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The Academy expels Bill Cosby and Roman Polanski over sexual assault cases.

For the third time in less than a year, the Academy booted some members.

The Academy expels Bill Cosby and Roman Polanski over sexual assault cases.

On May 3, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced that they'd voted to expel Bill Cosby and Roman Polanski.

The statement, sent in a press release, reads:

"The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Board of Governors met on Tuesday night (May 1) and has voted to expel actor Bill Cosby and director Roman Polanski from its membership in accordance with the organization's Standards of Conduct. The Board continues to encourage ethical standards that require members to uphold the Academy’s values of respect for human dignity."

Bill Cosby and Roman Polanski. Photos by Mark Makela/Getty Images, Le Segretain/Getty Images.


"There is no place in the Academy for people who abuse their status, power or influence in a manner that violates recognized standards of decency," read the Academy's Standards of Conduct. "The Academy is categorically opposed to any form of abuse, harassment or discrimination on the basis of gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, disability, age, religion, or nationality."

On April 26, Cosby was found guilty of sexual assault. Specifically, this was for the 2004 assault of Andrea Constand, who was then an employee at Temple University. Cosby has been accused of drugging and assaulting at least 60 women over a span of more than 50 years.

In 1977, director Roman Polanski was arrested in connection with the rape of 13-year-old Samantha Geimer at actor Jack Nicholson's home. Polanski fled the United States for the United Kingdom and France. For the next 40 years, Polanski would remain a fugitive, fighting extradition requests and living in Europe.

Expulsions from the Academy are extremely rare, but in the cases of Cosby and Polanski, almost certainly warranted.

Prior to Cosby and Polanski, the last member of the Academy to be expelled was producer Harvey Weinstein, who is facing an ever-increasing number of sexual harassment and assault allegations. Prior to that, the last expulsion occurred in 2004 when the Academy revoked actor Carmine Caridi's membership for selling promotional copies of films.

Weinstein (center), celebrates an Oscar win for "Shakespeare in Love," which he produced. Photo by Hector Mata/AFP/Getty Images.

While Cosby was never nominated for an award by the Academy, Polanski won the Oscar for Best Director in 2002 for his film "The Pianist." Though he was unable to attend the ceremony, as he was a fugitive of U.S. law, he received thunderous applause and a standing ovation from many members of the audience at the time.

Less than 10 years ago, Polanski still had quite a bit of Hollywood support.

In 2009, more than 100 big names in Hollywood came to Polanski's defense, petitioning for his release, as he was being held after an arrest in Zurich, Switzerland. "His arrest follows an American arrest warrant dating from 1978 against the filmmaker, in a case of morals," the petition reads in part, downplaying the seriousness of his crime. The list of signatories included names both predictable (Woody Allen, for instance) and surprising, such as Asia Argento (who was one of the women allegedly assaulted by Weinstein — she later said that she regretted adding her name to this petition), Natalie Portman (who also later expressed regret over her Polanski support), Martin Scorsese, Adrian Brody, Wes Anderson, Tilda Swinton, Penélope Cruz, Guillermo del Toro, and more.

The decision to remove Bill Cosby and Roman Polanski is certainly a positive move on the Academy's part, but many will continue to ask what took so long and why less than 10 years ago were we all so indifferent to these types of crimes.

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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."

JediMentat 44 / Flickr

Starbucks is the most popular coffee chain in the world and it's also one of the greatest producers of waste. The company uses more than 8,000 coffee cups per minute, which adds up to four billion a year. Over 1.6 million trees are harvested every year to make its disposable cups.

Since the cups are lined with plastic only four cities in the U.S. will accept them for recycling.

Starbucks has attempted to address this issue in the past by making bold proclamations that it will reduce its waste production, but unfortunately, they have yet to yield substantial results.

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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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