Sunday, August 30, 2009

Advocating Prostitution Alternatives

For the past several months, Beyondmedia has been collaborating with PART (Prostitution Alternatives Round Table), a program of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, on a media workshop with survivors of prostitution. The women have developed media and activism skills, and have produced a video called Turning A Corner that they can use in their efforts to reduce stigma and raise awareness of the systemic causes of prostitution to advocate for change. 

Are You Teaching Your Child How To Be Violent?

It makes sense (and studies prove) that the more violent or aggressive behavior kids see, the more normal it becomes. With all the gore that fills the TV screen, violence can become an acceptable way to settle conflicts. Studies show that repeated exposure can lead to harmful acts and bullying. And they also show that kids become less empathetic to victims of violence. Kids younger than 7 are particularly vulnerable, since they don't easily distinguish fantasy from reality. They're also in the process of separating from their parents; that budding independence can bring normal insecurities and anxieties. When a child sees another child harmed on television, the impact is huge psychologically. So it's not surprising that the younger kids are, the longer lasting the effects of TV violence can be, including nightmares and increased worry that the world is a dangerous place.

The Family Media Agreement is a checklist that parents can use to have conversations with their children about media use and to establish guidelines that are right for their family. Some families are comfortable using it as a signed agreement. Others prefer to use it simply as a checklist to guide conversations. 

Impact of Media Violence Tips

Why media violence matters

The facts: Kids' TV shows are really violent

  • Kids' TV shows have twice as many violent incidents as other shows
  • 94% of T-rated games contain violence
  • Teens who watch more than 1 hour of TV per day are 4 times more likely than other teens to commit aggressive acts as adults
  • Reducing TV and video game use to less than 1 hour per day decreased physical aggression by 40% in a study of 3rd- and 4th-graders

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Neighborhood Crime Watch Group Successfully Networks Online

Boston Crime Prevention Volunteers Unite via New Online Social Network

The Allendale Street Neighborhood Crime Watch group. The officer on the left is Sgt. Eric Krause, and on the right is Lt. Michael Kern, both from E-13 District.


What a tangled web we've woven! The Internet has become something of a cyber smorgasbord with seemingly unlimited options for people to connect with others who share similar interests. Selections include Facebook, MySpace, Blogster, and Xanga, as well as search engines such as Google and Yahoo, which allow members to exchange photos, chat, and participate on discussion boards. Most sites allow special interest groups to create forums in which members can conduct business meetings online. Unfortunately, as these networks expand and multiply independently, group members often have difficulty finding and uniting fellow participants in one location. As a result, many organizations, such as the Boston Police Department (BPD) Neighborhood Crime Watch Unit, are developing their own private, centralized networks.

This past April, the BPD launched a pilot program called the E-13/Jamaica Plain Neighbors Network. This online network will provide residents of Boston 's Jamaica Plain neighborhood with organizational and communication tools, allowing them to learn about and take advantage of police, city, and community resources in order to combat crime. While the network is still in the evaluation phase, Jamaica Plain law enforcement officials are enthusiastic: “This is a powerful community policing outreach and engagement tool,” said Captain Christine Michalosky, Boston Police Commander of District 13. “We are excited about increasing communication and participation between the police and community in a fun and casual manner.” After testing is completed, the BPD plans to begin efforts to expand the network and integrate other neighborhoods within greater Boston.

When Problem Leads to Opportunity

Established in 1985, the Boston Neighborhood Crime Watch Program now comprises nearly 700 active groups, and program leaders have trained more than 100,000 citizens. The program had enjoyed slow and steady “block-by-block” growth for nearly two decades when a unique opportunity presented itself in 2006. That year, the residents of historic Charlestown, the second-oldest neighborhood in Boston and home to approximately 15,000 people, expressed interest in organizing the entire neighborhood into a community crime watch network. The BPD Neighborhood Crime Watch Unit responded by working with Charlestown resident volunteers and A-1 District police to organize what became known as the Coalition Organizing Model. Coalition participants provided crime prevention training to more than 500 residents and held rallies to generate interest in Neighborhood Crime Watch, which led to the creation of some 50 new Charlestown watch groups. These efforts resulted in a 16 percent overall reduction in crime in the Charlestown community.

As the Boston Neighborhood Crime Watch Program mushroomed and criminal activity decreased, the Police Department realized it was facing a new challenge—how to maintain the momentum needed to expand further and provide current watch volunteers with the crime prevention tools they needed to succeed with a staff of only three BPD employees. Past experience had shown that, over time, crime prevention groups disintegrate as members move away, priories shift, and leadership changes. Also, in large communities such as Boston, intergroup communication and collaboration are typically rare. Crime watch groups usually work independently, in isolation from neighboring groups, community service offices, and law enforcement, and members often do not know each other or have the means to share vital information.

In order to strengthen the Neighborhood Crime Watch Program and ensure its continued success, the BPD determined that program members required access to a centralized source for crime prevention tools, maps, and news. Furthermore, they needed a forum in which to interact with members of other watch groups and community leaders. To development this ambitious product, the BPD researched within the Boston Neighborhood Crime Watch community and found the answer from a seasoned volunteer with network design experience.

Commitment and Expertise

“When the police department called in February of 2006 to tell me that they had a job opening, I jumped at the chance,” said Neighborhoods Network Project Director Joseph Porcelli. With a degree in business administration and experience as a senior associate of a technology consulting firm, Porcelli, a civilian, had the technical skills the BPD needed to design and build an online network that would link the city's Neighborhood Crime Watch groups. Moreover, he brought to the department unwavering passion and commitment to community improvement. Once described on “New Morning,” a popular show on the Hallmark Channel (which featured him because he wore a nametag every day in 2007 to encourage people to meet their neighbors), as a “professional neighbor,” Porcelli is the director of Neighbors for Neighbors, a private web-based social network he founded in 2004 when violence hit a little too close to his Jamaica Plain neighborhood home. “I learned that two of my neighbors had been violently assaulted and mugged,” he said. “I took action, and with the help of the Boston Police Department, connected, informed, and empowered my neighbors.”

Porcelli first set out to educate residents by alerting them about the recent violence and passing out crime prevention literature at a neighborhood train stop. In response to requests generated from this effort, he organized a Neighborhood Crime Watch meeting for his street, which welcomed an unprecedented 60 attendees. Inspired by the high turnout, Porcelli, together with friends and neighbors, organized the first of several Jamaica Plain neighborhood socials. Soon, Neighbors for Neighbors was born. True to its motto—“Socialize. Organize. Make a difference”—the organization has to date brought together more than 4,000 Jamaica Plain residents, and volunteers have organized 72 social groups and community and partner projects. Recent milestones include recognition as a 501(c)3 tax-exempt organization in 2007 and the formal launch of the online Neighbors for Neighbors Jamaica Plain Organizing Network this past March. *

The Master Plan

After he joined the BPD, Porcelli collaborated with fellow members of the Neighborhood Crime Watch Unit team to design a network that incorporated law enforcement and crime prevention functions with social features of his previous project while supporting and sustaining the tremendous momentum generated by the Coalition Organizing Model. The goal of this network was clear-cut: to build community and reduce crime by connecting neighbors to each other and to community and police resources.

The resulting E-13 Jamaica Plain Neighbors Network comprises 11 “cluster groups” of streets representing the sections of neighborhoods within the E-13 Jamaica Plain District. In addition, streets groups have been set up for those groups that have indicated they would like a street-level group. Over the next couple of months, street groups will be created as new Neighborhood Crime Watch groups come online and existing groups join the network.

A screen shot of the Neighborhood Crime Watch group maps featured on the Neighbors Network homepage.

Neighbors Network: The Bells and Whistles

Porcelli built the Jamaica Plain Neighbors Network using Ning, a platform that allows developers to combine and customize features such as video, weblogs (“blogs”), forums within the cluster and street groups, photographs, and event calendars. “The message we consistently hear from the Neighborhood Crime Watch leaders and members across the city is that they want tools to help them meet and engage their neighbors,” Porcelli said. “ The Neighbors Network builds on a cornerstone Watch concept—neighbor interaction.” Like other social networks, the Neighbors Network allows members to email each other, create and customize personal pages, make friends with fellow members, and create blogs with content ranging from diaries to community notices. Current posts include an announcement regarding volunteer opportunities at an upcoming National Night Out event and a blog from the District 13 police unit regarding expansion of its bicycle policing activities.

The social network also serves as a centralized organizational and communication tool. Cluster groups provide members with a discussion board and administrators with the ability to manage group membership. Street group boards incorporate similar features and may be accessed only by their members. The Ning platform enables users to embed videos, photographs, and pod casts from outside media sources such as the Citizen Observer and BPD News . Members also can embed network widgets (“promotion boxes”) on their personal pages and other social networks to which they may belong.

Law enforcement personnel and city government officials also will benefit from the network. Network administrators from the BPD Neighborhood Crime Watch Unit, E-13 Police personnel, and the mayor's neighborhood coordinator will be able to email all network members, post to the network blog, and participate in cluster and street groups in order to send crime alerts, communicate trends and statistics, and promote police-sponsored events and training. “The system will allow community service officers and the Boston Police Department to easily communicate with the entire network,” explained Porcelli. “For example, they can send a message saying ‘We're seeing an increase in car vandalism in the XYZ area; therefore, please encourage your residents to remove their valuables and lock their cars.'”

Ironing Out the Wrinkles

Identifying user needs and customizing the platform to meet these needs proved to be the greatest challenge to designing the network structure. “Since this had not been done before, we had to figure out how to marry the functionality to our needs—which we've been discovering as we proceed,” Porcelli said.

Another challenge involved convincing groups already using other networks such as Yahoo and Google to switch to the new system. Porcelli noted that almost all have agreed to make the switch after having been made aware of the benefits of a central neighborhood network. “We found that we needed to shift member focus from their street to their neighborhood. The Neighbors Network makes it easier for neighbors to find and join their group online, and it gives leaders access to each other and neighboring groups, which makes collaboration possible,” he explained.

Spreading the Word

Although launch of the Neighbors Network was just announced in April, 420 new members have already joined. To further boost membership, the Neighborhood Crime Watch Unit has planned a campaign to publicize the network by posting flyers in every building in Jamaica Plain, providing information during Neighborhood Crime Watch group and homeowners association meetings, hosting network “how-to” classes, and encouraging members to invite their neighbors to join.

System evaluation is anticipated to continue through June. At some point, after any necessary adjustments are made, the BPD hopes to expand the network concept citywide. “We've got 11 districts; therefore, we need to do 10 more networks,” Porcelli said. “We hope to provide a large portion of the Boston community with education and crime prevention tools within a year's time.”

Early response from network members has been overwhelmingly positive. “Based on the initial feedback we have received, we think we've hit a home run,” Porcelli said. “Members of the network have made comments such as ‘This is a wonderful tool' and ‘Makes crime watch fun.'” The convenience of 24-hour network access is attracting many new members; in fact, more than half of all those signed up to participate had never taken part in neighborhood crime prevention prior to the launch of the Neighbors Network.

“We like to say that the Neighbors Network ‘builds community while you sleep.' The pubic can access it and join neighborhood and street groups at a time convenient to them,” Porcelli noted. “It's like an investment that earns interest, except the interest is not money but social capital.”

Joseph Porcelli with Jenny ("Big Momma") P hoto credit: Margaux Joffe/Faces of JP


Links (homepage of the new Jamaica Plain Neighbors Network) (official website of the city of Boston) (Suffolk County Sheriff's Department) (Boston Police Department) (Boston Police Department news) (Boston Neighborhood Crime Watch Program) (Jamaica Plain neighborhood website) (Porcelli's website, where he share his reflections on making a difference) (homepage for Ning, Inc., founders of the Ning platform)

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An Online Network for Missing Persons and Targets of Abuse

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


Time: October 27, 2009 from 7pm to 10pm
Location: Mott Auditorium at Olivet College
Street: Mott Auditorium at Olivet College
City/Town: Olivet, MI
Website or Map:
Phone: 517-554-1659
Event Type: concert
Organized By: Chad Scott of TrackMissing
Latest Activity: 10 minutes ago

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Event Description

The Squeaky Wheel Tour will be coming to Mott Auditorium at Olivet College on October 27, 2009 starting at 7:00 PM.

The SWT is a National Missing Person Concert Tour conducted by Jannel Rapp and Clemstreet of Gina for the Missing out of California. This is the first time this tour will be coming to Michigan.

This year the SWT will have a full camera crew traveling with them to film for a TV show that will air on TLC. The crew will also be filming interviews with families of the missing. The Michigan concert will also be streamed live over the Internet.

This is one of the biggest opportunities that Michigan families with a missing loved one have ever had to bring awareness to their missing family member. We are asking that any Michigan family who would like to have their missing family member featured at the concert and on the show contact us. If any Law Enforcement or media know of a missing person case that needs this attention please contact us.

The volunteers of TrackMissing have put a great deal of time and effort into making this event happen. TM volunteers will be responsible to make sure all arrangements and everything needed for the concert are in place. We will also be responsible for obtaining several bands/singers from Michigan to perform at the concert. As of now TM's 13 year old volunteer country singer, Tiffani Jones from Marshall, MI will be opening the concert. She will be performing the song that is being written, composed and produced by award winning producer Danny Borgers from Nashville, TN (son of Missing Woman Ida Richardson-Anderson 1958 from Ann Arbor, MI). This song will be a first of its kind focusing on a families fight to find their missing loved ones.

We are also working with the Marshall area Jaycees to conduct a "karaoke contest" of area singing talent. The winner of the contest will get to sing a song at the concert.

Mario Aleman "DJ Mario" from Marshall will be the M.C.

The focus of this concert is to bring awareness to missing people. Mott seats 387 people and tickets will be available for $10.00 at the beginning of September (free tickets will provided to family members who have a missing loved one and would like to be at the concert). Proceeds from the concert will go to TrackMissing to help fund future awareness and search efforts. We will be seeking sponsors for the concert to help offset our costs to bring this huge event to Michigan. Full sponsorship will be $4000.00 and partial will be $1000.00.

We would like to ask your outlet to let people know this event is set and is coming to Michigan. We need to have the families who can benefit from this become aware of this opportunity and contact us sooner rather than later. We will also be doing major updates to our website over the weekend o get all of the information and what is needed for the concert as well as the search for Mary Lands on September 26, 2009. An overwhelming amount of request for our services over the last couple of weeks have caused a delay in that information being posted sooner. On the other hand 2 missing person cases we were helping with resulted in safe recoveries in a 5 day span.

Jannel Rapp (Gina for the Missing) 877-411-4462
Chad Scott (TrackMissing) 517-554-1659
Danny Borgers 615-500-6420
Diane Jones (Tiffani's mom) 517-392-1398
Angel (Marshall Jaycees) 269-274-2562

Chad Scott

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Thursday, August 6, 2009

Sometimes rather than destroying us, pain and stress sometimes can make us stronger and grow

I have, as of late, been exploring this notion of "post traumatic growth".  I rather like the concept because, for me, it supports the notion that our suffering is actually doing something beneficial and that we'll end up doing great things because of all the crap we've been through.

Post Traumatic Growth from Stress

Tony  Robbins 

We have all heard of post-traumatic stress syndrome. We have studied how human beings deal with and react to extreme stressors they encounter in their lives: war, attack, financial ruin, illness, death. There are thousands of tragedies and crises that can produce extreme stress in human beings. But very few people have actually studied how people respond to stress in a positive way. There is something called post-traumatic growth. You can have amazing personal growth come out of extremely stressful situations. And that's what I talk to people about. When you face extreme stress you have a couple of options. One positive option is to face that stress, do something and try to deal with that problem in your life. Reappraise your life. Decide that you "have to look at life differently." It's the proactive approach.

Three benefits of extreme stress: 

  1. You discover what you are made of. You come to realize that you are stronger than you ever dreamed. Your sense of what you are capable of shifts and becomes an "immune system" that allows you to face other challenges in your future more easily.
  2. It deepens all of your relationships. You get to find out who your real friends are. The depth and the appreciation of those friendships is extraordinary. When you experience an extreme stressor and you aren't able to give everyone everything they want, your fair-weather friends disappear. Remember, what truly makes people most happy is their internal emotional and social relationships.
  3. Changes your consciousness. When things are going well we keep expecting things to keep going well. It puts a different perspective on your life. You value the little things in life more.
People who face extreme stress, instead of hiding from it, can experience benefits. We are all stronger than we think we are. Winter doesn't last forever and what follows is a beautiful springtime. If you remember that, you can go to work and focus on what you can do to change your life, change your perspective, rather than denying it or living in fear.

(Taken from the APA Help Center)
Find out Your Potential for "Post Traumatic Growth" with this Self-Quiz

Law to Help Families Find Missing Loved Ones (Billy's Law) was introduced today by Congressman Murphy

"Nobody should have to go through what the Smolinskis have gone through..."

Murphy Introduces Billy's Law to Help Families Find Missing Loved Ones

August 6, 2009

Contact: Kristen Bossi

(202) 225-4476

HARTFORD - Today, Congressman Chris Murphy (CT-5) was joined by family members of missing persons from Connecticut and local law enforcement officials to announce that he is introducing federal legislation to help families find missing loved ones. 

"Nobody should have to go through what the Smolinskis have gone through. 
Billy's Law will give more tools to families who are going through the heart wrenching experience of learning their loved one has gone missing.  The systems we have in place now for law enforcement and medical examiners to use to help families find their loved ones don't talk to each other.  That's inexcusable, and so the bill I am introducing fixes that problem, once and for all," said Murphy.

Murphy's legislation is named after Billy Smolinski of Waterbury, who went missing on August 24, 2004 at the age of 31.  Billy's family has experienced many obstacles in searching for their missing son, including the fact that federal law mandates law enforcement report missing children, but not adults or unidentified bodies. While law enforcement can voluntarily report this information, a lack of resources and knowledge of the system often prevents them from doing so.

"The notion that we are living in a CSI society is nothing more than a television fantasy.  My son Billy vanished five years ago, and in our efforts to find him we opened a Pandora's Box of problems plaguing the world of the missing and the unidentified dead.  Just about anything that could go wrong in the effort to find our son went wrong.  Law enforcement training has to catch up with science and technology and Congressman Murphy's act will ensure that it does," said Janice Smolinski, Billy's mother.

Every year tens of thousands of Americans go missing, never to be seen by their loved ones again.  At the same time, there are also an estimated 40,000 sets of unidentified human remains that are being held or disposed of across the country, and no organized system to match cases and remains.  Murphy's "Help Find the Missing Act" (Billy's Law) is an effort to fix the enormous gaps in the nation's missing persons systems and bring closure to the loved ones of the missing, while providing law enforcement, coroners and medical examiners the resources and guidance to do the reporting.

Billy's Law empowers families and loved ones of the missing to find justice by helping to secure funding for the only federal missing persons and unidentified remains database that can be cross-searched, accessed and added to by the public - the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs).  This database enables the loved ones of the missing to spend countless hours searching for a match and add invaluable information to the case profile that only they know.

The legislation helps to streamline the reporting process for law enforcement and medical examiners by connecting two major federal missing persons and unidentified remains databases- the FBI's National Crime Information Center (NCIC) and the NamUs.  Connecting these databases makes them more comprehensive and more likely to lead to a missing person or unidentified remains match.

Billy's Law builds upon Connecticut's 2007 Law Enforcement and Missing Persons law as it calls for the issuance of broad recommendations for standards and procedures for law enforcement to follow in dealing with missing persons and unidentified remains

Rep. Vickie Nardello, who represents the 89th District which includes Bethany, Cheshire and Prospect, said: "I applaud Rep. Murphy's efforts to pass federal legislation to adopt uniformed procedures on how we handle missing persons.  A national policy will be the culmination of Jan Smolinski's dreams and hard work.  During the upcoming Connecticut legislative session we will continue to pursue additional reform of missing person procedures.  With the help of law enforcement agencies we expect passage of this legislation in Connecticut."

Senator Joan V. Hartley, 15th Senatorial District said:  "I first of all want to commend Congressman Murphy on the 'Help Find the Missing Act (Billy's Law)' initiative which is sorely needed not only in the 5th Congressional district but throughout the State of Connecticut as well as the United States.  In this age of high speed data access and information, we should at the very least, be able to ensure that citizens and their families, especially in times of crisis, are provided every access to information in seeking to identify the whereabouts of the persons that they seek."

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Soul Touching Ads by Yasmin Ahmad, The Storyteller

Yasmin Ahmad (July 1, 1958 - July 25, 2009) was a critically-acclaimed multi-award winning film director, writer and scriptwriter from Malaysia and was also the executive creative director at Leo Burnett Kuala Lumpur. Her television commercials and films are well-known in Malaysia for their humour, heart and love that crosses cross-cultural barriers, in particular her ads for Petronas, the national oil and gas company. Her works have won multiple awards both within Malaysia and internationally.

I had recently read over at Yasmin's personal blog, she had written her last entry on July 22, this last post one can't help but notice a sense of foreshadowing in its title which is called "A song of longing I'm hoping to use for the ending in Wasurenagusa."

Below are some of the ads that Yasmin Ahmad did for Petronas, which are incredibly beautiful and touching, often provoking "good tears" upon viewing. Such a compassionate, heartfelt method of "selling" a message. I highly recommend viewing them all, but AT LEAST watch the first one below on the'll be so glad you did... ;)

Undoubtedly the incredibly talented and compassionate life of Yasmin Ahmad, The Storyteller, will be missed by so many. In this interview on July 21, we heard her talk candidly about being colourless and living as one people.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Artist Natalie Grant, Advocate for Victims of Human Trafficking

The Home Foundation was founded in 2005 by singer/songwriter Natalie Grant. After an episode of Law and Order awakened Natalie to the real-life, ongoing tragedy of Human Trafficking, she threw herself into a deeper research on the issue. What she found disturbed her so greatly, that Natalie knew she must do something to fight for these helpless victims – precious souls without a voice.

After learning that over 10 million children world-wide have been sold into sexual slavery, and inspired by her trip to the red-light district of Mumbai, India, Natalie Grant founded the HOME Foundation with one goal in mind: to help those who may not otherwise be helped.

About Natalie Grant: One of the genre's biggest names and GMA Dove Award Female Vocalist of the Year for four consecutive years, Curb recording artist Natalie Grant is among a select number of artists to have also achieved a formidable foothold at mainstream media and radio. A powerhouse vocalist, heart-gripping songwriter and charismatic performer, she's eager to push boundaries and thus has become Christian music's top selling Adult Contemporary female solo artist in 2005, 2006 and 2008. Recently, Grant received RIAA Gold certification of her 2005 breakthrough album, Awaken.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

When Jon Van Dyke Went Maliciously Missing

Jon Van Dyke faked his own disappearance, leaving his family devastated, lost and forced to endure an aimless, constant state of the horrific unknown.

Officially a missing person, vast resources and tax payer's funds were spent trying to locate him. His wife, Maureen Reintjes, out of love for her husband and father of her girls, dedicated every waking moment possible to Finding Her Missing Husband.

Meanwhile, Van Dyke was just "hiding-out", eluding authorities, tormenting his family, concerned friends and countless volunteers who were all desperately looking for him, a Maliciously Missing Man.

When Jon faked his disappearance he committed the most selfish of actions imaginable. His family are the ones who suffered.

Maureen's life was now ridden with unrelenting anguish ... burdened with the finanacial nightmares left by a "missing husband" ... losing 2 homes ... she was left homeless ... this is just a peek at the hell of living in the unknown, Maureen's everday life for over 4 years.

Maureen's Heartwrenching Quest to Find Jon Van Dyke, Her Missing Husband

Maliciously Missing Awareness Group Network

Jon Van Dyke, A Maliciously Missing Man

Maliciously Missing Law (draft)

Diane Dimond's Coverage of The Maliciously Missing
The Maliciously Missing on Denny Griffin's TalkRadio Show
The Levi Page Show Highlights The Maliciously Missing
Burl Barer of In Cold Blog Looks Into Runaway Husbands as well as Jon Van Dyke
The Huffington Post
True Slant
Investigative Discovery

Please join us at Peace4 the Missing
Missing Persons Awareness and Support Network