Seattle put its money where its mouth is when it comes to #NoDAPL.

Seattle is two states and one big mountain range away from North Dakota.

But for Lisa Herbold, a Seattle city council member, the voices of folks shivering outside in America's heartland needed to be heard.

"It really moves me to think of the people who are hundreds of miles away from us today, waiting in the cold for our vote," Herbold explained to the Los Angeles Times.


Thankfully, Seattle was listening. And it voted unanimously on the right side of history.

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images.

On Feb. 7, 2017, Seattle became the first city in the country to cut financial ties to the Dakota Access Pipeline, or DAPL — a project that could contaminate the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's clean water supply.

Seattle wasn't directly funding the pipeline, of course. But Wells Fargo bank is.

The bank says it's provided $120 million in loans — a dramatic underestimate to some critics — for the pipeline's construction. And for many Seattle residents, that's a problem.

The city had been in business with Wells Fargo until Tuesday, when council members voted to have the Emerald City move its $3 billion account from Wells Fargo to a bank that hasn't funded DAPL.

The transfer makes for one of the bank's largest consumer blowbacks ever.

Photo by David McNew/AFP/Getty Images.

In a statement, Wells Fargo said it was "disappointed" in the city's vote and that it "will continue investing in [Seattle's] diverse and dynamic community."

The bank's not getting any sympathy from council member Kshama Sawant, though: "We’re making it bad for their bottom line."

And to DAPL opponents like herself, that's the whole point.

What happened in Seattle is welcome news for opponents of the pipeline at a time when they could certainly use a win.

Many DAPL protesters have been feeling particularly discouraged recently as President Donald Trump gave the go-ahead for continued DAPL drilling (Barack Obama had halted construction before leaving office). On Feb. 8 — the day after Seattle voted to separate itself from Wells Fargo — drilling started up again, NBC News reported, and the company behind the pipeline, Energy Transfer Partners, was granted all mandatory approvals to carry on.

But Seattle made major waves by pulling the plug on Wells Fargo, and we may start to see other cities following suit.

"What Seattle voted to do ... is sending shockwaves through the banking industry," activist Shaun King wrote for The Daily News. "For pretty much their entire existence, banks have gotten away with taking our business, holding our money, and charging us fees, while simultaneously funding our oppression. People have had enough."

The vote in Seattle marks a major victory in the divestment movement — an effort to get people, groups, and governments to quit supporting businesses that are making DAPL possible.

A demonstrator in Los Angeles protests the Dakota Access pipeline. Photo by Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images.

Although Wells Fargo is one of the largest backers of the pipeline, many other well-known banks — including Citibank, JP Morgan Chase, and Bank of America — are quietly helping DAPL become a reality. (In fact, you'll probably recognize a lot of familiar names on the list of funders.)

If you refuse to play along with banks using your support to help fund DAPL, take your business elsewhere.

There are plenty of banks not supporting DAPL that also have good track records when it comes to a range of other social, economic, and environmental issues. Credit unions, too, can be a great alternative — they're nonprofits, tend to invest locally, and offer low interest rates and fees.

The corporate forces behind DAPL are strong. But as Seattle showed the world, you — and your bank account — are no weaklings.

"In the end, when you are fighting for what’s right, the rising tide of history will be on your side," wrote King. "Our fight may be hard, but be encouraged, we will win."

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Judy Vaughan has spent most of her life helping other women, first as the director of House of Ruth, a safe haven for homeless families in East Los Angeles, and later as the Project Coordinator for Women for Guatemala, a solidarity organization committed to raising awareness about human rights abuses.

But in 1996, she decided to take things a step further. A house became available in the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles and she was offered the opportunity to use it to help other women and children. So, in partnership with a group of 13 people who she knew from her years of activism, she decided to make it a transitional residence program for homeless women and their children. They called the program Alexandria House.

"I had learned from House of Ruth that families who are homeless are often isolated from the surrounding community," Judy says. "So we decided that as part of our mission, we would also be a neighborhood center and offer a number of resources and programs, including an after-school program and ESL classes."

She also decided that, unlike many other shelters in Los Angeles, she would accept mothers with their teenage boys.

"There are very few in Los Angeles [that do] due to what are considered liability issues," Judy explains. "Given the fact that there are (conservatively) 56,000 homeless people and only about 11,000 shelter beds on any one night, agencies can be selective on who they take."

Their Board of Directors had already determined that they should take families that would have difficulties finding a place. Some of these challenges include families with more than two children, immigrant families without legal documents, moms who are pregnant with other small children, families with a member who has a disability [and] families with service dogs.

"Being separated from your son or sons, especially in the early teen years, just adds to the stress that moms who are unhoused are already experiencing," Judy says.

"We were determined to offer women with teenage boys another choice."

Courtesy of Judy Vaughan

Alexandria House also doesn't kick boys out when they turn 18. For example, Judy says they currently have a mom with two daughters (21 and 2) and a son who just turned 18. The family had struggled to find a shelter that would take them all together, and once they found Alexandria House, they worried the boy would be kicked out on his 18th birthday. But, says Judy, "we were not going to ask him to leave because of his age."

Homelessness is a big issue in Los Angeles. "[It] is considered the homeless capital of the United States," Judy says. "The numbers have not changed significantly since 1984 when I was working at the House of Ruth." The COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded the problem. According to Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), over 66,000 people in the greater Los Angeles area were experiencing homelessness in 2020, representing a rise of 12.7% compared with the year before.

Each woman who comes to Alexandria House has her own unique story, but some common reasons for ending up homeless include fleeing from a domestic violence or human trafficking situation, aging out of foster care and having no place to go, being priced out of an apartment, losing a job, or experiencing a family emergency with no 'cushion' to pay the rent.

"Homelessness is not a definition; it is a situation that a person finds themselves in, and in fact, it can happen to almost anyone. There are many practices and policies that make it almost impossible to break out of poverty and move out of homelessness."

And that's why Alexandria House exists: to help them move out of it. How long that takes depends on the woman, but according to Judy, families stay an average of 10 months. During that time, the women meet with support staff to identify needs and goals and put a plan of action in place.

A number of services are provided, including free childcare, programs and mentoring for school-age children, free mental health counseling, financial literacy classes and a savings program. They have also started Step Up Sisterhood LA, an entrepreneurial program to support women's dreams of starting their own businesses. "We serve as a support system for as long as a family would like," Judy says, even after they have moved on.

And so far, the program is a resounding success.

92 percent of the 200 families who stayed at Alexandria House have found financial stability and permanent housing — not becoming homeless again.

Since founding Alexandria House 25 years ago, Judy has never lost sight of her mission to join with others and create a vision of a more just society and community. That is why she is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year — and the donation she receives as a nominee will go to Alexandria House and will help grow the new Start-up Sisterhood LA program.

"Alexandria House is such an important part of my life," says Judy. "It has been amazing to watch the children grow up and the moms recreate their lives for themselves and for their families. I have witnessed resiliency, courage, and heroic acts of generosity."

Simon & Garfunkel's song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has been covered by more than 50 different musical artists, from Aretha Franklin to Elvis Presley to Willie Nelson. It's a timeless classic that taps into the universal struggle of feeling down and the comfort of having someone to lift us up. It's beloved for its soothing melody and cathartic lyrics, and after a year of pandemic challenges, it's perhaps more poignant now than ever.

A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

But British singer Jacob Collier recently added his own layered harmony tracks to it, taking the performance to a whole other level.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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