. Saving the lives of others and making sure citizens are safe on a daily basis is an officer’s duty and mission. You can imagine the constant fear that their loved ones may have while they’re out patrolling our streets.

Mother and volunteer, Kathy Belmonte, knows about feeling anxiety as her identical twin sons work for the Tampa Police Department (TPD).  In order to keep her mind off the potential safety concerns Belmonte volunteers at the Tampa Police Museum.

“First of all they’re shocked that it’s free,” said Belmonte, who has been volunteering at the museum on Saturdays for a year. “That’s always a big shock.”

Organized in 1995, the museum holds the history of TPD from as early as the late 1800s. The museum is located on Franklin Street next to the police station in downtown Tampa.

The museum was originally an old courtroom on Tampa Street that contained memorabilia. Lieutenants Robert Pennington and Roberto Batista decided to turn the room into what it is today. There’s much to discover as one walks through the museum for the first time. Visitors can expect to see both an artificial helicopter and a police car. According to Belmonte, kids love taking pictures with both artifacts.

Artifacts are not the only main attraction one can experience. Visitors will be able to “time-capsule” their way and gain insight of TPD, which was formed in 1886.

“What they should expect is to see how police work has evolved throughout the years,” said Paul Mumford, a volunteer and retired TPD officer. “From communications with a telephone, to communications with walkie-talkies and cell phones, and how the generation has gone from the old way of doing police work.”

One of Belmonte’s favorite parts of the museum is the “Andy Wade Memorial.” During his adult years, Wade traveled all over the Midwest to collect original police records of the world’s most notorious criminals. Some of the criminal records you will see include George “Machine Gun” Kelly and his wife Kathryn, Alvin “Creepy” Karpis, Harry Pierpont and George “Baby Face” Nelson.

According to the biography attached to his memorial, Wade died in a car crash. His family donated the records he collected to the museum. Some may not know that back in the early 1940s and 1950s, Tampa itself was known to be filled with local gangsters and members of different mafias.

“I love looking at all these old mug shots of famous people,” said Belmonte. “I’m impressed. I feel like every time I’m here, I find something new that I didn’t really notice before.”

Mumford has been volunteering at the museum for two years. The majority of the museum’s volunteers are retired TPD officers. There are parts within the museum where officers donated items to be showcased. Although Mumford has not donated items, you can still see him donating his time every Monday.

“There’s a lot of displays that are from officers,”said Mumford. “There’s a display of badges and patches – those were all police officers that had collections that donated them to the museum so they could be displayed to the people.”

Even though the tour includes many fun facts, the museum is also filled with somber memories of officers who lost their lives on duty. One can sense the love and purpose to serve the community that the fallen officers had for their city. Even though the museum has been open for over 20 years, the goal is to inform and educate more people about the wonderful history of the great men and women who protect us every day.

The Tampa Police Museum is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

‘Who’s going to believe you?’ Victim of sexual violence speaks out

TAMPA – “Who’s going to believe you?” is a statement that victims hear often from their assailant; enough for a victim to change their mind on speaking up and instead remain silent about the sexual violence.

Sexual violence can be difficult for many people to discuss. Sometimes, people try to avoid the subject and do their best to go back to the person they were before the incident.

Sexual violence is not something new that occurs on college campuses. It has been going on for years. One victim was brave enough to share her story.

The victim explained that on March 25 2012, someone who worked at the college she attended sexually assaulted her at a party held off campus. The victim explained that her assailant was liked and well-known on campus. The victim felt as though there was nothing she could do.

The assailant told the victim if she told anyone what happened it would be her words against his. The victim never went to the police about the situation.

“I went home, skipped classes and laid in bed the whole day,” the victim said. “I went up to him and he acted like nothing happened.”

The victim said when she brought up telling someone about the assault, the assailant would tell her nobody would believe her due to his reputation on campus.

The victim explained that she began participating in self-harm until a friend noticed her behavior and put a stop to things.

“It felt pointless at the point,” the victim said. “I felt so disgusted with myself, I went down a pretty dark path and if it wasn’t for my best friend I don’t know how I would have gotten out of it.”

When asked what advice the victim had for anyone who has been sexually assaulted she said, “Never think it is your fault. You have a voice whether you use it verbally or in a physical manner, you have a voice. No one should ever silence you.”

Stop sexual assault, speak up and get justice. (Courtesy of google images)

The victim continued on with more advice. “If you can, talk to someone close to you, that you know you can trust and do what I didn’t do. Go to the police and get justice because no one deserves to have that happen.”

“If you can, talk to someone close to you, that you know you can trust and do what I didn’t do,” she said. “Go to the police and get justice because no one deserves to have that happen.”

 

Below is the audio link to the interview.

* Names have been changed to protect the privacy of the victim.

 

Earth’s extinction history could be repeating

 

During the 4.54 billion years Earth has existed, five mass extinction events have occurred. According to scientists, a sixth mass extinction may possibly begin in fewer than 100 years.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Daniel Rothman, after studying the carbon cycle and 31 extinction events from the previous 542 million yeas for some time, has noticed alarming parallels between the present and the Permian-Triassic extinction event that took place about 252 million years ago. This event is nicknamed “The Great Dying” due to a loss of 96 percent of the species on Earth. Per World Atlas, this catastrophic happening was triggered by a volcanic eruption that emitted so much carbon dioxide that it triggered extreme global warming and causing the acidity level of the oceans to rise.

The next mass extinction will be called the Holocene extinction if and when it occurs. This would be the first time carbon will once again be a factor in the extinction process.

The Ordovician-Silurian extinction occurred 439 million years ago and caused an 86 percent loss of life. The event was triggered by falling sea levels and the formation of glaciers. The extensive vegetation caused an extreme lack of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, creating the glaciers. The Late Devonian extinction wiped out around 75 percent of the species on Earth about 364 million years ago. Plants on Earth during this time littered the oceans with nutrients, creating massive algal blooms and causing a lack of oxygen in the oceans. The next mass extinction has been mentioned previously; the Permian-Triassic extinction from 251 million years ago. The Triassic-Jurassic extinction from 214 million years ago was caused by asteroid impacts and global climate change. The Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction from 65 million years ago was caused by volcanic eruptions and asteroid impact – all according to World Atlas.

Scientists started wondering how soon it could happen again since these mass extinctions are relatively common in Earth’s history.

The critical level for carbon in the oceans is 310 gigatons and, according to Rothman, humans have the possibility of adding anywhere from 300 to 500 gigatons of carbon to the oceans by the beginning of the next century. By the time the year 2100 rolls around, the carbon cycle will have bypassed the critical threshold. Despite this, it could take up to 10,000 years for an actual extinction level event to happen. The number of years is determined by the time it takes for the carbon cycle to reset after it has been imbalanced. At current rates, this process usually takes around 10,000 years. According to Rothman and MIT, “the critical threshold is no longer tied to the rate at which carbon is added to the oceans but instead to the carbon’s total mass. Both scenarios would leave an excess of carbon circulating through the oceans and atmosphere, likely resulting in global warming and ocean acidification.”

As The Sun reporter Jasper Hamill states, humans have created 1,540 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution.

“This is not saying disaster occurs the next day. It’s saying, if left unchecked, the carbon cycle would move into a realm which would be no longer stable and would behave in a way that would be difficult to predict. In the past this type of behavior is associated with mass extinction,” Rothman said to Hamill.

According to IFLScience, biodiversity on Earth is the highest it has ever been and the next event will bring about unknown consequences.

Tampa Fire Museum gives back

On March 1, 1908, Tampa experienced the largest fire in its history. Cottages, factories and stores were burned down to ashes and two thousand people were left homeless.

The fire was discovered inside a boarding house in Ybor City. Before the volunteer firefighters came, many homes and businesses were already destroyed. The flames were extremely difficult to control.

“Everything was built out of wood,” said Joy Bunch, employee for the Tampa Fire Museum. “Back then trying to get it contained, they just couldn’t get ahead of it. When it was all said and done, it burned 55 acres and 17 city blocks.”

According to Bunch, city officials decided to rebuild everything destroyed by importing brick. This decision was also the reason why the Tampa Fire Museum is made out of brick.

Built in 1911, the museum was originally the headquarters for the Tampa Fire Department (TFD) until 1974.  Now the museum holds all the history of TFD and the Tampa Fire Rescue (TFR). Everyday visitors come in not only to learn about the history of both departments, but also to learn more about safety education and fire prevention. The museum is free of charge but donations are accepted and appreciated.

“We have an area for kids to play in,” said Scott Mays, a local firefighter. “We also have a couple of trucks and things like that for people to see. We also have a store where we sell memorabilia and other firefighter stuff and museum items as well.”

One part of the museum contains fire truck exhibits. One truck, nicknamed the “Little Mack” can still be used in a fire today if need be, but it’s mostly used for personal events such as parades and funerals. The truck was sold to TFD in 1949 for $13,884. It was last served in Firehouse Station Three.

Close by the fire trucks, one will see how the firefighters’ uniforms have changed over the years. During the 1920s and 1960s, firefighters wore less gear than the one’s today. You will see that in earlier decades, they wore a helmet, bunker pants, boots, quick-close fasteners and held a pick-headed axe. Now they’ve replaced the axe with a hose and added reflective strips, gloves, goggles, a face piece and more. According to the museum, the total amount of gear a firefighter wears adds another 75 pounds to their weight.

TFD originally consisted of volunteer firemen. The first volunteer company was created in 1885 and 10 years later the department became a paid company.

“The city budget was $18,000,” said Bunch. Bunch has been working for the museum ever since her son, Matt Bunch, passed away due to a rare cancer. He was a firefighter that was stationed across the street from the museum. He served the community for nearly 6 years.

“Tampa Fire Rescue supported him and our family,” she said. “While it was a very short battle, they were just tremendous to our family and still are. I started volunteering here and then they offered me a position.”

There is a room where visitors can pay their respects to the local firefighters that have passed away. Near the memorial room there is also an exhibit in honor of the firefighters that passed away saving lives on 9/11.

The museum also welcomes guests to host special events such as birthday parties, retirement functions and weddings.

“We do all types of events here at the museum,” said Mays. Before becoming a firefighter, Mays worked for the museum and stopped by occasionally to help out when needed. “We also do community things when we just have folks come in from the street for tours.”

Educating the community on fire safety is one of the goals of the museum. They wish to educate as many people as they can, especially children. This is one of the reasons why there is no charge to enter.

“We try to give fire prevention, what to do in a fire, things like that…where we don’t want to charge people for that information,” said Mays. “We want people to be able to get that information without having to pay for it because we feel that it is necessary and extremely important that people understand what to do during a fire.”

The museum has been designated a “local historical landmark” by the City of Tampa Architectural Review Historic Designation Division. You can visit on Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

“Besides the stop, drop and roll…get out and stay out,” said Mays. He says that is the best tip he can give to people who may not know what else to do in case of a fire. “If there is something left in there, let the firefighters know.”

For more information visit www.tampafirefightersmuseum.org

Camp Kesem helps kids impacted by cancer

Camp Kesem at Florida State University is gearing up for its annual Make the Magic event, which benefits the kids at the camp.

According to the nonprofit’s mission statement, it is a “nationwide community, driven by passionate college student leaders, that supports children through and beyond their parent’s cancer.”

The organization has over 3,000 student leaders at over one hundred colleges across the U.S. The camp reached 6,000 kids in 2016 alone, 65 of which came from the chapter at FSU.

Make the Magic – a fundraiser geared toward making the camp free – will include a cocktail hour, a formal dinner and speeches from leaders at all levels of the organization. Guests will be able to connect with camp counselors and participate in activities related to the camp.

Last year’s Make the Magic event raised over $6,000. With more time and resources dedicated to advertising and marketing, the organization has plans to nearly double that amount this year.

“Last year was definitely a successful fundraiser but we know we can do better,” said Zack Tregoe, Camp Kesem’s FSU branch co-director. “With repeat donors and the growth of Kesem we want to reach a donation goal of $11,000.”

Zack Tregoe, originally from Tampa, is a co-director for Camp Kesem at FSU. Photo/campkesem.org/fsu

Proceeds from each event go straight to the campers themselves, ensuring that every child who attends the camp is doing so for free. Each counselor must raise at least $500, which is then combined.

The camp itself is six days and five nights that include activities from sports to arts and crafts. The camp provides an escape for children dealing with the impacts of cancer on their family.

The camp encourages open dialogue through the Empowerment Ceremony. At the ceremony, campers are encouraged to talk about why they are there. Campers all share that one or both of their parents have been affected by cancer to some degree.

This includes parents who are actively battling cancer, are a cancer survivor or have lost their battle. This ceremony works to bring campers together.

“My favorite event at the camp is Wow-Pow-Chow, something we do every night,” Tregoe says.

Wow-Pow-Chow (WPC) is a part of Cabin Chat, a large group discussion focused on that specific day. The ‘wow’ is for the best part of the day, the ‘pow’ is for the worst part of the day and the ‘chow’ is for the best food of the day.

“I love the way WPC is able to give every camper a voice, but it also helps us in bettering the camp for the future,” Tregoe said. “When feedback from a certain activity is positive, we know to emphasize it the next year. If the feedback is just so-so, we either replace it or ask our campers how to improve it.”

Make the Magic will take place March 4, 2017. Those looking to attend will be able to purchase tickets for $50 at campkesem.org/fsu.

Plant City police purchase faces opposition

PLANT CITY- Plant City council voted to approve the 2017-2018 budget this week, which included a $335,000 military tactical vehicle for the police department.

Council members approved the funding for the military vehicle in a unanimous 5-0 vote.

The vote was opposed by the Restorative Justice, a grassroots advocacy group based out of Hillsborough County.  Its mission is to create a restorative justice system opposed to a punitive one. The group’s co-founder, Angel D’Angelo, says there are issues occurring within the Plant City police force that need more attention.

“Aside from the fact that it’s militarizing the police and that’s problematic in itself, what really got to us is Police Chief Ed Duncan had taken away both body and dash cams from Plant City, due to the cost of implementation and maintenance,” D’Angelo said. “If our calculations are correct, it would cost about $65,000 to implement body and dash cams for all 70 police officers in Plant City.”

Angel D’Angelo, co-founder of Restorative Justice Coalition (Courtesy of Angeldangelo.com).

For months, members of the community have shown up to Plant City council meetings to speak about what they say is the police department’s lack of transparency. Fifteen people made statements regarding the lack of trust between the community’s citizens and police at the council’s most recent meeting.

Plant City Mayor Rick Lott was confronted by upset members of the community who were against the decision.

Before entering his vehicle he stopped and said, “I can’t believe you’d shout at me like this, after all I’ve done for you.”

The city council, mayor and police department were contacted but did not comment on the situation.

Issues with the Plant City Police Department surfaced earlier this year. On July 6, Plant City resident Jesus Cervantes called 911.  Cervantes was distressed and asking for help.

According to the police department, when officers approached the vehicle Cervantes reached for something, and the officer then fired his weapon – resulting in a fatal accident.

Cervantes’ family and friends were devastated. They were contacted by groups such as the Restorative Justice Coalition and Black Lives Matter, who began to investigate the incident. Because there are no body or dash cameras on the Plant City police force, many questions began to surface.  The activist groups released a list of demands to the police, including the call for body cams on police and an external investigation into the Cervantes shooting.

“The police department sent us a one-page letter that essentially said, ‘Screw you’,” said D’Angelo.

Although city council decided to purchase the military vehicle instead of cameras, those opposed to the vote are not giving up.

Restorative Justice Coalition’s “call to action” flyer (Courtesy of the Restorative Justic Coalition Facebook page). 

The militarization of police is an ongoing matter of contention across the country.  Earlier this year, the Trump administration renewed program 1033, which allows surplus military gear to be purchased by police departments.  Police forces across the country – including those at over 100 universities – have purchased military weaponry or vehicles.

 

Help from local hurricane relief group extends to Puerto Rico

TAMPA— Members of the community have united to form Decentralized Response, a grassroots response coalition, in the wake of the environmental and economic devastation caused by hurricanes Irma and Maria.

Decentralized Response previously operated under the title Irma Decentralized Response. The name was changed when the group’s relief effort extended beyond hurricane Irma.

Volunteers have supplies sent to a three-bedroom house in Tampa that they call the hub.  They store goods there and distribute them statewide.  The group is even planning a relief trip to Puerto Rico.

Pictured left is one of the rooms in the response hub. The whole house holds a variety of relief supplies that volunteers distribute in the hurricane relief packs. Photo credit: Decentralized Response Facebook Page

Dezeray Lyn, a woman who assisted in the formation of the response group, discussed the group’s main mission, where they’ve been and where they’re going.

“We are here to feed and supply anyone in the community who needs it,” Lyn said. “We also traveled to Apopka, Immokalee and the Keys to give the community there assistance.”

Lyn is also a co-founder of Mutual Aid Disaster Relief.  According to the Facebook page, MADR is a grassroots network with a mission to provide disaster relief based on the principles of solidarity, mutual aid and autonomous direct action.

Members of MADR and other activists began mobilizing, as the threat of Irma loomed, to help those in need before, during and after the storm. They formed distribution teams to take hurricane packs containing food, water and hygiene products to refugee families days before Irma hit. The group was a saving grace for those trapped in the rain and high winds.

“We received a call to our relief line from someone trapped in the storm,” Lyn said.  “They were stuck on the side of the interstate, and the police said the winds were too high to send anyone to help them, so we sent our people to pick them up.”

Mostly, the poorer communities were without water and power for extended amounts of time after Irma passed. Decentralized Response provided those neighborhoods in need with water, food and even generators, in some cases.

Dezeray Lyn is featured to the left helping with the delivery of goods to citizens in the Florida Keys. Photo credit: Justin Garcia

Lyn and activists also traveled to Apopka and Immokalee to provide relief. Apopka residents found themselves without power for many days in their small, farming community. It was loosely estimated that 70 percent of the citrus crop was lost during the storm.

Immokalee was hit harder by Irma than many other parts of Florida. More help was needed, so the Coalition of Immokalee Workers worked hard to receive and distribute goods. The town of migrant farmers didn’t have power for weeks and lost a major portion of their crops. Some even lost their homes.

Relief efforts continue.  However, the aid priority of Puerto Rico and other islands has made itself apparent.  The Decentralized Response crew is gearing up to make a trip to the devastated island.

“We are leaving on a weeklong trip to Puerto Rico on October 12,” Lyn said.

Their goal is to help people in need after hurricane Maria. They will distribute relief goods that are being collected in a shipping container before the trip. It should be there when they arrive.

This is a donation flier from Decentralized Response that lists the products needed to be collected and distributed to the victims of the hurricanes. Photo credit: Decentralized Response Facebook Page

Members of Decentralized Response feel that state efforts are not enough considering the destruction in Puerto Rico.

“We must demand that they do more, but also help as a community however we can,” Lyn said.

 

 

 

Melting of permafrost awakens fears of ancient diseases

As the Earth’s temperature begins to rise, not only are the ice caps melting, but the permafrost is melting as well. As this thick, usually frozen layer of soil begins to melt, rumors start to surface regarding ancient and, in some cases, unknown diseases resurfacing and posing potential threats to mankind. However, many of these rumors are false.

As Jasmine Fox-Skelly reports in BBC Earth, “scientists have discovered fragments of RNA from the 1918 Spanish flu virus in corpses buried in mass graves in Alaska’s tundra. Smallpox and the bubonic plague are also likely buried in Siberia.” They suspect that black plague and smallpox DNA fragments are also frozen in the permafrost. These disease fragments have been discovered in buried, frozen bodies of humans and animals alike.

In addition to these fragments, NASA scientists discovered and revived Carnobacterium pleistocene, a lactic acid bacteria, frozen since the era of woolly mammoths over 32,000 years ago.

While scientists are not too concerned, the possibility that dormant plague and small pox viruses could reawaken and spread across the globe has caught their attention.

“Permafrost is a very good preserver of microbes and viruses, because it is cold, there is no oxygen, and it is dark,” Jean-Michel Claverie, microbiologist at the Aix-Marseille University in France said, per Jasmin Fox-Skelly at BBC. Yes, these viruses are concerning, but with modern medicine, including penicillin, they can be easily eradicated.

According to an article by Stephanie Pappas on Live Science, strains of the Zika virus — which has been of recent concern due to mosquitoes — have been discovered in the melting ponds and permafrost. Pappas also reviewed a 2014 study from the American Geophysical Union, which stated warmer climates could also cause outbreaks of Cholera, a deadly diarrheal disease, more so in areas with poor sanitation than others. Additionally, The Indiana Times suggests diseases like malaria and dengue fever will become more common with warmer climates; although, it is not made clear if these specific diseases are coming from the melting permafrost.

Business Insider adds to the list with the discovery of Mollivirus sibericum, from the Siberian permafrost. While it is unclear exactly how this virus affects humans, it is a massive virus, containing 500 genes, causing it to be placed in a category known as Megaviridae, according to Ancient Origins website. The website further reports the discovery of Pithovirus sibericum and Pandoravirus (more large, ancient viruses discovered in 2003), also from Siberia’s permafrost. Erin Brodwin and Lydia Ramsey of Business Insider report a 2005 discovery of Mimivirus in the melting Russian permafrost, which is a virus with 1,200 genes that is twice the length of the viruses infecting the population today. Fox-Skelly notes that tetnaus and pathogens that cause botulism can survive in the frozen ground as well.

These viruses seem intimidating and will require further studying to determine their threat to humans and animals, but they are not the main concern. A reindeer with anthrax died over 75 years ago, became frozen under the soil, and released the disease in 2016 when it thawed and infected about 20 people and killed a young boy in the Yamal Peninsula in the Arctic Circle. Bacteria and viruses are normally not able to survive away from a host for too long; however, the dark, frozen, oxygen deprived permafrost creates the perfect environment for these bacteria to survive.

As the ice continues to thaw, it is possible for more ancient viruses and bacteria to be rediscovered; scientists fear that this will only be the beginning. It is entirely possible for many ancient diseases to “rise from the dead” and infect the living.

Retail- Is It The End Of The Line?

Retail continues its downward spiral, leaving many of us wondering how much longer brick-and-mortar stores will last.

2017 has experienced nine retail bankruptcies resulting in the closing of many of our favorite department stores. J.C. Penney, RadioShack, Macy’s, and Sears have each closed more than 100 stores in the past year.  

If these numbers have shown us anything it’s that retail is a very fickle business and no brand is safe. In the span of a few months a company can go from high to low, which is the case with Swedish, mega-retailer H&M.

Just three months ago they were reporting a surge in their sales, surprising everyone with a 10 percent boost in profits. But it seems that that was the calm before the storm. The fast-fashion retailer reported its third-quarter earnings on Thursday and they left more to be desired. The company’s last period saw a 20 percent dip in their net profit. They attributed the decrease to  “reduced footfall in stores in their established markets”.

Seeing as more and more consumers are shopping online, the lack of foot traffic comes as no surprise. They certainly aren’t the only store suffering. They may however be one of few stores to clear out all of its end-of-season inventory. Unfortunately that didn’t bring in the expected profits.  CEO, Karl-Johan Persson explained the lack of revenue in a recent press release.

“ Sales in the quarter were affected by a significantly larger summer sale this year than in the corresponding quarter last year- both in terms of the number of items and the average discount per piece – which had a dampening effect on revenue growth. This contributed to the autumn collections getting off to a good start, although sales slowed somewhat towards the end of september.”

In an attempt to stay afloat H&M’s online store is planning on opening two new markets in the Philippines and Cyprus in addition to the six online markets it currently has.

Other companies, like H&M, realize that consumers are focusing on online shopping and rather than give up hope they are doing what they can to push through. Companies like Nordstrom.

Nordstrom, one of the country’s largest department stores is doing all that it can to incorporate online shopping into their employees selling strategies. Allowing their customers to call, email and even text employees the items that they want. Customers can find the items that they want online, make a wishlist and send it to any Nordstrom employee, leaving them to find and ship the items straight to their home.

The company is also expanding their online selection. They have recently green-lighted a collaboration with Everlane. Everlane is known for its high-quality and ethically made basics. Nordstrom will launch an Everlane themed pop-up shop in-store and online. The shop will be in line with the brand’s minimalist style of clean lines and warm tones. The deal is Everlane’s first ever in-store retail partnership.

Hopefully the pop-up shop will help  increase foot-traffic while also expanding online sales.

If things continue on as they are currently, we can expect to see more and more stores enter the red zone.  

But if more companies attempt to embrace the change in consumer trends and use this as an opportunity to grow their online presence, then maybe, just maybe their could be a light at the end of a seemingly bleak tunnel. Perhaps online shopping, the be-all and end-all of retail could also be its saving grace.

How much longer do we have until we have to say goodbye to our favorite stores? Hopefully we won’t have to.

 

Apple Launches New IPhones

It is official, the iPhone 8, 8 PLUS, and X are on their way to a store near you. Apple has recently announced the release dates for its newest and most coveted iPhones. The iphone 8, 8 plus, and X are slated to be “a huge step forward in iPhone history” according to Apple CEO Tim Cook.

While the 8 and 8 PLUS have been long awaited the real star, the biggest and baddest iPhone, is the much-hyped iPhone X. Fully equipped with a full-screen display, new all-glass design, and Face ID, it is expected to be the king of the smartphones.

It has a Super Retina Display and measures 5.8 inches with a resolution of 2,436 x 1,125 pixels. Brightness and color accuracy problems that plagued iphone users in the past have been rectified. Apple has added Dolby Vision and HDR10 support to provide crystal clear video playback.

The phone is designed to be intuitive and user friendly. To unlock the home screen without a home button Apple developed Face ID, a facial recognition system that learns the shape and contours of your face in real time. The screen illuminates with one look and will even work in the dark.

Many iPhone users are concerned about the software, worrying that their future phones won’t be able to recognize them if they decide to change their appearance. But Apple has claimed that Face ID will not be confused by hairstyles, hats, or even facial hair.

There is no doubt that Apple likes to push the limits and reinvent technology in new and innovative ways, but with the rise of technology and the power that accompanies it comes great responsibility. Facial recognition is not a new concept. Samsung and Microsoft both offer it as a feature on their phones. However the launch of the iPhone X will likely catapult the software into the mainstream media, shining a light on it like never before.

Face ID has been praised for it’s convenience but has raised red flags in other areas. Other than consumers worrying about being recognized, there is the matter that a third party, namely law enforcement or thieves, will be able to unlock a user’s phone through force just by pointing the screen at their face. And even more worrisome is the question of whether or not Face ID will be able to give Apple and it’s partners an easy way to catalog their users. Creating a massive database without the touch of a single button.

Technology has created a breach in privacy and a real fear of information leaks and information manipulation. The fear is that the face id software will be used for surveillance and marketing. As of right now Apple has been able to soothe the public’s concerns  noting that Face ID is entirely self-contained within the phone. The facial image, created with a special camera on the phone, is stored only on the iPhone and never shipped back to Apple. Which means that while consumers’ photos and other content are regularly transferred to Apple’s iCloud storage service, this won’t be the case with their facial recognition data.

The privacy features built into Face ID are intended to limit the misuse of the software but with the increased popularity that the iphone will bring there is no way to be sure that other companies will not exploit it. Only time will tell.

Apple has announced that the iphone X will be available for pre-order on October 27. The iPhone 8 and 8 PLUS will be released on September 15.

 

Storm Debris Collection Underway for Tampa Residents

Tampa – Two weeks after Hurricane Irma swept through Tampa Bay, residents are still waiting for storm debris to be picked up.

Tampa residents were quick to clean up the aftermath of Irma. Branches and palm fronds were piled up on the curb. Fallen trees were cut into manageable pieces and piled on the side of the road for pickup.

The company contracted by the City of Tampa to assist with storm debris collection, Ceres Environment, had planned to rent about 30 trucks to add to the five they currently have in use in Tampa. However, those trucks are now headed for South Florida instead.

“The subcontractor received a higher-price offer from another entity in South Florida and did not provide the trucks to Ceres for use in Tampa,” Stanley Bloodworth, the company’s project manager for Tampa, said in an email to the Tampa Bay Times. “Ceres is actively seeking additional resources from other subcontractors to fulfill the needs of the city of Tampa.”

The demand for trucks is higher than the supply, and the suppliers are going to whoever is paying the most. Tampa is paying $9.77 per cubic yard to get rid of 300,000 cubic yards of storm debris and South Florida is offering more.

Greg Meyer, a resident in the Palmetto Beach community of Tampa, had a large tree fall on his property and spent four hours cutting it up and moving it to the curb. A week and a half later and the debris is still sitting on his front lawn.

“I know they’re trying their hardest, but I’d like to let my kids play out front again soon,” Meyer said. “It’s just too risky letting them play near a four and half foot pile of debris.”

While the city is reviewing contracts to make sure contractors haven’t violated the law, parks and recreation and sanitation workers are now collecting storm debris. Because of this, parks will take longer to clean up.

Ceres is still working to collect storm debris with the trucks they have in use now, and residents can expect the collection process to take continue well into October.

While residential and commercial garbage collection resumed fairly quickly, recycle and yard waste collection will not resume until Monday, Sept. 25. The city’s Solid Waste Enhanced Environmental Program (S.W.E.E.P.) is suspended until further notice.

Even though regular yard waste collection resumes this week, the excess debris which cannot be bagged will be collected under the storm debris removal program. This program asks residents to follow specific guidelines for putting their debris out for collection.

Residents are being asked to separate their debris by material type: white goods, construction material, vegetative debris and electronics. Vegetative storm debris should not be bagged or placed in containers. Storm debris contractors will be using special machinery to collect debris piles. For these to be collected, they must be placed on the curb.

Citywide storm debris collection service will be taking place seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. through Oct. 27.

Those who would like to get rid of debris sooner can take it to one of Hillsborough County’s three yard waste collection sites. These sites are open Monday through Saturday from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

  • Falkenburg Road – 346 N. Falkenburg Road, Tampa 33619
  • Northwest County – 8001 W. Linebaugh Ave., Tampa 33625
  • South County – 13000 U.S. Highway 41, Gibsonton 33534

To discard nonvegetative waste or debris, residents may drop off at any of the following Community Collection Centers listed below.

  • Alderman’s Ford Solid Waste Facility – 9402 County Road 39, Plant City, FL 33567
  • Hillsborough Heights Solid Waste Facility – 6209 County Road 579, Seffner, FL 33584
  • Northwest County Solid Waste Facility – 8001 W. Linebaugh Ave., Tampa 33625
  • South County Solid Waste Facility – 13000 U.S. Highway 41, Gibsonton, FL 33534

McKay Bay Disposal Facility is also accepting storm debris, located at 112 South 34th St., Tampa 33605.

The facilities listed above require a photo ID to dispose of waste, and McKay Bay requires proof of a city utility customer account as well.

Despite His Autism, Tampa Athlete Exceeds In Cycling During Special Olympics

Mark Zac, a Tampa native who was diagnosed with a form of autism, has participated in special Olympic sports over the past few years ranging from a local level to the world level in the World Special Olympic Games.

Allen Zac, Mark’s father, trained with him for six months before the World Special Olympic Games. They lifted weights and cycled almost 10 miles a day to prepare Mark for the event.

“That year he went to San Diego on his own, on the plane with the team, did training for five days, and then went to Athens and was with the team for three weeks on his own. We never thought he could survive without us, somehow he did and he did awesome,” Allen Zak said. “He won a gold and a silver in cycling.”

Mark took home a gold and a silver medal and proudly wears them to this day. Although he plays many sports, cycling has always been his favorite choice.

Out of the wide range of awards he’s won, his gold medal is his favorite.

Mark Zac has proven to many people in his community and around the world that even with a disability, you can live out your dreams.

Local Dog Trainers Give Back to Veterans

K-9 Partners for Patriots is not the typical dog training class—veterans are pairing up with pets to help them enter back into civilian life.

Mary Peter, who has over 30 years of experience as a master dog trainer, founded the program a few years ago to help veterans struggling with PTSD and other brain related injuries.

“People would come for obedience training and I started noticing more and more veterans coming back from combat with a dog trying to get into an obedience class,” said Peter.

Before taking the class, veteran Aurthur Moore found it difficult to complete day-to-day activities.

“I would lay in bed all day, said Moore. “I would stay in the house.”

Having gone through the training program, Moore is inspired to help others by studying to become a dog trainer for veterans.

“I want to help other veterans like they’ve helped me,” said Moore. “It makes me feel good helping other people, it helps me feel good inside.”

166 veterans are in or have gone through the program. Similarly, 55 dogs have been rescued and found a new home.

“90 percent of our funding goes directly to our veterans,” Peter said. “We try to save two—a dog and veteran together.”

For Peter, helping veterans is a gift she feels honored to be a part of.

“To see and honor those who have suffered so much in service to our country—it means everything to me,” said Peter. It’s not a job to me, it’s my passion. I love each and every one of these men and women and it’s an honor to serve them and help them.”

Tampa Pride Remembers Pulse Shooting

Ybor City welcomed thousands to the Tampa Pride Parade on Saturday to celebrate the LGBTQ community and pay tribute to victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting.

Centro Ybor was packed with events on the strip of Seventh Avenue, including a parade and street festival, all of which were open to the public.

Tampa Pride featured a special ceremony to remember the lives of victims and survivors of the Pulse nightclub shooting last June. This was the first Pride event since the shooting occurred.

“Since the shooting, things have been very different,” said Alisha, a Tampa Pride attendee. “It is nice to see everyone come together to support the cause and still see there are people in the community that support what we are doing here.”

Many local and national celebrities came out to support the festival, including Congresswoman Kathy Castor, Mayor Bob Buckhorn, and Scotty Davis, a radio host from 93.3 FL-Z.

Rue, a gay rights activist, spoke about the changes he’s noticed in the over 25 years he’s been attending Pride parades.

“It was mainly a march saying this is who we are and we’re proud to do it,” Rue said. “We didn’t have any elected officials behind us, you know, sponsors to say, so it’s a really different atmosphere.”

The crowd gathered to pay homage to the victims of the shooting in Orlando, while also celebrating the differences that brought them together for such a unique occasion.

Minority women’s golfing group looks to bridge gap in professional world.

After leaving the corporate office one woman made the decision to build Women of Color Golf, an organization centered on golf and networking.

The organization’s founder and director, Clemmie Perry, made it her duty to increase the awareness of golf within the minority women community.

Women of Color Golf (WOCG) is a non-profit organization that sets out to promote and encourage minorities and women of color to learn the benefits of golf. Ms. Perry not only wants women to fundamentally understand the game of golf, but she also wants Women of Color Golf to be a gateway to networking and partnerships.

“We serve on various boards, such as the World Golf Foundation and other organizations that will help leverage our mission,” said Perry.

Many women within this organization have benefited from the outlets that Women of Color Golf provides. Robyn Thompson, the Millennial Leader for WOCG, says that this organization is the needed push to bridge the gap between male and female golfers.

“I think we have to educate women, and that’s one of the great things about Women of Color Golf. In the beginner session they basically educate you on what golf is, how you play the game before you even go out on the golf course,” said Thompson.

Perry has built an organization that is more than just “learning how to play golf.” Women of Color Golf has been national recognized by President Barack Obama for the diligence that it provides to the Tampa Bay area. There is hope for further expansion and an excitement for future endeavors.

Franchise a way to help center

By Ciara Cummings

TAMPA—This Dairy Queen franchise located on State Road 64 in Brandon works as a charity to financially support the Lakeview Center, a behavioral health and child protective services agency.

“We were on the way home from the golf course when we passed by,” said DQ customer Rita. “It looked like a really nice facility so we decided to stop here for dinner.

Like many customers, she had no clue that this franchise was purchased by Lakeview Associated Enterprises in order to keep their health center in Pensacola afloat.

The center that provides therapy, aid and treatments to abused children and adults who struggle with disabilities, needed some help of their own, more income revenue.

Instead of traditional methods of fundraising, they purchased an ice cream franchise. This Brandon location is just one of the three franchises the Lakeview Associated Enterprises owns. But in the future, they plan to own at least eight Dairy Queens.

All proceeds do in fact go to Lakeview Center, which makes DQ employees more motivated to come to work and perform their best.

Libby, a cashier, says “You come in, it’s not just like a normal job. It’s like you’re working for something and you’re helping out other people.”

Co-worker Hilary Borhas said seeing the customers reactions are even better. “I think the best part about it is when the customers read the plaque and they are motivated to keep coming back because they know their money isn’t just going to some big company.”

The employees receive their paycheck from Lakeview Associated Enterprises. If the store performs well during the quarter, the Enterprise has enough money to support their health center which allows them to take money from elsewhere, like state and federal funding, to support their employees.

 

USF Alzheimer’s Institute provides care to families along with patients

The USF Health Byrd Alzheimer’s Institute provides one of many support groups across the country that is host to caregivers of a family member with a mental illness such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Edward Batchelor and Margaret Hammoutree have attended the Byrd Institute’s support group for many years, and understand the stages of caring for a loved one.

“They educate them on what they can expect,” Batchelor said. “What possibly can they expect? Because you never know, and you can never fully prepare for what you might come across.”

According to Alz.org, 15.9 million caregivers provided an estimated 18.2 billion hours of unpaid care to those with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia in 2016,  valued at $230.1 billion.

The Byrd Institute, which has dedicated their focus towards patient caregiving and research for mental illness, holds open events for long-term caregivers and newcomers who have not experienced the impact of a support group.

“If you realize somebody else is going through the same thing you’re going through, it’s that kind of comradery and support that, ‘okay if this person can do it, I can do it too,’” Hammoutree said.

Eileen Poilley, the support group moderator at the Byrd center, has witnessed the learning curve that caregivers experience.

“They may learn a better way to communicate,” Poilley said. “They may understand some of the behaviors that their loved one does and not get upset.”

Poilley has also seen the changes to Batchelor and Hammoutree, and their outlook on the importance of attending support groups.

Batchelor took notice of the newcomers who broke down in emotion during the meeting, as he did on behalf of his wife when he first started attending.

“I continue to be involved in the support group because I feel like I can kind of help somebody else who’s behind me in this process as they get to that point, be prepared and make those decisions in a way that’s a good fit for their family,” Hammoutree said.

Misleading Labels on Healthy Snacks in Vending Machines

When choosing a snack from the vending machine you may only pay attention to labels on the front of the package; make sure to not let certain labels fool you into thinking you’re eating healthy.

Vending machines have made an effort to partake in the healthy transformation of food offered on college campuses. Snacks that are below 250 calories are now labeled with a green sticker.

There are also “2bu” vending machines, which are advertised as only being filled with healthy snacks.

Many people may think they are eating healthy if they choose a snack that is labeled organic, gluten free, natural or fat free.

Registered Dietitian Dr. Theresa Crocker said “labeling as a whole often misleads consumers.”

“Just because something is labeled organic or natural, doesn’t mean it’s healthy. But if instead, you set standards that all of the components in a vending machine meet XYZ standards then it’s guaranteed that people have access to healthier foods,” said Dr. Crocker.

James Thach, a student at the University of South Florida, has fallen victim of the misleading labels.

“If I saw something that was organic, I would assume that it would be a lot healthier than something that wasn’t,” said Thach.

Unfortunately, this is not the case. The “2bu” vending machine offers a selection of organic options, including organic jellybeans. One package of these jellybeans has 58 grams of sugar. That is double the amount of sugar than a Twix candy bar, which has 28 grams of sugar per bar.

Although these snacks may not be mislabeled, the labels can be misleading. The nutrition facts will reveal more about what you’re eating than the labels on the front of the package.

The New Confederate

There’s an organization in Tampa that wants people to know the confederacy is still alive and well.

Sons of Confederate Veterans is hoping to change connotations that come along with the word “confederate.”

“That this flag is a symbol of bigotry, this flag is a symbol of white supremacy, this flag is a symbol of slavery,” said a guest speaker at the Confederate Flag Day event. “Anyone that knows history from 1816 to 1865 knows there isn’t a shred of evidence.”

The organization is national, but has one of their largest chapters is in Florida. The Florida chapter claims to deconstruct myths that are associated with confederate ideals by replacing them with positivity.

“I feel pride,” Florida Division Commander, Don Young, said. “I feel that love. Those soldiers whom I talked about who feel that love see it as a symbol of protection of their family. ”

Young said that he recognizes there are differences in opinions and varying perspectives that are mostly “not good,” but he also suggests people study history outside of the classroom, alleging school assignments are not always right.

Young represents the common sentiments shared at the Confederate Flag Day event. Attendees were in consensus that Southern ideals and values had been villainized over the years.

Members of Sons of Confederate Veterans are adamant about protecting their history and their rights—that’s all they are trying to do according to member Jack Coleman.

“I don’t think they fully understand the history,” Coleman said. “And I think maybe they feel a little bit threatened, but they don’t have to be.”

Members want their opposition, like the Black Lives Matter movement, to learn the confederacy’s modern platform. Once they do, members, like Coleman, believe there won’t be so much backlash.