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James Holmes Juror Wears Metallica T-Shirt Depicting Electric Chair

Huffingon Post Politics - Sat, 2015-07-25 14:55


The judge in the Colorado movie massacre trial sent the jury home until Monday after a member of the panel complained early on Friday that she was suffering from a sinus infection, fever and headache and could not concentrate.


"We've all been sick before ... we can all empathize," Arapahoe County District Court Judge Carlos Samour told the juror. Lawyers from both sides agreed to the pause, which Samour said could be extended until Tuesday depending on her condition. "I want her to get better," the judge said.


The panel of nine women and three men are hearing the punishment phase of the trial of gunman James Holmes, 27, who killed 12 people and wounded 70 in a July 2012 rampage at a midnight screening of a Batman film at a Denver area theater.


 



 A juror reportedly wore a shirt like this to the James Holmes trial.


Defense lawyers had been expected to ask the jurors whether they saw any media reports of Thursday night's deadly movie theater shooting in Lafayette, Louisiana.


Almost three years to the day after Holmes went on his rampage in Aurora, a 59-year-old Alabama drifter killed two women with a handgun, then himself, police said.


On Thursday, the jurors found the prosecution had proved aggravating factors which the state argued make Holmes' crimes so heinous he deserves to be put to death.


The trial is now in the mitigation phase, with the gunman's attorneys calling witnesses including former teachers of the defendant, a high school friend, and the head counselor at a summer camp where Holmes worked.


After the jurors were sent home Friday, the defense continued to call witnesses whose testimony was recorded on video. It will be played later in open court.


If the jury decides unanimously that the mitigating factors outweigh the aggravating ones, Holmes will get an automatic life sentence. If not, they will hear victim impact testimony, then ultimately deliberate on whether he should be executed.


Separately on Friday, Samour noted an online report that an alternate juror wore a Metallica T-shirt on Thursday bearing the image of an electric chair and slogan "Ride the Lightning."


After questioning the juror, the judge said he was satisfied the juror was not trying to send a message, and just grabbed any shirt. Samour criticized the reporter.


"This had no meaning at all ... but he made a story out of it because he wanted to show he was the smartest kid in class," Samour said.

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The Lafayette Theater Shooter Was Another Domestic Terrorist

Huffingon Post Politics - Sat, 2015-07-25 13:56
A Fox News host speculated the Lafayette Theater shooter was a member of ISIS at first. The 700 Club said that they were "searching for answers" and merely described the shooter as a "drifter." But Houser was no ordinary drifter. He's simply the latest in a string of lone wolf domestic terrorists like Dylann Roof, the Charleston shooter, with a strong political agenda.

Shortly before I arrived in LaGrange, Georgia, John Russell "Rusty" Houser had a bar on Main Street in town, before he was busted for selling alcohol to minors. After he lost his liquor license, he displayed a swastika on a sign that said "Welcome to LaGrange," according to the LaGrange Daily News.

It was hardly an isolated incident. He actually had a history of political activism, attending public meetings, grilling local officials, and advocating all kinds of hate speech. He expressed admiration for shooters of the Knoxville Unitarian Universalist Church, the Kansas Jewish Community Center, and backed the Westboro Baptist Church.

He took his own life, so we don't know exactly why a political ideologue would shoot several women at a Hollywood theater featuring a sex comedy.

But we do know his wife sought a restraining order against him, fled from him and took his guns, after he threatened his daughter for getting married "too young" (at age 23, to a 26 year old). He refused to pay his female landlord rent for two years, and came back to ruin the house and attempted to mess with the gas line. He booby-trapped the house as well. There's even an arson charge from way back. But like many domestic terrorists, he was able to purchase a gun legally, from a pawn shop in Alabama.

A journalist familiar with Houser from his numerous political appearances said to me that he felt there were a lot of public officials shaking when they remembered his presence at public events, and how he could have easily carried out the shooting in Georgia.

Of course, not all domestic terrorists are like Houser. Some, like the shooter of the Chattanooga military personnel at recruiting stations, gravitate toward other hate groups, like ISIS and al-Qaeda, despite being born with plenty of life's advantages. But the Chattanooga, Charleston and Lafayette shooters often come from good backgrounds, fail to find a steady place in life, seek to channel their hatred towards some group to blame, and get plenty of online encouragement that they never get from the overwhelming majority of society.

Houser was from a political family, and had educational opportunities. But when business ventures failed, brushes with the law became frequent, and he found few in-person allies in his community (in West Georgia, most folks don't agree with his brand of politics), he began his radicalization, the same way Roof did in South Carolina, who both admired white supremacist regimes and illegal drugs. In addition to the so-called "lone wolf" domestic terrorists Houser admired, there's also the Sikh Temple shooter from Wisconsin.

If Roof and Houser changed their names to Middle East sounding names, we'd have no trouble labeling them domestic terrorists. If they were undocumented immigrants, we would have immediate Congressional hearings on changing our border policy. But the threat these lone wolf individuals pose is no different from the one we get from ISIS and al-Qaeda every day.

John A. Tures is a professor of political science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Ga. He can be reached at jtures@lagrange.edu.

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Federal Reserve Accidentally Leaks Secret Documents

Huffingon Post Politics - Fri, 2015-07-24 21:56

By Jason Lange and Howard Schneider


WASHINGTON, July 24 (Reuters) - Staff economists at the Federal Reserve expect a quarter-point U.S. interest rate increase this year, according to forecasts the Fed mistakenly published on its website in a gaffe that drew criticism about its ability to keep secrets.


The rate forecast was included with a series of bearish projections on U.S. economic growth and inflation that were presented to policymakers at their June 16-17 meeting.


The disclosure of the sensitive information is the latest blow to the Fed's reputation for secrecy around policy deliberations.


Later on Friday evening, the Fed said the inadvertently released document was not the correct document. It provided a new table showing slightly lower outlooks for gross domestic product and inflation in 2015, as well as other revisions.


Federal prosecutors are currently probing an alleged leak at the Fed of market-sensitive information to a private financial newsletter in 2012.


"It regrettably appears once again that proper internal controls are not in place to safeguard confidential Federal Reserve information," said Representative Jeb Hensarling of Texas, a Republican who chairs the House Financial Services Committee and is pressing Fed Chair Janet Yellen for documents regarding the 2012 leak.


The Fed said in a statement that the forecasts were "inadvertently" included in a computer file posted to its website on June 29.


Fed officials said the disclosure was due to procedural errors at a staff level and that the mistake was discovered on Tuesday this week. The matter has been referred to the Fed's inspector general.


The forecasts do not represent the views of the central bankers who set interest rate policy. Those policymakers, many based outside of Washington in regional Fed branches, create their own forecasts, the most recent of which were released on June 17.


But Board of Governors' staff views are sensitive and influential enough that the Fed normally releases them about five years after they were made.


ONE HIKE IN 2015


In the projections prepared in June, and in the revised table released on Friday, the staff expected policymakers would raise their benchmark interest rate, known as the Fed funds rate, enough for it to average 0.35 percent in the fourth quarter of 2015.


That implies one quarter-point hike this year, as the Fed funds rate is currently hovering around 0.13 percent.


Analysts at JPMorgan and Barclays said this suggested the staff expected a rate hike before a scheduled Dec. 15-16 policy meeting. The Fed also has policy meetings scheduled for July 28-29, Sept. 16-17, and Oct. 27-28.


All but two of the Fed's 17 policymakers said last month they think rates should rise in 2015. They were divided between whether it would be best to raise rates once or twice this year.


The staff views were less optimistic about the economy than several key policymaker forecasts.


In the revised projections, which stretched from 2015 to 2020, the staff did not expect inflation to ever reach the Fed's 2.0 percent target. By the fourth quarter of 2020, they saw the PCE (personal consumption expenditure) inflation index rising 1.97 percent from a year earlier.


The Fed's staff also took a dimmer view of long-run economic growth, expecting gross domestic product to expand 1.73 percent in the year through the fourth quarter of 2020. The views of Fed policymakers for long-term growth range from 1.8 percent to 2.5 percent.


The Fed goes to great lengths to manage the release of sensitive information. Policymakers and staff avoid making public comments just ahead of policy meetings, and the Fed makes journalists turn in their phones before letting them into a locked room to see a policy statement and prepare news stories just before the interest rate decision is published electronically.


A Department of Justice probe is looking into an analyst note in 2012 that included details on a policy meeting before that information was made public.


"It is baffling that these leaks continue to occur," said Congressman Randy Neugebauer, a Texas Republican who chairs the House subcommittee on financial institutions and consumer credit. (Reporting by Jason Lange and Howard Schneider; Additional reporting by Douwe Miedema; Editing by Clive McKeef and Ken Wills)

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Who Is Esteban Oliverez? New 2016 GOP Presidential Candidate Remains an Unsolved Mystery

Huffingon Post Politics - Fri, 2015-07-24 21:50


Exactly one week ago, the GOP field for the 2016 presidential nomination expanded to 18 -- maybe. In fact, we don't know much about this possible 18th GOP contender beyond his name, a few unconfirmed biographical details, and the several policy positions he outlined in a lengthy but surprisingly focused YouTube video.

So who is "Esteban Oliverez," and what do we really know about him?

According to his press release and website, Oliverez is a "centrist entrepreneur" from Austin. His platform calls for taking the best policy ideas from both the Democratic and Republican parties and avoiding any unnecessary partisanship in Washington.

"I'm running because there are more than two viewpoints in this country, but most of them are never heard," says Oliverez in his introductory video.

There are good ideas on the left and good ideas on the right. There are some awful ideas on both sides. You shouldn't have to take the good with the bad just because we're one of the few countries in the world that believes there are only two ways of doing things.

As of this writing, around 620,000 YouTube users have watched Oliverez's campaign kick-off -- a striking figure, given that not a single media outlet, per Google News, has so much as mentioned the businessman's name since he announced his Quixotic candidacy on July 17th.

While Oliverez's YouTube video acknowledges that "many of you don't know me," in fact the far more surprising fact is that even the Internet seems unfamiliar with the Southern Republican. A Google search for "Esteban Oliverez" returns -- besides the aforementioned press release, YouTube video and campaign website -- only one additional result clearly related to an Esteban Oliverez from Austin: a Facebook page for the candidate with just over 200 supporters. The only other hits for the name are discussions on sites such as Reddit, Bungie, and SpaceBattles about whether Oliverez is a serious candidate and the viability of his centrist positions in such a polarized political atmosphere.

According to one SpaceBattles commenter, "As it stands now, I have a favorable first impression [of] him and I'd like to know more. But I have nothing beyond that." Another wrote, "[He's a] nobody. If the fourth Google result on your name is this SpaceBattles thread, your announcement to run for U.S. President is nothing but a joke. And not a particularly good one." Others took the announcement seriously but questioned the viability of Oliverez's tax proposal (a variation of the so-called "flat tax" conservative Republicans have floated for years) and spending priorities (which include a focus on infrastructure similar to that often favored by veteran Democrats).

So is the purported candidacy of this "Esteban Oliverez" merely a hoax, or is Oliverez another well-heeled GOP businessman with a platform commingling Democratic and Republican ideas? The GOP field already has one of those, and he's currently leading the pack nationally. So can Oliverez turn 620,000 YouTube views (and counting) into national media coverage and a viable presidential campaign? The odds are against it, but only time will tell -- and certainly, stranger things have already happened in the Republican race for the 2016 presidential nomination.

Seth Abramson is an Assistant Professor of English at University of New Hampshire and the Series Co-Editor of Best American Experimental Writing, whose next edition will be published by Wesleyan University Press in late 2015. His most recent book of metamodern verse is Metamericana (BlazeVOX, 2015).

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Planned Parenthood Video To Be Investigated By California

Huffingon Post Politics - Fri, 2015-07-24 21:45

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California Attorney General Kamala Harris says she plans to review undercover videos released by anti-abortion activists aimed at discrediting Planned Parenthood's procedures for providing fetal tissue to researchers to see if any laws were broken.


Harris announced the move Friday in a letter to four members of Congress who had requested an investigation.


The video shows a Planned Parenthood medical director in California meeting with people posing as potential buyers of intact fetal specimens.


Messages left with the Center for Medical Progress, which made the videos, were not immediately returned.


Federal law prohibits the commercial sale of fetal tissue, but it allows not-for-profit donation of tissue if the women who underwent abortions give their consent. Planned Parenthood says the payments discussed in the videos pertain to reimbursement for the costs of procuring the tissue — which is legal.


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New Court Filing Challenges Legality Of Death Penalty

Huffingon Post Politics - Fri, 2015-07-24 21:06

Someone has taken up Justice Stephen Breyer's invitation to challenge the constitutionality of the death penalty.


Breyer suggested in a dissenting opinion last month that the death penalty "very likely violates the Eight Amendment," and called for the U.S. Supreme Court to address "that very basic question." 


The plaintiffs who lost Glossip v. Gross, the case pertaining to Breyer's dissent, on Friday filed a petition for the high court to re-hear their case. 


The plaintiffs, all inmates on Oklahoma's death row, challenged the use of midazolam, the controversial drug used in several botched lethal injections. When the Supreme Court ruled against them, new execution dates were set almost immediately.  


Richard Glossip, the lead plaintiff in the case, is now scheduled to be the first executed, on Sept. 16. 


The plaintiff's attorneys are now arguing in their petition for a more basic reason to eliminate the death penalty: Glossip is innocent. 


"That’s what I wanted them to do them the first time," Glossip told The Huffington Post by phone Friday of his attorney's argument. "We’re fighting. That’s all that matters." 


The petition argues that the plaintiffs "exemplify important reasons why the death penalty is unconstitutional." 
 
Glossip, who has been on death row for 18 years, has always maintained his innocence. Despite having no criminal past and no forensic evidence to condemn him, he was convicted solely on the testimony of a convicted murderer who cut a deal to save himself. 
 
In the case of plaintiffs John Grant and Benjamin Cole, attorneys argue that arbitrariness, delay and dehumanization are other factors that make the death penalty unconstitutional -- all issues Breyer noted in his dissent as well. 
 
Grant, for instance, was represented by an attorney who the petition says was "self-medicating for untreated bipolar disorder" and quickly married and then divorced her co-counsel in Grant’s case, all during his trial. The attorney was later suspended from practice and ultimately resigned from the bar. 
 

"It would be appropriate for the Court to use this case to address the constitutionality of the death penalty because the outcome will turn not on facts specific to any single litigant, but on circumstances common to the administration of the death penalty," the petition reads. 


Breyer wrote in his dissent that the “circumstances and the evidence of the death penalty’s application have changed radically” since the court upheld the constitutionality of the death penalty nearly 40 years ago.


The unusually fiery oral arguments in Glossip v. Gross were only a warmup to the scathing dissenting opinions the liberal justices would eventually pen -- opinions Justice Antonin Scalia dismissed as "gobbledy-gook."


“It’s a long shot, but the Breyer dissent was inviting people to challenge the death penalty," Kathleen Lord, one of Glossip's attorneys not involved in the latest Supreme Court filing, told The Huffington Post Friday. "They just accepted the invitation."   




Glossip v. Gross Petition For Rehearing


Also on HuffPost: 


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U.S. To Train Ukraine Military Following Russian Agression

Huffingon Post Politics - Fri, 2015-07-24 20:30

WASHINGTON, July 24 (Reuters) - U.S. troops will begin training regular Ukrainian military forces later this year in an expansion of their current mission, which so far has been limited to instructing Interior Ministry national guard units, the State Department said on Friday.


"This training is part of our long-running defense cooperation with Ukraine and is taking place at the invitation of the Ukraine government. This additional program brings our total security assistance committed to Ukraine since 2014 to over $244 million," State Department Mark Toner said.


Lieutenant General Ben Hodges, head of U.S. Army forces in Europe, said earlier this month that U.S. officials were discussing expanding the military training to include regular Ukrainian troops under the Defense Ministry.


The training is part of U.S. efforts to strengthen Ukraine's security following Russia's seizure of the Crimea last year and the spread of separatist unrest in eastern, Russian-speaking regions of Ukraine.


Hodges said officials were looking at training army and special operations troops, likely focusing on skills like tactics and combat medicine. He said the expanded training mission did not mean the administration would be providing Ukraine with lethal arms.


The United States has provided Ukrainian forces with non-lethal aid to help them battle Russian-backed rebels, but the administration has resisted providing lethal arms in hopes of preventing an escalation of the conflict.


 



 


Some U.S. officials have called for giving Ukraine more sophisticated counter-battery radar to help them fight back against artillery and mortar fire from the rebels.


Toner said he had nothing to announce on any new weapons for Ukraine and that the focus was on providing non-lethal aid.


"There's no plan to change that," he said.


He said the training would begin in western Ukraine near the Polish border later this autumn. The Pentagon said the training offered to regular Ukrainian military troops would be similar to that given to the national guard forces.


U.S. forces in Europe have been training the Ukrainian guard since this spring, focusing on strengthening internal defense capabilities. (Reporting by David Alexander and Bill Trott; Editing by Bernard Orr)

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Weekend Roundup: Politics Is the Art of the Possible

Huffingon Post Politics - Fri, 2015-07-24 20:07
In 1867, then Prime Minister of Prussia Otto von Bismarck (who, with parallels today, maintained German hegemony over Europe) famously said that politics is the art of the possible. If you don't have to deal with a political opponent, you can dream up the perfect policy. But when you have an opponent, you have to set aside the dream and consider the political possibilities. This week, from Iran to Greece to Cuba, the world both celebrated and protested the politically possible.

On the Iran nuclear deal, Republicans, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and conservative Jewish supporters accused President Obama of capitulating to an enemy. On the regional implications of the deal, writing from Jerusalem, Shlomo Avineri fears it could exacerbate Sunni-Shia-Israeli tension by empowering Shia Iran and its allies.

But not all Israelis agree. Former Israeli Deputy National Security Advisor Chuck Freilich asserts that although the Iran deal is a "painful compromise," Israel is safer with it than without it. Former Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami agrees and contends that Netanyahu's vehement opposition to the deal has only reinforced Israel's increasingly isolated position in the world.

Famed economist Jeffrey Sachs applauds President Obama for standing up to the "clamoring of the warmongers" with the deal. Rizwan Ladha says America's greatest challenge with the agreement is selling it to its Middle East partners. World editor Charlotte Alfred takes a look at whether sanctions relief will make a difference in the lives of ordinary Iranians. And World editor Nick Robins-Early breaks down a new Amnesty report that finds that executions in Iran have surged this year.

The U.S. made strides towards reconciliation this week with another former enemy carrying a record of human rights abuse -- Cuba. The two countries have begun reopening embassies in Washington and Havana for the first time in decades. Among those applauding the thaw is IMF Executive Director Octaviano Canuto, who estimates that the most decisive changes for Cuba now will be domestic.

Greece this week passed a second set of reforms so that negotiations on an EU bailout can begin. Anti-austerity demonstrators massed outside parliament as the bill was debated, with protests briefly turning violent. Greece and its European creditors are expected to begin bailout talks in Athens Monday, after delays due to security and logistics.

Writing from Berlin, Former German Foreign Minister and Vice Chancellor Joschka Fischer suggests we're witnessing the "return of the ugly German," as the country breaks from post-WWII policy and seeks to transform the eurozone into a "sphere of influence." Former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis bemoans the privatization plan for Greece, calling it a "stigma on Europe's conscience." Offering a different perspective, as populist parties such as Syriza rise in Europe, Julian Baggini maintains that while democracy is about the complex negotiation of competing interests, populism is a kind of mob rule that offers only simple solutions.

HuffPost reporter Daniel Marans explores the mystery of Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras' popularity, despite his having lost the fight against austerity. Danae Leivada introduces us to the latest rising Greek political star who says no to austerity. HuffPost Greece reports on the rush to withdraw from Greek banks. In contrast, Michael Skafidas illustrates a part of Greece that is thriving: the beautiful island of Mykonos. And HuffPost reporters Daniel Marans and Alexander Kaufman take a look at why, even though the euro is in trouble, Romania still wants in.

Ending its resistance to joining the coalition against ISIS, Turkey dispatched warplanes to bomb ISIS targets in Syria Friday and agreed to allow partial U.S. access to a key Turkish air base for ISIS strikes. The strikes come after ISIS militants killed a Turkish soldier at a Turkish military outpost and after a suicide blast blamed by Turkish authorities on ISIS killed more than 30 people.

Writing from Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates, Sultan Sooud Al-Qassemi makes the case that we cannot defeat ISIS unless we stop Iran and Saudi Arabia from pouring fuel on the sectarian fire. And Maha Hosain Aziz warns that ISIS may now be looking to recruit from the persecuted Rohingya Muslim minority in Myanmar. This week's "Forgotten Fact" discusses the implications of U.S. and European-made bombs that have turned up in Yemen's battlefields.

Pepe Escobar writes that Tehran, Beijing, Moscow, Islamabad and New Delhi have been establishing interlocking security guarantees -- including the Eurasian Economic Union, the BRICS' New Development Bank, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank -- and that a "Eurasian Big Bang" will soon make the West "sweat bullets." Pranay Gupte postures that Shashi Tharoor, who this week argued Britain owes India reparations, is India's "prime minister in waiting."

Ahead of Obama's much-anticipated, first presidential trip to Kenya, his father's homeland, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta says his country is deepening its democracy and is "on the cusp of great prosperity." In a podcast, Kenyan journalist Mark Kapchanga explains why he believes China's making more of an impact in Africa than the West. WorldPost China correspondent Matt Sheehan reports that the draconian practices of China's "digital detox" camps have endangered teens. And he reveals why Taylor Swift's merchandise could get banned in China.

Sergio Muñoz Bata expresses frustration that the media and public are mocking and glorifying El Chapo, the Mexican drug lord who recently escaped from prison, again. Writing from Santo Domingo, Maria Isabel Soldevila Brea laments that Dominicans who have spoken out in defense of Haitians have been cast out as traitors and even threatened. HuffPost reporter Jessica Schulberg writes that Palestinian homes in the West Bank will soon be demolished -- again. Just after the one-year anniversary of the downing of flight MH17, Georgy Bovt contends that Russia opposes an international tribunal because it has something to hide -- and so might Ukraine.

Munawar Anees argues that "neo-Orientalist" Islamophobia is maligning the reputation of the Prophet Muhammad like never before. Responding to a pop star's offensive comments, Pakistani journalist Bina Shah explains why Islam is not inherently misogynistic. And Catherine Corman tells us about the four new female saints who Pope Francis recently canonized -- two of them nuns who promoted the education of Arab girls in the Ottoman Empire.

World Bank economist Branko Milanovic reports that we're experiencing the greatest reshuffling of income since the Industrial Revolution, characterized by the rise of Asia and of the "global middle class." Writing from Jakarta, World Bank COO and Managing Director Sri Mulyani Indrawati recounts the three keys to ending poverty. HuffPost editor Dominique Mosbergen details how cultivating palm oil, which is in most processed foods and cosmetics, is destroying Southeast Asia's forests.

Alex Melamid explores why art today is so meaningless. And Richard Davidson uses Pixar's "Inside Out" to describe how we can manage our emotions by brain training. Our photo posts include images from female photographers of everyday life in the Middle East and a tour of stunning waterfalls around the world. Fusion this week examines big tech's quest to own your DNA. Finally, our Singularity series imagines the possibility that computers might one day run on animal brains instead of silicon chips.


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CONTRIBUTING EDITORS: Moises Naim (former editor of Foreign Policy), Nayan Chanda (Yale/Global; Far Eastern Economic Review) and Katherine Keating (One-On-One). Sergio Munoz Bata and Parag Khanna are Contributing Editors-At-Large.

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State Rights, or Big Government and Monsanto Run Amok? House Republicans Will Choose.

Huffingon Post Politics - Fri, 2015-07-24 19:15
Since the days of Ronald Reagan, the Republican Party has avowed itself the defender of state and local rights in the face of an imperious federal government. From the 1980s on, this doctrine of state control, often called the New Federalism, was hailed as the "devolution revolution" and is at the very heart of conservative and Tea Party rhetoric today.

For House Republicans, this week may be a major test as to whether their devotion to state's rights is a foundational principle for which they stand, or mere hypocritical rhetoric to be tossed aside when a few major corporations want to improve their bottom line and crush state and local democratic decision-making.

What brings this issue dramatically forward is a bill that the House may vote on in the coming week. Introduced by Kansas Republican Rep. Mike Pompeo at the behest of Monsanto and other chemical and big agribusiness companies, this bill (H.R. 1599) is often referred to as the "Denying Americans the Right to Know or DARK Act." As written, H.R. 1599 would have an almost unprecedented impact in negating state and local decision-making. It requires that only federal law can govern issues surrounding genetically engineered (GE) crops, certain farm practices, seed and food labeling, and restrictions on certain pesticide use. The bill would therefore negate over 130 existing state and local level statutes, regulations, and ordinances passed by the legislatures and citizens in 43 states.

This radical federal overreach could permanently take away state and local governments' ability to enact measures that address a specific locality's cultural, agricultural, and ecological concerns, issues that have long been recognized as falling under state and local governments' traditional legislative powers. For the average citizen, this means only the federal government will be able to decide whether we have a right to choose what we feed our children, whether farmers have rights to grow their crop of choice, and whether we have a right to protect ourselves and our communities from dangerous chemicals. No state, county or municipal decision-making allowed.

This is obviously the very opposite of a "devolution revolution." Instead of putting more powers in the hands of states and localities, this legislation would drastically reduce their ability to decide on critical aspects of health, farming practices and food safety and security. So shouldn't Ronald Reagan Republicans be up in arms against this bill rather than support it?

To understand why many Republicans support this bill and what is at stake, it helps to look back over the last few years where we've seen state and local democracies flourishing. Citizens voted in a wide swath of state and local laws that safeguard farmers from economic harms caused by cross-pollination of GE crops, support consumer transparency, protect children from exposure to pesticides, defend against invasive species, maintain seed purity, and preserve crops that hold spiritual and cultural importance.

A GE food labeling law has passed in Vermont, as did laws in Connecticut and Maine, though they require other states to join before coming into effect. Vermont's law is set to go into effect in July, 2016 despite a federal lawsuit filed by the chemical industry and its allies in an attempt to halt it. Their legal effort failed earlier this year when a federal court held that the labeling law was in fact constitutional and a valid exercise of the state's authority.

In another example, farmers in Jackson County, Oregon, were concerned that GE crops being grown locally would contaminate their non-GE crops and cost them export markets, as well as premium organic markets. They initiated a ban on GE crop cultivation in the county, which passed by a large majority of Jackson County citizens. The chemical industry also backed a lawsuit there to halt that initiative, but again lost. A federal judge ruled that the GE crop ban was well within the county's right to pass.

Other counties have said "no" to GE crops primarily for health reasons. More than 85 percent of GE crops are designed to withstand massive doses of toxic herbicide and still survive. This technology has resulted in an increase of hundreds of millions of pounds of these chemicals soaking our farmland and food crops. Even more dangerous is the inevitable resistance that weeds develop to some of these herbicides. To deal with these "superweeds," chemical companies such as Monsanto and Dow have convinced their government cronies to approve GE crops that will be doused with ever more hazardous herbicides.

Imagine the resulting nightmare: scientists predict that unless these GE crops are banned altogether, hundreds of millions more pounds of 2,4-D (an element of Agent Orange) and dicamba, a notoriously dangerous weed killer, will be sprayed over our land, our water supply, neighborhoods and schools in the next few years.

Some communities are voting "NO." Along with the Jackson County ban, an additional Oregon county, one county in Washington, five counties in California, and three counties in Hawai'i have placed bans, moratoriums or major restrictions on these crops and the inundation of toxic herbicides that they bring with them, either through ballot initiatives, or through votes by county or city officials. Perhaps the most remarkable story is the battle that took place in Maui County, Hawai'i. Citizens passed a moratorium on all GE crops, defeating an $8 million media campaign waged against the effort by Monsanto and its allies. Do the math on this one: the opposition spent more than $350 per vote they received -- an amount believed to be the highest ever spent per vote in a U.S. election -- and they still lost!

All of this democracy has been too much for Monsanto and other chemical and Big Ag companies. They are putting a full court press on House Republicans (and Democrats) to pass the DARK Act, spending hundreds of millions on lobbying and campaign financing in an effort to rescind all these laws, trample state and local rights, and crush the democratic decision-making of tens of millions of Americans.

So in the coming days, it is an old story of money versus principle for House Republicans. Will they stand by the New Federalism and the purported very core of their political belief system? Or will they be "knee pad" conservatives, genuflecting to whatever Monsanto and the other Big Ag well-heeled corporate contributors ask, ultimately sacrificing states' rights on the altar of corporate donations? For the good of all of us, let's hope principle wins out this time.

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10 Rules to Help Black Boys Survive

Huffingon Post Politics - Fri, 2015-07-24 19:07

Democracy cannot breathe, and will die, if those enjoined to protect and uphold the law snuff it out unjustly and without consequence. Justice cannot breathe when Black men and boys and women and girls are routinely profiled, abused, arrested, and killed with impunity by police officers. We must stop this. We must protect the lives of our young people—all of them. God did not make two classes of people or children and America continues to do so at its peril.


Like so many I have been deeply disturbed by the senseless loss of Black male lives at the hands of law enforcement officials. I was particularly affected by Tamir Rice’s senseless death—a 12-year-old sixth grader who loved drawing, basketball, playing the drums, and performing in his school’s drumline. Sometimes his teacher had to remind him not to tap a song on his desk with his fingers. When Tamir, a mere boy child, was shot and killed last November, who was there to protect him?


Not Cleveland police officer Timothy Loehmann—the man who shot him. Tamir was sitting outside a recreation center near his home holding a friend’s toy gun when Loehmann careened up in his squad car with his training officer. The surveillance video shows Loehmann took less than two seconds between getting out of the barely-stopped car and shooting Tamir. Worse, this child was left mortally wounded on the ground in agony for nearly four minutes while neither Loehmann nor his trainer Frank Garmback administered any first aid. An FBI agent who happened to be nearby responded to the police activity and was the first one to try to give Tamir help. When Tamir’s 14-year-old sister ran to see and comfort him she was tackled by a police officer, handcuffed, and put in the back of a squad car unable to comfort her stricken brother. When Tamir’s mother arrived at the same time as the ambulance the police wouldn’t let her get close to her son and she said they threatened to handcuff and arrest her too if she didn’t calm down. She was then denied entrance to the back of the ambulance to ride with or hold the hand of her son on the way to the hospital. I can only imagine the deep terror of both mother and child isolated from each other. Tamir died from his injuries the next day.


Who was there to protect Tamir? Not the Cleveland Police Department, who supposedly hired Officer Loehmann and put him out on their city’s streets before fully reviewing his previous record as a police officer. His personnel file from the Independence, Ohio Police Department shows he resigned in December 2012 just five months after he started training when he learned a disciplinary process of separation had already begun—appearing to have quit before he was fired. His previous supervisors said he displayed “a pattern of lack of maturity, indiscretion, and not following instructions,” a “dangerous loss of composure during live range training,” and an “inability to manage personal stress.” These red flags for the Independence Police Department should have been warning signs for Cleveland or any police department in assessing fitness for service. The Cleveland Police Department has a long history of bad policing that harms Black boys and men and those with mental illness. Just days after Tamir was killed the U.S. Department of Justice released harshly critical results of a civil rights investigation on overuse of force by the Cleveland police department and called for massive reforms.


The scene that unfolded in the minutes Tamir lay on the ground bleeding without comfort from anyone is perhaps the hardest part to understand. What kind of human beings and responsible law enforcement officials would act this way? Gunning down a 12-year-old, threatening his distraught sister and mother, and standing by watching a child just shot lying on the snowy ground dying?


Who was there to protect Tamir? In the end, no one. Now a child who might have become a musician or an artist or anything else he wanted to be is dead, and his mother has joined a long, long list of Black mothers crying out for justice. A few weeks after Tamir’s death she stood at a Washington, D.C. rally with Trayvon Martin’s mother and the families of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, and other urnarmed Black boys and men killed by police and told the crowd: “I have one thing to say to the police force: Don’t shoot. Our children want to grow up.”


Our children want to grow up. Our children deserve to grow up. And it is the responsibility of every adult in every sector to see they grow up safely and respected and seen and are not subject to “othering”—as someone less than or apart from ourselves. Until we can achieve a profound change in law enforcement culture and their taking as much care in protecting Black boys’ lives as White boys’ lives, our children are going to remain at risk. That places a burden on Black parents and faith congregations and community leaders and educators and everyone who believes in justice to stand up and do everything possible to make sure our children get home safely and can reach adulthood.




I am so grateful that the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, where Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III is the Senior Pastor, is sharing the two-minute video message “Get Home Safely: 10 Rules of Survival If Stopped by the Police” to help Black parents and every member of the community help stop the killing of Black children. We must talk to our children. We must show them this video. We must post these ten rules for survival everywhere:




These rules would not have saved Tamir Rice, who never got a chance to say a word. The officer never really saw Tamir. The dispatcher who had been told the gun he was holding was probably a toy must not have thought that information from an inner city address was important enough to transmit. I hope we will see justice served in Tamir’s case soon so that parents and children in Cleveland can see a sign of hope that Black boys’ lives truly matter. And I hope that Trinity’s rules will help save some children’s lives until we can build the kind of America and law enforcement culture that respects the sanctity of every child as if he or she were our own.

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A Rubio Rebuke

Huffingon Post Politics - Fri, 2015-07-24 18:54
Senator Marco Rubio, the Republican presidential candidate from Florida, may be frustrated that his campaign is lacking traction, but there is no excuse for him to say that the president has "no class." His comment is a feeble attempt to get attention because he is lagging behind the frontrunners, especially Donald Trump.

Rubio made the comment on Fox News this week in the context of an answer about Donald Trump's campaign. "It's important we have--to conduct the presidency, it has to be done in a dignified way, with a level of class," he said. "I don't think the way he's behaved over the last few weeks is either dignified or worthy of office he seeks."

But then Rubio continued with an attack on President Barack Obama. "We already have a president now that has no class," Rubio sputtered. "I mean, we have a president now that does selfie-stick videos, that invites YouTube stars there, people who eat cereal out of a bathtub... he goes on comedy shows to talk about something as serious as Iran. The list goes on and on."

Rubio sounded more like a high school freshman with an inferiority complex, or, at least, a candidate who is deeply discouraged with his poor performance among Republican presidential candidates in recent polls. The fact that he would say such an outrageous thing about President Obama shows that he is only interested in scoring political points.

When it comes to scoring political points among Republicans, nothing is an easier target than the nuclear deal with Iran that Congress is in the process of reviewing. At a hearing on Capitol Hill Thursday, Rubio took an aggressive tone with the lead U.S. negotiator, Secretary of State John Kerry. Rubio said that a new president would be in his or her rights to rip up the whole agreement.

"It's important for the world and especially Iran to understand that this is a deal whose survival is not guaranteed beyond the term of the current president," Rubio said--clearly threatening what he may do should he become president. "Even if this deal narrowly avoids congressional defeat, the Iranian regime and world should know this deal is your deal with Iran, meaning yours -- this administration -- and the next president is under no legal or moral obligation to live up to it," Rubio continued. "The deal can go away the day president Obama leaves office."

The Iran nuclear deal, agreed to on July 14 by the U.S., Russia, China, Britain, France, plus Germany (P5 Plus 1), calls for Iran to roll back its existing nuclear program in exchange for relief from sanctions. The UN Security Council approved the agreement last week, which puts in place a rigorous verification process. If Iran violates the agreement, an automatic "snap back" provision kicks in that would reinstate sanctions on Iran.

While Americans are skeptical about Iran, a majority of those asked in a recent Washington Post/ABC poll support the agreement. But in calling for Congress to vote against the agreement Rubio has repeatedly said that a majority of Americans are against it. Oops. Congress may vote the agreement down, but the President has said he will veto such a congressional action. In the end, it is likely the president will eke out enough votes to uphold the agreement.

Rubio's position that "The deal can go away the day President Obama leaves office" is silly, presuming Iran lives up to its side of the bargain. Why would a President Rubio cancel an agreement that is working and risk alienating the U.S. from its allies? It would be far better for him to take the position that, if elected president, he would do a better job of enforcing the agreement than his Democratic opponent. Of course, saying he'd rip it up makes a better soundbite that appeals to the conservative base of the party.

Rubio has stumbled before. In March of this year he told Fox News that it was not a mistake to invade Iraq in 2003, noting, "the world is a better place because Saddam Hussein doesn't run Iraq." But when asked in a May interview at the Council on Foreign Relations if he would have favored the Iraqi invasion if he knew there were no weapons of mass destruction, Rubio replied, "not only would I have not been in favor of it, President Bush would not have been in favor of it." Two different audiences, two different answers. And Rubio has also changed his position on immigration under pressure from conservatives.

Perhaps realizing that his ridiculous slander that President Obama has "no class" was a bit too much, Rubio backtracked a bit in an interview Thursday with Fox News' Bret Baier. After Rubio noted that the president is a great father and husband but was divisive, Baier asked, "So you stand by that statement that the president has no class?"

Rubio responded, "I think, on the major issues of our time, he has not conducted himself of the dignity of worthy of that was office. Demonization of political opponents and divisions in America which have made it harder for us to solve our problems, and have poisoned the political environment as a result." Does Rubio think most Americans are fools?

Republican leaders met on the day of President Obama's first inauguration and plotted how they were going to make him a one-term president. Republican Congressman Joe Wilson, of South Carolina, yelled "you lie" to the president in a speech before a joint session of Congress nine months after he took office. For years Republicans questioned whether the president was born in the United States. Republicans attacked the president's health care law with distortions and lies, like saying it called for death panels. In 2009, former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich denounced what he called Obama's "Kenyan anti-colonial behavior." Tea Party inspired Republican members of Congress shut the federal government down in 2013 because they wanted deeper budget cuts and the repeal of Obamacare. Arizona's Republican Governor Jan Brewer waved her finger at President Obama on an airport tarmac in early 2012.

Throughout his tenure President Obama has been subject to disrespectful, and sometimes racist, attacks from the right. A recent example is Rubio's swipe against the president that he has "no class." But all this attack does is reveal that Rubio is a sanctimonious hypocrite who will say anything to get ahead.

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Rotting Trash Overwhelms Beirut As Summer Heat Rises

Huffingon Post Politics - Fri, 2015-07-24 18:50

Summer in the city can be rough. But we've never seen anything like Beirut, where a malodorous mix of political paralysis and festering garbage has residents in a rage.



Beirutis are furious that their government failed to avoid a crisis ignited by the long-scheduled closure of a major landfill site last week. The government knew the date that the city dump would shut down -- July 17 -- but the authorities had no ready alternative when the day came. Garbage trucks have nowhere to take the trash, so they've stopped picking it up. 


The piles of garbage rotting in the summer heat are triggering health warnings and protests. The Beirut Fire Department said that frustrated residents had set fire to around 140 dumpsters and trash containers, further polluting the hot and humid air. 


The mess is a stark reminder of the governmental crisis afflicting Lebanon, where politicians divided by local and regional conflicts can't even agree on where to dump the capital city's rubbish. The Cabinet voted Thursday to postpone the decision until next Tuesday


"We got to this point -- this crisis -- because of the political struggle in Lebanon," Mohamad Al Machnouk, the minister of environment, told Reuters. He blamed procrastination among politicians for the refuse piling up in the streets.


A plan to truck rubbish from Beirut, where more than half of the country's population lives, to locations around Lebanon is meeting resistance from those regions. 


Beirut residents are venting their frustrations on social media. 




As if Beirut wasn't already pedestrian-unfriendly enough. This is the ever-shrinking sidewalk by ABC mall. pic.twitter.com/8oXGOCM6X8

— Alexis Lai (@alexisklai) July 22, 2015


When #waste collection company decides to stop collecting garbage in Beirut-Lebanon pic.twitter.com/yFY7dJMH0Y

— Alia Nazar Farhat (@alianazarfarhat) January 24, 2014


#Beirut needs a radical Long term solution to its garbage problem. Hope our politicians wake up and act. pic.twitter.com/gIr148n1tu

— Toufic M Fattouh (@PositiveBeirut) July 22, 2015


#BlissStreet #Beirut garbage along the #AUB fence. Shameful! #صحتنا_مش_زبالة pic.twitter.com/HnMToxTj9X

— Magda Abu-Fadil (@MagdaAbuFadil) July 24, 2015


The crisis echoes wider problems facing Lebanon. The weak state has long been criticized for failing to develop its infrastructure: Beirut still suffers daily power cuts some 25 years after the end of the 1975-1990 civil war.


But the government has run particularly poorly since the eruption of war in neighboring Syria. That conflict has exacerbated Lebanon's political divisions, often along sectarian lines that reflect the Syrian conflict.


Lebanon's presidency has been vacant for more than a year, and the parliament elected in 2009 has extended its own term and postponed elections until 2017 on the grounds of instability.


The costs of the political stalemate are high. It's obstructed plans to exploit potential offshore gas reserves, for example.


"They canceled our elections, they extended parliament, they stole our votes, and now they want us to live in rubbish," said Marwan Maalouf, a 31-year-old lawyer, during a protest outside government headquarters in Beirut on Tuesday.


"Unfortunately, the streets are filled up with garbage, but we can't find an alternative now. The plan should come from the state, and we will then act upon it," said Pascale Nassar, communications manager for the trash collection company Sukleen.



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Louisiana Shooting Suspect Obtained Gun Legally, Had Extensive Criminal History In Georgia

Huffingon Post Politics - Fri, 2015-07-24 18:45

WASHINGTON -- John Russell Houser, the man accused of killing two people and injuring nine at a movie theater in Lafayette, Louisiana, on Thursday, legally obtained the weapon used in the crime and had an extensive criminal history in one of the towns where he lived, according to police documents obtained by The Huffington Post.


Houser, 59, took his own life after shooting up a movie theater during a screening of "Trainwreck." Media reports described him as a drifter with a history of mental illness whose criminal record was several decades old. 


A motive hasn't been established, but authorities said Friday evening that Houser was "methodical." He'd visited the theater before the shooting, possibly to evaluate it as a target, Lafayette Police Chief Jim Craft said at a press conference. Houser had also parked his car near the theater's exit, which officials said suggested he perhaps intended to make a getaway. 


Houser's criminal history is more extensive than initially reported. In Columbus, Georgia, just one of the towns where he had ties, he racked up at least a dozen charges between 1989 and 2011, including numerous traffic citations, as well as charges for criminal solicitation and stealing political campaign signs.


According to the Lafayette Police Department, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives confirmed through “trace methods” that the shooter legally purchased the firearm in Phenix City, Alabama, in 2014. 


In October 1996, an officer observed Houser carrying political signs that read, "Huff for Tax Commissioner." He had 10 in the back of his car and told the cops he would not remove campaign signs from private property without the owner's permission. He was charged with theft.


Houser was charged numerous times for driving without state tags or a license, and once for leaving a dog unattended. In 2001, he was arrested for violating a probation issued by another town. He listed his occupation as unemployed. His most recent charge in Columbus, in 2011, was for running a stop sign. 


Ed Hostilo, a friend of Houser's, told HuffPost on Friday that his friend started to change about 10 years ago. "He would get very vocal and passionate about something. He’d go off on a tirade ... he would go on tirades for 15 minutes," he said.


This is only one of the towns where Houser racked up criminal charges. In 2005, according to The New York Times, his wife brought a domestic violence complaint against him. This prevented him from obtaining a concealed carry permit in Alabama, but not from buying a handgun.


Officials provided more details at Friday's press conference about what happened inside the theater. Houser fired 20 rounds from the handgun, Craft said. One victim was shot four times, he said. 


"It was barbaric," said Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R). One victim "played dead to stay alive," according to Jindal.
 
This story has been updated to include comments from Craft and Jindal.

John Houser Arrest Reports

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Online Town Halls Like Clinton's Facebook Q&A Aren't A Substitute For Real Press Conferences

Huffingon Post Politics - Fri, 2015-07-24 18:29

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hasn't given many national media interviews on the campaign trail, so when she took to Facebook on Monday for a question-and-answer session, journalists eagerly peppered her with queries. (Clinton answered a question I asked her there, signaling her support for more flexible benefits for workers in on-demand startups in the "gig economy.') 


As Jack Murtha wrote in the Columbia Journalism Review, candidates and their campaigns shouldn't substitute these sorts of "digital town halls" for press conferences or sit-down interviews and journalists shouldn't settle for them. But since these types of forums are here to stay, we should try to make them as useful as possible.


There's nothing inherently wrong with a town hall, digital or not. In fact, there's a lot to be said for using technology to extend the discussion beyond people who turn out in a grange or green or conference center. If social media platforms are going to be used regularly as public forums in fundamentally democratic processes, we should expect those platforms to offer features that make these sorts of Q&As better.


On the technology side, it would be great to see a mechanism that allows questioners and the public to rate the quality of the responses. Frankly, Reddit has this already, as evidenced in its Ask Me Anything forums, where users can vote answers up and down. Facebook does not.


On the campaign side, politicians should be urged to answer the questions that receive the most upvotes, likes or retweets. We can all see they've been asked, after all. President Obama may have tired of fielding questions about marijuana legalization that floated to the top of Google Moderator when he first came into office, but they were relevant then and remain relevant now to vast numbers of nonviolent drug offenders, particularly in states that have not decriminalized pot. 


Yes, candidates will still issue canned answers, but they will also face unexpected questions that depart from mainstream media fixations, agendas or narratives. That's what happened on the first presidential Google+ Hangout in 2012, when someone asked President Obama a real question about the drone program.


Live video makes those sorts of unexpected, serendipitous interactions possible. Candidates should use it more often.


 

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Meet The Latest Rising Greek Political Star Who Says No To Austerity

Huffingon Post Politics - Fri, 2015-07-24 18:21

Greece’s charismatic head of parliament, Zoe Konstantopoulou, is one of the most dynamic and outspoken members of the country's ruling Syriza party. This week, she sent shockwaves through the party by refusing to approve a financial reform bill proposed by her supposed Syriza ally, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras -- for the second time.


Konstantopoulou considers measures proposed by Tsipras as part of an agreement with Greece’s European lenders to unlock fresh loans for the country a "violent attack on democracy," she wrote in a letter to Tsipras and Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos.


Konstantopoulou’s adamant opposition to the newest austerity reforms is resonating with Greeks who feel the Europe-imposed reforms are excruciatingly harsh. 



Konstantopoulou, 38, is the daughter of renowned lawyer Nikos Konstantopoulos, who led of one of Syriza’s largest factions, and well-known journalist Lina Alexiou. She studied law at the University of Athens, La Sorbonne in Paris and Columbia University in New York before becoming a lawyer in Greece in 2003, focusing on international criminal law and human rights.


Konstantopoulou first ran for Syriza in 2009 and was elected to the Greek parliament in 2012. She was  elected head of the parliament in 2015, the youngest person to hold the position.


As parliament chief, her forthright remarks and dedication to formal legal procedure have gained her passionate praise as well as fierce opposition. Her forceful interventions have annoyed some politicians, especially those in opposition parties. Stavros Theodorakis, leader of To Potami (The River),  for example, has called her arrogant and has demanded her resignation. Others have praised her fiery energy, saying her forceful defense of her convictions is invigorating.



 


Despite Konstantopoulou's rising favor, she remains far less popular than other Syriza politicians, especially Tsipras.


Her blunt rejection of the prime minister's reforms has raised speculation she may leave the party and go her own way, according to Greek daily newspaper Kathimerini.


Konstantopoulou denies that scenario. After a one-hour meeting with Tsipras on Thursday, she told reporters that both share “an understanding built on camaraderie and honesty, along with the common wish to protect the rights of the people as well as the unity of Syriza, which some would want to see shattered.”    


Earlier on HuffPost: 


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Bernie Sanders' Appeal Has Doubled Among Americans Since March

Huffingon Post Politics - Fri, 2015-07-24 18:11

Americans' views of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) have grown more favorable as they continue to learn more about him, according to a new Gallup poll.


Sanders' "favorable" rating has doubled since March, jumping from 12 percent to 24 percent. Gallup notes that his rise in favorability can be attributed to Americans' increasing familiarity with him as he campaigns against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination.


In March, only 24 percent of Americans were able to give an opinion on Sanders. Today, 44 percent say they are able to rate him. Sanders' increased visibility has caused his unfavorability quotient to go up as well: 20 percent of Americans now rate him unfavorably, compared to just 8 percent in March. Still, he remains the only Democratic candidate to have a net positive "favorable" rating, meaning that more people like him than dislike him.


At the same time, Americans' feelings toward Clinton have grown slightly less positive, dropping 5 percentage points since April. This latest poll marks Clinton's lowest net "favorable" score since 2007.



Sanders' recent surge still leaves him considerably behind Clinton, who has a 43 percent "favorable" rating compared to Sanders' 24 percent. Clinton also remains the most identifiable Democratic candidate. Eighty-nine percent of Americans are able to rate Clinton, while only 44 percent are able to rate Sanders.


Nearly 40 percent of Democrats and independents who lean toward the Democratic Party have a favorable view of Sanders. By contrast, 3 in 4 Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents have a favorable view of Clinton.


According to HuffPost Pollster, which aggregates all publicly available poll results, 18 percent of Democrats currently support Sanders, while 57 percent support Clinton. Sanders is, however, doing slightly better in primary states.


Gallup polled 2,374 American adults using live telephone interviews between July 8 and 21.

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Fewer Americans Are Putting Off Purchases This Year

Huffingon Post Politics - Fri, 2015-07-24 18:10

Fewer Americans are trying to save money by putting off a range of expenses, from medical care to vacations, new polling from HuffPost/YouGov shows.


People are still prioritizing: 42 percent say they've delayed buying clothes or personal items, while 33 percent say they've chosen not to take time off  and smaller fractions say they've put off home and car repairs, or even seeking medical attention.


Thirty-six percent, though, say they haven't had to do any of those things so far this year. That's up 9 percentage points since this past December.



HuffPost readers: Have you put off any expenses this year to make ends meet? Tell us about it at openreporting@huffingtonpost.com


Just about half of Americans say they've taken, or are going to take, a summer vacation this year, while the rest don't have any plans to do so. The majority say saving money played a part in their summer plans this year, with just over a third calling it a major factor.


Cost wasn't the only issue. Forty-five percent of people who work at least part-time say that the amount of time they're able to take off from work also factored into their plans.


Americans' perceptions of their finances overall have remained relatively stable since December. In another HuffPost/YouGov survey, just 29 percent say they make enough to live comfortably, while 47 percent say they're getting by and 19 percent say they're not even able to do that -- numbers that have budged little during 2015. About a third say they worry about money all the time.




Those worries remain especially potent among people living in households making $40,000 or less a year, just 11 percent of whom say they're living comfortably and 44 percent of whom report stressing constantly about money. Americans in this income bracket were 8 points more likely than Americans as a whole to say they'd put off some expenses to save money and 8 points less likely to have summer vacation plans this year.


The two HuffPost/YouGov polls cited consisted of 1,000 completed interviews each, conducted July 4-6 and July 8-9 among U.S. adults, using a sample selected from YouGov's opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population.


The Huffington Post has teamed up with YouGov to conduct daily opinion polls. You can learn more about this project and take part in YouGov's nationally representative opinion polling. Data from all HuffPost/YouGov polls can be found here. More details on the polls' methodology are available here.


Most surveys report a margin of error that represents some, but not all, potential survey errors. YouGov's reports include a model-based margin of error, which rests on a specific set of statistical assumptions about the selected sample, rather than the standard methodology for random probability sampling. If these assumptions are wrong, the model-based margin of error may also be inaccurate. Click here for a more detailed explanation of the model-based margin of error.

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New York Times Corrects Explosive Hillary Clinton Email Story Amid Campaign Pushback

Huffingon Post Politics - Fri, 2015-07-24 18:06

An explosive New York Times story detailing a potential probe of Hillary Clinton's use of a private email account unravelled quickly on Friday morning, prompting questions about how inaccurate, politically sensitive information could end up in the paper of record.


At issue was a Times breaking news alert sent out in the late hours of Thursday evening, reporting that inspectors general were asking the Justice Department to open a criminal investigation into whether Clinton sent classified information from her private server. By the next day, the story had changed, slightly but significantly. The subject of the investigation wasn't Clinton, per se, but whether she was on the receiving end of the information in question. Hours later, it changed again, this time more significantly. The Department of Justice said that the probe requested wasn't criminal in nature, but rather investigative. And then, it grew even more complicated, with the State Department inspector general saying they didn't even ask for an investigation at all.


As the different chapters of this in-the-weeds saga progressed, attention turned to the Times, which has been the tip of the spear in reporting on Clinton's use of a private email account and server. Times reporter Michael Schmidt, who co-bylined Thursday’s story, also broke the news in March that Clinton had violated government protocol by exclusively using a private email account at the State Department.


In a correction appended to the Times article online, editors acknowledged having “misstated the nature of the referral” related to Clinton’s email use, which the paper had described as “criminal.” Though a Department of Justice official initially told reporters the referral was “criminal” in nature after the Times story was published, the agency reversed course and said it was not. Times editors also wrote that the referral from two inspectors general did not “specifically request an investigation” into Clinton.


By midday, the paper was under withering criticism from progressives online, who accused it of sparking a wave of outrage over ultimately faulty charges. Other nonpartisan sources were suggesting that Republicans on the Select Committee investigating the 2012 attacks on the compound in Benghazi were behind the inaccurate leak.



What leapt out when I saw NYT story was "provided by senior government official." Not "executive branch" or "Justice Dept" Meaning Congress!

— Norman Ornstein (@NormOrnstein) July 24, 2015

The Clinton campaign itself wasn't shy about calling the story bunk, pushing back hard on the Times, demanding and receiving a revision in the piece and accusing congressional Republicans of going outside their jurisdictions to attack the former secretary of state.


The avalanche of pushback left the Times in an uncomfortable spot. The paper initially rejected calls to issue a correction. When it was later forced to do so, it seemed unwilling to completely abandon the story. By late Friday afternoon, the paper was still running a headline that labeled the investigation into Clinton's email usage a "criminal inquiry." Its lead sentence also still stated, "Two inspectors general have asked the Justice Department to open a criminal investigation."


 A Times spokeswoman did not immediately respond to questions about whether those two elements of the story would be changed.


But even if they are, it's unlikely that the same audience will see the updated version unless the paper were to send out a second breaking news email with its latest revisions. The Clinton story also appeared the front page of Friday's print edition. 


For Clinton critics, the dispute over the paper's handling of this news item still obscures the larger problem, which is that as secretary of state, she used a private email account that could have compromised sensitive government information. Indeed, lost in the back-and-forth Friday was a Wall Street Journal story that detailed how several emails containing classified information made it into her inbox. The information wasn't classified at the time, but rather received the designation retroactively.


“None of the emails we reviewed had classification or dissemination markings, but some included IC-derived classified information and should have been handled as classified, appropriately marked, and transmitted via a secure network,” wrote Inspector General I. Charles McCullough in a letter to Congress.


The debate over the article also underscores just how delicate reporting on Clinton's email setup has become in the early stages of the presidential campaign.


Each report drops amid a well-established narrative. Clinton is held to an unfair standard by the press and maligned by the right, supporters say. Her email use is indicative of Clintonian paranoia and a penchant for secrecy, critics counter. 


And reporters, often relying on anonymous sources, are going to face questions about the motivations of those providing information. They're also likely to encounter intense scrutiny from pro-Clinton organizations like Correct the Record and Media Matters for America. If a story isn’t completely airtight, the campaign and such media watchdogs are sure to pick apart discrepancies, whether minuscule, or in this case, significant. Even a correction doesn't always end the complaints. 


Correct the Record slammed the Times’ “bogus” story late Friday afternoon and suggested it fit a pattern of “thin sourcing, excess hype, and a tag-team rollout with the hyper-partisan, Republican-led House Benghazi circus.” Shortly thereafter, Media Matters Chairman David Brock wrote a letter to Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr., urging him to appoint a commission to examine the reporting behind Thursday’s story and three previous Clinton reports the group has also criticized.


"David Brock is a partisan," a Times spokeswoman responded in a statement. "It is not surprising that he is unhappy with some of our aggressive coverage of important political figures. We are proud of that coverage and obviously disagree with his opinion."

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Happy Birthday Medicare

Huffingon Post Politics - Fri, 2015-07-24 17:49

Medicare turns fifty next week. It was signed into law July 30, 1965 -- the crowning achievement of Lyndon Johnson's Great Society. It's more popular than ever.



Yet Medicare continues to be blamed for America's present and future budget problems.



A few days ago Jeb Bush even suggested phasing it out. Seniors already receiving benefits should continue to receive them, he said, but "we need to figure out a way to phase out this program for others and move to a new system that allows them to have something, because they're not going to have anything."



Bush praised Rep. Paul Ryan's plan to give seniors vouchers instead. What Bush didn't say was that Ryan's vouchers wouldn't keep up with increases in medical costs -- leaving seniors with less coverage.



Medicare isn't the problem. In fact, it's the solution.



Its costs are being pushed upward by the rising costs of health care overall -- which have slowed somewhat since the Affordable Care Act was introduced but are still rising faster than inflation.



Medicare costs are also rising because of the growing ranks of boomers becoming eligible for Medicare.



Medicare offers a way to reduce these underlying costs -- if Washington would let it.



Let me explain.



Americans spend more on health care per person than any other advanced nation and get less for our money. Yearly public and private healthcare spending is almost two and a half times the average of other advanced nations.



Yet the typical American lives 78.1 years -- less than the average 80.1 years in other advanced nations. And we have the highest rate of infant mortality of all advanced nations.



Medical costs continue to rise because doctors and hospitals still spend too much money on unnecessary tests, drugs, and procedures.



Consider lower back pain, one of the most common ailments of our sedentary society. Almost 95% of it can be relieved through physical therapy.



But doctors and hospitals often do expensive MRI's, and then refer patients to orthopedic surgeons for costly surgery. Why? Physical therapy doesn't generate much revenue.



Or say your diabetes, asthma, or heart condition is acting up. If you seek treatment in a hospital, 20 percent of the time you're back within a month.



It would be far less costly if a nurse visited you at home to make sure you were taking your medications, a common practice in other advanced nations. But nurses don't do home visits to Americans with acute conditions because hospitals aren't paid for them.



America still spends about over $19 billion a year fixing medical errors, the worst rate among advanced countries. Such errors are the third major cause of hospital deaths.



One big reason is we keep patient records on computers that can't share the data. Patient records are continuously re-written and then re-entered into different computers. That leads to lots of mistakes.



Meanwhile, administrative costs account for 15 to 30 percent of all health care spending in the United States, twice the rate of most other advanced nations.



Most of this is to collect money: Doctors collecting from hospitals and insurers, hospitals collecting from insurers, insurers collecting from companies or policy holders. A third of nursing hours are devoted to documenting what's done so that insurers have proof.



Cutting back Medicare won't affect any of this. It will just funnel more money into the hands of for-profit insurers while limiting the amount of care seniors receive.



The answer isn't to shrink Medicare. It's to grow it -- allowing anyone at any age to join.



Medicare's administrative costs are in the range of 3 percent.



That's well below the 5 to 10 percent costs borne by large companies that self-insure. It's even further below the administrative costs of companies in the small-group market (amounting to 25 to 27 percent of premiums).



And it's way, way lower than the administrative costs of individual insurance (40 percent). It's even far below the 11 percent costs of private plans under Medicare Advantage, the current private-insurance option under Medicare.



Meanwhile, as for-profit insurance companies merge into giant behemoths that reduce consumer choice still further, it's doubly important to make Medicare available to all.



Medicare should also be allowed to use its huge bargaining leverage to negotiate lower rates with pharmaceutical companies -- which Obamacare barred in order to get Big Insurance to go along with the legislation.



These moves would give more Americans quality health care, slow rising healthcare costs, help reduce federal budget deficit, and keep Medicare going.



Let me say it again: Medicare isn't the problem. It's the solution.



ROBERT B. REICH's film "Inequality for All" is now available on DVD and blu-ray, and on Netflix. Watch the trailer below:

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Our Psychological Crisis: Making Sense of the American Psychological Association's Collusion with Torture

Huffingon Post Politics - Fri, 2015-07-24 17:38


The recently released Hoffman Report, the independent investigation conducted by former Inspector General of Chicago David Hoffman into the American Psychological Association's (APA) collusion in the torture of prisoners at Guantanamo and other CIA "black sites," has sent shock waves through the psychology profession, whose members are not at all happy to be the public face of torture in America. Listservs around the country are erupting with consternation and outrage, with demands for accountability and justice and reform and cries of betrayal. Our profession is in a full-blown crisis and psychologists around the country are confused, embarrassed, unsure of how to respond in a meaningful way.

What shocks me is how shocked my professional community suddenly seems to be, since much of the information in the Hoffman report has been available to the public for many years, thanks to the ceaseless work of activist psychologists like Steven Reisner, Stephen Soldz, and Jean Maria Arrigo, who first blew the whistle on the APA's cover up back in 2006. Arrigo had participated in APA's bogus Presidential Task Force on Psychological Ethics and National Security, known as the PENS Task Force, which sought to investigate the ethics of "enhanced interrogation" (torture) by appointing a panel made up almost entirely of military personnel who had direct experience with torture at one or more of the various CIA black sites. They, and a small handful of other psychologists out on the frontlines of this battle have been intimidated, publicly maligned, and marginalized by the APA in their attempt to discredit their critics and deflect attention from their dirty secrets.

I was a doctoral student in clinical psychology when news first broke about psychologists' involvement in torture. I had entered my studies with such optimism and hope about my career, feeling that I had finally found my home in the world--a vocation, not just a job--where I might make good use of my deep love and empathy for people and my desire to do some good in the world. It was shocking, then, to hear in my second year of training that people in my new profession were torturing people. I couldn't fathom how those people could be psychologists. Weren't we healers? Weren't we Carl Rogers and Virginia Satir and Freud and Carol Gilligan and...torturers? I couldn't wrap my head around it at all, so I decided to write my dissertation about it in order to get to the bottom of this incongruous debacle.

As I began to research the events around the torture of prisoners at CIA black sites, I discovered that financial embeddedness and collusion between the APA, the CIA and the Department of Defense spanned half of the last century, beginning with mind-control research at the start of the Cold War, then onto the torture of Vietnamese prisoners of war, CIA-backed training of torturers throughout Central and South America (at venues like the School of the Americas), and in a natural progression to the war on terror. The degree of entanglement between the military and the psychology profession, it turned out, was so longstanding, broad and deep that it would have been shocking had psychologists not been enlisted to prop up our latest war. (For more information on this sordid history, read Alfred McCoy's A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation from The Cold War to the War on Terror.)

Though people are utterly enraged at the actions of the American Psychological Association, let's remember the context in which these unscrupulous actions unfolded. Our President--no our entire government save one dissenter, Congressman Barbara Lee--decided that bombing, kidnapping, torturing and killing the civilian population of Afghanistan was an appropriate response to a terrorist attack on American soil. But much worse, our government decided that a "shock and awe" mass-murder approach to deposing Saddam Hussein, who had no connection to 9/11, was an appropriate sequel. Bush's legal counsel at the Department of Justice rewrote American law to circumvent constitutional and international law regarding treatment of prisoners of war. In short, this was a time of collective national insanity--not a diagnosis covered by insurance, mind you--and the APA was, for the first time, at the seat of absolute power.

Let's also remember that one of President Obama's first acts in office, besides not closing Guantanamo as he had promised, was to summarily reject the notion of investigating, much less prosecuting, the Bush Administration's crimes during the war on terror. This was a powerful signal to those at the APA that they could simply "look forward, not back," without fear of punishment. If our former President, and all of the president's men (and Condoleeza), could get away with lies, deception, torture and the murdering of civilians, why would these psychologists, this professional organization, bother to reckon with itself and its past?

What I struggle with today, as the "shocking" revelations finally seem to have penetrated the psychology profession and the public at large in a way they simply haven't over the last decade, is how to reckon with the intensity of our denial--as a nation, as a profession, as a collection of individuals struggling to make our way in the world. Even my socially progressive little graduate school in Berkeley, CA, received my research with indifference, with one administrator dismissing it as "totally insignificant," the concern of a couple of "ultra-lefties" with no relevance to our profession. This is Berkeley. We're supposed to be cultural revolutionaries in this town, and yet even here, the fact that the association that accredits and determines the curriculum for our training institutions was providing professional and legal cover for an illegal and deeply immoral torture program was deemed irrelevant. If that doesn't suggest a need for a radical overhaul of this profession, then this is not a profession I want to be a part of.

But I'm not turning in my shingle. What I know from this work is that crises of this nature open up the possibility of radical transformation. We psychologists--most of us at least--are loving people with big hearts and empathic natures and a desire to be instruments of healing and change. We are imaginative and inquisitive and have the capacity to hold many (sometimes too many) truths at once. But as we sort through the crisis in our midst, we must break free from thinking we are either confined or defined by this terribly dysfunctional professional organization. A change in leadership, changes to the ethics code, prosecution for those involved in illegalities, democratic checks and balances--these are essential acts of reparation. But to truly find our moral grounding again, nay to find our passion again, we must turn our sights beyond the APA and remember what it means to be healers, not just of individuals, but of society and the planet. If we put love of humanity at the center of our agenda, and reorganize our leadership, our ethics codes, our research and our training institutions around social, economic and ecological justice, putting aside once and for all the advancement of profession over people, we are sure to find our way.

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