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Updated: 4 hours 42 min ago

Doug Jones makes his final pitch to black voters as Roy Moore remains in hiding

7 hours 54 min ago

BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA — With two days to go until Election Day, Doug Jones visited three black churches in Birmingham on Sunday to make a final pitch to African American voters. Roy Moore, who hasn’t made a public appearance in days, didn’t attend his own church services.

Flanked by Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Rep. Terry Sewell (D-AL), Jones spent the day working to convince black voters in the state’s biggest city that he is the only candidate who will represent voters of color.

In order to pull off a victory in Tuesday’s special election, Jones will need African American voters, who make up roughly a quarter of the state, to represent more than a quarter of the electorate. Meanwhile, Moore has made little effort to convince the state’s black population to vote for him — he recently told a black supporter that America was last great during the era of slavery.

“Look, what do you expect out of a person who hates black people, disrespects women, and thinks we need to be pregnant and in the kitchen?” Sheila Tyson, a Birmingham city councilor, told ThinkProgress Sunday outside Jones’ campaign headquarters. 

Inside the building, Booker called Tuesday’s race “one of the most consequential elections in my lifetime” and invoked Birmingham’s history in the civil rights movement.

“I know this city literally taught the world what it means to stand up for your country’s values and ideals, even though people were trying to knock you down,” he said. “That’s who we are.”

David Russell outside Jones' Birmingham headquarters. CREDIT: Kira Lerner

Montgomery resident David Russell, who identified himself as an active member of the Alabama Democratic Party, said he thinks Jones could have done more to connect with black voters. But he still believes Jones’ outreach will be enough to win on Tuesday.

“I would have done more door knocking,” he said. “Every ten or 15 minutes I see an ad on the television, but when you’re dealing with African Americans, they like to see you. They want to be able to shake your hand and talk to you.”

Congregants of three Birmingham-area churches did get to meet Jones in person on Sunday. At the New Hope Baptist Church, Pastor Gregory Clarke told ThinkProgress that Jones is doing everything he should to turn out black voters. 

“He’s been very visible in the communities, particularly with churches and congregations all across this state,” Clarke said. “It’s up to us, as pastors and civic leaders, to make it happen.”

In Birmingham, Doug Jones is revered for his role in the civil rights movement

Sandra Pratt attended services Sunday and said she was pleased to see Jones stop by to speak about the issues that have taken a back seat in this race, including Medicaid and health care for children. She said she thinks black voters will turn out in high numbers on Tuesday because of the high stakes of the race.

“We don’t want to sit back,” she said. “We want to move forward. And a lot of people are excited. They want to move forward, so they’re going to get out and vote.”

When Pratt was 11 years old, she spent 6 days in jail with her sister for participating in the civil rights marches. She said she has seen how far Alabama has come since then — and she wants to see the progress continue.

“You don’t want your kids to go through what you went through,” she said. “Bottom line, you’ve got to put Doug Jones in there.”

Categories: SCCDP Allies

2017 was a year of female rage

8 hours 3 sec ago

Allie, a biracial teenager who trusts the voice in her head more than any of the voices outside, braces herself as her foster father climbs the stairs to her room. He’s going to rape her. He always does. Except this time it’s different.

“Nothing special has happened today; no one can say she was more provoked than usual. It is only that every day one grows a little, every day something is different, so that in the heaping up of days suddenly a thing that was impossible has become possible. This is how a girl becomes a grown woman. Step by step until it is done.”

Allie gathers this strength within herself. The strength is literal, biblical: It is an electric jolt she can shoot out through her fingertips. She puts her hands on the man who has his hands around her neck, and she kills him.

This is the premise of Naomi Alderman’s The Power, a deliriously good work of speculative fiction that imagines a world where young girls develop the power to generate electricity that flies from their palms. The power comes in around the age of fifteen. Girls can pass it on to older women. But not to boys.

A girl can release a charge that’s only enough to shock: as a game, or a kink, if you’re into that sort of thing. Or she can fire off enough to kill. (It’s like the gorgeous climax of SZA’s “Supermodel” video, taken to its illogical extreme.) Now it is men who have to be cautious around girls, temper and second-guess and restrain themselves around girls; men who are wary of walking alone in the dark, of taking that late-night meeting with the boss, of going home with someone to have sex.

It’s just one change, but it changes everything.

And while it would be a fantastic read in any context, it is an especially exhilarating one in 2017: A year of women getting to be finally, publicly, gloriously angry, and transforming that anger into a source of staggering power.

Trump’s election ignited something in women across the country, something which only grew with the downfall of each high-profile serial sexual predator whose name was emblazoned across 2016’s front pages: Bill Cosby, Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly. The biggest water-cooler moment of that year was the release of the Access Hollywood tape wherein Trump bragged about how he liked to “grab ’em by the pussy.” That he won the election anyway was a suckerpunch to sexual abuse survivors everywhere, not to mention the 16 women who say they were sexually assaulted or harassed by him. (It is worth noting here that 53 percent of white female voters cast their ballots for this man.)

To say the year that followed was a good one for women would be, well, an overstatement. (A year in which the go-to uniform of protest was a robe from The Handmaid’s Tale is not, generally speaking, a banner stretch for the female sex.) But it was a good year for women’s anger, for that righteous emotion — long pathologized and minimized by men, suppressed and apologized for by women — to be taken seriously, almost daily.

On our screens and streets, in courts of law and public opinion, no feeling was more intense than the collective anger of women. So it is fitting that our pop culture reflected that rage and reveled in it. 2017 was filled with stories about women letting their fury fly.

Turn on your TV in 2017 and you’d see women taking care of abusive men the old-fashioned way: Homicide.

Start with HBO’s Big Little Lies. Perry (Alexander Skarsgård) is the abusive husband of Celeste (Nicole Kidman) and, unbeknownst even to her, the rapist of Jane (Shailene Woodley). In the miniseries’ finale, the women of this idyllic-on-the-surface community realize, all at once, exactly what Perry has done and what he is. In a scuffle that pits five women against this one sad man, it is the woman who seemed least likely to be moved to violence — Zen, yogi Bonnie (Zoë Kravitz) — who pushes Perry down a set of stairs to his death.

"Big Little Lies." CREDIT: HBO

Change the channel to BBC America, and you could see this summer’s series finale of Orphan Black, in which Sarah Manning (Tatiana Maslany) stood over an old white man and bashed his face in.

He was this season’s embodiment of the patriarchal forces that sought to control, define, and oppress her and her genetic identicals (they don’t love to use the word “clones”) she’s come to call her sisters. All of these women, played by Maslany, struggled against the violent interference and panoptic surveillance of male villains of every variety: Religious zealots who claimed their choices were merely the will of God; pseudo-scientific megalomaniacs who made lab rats of grown women; corporate crazies out for a profit and, while they’re at it, immortality.

‘Orphan Black’ co-creator on series finale: ‘We did not have to twist our narrative to stand in defiance.’

Sarah killed this man as he tried to murder her, securing some of the freedom and autonomy she and her sisters have been fighting for all this time. “We survived you,” she said, standing over his dead body. “This is evolution.”

The prescient and prolific Margaret Atwood isn’t only responsible for The Handmaid’s Tale on Hulu, whose imprisoned heroine June/Offred (Elisabeth Moss) seethes so palpably that memes of her and her fellow prisoners fill social media whenever there’s a legislative attack on women’s health care and reproductive rights. Atwood’s also the one to thank for Netflix’s Alias Grace, a miniseries based on her 1996 novel about a young woman serving a life sentence for her part in a double homicide. She and a male servant allegedly offed the man of the house and his housekeeper-slash-mistress. Her partner-in-crime got the death penalty. Grace claims to have no memory of the murders.

‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ designer loves seeing her costumes at protests

Grace (Sarah Gadon), we learn as the series unfolds, spent most of her young life being threatened, controlled, and abused by men. Her life as an Irish immigrant, both in her native land and her adopted home of Canada, is one indignity piled on top of another and another and another. She is never not fending off the unwanted advances of men. Over the six, hour-long episodes, Grace meets maybe three men who don’t rape her, or try to, or allude to their plans to do so at the soonest opportunity. It’s like a sick version of that game everyone plays as a kid where the ground is lava: One wrong step and you’re a goner. It is easy to believe that someone so methodically tormented could commit an explosive act of carnage.

"Alias Grace." CREDIT: Netflix

And even though the series, based on Atwood’s novel, is in turn based on a real murder case; even though vigilante justice is not the most morally or ethically advisable tactic; there is something so viciously appealing about watching Grace tell her hypnotic, gruesome tale. About watching her get away with it.

But it wasn’t just doom-and-gloom prestige dramas where women’s rage was all the rage. On late night, no man could match Samantha Bee’s pissed-off pitch. Her Full Frontal kicked off its second year in February, about a month after those not-quite-record crowds swarmed the National Mall for Trump’s inauguration and those yes-really-record crowds pulsed through Washington and around the world for the Women’s March. She was always an impassioned performer, the only late night host too fired up to sit down at a desk. But the election and its slow-motion-car-wreck of a result seemed to unleash something in her. Her rage, unwieldy and magnificent, erupts out of her each week.

Compare her to the boys. John Oliver’s tone is dumbstruck and appalled. Stephen Colbert’s is closer to “I’m not mad, just disappointed” with the occasional foray into real outrage. Jimmy Fallon is still at the kid’s table, though at least he’s not inviting Trump to sit with him anymore. Jimmy Kimmel is the frat guy who arrived awfully late to the We’re Woke Now party but no one’s mad because better to show up than not, and also he brought beer and that half of the neighborhood that never comes to anything.

But if you want to see some pure, unadulterated white-hot anger — if you believe such anger is the only appropriate response to reality’s rage-induction machine — Sam Bee is the woman for the job. (Also, the only woman in late night. Still! Not that we’re angry about that.)

On The CW’s musical comedy Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, one of the most consistently intelligent and entertaining shows on television, unstable-woman-scorned Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom) is furious that men seem to always betray, abandon, and hurt her. So she leads her pack of girlfriends in an ’80s-style anthem about not bothering to distinguish between men because, whatever, they’re all trash:

Right now we’re angry and sad / It’s our right to get righteously mad / at every member of the opposite sex / oh God, we HATE themLet’s generalize about men! / Let’s take one bad thing about one man / and apply it to all of them.

This joyous generalization is what some hand-wringers over Fall 2017’s Great Purge Of Sexual Harassers, Abusers, And Assorted Rapists fear most: That all these not-Harvey-Weinsteins are getting lumped together with the actually-Harvey-Weinsteins. By the time this Kondo-ing of leadership positions is through — farewell forever, men who really don’t spark joy! — who will be left? (The answer is women, plus the men who don’t harass or assault women.) The Shitty Media Men list, a samizdat spreadsheet passed among women in journalism to warn against male creeps of every variety, exemplified this fear. Isn’t something like this dangerous? As it turns out, yes: If you’re a man who abuses women.

The best single Taylor Swift released this year wasn’t any of the songs off her new, mostly-meh Reputation. It was her testimony in her sexual assault trial against former radio DJ David Mueller, who groped her during a photo op in 2013. Swift reported the assault to Mueller’s bosses and he was summarily fired; two years later, he sued her for the accusations which resulted in his termination, denying all her claims. So she countersued him for assault and battery, demanding a “symbolic $1.” And she won.

At her trial in August, she testified for just under an hour. In language as clear and evocative as any of her best lyrics, she coolly described what Mueller had done to her, dismantling every attempt at victim-blaming, at gaslighting her into doubting her own memory, at brushing off what Mueller did to her.

Taylor Swift wins sexual assault trial

Was she sure it was Mueller? “He had a handful of my ass. I know it was him.” Did he maybe touch her somewhere else? “He did not touch my rib, he did not touch my hand. He grabbed my bare ass.” Is she critical of her bodyguard for not doing more to protect her? “I’m critical of your client sticking his hand under my skirt and grabbing my ass.” Couldn’t she have taken a break during the meet-and-greet if she was so shaken up? “Your client could have taken a normal photo with me.” If Mueller was really grabbing her, why doesn’t her skirt look awry in the photo? “Because my ass is located in the back of my body.” Does she feel bad about how Mueller got fired? “I’m not going to allow you or your client make me feel in any way that this is my fault. Here we are years later, and I’m being blamed for the unfortunate events of his life that are the product of his decisions — not mine.”

In an interview with TIME, Swift described her emotional state the day she took the stand. Her mother had been cross-examined earlier that week and “was physically too ill to come to court the day I was on the stand,” Swift said:

“I was angry. In that moment, I decided to forego any courtroom formalities and just answer the questions the way it happened. This man hadn’t considered any formalities when he assaulted me, and his lawyer didn’t hold back on my mom—why should I be polite?”

Swift’s victory was all the more remarkable compared to the struggles of another embattled pop star: Kesha, who saw her legal efforts to extricate herself from a recording contract with producer Dr. Luke — her alleged rapist — repeatedly fail. Swift’s triumph also came less than two months after the criminal case against Bill Cosby ended in a mistrial. Cosby, who has been accused of sexual misconduct and assault by more women than there are states in the union, will be tried again in March. Most perpetrators of sexual violence never see a day in court. In this as in so many things, Swift was an exception to the rule.

The female rage that had been simmering all year blew up in earnest in October, when investigations into Harvey Weinstein and his decades of sexual violence, intimidation, and coercion were published by The New York Times and The New Yorker. It would probably be faster to list the women (and potted plants) in Hollywood who were not victimized by the once uber-powerful producer than to name the ones who were. And it would be hard to overstate what happened next, by the metric of sheer cultural saturation alone. Editors, showrunners, and publishers ousted. News anchors and actors booted from the shows in which they starred. The surround-sound shouts of #MeToo.

Men finally saw what women had been seeing this whole time: A landmine of monsters mingling among us. As the ladies of Saturday Night Live sang: Welcome to hell!

Anger is the electric grid below all of this. It’s what is fueling thousands of women to run for office, an unprecedented rush to wrest power away from men who so often use that power to abuse and oppress women. It seems all but inevitable that the pop cultural aftershocks we’re already seeing on television will make their way to the movies before long. Hints of this, or at least of a hunger for it, were evident in the colossal box office success of Wonder Woman, a superhero who hails from a paradise where it is literally the law to ban all men and who is told (correctly) by her mother that “the world of men does not deserve you.”

Is all this anger really useful? That’s a popular question, as some men start to fret, pathetically, about the end of office flirtation and whether or not they’ll ever be able to creep out their interns with unwanted hugs ever again. And underneath that question is this insistence that everything has to be productive, in a very specific way, all of the time. Women can’t just seek catharsis; we have to be contributing. It’s all very “late-stage capitalism” meets “classic female martyrdom,” sacrificing the self on the altar of the other. And this was a year in which women said, to paraphrase: Fuck that.

Fury is a female thing. That’s the myth, anyway: The Furies were goddesses of vengeance, womanly spirits of the underworld who popped up to the mortal plane to deliver vigilante justice to — who else? — men. Wicked men. Men who had committed unforgivable crimes and managed to evade earthly punishment. Furies pursued their targets ferociously, tormenting them until they died of madness. You can think of them as terrifying nightmare demons.  Or you can think of them as the patron saints of the unavenged women. And there are so many unavenged women. Though not quite as many as there used to be.

Categories: SCCDP Allies

Here’s what’s at stake for the 21 kids suing the Trump administration over climate change

8 hours 14 sec ago

On Monday, a group of 21 youth plaintiffs currently suing the federal government over climate change will go before a federal court to argue that their case — which legal experts have classified as a groundbreaking piece of climate litigation — should be allowed to proceed to trial.

On the other side of the court will be lawyers for the Trump administration, who will argue that the mere process of preparing for trial — sifting through decades of government documents and communication with fossil fuel companies, among other things — would constitute an overwhelming burden.

Ultimately, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals will decide whether the case can move forward to trial — a decision that could shape the future of climate litigation for years to come.

“The Ninth Circuit faces a simple question with profound consequences: Should people have access to the courts when the federal government threatens their fundamental rights?” Carroll Muffett, president of the Center for International Environmental Law, told ThinkProgress via email. “The Trump Administration argues that the government could actually render the climate incapable of sustaining human life without violating the Constitution. It’s a claim as chilling as it is extraordinary; and it should be rejected.”

Can this group of kids force the government to act on climate change?

The hearing on Monday is hardly the first time the plaintiffs have had to make their case before a judge — but it is potentially the final barrier that must be crossed before the plaintiffs can argue their case in a trial, which would be the first trial to consider whether the government’s actions on climate change actually violate the U.S. Constitution.

“The Juliana case is about much more than children’s rights or even climate change,” James May, a professor at the Widener University School of Law, told ThinkProgress. “It is about the power of the executive to constrain the ability of an independent judiciary to perform its core function of interpreting the constitution.”

The plaintiffs — who range in age from ten to 21 — base their case on a theory known as the public trust doctrine, which holds that the United States government must maintain and protect certain commonly-held resources, like rivers, or seashores, for use by the public.

The plaintiffs in the youth climate case take the doctrine one step further, arguing that the atmosphere, as a commonly-held element, qualifies for protection by the government as part of the public trust. By failing to act to stave off the worst impacts of climate change — and by actually undermining climate action, through things like fossil fuel subsidies — the plaintiffs argue that the government has in essence violated their constitutional right to a protected atmosphere. The plaintiffs also argue that the government, through its actions, has denied them due process under the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution, which holds that the federal government cannot deprive a person of “life, liberty, or property” without “due process of law.”

“What this litigation does is it fast forwards that constitutional principle to the modern urgency of climate crisis,” Mary Woods, a law professor at the University of Oregon who first proposed applying public trust doctrine to the atmosphere, told ThinkProgress in 2015. “It’s a very simple extension of logic. If navigable waters were crucial to the public back then, certainly the air, atmosphere, and climate systems warrant protection as public trust systems as well.”

Kids take to the steps of the Supreme Court to demand climate action

The case was initially scheduled to go to trial on February 5 in Oregon, after U.S. District Court Judge Ann Aiken ruled in November of 2016 that the plaintiffs had sufficiently proven that they were likely to suffer personal damages due to climate change. Initially filed against the Obama administration in August of 2015, the youth plaintiffs named President Donald Trump as a defendant in the case when Trump took office in January.

Since being named as a defendant, the Trump administration has fought all attempts to bring the case to trial, filing an appeal of Aiken’s November decision in March. In June, Aiken denied the administration’s appeal — only for the administration to file another appeal with the Ninth Circuit court in June. That appeal, known as a writ of manadmus, asked the higher court to reconsider Aiken’s decision to allow the case to move to trial, and asks the court to use its supervisory powers to “end this clearly improper attempt to have the judiciary decide important questions of energy and environmental policy to the exclusion of the elected branches of government.”

Following the administration’s appeal, the Ninth Circuit temporarily paused all proceedings in the case until a decision could be reached. The hearing on Monday will take place before a three judge panel comprised of Chief Judge Sidney Thomas, a Clinton-appointee, Circuit Judges Alex Kozinski, a Reagan-appointee, and Marsha Berzon, a Clinton-appointee. The defendants and plaintiffs will each get 20 minutes for arguments, with the administration going first.

“Rather than forthrightly address the issues and defend the case at trial, the government has filed an emergency motion that seeks to circumvent the ordinary processes of adjudication,” Doug Kysar, a professor at Yale Law School who joined a group of legal experts in filing a brief in support of the plaintiffs case, told ThinkProgress. “The real emergency here is what’s happening to the climate — not the government’s claimed emergency that it would be too burdensome to explain to the court why it has chosen to gamble with the planet’s very ability to support life.”

Eric Grant, who was appointed to be a Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the U.S. Department of Justice for the Trump administration in April, will likely argue that, among other things, the pre-trial process involved in the case would include a discovery process that would likely force the government to uncover decade’s worth of information on climate change, from federal science to communications with fossil fuel companies. The federal government has argued that the breadth of discovery required by the case would be overly onerous.

These kids aren’t old enough to vote, but that isn’t stopping them from trying to save the world

But Grant will likely also argue that the plaintiffs lack standing — or the ability to prove that they would suffer sufficient harm from a particular law or, in this case, action — to bring their complaint before a court. In November, Judge Aiken found that the plaintiffs had proved sufficient standing in arguing personal damage from climate change, citing things like ocean acidification or wildfires that threaten food sources and property. But the issue of standing in climate litigation has been controversial, with federal courts often issuing contradictory rulings — some courts have ruled that only states have proper standing in climate litigation, like the case of Massachusetts vs. EPA, which paved the way for the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate greenhouse gases as a pollutant.

And some reports suggest that, if the case proceeds to trial, the Trump administration will attempt to recruit scientists skeptical of the mainstream consensus on climate change in an attempt to undercut certainty around climate science. Ninety-seven percent of publishing climate scientists agree that climate change is both happening and a product of human activity, though a small, vocal minority has found particular quarter within the Trump administration. Trump himself as repeatedly cast doubt on climate science, calling it a “hoax” created by the Chinese, and has appointed climate-deniers to top posts within his administration.

Regardless of what happens on Monday, the youth climate lawsuit is far from the only piece of climate litigation working its way through the U.S. court system. In California, five communities — two counties and three cities — are suing fossil fuel companies for their role in climate-fueled sea level rise, hoping to recoup the costs of climate mitigation projects to protect against flooding and coastal erosion. And in Pennsylvania, two children are suing the Trump administration over its anti-climate, anti-regulatory agenda, arguing that the administration’s actions are based on “junk science” that knowingly increases the “damages, death and destruction” of climate change.

Categories: SCCDP Allies

Fox News revels in injury to U.S. Olympic skiing champion Lindsey Vonn

Sun, 12/10/2017 - 10:18am

Lindsey Vonn, the most successful American ski racer in history, suffered a back injury while competing at the World Cup in Switzerland, threatening her participation in the Olympic games next year.

Fox News could barely contain its glee.

In an article posted without a byline, the network quickly connected Vonn’s injury to her criticism of President Trump days earlier. The clear implication is that, as a result of her comments, Vonn deserved to get hurt.

This was not the case of an overzealous headline writer. The first two paragraphs of the article also make the connection.

American skiing star Lindsey Vonn has withdrawn from her Sunday events at the World Cup in Switzerland after suffering a back injury during a super-G race on Saturday.

The injury occurred two days after she criticized President Donald Trump in an interview about the upcoming Winter Olympics in South Korea.

The connection between Vonn’s comments and her injury was also made on air Sunday morning on Fox & Friends.

Vonn commented that when she participates in the Olympics, she views it as representing the United States, not the president. She offered mild criticism of Trump without mentioning him by name.

I hope to represent the people of the United States, not the president. I take the Olympics very seriously and what they mean and what they represent, what walking under our flag means in the opening ceremony. I want to represent our country well. I don’t think that there are a lot of people currently in our government that do that.

Vonn also said that she would not visit the White House if she won an Olympic medal. Trump had previously attacked Steph Curry for refusing to visit the White House after winning the NBA championship.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders criticized Vonn for refusing “to represent America,” which is not actually what Vonn said.

Prior to her injury, Vonn’s comments were harshly criticized on Fox. Ainsley Earhardt, a co-host of Fox & Friends, called her “very un-American.”

Categories: SCCDP Allies

Kate Winslet almost didn’t work with alleged child sex abuser Woody Allen because he’s so ‘quirky’

Sun, 12/10/2017 - 8:03am

Why would an actress be nervous about working with Woody Allen? One would think, not unreasonably, that allegations that he sexually abused his daughter, Dylan Farrow, when she was a child, would be of paramount concern.

But for Kate Winslet, who was early to the denounce-Harvey-Weinstein party — the Oscar-winning actress made a point of saying she “deliberately” left Weinstein out of her acceptance speech — the issue with Allen was his offbeat personality. Winslet overcame these major concerns to star in Allen’s Wonder Wheel, which premiered in November.

Director Woody Allen, center, poses with actors Kate Winslet, left, and Juno Temple at a special screening of "Wonder Wheel", hosted by Amazon Studios, at the Museum of Modern Art on Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017, in New York. CREDIT: Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

In her conversation with Gary Oldman for Variety‘s “Actors on Actors” series, Winslet said her apprehension stemmed not from Allen’s alleged history of sexually abusing his daughter when she was a child but from what Variety described as his “reputation for having a quirky, demanding personality.”

“Immediately I’m not being myself and I hate myself and I’m thanking God that I’m not auditioning because I definitely would not have gotten the job,” she said.

Winslet was hesitant to spend time away from her family, she said, but her daughter encouraged her to “get over [her]self” and take the role.

Speaking of spending time with your daughter: Dylan recently wrote an op-ed in the L.A. Times, asking “why the #MeToo revolution [has] spared Woody Allen?

Allen denies my allegations. But this is not a “he said, child said” situation. Allen’s pattern of inappropriate behavior — putting his thumb in my mouth, climbing into bed with me in his underwear, constant grooming and touching — was witnessed by friends and family members. At the time of the alleged assault, he was in therapy for his conduct towards me. Three eyewitnesses substantiated my account, including a babysitter who saw Allen with his head buried in my lap after he had taken off my underwear. Allen refused to take a polygraph administered by the Connecticut state police.

In the final legal disposition of the matter, a judge denied him custody of me, writing that “measures must be taken to protect” me and that there was “no credible evidence” that my mother, Mia Farrow, coached me in any way. A prosecutor took the unusual step of announcing that he had probable cause to charge Allen but declined in order to spare me, a “child victim,” from an exhausting trial.

It is a testament to Allen’s public relations team and his lawyers that few know these simple facts. It also speaks to the forces that have historically protected men like Allen: the money and power deployed to make the simple complicated, to massage the story.

The events Dylan describes occurred over 20 years ago. But amid a widespread reckoning of sexually abusive men in power, particularly in the entertainment industry, the Allen allegations are back in the headlines.

Ronan Farrow, Dylan’s brother, believes the allegations are true, and has cited his family’s experience as a factor driving his aggressive investigative reporting in the New Yorker on Harvey Weinstein’s history of sexual abuse and coercion. And Allen was the inspiration, in more ways than one, for Louis C.K.’s dead-on-arrival movie, I Love You, Daddy, in which C.K. played a TV producer whose underage daughter had an intimate relationship with a 68-year-old film director. The day the movie was supposed to premiere, the New York Times published an investigation verifying long-rumored allegations about C.K.’s sexual misconduct. C.K. admitted that all the allegations in the story were true.

When the Weinstein investigations broke in early October, Allen told the BBC that it was important everybody keep a cool head here: “You also don’t want it to lead to a witch hunt atmosphere, a Salem atmosphere, where every guy in an office who winks at a woman is suddenly having to call a lawyer to defend himself. That’s not right either.” He described “the whole Harvey Weinstein thing” as “very sad for everybody involved. Tragic for the poor women that were involved, sad for Harvey that his life is so messed up.”

He later backpedaled in a statement to Variety: “When I said I felt sad for Harvey Weinstein I thought it was clear the meaning was because he is a sad, sick man. I was surprised it was treated differently. Lest there be any ambiguity, this statement clarifies my intention and feelings.”


Categories: SCCDP Allies

Senior Alabama GOP Senator urges voters to reject Roy Moore

Sun, 12/10/2017 - 6:37am

Alabama’s senior senator, Republican Richard Shelby, went on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday to urge his constituents to join him in voting against GOP Senate nominee Roy Moore in Tuesday’s special election for the state’s other seat.

“I didn’t vote for Roy Moore. But I wrote in a distinguished Republican name. And I think a lot of people could that,” Shelby told host Jake Tapper.

Shelby explained that he could not vote for his party’s nominee due to the wide array of credible accusations against Moore of child sexual assault and other sexual misconduct.

“There’s a time, we call it a tipping point, and I think so many accusations, so many cuts, so many drip, drip, drip, when it got to the 14-year-old story,  that was enough for me. I said, I can’t vote for Roy Moore.”

Shelby cited his former colleague, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, in believing the women who have come forward with accusations and evidence:

“I think the women are believable. I have no reason not to believe them. just like the Attorney General Sessions said. He had no reason not to believe the women. They were credible. But I wasn’t there. I don’t know what happened. But there are a lot of stories there, a lot of smoke. Gotta to be some fire somewhere.”

While Shelby said he thinks “the Republican Party can do better,” President Trump offered a full-throated endorsement of Moore on Saturday and has reportedly recorded a robocall urging Alabamans to back the party’s nominee.

Categories: SCCDP Allies

Is Trump going to fire Mueller? 6 disturbing signs.

Sat, 12/09/2017 - 7:19pm

No one really knows what Donald Trump will do next — not even Donald Trump. But with Robert Mueller racking up indictments and 2017 drawing to a close, there are several indications that Trump is considering sacking the special counsel.

Firing Mueller would not be easy. Under current regulations, only Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller, could fire him. Even Rosenstein could only fire him “for misconduct, dereliction of duty, incapacity, conflict of interest, or for other good cause, including violation of Departmental policies.”

But a determined president could probably find a way to get rid of Mueller. He could fire Rosenstein, repeal the regulations that only allow Mueller to be fired for cause, or both.

In one sense, firing a special counsel that has already secured two guilty pleas from Trump campaign advisers and serious charges against two others is unthinkable. But there are numerous signs that Trump is at least considering it.

Trump invited two congressmen who are working to end the Mueller investigation for a ride on Air Force One

When Trump staged a pseudo-campaign rally for Roy Moore in the Florida panhandle on Friday, he invited two special guest alongs for the ride: Congressmen Matt Gaetz and Ron DeSantis.

Gaetz represents the district where Trump scheduled his speech. But Gaetz has also “introduced a resolution [November 3rd] calling for the resignation of Robert Mueller, former Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, from his position as Special Counsel.” In a speech introducing the resolution, Gaetz said that America is “at risk of a coup” and Mueller must resign or be fired.

DeSantis, who represents a different area of Florida, introduced legislation in August that would severely curtail Mueller’s investigation and then completely cut off funding, essentially ending the probe, after six months.

Trump is escalating his rhetoric

At his Florida rally, Trump also escalated his rhetoric about America’s “rigged” system. Although he did not name Mueller, it was hard to miss the subtext.

“This is a rigged system. This is a sick system from the inside. And, you know, there is no country like our country but we have a lot of sickness in some of our institutions,” Trump said.

“Look, it’s being proven we have a rigged system,” Trump added. “Doesn’t happen so easy. But this system, there will be a lot of changes.”

Trump has used the term “rigged system” to describe Mueller’s investigation.

So General Flynn lies to the FBI and his life is destroyed, while Crooked Hillary Clinton, on that now famous FBI holiday “interrogation” with no swearing in and no recording, lies many times…and nothing happens to her? Rigged system, or just a double standard?

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 3, 2017

Notably, Trump is repeating his claim that the system is “rigged” but also is adding that it is “sick.” Under this formulation, firing Mueller could be the “cure.”

Trump allies are savaging Mueller

When Mueller was first appointed, Newt Gingrich, now a professional pro-Trump pundit, praised him effusively.

Robert Mueller is superb choice to be special counsel. His reputation is impeccable for honesty and integrity. Media should now calm down

— Newt Gingrich (@newtgingrich) May 18, 2017

Now Gingrich is harshly critical of Mueller, describing him on Fox News last Wednesday as “corrupt.” Mirroring Trump’s language, Gingrich described the “system” investigating Trump as “sick.”

Sean Hannity, another key Trump ally, has sharply escalated his anti-Mueller rhetoric. CNN’s Brian Stelter summarized a recent episode.

Hannity began the hour by slamming “Robert Mueller’s partisan, extremely biased, hyper-partisan attack team,” calling the accomplished lawyers “an utter disgrace.”

He invoked the U.S. Constitution and said “they now pose a direct threat to you, the American people, and our American republic.” Repeating something he has said dozens of times before, Hannity said, “this entire witch-hunt needs to be shut down — and shut down immediately.”

Then Hannity brought in news anchor turned “legal analyst” Gregg Jarrett, who appears on the program almost every night to savage Mueller and company.

“I think we now know that the Mueller investigation is illegitimate and corrupt,” Jarrett said.

Mueller crossed Trump’s “red line”

Trump told the New York Times in July that if Mueller began investigating his finances, that would cross a “red line.”

SCHMIDT: Last thing, if Mueller was looking at your finances and your family finances, unrelated to Russia — is that a red line?

HABERMAN: Would that be a breach of what his actual charge is?

TRUMP: I would say yeah. I would say yes.

This week the Wall Street Journal reported that Deutsche Bank was subpoenaed by Mueller for records “concerning people or entities affiliated with President Donald Trump.”

The Mueller investigation is getting very close to Trump’s son-in-law

Former Trump adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and is now cooperating with the Mueller investigation. Flynn was under scrutiny for his efforts to undermine U.S. foreign policy relating to Russia and other countries before Trump took office.

His partner in that effort was Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Multiple news outlets are reporting that Kushner was directing some of Flynn’s activity.

It’s widely speculated that Mueller would not agree to strike a deal with Flynn unless he was offering damaging information on someone higher up the food chain. Jared Kushner would likely qualify.

It’s one thing if Paul Manafort or George Papadopoulos go to jail. It’s now possible that Trump views ending the Mueller investigation as the only avenue that could save his family.

Roy Moore is teaching Trump the wrong lesson about Congress

Ultimately, the real check on Trump is not Rod Rosenstein or Department of Justice regulations but Congress, which has the power to impeach and remove Trump from office. The question is whether removing Mueller crosses a line for Republicans in Congress.

For many Republicans in Congress, the allegations of child sex abuse against Roy Moore crossed the line. Mitch McConnell and many others called on Moore to end his candidacy for U.S. Senate.

But after Trump threw his support behind Moore, McConnell and others backed down. Trump is essentially learning that he can bend Congress to his will. This makes firing Mueller a much more palatable option for Trump.

Categories: SCCDP Allies

Forgetting his efforts to limit voter access, Trump lauds voting rights heroes

Sat, 12/09/2017 - 1:05pm

On Saturday, President Donald Trump offered brief remarks at the opening ceremony in Jackson, Mississippi for the state’s new Civil Rights Museum.

The event was saddled with controversy that the organizers did not anticipate nor desire, as the president, distrusted by many black leaders, prompted prominent civil rights figures to boycott the opening ceremonies.

Trump avoided making any obviously atonal or offensive statements during his speech, but it was discordant to hear him laud the kind of pioneering voting rights activism featured in the museum, given both his administration and political party’s record on access to voting rights. The speech also took place against the backdrop of his “both sides” equivocation on violence by white supremacists in Charlottesville, penchant for picking fights with people of color, and choice to use terms like “animals” when referring to an attacker who is a migrant or person of color.

Trump read from what appeared to be a prepared speech at a podium in an event space in the museum.

“The civil rights museum records the oppression and injustice inflicted on the African-American community, the fight to end slavery, to break down Jim Crow, to end segregation, to gain the right to vote, to achieve the sacred birthrights of equality here,” Trump said in the speech. There was some applause, and Trump looked up from his podium, appearing to comment on what he had just read.

“That is big stuff, that is big stuff — very big phrases, very big words,” he said, assumedly referring to the thematic breadth of ideals like equality, since “equality” is not a relatively long word. “Here we memorialize great men and women who struggled to sacrifice and sacrifice so much so that others might live in freedom.”

It was my great honor to celebrate the opening of two extraordinary museums-the Mississippi State History Museum & the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum. We pay solemn tribute to our heroes of the past & dedicate ourselves to building a future of freedom, equality, justice & peace.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 9, 2017

This was the clip that Trump’s Twitter account chose to share with followers.

Shortly afterward, Trump relayed a brief summary of Medgar Evers’ life and work to register people to vote.

“Mr. Evers became a civil rights leader in his community,” Trump continued. “He helped fellow African-Americans registered to vote, organize boycotts and investigated grave injustices against very innocent people.”

This language is very different from the way that Trump talks about this era’s civil rights demonstrations. He has spent weeks assailing — with bad language — black players who protest politely and peacefully during the national anthem played before sports games. He also appeared to condone actual physical violence against Black Lives Matter protesters at his rallies during the 2016 campaign, remarking once that he’d “like to punch him in the face.”

But more than rhetoric, Trump’s administration has taken steps to make it even harder for people to vote than it already is.

The Trump Justice Department has reversed course and now advocates for a defense of Texas’ voter ID law, which is one of the strictest in the country. It also flipped its position on a legal fight over how easy it is for states to purge voters from the rolls. The mastermind behind Trump’s panel examining the extent of (almost non-existent) voter fraud secretly tried to make it easier for states to require proof of citizenship for voter registration.

During the 2016 campaign, Trump made clear he supported restrictive voter registration and ID laws and railed against what he said was an epidemic of illegal voting. And Trump’s Republican party was wildly successful at suppressing voters in key states last year, something that likely contributed to his narrow Electoral College victory.

The special U.S. Senate election next week is happening in a state which has made it harder and harder to vote in predominantly African-American and Latino communities.

Is your ID valid? The U.S. Senate special election in Alabama is Tuesday, Dec. 12!#alsen #alpolitics

— (@aldotcom) December 9, 2017

Last year, the state was well behind its own goals for how many it wanted to issue, and activists are concerned about how this will affect turnout in special elections like the one next week in Alabama.

Categories: SCCDP Allies

As Trump assaults American democracy, Obama warns it could collapse, follow path of Nazi Germany

Sat, 12/09/2017 - 10:55am

During a rally in Pensacola, Florida on Friday night, President Donald Trump responded to chants from the crowd to “lock her up” by railing against the “rigged system” in the United States.

“Look, it’s being proven we have a rigged system,” Trump said. “Doesn’t happen so easy. But this system, there will be a lot of changes.”

“This is a sick system from the inside,” Trump continued. “And there’s no country like our country, but we have a lot of sickness in some of our institutions.”

“Lock her up” chants refer to Trump’s opponent in the 2016 presidential election, Democratic candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Trump has long called for Clinton to be investigated for a litany of alleged actions, such as using a private server for State Department email. Numerous investigations by the FBI have shown no wrongdoings on the part of Clinton or her campaign. The Trump campaign, however, has produced four individuals that have been charged with crimes this year — and two who have pleaded guilty and are cooperating with the special counsel.

This is how Republicans will try to distract you from Trump’s campaign manager being indicted

The Trump administration has repeatedly tried to shift focus from the wave of indictments against both low-level and high-level campaign officials by blaming the Clinton campaign for similar acts, like lying to the FBI. Trump called the news that former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn had pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI “very unfair” and suggested that “Hillary Clinton lied many times to the FBI.” Trump also tweeted about the “rigged system” in response to Flynn’s indictment.

So General Flynn lies to the FBI and his life is destroyed, while Crooked Hillary Clinton, on that now famous FBI holiday “interrogation” with no swearing in and no recording, lies many times…and nothing happens to her? Rigged system, or just a double standard?

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 3, 2017

Former FBI Director James Comey told the House Oversight Committee last summer that he had “no basis to conclude she lied to the FBI.”

Trump’s comment on Friday night prompted criticism from Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ), who warned that the comments could sow distrust in democratic institutions.

This is not a sick system, Mr. President, nor is it a rigged system. Let's not sow distrust in our democratic institutions.

— Jeff Flake (@JeffFlake) December 9, 2017

Trump’s comments also came a few days after former President Barack Obama warned in a speech that without protecting democracy, the United States could easily fall into the same trap that helped the Nazis rise to power in the 1930s in Germany.

“You have to tend to this garden of democracy, otherwise things can fall apart fairly quickly. And we’ve seen societies where that happens,” Obama said on Tuesday.

An October poll from the Washington Post found that under Trump, American faith in democracy has eroded, with the share of Americans who are not proud of how democracy works in this country double what it was three years ago.

Categories: SCCDP Allies

Trump political surrogate calls John Lewis ‘irrelevant,’ cheers Trump civil rights museum speech

Sat, 12/09/2017 - 10:08am

On Fox & Friends Saturday morning, former Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke denigrated Congressman John Lewis (D-GA), a civil rights icon, as “irrelevant” and “reduced to a caricature” in response to Lewis’ decision not to attend the opening of Mississippi’s civil rights museum.

Lewis announced he would not attend the opening because, as he said in a joint statement with Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), “[President Donald] Trump’s attendance and his hurtful policies are an insult to the people portrayed in this civil rights museum.”

When Clarke was asked about this on Fox News, he replied, “John who?” After a pause, co-host Eboni Williams explained that Lewis was “bloodied on the Selma bridge” and has served in Congress.

Clarke replied that “John Lewis has become one of the most irrelevant members of Congress,” claiming that Lewis’ record is actually bad because his congressional district, which includes most of Atlanta, has high unemployment and poverty rates. This claim was also made earlier this year by Donald Trump. Politifact has found it to be “exaggerated” and “mostly false.”

White House criticizes John Lewis for not honoring civil rights leaders

Yet Clarke didn’t stop there. He said “nobody cares what John Lewis is doing” and said “he’s been reduced to being a caricature in that he has to pull a political stunt like this, he can’t even honor the civil rights museum opening.” To Clarke, Lewis’ boycott of the museum opening is a ploy to get news coverage, and Trump’s decision to appear at the opening is a reflection of how well he is doing among African-Americans.

“So I think the event will be better off without those people there,” Clarke said. Then Williams pushed back on Clarke’s claim that no one cares what John Lewis is doing. Clarke claimed that young black high school and college students would not know who Lewis is.

“I’m talking about today, what he did was a political stunt,” Clarke continued. “I think it’s a slap in the face.” Clarke started to argue that Republicans deserve credit on civil rights because Lyndon Johnson worked with Republican members of Congress in the 1960s to pass civil rights legislation. Williams shot back that she holds a degree in history and doesn’t need Clarke to give her a lesson on the subject.

Lewis is a respected leader on Capitol Hill, leading a sit-in protest on the House floor last year and arguing this year that health care is a right, not a privilege.

When then-president-elect Trump initially criticized Lewis earlier this year, on Martin Luther King Jr. weekend, Lewis’ biography became so coveted that Amazon sold out of copies and required a month-long wait list. That same weekend, then-vice-president-elect Mike Pence also argued that Trump would be better for black people than Lewis, as did Gov Paul LePage (R-ME), who argued that Lewis should either say “thank you” to white politicians or be quiet.

On Friday night, the day before attending the museum opening, Trump held a rally in Pensacola, Florida where he urged people to vote for Roy Moore, who earlier this year said he thought America was last “great” when slavery was legal. In response to a question in Florence, Alabama from one of the only members of the audience who was African American, he said: “I think it was great at the time when families were united — even though we had slavery — they cared for one another…. Our families were strong, our country had a direction.”

Clarke became spokesman and senior advisor to the main Trump super PAC, America First Action, in September after resigning as sheriff of Milwaukee County. He had been expected to join the Trump administration earlier this year, but told the Department of Homeland Security that he “he had rescinded his acceptance of the agency’s offer to join DHS as an assistant secretary.”

Categories: SCCDP Allies

Uranium firm lobbied Trump administration to scale back Bears Ears National Monument

Sat, 12/09/2017 - 8:32am

A uranium company lobbied the Trump administration to shrink the size of Bears Ears National Monument in Utah months before President Trump announced that he would be reducing the monument by more than 1 million acres, according to documents obtained by the Washington Post.

The campaign — along with the administration’s eventual decision to drastically shrink the borders of Bears Ears National Monument — adds to a pattern of deference to industry at the expense of public lands and the environment.

On Tuesday, Trump announced that he would be reducing the size of two national monuments — Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante, both located in Utah — after a Department of Interior review that looked at all national monuments designated after 1996. The stated purpose of the review was to decide whether the Antiquities Act, which gives presidents the power to create national monuments, had been improperly used over the recommendations of local communities.

“Our precious natural treasures must be protected, and they, from now on, will be protected,” Trump said on Tuesday during a speech outside of the Utah State Capitol. “Under my administration we will advance that protection through a truly representative process, one that listens to the local communities that know the land the best and cherishes [sic] the land the most.”

Trump decimates two national monuments in ‘historic action’

Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke has repeatedly denied that the administration’s decision was influenced by energy opportunities, telling reporters on Tuesday that “this is not about energy” and repeatedly pointing out that there are “no measurable oil and gas opportunities in Bears Ears.” In an op-ed published in CNN defending the decision to shrink the monuments, Zinke said that it signaled a new kind of public lands management that “[listens] to the voices of the people, not Washington, D.C., special interests.”

According to the documents obtained by the Washington Post, however, Energy Fuels Resources (USA) Inc., a subsidiary of a Canadian firm that operates the nation’s last uranium mill just outside of the monument, argued that reducing the monument would allow them to access deposits of uranium located within the monuments’ original boundaries which could “provide valuable energy and mineral resources in the future.”

When President Obama designated the area as a national monument in December of 2016, he chose to leave much of the area’s uranium deposits outside of the official boundaries of the monument. That allowed the uranium mill to continue operations, though the company argued that it would make operations more difficult since they would be prohibited from building things like roads throughout the monument. In June, Utah lawmakers wrote to Secretary Zinke and argued that the national monument could hinder the mill’s business and “permanently” eliminate the state’s uranium mining industry.

Native Americans to fight back against Trump’s attack on national monuments in Utah

The Trump administration’s decision to shrink the national monuments is already facing a number of legal challenges, from indigenous communities as well as environmental and conservation groups. Bears Ears has the highest concentrations of cultural and archaeological sites in the nation, and indigenous communities worked for years to have the area designated as a national monument, largely in order to protect the artifacts from industry.

Bears Ears would not be the first protected place to be opened for uranium mining under the Trump administration. At the beginning of November, the Department of Agriculture recommended lifting a 20-year ban on mining for uranium within the watershed of the Grand Canyon. The report was issued as part of Trump’s “energy independence” executive order issued in March, which also directed the repeal of the Clean Power Plan and lifted the moratorium on coal leasing on federal lands.

Categories: SCCDP Allies

Former Fox News anchor accuses Donald Trump of trying to kiss her after lunch meeting

Sat, 12/09/2017 - 6:24am

A former Fox News anchor named Julia Huddy said on Friday that just over ten years ago, Donald Trump kissed her on the lips in an elevator after they had a lunch meeting at Trump Tower. Later, he told a group of people that he had tried hitting on her unsuccessfully.

“He went to say goodbye and he, rather than kiss me on the cheek, he leaned in on the lips,” Huddy said in a guest appearance on the New York City radio show “Mornin’ with Bill Schulz” on Friday.

Huddy said at the time she was shocked and surprised Trump “went for the lips” but was not offended by it, and that Trump’s “security guy” was there. After the lunch meeting, he invited Huddy and a friend of hers back up to Trump Tower for a tour of the Apprentice studio.

Huddy was hosting and guest-hosting morning shows like Fox & Friends at the time, and she said the meeting was in part about her doing something with the Apprentice. She did not say if there were any follow-up meetings about a gig on the Apprentice, nor are there any obvious public records of Huddy appearing on the show.

Huddy said on Friday’s radio show that a few years later, Trump appeared on a morning show she had hosted and told audience members that one time “I tried hitting on her but she blew me off.”

The White House denied Huddy’s account, according to the New York Daily News.

14 reasons why Trump’s tweets on Al Franken cannot be ignored

Later Friday evening, a Twitter account identifying itself as Huddy (and matching the account listed for Huddy on the radio show clip from the morning) spoke out about the story as written by the New York Post, validating its accuracy but denying that she was threatened or offended at the time.

Re: @PageSix story: Yes, it's true. And though I'm offended by his comments on 'other matters' – as I said on @77WABCradio & @BillSchulz's show yesterday – I was neither threatened nor offended in elevator. End of story. Now, plz let me get back to @TheCrownNetflix.

— Juliet Huddy (@JulietHuddyTV) December 9, 2017

The account also called on media “covering someone else’s scoop” to “[get] the facts right.”

She never explicitly stated the date of the incident but given the timelines of when Trump began hosting the Apprentice and when Huddy was hosting at Fox News, it would have been between 2004 and 2006. Trump married Melania Knauss in January 2005.

Here are four important things to know about this new account.

It fits the pattern of other accusations

The account detailed by Huddy matches fairly closely to the pattern of behavior described by the 14 women who have also accused Trump of sexual assault and harassment. Last month, ThinkProgress listed each woman’s story:

Ninni Laaksonen, former Miss Finland, says “Trump stood right next to me and suddenly he squeezed my butt” in July 2006. Jessica Drake says Trump grabbed and kissed her without consent, then offered her $10,000 for sex in 2006.  Karena Virginia says she was groped by Trump at the U.S. Open in 1998. Cathy Heller says Trump grabbed her and attempted to kiss her at Mar-a-Lago in 1997. Summer Zervos, an Apprentice contestant, says Trump kissed her, grabbed her breasts and began “thrusting his genitals” in 2007.  Kristin Anderson says Trump reached under her skirt and grabbed her vagina through her underwear in the early 1990s. Jessica Leeds says Trump lifted up the armrest, grabbed her breasts and reached his hand up her skirt in the early 1980s. Rachel Crooks says she was sexually assaulted by Trump in an elevator in Trump Tower in 2005. Mindy McGillivray says Trump groped her while she was attending a concert at Mar-a-lago in 2003. Natasha Stoynoff says Trump pushed her against a wall and jammed his tongue down her throat at Mar-a-lago in 2005. Jennifer Murphy, another Apprentice contestant, says Trump kissed her on the lips after a job interview in 2005.  Cassandra Searles says Trump grabbed her ass and invited her to his hotel room in 2013. Temple Taggart McDowell, Former Miss Utah, says Trump kissed her directly on the lips the first time she met him in 1997. Jill Harth says Trump repeatedly sexually harassed her and groped her underneath a table in 1993.

Trump called the women liars and said he would sue them after the 2016 election, but has yet to do so.

At least seven of the 14 accounts involve Trump abruptly or repeatedly kissing women on the lips without their consent or invitation. One of the accounts, from Rachel Crooks, happened on an elevator in Trump Tower, according to the New York Times. Crooks introduced herself to him, they shook hands, and Trump allegedly began kissing her cheeks and finally her mouth.

“It was so inappropriate,” Crooks told the Times. “I was so upset that he thought I was so insignificant that he could do that.”

Trump has bragged about kissing women without consent

Trump’s most famous comment from the September 2005 Access Hollywood tape was immediately preceded by what sounds like a description of what happened to Huddy in the elevator. Trump told Billy Bush on the tape, referring to an approaching actress named Arianna Zucker:

TRUMP: I better use some Tic Tacs just in case I start kissing her. You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.

BUSH: Whatever you want.

TRUMP: Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.

Soon after the tape was released, Trump admitted it was him talking, apologized, and also dismissed the comments as “locker room banter.” In the following year, Trump repeatedly began to cast doubt as to whether the voice on the tape was really his.

Trump defends Republicans and attacks Democrats accused of sexual misconduct

Last month, after the first accusations of sexual harassment and misconduct against Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) became public, Trump took to Twitter to attack him.

The Al Frankenstien picture is really bad, speaks a thousand words. Where do his hands go in pictures 2, 3, 4, 5 & 6 while she sleeps? …..

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 17, 2017

.And to think that just last week he was lecturing anyone who would listen about sexual harassment and respect for women. Lesley Stahl tape?

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 17, 2017

And of course Trump has famously defended the Republican U.S. nominee in Alabama, alleged child sex abuser Roy Moore, saying that Moore denies the allegations multiple women have made against him.

Bill O’Reilly also allegedly made advances on Huddy

This is unfortunately not the only instance of sexual harassment against Huddy by a powerful public figure. She accused former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly of sexual harassment earlier this year, and settled with Fox with a nondisclosure agreement strong enough to keep details out of the public eye. According to the New York Times, she rebuffed sexual advances from O’Reilly and in response, he tried to derail her career. She appeared on Megyn Kelly’s morning show to talk about the broader problem of sexual harassment at Fox News in October of this year.

Juliet Huddy’s brother, John Huddy, was fired by Fox News the same day she appeared on Kelly’s show to talk about sexual harassment the network. John Huddy said that “it was more than just a coincidence” that his sister spoke out against the network the same day Fox fired him.

Categories: SCCDP Allies

Trent Franks used his wife’s infertility to justify his sudden resignation

Fri, 12/08/2017 - 2:52pm

Arizona Rep. Trent Franks (R) announced Friday he would resign from office effectively immediately, rather than waiting until January 31, 2018, as he had announced on Thursday. Franks resignation comes on the heels of a House Ethics Committee investigation that found he had asked two of his female staffers to be a surrogate for his child.

Subsequent reports from the Associated Press and Politico on Friday revealed that one of the women was offered upwards of $5 million dollars to act as his surrogate; one of the aides also claimed that the congressman had even suggested intercourse to impregnate her, an accusation which Franks has denied.

In Thursday night’s statement, however, Franks remained vague, leaning on his wife’s infertility to justify his sudden departure instead.

“My wife and I have long struggled with infertility,” he wrote. “We experienced three miscarriages. We pursued adoption on more than one occasion only to have the adoptive mothers in each case change their mind prior to giving birth. A wonderful and loving lady, to whom we will be forever grateful, acted as a gestational surrogate for our twins and was able to carry them successfully to live birth. The process by which they were conceived was a pro-life approach that did not discard or throw away any embryos. My son and daughter are unspeakable gifts of God that have brought us our greatest earthly happiness in the 37 years we have been married.”

He added, “I am deeply convinced I would be unable to complete a fair House Ethics investigation before distorted and sensationalized versions of this story would put me, my family, my staff, and my noble colleagues in the House of Representatives through hyperbolized public excoriation. Rather than allow a sensationalized trial by media damage those things I love most, this morning I notified House leadership that I will be leaving Congress […].”

Full statement from @RepTrentFranks on leaving congress after Ethics Committee launched an investigation into asking two female staffers about becoming surrogates for his children.

— Kyle Cheney (@kyledcheney) December 7, 2017

BREAKING: @RepTrentFranks fast tracks his resignation for today

— Kyle Cheney (@kyledcheney) December 8, 2017

In a second statement released Friday, Franks cited his wife’s admittance to the hospital for an “ongoing ailment” as the reason for his immediate resignation.

“Last night my wife was admitted to the hospital in Washington, D.C. due to an ongoing ailment,” he wrote. “After discussing options with my family, we came to the conclusion that the best thing for our family now would be for me to tender my previous resignation effective today, December 8th, 2017.”

Minutes later, the AP and Politico published their stories.

Trent Franks resigns amid ethics investigation

Rather than letting the House Ethics Committee investigation run its course or offering a more detailed explanation for his departure and apologizing, Franks appeared to have used his wife’s “ailment” and previous infertility issues — both highly personal and unrelated to the accusations against him — to duck out of Congress before the details of his alleged inappropriate behavior could be made public.

It’s possible Franks thought that summoning up those things might spare him from humiliation or further media inquiry, but it comes at the expense of his wife, whose private struggles were put on display in her husband’s vague resignation statement. Franks had no reason to mention his wife’s three miscarriages, he didn’t have to detail her admittance to a hospital for an ongoing illness, yet he did — seemingly in a last-ditch effort to absolve himself of any guilt.

Franks has so far denied the allegations detailed in Politico’s report, stating on Friday that he had “absolutely never physically intimidated, coerced, or had, or attempted to have, any sexual contact with any member of my congressional staff.”

According to Politico, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) had a part in hastening Franks’ departure this week. Two weeks ago, Ryan was informed of inappropriate behavior on the part of Franks directed at a former staffer. In a statement, the speaker’s office clarified that Ryan’s staff had initially reached out to the former staffer and was able to verify the information in an interview last week. The staffer shared her story as well as the story of another staffer, which was verified by a third party. After Ryan was briefed on the matter, he filed a complaint with the Ethics Committee and asked Franks to resign.

A spokesperson for Ryan’s office declined to comment further on the speaker’s request that Franks’ resign ahead of the Ethics Committee’s full investigation, although the statement released on Thursday noted that Ryan had “found the allegations to be serious and requiring action.”

Rep. Franks office did not immediately respond to a request for comment for this article.

Categories: SCCDP Allies

Schools often fail to provide quality education on dating violence — and students pay the price

Fri, 12/08/2017 - 11:50am

Dating violence in high school is all too prevalent and has lasting consequences. But schools aren’t doing enough to address the problem.

Research has shown that 17 out of 20 high school girls are physically hurt and four out of 20 are sexually coerced when dating. These experiences affect young people’s health throughout their lives, as victims of dating violence are at a higher risk of victimization during college and are more likely to experience symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Yet, schools often fail to develop clear policies on addressing dating violence and there is a great deal of variability in how schools teach students about healthy relationships and what constitutes abuse. A recent study in the peer-reviewed journal Violence and Gender found that only 35 percent of public school principals who participated in the study addressed dating abuse in violence prevention policies. Most of the principals couldn’t answer four out of nine questions on a teen dating violence knowledge scale. A majority of principals said they did not have training on addressing the issue and that teachers and staff lacked recent training.

Advocates for comprehensive sex education say schools should teach students, who are often inexperienced in relationships, what healthy relationships should look like. According to the CDC’s most recent data on schools’ approach to teaching students about relationships and abuse, 66.4 percent to 98.6 percent of schools across states addressed violence prevention that includes bullying and dating violence. Approximately 18 percent to 95 percent of schools taught students about how to create and sustain healthy relationships. The median across states was 92.6 percent and 73.5 percent, respectively.

Nicole Cushman, executive director of Answer, an organization that provides and promotes comprehensive sexuality education, said it is unclear from available national data what the quality of these programs are.

“What that data doesn’t tell us is the quality of those conversations and the overall message that is being given,” Cushman said. “That’s why we go back to what we hear from young people, and they tell us that their concerns aren’t really being addressed — that sex ed feels scary, mechanical, or biological, and it’s really narrowly focused on disease prevention and often very fear-based. So if educators are intending to give messages about healthy relationships, it doesn’t appear that they are getting them across.”

Cushman said comprehensive sex education is key to teaching students about dating violence and preventing dating violence. Comprehensive sex education provides age-appropriate and accurate information that goes beyond the standard heterosexual and cisgender lens on how to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections by also addressing gender, relationships, consent, and issues affecting LGBTQ students. And it does all of this in a developmentally appropriate manner.

“Sex education needs to start in kindergarten in age-appropriate and developmentally appropriate ways,” Cushman said. “We’re not talking about sex in relationships in kindergarten and early elementary school … Young people should be able to identify healthy ways for friends to express feelings toward each other, so we start out talking about friendships and ‘What does it mean to be a good friend?’ and how to show positive feelings in a friendship. That same lesson can be applied as they get older to talking about romantic relationships.”

But there has been some resistance from conservatives and local school boards to comprehensive sex education, particularly when it comes to mentioning gender. In the fall of last year, the Charleston County School Board voted to approve a new version of its middle school sex education curriculum and excluded an appendix that discussed how to tell a partner you don’t want to have sex, information about STDs, and qualities of healthy and unhealthy relationships.

In 2016, the Washington Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction released its learning standards for health and physical education, and included gender expression and identity under “sexual health.” It was not required for schools to include gender expression and identity lessons, which began in kindergarten, but conservatives were incensed. California parents said Planned Parenthood was pressuring students into sex by partnering with a school district to teach children about touch and consent in 2014. In 2013, Chicago considered a new K-12 curricula on sexual health that would include age-appropriate education on recognizing when people did not want to be touched, but conservatives bemoaned it as “sex ed for kindergarteners.”

Overall, however, Cushman is optimistic that schools are interested in teaching students more about what healthy relationships look like, not so much because of the #MeToo movement, but because middle school and high schools have been paying attention to conversations on preventing campus rape.

Cushman said the real barrier for educators is often a lack of time to include all of the content they would like in a sex education curriculum because schools are focused on standardized tests and developing reading and math skills. But she said she hopes that educators’ recent focus on social-emotional learning, which teaches social competencies that include decision-making skills, maintaining positive relationships, and managing emotions, will address issues around teaching kids about healthy relationships.

“Schools are devoting more time and energy to curricula that encourage empathy and compassion, and that’s what we’re really talking about here. There are a lot of tie-ins across sex education and social-emotional learning,” Cushman said.

Cushman said that researchers know what is not working, and that less progressive ideas about gender and relationships have been shown to be detrimental to teenagers’ safety.

“We know that people who adhere to more traditional ideas about gender roles and traditional ideas about masculinity and femininity have more negative outcomes, both on things like perpetrated intimate partner violence, but also on greater risk for STDs and unintended pregnancy,” Cushman said. “Those things are amenable to change so those programs can actually help shift young people’s attitudes toward more equitable ideas about gender and power in relationships.” 

It’s also important for sex education programs to focus on what may seem like small age gaps in relationships to students, parents, and other adults, since that age gap can be easily exploited in an abusive relationship, Cushman said.

“What we’ve seen for a long time is that the biggest risk to high school students is when they’re in relationships where there is a large age disparity, meaning more than two years between them and their partner,” she said, adding that even two years can be sizable power imbalance.

“Developmentally, there is a really big difference between a 16-year old and an 18-year old or a 14 -year old and 16-year old, and as people get older, they have access to more freedom and mobility, whether that’s having a car or a job that gives them income. Those things can be used to assert control over a partner,” Cushman said.

“That is something to raise as red flag for parents, educators, and other supportive adults, to talk to young people about why it’s not appropriate and what the concerns are for them to get involved in a relationship with older individuals.”

Categories: SCCDP Allies

Venezuela’s economic crisis deepens as U.S. sticks with sanctions that hit ordinary people hardest

Fri, 12/08/2017 - 11:29am

Venezuela’s downward spiral — economically and politically — is hitting a critical low point. Low oil prices and currency controls have lead to a major shortage of basic food supplies, as well as medicines; the country’s pharmaceutical association estimates there is an 85 percent shortage of drugs there now.

So far, the U.S. response to the turmoil, which the administrations of presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump accused of subverting democracy, has been a mix of sanctions and vague military threats. But none of these has derailed Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro from trying to rewrite the country’s constitution and further consolidate power in a year that has seen him violently quash protests and lock up opponents and activists.

We call for the full restoration of democracy and political freedoms in Venezuela, and we want it to happen very, very soon!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 19, 2017

The U.S. embassy in Venezuela is among those that has remained without an ambassador under President Trump, although a new chargé d’affaires is about to be appointed, but that does not mean the State Department has not been active on this front. According to McClatchy’s reporting, it has been involved in on-the-down-low funding of The Atlantic Council — a D.C. think tank — to “train opposition.” Spokespeople for the think tank denied being part of any political negotiation, telling the news agency that its role is to “address the fractures within the opposition.”

ThinkProgress attended one the think tank’s panels on the Venezuelan crisis in July, which largely focused on why the U.S. government ought not to sanction the country’s oil exports, as doing so would only deepen the crisis within the population, which is seeing high rates of troubling indicators, such as infant mortality.

A mural of U.S. Trump depicting him wearing a Nazi swastika covers a wall along a sidewalk in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017, along with the Spanish message: “We are those of peace.” CREDIT: Ariana Cubillos/ AP Photo.

So the question remains: Other than issuing sanctions that so far have only hurt ordinary people and failed to bring about change, what can the Trump administration do to turn things around in Venezuela?

Dany Bahar, the David M. Rubenstein Fellow in the Global Economy and Development program at the Brookings Institution, told ThinkProgress that while it is hard to find a way to help the people of Venezuela, the United States still has an option when it comes to helping Venezuela renegotiate its debt — some $60 billion in bonds.

The current constitution requires any sovereign debt issuance to go through the national assembly, meaning that international debters who might want to renegotiate the debt can go through the national assembly, currently in the hands of the embattled opposition.

“The sanctions that the U.S. has imposed are basically banning any American organization from negotiating with the government. So, if the government is willing to negotiate — which is  a big if — this is the only point of leverage. The U.S. could really pressure the Venezuelan government, saying ‘Look, we are willing to work on the sanctions with you if you’re willing to go through the national assembly, but on the condition that you re-do the electoral council, to commit to elections,’ to all these things,” said Bahar.

This, he admits, is highly unlikely.

As it stands, Bahar said there are three likely outcomes, with them hinging on the opposition and the government to manage to negotiate an agreement on next year’s presidential election. A “good outcome” said Bahar, is that negotiations are reached and that next year’s elections will be fair. If talks fall apart and the elections still take place with Maduro winning in a “highly unfair” poll, that would be a “bad outcome.”

“With that, I see things getting worse and worse … I see a scenario in which Venezuela lives with a dictatorship for decades,” said Bahar.

The third possibility, he said, might be a military coup, but at this point, this too is unlikely as the Venezuelan military is so entrenched in the current regime and has more generals than NATO or the United States. Besides, military coups take a long time to plan — previous president Hugo Chavez’s failed 1992 attempted coup took almost a decade to plan.

Faced with a major repayment deadline, Venezuela sways between hunger and economic default

Meanwhile, the situation has caused medical “flea markets” to pop up in the country, reports Reuters, where birth control, antibiotics, blood pressure pills, and anticonvulsants are sold next to produce and other household goods.

Some of the drugs, it seems, are pilfered by employees in local hospitals. Some of the medicines are expired or have been stored in improper conditions, meaning they could be ineffective at best and possibly harmful, and doctors have warned against using them.

But the origins of all of them can’t be determined, especially given that the market there is also flooded with counterfeit goods from China, as Bloomberg reports. Over the past three months, Venezuela’s inflation rate, notes the news agency, is moving at an annual pace of over 4,000 percent.

As ThinkProgress reported earlier, the government has been struggling to make bond payments and trying to stave off going into total default (it has already defaulted on some debts) at the expense of cutting imports of basic goods for a population that is living with less and less as the months roll on in the crisis triggered by the country’s political problems.A

A plan was announcement this week for oil-rich, cash-poor Venezuela to create its own crypto-currency — the “Petro.” The Miami Herald reports might be part of a plan to skirt U.S. sanctions,  which target Maduro, as well as other top officials, who are unlikely to be facing the same struggles as ordinary Venezuelans.

At this point, the United Nations says the conditions in the country have not yet given way to a humanitarian crisis, but that there are issues with “shortages, scarcity, and distribution delays, etc.,” said Alfred De Zayas, an independent expert on International Democratic and Equitable Order at the United Nations.

Zayas, who returned from a visit to Venezuela on Tuesday, told reporters that he is nonetheless concerned: “What is important is to get to know the causes and take measures against contraband, monopolies, hoarding, corruption, manipulation of the currency and the distortions in the economy caused by an economic and financial war which includes [the effects of international] sanctions and pressure.”

Categories: SCCDP Allies

Man with Lou Gehrig’s disease makes emotional plea to Jeff Flake to vote down Trump’s tax plan

Fri, 12/08/2017 - 11:11am

One of Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ)’s last major votes before retirement could be a death sentence for tens of thousands of Americans. One of them is Ady Barkan, a 33-year-old California father living with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), who, during a Thursday night flight from Washington D.C. to Phoenix, Arizona, asked Flake to cast a vote to save his life.

“I was healthy a year ago. I was running on the beach,” Barkan told Flake on the flight, according to video footage of the exchange. “I’m 33, I have an 18-month-old son, and out of nowhere I was diagnosed with ALS, which has a life expectancy of three to four years, no treatment, no cure.”

Due to his ALS, Barkan will probably need the assistance of a ventilator to stay alive long enough to see his son grow up. But the Republican tax bill, which recently passed the Senate, could result in major cuts to disability funding that will be necessary for Barkan to afford the medical assistance he’ll need as the disease progresses.

That’s because the GOP tax bill could potentially result in $150 billion a year in automatic cuts to safety net programs, including Medicare, student loans, farm subsidies, and support services for crime victims. These cuts may be triggered by the congressional “pay-as-you-go” (PAYGO) rule, which requires Congress to offset the cost of any legislation or trigger cuts to federal programs.

If those cuts — including a $25 billion per year cut to Medicaid — go into effect, Barkan says he would not be able to afford a ventilator.

“Mick Mulvaney of the Office of Management and Budget is individually responsible for choosing and implementing those cuts,” Barkan said during his conversation with Flake. “He thinks people on disability are just slackers, so what happens? What should I tell my son or what should you tell my son if you pass this bill and he cuts funding for disability and I can’t get a ventilator?”

Part 1 of the #flakesonaplane saga @AdyBarkan tells his story to @JeffFlake, the swing vote on the #GOPTaxScam.

— Liz – We're doing it (@lizjaff) December 8, 2017

Barkan, who works for the advocacy nonprofit The Center for Popular Democracy, told ThinkProgress in an interview Friday that he was flying back to the west coast after coming to D.C. to protest the tax bill, which has now passed both the Senate and the House. The plan overwhelmingly favors the wealthy and does not deliver on promises to cut taxes for the middle class. The Senate’s version also allows for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and strains funding on public schools.

The chambers now must reconcile their versions of the tax bill and vote it up or down before it will go to the president’s desk. The legislation passed by just two votes in the Senate — and Barkan’s not giving up yet.

“Think about the legacy that you will have for my son and your grandchildren if you take your principles and turn them into votes,” Barkan said on the plane, referencing Flake’s emotional retirement speech in which he decried President Trump and the establishment that has decided to support him.

Grand finale @AdyBarkan tells @JeffFlake this is his chance to be the American hero and #killthebill the #GOPTaxScam and help him live and save millions of Americans. #flakesonaplane

— Liz – We're doing it (@lizjaff) December 8, 2017

“You can save my life. Please,” Barkan told Flake. “Please remember this conversation.”

Flake, who stood near Barkan’s seat to listen to his impassioned speech, responded, “You’ve very up on everything.”

“My life depends on it,” Barkan said, adding, “For the rest of your life, you will be proud if you vote this bill down. You will be proud on your deathbed, I promise you.”

Barkan, who ended up speaking with Flake on the plane for more than 10 minutes, also raised the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and Flake’s relationship with the White House.

On Twitter, Flake said he enjoyed his conversation with Barkan, adding, “We won’t always agree, [but] I admire your courage and knowledgeable advocacy.”

I enjoyed the conversation, Ady. We won’t always agree, by I admire your courage and knowledgeable advocacy.

— Jeff Flake (@JeffFlake) December 8, 2017

At any rate, Barkan isn’t giving up hope. For now, he’s still able to work, but within a year or two, he said, he’s going to have to stop working and will then rely on the Medicare program to keep him alive for as long as possible.

Barkan is hardly the only American whose life very literally hangs in the balance.

In addition to the PAYGO rule, the GOP plan also repeals the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, which the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates could leave an additional 13 million people without health insurance.

Even the most conservative analyses estimate that, for every 1,000 people who loses their insurance, one of them will die. That conservative estimate concludes that 10,000 people will die every year because of the GOP tax plan. (The most liberal estimate assumes that the number is closer to one in 176 people will die due to losing their access to health coverage.)

Flake and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) are considered the swing votes on the bill, and both of the Republicans were convinced only after promises from Senate Leadership and the Trump administration. Before the vote, Flake said he secured a commitment from leadership and the administration on a plan for DACA, which grants 800,000 young immigrants in the U.S. relief from deportation and work authorization and was recently rescinded with a six-month delay.

Collins only voted in favor of the bill after she said she got a promise from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that he would pass two bills that aim to stabilize the Obamacare markets in an effort to offset the effects of repealing the mandate.

But both senators have began to see their promises unravel.

Despite Flake’s claim that he got a “firm commitment,” PBS NewsHour reported shortly before the vote that White House aide Marc Short said the only thing Flake had secured regarding DACA was to be included in the conversation. Additionally, House Speaker Paul Ryan has made it clear he is not bound by the health care promise McConnell made to Collins.

Collins told local media Thursday evening that she was going to wait to see the final bill before she committed her vote.

And in Alabama, a race to fill the Senate seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions could have important implication for the tax plan’s future. Nine women have accused Republican candidate Roy Moore of sexual misconduct, including one woman who was just 14 years old when the alleged incident occurred; Moore was 32.

Polling in the Senate election shows a close race. Most pollsters have Moore up by single digits ahead of Democratic candidate Doug Jones.

But Barkan hopes he can count on Flake. On Friday morning, Barkan told ThinkProgress he felt like the senator agreed with much of what he said and was moved by his plea.

“He seemed moved or… impacted by it, but, you know, I did not find his arguments convincing,” Barkan said. “But I think there’s still time for him to make the right decision.”

Categories: SCCDP Allies

Arizona cop cleared of murder of sobbing, unarmed man

Fri, 12/08/2017 - 9:54am

A former Mesa, Arizona police officer who fatally shot and killed an unarmed father of two was cleared of second degree murder charges on Thursday.

Philip Mitchell Brailsford, 27, was also cleared of criminal liability in the death of Daniel Shaver. It took the Maricopa County jury approximately 12 hours over a span of two days to find Brailsford not guilty.

The tragedy unfolded nearly two years ago in January 2016 when Shaver, 26, was staying at the Mesa La Quinta Inn. Shaver invited two acquaintances up to his room for drinks and proceeded to show off his pellet gun, which he used in his job as a pest control worker. At that point, a couple in the hotel hot tub below reported to staff that they thought they’d seen the silhouette of a man with a rifle in a window. In response, the hotel staff promptly called police.

Harrowing body-cam footage of the shooting shows Brailsford and five other heavily-armed Mesa officers proceeding through the hotel to confront Shaver and one of his acquaintances. As they exit the room, police scream at the pair to get on the ground. “Apparently we have a failure for you to comprehend simple instructions, I gotta go over some of them again,” one officer says. “If you make another mistake there is a very severe possibility that you’re both going to get shot…. I’m not here to be tactful or diplomatic with you. You listen. You obey.”


The officers then proceed to give the two civilians a convoluted series of instructions, including interlocking their fingers on their head and crossing their left and right legs, before asking them to crawl toward the officers. They take the female acquaintance out of the way and attempt to do the same with Shaver, who is sobbing and can be heard saying “please don’t shoot me.” Shaver then moves his right hand downward momentarily, prompting Brailsford to shoot him several times with his AR-15. In his testimony, Brailsford maintained that he reacted correctly and believed “100 percent that [Shaver] was reaching for a gun.”

Brailsford was fired from the Mesa Police Department three months after the shooting for alleged “performance issues”, including having “You’re Fucked” engraved on the dust cover of his AR-15. The judge ruled this evidence as inadmissible.

The president of the Mesa police union, Nate Gafvert, said on Thursday that he was “extremely relieved with the verdict, although not surprised” and added that the union felt charges should never have been filed to begin with.

In contrast, Shaver’s widow, Laney Sweet, simply shook her head as the verdict was announced. She is reportedly planning to file a $35 million lawsuit against the city of Mesa for her husband’s death.

“My girls want their daddy home,” she wrote on a GoFundMe account for legal expenses. “I want their tears to stop and for their sweet little delicate hearts to have never experienced this traumatizing and completely unfair loss.”

Police shot an unarmed man because they thought he was burglarizing his own car

The Shaver case is another grim reminder of how common it is for police officers involved in unarmed shootings to avoid any sort of punishment for their actions. Even officer firings like Brailsford’s are something of a paper tiger: an August investigation by the Washington Post found that, of the 1,881 officers fired for misconduct since 2006, more than 450 were reinstated after union appeals.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. A study compiled by Bowling Green State University, for instance, found that police officers were arrested almost 8,000 times between 2005 and 2012 for misconduct. As there is no reliable centralized federal data on police crime, it is possible that these numbers could balloon further.

Then there’s the fact that police officers are given tremendous flexibility within their departments’ standard operating procedures, which allows them to respond with deadly force based on their own perception of dangers. Naturally, this creates tremendous leeway for police to say, as Brailsford did, that they believed they were under imminent threat and were forced to react the way they did.

“At the end of the day, officers in their badge and uniform enjoy the benefit of the doubt,” Kristen Clarke, executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law told CNN.

Meanwhile, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is looking to roll back tentative steps the Obama administration took towards criminal justice reform within the Justice Department, allowing police departments greater access to militarized kit like the AR-15 used to kill Shaver. That, in turn, translates into greater leeway for local departments to use them as they see fit.

The move has already been celebrated by law enforcement.

“This critical policy change — something I personally spoke to the president about,” Chuck Canterbury, National President of the Fraternal Order of Police, said when the policy was announced in August. “[It] demonstrates how much respect he and his Attorney General have for our members and all the men and women in law enforcement.”

Categories: SCCDP Allies

NYT reporters who broke Weinstein story to write book on sexual abuse

Fri, 12/08/2017 - 8:02am

The two New York Times reporters who broke the Harvey Weinstein sex abuse story will write a book on high-profile cases of sexual harassment and abuse.

Their investigation on Weinstein was published in early October and kicked off months of media coverage around Weinstein’s misconduct: decades of harassment, multiple alleged rapes, a pattern of preying on young women and then using his formidable wealth and influence to threaten, smear, and silence them. This reporting didn’t only lead to Weinstein’s downfall, although it did just that; it kicked off months of reporting in the Times and elsewhere about abusive men in positions of power across a whole fleet of industries: Journalism, food, dance, politics, tech, art, music.

New York Times journalist Megan Twohey, left, actress Ashley Judd, and New York Times journalist Jodi Kantor attend The Women's Media Center 2017 Women's Media Awards at Capitale on Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017, in New York. CREDIT: Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

Kantor and Twohey’s digging so unnerved Weinstein, the two told Marie Claire, that Weinstein sicced his legal team on them. “It was extremely intense,” Twohey said. “They attacked our reporting and attacked us as individuals.” The two have continued to report on the astonishing scope of Weinstein’s misconduct, most recently in a story on “Weinstein’s complicity machine“: the phalanx of “enablers, silencers and spies” he used to cover up his actions, how he could “turn others into instruments or shields for his behavior.”

The book, which does not yet have a publication date, will be released on Penguin Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House. (Penguin and Random House merged in 2013, becoming the biggest publisher in the industry, but missing the opportunity to name the new publishing giant “Random House of Penguins.”)

In a statement, Ann Godoff, president and editor in chief of Penguin Press, said:

“In this moment of attack on their profession, Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey’s investigative reporting on sexual harassment has proven that the discipline, craft and ethics of journalism can truly spark social change Their book will contextualize and enlarge this important conversation.”

Categories: SCCDP Allies

Ryan Zinke orders helicopter to get him to horseback ride with Mike Pence on time

Fri, 12/08/2017 - 7:44am

“Shame on you for not respecting the office of a Member of Congress.”

That’s how the lead spokesperson for the Department of the Interior responded to a Politico reporter investigating her boss, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. Ben Lefebvre, an energy reporter for Politico, wanted to learn more about Zinke’s use of government helicopters to travel to destinations within a reasonable driving distance from Washington.

Lefebvre reported Thursday that Zinke spent more than $14,000 on government helicopters this past summer “to take himself and staff to and from official events near Washington, D.C.”

Based on documents released to Politico in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, Zinke ordered a U.S. Park Police helicopter to take him and his chief of staff to an emergency management exercise in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, on June 21. Zinke also ordered a Park Police helicopter to fly him and another Interior official to and from Yorktown, Virginia, on July 7 in order to be back in Washington in time for a late-afternoon horseback ride with Vice President Mike Pence, according to the report.

"Shame on you" for asking why the Interior secretary needed to take an $8,000 helicopter ride?

— Bob King (@BKingDC) December 8, 2017

The helicopter flight to Shepherdstown — a West Virginia town from which many people commute to Washington on a daily basis — cost $8,000. The trip to Yorktown — a three-hour car ride if traffic isn’t backed up on I-95 — cost about $6,250, according to the documents.

From taking chartered flights for non-business-related matters to allegedly calling Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) to threaten her if she did support the Republicans’ attempt repeal Obamacare, Zinke’s alleged misconduct has already drawn interest from investigators. The Interior Department’s Office of Inspector General, for example, launched an investigation into Zinke’s travel in September after the Interior secretary acknowledged he used non-commercial and non-military aircraft on at least three occasions.

Politico’s investigation revealed that the Interior Department justified the use of the helicopter to travel to Shepherdstown by noting that Zinke wanted to attend the swearing-in ceremony for Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-MT), a politician best known for assaulting a reporter for The Guardian and then lying about the incident to the police. Without the use of the Park Police helicopter, Zinke would not have been able to get to an “emergency management exercise” in Shepherdstown, Politico reported.

Interior Department launches third investigation into Sec. Zinke’s alleged misconduct

Gianforte’s assault of the reporter occurred during his campaign bid to win a June special election for Zinke’s old U.S. House of Representatives seat in Montana. The Republican easily won the election, despite widespread news coverage of Gianforte’s attack on the reporter. Gianforte and Zinke also have financial ties: Gianforte and his wife had contributed $15,800 to Zinke’s two successful congressional campaigns, according to Politico.

It was the question about the helicopter ride to West Virginia after the swearing in of Gianforte with which Swift took umbrage. “The swearing in of the Congressman is absolutely an official event, as is emergency management training,” Swift wrote in an email Thursday to Lefebvre. “Shame on you for not respecting the office of a Member of Congress.”

Swift previously worked for Zinke when he was a congressman from Montana. She has also worked for public affairs firms that represented companies like ExxonMobil and Peabody Energy — a past campaign donor to Zinke, according to The Department of Influence, a project created by the Western Values Project to document the revolving door between special interest lobbyists and political appointees at the Department of the Interior.

Zinke’s use of Park Police helicopters to the two events could result in yet another investigation of the Interior secretary’s travel practices. At a June event, Zinke met with members of Las Vegas’s new professional hockey team, the Vegas Golden Knights. The hockey team is owned by one of Zinke’s wealthiest campaign donors. Instead of taking a commercial flight that left a few hours earlier, Zinke took a private chartered flight to Kalispell, Montana, near his home in Whitefish, Montana, that cost taxpayers $12,375.

Ryan Zinke memo signals Trump’s attack on public lands is just getting started

The Interior secretary’s wife, Lolita “Lola” Zinke, also is entangled in an ethics controversy over her travel habits and possible improper use of taxpayer funds. Government watchdogs are actively questioning whether Lola Zinke, a Republican political operative, is taking advantage of the new platform provided by the Interior Department, at taxpayer expense, to gain access to powerful Republicans who can help raise her profile.

Zinke’s questionable use of taxpayer funds is occurring as he pushes policies that favor the energy industry. According to a new report released Thursday by the Center for Western Priorities, the degree to which the Trump administration has pushed to reverse regulations on the oil, gas, and coal sectors has shocked even the most optimistic in the industry.

Categories: SCCDP Allies

Discredited sting videos haunt Planned Parenthood as DOJ opens investigation

Fri, 12/08/2017 - 7:39am

The Department of Justice is moving to investigate Planned Parenthood’s transfer of fetal tissue, continuing the fall-out from discredited sting videos released two years ago by an anti-abortion group.

On Thursday, the Justice Department reportedly asked Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) for documents relating to a Senate committee’s report on Planned Parenthood’s fetal tissue practices. The documents in question pertain to a Senate Judiciary Committee report from December 2016. The Daily Beast reported that the documents are meant “for investigative use.”

“At this point, the records are intended for investigative use only – we understand that a resolution from the Senate may be required if the department were to use any of the unredacted materials in a formal legal proceeding, such as a grand jury,” wrote Stephen Boyd, the department’s assistant attorney general. The letter does not mention Planned Parenthood by name.

The request seems set to re-open a controversy surrounding the use of fetal tissue, as well as Planned Parenthood more generally. In 2015, the anti-abortion Center for Medical Progress (CMP) released a series of heavily-edited videos claiming to show Planned Parenthood representatives illegally selling fetal tissue for profit, something the reproductive health nonprofit strongly denied. Several investigations in the time since have found no wrongdoing on the part of Planned Parenthood, while CMP’s founder and another member have faced legal consequences.

Arkansas is proof that discredited sting videos have severe consequences

When Grassley released the report a year ago, he called for the Justice Department to further investigate Planned Parenthood, along with any other companies connected to the transfer of fetal tissue. Under a 1993 law, human fetal tissue cannot be bought or sold (with an exemption for costs associated with transfer). The report claimed three companies had broken that law, none of which were Planned Parenthood. Grassley claimed the report provided enough evidence to refer the issue to the FBI.

“I don’t take lightly making a criminal referral but the seeming disregard for the law by these entities has been fueled by decades of utter failure by the Justice Department to enforce it,” the senator said at the time. “And, unless there is a renewed commitment by everyone involved against commercializing the trade in aborted fetal body parts for profit, then the problem is likely to continue.”

Planned Parenthood has said repeatedly that only a small number of its affiliates share fetal tissue with researchers and that money is no longer exchanged (previously a “service fee” was paid). At the time of the initial 2016 report, representatives from Planned Parenthood emphasized that the findings absolved the organization.

“Planned Parenthood’s standards have always gone above and beyond what the law required,” said Planned Parenthood’s vice president of government relations Dana Singiser. “As investigation after investigation has shown, Planned Parenthood has done nothing wrong. Senator Grassley’s report attempts to paint a nefarious picture of the simple re-formatting of a document—showing once again that there is no actual wrongdoing to point to.”

It is unclear what further investigations will reveal about Planned Parenthood’s practices that isn’t already known. The decision is further proof that sting videos hold significant power and sway. While the Judiciary Committee’s finding were not based on the CMP videos, their release prompted the report.

The videos themselves were strongly influenced by conservative activist James O’Keefe, the founder of Project Veritas. That organization has been linked to recent efforts to market a false sexual assault allegation targeting Republican U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore, seemingly in an effort to discredit the numerous allegations made by other women. The videos made by CMP have had a long-lasting impact themselves, inspiring a wave of legislative efforts around the country, in addition to a deadly attack on a Planned Parenthood in Colorado.

Those consequences have stretched into this year. Two weeks ago, Arkansas cut off Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood for a second time, part of an effort inspired by CMP’s footage. That controversy is only likely to continue as the Justice Department moves to investigate the organization. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has indicated his strong opposition for abortion but said he would adhere to federal law guaranteeing the procedure when he assumed his current position.

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