Feed aggregator

Ron Wyden Blasts CIA For Censoring Torture Report

Huffingon Post Politics - Wed, 2014-10-22 21:11
WASHINGTON (AP) — Sen. Ron Wyden says the CIA is trying to blunt the impact of an upcoming Senate report examining the harsh treatment of al-Qaida detainees by insisting on censoring the pseudonyms used for agency officers mentioned in the document.

"The intelligence leadership doing everything they can to bury the facts," said Wyden, D-Ore., a Senate Intelligence Committee member who has been a frequent critic of the spy agency. The Senate, the CIA and the White House are negotiating over what should be blacked out for national security reasons in the 600-page summary of the report that is set for public release sometime after the November elections.

President Barack Obama and other senior officials have said the CIA's use of waterboarding, stress positions, sleep deprivation and other harsh techniques on some detainees constituted torture. Many current and former CIA officers dispute that.

The Senate report asserts that the harsh treatment didn't work and that CIA officials misled Congress and other government agencies about it. Also to be released is a CIA response, and a separate one by Senate Republicans, which challenge the report's conclusions.

CIA officials say they fear the publication of officer pseudonyms — often just a first name such as "Roger"— would lead to the unmasking of undercover officers. Readers could track the same person in different jobs and places, making it easier to discover their identity.

Without the pseudonyms, Wyden says, the report would be much harder to understand because readers wouldn't be able to distinguish different CIA officers. Readers wouldn't know, for example, whether same CIA official had been accused of lying multiple times.

Wyden pointed out that the 9/11 Commission Report and a 2004 report into abuses at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison used pseudonyms for CIA officers.

"I think it is appropriate to redact specific identifying information so the identities of undercover officers are not publicly exposed," Wyden told The Associated Press.

Wyden said the Senate report documents "falsehoods, misdeeds and mistakes" by the CIA.

Asked about Wyden's remarks, CIA spokesman Dean Boyd said, "Pseudonyms are redacted to keep individual intelligence officers from being identified and potentially harmed. Making public those pseudonyms associated with individual officers, as well as dates, locations and other identifying information related to those officers, dramatically increases the likelihood that they will be exposed and potentially subject to threats or violence."

Canada Prime Minister Harper: Ottawa Attacks Are Terrorism

Huffingon Post Politics - Wed, 2014-10-22 20:45
OTTAWA, Ontario (AP) — Canada's prime minister says Wednesday's fatal shooting of a Canadian soldier in Ottawa and a hit-and-run that killed another earlier this week are grim reminders that Canada is not immune to terrorism.

"But let there be no misunderstanding, we will not be intimidated. Canada will never be intimidated," Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in a televised address to the nation.

Harper says the two, separate attacks will strengthen Canada's resolve to work to keep Canada safe and work with allies around the world to fight terrorist organizations.

Harper spoke hours after a gunman shot a soldier guarding a war memorial then stormed Parliament before he was killed. On Monday, a man allegedly inspired by radical Muslim beliefs rammed his car against two Canadian soldiers, one of whom died.

Senate Election Overview -- Democrats Hanging On?

Huffingon Post Politics - Wed, 2014-10-22 20:42

Sorry for the overly-provocative title, but I'm a little surprised at how all the big media election-predicting sites have apparently decided to just call the whole Senate for Republicans and clock out early. Because I just don't see it as quite the slam-dunk everyone else does, at this point.

Partly this is because I eschew the whole "percentage prediction" model everyone else seems so enamored of. My columns rely a lot more on state-by-state analysis than computer modeling, to put this another way. And I do listen to my gut feelings, which is a big no-no in the world of professional statisticians. But, hey, at least I admit it up front.

There are a few changes in my state rankings from last week's column, including one very important piece of good news for Democrats down South. We've got less than two weeks to go, the debates are in full swing, and early voting has started in many of these states already. One caveat is that I'm starting to pay closer attention to how old the polling data is -- a poll from ten days ago isn't going to capture anything which has happened in the meantime, to put this another way. And we've got several states which weren't on anyone's radar as a possible close contest, so in some places polling data is very thin on the ground.

Having said all that, let's get to my picks for this week. As always, share your thoughts and your picks (where you think I'm laughably wrong) in the comments section.

OK, that's enough intro, let's get on with this week's picks, shall we?


Safe Republican

The Safe Republican list didn't change from last week: Alabama, Idaho, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma (both seats), South Carolina (both seats), Tennessee, Texas, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

There are fourteen Senate seats in that list, and two of them (Montana and West Virginia) are pickups for Republicans.


Safe Democratic

Likewise, the list of Safe Democratic seats didn't change any from last week: Delaware, Hawai'i, Illinois, Oregon, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, Rhode Island, and Virginia.

These eleven safe seats, however, do not include a single pickup, leaving the Democrats' net score at zero.


Leaning Republican

One state (Kentucky) from last week's list of Leaning Republican states moved down into tossup status. This leaves three Leaning Republican states this week: Arkansas, Louisiana, and South Dakota.

Arkansas hasn't shown much movement in polling, as incumbent Democrat Mark Pryor seems to be steadily trailing. The Democrats have deployed their secret weapon (whose name is Clinton) here, but so far it hasn't had much effect in the polls.

One recent poll in Louisiana showed the race tightening a bit, with incumbent Democrat Mary Landrieu pulling within three points of Republican Bill Cassidy. But Republicans have a clear edge here. The real question is whether either candidate could pull in the majority needed (50 percent plus one vote) to avoid a runoff. Right now, that doesn't look likely, so no matter who wins on Election Day, the seat might not be decided for another month.

South Dakota is one of those states where we're all relying on polling data that is quite likely past its freshness expiration date. This is no surprise, really, considering that nobody had pegged it as a race to watch even as recently as a few weeks ago. Given the volatile nature of the three-way race there, a strong argument could be made for moving this state down to Too Close To Call, just on the lack of up-to-date polling alone. For the time being, we'll keep it as Leaning Republican, based on the last poll taken. Keep a close eye on any poll results which may appear here, though.

Every one of these Republican leaners is currently in Democratic hands. So taking all three states would mean a pickup of three seats for Republicans. Added to their Safe Republican pickups, this means Republicans are up a net five seats -- one short of taking control.


Leaning Democratic

Then again, maybe not. To last week's two states (New Hampshire and North Carolina) we have to add a surprise. Because Georgia has moved up from Too Close To Call to Leaning Democratic.

Georgia is, so far, the one bright spot for Democrats late in the election cycle. In this race between dynastic candidates, Democrat Michelle Nunn is showing herself to be a much better campaigner than Republican David Perdue. Nunn's been holding her own in the ad wars, and Perdue's "I'm proud to be a job outsourcer" stand is going over like a lead balloon with the voters. Since the gaffe was made public, Perdue has lost his lead over Nunn, and Nunn's numbers have climbed. We really could use some new polling here, but at this point it's a pretty good bet that the more recent the polling is, the better Nunn's numbers are going to look. The trendline is clear, so for the time being Georgia has to be considered Leaning Democratic. Georgia is another state we might have a late runoff contest, it is also worth mentioning.

It's looking like one favorable poll for Scott Brown in New Hampshire was nothing more than an outlier. Since that point, Democratic incumbent Jeanne Shaheen has regained her edge, and seems headed for victory.

The story is similar in North Carolina, where incumbent Democrat Kay Hagen also seems to be holding onto her slight edge over Thom Tillis. Hagen is looking confident, and she just turned down a fourth debate in a show of strength.

Holding New Hampshire and North Carolina won't represent any net gain for Democrats, but winning Georgia will put Democrats up one overall. This means the absolute lead for Republicans is cut from plus five to plus four -- meaning they will have to pick up an additional race to take control of the Senate. If Michelle Nunn wins and Democrats keep the Senate, they'd better give her whatever plum committee assignments she asks for, because she will have earned some sort of prize.


Too Close To Call

We have five states in the Too Close To Call category this week, but not the same five as last week. Kentucky moved down here from Leaning Republican this week, and Georgia moved up to Leaning Democratic.

Alaska's race seems to be getting closer in the polls (even though they're slightly outdated), although incumbent Democrat Mark Begich is still the underdog by a few points. However, I've always gone with gut feeling here, and not trusted the polls as much as in other states (polling in Alaska just isn't as accurate as elsewhere, for a variety of reasons). Begich has launched a monumental get-out-the-vote effort in Alaska -- the biggest the state has ever seen. He may very well be reaching precisely those voters who aren't registering in the polls. I may be going out on a limb, but I truly think Begich may surprise some poll-watchers on Election Day. I could always be wrong, though.

Colorado polls are tightening, and incumbent Democrat Mark Udall seems to be in a virtual tie right now with Cory Gardner. This race could go either way, and in addition the electorate might be different than what the statisticians expect, due to Colorado's new "all-mail" voting this year.

Iowa's polling is neck-and-neck, and Bruce Braley seems to have regained the ground he lost in September. The latest poll shows him up, but within the margin of error. This could be an outlier, and it could be the indications of a trend. At this point, it's impossible to say. A few more polls might answer the question, but probably not decisively. For months now, we've all known that the Iowa race is going to be one of the closest-watched races on Election Day, and that hasn't changed at all.

Kansas has settled down somewhat after the shock of the Democratic candidate pulling out of the race, but it has settled down into a virtual tie. Incumbent Republican Pat Roberts seems to be running a tiny bit behind Independent Greg Orman, but Orman seems to have lost the large edge he got immediately after the Democrat dropped out. Kansas is currently the front lines of the civil war raging within the Republican Party, both in this race and in the governor's race. Right now, the edge goes to Orman, but just barely.

Kentucky was the other surprisingly good news for Democrats this week, as Alison Lundergan Grimes employs a "throw everything at the wall and hope something sticks" last-minute take-no-prisoners ad effort. What surprised everyone is that it seems to be paying off for her. The latest poll shows her only down one point from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell -- which, if accurate, would put her back into contention. The national Democrats pulled their money out of the state when it was looking like McConnell had the race sewn up, but they just announced that they're reversing their position and will be pouring some money in for last-minute ads. Whatever happens, the race cannot be seen as Leaning Republican any longer, and so belongs here in Too Close To Call.

Before taking into consideration any of these tight races, Republicans are up four seats and Democrats are down by the same four. In absolute terms, this means 47 Republican seats and 48 Democratic. Meaning Republicans need to pick up four of the remaining five states, while Democrats will retain control by winning only two of them. Three of these states (Alaska, Colorado, and Iowa) are currently in Democratic hands, while two (Kansas and Kentucky) are currently Republican. This doesn't really matter in the absolute math, though, because Republicans need a total of at least 51 to win control, while Democrats only need 50 to retain control (because they have Joe Biden's vote to break any tie).

Now, I realize that this is a lot more optimistic for Democrats than a lot of other wonky election-calling sites right now. And this scenario really hinges on Democrats holding on to North Carolina and taking Georgia -- both of which are still rather bold assumptions (especially Georgia). If Michelle Nunn's polling trendline continues, however, some of these other forecasts may change.

Even if my assumptions come true, Democrats could still indeed lose control -- that's worth mentioning too. And there's always the Independent wildcard in Kansas to consider -- if Greg Orman wins and becomes the pivotal vote, he may very well decide to caucus with the Republicans, and thus swing control of the chamber. In that case, Republicans would only need three wins from the other states to gain control. Plus, there's the uncertainty of possible runoff elections in Louisiana and Georgia.

But (at least from where I'm sitting) the election doesn't seem to be quite the slam dunk many others are now predicting for the Republicans. If Democrats can hang on, the media storyline will be to their benefit, as a result of pollster predictions right now. The headlines will be "Dems Hang On!" which isn't really completely deserved because they're still going to lose four or five seats overall. But my guess is it'll be seen as a huge victory, if it comes to pass.


[Program Note: I'll be running two more of these "call the Senate" columns, one next Wednesday, and then one on the Monday right before the election, where I will make my final picks for all of these races.]


Chris Weigant blogs at:

Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


Man Tackled By Secret Service Dogs After Jumping White House Fence

Huffingon Post Politics - Wed, 2014-10-22 19:48
A man was detained Wednesday evening after jumping the White House fence.

The Secret Service told NBC news that the suspect in the incident was 23-year-old Dominic Adesanya, who was unarmed when he was arrested.

SS Official on Latest Fence jumper: Identified as Dominic Adesanya, 23 years old, Bel Air, MD. Charges pending. Was unarmed when arrested.

— Kristen Welker (@kwelkernbc) October 23, 2014

Officials confirmed to NBC News that the incident occurred around 7:30 p.m. ET. According to CBS News, the White House was placed on lockdown.

Video released of the incident shows the man being tackled by Secret Service dogs on the White House grounds. The man can be seen kicking and punching the dogs.

Watch the video above.

This is the seventh individual to jump over the White House fence this year, and the first breach since accused jumper Oscar Gonzalez entered The White House and got as far in as the East Room. The breach prompted scrutiny into the Secret Service's security protocol. Agency director Julia Pierson, who received the brunt of the criticism, resigned earlier this month.

The Associated Press offered further details:

Video of the incident Wednesday night taken by TV news cameras shows a man in white shorts just inside the White House fence on Pennsylvania Avenue.

The video shows the man lifting his shirt as if to show agents that he has no weapons. The man is then seen kicking and punching two Secret Service dogs that were released on him.

George H.W. Bush Endorses Paul LePage In Maine Governor's Race

Huffingon Post Politics - Wed, 2014-10-22 19:39
WASHINGTON -- Former President George H.W. Bush and his wife, Barbara Bush, endorsed Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) in his re-election bid on Wednesday.

In a joint statement, the Bushes -- who have long had a residence in Kennebunkport, Maine -- praised LePage’s efforts to repay the state’s Medicaid debt to its hospitals.

“We love Maine, and care deeply about our family and friends and the hard-working people who live there. We are writing you today because Governor Paul LePage is our kind of get-it-done leader, who we firmly believe is committed to solving the toughest problems facing Mainers,” the former president and first lady wrote.

This isn’t the first time that the 41st president has weighed in on the 2014 elections. He also endorsed Georgia Republican David Perdue in his bid for U.S. Senate. Bush told Perdue’s Democratic opponent, Michelle Nunn, to stop using his image in a campaign ad.

In a tight race, LePage is virtually tied with his Democratic challenger, Rep. Mike Michaud, according to HuffPost Pollster.

Obama Administration Clarifies Anti-Bullying Protections For Students With Disabilities

Huffingon Post Politics - Wed, 2014-10-22 19:29
When a 10-year-old student with ADHD and a speech disability talks in a high-pitched voice, gym class can become a nightmare. Other students call him "gay" or a "weirdo." He becomes yet another student with disabilities who gets bullied at a higher rate than his peers -- a problem the federal government has been tracking for years.

Since 2009, the feds have received 2,000 complaints of such incidents. But until now, due to the nature of his disability, the gym student might not have received the same federal anti-bullying protections as many of his peers -- even though he is legally entitled to it.

The Education Department's Office of Civil Rights is seeking to change that. This week, Assistant Secretary of Civil Rights Catherine Lhamon sent a letter with new legal guidance to the nation's public schools in an effort to clarify that federal anti-bullying protections extend to about 750,000 more students than schools think.

The gym student, as described in Lhamon's letter, is representative. He's an example from the new guidance, and he receives his special education services under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973's Section 504, the category of students whose coverage is clarified by the guidance.

Before this week's letter, the Education Department's most recent guidance on this issue came in 2013 from its special education office, which oversees the enforcement of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. But not all students with disabilities are covered by IDEA -- in fact, about three quarters of a million students are entitled to special education services under Section 504, but not under IDEA. And in many cases, these students have been left out of schools' attempts to police bullying.

"We were frankly surprised and dismayed when we learned that there had been some confusion after the 2013 document," Lhamon told The Huffington Post. "People didn't understand that students who don't receive IDEA services are nonetheless entitled to the protections against bullying that we're talking about."

The new letter, which comes during National Bullying Prevention Month, aims to clear up the confusion and extend protections to more students. Under federal law, most students with disabilities have a right to a "free and appropriate public education," but in some cases, the letter says, bullying can prevent them from receiving it -- pushing schools into the realm of noncompliance.

Under Section 504, a civil rights law, the example student is entitled to a "free and appropriate public education," and receives speech therapy and behavioral supports. Lhamon's letter describes a scenario where, three months into the school year, the physical education teacher notices the child enduring painful taunting. He sees students telling the child to "ask other students inappropriate personal questions."

But instead of reporting it to the principal, the teacher tells the student that he needs to tune it out and focus on "getting his head in the game." The bullying worsens, and the student recedes from social life to the point where he misses speech therapy. Like the gym teacher, the speech therapist also does not report the student's absence.

The new guidance clarifies that this school would be out of compliance with federal law. The school knew about this case of "disability-based harassment," and the gym teacher "not only failed to provide the student behavior supports [entitled by his 504 plan] ... but also failed to report the conduct." As a result, the student's right to public education has been violated. He is participating less and losing out on speech therapy, a form of academic support.

An investigation into the school would result in a special resolution with the district that would require a re-evaluation of the student's services, as well as counseling for the student and the development of school-wide anti-bullying policies and other federally mandated remedies.

When bullying occurs, the guidance specifies, schools must assess whether the bullying is related to a student's disability, and whether the bullying affects the student's ability to receive a free and appropriate public education. Investigations into schools can be triggered when schools knew or should have known about disability-related bullying but did not report or respond to it.

"It's a clear statement that students with disabilities are being disproportionately bullied and that ... [the federal government] is going to enforce the law that prohibits that," said Denise Marshall, who heads the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, an organization of lawyers who represent the parents of students with disabilities.

After the bullying occurs, administrators should formally reconvene to assess whether it has affected the student's educational opportunities -- and adjust the student's services accordingly if it has. While special education law already calls for a constant re-evaluation of students' needs, Lhamon said, that "is the world I would like to live in, not the world we actually live in." She wants to ensure that once schools assess the basis of a bullying incident, they then consider "whether that bullying has impeded the student's access to education."

According to the letter, there are "no hard and fast rules" in determining whether a student's education has been interrupted, but "the onset of emotional outbursts, an increase in the frequency or intensity of behavioral interruptions, or a rise in missed classes or sessions of section 504 services would be generally sufficient."

Currently, Marshall said, anti-bullying laws are "unevenly or ineffectually enforced" for students with disabilities. The current legal standard is often difficult to prove in court. Marshall called the new guidance "a positive step," but added that it remains to be seen how much difference it will make.

A representative from the Council of Administrators of Special Education did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

We Count, So Count Us: Three Reasons It's Important to Collect Census Data on LGBTQ People

Huffingon Post Politics - Wed, 2014-10-22 19:29
"One in 10 is not enough! Recruit! Recruit! Recruit!"

It was my favorite chant as a young queer activist, and its echo stays with me today. It was funny, sure, and poked fun at the fear of a million cowering conservatives. The chant was based on sexologist Alfred Kinsey's famous claim that 10 percent of men in the U.S. are gay, and that number was widely adopted as an estimate for how many lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer individuals live in the U.S. -- even though the LGBTQ community didn't have thorough research to back it up. But it was my favorite because it made me look around every day and wonder: Who were the other three LGBTQ students in my class? Who were the other four LGBTQ riders on my subway train? Who were the other five LGBTQ people in my extended family? The number gave me hope and told me that I wasn't alone.

At the same time, that chant gave me power. If we, the LGBTQ community, were a countable percentage of the population, we could all stand with one voice and demand respect, an end to anti-LGBTQ violence, and equality.

It never really occurred to me to question the number itself. Where did it come from? To be quite honest, I didn't care. I didn't think it mattered. Someone had counted, so we knew that we counted.

Twenty years later I realize that the counting really does matter. Data collection (as we math and law nerds call it) gets us money, power, health, housing, jobs, schools, food, and rights.

Is it really that important? Yes. Here's why:

It gives us political traction.

If you're not a voting bloc, you can't sway politicians. Like it or not, politicians make the decisions that rule our lives. They decide who has protection from discrimination, who can become a citizen, how much we pay in taxes, what we're taught in school, who can get married. The existence of the LGBTQ vote is dependent on our ability to prove that we are a large-enough group of people that we can sway elections. In other words, we only count if we are counted.

Perhaps more importantly, being counted gives us consumer power. As powerful as politicians are, corporations dwarf them in both number and reach. Exactly 737 corporations control 80 percent of the world's economy. In 2010 the Supreme Court decided that corporations are permitted to spend as much as they want to get candidates elected. A recent report by the Center for Public Integrity showed that corporations contributed at least $173 million to political nonprofits in 2012. Although there is an ethical minority of politicians who are indifferent to the whims of their funders, there are many who feel beholden to their corporate sponsors.

Our population numbers make us attractive to the corporate decision makers who hold the purse strings to our cultural and political lives. As they become aware of the purchasing power of millions of LGBTQ people, we become a demographic they market to and design products for and, most importantly, a population they can't afford to ignore or disrespect as they throw their weight around in the political arena. Money makes power, and as we are counted, we amass power through our ability to affect the decisions of major corporations.

All of that is real, but there's a more important reason for us to be counted:

It tells us how to fix things.

LGBTQ people experience disparities in almost every quantifiable way: We're more likely to live in poverty, more likely to be homeless, more likely to struggle with addiction, more likely to experience health conditions like diabetes and lung cancer, more likely to be unemployed, more likely to go to jail, more likely to experience sexual assault, more likely to experience violence, more likely to contract HIV. I could go on. At the risk of sounding depressing, statistically we're screwed.

That's where data collection comes in. Without an accurate picture of the disparities we face, we can't figure out how to address them. Think about jobs: We know that lesbian, gay and bisexual adults are unemployed at a rate 40-percent higher than the overall unemployment rate, and transgender adults are twice as likely to unemployed as the overall average. But if we don't have data on how many of us graduate from high school, college, or trade schools, or how many of us have been fired because of our actual or perceived gender identity, we can't know how to reduce that disparity.

The same applies to every other medical, scientific, and sociological disparity faced by our community. If we don't know how many of us are facing a particular issue, we can't know how to address it.

Both political power and ability to effectively address our needs are critically important. Still, for me, the need for data collection comes back to the same thing as it did when I was a 15-year-old activist:

It gives us hope.

We count. That's why I joined the Census Bureau's National Advisory Committee on Racial, Ethnic, and Other Populations. I want our government to accurately count us because it gives us power, tells us how to make life better for our community, and gives us hope. We need to know that we're one of many. In the committee, I will press the Census Bureau to help us prove that, by adding questions to the census and other surveys about sexual orientation and gender identity. I hope you help me and support the LGBTQ community by standing up when it's your turn to be counted. That way we can show that not only are we not alone but we are a large, diverse and politically significant community that has a key part to play in the future of our country.

Solar battery pack allows you be a Freeloader with your gadgets (Review)

TreeHugger Science-Tech - Wed, 2014-10-22 17:31
The iSIS Freeloader battery pack and Supercharger solar panel, when combined with the CamCaddy camera battery charger, make up a solid globetrotting gadget-charging bundle.

Scientists use drones to monitor killer whales

TreeHugger Science-Tech - Wed, 2014-10-22 07:00
NOAA researchers are observing and taking photographs of endangered killer whale species with the technology.

Kirk Cameron Urges Christians To Celebrate Halloween By Sharing The Gospel

Huffingon Post Politics - Wed, 2014-10-22 04:28
Actor Kirk Cameron is urging Christians to celebrate a holiday many fundamentalists shun: Halloween.

When you go out on Halloween and see all people dressed in costumes and see someone in a great big bobble-head Obama costume with great big ears and an Obama face, are they honoring him or poking fun?” the former "Growing Pains" star asked the Christian Post.

"They are poking fun at him," he said. Then, he added:

“Early on, Christians would dress up in costumes as the devil, ghosts, goblins and witches precisely to make the point that those things were defeated and overthrown by the resurrected Jesus Christ. The costumes poke fun at the fact that the devil and other evils were publicly humiliated by Christ at His resurrection.”

Cameron said the "real origins" of Halloween were related to All Saints Day and All Hallows Eve. However, according to anthropologists, the true origins of Halloween go back about 2,000 years to the Celtic holiday of Samhain, which celebrated the end of the harvest season.

Ancient Celts believed the day marked the beginning of winter, a time of year when ghosts returned to earth to wreak havoc on their crops and possess the living. To combat this, the Celts would don animal heads and skins as part of their interaction with the spirit world.

But Cameron claims Halloween is not about death, as often depicted these days, but about life, and he urges Christians to throw "the biggest party on your block" as a way to convert the masses.

"Halloween gives you a great opportunity to show how Christians celebrate the day that death was defeated, and you can give them Gospel tracts and tell the story of how every ghost, goblin, witch and demon was trounced the day Jesus rose from the grave. Clearly no Christians ought to be glorifying death, because death was defeated, and that was the point of All Hallows Eve."

Halloween isn't the only holiday on Cameron's radar. Next month, he's releasing a film called "Saving Christmas," aimed at restoring religion to the holiday.

(h/t Raw Story)

Official Autopsy Shows Michael Brown Had Close-Range Wound To His Hand, Marijuana In System

Huffingon Post Politics - Wed, 2014-10-22 00:39
The official autopsy on Michael Brown shows that he was shot in the hand at close range, according to an analysis of the findings by two experts not involved directly in the case. The accompanying toxicology report shows he had been using marijuana.

Pat Quinn vs. Bruce Rauner vs. Chad Grimm Nonpartisan Candidate Guide For Illinois Governor's Race 2014

Huffingon Post Politics - Wed, 2014-10-22 00:14

Are you looking for a nonpartisan voter guide to the Pat Quinn vs. Bruce Rauner vs. Chad Grimm Governor's race? One that will give you an unbiased, no-spin comparison of candidate positions on key issues? That's what our Campus Election Engagement Project guide will give you! We are a national nonpartisan initiative working with college and university administrators, faculty, and student leaders to increase student participation in America's elections. For the 2014 elections we have created and distributed voter guides to campuses in more than 20 states so they can provide their communities with accurate information for informed voting. Because these guides have been so well received and are useful for all voting citizens who want to be better informed, we are also posting them here.

We developed our guides by analyzing information from trusted resources such as www.votesmart.org, www.ontheissues.org, www.ballotpedia.com, www.politifact.com, www.factcheck.org, www.vote411.org and from candidate websites, public debates and interviews, and statements in major media outlets. We also showed them to groups like campus Young Republicans and Young Democrats at the schools we work with to verify their fairness and lack of bias.

So here are the issue-by-issue stands for Pat Quinn, Bruce Rauner and Chad Grimm , with additional links at the bottom for each candidate if you'd like to dig deeper.

Education: Do you support increasing funding for K-12 education?
Quinn: No
Rauner: No
Grimm: Unknown

Education: Do you support providing vouchers to parents to send their children to private schools with public money?
Quinn: No
Rauner: Yes
Grimm: Unknown

Education: Do you support increasing funding for higher education?
Quinn: Yes
Rauner: Unknown
Grimm: Unknown

Elections: Do you support requiring registered voters to present a photo-ID in order to vote?
Quinn: No
Rauner: No
Grimm: Unknown

Elections: Do you support increasing restrictions on campaign donations?
Quinn: Yes
Rauner: No
Grimm: Yes

Environment: Do you believe that human activity is a major factor contributing to climate change?
Quinn: Yes
Rauner: No. Has funded major think tanks that argue against human-caused climate change.
Grimm: Unknown

Environment: Do you support taking government action to limit the levels of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere?
Quinn: Yes
Rauner: No
Grimm: No

Environment: Do you support government mandates and/or subsidies for renewable energy?
Quinn: Yes
Rauner: No. Does support oil and gas subsidies
Grimm: Unknown

Gay Marriage: Do you support gay marriage?
Quinn: Yes
Rauner: No
Grimm: Yes

Gun Control: Do you support enacting more restrictive gun control legislation?
Quinn: Yes
Rauner: No
Grimm: No

Healthcare: Do you support the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare?
Quinn: Yes
Rauner: No
Grimm: Unknown

Healthcare: Should your state accept federal funds so Medicaid will cover people earning up to 138% of the federal poverty line?
Quinn: Yes
Rauner: No
Grimm: Unknown

Marijuana: Do you support efforts to decriminalize and/or legalize marijuana?
Quinn: Supports medical marijuana
Rauner: Supports medical marijuana
Grimm: Yes

Minimum Wage: Do you support raising the minimum wage?
Quinn: Yes
Rauner: History of strong opposition shifting to current limited support. (Currently willing to support under certain conditions, but has previously talked of eliminating state minimum wage and largely still opposes. Public statements within past year have changed significantly from advocating outright elimination, to reduction only, to supporting federal increase that would increase Illinois minimum wage if it were combined with pro-business reforms.)
Grimm: No. Seeks to eliminate it.

Social Issues: Should abortion be highly restricted?
Quinn: No
Rauner: No
Grimm: Yes

Social Issues: Should employers be able to withhold contraceptive coverage from employees if they disagree with it morally?
Quinn: No
Rauner: Unknown
Grimm: Unknown

Taxes: Have you signed the Americans for Tax Reform Pledge to oppose any tax increases to raise revenue? (The answer to this question is taken from the database of signatories of the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, created by Americans for Tax Reform. Signers to the pledge promise to oppose "any and all tax increases" meant to generate additional revenue.)
Quinn: No
Rauner: No
Grimm: No

Taxes: Would you increase taxes on corporations and/or high-income individuals to pay for public services?
Quinn: Yes
Rauner: No. Seeks to reduce all taxes.
Grimm: No. Seeks to reduce all taxes and move toward zero income tax.

Learn more about the candidates:
Quinn: Pat Quinn Vote Smart pages and Pat Quinn On the Issues pages
Rauner: Bruce Rauner Vote Smart pages
Grimm: Chad Grimm Vote Smart pages
Other gubernatorial candidates include Scott Summers (Green Write-In). Due to limited space, we can't include his positions, but invite you to check out his website.

Kansans Are Moderate As Hell And They're Not Going To Take It Anymore

Huffingon Post Politics - Wed, 2014-10-22 00:01
OVERLAND PARK, Kansas -- A boring thing happened in Kansas last week.

In a nondescript conference room in a nondescript community center, a group with a nondescript name vented about that most nondescript of policy matters: budgets.

Members of Republicans for Kansas Values, a stodgy group of lawmakers past and present, assailed the state's increasing deficits, depleted trust funds and lowered credit rating. All these grievances were laid at the doorstep of the state's Republican governor, Sam Brownback, whose re-election the group opposed. One member, in what probably counts as a dramatic gesture among moderates, said he would unload all his state bonds were Brownback to win again.

Brownback's Democratic opponent, Kansas state House Minority Leader Paul Davis, himself pretty nondescript, looked on solemnly -- or as solemnly as one can during a discussion of fixed-income financial instruments.

Kansas has been anything but boring since Brownback swept into the governor's mansion in 2011, hoping (as he put it) to turn the state into a "real life experiment" of far-right policy ideas. He drastically cut income taxes, a major source of funding for schools and infrastructure; declined federal dollars to expand Medicaid; and railed against reproductive rights, same-sex marriage and undocumented immigrants. When moderate Republicans in the legislature tried to rein in his fiscal agenda, Brownback and conservative groups like the Koch brothers' Americans for Prosperity orchestrated a purge, spending lavishly on the moderates' 2012 primary challengers. Brownback triumphed, and the state Senate's bloc of moderate Republicans was eviscerated that year.

"This is sort of the Koch brothers' playground," lamented Wint Winter Jr., a former state senator and founder of Republicans for Kansas Values. The state is home territory for the politically active billionaires Charles and David Koch, where they were born and where their company, Koch Industries, is based.

The Davis campaign is gambling on a backlash -- to Brownback's budget cuts and all the partisan battles. Kansas Republicans still identify with no-fuss moderates like President Dwight Eisenhower and Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, multiple local officials told The Huffington Post. And they aren't exactly thrilled that their governor has turned the state into a petri dish of tea party ideology. Status quo might be boring, but it kept the schools funded and the roads pothole-free.

"Kansas Republicans are let-the-dog-out, bring-in-the-milk kinds of people," Winter said. "Don't give us flash, don't give us extremes."

Two weeks before the election, moderates' anger has yet to subside. Some of these unassuming rebels might be older, slower-moving and prefer polyblend pants and Cosby-esque sweaters to the tea party's tricorn hats. But they could well determine not just Kansas' future but the balance of power in Congress. The taint of Brownback's low approval ratings is hampering the statewide campaigns of other Republicans like two-term Sen. Pat Roberts and Kris Kobach, the firebrand secretary of state who has become a national figure for his work targeting undocumented immigrants.

"I'm a traditional, fiscally conservative Republican, and my party has left me and has pushed far, far to the right," said Sheila Frahm, a former state Senate majority leader and lieutenant governor who held Dole's U.S. Senate seat for five months after he resigned to run for president. "The 'experiment,' as the governor has called it, has not worked. And now you have this rebellion."

Brownback, for his part, is putting up a fight for his party's centrist wing, resulting in something of a moderate arms race. After the Republicans for Kansas Values event, the Brownback campaign blasted out a scathing statement from its own allied group of aisle-crossers, Democrats for Brownback, which contended that Republicans for Kansas Values represents "less than one-tenth of one percent of all registered Republicans in Kansas."

During a Topeka campaign stop, The Huffington Post asked Davis about Democrats for Brownback. He scoffed, "What? Are there two of them?"

Paul Davis (center), the Democratic candidate for Kansas governor, confers with two Republicans -- former Kansas Senate President Steve Morris (left) and former state Sen. Wint Winter Jr. (right) -- before a news conference on Oct. 14, 2014. (AP Photo/John Hanna)

Hiawatha is known as the "City of Beautiful Maples," but with its modest and well-kept homes, picturesque town square and surrounding lush farmland, this northeast Kansas town of 3,000 could just as well be called the "City of Norman Rockwell's Fever Dream."

A banner spanning one of its main thoroughfares announces the town's 100th annual Halloween parade, which residents boast is the oldest such continuing festivity in the country. Hiawatha was reportedly the inspiration for Riverdale, the fictional Midwestern setting of the "Archie" comic strip. "Real" America doesn't get much realer. It just so happens that this little slice of Americana is also run by a lifelong Republican who is seriously mad at Sam Brownback.

Crosby Gernon, Hiawatha's mayor since 2005 and a member of Republicans for Kansas Values, worries that Brownback's cuts to the state's income, corporate and sales taxes are starving the municipal services that have made his community an attractive place to raise families.

"It's almost a race now to see who can be the most conservative and not really offer solutions," Gernon said. "This 'experiment' that Brownback wanted to create has failed miserably."

Hiawatha's schools have been forced to reduce extracurricular programs and non-core classes like art and music. Class sizes have increased, and school officials said that the only thing that has prevented cuts to core classes like math and English are teachers who have consented to pay freezes.

Such conditions have made the school system, historically Hiawatha's biggest employer, a less attractive place to work. It's not just students who've been hurt, officials argued to HuffPost, but the town as a whole. They feared that people who might otherwise consider moving to Hiawatha are going elsewhere, like nearby Nebraska.

"It used to be that you'd start working with us when you were 18 and would work with us for your whole career," said Penny Hargrove, superintendent of Hiawatha Public Schools. "Now, because of the uncertainty of whether we'll be able to keep funding levels from one year to the next, people are a little leery to work with us."

If you're a breadwinner for a family of four, Hargrove said, the starting salary for a teaching position wouldn't lift you above the poverty line -- which is $23,850, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

"I've don't think I've ever seen morale so low," observed Chris Vitt, a biology and anatomy teacher at Hiawatha High School and 31-year veteran of the school district.

But what really scares local educators is consolidation, a scenario in which Hiawatha's population drops so much that its schools are forced to merge with those of nearby towns. Gernon and Hargrove worry that the declining quality of public services could bring about such a fate.

"The heart of rural communities are their schools," Hargrove said. "You've grown up in this community, and now they're going to blend with one of their archrivals. When you lose that school, you lose your identity as a community."

"We try to be fiscally responsible and pray that our enrollment doesn't go down to the point where we're forced to do that," she added. "But we've just continued to cut and cut and cut."

The Brownback campaign insists that school funding has increased by nearly $400 million statewide and cites reports showing increases in per-pupil funding levels. But the governor's detractors, like Mayor Gernon, contend that such numbers are bookkeeping gimmicks that belie the dire situation on the ground. Specifically, the critics argue that the Brownback administration's reclassification of KPERS, the state's teacher pension fund, as part of the general education budget has misleadingly inflated school funding levels.

Kansas' financial woes have left many locals seething. "Look at the Koch brothers," said Gernon. "How much money do you think Brownback has put in their pockets by cutting the personal income tax? Who have they employed?"

Gernon sees the eroding schools as contrary to Kansas' identity. "There's this perception at some levels of the state government that people in public education are just wasting money," he said. "It's amazing how our schools have survived." The Kansas constitution requires the state to provide its children with a solid education.

"We've never had a legislature that was so ..." Hargrove said before trailing off, noting that her role as a nonpartisan administrator forbade her from engaging in political activity.

Gernon finished Hargrove's sentence for her. "... hostile," he said.

Republican Gov. Sam Brownback (left) and his Democratic challenger, Paul Davis, shake hands after a debate at the Kansas State Fair on Sept. 6, 2014, in Hutchinson. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Former state Senate President Steve Morris (R) is the type of politician who typically wins elections in rural southwestern Kansas. He's an Air Force veteran who served two tours in Vietnam and describes his record as staunchly pro-military and pro-life. He's pragmatic, sometimes overly so. When Morris' interview with HuffPost had to be rescheduled to breakfast, the matter of finding a restaurant arose. He demurred, saying the previously agreed-upon meeting place would do just fine. The thing was, it was a Red Lobster.

If he believes something works, Morris is loath to change it, and it's that attitude that got him into trouble. He was one of the center-right legislators in 2011 who allied themselves with Democrats to curtail Brownback's overhaul of Kansas government. The consequence for him: a barrage of attack ads from groups like Americans for Prosperity, Club for Growth and Kansas Right to Life, all with Brownback's blessing. One ad featured a photoshopped image of Morris in a tuxedo holding a stack of burning dollar bills.

Despite his conservative bona fides and no-frills style, Morris lost his 2012 primary to state Rep. Larry Powell.

Now, two years later, Morris is actively working to defeat not only Brownback but other tea party-aligned lawmakers in his state. He has endorsed Manhattan, Kansas, Mayor Jim Sherow, the Democratic candidate challenging Rep. Tim Huelskamp in Kansas' 1st Congressional District, which includes Morris' hometown of Hugoton (and more than half of Kansas). He might be a low-key guy, but the language Morris uses when discussing Brownback and his allies is anything but.

"If anyone is not 100 percent pure on every issue, they're going to get you," Morris said, nestled in a booth at a Topeka-area Denny's (the Red Lobster was closed for breakfast). "When I was elected in 1992, I considered myself a conservative Republican. The labels have changed -- I don't feel like I've changed."

"There are three hallmarks of this administration: incompetence, intolerance and intimidation," he said, decrying its allegedly fast and loose use of statistics and hostility to ideological differences.

"Sam's probably the most partisan person I've ever been around," Morris added, recalling a conversation he had with the governor about education funding and his feeling that his concerns were only being paid lip service. "The next week we'd have the same conversation as if we'd never had it before. The week after that, the same conversation. It was disconcerting."

Kansas politics was once "a bastion of reasonableness," Morris said. He traces his own political awakening to 1968 when, as a student at Kansas State University, he met GOP presidential candidate Nelson Rockefeller, one of the patron saints of 20th century Republican moderates.

After the check was paid at Denny's and business cards exchanged, it was noted that Morris currently resides on Eisenhower Street, named for the state's most famous moderate lawmaker. Asked if it would be okay to print the name of his street, Morris smiled.

"I'm proud to live on Eisenhower!" he said.

Things Are Improving For LGBT Students, But They're Still Really Bad

Huffingon Post Politics - Wed, 2014-10-22 00:01
Schools are getting better at fostering a friendly environment for LGBT students, but they still have a long way to go.

A survey released Wednesday by the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, which advocates school safety for students, regardless of sexual orientation or gender expression, showed notable improvement for LGBT students during the 2012-2013 school year from 2010-2011.

But huge numbers of LGBT students reported problems at school. Of the nearly 8,000 students ages 13 to 21 who were surveyed, more than 55 percent reported feeling unsafe at school due to their sexual orientation, down from 64 percent in 2011. Thirty-six percent faced physical harassment, including pushing or shoving, a drop of 2 percentage points from the earlier survey. And more than 16 percent said they were physically assaulted, sometimes with a weapon, a decline of 2 percentage points. Many students said they avoided places at school that made them feel unsafe.

“You see tremendous progress since 2011,” Eliza Byard, executive director of Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, told The Huffington Post. “That being said, it still means far too many students are experiencing anti-LGBT violence and discrimination."

The survey found that certain school policies contribute to discrimination. More than half of students who were surveyed reported hearing teachers or school staff make homophobic remarks against LGBT students. Further, school staff often fail to protect LGBT students, the survey showed. The number of students who said school staff members intervened to stop bullying was unchanged from 2011.

Byard said the new report provides greater detail than earlier surveys on how schools discriminate against LGBT students. For example, nearly 18 percent of students reported being prevented by from “discussing or writing about LGBT topics in school assignments.” Nearly 16 percent were prohibited from wearing clothing or items supporting LGBT issues. For the first time, the survey asked students whether they had heard negative remarks about transgender people.

“We don’t know if that’s on the way up or way down," Byard said. "The increased visibility in trans students and issues makes it a place where we have to pay attention.”

Byard said she worries that school structures and policies are not keeping pace with changes in student behavior.

“In our current political climate, that makes me really worried,” Byard said.

Rick Scott Refuses To Say Whether He Knew Execution Delay Was For A Fundraiser

Huffingon Post Politics - Tue, 2014-10-21 23:37
WASHINGTON -- Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) refused to say on Tuesday whether he knew that the state attorney general requested delaying a condemned man's execution last year because it conflicted with her own political fundraiser.

Pressed on the delay during a debate Tuesday by his Democratic opponent, former Gov. Charlie Crist, Scott sidestepped the question.

“She asked me to delay it because it didn’t work with the dates that she thought it was going be on,” Scott said. “She apologized. What would you like her to do?”

Scott postponed the execution of murderer Marshall Lee Gore by three weeks at the request of Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi (R). Bondi later apologized, and told the Tampa Bay Times “the planned execution of Marshall Lee Gore had already been stayed twice by the courts, and we absolutely should not have requested that the date of the execution be moved." Gore was put to death Oct. 1, 2013.

Scott told the Tampa Bay Times last year that he did not know the reason for the attorney general's request, but declined to say whether he considered a political fundraiser an appropriate reason for a delay.

Scott Brown Denies His Own Claim That ISIS Terrorists Could Sneak Across The Border

Huffingon Post Politics - Tue, 2014-10-21 23:07
WASHINGTON -- Scott Brown's strategy in his New Hampshire Senate campaign has focused on claims that securing the border would prevent Islamic State militants from crossing into the United States. But when asked on Tuesday for evidence, Brown denied he ever made such statements.

"With respect, I did not say that -- what I have said is ISIS is real," Brown, a Republican, said during the first televised debate of the New Hampshire Senate race. "When you're talking about how people come into the United States, we have evidence and we have known that we have people coming through the border illegally."

"Is there a possibility?" he added. "It's been raised that there are opportunities for people to come through that border. What are their intentions, I'm not sure, but they have made it very clear that they want to plant a flag in the White House."

Brown has suggested on multiple occasions that ISIS terrorists could cross the southern U.S. border. Just last month, Brown raised the theory during an interview with Fox News.

"As you know, what happened recently with the beheading of one of our own, there's deep concerns that there are members of ISIS actually coming through the border right now," Brown said.

He cut several ads accusing his opponent, Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, of being weak on border security. In one, Brown draws a link between the border and the threat posed by ISIS.

Shaheen agreed that ISIS was a "very real" threat that should be addressed, but declined to get into a debate over whether the 2011 withdrawal of troops from Iraq facilitated the group's rise.

"I think that's revisionist history," Shaheen said. "I don't support sending tens of thousands of troops back into Iraq as an occupying force."

Shaheen accused Brown of fearmongering -- both on ISIS and the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Brown took issue with that characterization, even though he raised eyebrows this month for pushing the notion that people infected with the Ebola virus could walk across the border.

"I’m not fearmongering," Brown said. "I’m actually talking about something that’s very relevant and important to people here in New Hampshire and throughout this country and the world. There’s been no coherent policy from the president."

HuffPost's Pollster model, which averages all publicly available polling, shows Shaheen leading Brown by just under 3 percentage points.


What's happening in your district? The Huffington Post wants to know about all the campaign ads, mailers, robocalls, candidate appearances and other interesting campaign news happening by you. Email any tips, videos, audio files or photos to openreporting@huffingtonpost.com.

Prison for Teen Who Lit "Agender" Youth's Skirt on Fire Thwarts Healing

Huffingon Post Politics - Tue, 2014-10-21 22:55
The news of Richard Thomas' seven-year prison sentence raises fresh questions about how the justice system intervenes in dangerous, but clearly adolescent behavior. Richard, age 16, was prosecuted in a California adult court after setting on fire the skirt of 18-year-old "Sasha" Fleischman, who was asleep on a local bus. Sasha identifies as "agender" meaning neither male nor female. Three days after the incident, the Alameda County District Attorney's Office charged Richard as an adult, alleging assault and aggravated mayhem as hate crimes. The charging decision completely bypassed the juvenile court system.

The incident deserved serious attention. Sasha suffered second and third degree burns and was hospitalized for several weeks. The charging decision appropriately recognized this, as well as the fact that the act was perpetrated on a gender non-conforming youth. But this case presented a series of additional elements and opportunities that were lost in the reflexive urge to imprison Richard for what he did.

This was an impulsive act perpetrated by an immature teenager. We have a separate court system to deal with just this kind of disturbing, but unmistakably juvenile type of behavior. Although what happened to Sasha was horrible, in many ways it typifies the kind of thoughtless, attention-seeking, peer-influenced behavior we see every day in juvenile court. The reality is that even "good" kids can be mean and insensitive. Lighting Sasha's skirt on fire on the bus may have seemed funny at the time -- a way for Richard to make himself feel better at the expense of someone who seemed "different." He did it in the moment, without reflecting upon the harm his actions would cause, both physically and emotionally.

Significantly, Richard felt terrible about what had happened. Almost immediately, he publicly expressed remorse and wrote a letter of apology to Sasha. It was also clear that Sasha and Sasha's family were open to creating a healing process and a public dialogue about what had happened. Sasha's mother went to the District Attorney to ask that a restorative justice process be pursued but was refused. In a media statement at the time of sentencing, Sasha's mother expressed relief that Sasha would not have to go to trial, but also said "...we really feel for Richard and his family. Because of what seems like a childish, impulsive, tragic lack of judgment on the part of Richard, he and his family are going to be suffering from this." She went on to say, "A 16-year-old's actions -- however severe the results -- don't have any place in the adult judicial system."

While the juvenile justice system is far from perfect, it has the ability both to provide accountability and individualized rehabilitative services. Youth in the juvenile system can be removed from the community when that is needed to protect the public -- sometimes for a period of years. In juvenile facilities, youth must receive the full complement of compulsory education services, as well as "care, guidance and treatment" in accordance with their particular needs. This helps to assure that young people will leave custody equipped to move successfully forward in their lives.

In addition, many juvenile courts have restorative justice programs, or can set up such a process as part of the juvenile court disposition. Restorative justice brings victims together with the young person who caused the harm, as well as members of the community who have been impacted. In this setting, youth must come face-to-face with their actions. Victims have the opportunity to speak about the harm they suffered and have a voice in deciding what should be done to repair the situation. The process often results in restitution, reconciliation with the victim, community service, counseling or participation in public education about the issues involved. The young person is held accountable, but in a way that focuses on the needs of the victim and the community. This kind of process seems especially desirable in a case involving intolerance and ignorance about gender-non-conforming youth. Sending Richard to prison effectively cut off these opportunities.

Richard will be housed in a juvenile facility until his 18th birthday and then be shipped to state prison. California's prison system is unconstitutionally overcrowded and under a federal court jurisdiction for failure to provide adequate health and mental health care. Only a fraction of its inmates have access to academic education or vocational services. In prison, Richard will spend 24 hours a day in the company of older, more criminally entrenched inmates. He will leave prison without having had the opportunity to grow up the way other kids do, by gradually learning to exercise good judgment and responsibility, guided by caring parental figures. These deficits will leave him more likely to have further contact with the criminal justice system, and more likely to have problems seeking employment and higher education. Will that help Sasha? Will it help the greater community?

Sasha, now a college student at MIT, has cogently observed, "You should really know better than to light someone's skirt on fire. You should be able to realize that this is not some funny prank. But I don't want to be too harsh. People do dumb things, especially when they are teenagers." Why can't our justice system recognize this?

Getting a Grip on Ebola

Huffingon Post Politics - Tue, 2014-10-21 22:44

We have to get a grip. Ebola is not a crisis in the United States. One person has died and two people are infected with his body fluids.

The real crisis is the hysteria over Ebola that's being fed by media outlets seeking sensationalism and politicians posturing for the midterm elections.

That hysteria is causing us to lose our heads. Parents have pulled their children out of a middle school after learning the school's principal had traveled to Zambia. Zambia happens to be in Africa but it has not even had a single case of Ebola.

A teacher at an elementary school has been placed on paid leave because parents were concerned he might have contracted the Ebola virus. When and how? During a recent trip to Dallas for an educational conference.

Are we planning to quarantine Dallas next?

Some politicians from both parties are demanding an end to commercial flights between the United States and several West African countries. But there are no direct flights to the U.S. from Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea, where Ebola is taking its biggest toll.

So do they want to ban all commercial flights that might contain someone from any of these countries, who might have transferred planes? That would cover just about all commercial flights coming from outside the United States.

The most important thing we can do to prevent Ebola from ever becoming a crisis in the United States is to help Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea, where 10,000 new cases could crop up weekly unless the spread of the virus is slowed soon.

Isolating these poor nations would only make their situation worse. Does anyone seriously believe we could quarantine hundreds of thousands of infected people a continent away who are infecting others?

The truth is quite the opposite. If the disease is allowed to spread in these places, the entire world could be imperiled.

These nations desperately need medical professionals in the field, more medical resources, isolation facilities, and systems in place to detect early cases.

Even at this stage, that's not an impossible task. Nigeria is succeeding in checking the spread of the disease. It has not had a new case of Ebola in over a month.

But I'm worried about America. I'm not worried about Ebola. I'm worried about our confidence and courage.

Every time a global crisis arises these days -- the drug war in Latin America, terrorism in the Middle East, climate change that's straining global food and water supplies and threatening many parts of the world with flooding -- the knee-jerk response of some Americans is to stop it at our borders.

As if we have the option. As if we live on another planet.

What's wrong with us? We never used to blink at taking a leadership role in the world. And we understood leadership often required something other than drones and bombs.

We accepted global leadership not just for humanitarian reasons but also because it was in our own best interest. We knew we couldn't isolate ourselves from trouble. There was no place to hide.

After World War II, we rebuilt Europe and Japan. Belatedly, we achieved peace in Kosovo. We almost eradicated polio. We took on tuberculosis, worldwide.

Now even Cuba is doing more on the ground in West Africa than we are. It's dispatching hundreds of doctors and nurses to the front lines. The first group of 165 arrived in Sierra Leone in the past few days.

Where are we?

We're not even paying attention to health crises right under our own noses.

More people are killed by stray bullets every day in America than have been killed by Ebola here. More are dying because of poverty and hunger.

More American kids are getting asthma because their homes are located next to major highways. One out of three of our children is obese, at risk of early-onset diabetes.

We're not even getting a flu shot to all Americans who need one.

Instead, we bicker. For the last eight months, Republicans have been blocking confirmation of a Surgeon General.

Why? Because the President's nominee voiced support for expanded background checks for gun purchases, and the National Rifle Association objected.

We've got to get our priorities straight. Media outlets that are exploiting Ebola because they want a sensational story and politicians using it to their own ends ought to be ashamed.

Public fear isn't something to be played with.

There's a huge job to be done, here and abroad. Let's roll up our sleeves and get on with it.

Maine Gov. LePage, Who Vetoed Medicaid Expansion, Wants To 'Find A Way' To Help Uninsured

Huffingon Post Politics - Tue, 2014-10-21 22:43
WASHINGTON -- Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) said Tuesday that he wants to "find a way" to provide health insurance to the state's 70,000 uninsured, even though he vetoed legislation in April that would have done just that -- and at no cost to the state.

During a gubernatorial debate, LePage said he vetoed the Medicaid expansion bill because it would have covered people with incomes at 400 percent of the federal poverty level. The bill would have accepted millions of dollars in federal funds for the state's MaineCare program under the Affordable Care Act, which LePage has criticized. The federal government would have paid for the entire cost of the Medicaid expansion until 2017, at which point it would lower its coverage to 90 percent.

"I do agree, there are people under the federal poverty level," LePage said. "They need to be able to go to the exchanges. The federal exchanges will allow anyone from 100 percent on up to 400 percent to quality for large subsidies. We need to maximize that aspect of it. Take those that do not qualify and then find a way to get them insurance."

LePage's comments were confusing, though, because the exchanges are part of the Affordable Care Act. The debate moderator pointed out that health care options available to low-income residents outside of the president's health care law may have unaffordable deductibles. LePage blamed that on the Affordable Care Act.

"That's ACA. I didn't put that in," he said.

When the moderator clarified he was talking about private health care options outside of the Affordable Care Act, LePage blamed that on the Affordable Care Act, too.

"Yeah, well that's ACA. That's what I'm saying," LePage said. "The ACA has changed the entire system."

LePage's Democratic challenger, Rep. Michael Michaud, said as governor he would send a bill to the state legislature on his first day in office that would take advantage of the federal Medicaid dollars.

"I'll be submitting legislation to the legislature that will cover the 70,000 Mainers who were denied access under the Affordable Care Act, and of which 3,000 were veterans," Michaud said. "Not only because it's the morally right thing to do, but the state will save over $600 million over a 10-year time frame."

Eliot Cutler, the independent candidate in the race, said he, too, would expand Medicaid and accept the federal funds.

"Every single person in the state of Maine, every man woman and child, ought to have, needs to have, access to primary and secondary care. They need a medical home," said Cutler. "Because if they get sick, it costs all of us money."

Michaud is leading LePage in the campaign by just over a percentage point, according to HuffPollster.


What's happening in your district? The Huffington Post wants to know about all the campaign ads, mailers, robocalls, candidate appearances and other interesting campaign news happening by you. Email any tips, videos, audio files or photos to openreporting@huffingtonpost.com.

Colorado Official Changes Her Mind About Removing Student Newspapers

Huffingon Post Politics - Tue, 2014-10-21 22:36
FORT COLLINS, Colo. (AP) -- A Colorado county clerk has reversed her order that a university remove copies of its student newspaper from boxes outside its student union Tuesday because the front page had coverage of Democratic Sen. Mark Udall's visit to campus.

Larimer County Clerk Angela Myers, a Republican, said the front-page photo and story about Udall's Monday visit to Colorado State University was improper electioneering and should not be allowed near a polling place. The student center contains a drop-off box for ballots.

Myers later announced that the statute on which she based her decision is unclear and that she will allow newspapers traditionally available within 100 feet of polling places to continue to be distributed for the remainder of the campaign.

Myers said she was consulting with the secretary of state's office about the statute's intent. The statute bans candidate photos and other electioneering material near polling places.

"This was done with the best of intentions. I don't care what side of the issues you are on or your political persuasion," Myers said of her removal order. "I would love some clarity on this statute, quite honestly."

An attorney for The Rocky Mountain Collegian earlier Tuesday sent Myers a cease-and-desist letter, arguing news coverage is not electioneering.

"It doesn't make sense to me. It's a newspaper doing its job, not a pamphlet saying, `Go vote for someone,'" said Kate Winkle, the Collegian's executive editor.

Winkle said Colorado State employees helped move newspapers to other boxes farther from the student center and no papers were lost.

Udall is in a tight battle against Republican U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner that could determine which party controls the U.S. Senate. Republicans need to net six seats to take over the chamber.