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Updated: 11 hours 54 min ago

Every Senate Republican Votes To Stop Obama’s Immigration Relief

11 hours 58 min ago

CREDIT: Screengrab

Every Republican senator voted in support of a (failed) effort to thwart President Obama’s executive action on immigration Wednesday. The largely symbolic procedural vote would have allowed senators to bring up a subsequent vote to block Obama’s authority to expand immigration relief in the absence of congressional reform.

But Republican unanimity on the anti-immigrant measure stands in stark contrast to the positions of many of these senators. Among those in the Republican block were Sens. John McCain (AZ), Jeff Flake (AZ), Lindsey Graham (SC) and Marco Rubio (FL), all of whom were part of the Senate Gang of Eight that pushed for comprehensive immigration reform last year. Driven in large part by Sens. Cruz, Sessions, and Mike Lee (R-UT), the procedural vote needed 51 votes to pass and was taken on the last day before the Senate broke for recess until after the election. It failed on a 50-50 tie vote. The vote also received support from five Democratic senators, four of whom are up for reelection in November.

Prior to the vote, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) stated on the Senate floor, “If we leave town without having passed a bill to block this executive amnesty, it will be a permanent stain on the Senate, on the constitutional order, and this entire Democratic caucus. I urge my Democratic colleagues, I know the pressure is to stay hitched, to stay in line, but you do have the power to vote differently.”

“This bill does nothing, zero, for the so-called Dreamers who are already here,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) stated. He said his measure would have prevented new applicants in Obama’s program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, but would not strip protections from current recipients. A Cruz staff member told Huffington Post‘s Elise Foley that current DACA recipients can renew their applicants, but would not be allowed to work.

This is not the first time that Republicans have voted to defund the DACA program, which advocates have likened to deporting DREAMers. And already, the Alaska GOP has taken the opportunity to denounce Sen. Mark Begich (D-AL) for casting a “deciding vote backing Obama’s amnesty plan,” Politico’s Seung Min Kim reported. The GOP needs six seats to take the Senate majority.

Just hours before the Senate vote, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) told a crowd at a conservative think tank that “immigration reform will help our economy,” even though the party has made no active motion to bring reform to a vote in the House.

But the messaging of several Republicans has grown increasingly hostile toward toward DREAMers and other immigrants as the November election approaches. Most recently, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) awkwardly side-stepped a confrontation with two undocumented immigrants. Paul, who has touted himself as an outspoken champion for GOP minority outreach, once stated that legalization should “start with DREAM Act kids,” alluding to a federal immigration bill that would have granted an earned pathway to citizenship for some qualified undocumented immigrants. But he has since moved faster and further away from that position. And Gang of Eight member Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) who also voted on the motion to table the amendment, recently called out DREAMers for “harming their own cause because you don’t have a right to illegally immigrate into the United States.”

It remains to be seen whether the party will improve its checkered history of minority outreach, particularly to the Latino community. At least 37.3 percent of the Hispanic population are immigrants. At least 76 percent of the 11.7 million undocumented population are Hispanic. And at least 67 percent of Latino registered voters personally know an undocumented immigrant. And yet, when the GOP released a video touting Hispanic Heritage Month last year, it made no mention of immigration. Continuing that tradition of neglecting to mention immigration reform, the RNC released a statement on Monday extolling its party’s commitment to “fighting for pro-growth policies that will help empower Hispanic individuals and families to unleash their full potential.”

The post Every Senate Republican Votes To Stop Obama’s Immigration Relief appeared first on ThinkProgress.

Categories: SCCDP Allies

The President Is Finally Declaring War On Antibiotic-Resistant ‘Superbugs’

12 hours 8 min ago

CREDIT: AP Photo/Gillian Wong

For years, medical experts have been warning that the rise of antibiotic resistance poses a serious threat to global health, as we’re rapidly approaching a future in which common infections won’t be able to be treated with any drugs. And this week, the White House finally made its first major policy move to help address the issue.

On Thursday, President Obama signed an executive order establishing a new task force for combating drug-resistant bacteria. The members will be tasked with coming up with a five-year plan to prevent the rise of antibiotic resistance, as well as to effectively respond to disease outbreaks that involve hard-to-treat bacteria.

The Obama administration has drawn some criticism for failing to do enough to combat antibiotic resistance, which leads to 23,000 deaths each year. Advocates say that the White House has been too slow to act to address a problem that doesn’t often capture the national headlines but that has been described as a “ticking time bomb” and a looming “antibiotic apocalypse.”

The executive order coincided with a 65-page report from the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) that confirms this issue is being worsened by the over-use of antibiotics in both humans and animals, which can allow bacteria to adapt and become resistant to the common drugs typically used to treat them.

“Success in combating antibiotic resistance will require elevating the issue to a national priority,” the report states. “The crisis in antibiotic resistance comes as no surprise: it has been brewing for decades, despite urgent calls from medical experts dating back as far as the 1940s and 1950s. Yet, the issue has only just begun to seize the public attention, due to increasing high rates of resistant pathogens in healthcare facilities.”

Public health groups are glad to see the White House turning its attention to the area. On a call with reporters, one of the co-chairmen of PCAST noted that the executive order “represents a major elevation of the issue — a major upgrading of the administration’s efforts to help address it.”

“We’ve been like a frog in the pot as the water heats up,” Allan Coukell, the senior director for drugs and medical devices at Pew Charitable Trusts, added in an interview with the New York Times. “Now the administration is saying we can’t keep going like this, that we have to tackle this crisis, and here’s a road map.”

But some critics say the new initiatives don’t go far enough to curb antibiotic use in the agriculture sector, where as many as 90 percent of the drugs used on animals aren’t tested to assess their risk of creating superbugs. While the Food and Drug Administration has made some moves to regulate the use of antibiotics in farm animals, the guidelines are largely voluntary and advocates worry that big food companies will be able to easily get around them. The new executive order doesn’t take any stronger of a stance.

Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) — who has introduced legislation that would limit the types of antibiotics that can be given to animals, as well as pressured major fast food companies to disclose what types of drugs they’re using in their products — is urging the federal government to do more. In a statement released on Thursday, the congresswoman argued that failing to crack down on the agricultural industry is a potentially dangerous oversight.

“I maintain that voluntarily asking industry to change labels is not enough to protect human health,” Slaughter said. “Not only does it give industry two more years to begin complying, it leaves a loophole a mile wide for using antibiotics daily to prevent disease when they are clearly only meant for treatment. I call once again on Congress to take up my bill.”

The post The President Is Finally Declaring War On Antibiotic-Resistant ‘Superbugs’ appeared first on ThinkProgress.

Categories: SCCDP Allies

The GOP’s Last Ditch, Unconstitutional Ploy To Save An Unpopular Senator’s Career From Extinction

12 hours 46 min ago

Kansas’ Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach

CREDIT: AP Photo/John Milburn

Kansas is in the midst what is almost certainly the most unusual Senate race of the 2014 cycle. Democrats want their candidate off the ballot. Republicans are deploying every legal maneuver they can muster to keep a Democrat on the ballot. And the GOP’s latest tactic is almost certainly unconstitutional.

To explain, Kansas is a blood red state, where Republicans can normally win statewide elections with ease. Incumbent Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS), however, is very unpopular; only 29 percent of likely voters approve of his performance, according to one poll. Meanwhile, the front-runner in the race to determine whether Roberts keeps his job is neither a Democrat nor a Republican. It is Greg Orman, an independent candidate who’s been coy about which party he will caucus with if he is elected to the Senate.

The Democratic candidate in the race, a prosecutor named Chad Taylor, withdrew from the race in a likely bid to boost Orman’s chances of beating Roberts. On Thursday evening, the state supreme court held that Taylor’s name should indeed be removed from the ballots, despite efforts by the state’s Republican Secretary of State, Kris Kobach, to keep it there.

So, to summarize, Pat Roberts is the incumbent Republican, and he’s likely to lose to Orman, who may or may not help Democrats keep their majority if he’s elected. Democrats would rather have a senator who might caucus with them than a senator who would never caucus with them, so they’ve withdrawn their own candidate from the race in an apparent effort to prevent him from acting as a Ralph Nader-style spoiler. Republicans, meanwhile, very much want to keep a Democrat on the ballot in the hopes of splitting the anti-Roberts vote.

Not long after the Kansas Supreme Court ordered ex-Democratic candidate Taylor removed from the ballot, the GOP announced its next move. “Democrats now have a clear legal obligation to name a candidate to fill the vacancy on the ballot,” according to a statement by National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesperson Brad Dayspring. Kobach made the same claim, citing a state law which provides that “[w]hen a vacancy occurs after a primary election in a party candidacy, such vacancy shall be filled by the party committee of the congressional district, county or state, as the case may be.”

“This says ‘shall,’” Kobach quipped. “I don’t know how anyone can read ‘shall’ to mean ‘may.’” Kobach also indicated that he may sue the state’s Democratic Party in the likely event that they refuse to name a candidate.

The Kansas law Kobach cites does indeed say “shall.” Yet, as election law expert Rick Hasen points out, a higher law is likely to intervene here. “It seems like it would be a tough First Amendment claim to FORCE a party to name a replacement,” according to Hasen.

Hasen is correct. The Supreme Court has long held that the First Amendment protects a freedom to choose who you associate with. Part of this freedom, moreover, is a freedom to disassociate yourself from people or organizations you find disagreeable. As the Court explained in 1984, “Freedom of association . . . plainly presupposes a freedom not to associate.”

Indeed, this is a principle conservatives have wielded with great success in the past. In Boy Scouts v. Dale, the Court held that the Boy Scouts were immune to a state law banning anti-gay discrimination because the Scouts believe “that homosexual conduct is inconsistent with the values it seeks to instill in its youth members.” Requiring it to include a gay assistant scoutmaster, according to Boy Scouts would “surely interfere with the Boy Scout’s choice not to propound a point of view contrary to its beliefs.”

If the Kansas Democratic Party were required to name a candidate against their wishes, that would also be a form of forced association. The state of Kansas would, in effect, require a political party to announce that a particular candidate is their choice to serve in the United States Senate, even though this endorsement would not reflect the party’s real beliefs. That’s not something the First Amendment permits.

The post The GOP’s Last Ditch, Unconstitutional Ploy To Save An Unpopular Senator’s Career From Extinction appeared first on ThinkProgress.

Categories: SCCDP Allies

The Mourning After: ‘This Is Where I Leave You’ Should Be So Much Better

12 hours 53 min ago

CREDIT: Courtesy of Warner Brothers

There is a lot to like about This Is Where I Leave You, in theaters today. Based on Jonathan Tropper’s novel of the same name, TIWILY follows a family in mourning for its patriarch. Four adult siblings, plus their spouses, significant others, and proud-to-be-potty-trained kids are under a kind of house arrest; their mother (Jane Fonda) insists that it was their father’s dying wish that his children sit shiva, meaning the whole gang will spend a week back in the family homestead, bonding and bickering and remembering their dad. TIWILY is that movie you’ve probably been hearing about because everyone, or at least someone, you are obsessed with is in the cast. But the talent is better than the movie, which is aiming for something it never quite reaches.

When TIWILY addresses the strange, awkward process of grieving—the stabbing pain, the annoying obligation, the sudden emptiness of it all—you can see the story grasping at something meaningful and true. These stories that reunite grown, sprawling families under one roof can sometimes be so bizarre it’s hard to see anything like you recognize within them (the August: Osage County model). TIWILY, at times, feels like a family you know, a circumstance you understand. They’re Jewish the way a lot of Jews are Jewish: sporadically, begrudgingly, a little gratefully, usually at the behest of an older family member.

And the cast! That stacked, fan-favorites-only cast. They deliver, especially Tina Fey, who is acting, really acting, not just being funny and Tina Fey-like as in her previous big screen turns, but going to some other place and inhabiting another person. She’s all in. She also has the good fortune of getting the most compelling and heartbreaking storyline, one she shares with the always-welcome Timothy Olyphant, who here is the tragic version of the comic skateboarding stuck-in-high-school goon he played on The Mindy Project. Connie Britton’s presence is brief but affecting. She does so much with so little; I really wish someone would write a movie around her already. Jane Fonda is arch and funny and just a bit bonkers. Ben Schwartz, best known as Parks and Recreation delight Jean-Ralphio, is fantastic as the local rabbi who will never not be seen as the horny dweeb he apparently was as a kid.

But there’s this one big problem with TIWILY. The entire story revolves around an awful, uninspiring archetype: The Ordinary Guy Who Deserves More.

The Ordinary Guy Who Deserves More, played here by Jason Bateman, hasn’t ever really demonstrated any particular talents or abilities—he is just your average dude—and is loathe to take any meaningful action in order to improve his life. He is just too full of turbulent, deep, complicated feelings, feelings no one else could ever understand, but also that he can’t articulate. The Ordinary Guy Who Deserves More is already married to someone beautiful (in the book, particular attention is paid to her phenomenal ass) but, while we hear this appreciation often via internal monologue, we never hear him appreciate her, to her face, out loud. We are told the reason these two “grew apart,” but we never will see The Ordinary Guy Who Deserves More take real responsibility for his failings as a husband. His wife is cheating on him with his boss. His boss is a completely irredeemable scumbag, because The Ordinary Guy Who Deserves More couldn’t possibly have to face the idea that his wife found someone better or, well, more deserving of her. No one in the story is allowed to deserve more than The Ordinary Guy Who Deserves More.

All the women around The Ordinary Guy Who Deserves More, in the case of TIWILY, are defined, more or less, by their children, their sex lives, or their inability to get and stay pregnant; all the men are defined by more complex, existential crises about growing up, responsibility, relationships and freedom. The Ordinary Guy Who Deserves More will reconnect with the girl (Rose Byrne) who always had a huuuuge crush on him when they were in high school yet somehow escaped his notice. Of course this smitten, beautiful woman who doesn’t know she’s beautiful is still there, right where he left her. She’s working in their hometown, pretty as ever and manic pixie patient, like Penelope knitting and unraveling her work as days turn into months and years before her beloved finds his way home. Naturally (light spoilers ahead) The Ordinary Guy Who Deserves More manages to both bed the hometown honey and redeem himself in the eyes of his ex-wife.

Major spoilers below!

The ex-wife is pregnant, you see, and she is pregnant with the baby of The Ordinary Guy Who Deserves More, because of course the other man is sterile (he does not deserve to bear children as much as The Ordinary Guy Who Deserves More). After his ex-wife starts to bleed out and must be hospitalized, and after the boss dumps her because responsibility of any kind is too much for that obviously-unworthy bro, The Ordinary Guy Who Deserves More decides NOW is the opportune time to go on a trip to Maine to find himself. Never mind that he has literally just promised his ex-wife that he will co-parent and they can be in this thing together, whether or not they are married. Never mind that she has miscarried once before and is clearly undergoing a high-risk pregnancy; she could well need to be hospitalized again. The Ordinary Guy Who Deserves More must be free to figure himself out, well past the date at which all the other people in the world have their basics figured out. You see, there is nothing basic about his basics, not this tortured soul, not this good-man-at-heart, not this gent who is told by all his loved ones, despite mounting evidence to the contrary, that he’ll be “a great dad.” Not The Ordinary Guy Who Deserves More.

Unfortunate side effects of this trope: it is hard to be supportive of the usually uber-likeable Bateman. How can you, as someone in the audience, be invested in a character’s happiness if that character seems like they could take it or leave it? Kathryn Hahn, who is capable of being hilarity personified, is stuck in the mold of an embarrassingly desperate and neglected wife (all the wives, except for Fonda’s character, are embarrassingly desperate and neglected in one way or another). We also have to listen to Bateman’s character say the phrase “I don’t do complicated” and have it repeated back to him, as if we wouldn’t be able to discern this obvious fact from his behavior. The boys have all the fun in a way that only points neon arrows at the limited roles of the women in their lives. Tropper’s book can be clever, surprising and heartfelt, but a lot of the sharp humor and insight is softened in translation, even though Tropper wrote the screenplay.

TIWILY couldn’t have a better cast. But it could be a much better movie.

The post The Mourning After: ‘This Is Where I Leave You’ Should Be So Much Better appeared first on ThinkProgress.

Categories: SCCDP Allies

‘Pride’ Warmly Epitomizes The LGBT Movement’s Success In Partnering With Other Causes

13 hours 24 min ago

This post includes spoilers from the upcoming film Pride, which will be released in select U.S. theaters on September 26.

“Pride” is one of the seven deadly sins, which has always made its usage by the LGBT community a bit ironic. It has never, of course, been the negative connotation of hubris that defines LGBT pride, but a rejection of shame and a celebration of belonging — not only to the LGBT community itself but to society as a whole. It is that sense of pride that is on grand display in the new dramedy film Pride.

In 1984, Margaret Thatcher’s administration announced the closing of 20 coal mines across the United Kingdom, as well as plans to close as many as 70. On top of already tense relations between the unions and Thatcher, this led to walk-outs and strikes that lasted a year, marked by violent conflicts between miners and police officers. Pride tells the very true story of how a group of gay and lesbian activists from London (Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners, or LGSM) raised money to support striking coal miners in the small Welsh village of Dulais Valley. Many of the characters in the film (though not all) are based on their real-life counterparts, some of whom are only known by reputation and by glimpses found in an amateur documentary once made about the effort.

Because the strike ultimately proved unsuccessful, the film doesn’t linger on the picket lines, allowing Thatcher to serve as the film’s MacGuffin while the plot focuses on the interaction between LGSM and the miners. The true antagonists of the film are instead the members of Dulais Valley who oppose the support of “perverts,” who they believe are operating under selfish motivations to win support for gay rights by simply using the miners as a pedestal. This conflict is not only more interesting, but is surely what allows the film to have as much heart as it does.

Mark Ashton, the young gay activist who helped found LGSM, is brash and makes quick decisions, but is adamant about his support for the miners. In the amateur documentary, the real life Ashton explained, “One community should give solidarity to another. It is really illogical to say, ‘I’m gay and I’m into defending the gay community but I don’t care about anything else.’” His compassion for the miners shines through in the film through actor Ben Schnetzer, who similarly opines about the importance of one group supporting the other. (Ashton died of AIDS complications in 1987 at the age of 26.)

If anything, Pride lays it on a little thick. For example, one of the miners who most eagerly embraced LGSM’s support, Dai Donovan, regularly references an insignia on the union’s flag of two hands clasped in friendship and the ideals of supporting one another regardless of who you are. But rather than feeling too obvious, the film makes the partnership — and the shared feeling of oppression — feel rather sincere. The gay activists joke near the top of the movie that they’ve been beaten a lot less by the police as of late, concluding that it’s because the police are preoccupied trying to quell the strike. Indeed, one of the contributions LGSM makes to the village is a bit of legal counsel to help release strikers who’d been unlawfully detained. These common experiences are exactly what made the partnership succeed both in reality 30 years ago and in the new film now.

Pride also has its share of traditional gay tropes. There’s the young guy coming out for the first time who isn’t accepted by his family, the violent anti-gay hate crimes, and of course, the rise of the AIDS epidemic. One character reconnects with his estranged mother, while another character comes to terms with his own identity. Refreshingly, the film also offers some attention to the partnership between gay men and lesbians, as well as the tension between them, themes that have been similarly true for the United States LGBT movement but seldom portrayed in adapted accounts of its history. All of these subplots within the gay community, however trite they might feel out of context, help convey the sincerity of LGSM’s intentions, because even though its members were facing their own struggles related to their identities, they remained firmly committed to supporting the miners.

This not only defines how the movie derives such warmth, but epitomizes the progress of equality. Indeed, the rapid success of LGBT rights over the last half-century is largely due to the partnerships LGBT people have made with other movements. LGSM’s efforts are poignant, but not unique, as the U.S. LGBT movement has long had very strong relationships with Labor. Racial justice has similarly long been a priority for LGBT rights groups, and over the past decade, LGBT leaders have taken a firm stance on immigration equality, even being arrested for the cause. And this weekend, there will be a contingent of LGBT activists participating in the Peoples Climate March in NYC, representing another growing alliance for a shared cause.

There are two significant reasons why these partnerships have been a defining part of the LGBT movement, both of which are artfully addressed by the conflicts in Pride. Most obvious is the power of synergy. When different groups work together, they can each help each other accomplish goals that neither could accomplish alone. But the second reason speaks to why LGBT people are perhaps more primed to such partnerships. Because sexual orientation and gender identity are not hereditary (however genetic and innate they might be), LGBT people are everywhere, cutting across all races, genders, geographies, and socioeconomic statuses. Thus, on the whole, they are not as commonly situated as an ethnic or working community might be, which means that there is always an intersection to be found between the LGBT community and any other disadvantaged group. All issues are LGBT issues.

That’s what both Pride and pride are all about. Hands clasped in friendship may be hokey, but a rejection of shame and oppression is a value many groups can — and indeed, have — rally around. As the real-life Dai Donovan said at the “Pits and Perverts” benefit concert, which raised £5,650 for the miners, “You have worn our badge, Coal Not Dole, and you know what harassment means, as we do. Now we will pin your badge on us, we will support you. It won’t change overnight, but now 140,000 miners know that there are other causes and other problems. We know about blacks and gays and nuclear disarmament and we will never be the same.”

There is already talk that Pride could become a musical. So long as songs don’t overwhelm the emotional and yet comic subtlety conveyed onscreen in superb performances by the likes of Andrew Scott (Sherlock), Bill Nighy (Love, Actually), and Dominic West (The Wire), the Full Monty-esque themes could easily thrive on the stage for years to come. For now, the film successfully offers two hours of laughs and cheers as it epitomizes the core of LGBT advocacy and, arguably, the advancement of social justice everywhere.

The post ‘Pride’ Warmly Epitomizes The LGBT Movement’s Success In Partnering With Other Causes appeared first on ThinkProgress.

Categories: SCCDP Allies

Couple Who Let Homeless People Sleep On Their Porch Threatened With Daily Fine

14 hours 3 min ago

Brenda Konkel and her partner Robert Bloch

CREDIT: Robert Bloch’s Facebook page

Brenda Konkel and her partner Robert Bloch didn’t expect to be rewarded for their decision to open up their front porch to any homeless person who needed a place to rest or store their belongings, but the last thing they could have imagined was that their good deed would go punished.

According to the Madison Capital Times, for the past 18 months the couple have let homeless Madison residents secure their stuff in the dozen lockers they put on their front porch. And when someone needed a safe place to rest at night, Konkel and Bloch welcomed them to stay.

But their selflessness could soon meet an abrupt end after a neighbor complained about the presence of homeless people at their home. The city agreed with the neighbor. According to the zoning code, only people who “are part of a dwelling unit – who have access to and share the interior for housekeeping services – can legally elect to sleep outside of a dwelling unit,” Zoning Administrator Matt Tucker told the Capital Times.

If the couple doesn’t get rid of the lockers this week, they could face fines of as much as $300 per day. The deadline for evicting the porch-dwellers is mid-October.

Homelessness is a growing problem in Madison. A citywide count in 2013 found 831 homeless people living in the city, an increase of 47 percent since 2010. Among those 831 homeless residents were 110 families with children.

Konkel estimated on Facebook that she and her partner have helped more than 60 people over the past year and a half. She noted that many of those they’d helped “were working, but just can’t afford housing or were between homes.” What especially surprised her, though, was how many people they’d helped who were either under 25 years old or over 50.

Just recently, in fact, a 59-year-old man and a young man who was kicked out of his parents’ house had stayed on their porch, Bloch told the Capital Times. “They can go to sleep and not worry that all their stuff will be gone when they wake up, or they’ll be forced to move by police, or that they’ll be hurt in some way,” Bloch said.

People being threatened or assessed with fines for helping the homeless is becoming a trend recently. Earlier this year, a Florida couple was fined $746 for feeding homeless people, while a Birmingham pastor was prevented from doing so because he didn’t have a $500 permit. Even church groups based in St. Louis and Raleigh have been blocked and threatened with arrest for handing out meals to their homeless neighbors.

Serving the homeless isn’t a new cause for Konkel and Bloch. Konkel, who used to serve on the Madison City Council, currently works as the Executive Director of the Tenant Resource Center, a non-profit that seeks to promote tenants’ rights. She has been deeply involved in Occupy Madison, recently earning notoriety for her work helping develop tiny homes for homeless Madison residents.

Though the couple have not publicly declared what they will do about the threatened fine, their underlying beliefs remain. “These are human beings,” she told the Capital Times. “If the city and the county aren’t doing this, why prevent us from doing it?”

The post Couple Who Let Homeless People Sleep On Their Porch Threatened With Daily Fine appeared first on ThinkProgress.

Categories: SCCDP Allies

France Becomes First Country To Join U.S. In Airstrikes Against ISIS

14 hours 10 min ago

Two French Rafale jet fighters fly over Iraq


France on Friday morning announced it had taken military action inside Iraq, making it the first country aside from the U.S. in the American-organized “core coalition” to utilize airstrikes against the militants with the Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS).

A statement released from French president Francois Hollande’s office declared that Rafale fighter jets were deployed in Iraq and “conducted a first strike against a supply depot terrorist organization Daesh,” using Paris’ preferred named for the group. “The goal was reached and destroyed,” the statement continued, pledging more operations in the coming days. “Parliament will be informed next week by Prime Minister conditions of the commitment of our forces alongside the Iraqi armed forces and Peshmerga to weaken Daesh and restore Iraqi sovereignty.” No details were given about the what was contained in the depot.

The attack, as Financial Times noted, marks the first French airstrikes in Iraq in the last fifteen years. Then, France was taking part in a mission to enforce a No-Fly Zone in Northern Iraq with the United States and Britain. The military expansion back into Iraq first began on Monday, a military spokesman said, when French planes first began flying reconnaissance missions over the country.

Speaking before the press on Thursday, Hollande foreshadowed today’s strikes, condemning ISIS’ brutality and pledging to act as soon as targets had been identified. But there was no change of French ground forces being deployed in Iraq, Hollande said, echoing the United States’ oft-repeated policy. He also told reporters that France will “only intervene in Iraq,” ruling out taking on ISIS in Syria.

Paris is also leading the way in trying to change how we talk about ISIS. Rather than using that term, the U.S.’ preferred “ISIL,” or the group’s own favored “the Islamic State,” France has begun reffering to the group as “Daesh.” As the Washington Post explained, the term is “a transliteration of an Arabic word (داعش), an acronym for al-Dawla al-Islamiya fi al-Iraq wa al-Sham (which is itself a transliteration of the group’s Arabic name: الدولة الإسلامية في العراق والشام).” It also happens to be a term that the group hates, threatening to cut out the tongues of people caught using it.

“This is a terrorist group and not a state,” French foreign minister Laurent Fabius said last week, explaining the shift in terms. “I do not recommend using the term Islamic State because it blurs the lines between Islam, Muslims and Islamists. The Arabs call it ‘Daesh’ and I will be calling them the ‘Daesh cutthroats.’ ”

While most in the U.S. would consider a left-wing Socialist like Hollande unlikely to use military force, Hollande has proven himself to be quite the hawk, willing to deploy French forces to a number of combat zones. Last year, France volunteered to join any military campaign the U.S. was prepared to launch to punish Syrian president Bashar al-Assad for using chemical weapons against civilians. France also was the first country to send troops to the Central African Republic to help restore the peace there. France is also still has more than a thousand troops deployed in Mali as part of an effort to keep the country from sliding back into civil war. But while committed to acting internationally, Hollande is facing a world of trouble at home, with his approval ratings cratering at around 13 percent.

The post France Becomes First Country To Join U.S. In Airstrikes Against ISIS appeared first on ThinkProgress.

Categories: SCCDP Allies

What The GOP’s New Report On Energy Insecurity Doesn’t Tell You

14 hours 16 min ago

Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), in background, released a new report on energy insecurity on Thursday.

CREDIT: AP Photo / J. Scott Applewhite

On its face, Thursday’s report from two Republican senators on energy insecurity isn’t half bad.

Released by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), the report digs into how increases in energy costs hit lower-income Americans. Specifically, its three metrics are: how many households will see a significant drop in their budget of spendable income with a given increase in energy costs; how many households will be pushed below the poverty line with that increase; and how much that increase will affect the average household energy burden, as expressed through a percentage of average gross income.

These are all good things to know. Where this gets touchy is the political context: the Obama Administration recently unveiled new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations to cut carbon emissions from the nation’s power plants — by far the most ambitious effort yet by America to reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The move produced ferocious opposition from many Republicans and conservatives, and the possible effect on energy prices has been one of their primary talking points.

The critiques tend to ignore the actual design of the regulations, simply assuming any effort to cut GHGs must drive up energy costs by default. Murkowski and Scott’s paper follows a similar vein: it doesn’t mention the EPA rules directly, however the unspoken implication is clear.

But first, where Murkowski and Scott’s paper is valuable: they point out that energy insecurity — which they define as “the inability to pay for heating or cooling required to maintain a home at a reasonable temperature, and the loss of access to electricity through cessation of service due to non-payment or other factors” — affects household well above the poverty level. It forces families to make trade-offs with food, medical care or education. It can force people into greater debt. It can even drive up climate emissions in some instances when people switch to cheaper but dirtier sources of energy.

“Energy costs for people above and below the poverty line are very similar in absolute dollars, but… wealthier households spend a smaller percentage of their income on energy than poorer households,” the report points out. “Poorer households are naturally more sensitive to increases in energy costs and are at far greater risk of energy insecurity.”

And the three metrics in the report can help flesh out that effect. After running the numbers, the report concludes that a 10 percent increase in household energy costs nationally would push 840,000 individuals below the poverty line. It would also add 7 million individuals to the ranks of people paying more than 10 percent of their gross household income on energy, and it would force 65 percent of American families to spend additional sums on energy that could go to one-to-three weeks worth of groceries.

So should the country expect a 10 percent increase in energy costs because of the new EPA power plant regulations? Well that’s the rub.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration anticipates an average increase in energy prices of 3.1 percent this year. That accounts for both current government policy and market trends, and the latter can seriously remake the country’s energy landscape irrespective of policy. The forecast doesn’t include the effects of the power plant rules, but Murkowski and Scott point to Australia and Germany — which saw a 110 percent increase and a 15 percent increase in electricity prices from 2011 to early 2013, respectively — to show such a hike is possible.

But America is its own country with its own policy and energy sector. EPA itself anticipates the new regulations will actually drop electricity bills 9 percent by the time they get fully implemented in 2030, because increasing energy efficiency is one of the many options the agency gives states for meeting their carbon-reduction targets.

That flexibility is itself another reason prices are unlikely to spike, because they allow more opportunity for emitters to find the least-costly option that works best for them. In the end, EPA anticipated the total cost of complying with the regulations throughout the entire economy — not just to energy bills — would be at most $8.8 billion in 2030.

That’s $65 per household. By comparison, if the regulations were causing a 10 percent rise in energy prices, according to Murkowski and Scott’s report, 80 percent of families would be spending $100 to $500 more per year.

To have the actual cost of a set of regulations be much lower than what critics predicted is hardly improbable. Since the 1970s, the energy industry and others have repeatedly anticipated major cost increases as a result of new environmental rules, and they’ve repeatedly overshot by wide margins. Economies are also tremendously complex systems, and people and businesses are not in fact always rational actors, which means win-win situations can happen in which cutting GHG emissions actually improves economic outcomes.

At the same time, cutting emissions from coal plants comes with a raft of health benefits for the surrounding communities, which show up as improved performance in the local economies. So while the areas of the country most dependent on coal are probably the most at risk for energy price hikes, they’re also the first and primary beneficiaries of those health effects.

Finally, it should be mentioned that it takes a considerable amount of chutzpah for members of the Republican Party — which has roundly opposed increases in government spending and sought to slash the social safety net — to turn around and worry about household costs for low-income Americans. Murkowski and Scott acknowledge there are programs in place to help vulnerable Americans, but point to the government’s “budget challenges” to claim that expecting further spending hikes “is not realistic.” But it’s not realistic because of Republican opposition. The American economy itself is more than capable of supporting higher spending. Failing to provide lower income Americans with more assistance is purely a political choice.

Dean Baker, a prominent Washington D.C. economist and the co-founder of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, pointed to options like giving low-income households subsidies to install wind and solar, or to upgrade their homes’ energy efficiency. This would both reduce their energy bills, cushion them from future price hikes, and provide many people in those same communities with jobs. (Local workers will be needed to do the installations and the upgrades.) Alternatively, lawmakers could expand the earned income tax credit — and idea supported by both sides — and provide as much as $800 more a year for workers at the poverty level.

They just have to choose to spend the money.

The post What The GOP’s New Report On Energy Insecurity Doesn’t Tell You appeared first on ThinkProgress.

Categories: SCCDP Allies

John Boehner Says Unemployed People ‘Just Sit Around,’ Don’t Think They Have To Work

14 hours 46 min ago

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH)

CREDIT: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) seemed to echo Mitt Romney’s infamous claim that 47 percent of Americans are “takers” who suck up government benefits during a speech at a conservative Washington D.C. think tank on Thursday. Addressing the American Enterprise Institute, Boehner suggested that President Barack Obama’s economy has lulled many unemployed people into a sense of dependence on government.

“This idea that has been born, maybe out of the economy over the last couple years, that you know, I really don’t have to work. I don’t really want to do this. I think I’d rather just sit around. This is a very sick idea for our country,” he said.

“If you wanted something you worked for it,” Boehner said, adding, “Trust me, I did it all.”

But the unemployed aren’t jobless because they’re lazy or receive government benefits. Most face huge obstacles to finding good paying jobs in a slow economic recovery.

Currently, there are more than two job seekers for every job opening in the country and the severity of the recession has created a long-term unemployment problem that has made many job seekers almost unemployable. Research shows that being unemployed for nine months has the same impact on your odds of getting hired as losing four full years of experience from a résumé. As a result, many people who lost their jobs have gone back to school, retired early, or continue to look for work without success.

In fact, millions of unemployed people are having a harder time finding a job since Congressional Republicans allowed the long-term unemployment benefits program to lapse. Research — and real world experience — has found that the program’s job search requirements encourage people to spend more time job hunting and helps cover essentials like internet service for job applications or gas money for interviews.

Boehner’s remarks are similar to comments made by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) in March. During an appearance on a conservative radio show, Ryan claimed, “We have got this tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work, and so there is a real culture problem here that has to be dealt with.”

The post John Boehner Says Unemployed People ‘Just Sit Around,’ Don’t Think They Have To Work appeared first on ThinkProgress.

Categories: SCCDP Allies

The White House’s New Rape Prevention Campaign Puts The Emphasis On Men

14 hours 49 min ago

President Barack Obama, accompanied by Vice President Joe Biden, speaks at the White House before signing a memorandum creating a task force to respond to campus rapes.

CREDIT: AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

The White House is launching a new sexual assault prevention campaign, called “It’s On Us,” that hopes to mobilize college men to get involved in the fight against campus rape. The focus of the campaign is somewhat of a departure from traditional anti-rape efforts, which have historically been criticized for putting most of the onus on young women to take steps to keep themselves safe.

The education campaign will be primarily focused on teaching students how to practice effective bystander intervention. “It’s On Us” encourages students to get involved in situations that seem to be headed in a potentially dangerous direction, like when someone at a party has been cornered by a person making aggressive sexual advances. Tips on the campaign’s website include recognizing that intoxicated individuals cannot consent and remembering that victims should not be blamed.

“Most men are not comfortable with violence against women, but often don’t speak out because they believe that other men accept this behavior,” notes a White House fact sheet released on Friday. “By getting men involved, we can change this way of thinking and create new social norms.”

An administration official told the Washington Post that the ultimate goal is to show Americans that sexual assault isn’t an isolated incident of a crime perpetrated against a victim — but rather “a cultural problem in which we all have a role to play.”

Sexual assault prevention activists have long argued that addressing the issue of campus rape involves this type of cultural approach. “Don’t be friends with rapists,” Alexandra Brodsky, one of the founders of Know Your IX, a survivor-led group working to address sexual assault, argued in Feministing earlier this year. “My honest belief is that social ostracism could do more than our current laws. My senior year, I saw a known repeat offender question his treatment of women for the first time because he wasn’t invited to a big party thrown by one of his victim’s friends.”

“It’s On Us” is a result of the White House’s new task force focused on addressing college sexual assault, an issue that has gained increasing prominence as student activists have filed dozens of federal complaints against their universities for allegedly failing to protect victims. From the beginning of the initiative, which was launched this past winter, the president has framed the issue in terms of what young men can do.

“I want every young man in America to feel some strong peer pressure, in terms of how they’re supposed to behave and treat women,” Obama said in January. “That starts before they get to college. Those of us who are fathers have an obligation to transmit that information. We can do more to make sure that every man out there — in junior high, high school, and college — understands what’s expected of them, and what it means to be a man, and to intervene if they see someone else acting inappropriately.”

The new education campaign is a project of Generation Progress, a division of the Center for American Progress. Leading sexual assault prevention organizations, as well as celebrities and sports players, have signed on as partners. And student leaders from almost 200 colleges and universities have agreed to bring “It’s On Us” to their campuses.

Campus activists are glad to see so much national attention on the issue, and hope it will be paired with strong disciplinary policies and victim resources at schools. One of the biggest ongoing controversies in this area is the fact that university administrations don’t always suspend or expel the students who have perpetrated sexual assault, leaving survivors forced to continue attending the same school as their rapist. The White House is planning to release model policies for schools by the end of this month.

The post The White House’s New Rape Prevention Campaign Puts The Emphasis On Men appeared first on ThinkProgress.

Categories: SCCDP Allies

Ohio Supreme Court: It’s OK To Strip Mine State Wildlife Areas

14 hours 53 min ago

Geneva State Park, Ohio.

CREDIT: flickr/Mark K.

This week, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled 6-1 to potentially allow part of a state wildlife area to be strip-mined for coal. The ruling, which settles a dispute involving an esoteric land contract from 1944, could open up $2 million of coal to be dug out of a 651-acre section of the Brush Creek Wildlife Area owned by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

Appellants Ronald Snyder and Steven Neeley appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court after an appeals court and common pleas court ruled in favor of the state’s claim that the land could not be strip mined unless it was explicitly permitted in the contract. They argued that the only way to get at the coal was to surface mine.

When the 1944 contract was transferred from the landowners to the ODNR the seller “reserve[d] all mineral rights, including rights of ingress and egress and reasonable surface right privilege.” The court found this to be the “ultimate issue” on Wednesday, with Justice Paul E. Pfeifer writing that “some areas of the property at issue were strip-mined before ODNR acquired it:

Thus, there is reason to believe that the signatories to the original contract understood that ‘reasonable surface right privileges’ included the right to strip mine, and there is no reason to believe that the signatories intended to exclude strip-mining.

Bethany McCorkle, spokesperson for the ODNR, disagrees with Pfeifer’s interpretation.

“ODNR is disappointed by the Supreme Court’s decision, which ignored substantial precedent as to this issue,” she told ThinkProgress. “Based on this decision ODNR intends to review all of its deeds to confirm what other surface disturbances, if any, are possible as a result of this outcome.”

In its summary judgement, the common pleas court had found that although the reservation of mineral rights implies the right to remove the minerals, it does not imply the right to remove them by strip mining because “strip mining does not merely use the surface, it destroys the surface.”

The ODNR website describes the Brush Creek Wildlife Area as being composed of “broad ridges with steep slopes” descending into a valley. Second growth hardwoods occupy 80 percent of the area with oak and hickory lining the ridgetops and beech, elm, ash, and tulip poplar found on the lower slopes.

The case will now be returned to the common pleas court to determine the extent of the strip-mining to extract 10 percent of the wildlife acres, which is what the appellants requested as being a “small, reasonable portion.” This includes considering “myriad” factors such as extent, duration, and quality of remediation.

The lone dissenter, Justice Terrence O’Donnell, said the court previously ruled that strip mining is not always authorized under mineral-rights contracts, having found that “the right to ‘use’ the surface cannot be reasonably construed as the right to destroy it.”

While the case itself seems to be based on prior rulings and events in Jefferson County, there is a broader debate in Ohio about natural resource extraction on state lands. Earlier this year it was revealed that in 2012 top advisers of Ohio Governor John Kasich (R) and the ODNR were involved in a plan to sway public opinion in favor of opening up public lands for oil and gas drilling. In February, Gov. Kasich abruptly abandoned this effort on the same day that state Democrats called for an investigation into a leaked 2012 memo outlining the plan. Gov. Kasich is now engrossed in a legislative battle to try to impose a new severance tax on fracking in Ohio. While he originally proposed the tax as a way to provide Ohioans with a fair return, he now wants it as part of a plan to cut income taxes.

This summer Ohio also became the first state to freeze its renewable energy and energy efficiency standards, in a bill signed by Gov. Kasich. With the EPA’s Clean Power Plan calling for Ohio to reduce the carbon intensity of its existing power plants by 28 percent by 2030, strip-mining coal seems even further ill-advised on top of the immediate environmental degradation.

Ohio is one of a dozen states suing the EPA in an attempt to obstruct the proposed rules designed to cut GHGs from existing coal-fired power plants.

The post Ohio Supreme Court: It’s OK To Strip Mine State Wildlife Areas appeared first on ThinkProgress.

Categories: SCCDP Allies

Senate Republican Leaders Introduce Bill That Would Permanently Hobble Federal Labor Law

14 hours 53 min ago


The National Labor Relations Board is a federal agency that has the exclusive power to enforce much of America’s labor law. If an employer tries to unlawfully intimidate workers against joining a union, or if it retaliates against pro-union workers, or if it refuses to bargain with its workers’ union, the NLRB is responsible for enforcing the law against that employer. Yet, if a bill introduced by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) — the top Republican on the Senate committee responsible for labor issues — were to become law, then the NLRB would likely become a stagnant, often frozen institution that could be unable to act in the face of flagrant violations of the law.

Although the NLRB’s members are not federal judges, the Board functions very much like a court. The Board has five members who release published opinions that are cited as precedents in future cases that come before the NLRB. When the members of the Board disagree, the view held by a majority of the Board’s members prevails, and the members in the minority may publish a dissenting opinion. Board members serve five year terms, and, when vacancies arise, new Board members are typically selected to maintain a 3-2 partisan divide with the party that controls the White House also controlling a majority of seats on the Board.

One advantage of this arrangement is that, when the NLRB is faced with an issue that divides its members along partisan lines, the three members in the majority can out-vote the two members in dissent, thus ensuring that the business of the Board continues. McConnell and Alexander’s bill would change this by adding an additional seat to the Board, which would be controlled by the opposition party. Thus, either party would be able to veto any action the Board wanted to take, because neither party would control a majority of the Board’s seats.

If this arrangement sounds familiar, that’s because it is. The Federal Election Commission is one of the most ineffective institutions within the federal government, largely because it is a six member agency with each party controlling three seats. Thus, the FEC’s Democrats can block any action that may aid Republicans, and its GOP members can do the same for actions that could benefit Democrats. As Trevor Potter, a former Republican member of the FEC explains, in recent years “most important votes at the FEC have resulted in partisan 3-to-3 ties, leaving the commission essentially unable to act.”

If the NLRB became similarly gridlocked, it’s likely that management would benefit at the expense of labor. Although the NLRB does have authority over certain unfair labor practices by unions, such as if a union engages in a strike for an illegal purpose, the bulk of federal labor law benefits workers and their unions. Indeed, without a fully functioning NLRB, the Board would not be able to enforce an employer’s legal obligation to bargain with its employees’ union, nor would it be able to stop an employer from firing pro-union workers or from spying on union gatherings. Workers could effectively lose most of the benefits of belonging to a union (unionization raises workers’ wages by about 12 percent, according to one study) and many of them could simply decide that they were better off quitting the union while the NLRB refuses to allow the union to do its job.

The post Senate Republican Leaders Introduce Bill That Would Permanently Hobble Federal Labor Law appeared first on ThinkProgress.

Categories: SCCDP Allies

Denying Couple Mortgage Because Woman Was On Maternity Leave Costs Bank $35,000

14 hours 58 min ago

CREDIT: Shutterstock

FirstBank Mortgage Partners will pay a couple $35,000 to settle allegations that it denied them a mortgage because the woman was on maternity leave, even though she planned to go back to work.

The couple had their mortgage application approved and had scheduled the closing for their new home, where they planned to move with their newborn twins. But when FirstBank found out that the mother was on maternity leave, it reversed course, denying them the loan. The mother and twins ended up having to move in with her parents while the father and their three-year-old moved to an apartment.

This allegation would violate the Fair Housing Act, which prohibits unequal treatment based on gender or familial status. But it wouldn’t be the first of its kind. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has launched 15 investigations into this kind of discrimination against women on maternity leave this year — the department says there is a “steady flow of complaints” — and it has investigated 173 allegations since 2010. A number of banks, including Bank of America and PNC Mortgage, have already settled.

For example, HUD announced this summer that Greenlight Financial Services will pay $20,000 to Stefanie and Jonathan Alvanos, who were seeking to refinance their home ahead of having their first child and were told the bank couldn’t lend to them because of the upcoming maternity leave. It will also pay $7,000 each to four other couples.

Before that, HUD reached a settlement with Mountain America Credit Union, which it said refused to approve a couple’s application for a mortgage because the wife was on maternity leave, telling them they could reapply “only when the wife returned to work and received a paycheck.” The bank’s underwriting manual says that if an applicant “is not currently receiving income…their regular full-time pay may not be used to qualify — even if they plan on returning to work at some future specified time.”

“In many instances, we find lenders just stop dead at the word ‘pregnancy’ or ‘maternity leave,’” Bryan Greene, HUD’s general deputy assistant secretary for fair housing and equal opportunity, told the Washington Post. “And in many instances, women are planning to go back to work, but lenders don’t make those inquires. They go on the assumptions that women won’t return to work.” The banks have denied wrongdoing in the settlements but say they act out of concern that there will be a loss of income during maternity leave and women often don’t go back to work.

That’s a false assumption in most cases. Six months after a first birth, nearly 60 percent of women will be back at work. More than 70 percent of mothers with young children are in the workforce and nearly half work full time. The idea that mothers don’t work is founded on a time long past: In 1979, less than 30 percent of mothers worked full time. But since then, the typical mother increased her work hours by 150 percent.

The banks are correct, however, to worry that maternity leave can hurt a family’s income. Out of 185 countries around the world, the United States is one of just three — the other two are Oman and Papua New Guinea — that doesn’t guarantee paid maternity leave. Just 12 percent of workers have access to it through work. While Americans are guaranteed 12 weeks unpaid leave under the right qualifications, taking time off without pay can create serious financial hardship, leading a third to borrow money or dip into savings and 15 percent to enroll in public assistance.

Many will end up going back to work afterward and once again have the steady income the banks are looking for when they lend. But paid maternity leave would make things easier for both the lenders and the borrowers and make it even more likely that women would return to their jobs after the birth of their children.

The post Denying Couple Mortgage Because Woman Was On Maternity Leave Costs Bank $35,000 appeared first on ThinkProgress.

Categories: SCCDP Allies

Pennsylvania High School Suspends Student Editor For Refusing To Print The Word ‘Redskins’

15 hours 5 min ago

The newsroom of the Playwickian, the student newspaper at Neshaminy High School just outside of Philadelphia.

CREDIT: The Bergen County Courier Times

School officials at Neshaminy High School in Pennsylvania have issued suspensions for the student editor and faculty adviser of the student newspaper there after the paper refused to print the word “Redskins,” the racist nickname of the school’s athletic teams.

Gillian McGoldrick, the paper’s student Editor-in-Chief, was suspended from the paper for a month. The paper’s faculty adviser Tara Huber was also suspended without pay for two days by district Superintendent Robert Copeland for failing to stop the students from moving ahead with their ban on the word.

Tensions between the school’s administration and the editors of Playwickian have been building for nearly a year. Twice the editors of the Playwickian announced they would not print the name of the school’s mascot because it is offensive to Native Americans, opting instead to run it as “R——-”, and twice principal Rob McGee threatened to discipline the paper and any editors who refused to print the word. McGee also reportedly confiscated copies of the paper during a meeting with McGoldrick in June, deducted $1,200 from the paper’s account, and attempted to block access to the paper’s social media accounts.

The case got so heated that it has attracted the attention of press freedom advocates at the Student Press Law Center, who stepped in last fall to help defend the editors in case school officials followed through with their threats. Any disciplinary action taken by the public school could leave the district open to legal action for violating students’ free speech, an attorney at the SPLC told Poynter in July.

That was not enough to stop administrators from issuing suspensions this week.

Numerous national news outlets have publicly stated that they would no longer print the offensive term when covering Washington, D.C.’s football team, the most prominent organization that still uses the mascot. And Phil Simms, who will be covering Washington’s nationally-televised Thursday Night Football game last week as the lead football analyst for CBS Sports, has stated that he will not use the word during the broadcast.

The post Pennsylvania High School Suspends Student Editor For Refusing To Print The Word ‘Redskins’ appeared first on ThinkProgress.

Categories: SCCDP Allies

Senator Attacks Shorter Drug Sentences, Flunks Math

Thu, 09/18/2014 - 2:00pm

CREDIT: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

This month, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that reforming federal drug laws to reduce draconian sentences would save $4 billion in just the first ten years. The Department of Justice has projected even greater savings of $7.4 billion.

But Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) didn’t mention any of that when he issued a press release this week citing potential increased costs of the bipartisan Smarter Sentencing Act. “Sentencing Bill Puts Taxpayers On The Hook For Another Billion Dollars,” the headline blares. Grassley cites costs of $1 billion in potential public benefits for inmates who are released — without factoring in the $4 billion-plus savings that will more than cover that cost. “The ‘smarter’ in the bill title clearly doesn’t mean ‘smarter’ budgeting or crime reduction,” Grassley says. His reasoning, essentially, is that we shouldn’t set these individuals free, because they might access health care and food stamps, and then cost the government some money.

But it’s Grassley who isn’t doing the math. The CBO breaks it down like this. The Smarter Sentencing Act will save $4 billion in prison costs, largely by facilitating shorter drug sentences and reducing a federal prison population that has grown 780 percent since 1980. The CBO notes that much of that savings comes from the health and food costs the government is alreading bearing for every single person in prison. When inmates are released early, they will also cost the government some money if they access health care programs and food stamps. This could cost the government $1 billion. In other words, the government is already paying food and health care costs for inmates. If those inmates are released, the government would reap significant savings, but some of them might still access some health care and food services that cost the government money, but a lot less money, and generate net savings of more than $2.5 billion in just the first ten years.

The press release has only one vague line that addresses this cost disparity: “Grassley said the bill’s high price tag comes on the entitlement side which is far more dangerous than the dollars that proponents say may be saved on the appropriations ledger.” It doesn’t explain why “entitlements” are more “dangerous.”

The aim of the Smarter Sentencing Act is to reform War-on-Drug era laws that bind judges to sentences that start at 5 or 10 years and ratchet up quickly from there. Many federal judges have lamented that the sentencing scheme treats low-level offenders like kingpins, and gives judges no discretion to adjust sentences depending on the circumstance. And these analyses don’t even factor in the societal and moral costs of keeping tens of thousands of drug offenders behind bars even when it does not improve public safety.

Nor do they factor in that assisting recently released inmates with basic public needs is correlated with a reduced chance of their return to prison, and increase the likelihood that they develop stable lives and employment outside of prison. In fact, one of the stated goals of the Smarter Sentencing Act is to use the monetary savings to “help reduce overcrowding in the Federal Bureau of Prisons, increase investment in law enforcement and crime prevention, and reduce recidivism.”

Even Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) recently endorsed the Smarter Sentencing Act as a poverty solution, noting in his 2014 poverty plan that, “There are also economic and social consequences to unreasonably long sentences. Not only do they put undue burdens on families, but they may actually make people more likely to return to crime.”

Ryan is only the most recent Republican in Congress to endorse reform of mandatory minimum laws. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) co-sponsored the Senate’s Smarter Sentencing Act bill with Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), and Rep. Paul Labrador (R-ID) co-sponsored the House bill with Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA). Other pairs of bipartisan lawmakers, including Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) have sponsored other similar sentencing reform bills. Also supporting sentencing reform is the prominent conservative corporate-backed American Legislative Exchange Council, which for years advocated mandatory minimum sentences and three-strikes laws. On the law enforcement front, judges, prosecutors, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, and even the world’s largest correctional association have come out in support of sentencing reform. Standing with Grassley is a small contingent of law enforcement organizations.

The post Senator Attacks Shorter Drug Sentences, Flunks Math appeared first on ThinkProgress.

Categories: SCCDP Allies

The Gender Wage Gap Is A Chasm For Women Of Color, In One Chart

Thu, 09/18/2014 - 1:57pm

CREDIT: Shutterstock

On Tuesday, the Census Bureau released new figures showing that the average woman who works full time, year round makes just 78 percent of of what a man makes. It’s a slight increase from 77 percent the year before but not statistically significant, and the gap has stayed about the same for a decade.

But the wage gap varies significantly by race, according to an analysis from the research organization AAUW. While white women experienced that 78 percent figure, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander women made 65 percent of what white men made in 2013, African-American women made 64 percent, American Indian and Alaska Native women made 59 percent, and Hispanic women made just 54 percent. Asian-American women are the only group doing better than white women, making 90 percent of white men’s earnings.

CREDIT: ThinkProgress/ Dylan Petrohilos

While the overall gap closed ever so slightly last year, that wasn’t true for all women. It widened for American Indian and Native Alaskan women, going from 60 percent to 59 percent, and for Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander women, similarly widening by a cent. While African-American women’s gap didn’t change between 2012 and 2013, it’s grown since 2011, when they made 69 percent of white men’s earnings.

Women of color get hit by the factors that suppress both women’s and all people of color’s wages. The average woman will earn less than a man at every educational level and in virtually every job. And while some of the gap can be explained by factors like women leaving the workforce to care for children, a portion remains unexplained — likely at least in part due to discrimination.

Meanwhile, black and Hispanic households in general make less than white ones: white households made $58,270 in 2013 at the median, while Hispanic ones made $40,963 and black ones made $34,598. Black workers, for example, have experienced a decade of consistently high unemployment and black job applicants are half as likely to get callbacks or job offers than white ones. And getting more education won’t catch them up.

The post The Gender Wage Gap Is A Chasm For Women Of Color, In One Chart appeared first on ThinkProgress.

Categories: SCCDP Allies

Watch A Liberian Doctor’s Emotional Plea To The World

Thu, 09/18/2014 - 1:40pm

Jackson Niema, a Liberian working with Doctors Without Borders, addresses the U.N. Security Council on the Ebola crisis via teleconference

CREDIT: Screenshot/C-SPAN

The United Nations Security Council met on Thursday in the body’s first emergency meeting on a public health crisis, discussing the fast spreading Ebola epidemic in West Africa. During the meeting, the Council heard from one worker on the ground who warned them that if “the international community does not stand up, we will be wiped out.”

Jackson Niema, who works for the international aid organization Medicine Sans Frontiers (MSF), was invited to speak before the Council via video conference from Liberia, where the disease’s spread is among the most rampant. “With every day that passes, the epidemic spreads, destroys more lives,” he said, illustrating just how close to home the disease has hit for many Liberians. “Soon after the disease came here in Monrovia, from then on people are dying. My niece and colleague, both nurses, became infected at work. While they were treated, they died in mid-July. So many of my friends, university classmates, police, have died in recent months. Since I have a medical background, I felt I have the responsibility to help my country.”

Niema, who is a team leader at MSF’s treatment center in Morovia, told the Council of his work in triage, examining patients prior to admission. “With patients confirmed to carry Ebola, because there is no cure, we provide supportive care to our patients in the form of food, hydration and basic treatment of symptoms,” he explained. “If treated early enough, chances of survival are much better.”

But due to the lack of beds and doctors to care for the patients as quickly as the disease is spreading, the tide is against MSF and other medical professionals operating in the region. Already, the World Health Organization said on Thursday, the disease has claimed 2,630 lives since the outbreak began, and infected at least 5,357 more. “I cannot stand aside to watch my people die,” Niema said. “But I, along with with my colleagues, cannot fight Ebola alone.”

“We need you, you international community, help us,” he continued. “We are trying to treat as many as we can, but there are not nearly enough treatment centers and beds. We have to turn people away and they are dying at our front gate. Right now, as I speak, there are patients sitting at our front gate, literally begging for life.” He told of a young boy at the front gate, with blood clearly at his mouth, but was turned away for lack of space. Niema lamented that that boy would likely take a cab and go on to possibly spread the virus even further.

“We need more care centers, so that everyone can find a bed and not have to stay home and infect other people,” Niema concluded. “The future of our country is hanging in balance. My wife works at JFK hospital in Monrovia. We are educating our children. They are serving as an example to their peers. We ask you to be an example for your peers. As nations, the resources, assets, and skills required to stop this catastrophe, we do not have the capacity to respond to the crisis on our own. If the international community does not stand up, we will be wiped out.”

Watch his plea to the international community here:

In its nearly seventy year history, “only twice before has United Nations Security Council met to discuss the implications of a public health issue, then on the AIDS issue,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon told the body at the start of Thursday’s meeting. “Then, as now, it was timely and clearly warranted.” Ban was one of several high-level U.N. officials to tell the Council of the growing threat that the Ebola crisis has mutated to become. In response, Ban said, the U.N. was launching the U.N. Mission for Emergency Ebola Response (UNMEER) to better allow for coordination of the U.N. and World Health Organization’s resources.

Ban’s special coordinator for the Ebola crisis, David Nabarro, told the Council that the virus was spreading exponentially, doubling over a set time. “Most believe that the doubling speed is about every three weeks,” Nabarro said. “That means that this outbreak has doubled since I was appointed.” The response to Ebola has been increasing, he continued, but the “level of response needs to be twenty times greater than what it is right now.” World Health Organization Director-General Margaret Chan likewise warned that the Ebola outbreak was the “greatest peacetime challenge that the [United Nations] has ever faced.”

Following the statements from Neima and the U.N. officials present, the Council unanimously passed a resolution calling on the world to strengthen its response to the crisis. In all, a total of 131 countries signed on to co-sponsor the draft, the most in U.N. which among other provisions called on states in the region to lift the travel bans that health professionals say are hampering the efforts to treat victims of the virus effectively.

The United States on Tuesday announced that it would be greatly ramping up its own response to the crisis, pledging more than $700 million worth of aid and assistance. President Obama also announced that he was sending more than 3,000 U.S. military personnel to the region to aid in setting up more health centers and facilitate logistical support. “The reality is that this epidemic is going to get worse before it gets better,” Obama said in announcing the initiative. “But right now, the world still has an opportunity to save countless lives. Right now, the world has the responsibility to act — to step up, and to do more. The United States of America intends to do more.”

The post Watch A Liberian Doctor’s Emotional Plea To The World appeared first on ThinkProgress.

Categories: SCCDP Allies

42 Climate Scientists To Rick Scott: Climate Change ‘Is Not A Hypothetical’

Thu, 09/18/2014 - 1:05pm

Florida State University environmental science professor Jeffrey Chanton gives a presentation to Florida Gov. Rick Scott on climate change on Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014 in Tallahassee, Fla.

Last month five climate scientists gave Florida Gov. Rick Scott a crash-course in climate change, a meeting that left some of the scientists wondering how much information Scott had absorbed. Now they are calling on the governor to meet with them again — this time for a summit focused on finding solutions to climate change.

As the Miami Herald reported, the five scientists who met with Scott — along with 37 other Florida-based climate scientists — wrote a letter to Scott and the rest of Florida’s policymakers Thursday, asking them to attend a Climate Science and Solutions Summit that the scientists are planning for the fall.

The letter comes in response to Scott’s statement in July that he was “focused on solutions we can implement to protect our land, water, and families,” a focus that he repeated the day of his August 19 meeting with the climate scientists, telling reporters he was more interested in talking about the solutions to climate change than he was its causes.

“We share Governor Scott’s desire for solutions,” the scientists wrote. “It is crucial for policymakers to understand that human activity is affecting the composition of the atmosphere which will lead to adverse effects on human economies, health and well being. Once policy makers understand this problem, it follows that we are capable of taking action for both adaptation and to prevent the problem from accelerating.”

The scientists say in their letter that the summit would include engineers and entrepreneurs who have been working on finding ways to mitigate and adapt to climate change. Ben Kirtman, professor of atmospheric science at the University of Miami and one of the scientists who met with Scott in August, told ThinkProgress in an email that he didn’t have details on the summit yet, but that the scientists are planning on hosting it regardless of whether the governor decides to attend.

“We stand ready to discuss advances in clean energy options, such as energy efficiency, solar and wind power,” the letter states. “These energy sources offer the best potential for meeting the carbon limits cost effectively and reducing the future impacts of climate change on Florida with the added benefit of creating jobs and keeping energy dollars in the state.”

In their initial meeting last month, the scientists sought to explain the causes and consequences of climate change to Scott. The governor, who’s running for re-election this fall and who has skirted questions on climate change in the past, didn’t seem to take a deep interest in the meeting, the scientists said. Though they were grateful the governor met with them, they said he didn’t ask any questions and took up 10 minutes of the 30-minute meeting making small talk.

“We didn’t have that kind of discussion where there’s this important give and take that’s associated with actually, from my experience, absorbing the information,” Kirtman told ThinkProgress in August. “I don’t honestly believe the governor is climate literate, and I don’t think he is particularly interested in becoming climate literate.”

Kirtman also said that, ideally, he’d like to see the governor set up another meeting with the scientists, a desire he might see come to fruition if Scott accepts the scientist’s invitation to the climate summit.

A few weeks before Scott met with the scientists in August, he unveiled a plan for how he will address environmental issues in Florida if he’s re-elected governor. The plan outlines $1 billion in investments, with a focus on improving the health of Florida’s water, but doesn’t mention climate change. Florida — especially the southern end of the state — is on the front lines of climate change. The landmark National Climate Assessment, released earlier this year, warned that “just inches of sea level rise will impair the capacity of stormwater drainage systems to empty into the ocean” in Southeast Florida.

“The problem of climate change is not a hypothetical,” the scientists said in their letter, adding that it is “crucial for policymakers to have a full access to scientific expertise regarding the current and future threats to Florida.”

The post 42 Climate Scientists To Rick Scott: Climate Change ‘Is Not A Hypothetical’ appeared first on ThinkProgress.

Categories: SCCDP Allies

Latest NFL Scandal Reveals The Disturbing Truth About Domestic Violence

Thu, 09/18/2014 - 12:29pm

Arizona Cardinals running back Jonathan Dwyer (20)

CREDIT: AP Photo/Jim Mone

The controversy swirling around NFL players continues unabated, as more details emerged on Thursday about Arizona Cardinals running back Jonathan Dwyer’s domestic violence allegations. Dwyer was arrested this week on felony and misdemeanor assault charges for incidents that occurred in July. He allegedly broke his wife’s nose and threw her phone out the window when she tried to call the cops.

If nothing else, the prominent cases involving football players are raising awareness about the scope of the issue in this country. As Americans grow increasingly frustrated with the way National Football League officials handle incidents of violence against women, the country has been engaged in a national conversation about intimate partner violence. Here’s what Americans can take away from the police report about the alleged assault that Dwyer perpetrated against his wife:

It’s not unusual for violence to occur after women reject men’s sexual advances.

According to the court documents, the first incident of violence occurred when Dwyer “attempted to kiss [his wife] and remove her clothing” and she repeatedly told him to stop. He didn’t listen to her, and when she bit his lip to try to stop his advances, he headbutted her in face and fractured her nose. This dynamic is all too common. Women who refuse to engage with men romantically often face dangerous consequences for turning them down. Women have been attacked with acid, stabbed, raped, and beaten for resisting men’s sexual propositions. In May, after a mass shooting in Santa Barbara was perpetrated by a young man who wanted to punish the women who weren’t attracted to him, women shared many of those stories of everyday violence under the hashtag #YesAllWomen.

Women who end up in the hospital with fractures are often victims of abuse.

Obviously, intimate partner violence can have a lot of short-term health consequences; it’s the leading cause of injury to women between the ages of 15 and 44. Dwyer’s wife’s injuries reflect the fact that bone fractures are particularly common. One recent study found that, among the women who seek treatment for fractures, one in six is a victim of domestic violence. Victims also tend to suffer from longer-term health problems, like diabetes, depression, and digestive disease. Doctors are encouraged to screen their patients for signs of potential abuse, and perhaps even start screening male patients for signs that they might be an abuser.

Domestic violence victims don’t always report right away.

Dwyer’s wife didn’t report the abuse until weeks after it occurred, which isn’t necessarily unusual. By the time she went back to talk to police, she had taken her son to another state and said she “felt safe.” Leaving an abuser can be an incredibly dangerous time for a victim — separating from their abuser increases their risk of being killed by 75 percent — so it makes sense that it took some time to feel safe. Plus, Dwyer gave his wife plenty of reasons to avoid the cops — according to the police, he told her he would kill himself if she called the police, and even texted her a picture of a knife, saying that “he did not want to live anymore.” So she initially denied the abuse to the police. Women in abusive relationships are often subject to this type of emotional manipulation and frequently prioritize their partner’s safety over their own.

There can be some positive things about an increase in domestic violence reports.

For football fans, it likely feels somewhat overwhelming that so many domestic abuse cases are coming to light. (Dwyer isn’t the first Cardinals player to be charged with assault; linebacker Daryl Washington pleaded guilty in April for assaulting the mother of his child and breaking her collarbone.) But, somewhat counterintuitively, an increase in reports can actually be a good thing because it means that more victims are comfortable coming forward to talk about a under-reported crime. There’s already been some evidence that the widespread coverage of the Ray Rice incident is helping more women speak out; writers and celebrities are sharing their personal stories with domestic abuse, and the National Domestic Violence Hotline saw an 84 percent increase in phone calls in the two days since the video leaked of Rice punching his then-fiancee.

The post Latest NFL Scandal Reveals The Disturbing Truth About Domestic Violence appeared first on ThinkProgress.

Categories: SCCDP Allies

NFL Running Back Allegedly Headbutted Wife After She Refused To Have Sex With Him

Thu, 09/18/2014 - 12:26pm


On Wednesday, Arizona Cardinals running back Jonathan Dwyer was arrested in connection with two alleged domestic violence incidents involving his wife and 17-month old son. It was the 57th time that an NFL player has been arrested on a domestic violence charges since Roger Goodell become the commissioner in 2006.

Today, the details of the allegations against Dwyer emerged and they are especially brutal. The particulars demonstrate why it can be terrifying and life-threatening to report an assault.

The statement of probable cause filed by the police details how the first incident started when Dwyer’s wife refused to have sex with him. According to the report, Dwyer’s wife bit his lip “to get away from him and stop his advances.” Then “he head-butted her in the face, which she later learned had caused a nasal bone fracture as a result of the head butt.”

The police were alerted after a neighbor heard loud arguing. Dwyer then threatened to kill himself if she reported the incident to the police, texting her a picture of a knife. So she initially denied the assault to the police.

The next day, according to the report, Dwyer punched he in the face and threw a shoe at their 17-month-old son. When she tried to call 911, he threw her cell phone from the second floor balcony. She then alerted the police when she felt safe, which was only after she was able to get to another state with her son.

The full report:

Of the 57 players arrested for domestic violence incidents since 2006, 34 have not received any punishment at all.

The NFL’s handling of domestic violence incidents, most notably Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson this season, has come under heavy criticism from a variety of fronts, including corporate sponsors. Major advertisers like Anheuser-Busch, FedEx and Verizon have all released statements critical of the NFL in recent days. In a statement released today, Pepsi’s CEO said “I am a mother, a wife, and a passionate football fan. I am deeply disturbed that the repugnant behavior of a few players and the NFL’s acknowledged mishandling of these issues…”

Thus far, no major sponsors have terminated their relationship with the NFL. Pepsi’s CEO, while slamming the league’s response to incidents, reaffirmed her support for Roger Goodell.

Dwyer has been deactivated by the Cardinals this week. It is unclear what penalty he will ultimately receive from the league.


An analysis by Tara Culp-Ressler on what this disturbing incident can teach Americans about domestic violence

The post NFL Running Back Allegedly Headbutted Wife After She Refused To Have Sex With Him appeared first on ThinkProgress.

Categories: SCCDP Allies