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Updated: 11 hours 3 min ago

Congresswoman Will Introduce First-Ever Bill To Get Rid Of Salary Histories

11 hours 20 min ago
Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) at the DNC. CREDIT: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

When Congress gets back from recess, one of the first items on Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton’s (D-DC) agenda will be salary histories.

She, along with co-sponsors Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), will introduce the first-ever bill to ban employers from asking about applicants’ prior pay before making an offer.

The bill is aimed at closing the gender wage gap, which means the average woman working full-time, year round makes 79 percent of what a man does and women of color make even less.

Norton has a long history of working to end the wage gap, from her time enforcing equal pay laws while chairing the Equal Employment Opportunity Office to introducing and sponsoring equal pay legislation in Congress. Yet even she is somewhat new to the issue of salary histories and was inspired by a recent law that passed in Massachusetts banning their use.

Massachusetts Becomes First State Ever To Ban Employers From Asking For Salary Histories

“It was not instinctive to me to understand that asking an applicant for prior history could have a lifelong discriminatory affect,” she told ThinkProgress. But, she added, “All you need to do is think five seconds about it and you understand it.”

The issue is that women and people of color start out being paid less, a disparity that only compounds if their next job’s pay is based off of their prior pay. Women make less than men in their first jobs, a gap that is actually increasing, and then continue to earn less in virtually every occupation and even if they get more education.

“If this disparity can begin from the moment you go to your first job, and it follows you throughout your career, it will never be rectified and the wage gap itself will never be rectified,” Norton said. “It is a hidden form of discrimination that many employers may think is reasonable to ask and may not understand the discriminatory effect.”

“It is a hidden form of discrimination.”

There is always room, of course, for employers to ask questions of applicants to determine who to hire and who will be a good fit. But Norton doesn’t think this one lives up to that scrutiny. “What somebody earned before does not go to merit… It doesn’t tell you how that employee, for example, should be judged relative to other employees,” she said. She noted it may even be hampering men, who would also be protected under the new bill.

The idea of eliminating salary histories has quickly gained prominence. Massachusetts passed its bill in the beginning of August, and a few weeks later a similar bill was introduced in the New York City council. Now it’s poised for federal attention.

For Norton, it’s a matter of halting a pattern that’s keeping pay disparities in place. “People of color and women never break the chain of discrimination, because it’s built in,” she said.

Congresswoman Will Introduce First-Ever Bill To Get Rid Of Salary Histories was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

 

Read the responses to this story on Medium.

Categories: SCCDP Allies

Maine’s LePage Says It Might Be Time To Resign After Latest Racist Outbursts

12 hours 14 min ago
A timeline of the Down East mini-Trump’s half-decade reign.Gov. Paul LePage (R-ME) shaking hands with Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump in March. CREDIT: AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, File

Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) may step down following a string of ugly press clippings over his proclivity for racist comments and abusive speech toward his political opponents, the Portland Press Herald reports.

The governor’s quotes in a Tuesday radio interview were ambivalent. “I’m not going to say that I’m not going to finish it. I’m not saying that I am going to finish it,” he said, adding that “maybe it’s time to move on.”

Even raising the prospect of resignation is a major departure for the belligerent conservative who’s won affection and praise from Donald Trump. The parallels between the two men were audible again in Tuesday’s interview, as LePage explained his most recent outburst. He lashed out at a state representative who had called him a racist because, he said, that charge is “like calling a black man the ’N’ word or a woman the ‘C’ word. It just absolutely knocked me off my feet.”

If LePage does go, however, his recent streak of bad press in August’s dog days should not be his sole epitaph. His time in power — earned without ever winning a majority of Mainers’ votes — has been persistently marred not just by ugly comments and rough politics, but substantive cruelty on a policy level.

Here is a timeline of the lowlights from LePage’s nearly six years in charge of Maine.

FIRST TERM

JANUARY 2011: Refused the state NAACP’s invitation to speak to prison inmates on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day because the NAACP “are a special interest.” LePage claimed he declined the invite because organizers only wanted him to meet with black inmates while he insisted on talking to white ones too. They can “kiss my butt” if they don’t like it, he said. “My son happens to be black, so they can do whatever they’d like about it,” he added, referring to the Jamaican man he and his wife adopted as a teenager in 2002.

MARCH 2011: Removed a mural depicting labor history from the state Department of Labor building because he didn’t want businessmen to feel uncomfortable.

MARCH 2011: Imposed higher pension costs for both current and retired state employees — but not for himself. The self-serving move seemed small potatoes at the time. But LePage’s rough handling of public workers had nasty, long-lived effects. In 2014, officers in the Maine State Police told lawmakers they routinely scoop up roadkill to feed their families.

MAY 2012: Said the problem with the state’s job market — where job-seekers outnumbers jobs more than three to one at the time — is that people are lazy. “To all you able-bodied people out there, get off the couch and get yourself a job,” he said.

JUNE 2013: Told a crowd that a prominent Democrat “claims to be for the people, but he’s the first one to give it to the people without providing Vaseline.”

2013–14: Spent taxpayer money on a large-scale investigation of allegedly widespread abuses of the welfare system, predicated specifically on LePage’s claim that state electronic benefit transfer cards frequently get used in strip clubs and bars. After about a year of scrutiny, investigators found that two tenths of one percent of all transactions fit the governor’s description.

APRIL 2014: Vetoed Medicaid expansion, for the third time. The package would have extended health care coverage to 70,000 of the poorest people in his state.

OCTOBER 2014: Sicced state police on “ebola nurse” who had tested negative & shown no symptoms since return, in attempt to forcibly quarantine her.

2014–15: Reinstated food stamps rules that are designed to be suspended when the economy is bad, even though Maine’s economy was still in rough enough shape to qualify; at least 6,500 Mainers were kicked off SNAP as a result.

2014–15: Moved the state Department of Health and Human Services headquarters out of downtown Portland to a suburban locale that’s an 80-minute round-trip bus ride from the old spot, making it harder for the Mainers who use the department’s services to access caseworkers.

SECOND TERM

APRIL 2015: Added new procedural hurdles and rules to the state’s anti-poverty programs, which were already being delivered extremely slowly. LePage attempted to police poor people’s shopping carts in state law and implemented a new drug testing policy for welfare.

DECEMBER 2015: Slammed by USDA for running a food stamps system so inefficient that it’s illegal, in a letter threatening to yank federal funding if LePage’s administration doesn’t shape up. Under LePage, the state slipped from 36th to 53rd in the agency’s rankings for efficient service.

JANUARY 2016: Encouraged citizens to shoot people who they think are drug dealers.

JANUARY 2016: Expressed disgust at miscegenation while discussing the state’s drug problem. Men with names like “D-Money” are coming up from New York to impregnate white girls and sell heroin, the governor said.

FEBRUARY 2016: Said he opposes letting asylum-seekers into Maine because they bring disease.

APRIL 2016: Used his veto to block access to a life-saving anti-overdose drug, despite claiming to support treatment-based approaches to drug abuse.

AUGUST 2016: Left voicemail calling political rival a “socialist cocksucker” for saying that LePage is a racist.

AUGUST 2016: Defended a rash of racist comments about the state’s drug issues by doubling down: “You shoot the enemy. You try to identify the enemy. And the enemy right now, the overwhelming majority of people coming in are people of color or people of Hispanic origin.”

Maine’s LePage Says It Might Be Time To Resign After Latest Racist Outbursts was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

 

Read the responses to this story on Medium.

Categories: SCCDP Allies

Virginia School Board Tells The Supreme Court It Has No Idea What A Transgender Person Is

12 hours 40 min ago
Being able to discriminate against trans people, they argue, is vital to discriminating against trans people.Gavin Grimm, the “G.G.” in Gloucester County School Board v. G.G. CREDIT: AP PHOTO/STEVE HELBER

The Gloucester County School Board in Virginia really wants to make sure that transgender student Gavin Grimm (“G.G.” in court filings) cannot use the men’s bathroom and locker rooms during his senior year. Having lost its case at the Fourth Circuit earlier this year, the district petitioned the Supreme Court this week to hear its appeal.

Gloucester argues that it should not have to accommodate transgender students, but much of the petition focuses on an important question about when courts should defer to an agency’s interpretation of its own regulation. The Court’s three most conservative members recently expressed interest in increasing the power of the judiciary at the expense of federal agencies, and it is possible that the Court could take up this issue if they can secure a fourth vote.

The Inexplicable ‘Courtesy’ That Could Elect Donald Trump

Even if the Court does seize this opportunity to reconsider deference to agencies, however, this case is still fundamentally about whether a federal law prohibiting “sex” discrimination encompasses discrimination based on gender identity. The Department of Education concluded that it does, and that a regulation permitting gender-segregated bathrooms does not permit schools to exclude trans people from the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity. Gloucester does not simply believe that courts should not defer to the Department’s guidance. It believes that the Department’s guidance was wrong.

Gloucester argues that if Title IX protects both “gender identity” and “biological sex,” it somehow obliterates the law’s allowances for sex-segregated facilities:

Reading “sex” to include “gender identity” would make a hash of Title IX’s scheme allowing facilities and programs to be separated by “sex.”If “sex” signifies, not biology, but rather one’s “internal” sense of maleness or femaleness, the whole concept of permissible sex-separation collapses. What sense could there be in allowing “separate living facilities for the different sexes” if a biological male could legally qualify as a woman based merely on his subjective perception of being one? The answer is none.

This is tautological word soup; the school is arguing that if it can’t discriminate against transgender people, then it won’t be able to discriminate against transgender people. More importantly, the phrase “subjective perception” reveals that the school district does not understand what concepts like “gender identity” and “transgender” mean. It appears to believe that gender identity is a whimsical choice — as if a man can wake up one morning, decide that they feel like a woman, and that makes them “transgender.” In reality, a person’s gender identity is consistent; trans people stay that way and cis people do not suddenly decide to be trans. The district also ignores the fact that biological factors shape out gender identity, regardless of whether we are trans or cisgender.

It likewise seems lost on Gloucester that all people have a gender identity, whether they are transgender or not. It’s the only explanation for “preposterous” conclusions like this one:

As applied to Title IX, that preposterous construction would legalize just the kind of biologically based discrimination against men and women that Title IX was enacted to prevent. For instance, schools could exclude biological women from taking science classes or joining the chess team, so long as they allowed biological men who identify as females to do so. Only transgendered [sic] people would be protected under this Title IX regime; men and women who identify with their biological sex would receive no protection at all.

If that sounds like nonsense, that’s because it is. Because sex and gender align for most people, respecting gender identity instead of biological sex only changes how transgender people are treated. The men’s room would be open to all men, whether they are cisgender or transgender, and likewise for the women’s room. Gloucester’s argument is that trans men like Grimm are not men requires a rejection of all of the available information about gender identity that research has produced in the past half-century.

The school district actually argues — quoting dissenting Fourth Circuit Judge Paul Niemeyer — that when Title IX was passed in 1972, “virtually every dictionary definition of ‘sex’ referred to the physiological distinctions between males and females, particularly with respect to their reproductive functions.” But the Department’s 2014 guidance reflects two important differences across that 42-year gulf: The knowledge that transgender people are functionally the sex they identify with — all day, every day — and the reality that there are now openly-identifying transgender students attending schools. If transgender people aren’t recognized under “sex,” they aren’t recognized at all.

The school district’s argument is literally this: If we can’t discriminate against trans students, then we won’t be able to discriminate against trans students. Justice Stephen Breyer may have granted Gloucester the “courtesy” of hearing that argument before requiring it to accommodate Grimm, but hopefully he and his colleagues will not be convinced by it.

Virginia School Board Tells The Supreme Court It Has No Idea What A Transgender Person Is was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

 

Read the responses to this story on Medium.

Categories: SCCDP Allies

Obama Administration Meets Goal Of 10,000 Syrian Refugees

12 hours 47 min ago
In this July 22, 2016 file photo, President Barack Obama speaks in the South Court Auditorium of the White House complex in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

The Obama administration announced on Monday that it had met its goal of Syrian refugee resettlement.

“Our 10,000th Syrian refugee will arrive this afternoon,” National Security Advisor Susan said in a statement. “On behalf of the President and his Administration, I extend the warmest of welcomes to each and every one of our Syrian arrivals, as well as the many other refugees resettled this year from all over the world.”

The announcement comes after months of widespread criticism over the pace of the resettlement from one side of the aisle and the action itself from the other.

Last September, the President Obama promised that the United States would resettle 10,000 Syrian refugees in the 2016 financial year, and 85,000 refugees in total from around the globe. But the plan to resettle Syrians in particular hit a hiccup after right wing politicians used the ISIS attacks in Paris and Brussels to ramp up anti-Muslim sentiment.

In February 2016, the Nation reported that only 814 Syrian refugees had been resettled stateside. In April, State Department data showed that only 1,285 new Syrian refugees had been welcomed. As recently as May 31, ThinkProgress wrote about how the Obama administration was falling short, as only 2,500 Syrian refugees had been resettled at the time. And in mid-June, the Huffington Post said the U.S. was unlikely to deliver on Obama’s promise.

This Chart Is The Perfect Rebuttal To Governors Who Won’t Take In Syrian Refugees

One of the main criticisms of refugee resettlement from the right concerned the screening process. Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump played on the nation’s anxieties by saying there is “no system to vet” Syrian refugees and a “better, bigger, more horrible version of the legendary Trojan horse.” Politifact checked Trump’s statement and labelled it ‘false’.

In fact, the U.S. has an extremely strenuous screening process for refugees, as shown in this White House infographic. The 10,000 Syrians — 80 percent of whom are women or children, countering the right wing narrative that most Syrian refugees are working age men — were also vetted in this process, which took 18–24 months to complete.

The state with the largest number of resettled Syrians is Michigan, with more than 10 percent of the total. Many of the refugees are expected to settle around Detroit. While Michigan already boasts a thriving Muslim and Arab American community with many Americans from Lebanese, Iraqi, Yemeni, and South Asian background, Gov. Rick Snyder (R) suspended efforts to bring Syrians to his state after the Paris attack.

“Michigan is a welcoming state and we are proud of our rich history of immigration,” Snyder said in a statement at the time. “But our first priority is protecting the safety of our residents.”

Later that week, in an interview with NPR, Snyder couldn’t name any particular issue he had with the refugee screening process. A spokesman for Snyder told NBC yesterday that he had never suspended the resettlement program.

The next most popular destinations for refugees are California and, surprisingly, Arizona and Texas — both states who opposed resettling Syrian refugees and claimed they are a security risk.

More than 800,000 refugees have been resettled in the U.S. since 9/11. “In those 14 years, exactly three resettled refugees have been arrested for planning terrorist activities — and it is worth noting two were not planning an attack in the United States and the plans of the third were barely credible,” Kathleen Newland, a senior fellow at the Migration Policy Institute, wrote in an op-ed last year.

Obama Administration Meets Goal Of 10,000 Syrian Refugees was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

 

Read the responses to this story on Medium.

Categories: SCCDP Allies

Fox News Host Explains How Tweet Of Hillary In Blackface Actually Made A Really Good Point

12 hours 52 min ago
Trump’s top pastor stands by the message in his since-deleted tweet.Screencap via Goldie Taylor

Pastor Mark Burns, a prominent surrogate for Donald Trump, said he believes his “intentions were honorable” when he posted a cartoon of Hillary Clinton in blackface to his Twitter account Monday afternoon.

During a Tuesday morning appearance on Fox News, Burns acknowledged that “the blackface imagery has been used in the past and it is offensive to African Americans, but my message, I stand behind it.”

He said “the real offense” is that many minority families in America “don’t know where their next meal is coming from.”

Fox News host Martha MacCullum then suggested Burns made a good point with his blackface tweet, saying he “used that blackface, which you explained, to say that you thought that she, in this case, is pandering to black voters.”

MacCullum told Burns she “thought it was interesting” that the media wanted to ask him about “the blackface part” of his tweet, but not “the underlying stuff of what you’re talking about — the violence that exists in our inner cities, the fact that more black people are killed my members of their own black community in our inner cities, that that is the issue that plagues them more than any other.” She then read a quote from Trump before Burns jumped back in and accused liberals of “playing the race card.”

https://medium.com/media/846565362f9ededde49eee73429d3f0f/href

Here’s the tweet Burns posted, which was later deleted from his feed:

Screencap via Goldie Taylor

“That picture is offensive — it is designed to be offensive and it was designed to capture imaginations to why black people as a mass have been been suffering,” Burns said in a Periscope video where he offered a halfhearted apology for the post. “I am telling all of America, those who I’ve offended, I am so sorry and I pray that you will find it in your heart… that my intent was not to offend anyone.”

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I'm so sorry for the offensive #Blackface image of @HillaryClinton but stand by the message that we Blacks ARE being Used by #Dems for VOTES

 — @pastormarkburns

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Burns, a prominent Trump advisor, proponent of the “prosperity gospel,” and the man who delivered what some called the most partisan convention prayer in modern history — struck a very different note hours earlier during an MSNBC appearance where he vehemently stood by the blackface post.

“Yes I am standing behind that picture,” he said on MSNBC. “We need to make Democrats fight for our vote.”

https://medium.com/media/36874c12f8ebc4f3097ced00ced5c810/href

Burns’ case for why African Americans should vote for Trump is basically the same as the one Trump has been making to the largely white audiences that attend his rallies — black people have it bad as it is, so why not vote for Trump and see what happens?

“Black people are Americans, and when Donald Trump talks about jobs, he’s talking to all Americans. When he talks about security, he’s talking to all Americans,” Burns said in his Periscope video.

On MSNBC, Burns said “millions of African Americans are on welfare, [millions] of African Americans are on food stamps… we are not at the promise land that Dr. King spoke about.”

Trump Keeps Lying About Crime In America. This Is The Truth.

“The problem is we live in a political PC environment… where we go after the African American vote like all of us African Americans are the same,” he added.

Burns, who referred to Democrats as “the enemy” and called on God to “defeat” Clinton during his aforementioned RNC speech, is helping to promote Trump’s upcoming appearance at a predominately black church on Saturday. The New York Times reports that it will be Trump’s first event in front of a predominately black audience in more than a year.

New polling released by Public Policy Polling indicates African Americans aren’t buying what Trump and Burns are selling. According to the poll, Trump’s favorability rating among African Americans is zero percent, with 97 percent viewing him unfavorably and three percent undecided.

Fox News Host Explains How Tweet Of Hillary In Blackface Actually Made A Really Good Point was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

 

Read the responses to this story on Medium.

Categories: SCCDP Allies

Families Fight Obscure Rule That Forces Nursing Home Lawsuits Behind Closed Doors

12 hours 56 min ago
CREDIT: AP PHOTO/CARLOS OSORIO

Piri Balazs didn’t intend to stay at Cambria Care Center, a nursing home in central Pennsylvania, for more than a week or two. The otherwise healthy 91-year-old woman had fallen and fractured her hip while gardening — which required surgery — and was directed to Cambria for a brief rehab stay. “No more than ten days,” her doctor had said.

Instead, Piri was taken out of Cambria by her sons three months later in drastically worse shape than she was when she entered.

“My mother was a very proud woman. She was a charming and happy person. It was immediately obvious something had changed.”

A clear case of neglect, Piri’s sons decided to sue Cambria, in what they thought would be a cut-and-dry case. But, thanks to a decade-old rule that allows nursing homes to force many lawsuits behind closed doors, instead of to a juried, public court trial, they quickly discovered it wouldn’t be so simple.

Their mother’s case illustrates the dangers of this federal rule — one that, despite serious pushback from advocates and lawmakers, continues to go unchecked while hundreds of mistreated and abused nursing home patients are left without justice.

Piri’s sons, Joe and Csaba, were shocked by how quickly their mother’s health deteriorated under Cambria’s “care.”

With two spine fractures from serious falls, a large, infected ulcer on her heel that prevented her from walking, incontinence from not being able to get to the bathroom, receding gums from poor hygiene assistance, and a dramatic weigh loss from not being given her dentures, Piri had become a “changed individual.”

“My mother was a very proud woman,” said Joe. “She was a charming and happy person. It was immediately obvious something had changed.”

Elder Care Company Placed Thousands Of Seniors Into Nursing Homes To Defraud Medicare And Medicaid

Joe and his brother had pulled their mother out of Cambria after weeks of demanding change from staff and administrators. Instead, staff changed her records to cover up this neglect. Only after the Department of Health inspected the facility — altered to the problems by the Balazs brothers — did they realize nothing was going to improve.

Only after returning home, and receiving needed care from an in-house nurse, did Piri’s health finally improve. But, Joe said, she never was quite the same. She passed away within the year. And her sons sued.

The case was quickly forced into private arbitration from a judge, since Cambria had a document showing Joe’s sign-off of an arbitration deal (a document that he doesn’t recall). To a judge with a full docket, it was likely an easy decision. But to the Balazs’ attorney, Peter Giglione, the move meant all transparency was out the window.

“Private arbitration means no public court records, no accountability,” Giglione said. “It’s a way to keep the company’s public image clean.”

First, Cambria refused to share any medical records or documents Giglione requested prior to the arbitration — something that would be mandated by law in a normal court proceeding.

“Private arbitration means no public court records, no accountability. It’s a way to keep the company’s public image clean.”

Then, there was the silence. Following the July 2015 arbitration, Giglione and the Balazs brothers were told they’d get a decision in “two to three” weeks. Despite numerous calls and emails, they have yet to hear a word back from the arbitrator.

“It’s been over a year now of me calling at least once a week,” Giglione said. “No response.” There’s no strict deadline to rule on a case in arbitration.

This isn’t the first time Giglione’s been strung along by residential care companies. Balazs’ case is the sixth lawsuit against a nursing home he’s arbitrated on. These kind of closed-door cases have quickly become commonplace under the federal law allowing them, a law that civil rights advocates say take advantage of the most vulnerable.

Nursing Home Neglect Allegedly Killed This Man, Here’s Why His Family Is Not Allowed To Sue

When a client is admitted to a nursing home, either they or a family member are given a stack of paperwork to sign off on. Buried in this stack is a contract about private arbitration, whose wording can easily convince a rushed reader that it’s a smart call. Like Joe, the clients usually discover this only after they sue.

“It is unreasonable to assume that residents or their loved ones are able to comprehend the likelihood of grievous harm or poor care occurring within a facility when these agreements are signed upon admission,” wrote a group of 39 health and aging advocates in a letter to Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in October. “No one should be expected to anticipate or contemplate the occurrence of such tragedies.”

Those advocates — along with 34 senators, 16 state attorney generals, 32 House members, 19 consumer justice groups, and the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) — are pressing the federal government to update its nursing home standards to address this issue.

“There’s no real reason for this rule to exist.”

The first “major update” in nursing home standards in 25 years could have finally banned private arbitration clauses in nursing home contracts. Instead, to advocates’ upset, it only proposed updated wording in the contract itself in an attempt to make it clearer.

This proposed update won’t help people like Sherry Turner-Frazier, who signed her admittance papers at a Kentucky nursing home despite having “severe dementia.” One of those papers was an arbitration agreement that was used against her when her family sued the hospital for neglect.

In early August, CMS sent the final text of the updated standards to the federal budget office, ignoring advocates’ demands for change.

“These regulations, they aren’t going to change anything,” Giglione said. “The only real way to stop this is to get rid of arbitration all together —which isn’t happening. But there’s no real reason for this rule to exist.”

Families Fight Obscure Rule That Forces Nursing Home Lawsuits Behind Closed Doors was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

 

Read the responses to this story on Medium.

Categories: SCCDP Allies

Are Generic Drugs The Solution To Skyrocketing Prices For Life-Saving Meds Like EpiPen?

13 hours 15 sec ago
CREDIT: AP PHOTO

Over the past few weeks, the high price of the EpiPen — an autoinjector that helps keep airways open during severe allergy attacks — has provoked outrage among lawmakers, advocacy groups, and the American public.

Mylan, the pharmaceutical company that purchased the technology in 2007 and has since steadily increased the list price for a two-pack of EpiPens from $100 to $600, is now scrambling to find workarounds to appease its critics.

On Monday, Mylan announced that the company will launch a generic version of the EpiPen with a list price of $300 — half as expensive as the brand-name version currently on the market.

“We understand the deep frustration and concerns associated with the cost of EpiPen to the patient, and have always shared the public’s desire to ensure that this important product be accessible to anyone who needs it,” Mylan CEO Heather Bresch said in a statement announcing the new generic option. “Generic drugs have a long, proven track record of delivering significant savings to both patients and the overall health care system.”

Outrage Over EpiPen Price Hikes Has Its Owner Scrambling

Mylan’s gesture to generic drugs raises an important question, especially in the face of the wider context of the U.S. health care system and the exorbitant cost of many medications — are generic drugs really the solution to skyrocketing prices? The answer is: Well, kind of. Like a a spotty relationship, it’s complicated.

How do generic drugs work?

The idea behind generic drugs is your typical free-market capitalism: Competition provides a form of price regulation and keeps companies from charging extortionate prices.

Pharmaceutical companies invest large amounts of money in developing new medications, and in return, they are granted patents over their discoveries for a certain number of years during which they can set the price for the drug. The resulting profit is drug companies’ incentive to continue with valuable research and development.

After a period of time, however, those patents expire, and rival companies can bring to market so-called “generic” drugs as competition. These companies don’t have to pay for research and development, and typically forgo the expensive marketing campaigns that sustain branded drugs, thus enabling them to sell their medication more cheaply.

In fact, the EpiPen itself is a branded, patented delivery system for a generic drug: the hormone epinephrine.

Generic drugs must still be approved by the FDA — which requires that they have the same active ingredient, strength, dosage form, and route of administration as the branded version. The one thing that can differ is the inactive ingredients, though any difference here shouldn’t change how well the drug works. Generic and branded versions of the same drug must be equally effective to be approved.

Broadly speaking, generics are an excellent, less expensive option for many patients. According to the FDA, 8 in 10 prescriptions are filled with generic drugs, and in 2010, the use of FDA-approved generics saved $158 billion — about $3 billion per week.

“We are concerned that Mylan has not faced much competition for its product.”

In the case of the EpiPen, much of the criticism in the past few weeks has zeroed in the lack of competition that Mylan enjoys. A similar, competing device (that was similarly expensive) was pulled from the market last year, and the FDA recently rejected a bid by the company Teva (which also tried to stage a hostile takeover of Mylan last year) to make a generic version.

There is one cheaper alternative to an EpiPen, the Adrenaclick auto-injector, but there’s little demand. The EpiPen has become so synonymous for this type of device that, among doctors, prescribing an EpiPen is like telling someone to get a Kleenex instead of a tissue. And if a doctor writes a prescription for an EpiPen, a pharmacist can’t substitute an Adrenaclick due to FDA regulations. Even then, Adrenaclick’s maker doesn’t have the capacity to meet high demand for the drug.

“We are concerned that Mylan has not faced much competition for its product,” wrote a bipartisan group of senators in an open letter to the FDA last week. “Given the importance of this topic, it is imperative to understand the FDA’s role with respect to EpiPens and its approval of generic equivalents that could help to increase competition and lower prices if introduced.”

Mylan, however, is now offering to become its own competition — which isn’t exactly how it’s supposed to work.

Is Mylan fixing the issue with its pricing?

In a press release, Mylan CEO Heather Bresch called the release of a generic version of the EpiPen an “extraordinary commercial response.”

But the company’s harshest critics are likely to remain unsatisfied with Mylan’s move, which puts the company in the odd position of competing against itself for control over this corner of the market.

“The weirdness of a generic drug company offering a generic version of its own branded but off-patent product is a signal that something is wrong,” wrote Robert Weissman, the president of consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, in a press release. “Mylan knows its $600/set of EpiPens is unsustainable, but aims to continue ripping off some segment of the marketplace — both consumers who do not trust or know about the generic, and perhaps some insurers and payers constrained from buying a generic.”

“The weirdness of a generic drug company offering a generic version of its own branded but off-patent product is a signal that something is wrong.”

A generic version of the EpiPen may indeed reduce the price for some consumers, as well as alleviate some of the burden on insurers and the health care system. However, the announcement is likely to come as cold comfort for many parents, coming on the heels of back-to-school season when they’ve already purchased their EpiPens for the year.

And, as Weissman notes, some patients may continue to unnecessarily pay for the branded version — particularly in states that don’t allow pharmacists to substitute generic versions of prescribed brand-name drugs.

Typically, a company might offer a discounted version of its own product to undercut outside competition from similar drugs treating the same illness. But in the case of EpiPens, Mylan isn’t facing outside pressure from competition — the pressure is instead coming from extreme public outrage. And by becoming its own competition, the company still controls both segments of the market. There’s no way to predict what might happen to the prices a year from now, when the intense public scrutiny moves on to a new target.

The move may also stave off competition from outside companies trying to develop a generic version of the drug — potentially only furthering Mylan’s near-monopoly.

Will more generic drugs solve the issue of rising drug prices?

The ballooning cost of medication is hardly a problem confined to EpiPens. Over the past few years, drug prices in the U.S. have soared.

According to data from the International Federation of Health Plans, people in the United States consistently pay more for medication than anywhere else in the world. The most recent report, from 2013, shows that the cancer treatment Gleevec, for example, cost $6,214 per month in the U.S. — but the same drug went for $2,697 in England, $1,141 in Canada, and $919 in New Zealand. Nexium, which treats acid reflux, rang in at $215 in the U.S., compared to $42 in England and just $23 in the Netherlands.

And spending on prescription drugs is expected to continue rising about 7.3 percent per year through 2018.

One issue that contributes to these rising prices is the fact that pharmaceutical companies set their pricing in an incredibly opaque way, particularly if they hold the patent to the drug.

In the case of EpiPens, for example, Mylan insists that price increases were necessary to pay for slight improvements to the technology and for their massive “awareness” campaign about the dangers of severe allergies. When pressed, however, the company won’t specify exactly what has improved about the EpiPen, which seems largely unchanged. The overnight increase of the drug Daraprim by “pharma-bro” Martin Shkreli is another famous example of drug companies’ extreme latitude to price their own products.

Former Hedge Fund Manager Buys Rights To Drug For Pregnant Women, Increases Price 5500%

However, the pharmaceutical system — and healthy competition from generics — is supposed to hold down the price of drugs to prevent costs from ballooning too far from reality. That’s where generics come in.

The availability of cheaper generic options, in theory, ensures that people will always have the option for an affordable drug when they really need it. This also, in theory, keeps overall costs down: One of the key ways that Obamacare aims to reduce health care costs is by encouraging people to use cheaper generic drugs over the more expensive branded versions.

But even generic drugs are getting more and more expensive. In 2014, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) sounded the alarm about the dramatic increase in prices for generic drugs — some of which had risen by more than 1,000 percent.

What’s behind the rising cost of generic drugs? There’s no one right answer.

One issue here in the United States is the temptation for companies to develop “me-too” drugs — which are similar, but not the same, like ibuprofen and aspirin — instead of pursuing generic competition.

In Europe, those drugs are classed together and assigned a “reference price” by insurers. Even if they have slightly different delivery mechanisms or different active ingredients, if they still have the same therapeutic effect, they are classed together. But here in the U.S., there aren’t any regulations on pricing for similar drugs — meaning that companies will focus on developing a different drug that treats the same underlying issue in a different way that they can patent and sell at a brand-name price point.

CREDIT: PRNewsFoto/Sanofi/viaAP

Some of these innovations are indeed useful, but they can also forestall the development of more affordable generics, and — as they also require research, developing, and marketing — they are still often expensive. As a pertinent example, the EpiPen’s recalled competition, the Auvi-Q, used a different, branded delivery system and was still priced at hundreds of dollars.

Other reasons behind the soaring prices are more insidious. Pharmaceutical companies can angle for broad patents that shut out competition, or use “pay-for-delay” schemes (which the Federal Trade Commission litigates when they’re discovered), in which they pay other companies not to develop generic alternatives.

Plus, in recent years, pharmaceutical companies just keep getting bigger and bigger: by gobbling up sections of businesses, and in some cases by merging entire conglomerates — as with the merger between titans Pfizer and Allergan last year — companies are taking over bigger market shares.

Most of these issues boil down to a common thread: there isn’t a healthy enough generic market here in the United States. Less competition among generics means that their cost increases, and they then provide less of an anchor for branded drug costs. This lack of competition could come from the combination of any number of factors: FDA barriers, lack of incentive for drug companies, lack of regulations, pharmaceutical mergers.

In this light, Mylan’s decision to sell their own generic, while a welcome move in the short term, could lead to a larger problem. If other companies take Mylan’s route, the pool of pharmaceutical companies making a drug only shrinks, and the competition offered by the generic system fails to work.

Generic drugs are certainly an important piece of the puzzle for controlling rising drug costs. But they’re only one piece, and they too depend on a robust market.

And, there’s no indication that, if things remain as they are, drug costs are going to go down any time soon. The outrage over the EpiPen is a microcosm of how these high drug costs effect Americans: As more and more insurance plans incorporate higher out-of-pocket limits, many essential medications become too expensive for people to afford. Even when drugs are covered by insurance, the high costs get passed on through insurance premiums, the healthcare system, and federal insurance programs to the government, and then back to the taxpayers: One way or another, the bill trickles down.

Are Generic Drugs The Solution To Skyrocketing Prices For Life-Saving Meds Like EpiPen? was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

 

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Categories: SCCDP Allies

Mandatory Minimums Aren’t The Right Way To Fix Rape Culture

13 hours 24 min ago
Lawmakers are eager to do something — but it shouldn’t be focused singularly on Brock Turner.Brock Turner CREDIT: AP PHOTO

In response to the national outrage over former Stanford University student Brock Turner, who was sentenced to six months in jail for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman, California lawmakers want to ensure rapists aren’t treated so leniently in the future. But in the process, they’re pursuing the same policies that fed thousands of people into a broken incarceration system, and will do little to fix the problem of rape.

On Monday, the California legislature approved a bill to expand the state’s legal definition of rape, eliminating the current distinction between “rape by force” and other types of sexual assault, like coerced oral sex that occurs when the victim is too intoxicated to give consent. AB 2888 would classify these sex crimes under the same sentencing laws, making prison time mandatory for all of them.

Under this law, Turner would have faced a minimum of three years in prison and the judge presiding over his case would not have had the authority to recommend probation for him instead.

The legislation’s well-intentioned supporters hope that AB 2888 will help change societal norms around sexual assault — sending the message that raping an unconscious victim who is physically unable to provide consent should be treated like a serious crime.

“Why under the law is the sexual assault of an unconscious woman less terrible than that of a conscious woman?” Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen said in June. “Is it less degrading? Less traumatic?”

While California officials may be focused on empowering sexual assault victims, however, their response to Brock Turner’s case has broader implications beyond addressing a persistent rape culture. It feeds into a deeply flawed criminal justice system that has relied on mandatory minimum laws to prop up a carceral state.

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Mandatory minimum sentences, popularized in the 1980s and 1990s at the height of the failed War on Drugs, have deepened race and class divisions in this country by subjecting low-level offenders to harsh minimums that judges have no power to overturn. They allow federal prosecutors to wield too much power over the vulnerable people who are disproportionately likely to come into contact with the criminal justice system, and they leave those offenders behind bars for decades.

There’s growing bipartisan agreement that an important part of reforming the criminal justice system involves getting rid of mandatory minimums, which don’t actually work as a method of deterring crime. Over the past several years, the Department of Justice has worked to get prosecutors to stop using these harsh minimums for certain drug trafficking cases.

These reforms are gaining momentum on both sides of the aisle. And introducing a new realm of mandatory minimums, for rape rather than for drugs, represents a step backward.

Meet The Congresswoman Looking To End Mandatory Minimum Sentences Entirely

It’s not hard to see where California lawmakers are coming from. To be sure, deeply ingrained gender norms that teach men they’re entitled to women’s bodies have created a society that doesn’t take sexual assault or domestic abuse very seriously. Women who speak up about being raped are shamed, blamed, and bullied into silence. Cops tend not to believe their stories. Judges ask them why they didn’t close their legs. Their rape kits languish on dusty shelves waiting years to be tested. In response, activists have worked tirelessly to deepen society’s understanding of sexual consent, and strengthen the definition of rape to include cases when victims have been historically been brushed aside — when they have been drinking, for example, or when they had a previous romantic relationship with their attacker.

Progress is slow. It took until nearly 1980, for example, for courts to start acknowledging that women can be raped by their husbands.

Now, with the explosion of outrage around Brock Turner’s case — a potent mix of gender, race, and class privilege — it seems like a real opportunity. There’s an appetite to find real solutions. Stanford students stood up in protest at their graduation. More than a million people signed a petition to recall the judge who heard Turner’s case. California lawmakers sprung into action.

But legal experts and feminist activists aren’t convinced that a mandatory minimum law — and, in turn, shifting the balance of sentencing power away from judges and toward prosecutors — is the right path forward here.

Writing recently in the New York Times, two recent graduates of Yale Law School who have been active in advocating for a better approach to sexual assault cases on college campuses warn that “victims deserve a new solution, not a stale policy.”

“We share in the outrage at Mr. Turner’s actions, but worry that this law could cause more harm than good. History shows that this reform would not deter violence and most likely would perpetuate punitive racial and class disparities,” write Claire Simonich and Alexandra Brodsky.

UltraViolet, the feminist advocacy group that called for the removal of the judge who presided over Turner’s case, agrees.

“While it is long past time that our justice system take the crime of rape seriously, we need judges who focus on finding justice for rape survivors, not the re-hashing of bad policies that rig the system against poor people and people of color,” Nita Chaudhary, the group’s co-founder, said in a statement shortly after California’s legislation started picking up steam.

Finding justice for rape survivors is the complicated part, of course. There’s no easy path forward for ensuring that victims of a crime that has historically been normalized feel like true justice has been served.

But it is clear that, from a policy perspective, mandatory minimums for rape won’t necessarily keep women safer by deterring people from committing sexual crimes. We’ll need a much broader set of societal reforms — including instilling healthy attitudes about gender, sexuality, and consent from a young age — in order to address the roots of a pervasive rape culture.

A political science professor writing for Common Dreams puts it simply: “We have falsely equated punishment and protection in the United States.”

Mandatory Minimums Aren’t The Right Way To Fix Rape Culture was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

 

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Categories: SCCDP Allies

California Is Poised To Close Jim Crow-Era Loophole That’s Still Punishing Farmworkers Today

13 hours 35 min ago
Farmworkers in the California legislature showing support for the overtime bill. CREDIT: AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli

When the federal law that mandates employers pay their workers at least the minimum wage and overtime pay if they work more than 40 hours a week was first passed in the 1930s, it incorporated huge carveouts for black workers to help secure support from Democrats in the Jim Crow South. This week, California lawmakers took a step toward eradicating one of those carveouts.

Across the country, agricultural workers are required to be paid the minimum wage, but there is no upper limit on how long they work. Unlike those in other hourly jobs, if farmers work more than 40 hours a week they are not guaranteed any overtime pay.

A bill in California would change that. On Monday, state lawmakers passed a law that would give the state’s 825,000-plus farmworkers overtime protection, requiring them to be paid more for extra hours like all other workers.

The bill now heads to Gov. Jerry Brown’s (D) desk, where he must decide whether to sign or veto it. He hasn’t publicly indicated his decision yet, but if he signs it, California — the country’s largest agricultural producer — would become the first state to enact such a requirement.

The bill would introduce overtime pay gradually starting in 2019, eventually requiring time-and-a-half overtime pay for more than eight hours worked in a day or 40 worked in a week by 2022. Workers who put in more than 12 hours a day would be owed double pay. Under current state law, farmworkers are only owed overtime pay for working more than 10 hours a day or 60 hours a week, much longer than for all other workers.

Hundreds of agricultural workers were on hand for the vote to, in the words of United Farm Workers of America president Arturo Rodriguez, “be able to witness history.”

Lawmakers who supported the bill saw it the same way. Assemblyman Tony Thurmond (D) said they had the chance “to make history today — history that has been 80 years in the making.”

“History that has been 80 years in the making.”

The history does in fact go back nearly eight decades. When the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) was passed in 1938, creating the minimum wage and overtime regulations for the first time, it was only with the support of Southern Democrats. According to the book When Affirmative Action was White, they traded their votes for broad exemptions that would keep Jim Crow practices intact: excluding farmworkers, maids, and domestic workers, professions with the largest shares of black workers at the time.

As Florida Rep. James Mark Wilcox put it during the debate over the FLSA, “There has always been a difference in the wage scale of white and colored labor… [S]uch a plan might work in some sections of the United States but those of us who know the true situation know that it just will not work in the South. You cannot put the Negro and the white man on the same basis and get away with it.”

Other Southern lawmakers similarly rejected the FLSA explicitly because it would level wages between white and black workers. South Carolina’s Ed Smith remarked, “[T]he main object of this bill is, by human legislation, to overcome the great gift of God to the South.”

Even President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who pushed for the FLSA and signed it into law, said, “No law ever suggested intended a minimum wages and hours bill to apply to domestic help.”

By excluding farm workers and domestic employees, about two-thirds of all black people were denied FLSA protections, leaving them without any guarantee of a minimum wage or extra pay for working extra hours. Huge shares of Latino, Asian-American, and Native American workers were also left out.

Some of those carveouts, as for agricultural workers, still exist today, while others have only recently been done away with. Congress passed a law in 1966 that extended minimum wage protection to farmworkers. In 1974, the FLSA was expanded to cover domestic workers, but it left out home health aides — those who care for the elderly or disabled in their homes — until a rule change that was put forward in 2013 and finalized just last year.

California Is Poised To Close Jim Crow-Era Loophole That’s Still Punishing Farmworkers Today was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

 

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Categories: SCCDP Allies

The Suspicious Omission In Fox News’ Response To The Latest Sexual Harassment Allegations

14 hours 20 min ago
Reading between the lines.CREDIT: AP File Photo

On Monday, Fox News responded to a lawsuit filed against the company, former CEO Roger Ailes and other executives by Andrea Tantaros, a former Fox News host who says she was sexually harassed and then banned from the network.

Tantaros says she was harassed by Ailes but also by a number of other men who are not named as defendants, including John Roberts, former Senator Scott Brown and the network’s biggest star, Bill O’Reilly.

In response, Fox News has filed a scathing reply to Tantaros, calling her an “opportunist” and a “wannabe.” Fox’s lawyers say the company is committed to “making things things right with those women who were not treated with the respect they and every employee deserve.” Tantaros, in their view, is not one of those women.

Most of the filing concerns a technical legal matter — Fox News insists that Tantaros needs to take up her claims in private arbitration rather than in court. Fox News builds an arbitration provision into all of their contracts. This generally keeps disputes like this from the public eye. Private arbitration also generally provides more favorable outcomes to corporations. There are some circumstances that would supercede an arbitration provision and the lawyers are arguing about whether any of them apply here.

The most interesting part of Fox News’ filing, however, had nothing to do with the legal arguments. Rather, it was contained in an unusual “ADDENDUM” that the lawyers attached to their filing.

In this attachment, Fox News seeks to clear the name of everyone mentioned in Tantaros’ complaint. The assumption seems to be that everything is made up and therefore, attributable to Tantaros. For example, Tantaros alleges in her complaint that Ailes called Fox News contributor Kimberly Guilfoyle a “Puerto Rican whore.” The Fox News addendum treats this as a smear leveled by Tantaros and counters that Guilfoyle “is a former Assistant District Attorney in both Los Angeles and San Francisco.”

The addendum goes on to deny Tantaros’ sexual harassment allegations against several men not named as defendants. Fox’s lawyers say that they “already investigated all of these accusations and found no evidence to support them.”

They name, and specifically deny, allegations against John Roberts, Scott Brown and Ben Collins. The filing says, for example, that Scott Brown’s interactions with Tantaros “were professional and cordial, and in full view of other personnel and talent.”

One person who is not mentioned at all: Bill O’Reilly.

Tantaros’ complaint makes very specific allegations against O’Reilly:

[C]ommencing in February 2016, Bill O’Reilly (“O’Reilly”), whom Tantaros had considered to be a good friend and a person from whom she sought career guidance, started sexually harassing her by, inter alia, (a) asking her to come to stay with him on Long Island where it would be “very private,” and (b) telling her on more than one occasion that he could “see [her] as a wild girl,” and that he believed that she had a “wild side.” Fox News did take one action: plainly because of O’Reilly’s rumored prior sexual harassment issues and in recognition of Tantaros’s complaints, Brandi informed Cane that Tantaros would no longer be appearing on O’Reilly’s Fox News show, The O’Reilly Factor.

While taking pains to deny the allegations against every other man and woman mentioned in the lawsuit, Fox’s filing is silent on O’Reilly.

In a statement, O’Reilly’s lawyer said “Don’t read anything into it…[He’s] not a defendant.” The lawyer also denied Tantaros’ allegations.

Still, the statement from O’Reilly’s lawyers provides more questions than answers. It’s true that O’Reilly is not a defendant but neither are the other men discussed in the “Addendum.”

Why was O’Reilly left out? Did Fox News offer to include him in their denials? Or did their investigation preclude such an offer?

We may find out the answers as the lawsuit proceeds. Or, the case might be sent back to arbitration where these issues can be resolved behind closed doors, which is exactly where Fox News wants them.

The Suspicious Omission In Fox News’ Response To The Latest Sexual Harassment Allegations was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

 

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Categories: SCCDP Allies

Al Gore: The Clean Energy Revolution Is ‘A Dramatic New Reality’

Mon, 08/29/2016 - 12:59pm
It will be bigger than the industrial and information revolutions combined.CREDIT: AP Photo/Aaron Favila

Al Gore believes we are in a turning point in the fight against climate change. The latest version of his “Inconvenient Truth” slideshow, which helped win him a Nobel Peace Prize and an Academy award, is chock-full of charts, factoids, and quotes on the unprecedented revolution in clean energy technologies.

As part of his exclusive interview with me earlier this month, Gore spoke about the stunning advances in energy efficiency, renewable energy, and batteries:

“It is now clear that the sustainability revolution is more significant in the global economy than the industrial revolution and information revolution combined,” Gore said with more optimism than I’ve ever heard.

The clean energy revolution has the breadth of impact of the industrial revolution, but it has been occurring at the speed of the information revolution. The breadth and speed together yield an unprecedented transformation, as is clear from this recent Goldman Sachs chart:

“The rapid adoption of LEDs in lighting marks one of the fastest technology shifts in human history,” the company has noted. LEDs are part of a larger energy efficiency revolution that has kept U.S. electricity demand flat for the past decade and probably will for at least the next decade, too.

The hybrid and electric vehicle (EV) revolution depicted in that figure, though much slower, is equally stunning. Why? Inefficient internal combustion engine vehicles are finally being seriously challenged after dominating the auto market for a full century, as I’ve discussed.

The solar photovoltaic and wind revolution is even more consequential from a climate perspective — since it enables us to decarbonize the electric grid now and to decarbonize transportation in the coming decades with EVs. Gore pointed to the “stunning cost-down curves for PV” and pointed out the explosive growth of solar in Chile.

Al Gore: If You Care About The Climate Crisis, Don’t Vote For A Third Party

Finally, the synergy of all of these individual technology revolutions makes the overall clean energy revolution sui generis. One of Gore’s slides cites a 2015 Bloomberg View article “Clean Energy Revolution Is Ahead of Schedule,” saying:

“Solar-plus-batteries is set to begin a dramatic transformation of human civilization.”

Indeed there’s no question that storing the sun’s energy just got a whole lot cheaper. The battery revolution is unstoppable, and so is the renewable energy revolution — and they both enable each other.

“Taken as a whole,” Gore told me, these gains represent “a dramatic new reality.” And they mean that vast amounts of fossil fuels will be left in the ground — “stranded assets” that will cause fossil fuel companies to be “suddenly repriced,” as many coal companies already have been.

Sadly, the fact these revolutions are unstoppable and game-changing doesn’t mean we will make the orderly shift off of fossil fuels fast enough to avert a millennium of climate catastrophe. That depends on political will. But as Gore has long said, political will is a renewable resource.

Al Gore: The Clean Energy Revolution Is ‘A Dramatic New Reality’ was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

 

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The NFL Treats Patriotism As A Brand, And Colin Kaepernick Is Ruining It.

Mon, 08/29/2016 - 12:28pm
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick at a news conference after an NFL preseason football game against the Green Bay Packers. CREDIT: BEN MARGOT, AP

On Saturday night, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick remained seated as the national anthem was played during the team’s preseason game against the Green Bay Packers.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” the 28-year-old told reporters after the game.

His action — or, rather, inaction — sent shockwaves throughout the NFL community. In the past 48 hours, Kaepernick has been called “unappreciative” and “ignorant” by former NFL players; others, including a former teammate of his, have said that he was disrespecting the military and being downright unpatriotic.

And in a league that has extremely close ties with the military and nationalism, there are few things worse than being perceived as anti-American.

“I have great respect for the men and women that have fought for this country.”

But while Kaepernick might not be displaying the one-size-fits-all patriotism that the NFL likes to heavily promote, he is showing patriotism nonetheless.

“I have great respect for the men and women that have fought for this country. I have family, I have friends that have gone and fought for this country,” Kaepernick told reporters on Sunday. “And they fight for freedom, they fight for the people, they fight for liberty and justice, for everyone.”

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Kaepernick’s desire is for liberty and justice to be applied uniformly to all American citizens. He is willing to lose his job and lose endorsements in order to speak up for those that he does not feel are getting a fair shake in his country. That is his version of patriotism.

Compare that to the NFL, which treats patriotism as a brand.

Last year, it was revealed that the Department of Defense had paid NFL teams $6.1 million between 2012–2015 for military tributes at games, including the field-sized American flags, flyovers, and fireworks. (The NFL announced in May that it was returning $724,000 of that.)

While the league stages and heavily promotes military family reunions without providing full context, it also fines players, such as former Carolina Panther Josh Norman, for wearing patriotic cleats that do not fit into the NFL’s very strict uniform guidelines.

The NFL Gets Paid For Patriotism, Fines Player For Wearing Patriotic Cleats

The league has a Salute to Service campaign, which the league says has raised $1,569,000 for the troops. However, considering the NFL is projecting $13 billion in revenue this year, that’s a mere drop in the bucket.

“[Salute to Service is] an ad campaign,” Drew Margary wrote for Deadspin. “That’s a cheap way for the league to position itself as a kind of unofficial sixth branch of the military.”

Petty Officer First Class Jordan Plocher told VICE Sports last year that if the NFL really wanted to salute the troops, it would “create a path for veterans to employment opportunities or internships within the league and its teams.”

All in all, Kaepernick fits the official definition of patriot — “a person who regards himself or herself as a defender, especially of individual rights, against presumed interference by the federal government” — far more than than the NFL does.

“This country stands for freedom, liberty, justice for all, and it’s not happening for all right now.”

“This stand wasn’t for me. This stand wasn’t because I feel like I’m being put down in any kind of way,” Kaepernick said. “This is because I’m seeing things happen to people that don’t have a voice, people that don’t have a platform to talk and have their voices heard, and effect change. So I’m in the position where I can do that and I’m going to do that for people that can’t.”

Of course, that doesn’t mean that Kaepernick hasn’t experienced racism. On Sunday he spoke about helping a friend move, only to have cops come and point guns at him and another black friend, assuming they were intruders. When he was named the starting quarterback for the 49ers, there was racially-charged criticism of his tattoos and leadership skills.

But Kaepernick knows that compared to most, he has it good. He sat during the national anthem because black Americans are 2.5 times as likely as white Americans to be shot and killed by the police. Unarmed black Americans are five times as likely as unarmed white Americans to be shot and killed by police. And far too often, there is no punishment for police officers committing these murders.

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Kaepernick might not have a spot on an NFL roster for much longer — there are rumors that the 49ers will release him for “football reasons” — but as long as he has a platform, he plans to follow in the footsteps of athlete activists before him, most notably Muhammad Ali.

While Ali was nearly universally celebrated when he passed away earlier this year, he was not always so popular. But he continued to fight to end racism and challenge the systems of oppression that were so rooted throughout our democracy, and along the way, showed that there are many different ways to love your country.

“See, Ali’s message wasn’t always neat and tidy. His legacy was complicated and brilliant. But that is why he was so important. He said things people needed to hear, even if they disagreed. Even if they violently disagreed,” Mike Freeman wrote for Bleacher Report.

“If you celebrated Ali but condemn Kaepernick, then you never fully understood Ali, because they are saying the exact…same…thing.”

For his part, Kaepernick plans to continue to sit during the national anthem until he sees significant progress.

“This country stands for freedom, liberty, justice for all, and it’s not happening for all right now,” Kaepernick said. “To me this is something that has to change, and when there’s significant change and I feels like that flag represents what it’s supposed to represent and this country is representing people the way it’s supposed to, I’ll stand.”

The NFL Treats Patriotism As A Brand, And Colin Kaepernick Is Ruining It. was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

 

Read the responses to this story on Medium.

Categories: SCCDP Allies

Trump’s First Economic Policy Ad Is A Mess

Mon, 08/29/2016 - 11:57am
Trump’s First Economic Policy Ad Is A Tremendous MessDonald Trump CREDIT: AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump hasn’t run many TV ads in the general election so far. But after releasing his first one on immigration a few weeks ago, he rolled out another on Monday that focuses on economic policies.

The claims made in the ad are hard to support, however, and use some very creative footnotes.

https://medium.com/media/d0f54e44b2b3adf0517393092ba46c40/href

The ad starts out by describing the negative impacts of Hillary Clinton’s agenda. “The middle class gets crushed,” it claims, while also saying her presidency would lead to higher taxes, increased government spending, and fewer jobs.

On the first point about the middle class, the citation is a Pew Research Center report on the long-term trend of a shrinking middle class in metropolitan areas across the country, a report that predates the 2016 election cycle. It also has nothing specifically to do with Clinton or her policies.

To claim that spending and taxes would go up in a Clinton administration, the ad relies on reports from the deficit-hawkish Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget and the ultra-conservative American Action Forum.

The ad then goes on to claim that taxes will be lower, jobs will be plentiful, and wages will rise during a Trump presidency.

Perhaps the strangest citation comes attached to the claim that Americans would see tax relief under a President Trump. The footnote is simply to Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Congressional Republicans’ tax plan, which differs significantly from the plan that Trump has himself laid out. While he has said he will be reworking his plan and releasing an updated version that will be more in line with Ryan’s plan, he has yet to make it public.

In the very next frame, the ad cites an analysis of Trump’s own plan. The comparison between the candidates on job creation comes from the conservative-leaning Tax Foundation, which found that Clinton would cost the country 311,000 jobs, while Trump would create 5.3 million. But the foundation uses “dynamic scoring” to analyze the tax plans, which makes many faulty assumptions about the future, such as the notion that lower taxes leads to economic growth.

Other analyses have found that, contrary to Trump’s ad, Clinton’s plans would lead to higher economic and wage growth. Taking everything both candidates have put forward, Moody’s Analytics found that Clinton’s proposals would grow the economy by 1.7 percent, add 3.2 million jobs, and leave the average American household with $2,000 more in income, with the poor and middle class benefitting the most.

Trump’s proposals, on the other hand, would push the country into a recession and cost 3.5 million jobs. Meanwhile, all analyses of his tax plan — including the Tax Foundation’s — find that they are skewed heavily in favor of the rich, provide the middle class with very little in tax relief, and would come with a huge cost to the government.

Trump’s First Economic Policy Ad Is A Mess was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

 

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The Era Of Private Prisons May Soon Be Over

Mon, 08/29/2016 - 11:40am
Homeland Security will review the use of private prisons for immigrant detention.A detainee at Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, GA. The all-male detention center with a capacity of 1,924 detainees is operated on contract by Nashville-based Corrections Corporation of America, CREDIT: AP Photo/Kate Brumback

Just over a week after the Department of Justice announced that it would phase out the use of private prisons, the Department of Homeland Security said it would evaluate whether immigration detention operations “should move in the same direction.”

Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson said in a statement Monday that he has ordered the creation of a committee to review Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) “current policy and practices concerning the use of private immigration detention and evaluate whether this practice should be eliminated.”

Johnson instructed that the evaluation should be completed before November 30 of this year, giving the subcommittee three months to examine the detention centers that hold immigrants in often inhumane and unconstitutional conditions.

If DHS were to determine that it should also stop contracting with corporations, the impact would be far greater than that of DOJ’s decision. As ThinkProgress reported earlier this month, only 13 federal prisons are operated privately and will be affected by the recently announced reform. Many more of the government’s immigration detention centers are run privately. As of last year, 62 percent of immigration detention beds were operated by private corporations.

The Problem With The DOJ’s Decision To Stop Using Private Prisons

Currently, ICE relies on private corporations to house growing numbers of immigrants who violate federal immigration law, including draconian enforcement policies passed in the 1990s. As the Obama administration has increased its imprisonment and the eventual deportation of Central American mothers and children, private prison corporations have profited.

Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the largest operator of immigrant detention centers, has become notorious for allowing a series of abuses against immigrants, including holding children in prison-like facilities, allowing the sexual abuse of women, providing inadequate medical care, and allowing increased levels of violence that also contribute to high suicide rates.

CCA’s operations of private prisons are similarly inhumane. In Idaho, where CCA runs a major prison, the corporation faced legal action for allowing its violence to proliferate in its prisons and for allegedly falsifying records. The Texas Observer has called a prison CCA runs in Texas, where seven inmates died within a ten-year period, “the worst state jail in Texas.”

In one particularly egregious instance, CCA was caught partnering with violent gangs to save money and to keep prisons in order.

While abuse and neglect are common across the U.S. prison system, privately run prison facilities and detention centers are often riddled with problems because they are driven solely by financial considerations.

Yet the Obama administration has looked the other way and has continued to sign contracts with corporations to operate massive detention centers. In 2014, DHS handed the keys to CCA to run a 50-acre compound in Dilley, Texas to hold 2,400 women and children awaiting release or deportation. That four-year, $1 billion contract “has been a boon for CCA, which, in an unusual arrangement, gets the money regardless of how many people are detained at the facility,” according to the Washington Post.

Spending on immigration detention centers has skyrocketed from $700 million in 2005 to more than $2 billion today, with the largest beneficiaries being CCA and GEO Group.

After the DOJ’s announcement earlier this month, CCA and GEO Group both took a large dip in the stock market.

The Era Of Private Prisons May Soon Be Over was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

 

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Colorado Voters Won’t Get To Decide On New Fracking Rules

Mon, 08/29/2016 - 11:17am
Fracking has boomed in Colorado in the past decade, worrying environmental advocates. CREDIT: AP PHOTO/BRENNAN LINSLEY

After celebrating a last-ditch effort earlier this month to put fracking regulations on the November ballot, Colorado environmental groups were dealt a blow on Monday when Secretary of State Wayne Williams ruled not enough of the submitted signatures were valid.

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Measures aimed at oil-and-gas fail to make the ballot. https://lnks.gd/2/2N5x_b Energy measures 75 & 78 fail to make ballot. #copolitics

 — @colosecofstate

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Under Colorado law, 98,492 valid signatures — 5 percent of the number of votes cast for the office of Colorado secretary of state in the most recent election— are required to get a measure on the ballot. The state then verifies a random sample of submitted signatures and calculates the overall validity of the submission.

In this case, the state audit found that support for Initiatives 75 and 78 fell short. Organizers on Monday said they would review the ruling and determine whether to challenge the state’s decision in court.

“We want to assure our volunteers and supporters that we are as committed as ever to giving the residents of Colorado a say this November on whether their communities can regulate fracking,” Tricia Olson, executive director of Yes for Health and Safety Over Fracking, said in a statement emailed to ThinkProgress. “Today’s announcement is not the final action on this issue as countless residents are now committed to protecting their children’s schools, parks, and homes.”

Fracking, also known as hydraulic fracturing, is a method of extracting oil and gas from underground shale. Large volumes of sandy, chemical-laden water are injected at high pressure into the shale, breaking it up and allowing oil and gas deposits to escape. Waste water from fracking often cannot be re-used, and is injected back into the ground. The practice has been associated with methane leaks, earthquakes, water contamination, and air quality deterioration.

If passed, Initiative 75 would have changed the state constitution to allow local governments to regulate oil and gas development, including putting fracking bans in place. The state Supreme Court previously ruled that a local fracking ban was unconstitutional in Colorado.

Initiative 78 would have required oil and gas production to be at least 2,500 feet from houses, schools, and other buildings. At that distance, the setback would have rendered 95 percent of the land in Colorado’s most productive counties unusable for oil and gas extraction.

The initiative was supported by 57 percent of Colorado voters, with 30 percent against and 13 percent undecided, according to polling results quoted by supporters.

But it’s hard to say whether those numbers would have survived a media onslaught in advance of November’s vote. The initiatives were strongly opposed by an oil and gas industry group, which staged a first-of-its-kind “Don’t Sign” campaign in the months leading up to the submission deadline. Coloradans for Responsible Energy Development (CRED) ran a series of anti-ballot measure ads, urging people to “decline to sign.” The group has spent at least $10 million since 2013 on pro-fracking messaging.

In addition, the oil and gas industry had been ramping up its opposition and was prepared for a well-funded, aggressive fight, said Dan Grossman of the Environmental Defense Fund, which did not take a position on the measures.

Some green groups were concerned about the initiatives, Politico reported earlier this month. A high-profile ballot-box defeat could hurt efforts to negotiate broader fracking regulations, and the schism within the Democratic party over fracking regulations could have made it awkward for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Clinton has been in favor of allowing local jurisdictions to pass fracking bans, but environmentalists have also noted concern over her close ties to the natural gas industry.

Supporters of the initiatives were unbowed.

“The ‘Decline to Sign’ campaign only served to highlight the industry’s stranglehold on the state government,” said Suzanne Spiegel, a member of Frack Free Colorado. “The actions of the industry have only served to galvanize supporters.”

Colorado Voters Won’t Get To Decide On New Fracking Rules was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

 

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Coffee Production May Drop 50 Percent Thanks To Climate Change

Mon, 08/29/2016 - 10:55am
Climbing temperatures and altered rainfall are affecting coffee yields, quality, and pests.Coffee farmer Luka Kinyere inspects his plants in Kasese, western Uganda. CREDIT: AP/STEPHEN WANDERA

Coffee production worldwide could decline by as much as 50 percent in the next three decades thanks to climate change, according to a new report.

Published late last week, the Climate Institute report says a hotter climate and altered rainfall are colluding to cut the worldwide area suitable for coffee in half by 2050. That would be catastrophic for some 120 million people in more than 70 countries — mostly developing nations — that depend on the coffee trade.

It would also affect billions of consumers worldwide, who together drink about 2.25 billion cups of coffee every day, according to the report, which warns of rising prices. The ecology is also projected to suffer, as coffee production may be forced to move away from the equator, and further up mountains and forests.

16 Of Your Favorite Things That Climate Change Is Totally Screwing Up

Rising temperatures could make Mexican coffee unviable sooner than 2050, while Nicaragua will lose most of its coffee zone by 2050, according to the report.

Brazil, the world’s largest coffee grower, is set to experience “substantial losses,” the report notes. Already, Brazil’s coffee-growing areas are facing a growing number of heat waves, as cold extremes declined between 1960 and 2011.

Abrupt changes in weather patterns poses a significant problem for Arabica beans, which account for 75 percent of the world’s coffee production and require rainy and dry seasons to be well defined. Robusta, the other type of coffee bean, is more tolerant to warming, yet the report notes both types of crop seem incapable of weathering even the mild climate change scenarios evaluated.

In the Congo, the birthplace of Robusta coffee, the wild plant may become extinct by 2050. In fact, the report says that unless climate change is addressed, wild coffee could become extinct worldwide by 2080.

Climate Change Is Already Hurting The World’s Most Consumed Coffee Bean

“It’s not just the heat, which is a big factor which is driving some of the regions where coffee is produced uphill,” John Connor, Climate Institute’s chief executive officer, told ABC. “We’re also seeing extra diseases increasing and being able to go up into those areas.”

Studies have long warned that a warmer world might mean a pricier morning cup of coffee, as consumption has been on the rise but coffee stockpiles have been dwindling.

U.S. consumption will be up 1.5 percent in the coming year and reach record highs, Bloomberg reported in June. Worldwide demand in various countries like China, Japan, and India also show upwards trends.

“We have a cloud hovering over our head. It’s dramatically serious. Climate change can have a significant adverse effect in the short term,” said Mario Cerutti, the Green Coffee Corporate Relations director at Lavazza, one of Italy’s most important coffee roasting companies. “It’s no longer about the future; it’s the present.”

Other industry officials have shared similar messages over the years. “What we are really seeing as a company as we look 10, 20, 30 years down the road — if conditions continue as they are — is a potentially significant risk to our supply chain,” said Jim Hanna, director of environmental affairs at Starbucks, in 2011. “If we sit by and wait until the impacts of climate change are so severe that is impacting our supply chain, then that puts us at a greater risk.”

The report says that consumers can help ameliorate the problem by choosing brands that are carbon neutral, or help coffee farmers build their capacity to adapt to climate change. Moreover, the report notes people can demand action from companies and governments to ensure all products, business models, and economies are carbon neutral or even better, carbon negative.

“Our concern is primarily for the 25 million farmers out there whose entire livelihoods depend on this incredibly important global commodity,” Molly Harriss Olson, chief executive of Fairtrade Australia and New Zealand, which commissioned the report, according to ABC. “We’ve got to build a new economy that doesn’t threaten things in our lifestyle such as our coffee.”

Coffee Production May Drop 50 Percent Thanks To Climate Change was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

 

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State That Exposed 6 Million Voters’ Private Data Says It Doesn’t Need Election Security Aid

Mon, 08/29/2016 - 10:50am
CREDIT: AP Photo/Matt Rourke

Georgia’s aging, paperless voting machines have been called a “sitting duck” for hackers. Six million Georgia voters had reams of personal information exposed by a data breach in Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s office earlier this year.

Yet Kemp is refusing an offer from the Department of Homeland Security to help shore up the cyber-security of the state’s vulnerable voting machines. Instead, he accused the federal government of attempting to “subvert the Constitution to achieve the goal of federalizing elections under the guise of security.” He said the state is capable of handling its own election security, and opined a hack is “not probable at all.”

Less than a year ago, Kemp’s office accidentally mailed out a dozen discs containing the private information of more than six million Georgia voters, including Social Security numbers, birth dates, and driver’s license numbers. At the time, Kemp told state lawmakers that while he is “no expert on data security,” he was confident that no information “made it out to the bad guys.”

A year before that, tens of thousands of new voter registrations went missing from the state’s database — the vast majority of them belonging to low-income people of color.

Georgia is saying, “Thanks, but no thanks” to federal election security aid. CREDIT: AP Photo/David Goldman

Once solidly Republican, a massive effort to register voters of color and a major immigration influx have helped put Georgia on the cusp of becoming a swing state. Donald Trump’s polarizing campaign is not helping the GOP’s cause, and polls for both the presidential and Senate races are tight. This makes Georgia an even more attractive target for hackers, who could flip votes in just a few counties to change the outcome statewide.

Georgia is also one of the few states to still use electronic voting machines that have no paper trail, making a post-election audit to check for hacking or vote-flipping nearly impossible. The decade-old software the machines use — Windows 2000 — also makes the system a “sitting duck” for hackers, cyber-security experts told NPR.

The under-funded U.S. election system is vulnerable to sophisticated foreign government operations like the Russian team that allegedly hacked the DNC and amateurs alike. Malware can be planted in voting machines fairly easily and remain undetected. Private companies have demonstrated that many machines can be hacked using a chip anyone can buy online for about $15. The FBI reported Monday that foreign hackers have already gained access to voter databases in Arizona and Illinois, inserting malicious software and stealing information on hundreds of thousands of residents.

Still, Georgia and other states are refusing the federal government’s offer to inspect their voting systems for bugs and other vulnerabilities, characterizing it as a sneaky federal intrusion on state sovereignty under the guise of trumped up hacking concerns. Currently, only 12 states require full federal certification of their voting machines.

Instead, Kemp and other Republican secretaries of state have focused most of their efforts on combating in-person voter fraud, the rate of which is “infinitesimal” according to a recent national, multi-year study. The study, conducted by a team at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism in Arizona, found just 10 proven cases of voter impersonation since 2000 — out of 146 million votes cast.

State That Exposed 6 Million Voters’ Private Data Says It Doesn’t Need Election Security Aid was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

 

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Facebook Got Rid Of Human Editors And It’s Not Going Well

Mon, 08/29/2016 - 10:33am
A bogus story was left trending for several hours.Megyn Kelly at Access Hollywood to talk her new special with Donald Trump interview in New York. CREDIT: AP PHOTO/ RW/MEDIAPUNCH/IPX

Just days after Facebook announced it was getting rid of all of its news curators, the site let a fraudulent story about Fox News moderator and Megyn Kelly rise to the top of its powerful trending news section, which can set the tone for whether a story or piece of content goes viral.

The phony news headline from Endingthefed.com read “BREAKING: Fox News Exposes Traitor Megyn Kelly, Kicks Her Out For Backing Hillary.” Journalists noticed the story trending Sunday night, calling it out as false. The story was taken down Monday morning.

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Megyn Kelly is trending on Facebook for an article that has no basis in reality.pic.twitter.com/31f4ERnzHI

 — @kyletblaine

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@facebook still has a totally fake story about Megyn Kelly in its trending list. Niiceeepic.twitter.com/n2egP2d92h

 — @JGreenDC

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But Kelly is still employed and her contract with Fox is expected to end next year, the Washington Post reported.

On Friday, Facebook unceremoniously fired its staff charged with curating the platform’s trending news section by writing headlines and summaries, and weeding out repetitive and irrelevant stories populated by an algorithm.

The move comes after Facebook was heavily criticized in May for political bias and allegedly suppressing conservative news. Following the controversy, Facebook released new guidelines for news curators and CEO Mark Zuckerberg held a private meeting with conservative legislators to ease worries.

Facebook maintains that the algorithm was always in control, a fact expected to be reinforced now that there’s no dedicated editorial staff. In a blog post announcing the change, Facebook noted that trending news topics, which effectively acts as the A1 section of the internet, would now show a simplified topic, such as a name Kanye West or a hashtag like #PhelpsFace, along with how many people are talking about it.

But that stripped down approach doesn’t seem to be working for Facebook’s status as a reliable news source. The number of people who use Facebook for news has jumped almost 20 percent since 2013, according to Pew Research. Six out of 10 adults get their news from social media and 67 percent of American adults get their news from Facebook, which translates to 44 percent of the U.S. population. Facebook has 1.71 billion users worldwide and about 62 percent stumble on news via Facebook while their doing other things online.

And after only a few days without human curators, Facebook has had two stories make the trending topics — the false report about Kelly and “news” of the McChicken, which is just an altered clip of the infamous American Pie movie scene where the pie is replaced with a McDonald’s sandwich. (If you search for “McChicken,” there is also a pornographic video of a person having sex with a sandwich that comes up. The American Pie video is what Facebook was linking to at the time of writing this.)

Facebook said in its blog post Friday that it would keep a team on board to tweak the algorithm as needed. If anything, the mishaps should remind Facebook that, even under the best circumstances and with the best intentions, technology is as biased — and flawed — as the humans who create it. Removing curators just makes that more clear.

Facebook Got Rid Of Human Editors And It’s Not Going Well was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

 

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Categories: SCCDP Allies

Stop Pretending Anthony Weiner Is A Clinton Campaign Story

Mon, 08/29/2016 - 10:23am
It’s about sex.CREDIT: AP Photo/Jin Lee

There is no doubt that Anthony Weiner, a former congressman and candidate for mayor of New York City, is a public figure. He’s courted attention even after resigning from Congress with magazine profiles and a feature-length documentary.

And the fact that Weiner was again involved in sexting women over the internet, including one picture that included his child, is news. It’s the type of news that makes for great tabloid covers and easy cable news segments.

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EXCLUSIVE: Anthony Weiner sexted a busty brunette while his son was in bed with him http://nyp.st/2bPSB3b pic.twitter.com/JNmerTREKD

 — @nypost

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But this story about a former congressman engaged in more unseemly conduct over the internet is not campaign news.

Other than his spouse, Clinton adviser Huma Abedin, Weiner has no connection to the Clinton campaign. And it is Weiner, not Abedin, who is responsible for his conduct. (In a statement released today, Abedin announced she is separating from Weiner.)

Nonetheless, that didn’t stop some members of the media from immediately treating it as news related to the presidential election.

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The problem for Clinton team - after Democrats repeatedly pointed to Bannon personal past, going to be hard to argue Weiner is off limits

 — @maggienyt

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Weiner is not “off limits.” But is his situation, as this tweet implies, comparable to Steve Bannon?

Bannon, who ran the alt-right website Breitbart, was appointed CEO of the Trump campaign. Weiner has no role with the Clinton campaign.

Bannon was charged with abusing his wife, allegedly fired an employee for being pregnant and is reportedly registered to vote in Florida even though he does not live there.

Weiner sent some racy texts. While this is not upstanding behavior for a married man, it is also not illegal.

Despite the fact that Weiner has no position with the Clinton campaign, there was someone else eager to make this a campaign issue: Donald Trump.

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Trump to @patrickhealynyt @amychozick on Huma: ...

 — @NYTnickc

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Trump’s argument here appears to be premised on the idea that a wife is subservient to the husband so, if she were to learn about classified information, she would immediately tell him. Despite the best efforts of the right, there is no evidence that Abedin is anything other than a loyal public servant.

Trump’s argument, taken to its logical conclusion, would make him personally responsible for the marital fidelity of the spouse of every aide on his campaign. (There is also considerably irony in his assertion that Hillary having aide whose husband engaged in extramarital sexual relationships demonstrates “bad judgment.” Trump himself has been married three times and openly cheated on his first wife.)

But Trump’s statement succeeded in giving the media an even stronger pretext to treat the Weiner story as a campaign story.

CREDIT: MSNBCCREDIT: MSNBC

Suggesting that Weiner’s conduct reflects poorly on Abedin and, by extension, Clinton, involves embracing a longstanding sexist trope — that a husband who cheats is a reflection of some deficiency in their spouse.

No one needs to feel bad for covering or reading about Anthony Weiner’s latest sexting scandal. But we should recognize it for what it is: The story of a man who is no longer in political power and who has exceptionally poor judgment.

It is not, at its heart, a story about any woman — either Abedin or her boss, who happens to be running for president, Hillary Clinton.

Stop Pretending Anthony Weiner Is A Clinton Campaign Story was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

 

Read the responses to this story on Medium.

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How Does Trump Plan To Improve Schools If He Abolishes The Education Department?

Mon, 08/29/2016 - 10:01am

Donald Trump will finally focus on education issues this week, his advisers say, and he’s already making pitches to voters of color.

So far, the Republican nominee for president hasn’t discussed education very often on the campaign trail (perhaps because Trump University, the now defunct operation facing multiple lawsuits from students who say they were scammed, is a liability for him on this issue).

But after Trump’s recent campaign shakeup, his new campaign manager Kellyanne Conway said voters can expect to see more policy speeches on the issue. And Trump has begun to address voters of color, whom he has not only ignored up to this point but also denigrated at every opportunity.

Last week, at a rally in New Hampshire, Trump spoke of educational inequities between students of color and white students. “Their policies have produced only more poverty, total joblessness and failing schools,” he said, according to The 74, an education news site. “Every policy Hillary Clinton supports is a policy that has failed and betrayed communities of color in this country… Education, education, education! We are going to bring back great education for our inner cities and for our country.”

How exactly does Trump plan to improve the quality of schools for students of color? It isn’t clear yet — and it’s also a promise that’s directly undermined by some of Trump’s other education policy positions.

Trump says he wants to either cut the U.S. Department of Education — making cuts that he describes as “tremendous” — or abolish it completely, telling Sean Hannity in April that the department “can be largely eliminated.” That would do the opposite of aiding inner city schools. Eliminating the department would take away much-needed resources from the struggling schools that need them the most.

Here’s What Would Actually Happen If Rand Paul Eliminated The Department Of Education

To better understand how this would hurt students of color, you need to understand what the department does.

As the civil rights movement moved forward, Congress passed various legislation protecting people’s civil rights, such as the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act. That act launched the Title I program, which provides funds to schools with more impoverished students. The Department of Education — which was created under the Carter administration and began operating in the Reagan administration — is responsible for ensuring that struggling schools receive this Title I funding.

Many of the racially segregated city schools Trump refers to have poor conditions, among them mold, severe heat in the summer and cold in the winter, and dead rodents. These schools often don’t have the advanced placement classes and extracurricular activities necessary to build a strong college application. Many large urban school districts are also struggling to pay teachers and secure state funding.

The department also works on the oversight of states and school districts to ensure that they are not violating the rights of their students by providing them with a subpar education. For example, the Office of Civil Rights receives and investigates complaints of discriminatory harassment or exclusionary school discipline.

That has the potential to make a big difference for black students, who receive a disproportionate number of school suspensions and expulsions. We know this because the department keeps track of racially disparate school discipline through data collection. Data collection is an important part of the department’s mission and without it, there would simply be a hodgepodge of data that would be very difficult to rely on for drawing conclusions about the quality of education for students across the country.

Trump can claim to care about the barriers students of color face to receiving a decent education, but until he stops advocating to strip funding from or abolish the Department of Education, his words are empty.

How Does Trump Plan To Improve Schools If He Abolishes The Education Department? was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

 

Read the responses to this story on Medium.

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