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MSNBC Moves Al Sharpton To Sunday Mornings

Huffingon Post Politics - Wed, 2015-08-26 21:41

NEW YORK (AP) — Al Sharpton is losing his daily show on MSNBC, with the network saying he'll be downshifted to the weekend. The move is one among many changes at the network as it moves away from commentary and towards breaking news coverage.

Sharpton's "Politics Nation" has aired at 6 p.m. EDT on weeknights for the past four years at the ratings-challenged news network. MSNBC is in the midst of wholesale changes under NBC News boss Andrew Lack, deemphasizing its left-leaning programming during the daytime hours in favor of more straight news shows.

Sharpton's show occasionally put MSNBC in awkward positions, since he continued his political activism while doing some stories where there was racial controversy while remaining host of a news program. The show averaged between 500,000 and 600,000 viewers in recent weeks, trailing Fox News and CNN in the key age demographic of 25-54, the Los Angeles Times reports.

MSNBC said Wednesday that starting Oct. 4, Sharpton's "Politics Nation" will air at 8 a.m. Sundays. His daily show ends Sept. 4.

"I want to congratulate Al and his team," MSNBC president Phil Griffin said. "For four years they have done a terrific job bringing his voice and a big spotlight to issues of justice, civil rights and equality. And as many of you know, The Rev never missed a show. I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do with a Sunday morning news maker program

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Pennsylvania Court Releases Trove Of Pornographic Emails Sent By State Officials

Huffingon Post Politics - Wed, 2015-08-26 20:07

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HARRISBURG, Pa., Aug 26 (Reuters) - Pennsylvania's highest court on Wednesday unsealed a trove of pornographic emails exchanged by state officials years ago that Attorney General Kathleen Kane said her political enemies wanted to suppress and her foes said she was using to intimidate them.

The emails, consisting of crude jokes and graphics passed among hundreds of people in state government, have formed a subplot in a tangle of investigations stretching over years.

They were released by the state Supreme Court on Wednesday at the request of a judge who had supervised a grand jury that brought perjury charges against Kane. The supervisor, Judge William Carpenter, argued that their release would not comprise the secrecy of the proceedings of that grand jury.

The documents made public on Wednesday also revealed that a special prosecutor investigating Kane in the perjury case had sought a protective order against her a year ago. Thomas Carlucci claimed Kane planned to use the emails to retaliate against witnesses who testified against her to the grand jury.

Kane, a Democrat, has maintained that the perjury charges were politically motivated and intended to keep her from releasing the embarrassing emails. She had uncovered them as part of an unrelated investigation into her Republican predecessor, Tom Corbett, and one of his investigators, Frank Fina.

Fina, one of the state officials who had exchanged the emails, was Corbett's chief investigator in the case against Jerry Sandusky, the former Penn State football coach who was eventually jailed for child sexual abuse.

In the perjury case, Kane, 49, is accused of illegally leaking embarrassing information about Fina to a newspaper in 2009 in yet another separate investigation and then lying about it.

Many but not all of the people in state government who exchanged the emails were named by Kane last year. Several former prosecutors in Corbett's office and Supreme Court Justice Seamus McCaffrey lost their jobs as a result.

But the emails were never formally released until Wednesday, even though Kane had made them available for viewing on an informal basis. (Writing by Frank McGurty; Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Frank McGurty)

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Hillary Clinton: Private Email Server 'Clearly Wasn't The Best Choice'

Huffingon Post Politics - Wed, 2015-08-26 19:51

Hillary Clinton said Wednesday her decision to use a private email server while serving as secretary of state was not "the best choice." 

The Democratic presidential candidate has faced scrutiny since a New York Times report revealed she had used a private email account throughout her time at the State Department. As the FBI investigates the server, which Clinton handed over earlier this month, the former secretary of state has maintained she never sent nor received classified messages with the account. 

Clinton addressed the controversy while speaking to reporters in Iowa Wednesday.

"I know people have raised questions about my email use as secretary of state, and I understand why. I get it. " Clinton said. "So here’s what I want the American people to know. My use of personal email was allowed by the State Department. It clearly wasn’t the best choice. I should've used two emails: one personal, one for work, and I take responsibility for that decision. And I want to be as transparent as possible which is why I turned 55,000 pages, why I've turned over my server."

Clinton continued: "I'm confident that this process will prove that I never sent nor received any email that was marked classified."

Clinton has not always addressed the email fracas so directly. During a press conference last week, she responded with a joke when asked whether the server had been wiped.

"What, like with a cloth or something?" Clinton said. "I don't know how it works digitally at all."

The Huffington Post's Sam Stein reported last week on how the Clinton campaign intends to move beyond the email flap: 

To get in front of these headlines, the Clinton campaign is plotting a three-pronged pushback strategy. The first, described by communications director Jennifer Palmieri in an interview with The Huffington Post, is an end-of-summer effort to educate the public on the classification process for national security material. The second, coming when Congress returns from recess, is to aggressively pivot to policy announcements, from economic and women's issues to President Barack Obama's Iran deal, which will receive a vote in September. The last is to "go on offense" on Clinton's record as secretary of state, which the campaign sees as the ultimate target of her Republican critics.

Read more here. 

Also on HuffPost:

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Carly Fiorina Is Hopping Mad At CNN Over Looming Debate Snub

Huffingon Post Politics - Wed, 2015-08-26 19:37

Is CNN about to screw up its upcoming GOP primary debate by screwing over one of the candidates? At least one aggrieved Republican contender, Carly Fiorina, is angry today about the criteria the venerable cable news network will use to choose its debate participants, and her campaign has taken to the medium of Medium to air its grievances. Well, guess what? Fiorina's right, and CNN is wrong.

But let's take a step back. During the midsummer run-up to the first GOP primary debate -- hosted by Fox News in Cleveland on Aug. 6 -- one big topic of conversation was the unwieldy size of the pool of contenders and how they could all be accommodated at one debate. And the novel solution that Fox hit upon was to not solve it at all: Instead of jamming 17 people on the stage, Fox -- using data from the five most recent polls -- would give those averaging in the top 10 the primetime debate slot. The unlucky seven that didn't make the cut would get a seat at a smaller table.

For those seven candidates -- which, along with Fiorina, included Jim Gilmore, Lindsey Graham, Bobby Jindal, George Pataki, Rick Perry and Rick Santorum -- sequestration at this minor debate meant they were really only going to get one shot at getting into the top tier. Realistically, there was only ever going to be one winner -- one candidate who'd ascend to the more rarefied air of the next mainstage debate, to be hosted by CNN on Sept. 16th in Simi Valley, California.

Here's the thing, though! I thought that we were all basically in agreement about who it was that won that first undercard debate. Let's take a look at the headlines from the day after:

Slate: "Carly Fiorina Won the Preliminary Debate. It Wasn’t Even Close."

Washington Post: "Carly Fiorina won the ‘Happy Hour’ debate. By a lot."

NBC News: "Carly Fiorina Wins Buzz After 'Happy Hour' Debate"

New York Post: "Carly Fiorina surging in polls after ‘winning’ GOP debate"

Vox: "Carly Fiorina was the clear winner of Fox News's first debate"

The Federalist: "Carly Fiorina Easily Wins Early GOP Debate"

Reuters, as rendered by Business Insider: "Everyone's saying Carly Fiorina won the early Republican debate today"

So -- from online to print, national to local, left-leaning to right-leaning, to "Everyone" -- we sort of had a clear consensus: the winner was Carly Fiorina. And more importantly, voters quantitatively agreed:


Here, via HuffPost Pollster, you can see how everyone stuck at the "happy hour" debate has fared since the lights went down that night. The only candidate whose fortunes are diverging in the right direction is Fiorina. This is how this was supposed to work! Seven candidates were going to have one opportunity to move up, and -- as with Highlanders -- there could be only one. Fiorina was that one, plain and simple.

Obviously, the Fiorina campaign agrees with this point of view, and over at their outpost on Medium, Deputy Campaign Manager Sarah Isgur Flores has compiled even more compelling data backing up their case:

In the three national polls that have been released since the debate, Carly is between 4th and 7th place. Her name ID and net favorability have risen by double digits. And she has continued to impress crowds during her most recent trips to Iowa, New Hampshire, Georgia, and Nevada.


The state polling since the first debate is even more stark — and relevant, since that’s actually how we pick presidential nominees in this country. Here’s how Carly ranks in every state poll since the first debate: New Hampshire: 3rd; South Carolina: 4th; Wisconsin: 5th; Florida: 5th; Ohio: 6th; Pennsylvania: 4th; Nevada: 2nd; North Carolina: 6th; Arizona: 3rd; Iowa: 5th; Michigan: 2nd; Missouri: 7th; New Hampshire: 5th; Iowa: 5th; Iowa: 5th.

I mean, this all checks out. So what's the problem here? Well, in this post, Flores accuses "the political establishment" of "rigging the game to keep Carly off the main debate stage." I don't think the problem is that ornate. I just think CNN is using some perplexing standards to determine its top 10, by which I mean it's going to use poll data from polls dating back to July 16. Per Flores:

Carly would easily make this debate if there were a consistent number of polls from one week to the next, but that’s not the case. In the three weeks before the first debate, CNN will be counting nine polls. In the three weeks since the debate, they will only be counting two. By simply averaging these polls together, CNN will be weighting the three weeks of polling before the debate more than three times as heavily as the three weeks of polling after Carly won the first debate.

Yeah, that's stupid. At this point, polls from mid-July have no salience. The beginning of the debate season marked an escalation in voter engagement and truly opened the competitive period of the nominating contest. By giving such weight to polls from what is, for all intents and purposes, a bygone age, CNN is making it much harder for Fiorina to capitalize on the momentum she's earned -- a phenomenon that Philip Bump demonstrates in great detail at The Washington Post.

More importantly, CNN is making it harder for its readers and viewers to obtain an accurate picture of where the GOP race has gone in the past month and what the state of play is now -- and an accurate picture would place Fiorina squarely in contention and in the conversation.

I don't necessarily think that CNN is purposefully putting its thumb on the scale, here, because the network would really have nothing to gain by intentionally excluding Fiorina. But from the campaign's point of view, you may as well go out and make the accusation of a "rigged" system. Out here in the real world, where real voters have registered their newfound appreciation for Fiorina in appreciable ways, any decision to exclude her just doesn't square. Let's just look again at the current HuffPost Pollster polling average, with the entire field included:

We have Fiorina in a safe seventh place at the moment, which would comfortably get her into the mainstage debate. Besides, can it credibly be said that she belongs with her former competitors from August's smaller debate? Right now, if those six candidates and their polling numbers combined to form Loser GOP Presidential Candidate Voltron, they still couldn't overtake Fiorina.

This is dumb and CNN needs to fix this. Carly Fiorina earned promotion from the smaller table, and the next debate should reflect that. Putting her back in the also-ran division will send the message to voters that there's no point to tuning in to that lesser competition, and that overcoming that interesting and daunting challenge -- which Fiorina did! -- is meaningless. Fiorina is seventh. Let her debate, and don't worry about the other six contenders who couldn't get out of the lower division. You surely aren't going to see Rick Perry or Bobby Jindal writing a blog post on Medium about how they "won" that debate, anyway. Though it would be highly entertaining.


[Would you like to follow me on Twitter? Because why not!]

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2016: We Need More Healing, Not More Division

Huffingon Post Politics - Wed, 2015-08-26 19:33

There is an old Cherokee Native American legend about the two wolves that feels once again apropos for today's conversation in our country (I have cited this before in a previous column), and the emergence of the Summer of Trump. The parable is that a young boy comes up to this grandfather, who is the chief of the Cherokee Tribe to learn about life. The Chief says to him, "The most important principle to know is that within each of us are two wolves -- a bad wolf and a good wolf. The bad wolf represents anger, arrogance, division, ego and envy. The good wolf represents compassion, love, unity, humility and acceptance. And these two wolves are in a battle every day inside you."

The grandson asks the chief, "Well, which wolf wins?" The Chief replies solemnly, "The one you feed."

As I survey our country's politics and communications, I increasingly worry that candidates and others are feeding the bad wolf within -- within themselves, ourselves and the body of the country. Instead of attempting healing and uniting us in one common vision, some leaders are exacerbating the divisions and distrust. Instead of using our frustration and desire for more than the status quo to build a constructive dream, they are pushing us all toward more destructive patterns. They are calling us towards the dark within us, and away from the light.

Today, we are hearing warlike messages that pit white against Latino, black against white, Republican versus Democrat, rich against the poor or middle class, immigrant versus native, men against women and even generational young against old. We hear constantly that our problems are their fault. If it weren't for "them" everything would be better. This has been a disturbing development for the last few years, but it seems to have been taken to a whole new level where division is rewarded, and unity laughed at.

Real, authentic leaders seek to heal, not to dig deeper canyons of differences within our communities. Yes, today we have great hunger for the truth and for strength in our leaders and our country. But so often meanness and bullying is seen as being honest and strong, while expressions of kindness, acceptance and assistance is viewed as weak. We forget that the strongest leaders in history preached a path of love and one that had healing at its core. It is peace found -- and founded internally and externally -- that is the greatest struggle, not the warring of factions to achieve some temporary victory.

As I have watched the rise of Donald Trump, as well as others preaching a politics of division and finger pointing, I understand the frustration and anger it represents. I, too, am tired of the current politics where it is hard to trust people and the institutions they represent, and know we need disruption of the status quo. But the answer isn't in dividing us into geographic or demographic subgroups where we line up against fellow Americans. The answer lies in creating or discovering a vision that binds us all together and heals the divides that have worsened over the years.

We need to each acknowledge that there is a battle going on between the bad wolf and the good wolf. And we need to begin to starve the bad wolf, and feed the good wolf so that it gains strength and can emerge victorious. We each must step back from us versus them and embrace a language of unity and acceptance.

In the end, the only enemy that really exists is the bad wolf within each of us. We are in an epic battle, and our country and its values are at stake. It is time to prepare a banquet each day for the good wolf within us -- that is what we all are deeply hungry for.

There you have it.

Matthew Dowd is an ABC News analyst and special correspondent. Opinions expressed in this column do not reflect the views of ABC News.

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Tennessee Judge Upholds State's Lethal Injection Process

Huffingon Post Politics - Wed, 2015-08-26 19:04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A Tennessee judge on Wednesday upheld the state's lethal injection process for executing inmates.

Davidson County Chancery Judge Claudia Bonnyman said from the bench that the plaintiffs, 33 death row inmates, didn't prove that the one-drug method led to a painful and lingering death. She also said the plaintiffs didn't show during a lengthy trial that there have been problems in states where the method has been used.

"Plaintiffs were not able to carry their burdens ... on any of their claims," Bonnyman said.

Plaintiffs' attorney Kelley Henry said they plan to appeal.

Tennessee's protocol calls for the use of pentobarbital mixed to order by a pharmacist, because the only commercial producer of the drug has placed restrictions on its distribution to prevent it from being used in executions.

Tennessee has not executed an inmate for more than five years because of legal challenges and problems in obtaining lethal injection drugs.

Lawmakers moved from a three-drug lethal injection method to a one-drug method and to reinstate the electric chair as a backup. Both changes brought challenges, and all previously scheduled executions have been put on hold.

Although Tennessee has yet to carry out an execution using compounded pentobarbital, state attorney Scott Sutherland has said that Texas, Ohio and Georgia have had more than 30 successful and painless executions with that drug.

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Appeals Court To Defiant Kentucky Clerk: Issue Marriage Licenses To Gays

Huffingon Post Politics - Wed, 2015-08-26 19:02

A federal appeals court has ordered a defiant Kentucky county clerk to begin issuing marriage licenses to gay couples -- rejecting her bid to put an earlier ruling against her on hold while she sought an appeal.

Rowan County clerk Kim Davis cannot, on religious grounds, refuse to serve gays and lesbians wishing to marry, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit ruled on Wednesday. The court's decision cited Obergefell v. Hodges, the landmark ruling in June that legalized gay marriage nationwide.

"In light of the binding holding of Obergefell, it cannot be defensibly argued that the holder of the Rowan County Clerk's office . . . may decline to act in conformity with the United States Constitution," the court said.

Shortly after the Supreme Court decided Obergefell, Davis turned away a longtime Rowan County couple whose thwarted attempts to get married went viral. They eventually sued in federal court.

After a lower court ruled in the couple's favor, Davis defied the order and sued the Kentucky governor for making her choose between "abandoning the precepts of her religion and forfeiting her position," according to her lawsuit.

The 6th Circuit's order echoes the decision of the lower court judge who had initially ordered Davis to issue marriage licenses. As a county officeholder whose "duties include the issuance of marriage licenses," Davis' faith is not impacted, the court said, and there was "little or no likelihood" that she would succeed in her full appeal.

The 6th Circuit is one of the more conservative federal appellate courts in the country. Last year, it ruled against gay couples' right to marry in the states of Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee and Michigan.

However, that ruling created an opening for the Supreme Court to rule definitively on whether whether gays and lesbians have a constitutional right to marry.

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Fox News Gets Schooled On Why WDBJ Shooting Isn't Necessarily An Anti-White Hate Crime

Huffingon Post Politics - Wed, 2015-08-26 18:50

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Hours after a gunman killed two journalists and wounded an interviewee during a live news broadcast Wednesday morning, Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson asked a question that may have also been on the minds of many of her viewers: If the alleged shooter was black and his victims were white, shouldn't this be labeled a racist hate crime?

The answer, security expert Paul Viollis told her, is not that simple. The suspected gunman, 41-year-old Vester Lee Flanagan, on Wednesday sent a manifesto to ABC News, saying his "tipping point" was the June shooting of nine congregants at a historic black church in Charleston. In that case, the white gunman explicitly revealed his racist motivations and desire to kill black people in a brutal act of bigotry. But Viollis suggested that the available information on Flanagan is not enough to determine that the on-camera attack was racially motivated.

“This is quintessential workplace violence, from the behavioral profile of the individual to the actions that he displayed, from the manifesto to the time he was terminated in 2013,” he said.

Flanagan was fired in 2013 from news station WDBJ, the CBS affiliate in Roanoke, Virginia, where reporter Alison Parker, 24, and cameraman Adam Ward, 27, also worked. Parker and Ward were both killed in the shooting Wednesday, while a third victim, 61-year-old Vicki Gardner, who was being interviewed on air, is in stable condition.

Memos issued by Flanagan's bosses prior to his termination and since obtained by The Guardian paint a picture of a problem employee who was unpredictable and at times aggressive. Flanagan himself admitted in the document sent to ABC News that he was a "human powder keg ... just waiting to go BOOM." He had also filed lawsuits against WDBJ and at least one other prior employer, alleging racial discrimination and other mistreatment. According to The Guardian, police were called to escort Flanagan out of the WDBJ offices after he was fired.

But Carlson returned focus to the fact that Flanagan "talked about race a lot" in his manifesto.

“He put the initials of the Charleston church shooting victims on the bullets that he used today, he praised the Virginia Tech mass killer, Columbine High School killers, says he was being attacked for being a gay black man,” she said. “He shot three white people today. Why is that not a hate crime?”

Viollis again pointed to a more complex psychology that he said often serves as a backing for these outbursts of violence.

“Because of the fact that the workplace violence offender is clearly delusional,” he explained. “They make up their own sense of reality, and they struggle with their sense of identity. So they don’t like who they are, they make up something that will envision them as a victim, as the quintessential victim. It’s the finger-pointing.”

Viollis continued, “Hate crime is something where he clearly was motivated by sense of race, color or creed.”

Carlson again said the alleged shooter's manifesto was clear evidence of such a motivation, but Viollis theorized that the "tipping point" Flanagan spoke of was rather the moment he decided it was time to engage in shocking, "attention-seeking" behavior.

“He saw the attention that was received from that shooter all over the country, and that particular shooter was glorified on the news in his eyes," Viollis said. "That’s why he picked this time of the day to shoot these two people.”

[H/T Raw Story]

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Officer Among 3 Shot Near Louisiana Convenience Store

Huffingon Post Politics - Wed, 2015-08-26 18:35

Louisiana State Police say a police officer and two other people have been shot in the southwestern Louisiana, and the gunman has reportedly taken hostages.

State police Superintendent Mike Edmonson says troopers are on the way to the scene in Sunset, about 70 miles west of Baton Rouge, after getting a call around 4:45 p.m. Wednesday.

Edmonson says the shooting reportedly took place near or inside a convenience store. The Acadiana Advocate reports that the gunman has up to eight hostages inside.

Megaphone: "Come out with your hands up to the sound of our voice so I can talk to you. Come out of that room."

— Lanie Lee Cook (@lanieleecook) August 26, 2015

Edmonson says the officer was "responsive" but he has no details on the extent of the officer's injuries - or those of the other two people who were shot.

A witness took a photo of the aftermath and posted it to Instagram, saying the incident was like "a movie." The photo shows a car smashed through the side of the store, and a body on the ground. It's unclear who the person in the photo is, and their status is unknown. 


Tonette Thibodeaux of the Sunset police department confirms that an officer was shot but says she does not have any details.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Sunset, Louisiana. State troopers getting set up in battle gear. Just saw another with a rifle. pic.twitter.com/jhaekqssAI

— Lanie Lee Cook (@lanieleecook) August 26, 2015

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2 Killed, Including Police Officer, In Louisiana Domestic Dispute

Huffingon Post Politics - Wed, 2015-08-26 18:35

Two people were killed, including a police officer, and two others injured in an apparent domestic dispute near a Louisiana convenience store on Wednesday night.

Sunset Police Officer Henry Nelson and Shameka Johnson, the sister of a local mayor, died in the attack carried out by suspect Harrison Lee Riley Jr., Sheriff Bobby Guidroz said. Shameka was one of three people stabbed, while the 52-year-old officer was shot as he responded to the incident.


Surlay Johnson and Courtney Jolivette, the suspect's wife, were both stabbed in the attack at a home, and were taken to local hospitals. Shameka and Surlay Johnson are the sisters of Grand Coteau Mayor Shaterral Johnson.

Officials characterized the motive as a possible domestic dispute. 

Riley is believed to have stabbed the three people, including the woman who died. Officer Nelson died of bullet wounds he received while responding to the attack at the house, which is about 70 miles west of Baton Rouge. The suspect fled by car to a convenience store. He drove through the front door and barricaded himself inside.

Police used tear gas and negotiators to force Riley out. "He was not coming out. He was ready to fight," Guidroz said. The suspect was eventually taken into custody, and evaluated at a local hospital. Police said he had an extensive criminal history.

Guidroz said there weren't any hostages taken as earlier reports suggested, and that three people inside were able to escape. 

Megaphone: "Come out with your hands up to the sound of our voice so I can talk to you. Come out of that room."

— Lanie Lee Cook (@lanieleecook) August 26, 2015

A witness took a photo of the aftermath and posted it to Instagram, saying the incident was like "a movie." The photo shows a car smashed through the side of the store and a body on the ground. It's unclear who the person in the photo is, and his or her condition is unknown. 

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal issued the following statement on the attack: "Supriya and I are heartbroken to learn of another deadly assault on one of our public servants. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of Sunset Police Officer Henry Nelson and the other victims as they endure this senseless tragedy."

Sunset, Louisiana. State troopers getting set up in battle gear. Just saw another with a rifle. pic.twitter.com/jhaekqssAI

— Lanie Lee Cook (@lanieleecook) August 26, 2015

Heavily armed officers, who appear to be with Louisiana State Police, have arrived on scene. #BREAKING pic.twitter.com/E0ltQVLS93

— Alex Labat (@Alex_Labat) August 26, 2015

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'Cocaine Congressman' Trey Radel Is Trying His Hand At Music Now, Apparently

Huffingon Post Politics - Wed, 2015-08-26 18:31

Former Rep. Trey Radel (R-Fla.) is trying his hand at music.

The former lawmaker tweeted a link to a song called "Muddy Waters Remix" on his SoundCloud page Wednesday:

‘Muddy Waters Remix’ by TreyRadel on #SoundCloud? #np https://t.co/uGnkHAfTWF

— Trey Radel (@treyradel) August 26, 2015

When HuffPost reporter Sam Levine tweeted about Radel's music, the former congressman promised "Muddy Waters Remix" isn't his only work:

more to come. https://t.co/OFcWDqtflG

— Trey Radel (@treyradel) August 26, 2015

Radel's website claims the Floridian "produces mediocre music that you probably won’t like, including music for corporate advertising to hip hop and house tracks."

While serving in the U.S. Congress, Radel was charged with cocaine possession in November 2013 after allegedly buying the drug from a dealer in the Dupont Circle area of Washington, D.C. He announced his resignation from Congress in January 2014.

In May 2015, Radel announced he would start his own public relations firm for crisis management.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Radel is a Democrat. He is a Republican.

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Election Poll Shows Turkey's Ruling Party Unlikely To Gain Majority

Huffingon Post Politics - Wed, 2015-08-26 18:19

ANKARA, Aug 26 (Reuters) - Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu invited high profile opposition figures to join an interim cabinet on Wednesday, two months before a snap election at which his ruling AK Party may not recover its parliamentary majority.

The main opposition CHP and nationalist MHP had said they would not join the temporary government, but by reaching out to respected figures among their ranks, Davutoglu appeared to be trying to show he was serious about sharing power.

Sources in his office said he had asked five members of the main opposition CHP and three each from the nationalist MHP and pro-Kurdish HDP on Wednesday to join the government, which will lead Turkey to a new election on Nov. 1. One MHP lawmaker, Tugrul Turkes, accepted Davutoglu's invitation, a source at the prime minister's office told Reuters.

The opposition nominees - invited, in line with the constitution, according to the proportion of seats their parties hold in parliament - have until 6:00 pm (1500 GMT) on Thursday to give their answer, the sources said.

The HDP has said it is willing to join although its presence would anger nationalists in the AKP and possibly cost it votes.

Any seats not taken up by opposition parties will be given to independent candidates from outside parliament, although critics say these are likely to be ruling party loyalists.

"The new cabinet will be ready by Saturday," one of the sources in the prime minister's office said, adding that nominees from the AKP would be invited once the opposition candidates had given their response.

Davutoglu was appointed by President Tayyip Erdogan to form the interim cabinet on Tuesday after two months of coalition talks failed to produce a working government. The ruling AK Party, founded by Erdogan, lost its majority in a June 7 election for the first time since coming to power in 2002.

Among the best-known names in the list of opposition candidates for the 26-member cabinet was Deniz Baykal, parliament's oldest deputy, who headed the CHP until 2010 and was deputy prime minister and foreign minister in the 1990s.

Nominees from the nationalist MHP included Turkes, son of the party's founder, and Meral Aksener, a former interior minister who fell out with party leader Devlet Bahceli and lost her role as deputy speaker to another MP in the party.

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The AKP looks unlikely to regain its majority in the November election, according to the latest survey by respected pollster Metropoll, released on Wednesday.

Backing for the ruling party has risen to 41.7 percent, up from the 40.9 percent it received in the June election, but not far enough for it to be able to form a government alone, the survey showed.

Support for the CHP was at 25.5 percent, the MHP at 15.7 percent and the HDP, which crossed a 10 percent threshold to enter parliament for the first time two months ago, at 14.7 percent, up from the 13.1 percent it received in June.

"It seems like the snap elections will not generate a different political situation from the election on June 7," Ozer Sencar, the chairman of Metropoll, wrote in the survey report.

Some political commentators say the AKP is most likely to try again to form a grand coalition with the CHP should it fail to secure a majority in November, noting that Davutoglu's tone towards opposition leaders has largely been respectful since the coalition talks collapsed.

The uncertainty has knocked economic confidence in Turkey, unnerving investors already concerned about rising violence in the mainly Kurdish southeast and the threat of blowback after the NATO member last month opened its bases for U.S. coalition air strikes on Islamic State militants in Syria.

The lira currency has hit a series of record lows, while consumer confidence in the $870 billion economy has slumped to its weakest in six years.

The participation in the interim cabinet of the HDP would be highly contentious, particularly as Turkish jets are bombing Kurdish militants. The sight of Kurdish opposition politicians in cabinet could cost the AKP crucial votes in November.

Erdogan has accused HDP co-chairman Selahattin Demirtas and his party of links to the PKK - considered a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and Washington - and has suggested that the immunity from prosecution of its lawmakers be lifted.

"Did this political party which has the (PKK) terror organization behind it burn our schools? It burned them. Did it burn our mosques? It burned them. Did it burn our charities? It burned them," he said in a speech on Wednesday.

"Is it continuing to burn? It is continuing."

Demirtas has repeatedly called for an end to the violence on both sides in the mostly-Kurdish southeast and has said that the fact his party won six million votes in the June election gives it the right to have three seats in the interim cabinet. (Reporting by Gulsen Solaker; Writing by Nick Tattersall; Editing by Daren Butler and Philippa Fletcher)

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This Kentucky Clerk Vows To Die For The Right To Oppose Gay Marriage

Huffingon Post Politics - Wed, 2015-08-26 18:19

A Kentucky county clerk who has been outspoken in his opposition to marriage equality now says he'll "die" fighting to keep same-sex couples from tying the knot. 

Casey County Clerk Casey Davis has reportedly refused to issue marriage licenses to both heterosexual and same-sex couples in protest of the Supreme Court's June 26 ruling on marriage equality. In an Aug. 24 interview on West Virginia’s The Tom Roten Morning Show, Davis vowed to continue to defy the Supreme Court even if it costs him his life, Right Wing Watch reports. 

"It’s a war on Christianity," he told Roten. “There is a travesty taking place with that Supreme Court ruling [that] was completely unconstitutional, completely unconstitutional."

"Our law says ‘one man and one woman,’ and that is what I held my hand up and took an oath to and that is what I expected," he continued. "If it takes my life, I will die ... because I believe I owe that to the people that fought so I can have the freedom that I have, I owe that to them today, and you do, we all do."

He then added, "They fought and died so we could have this freedom, and I’m going to fight and die for my kids and your kids can keep it.” 

Previously, Davis had asked Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear to call for a special session of the state legislature so it can pass a new law allowing couples to purchase marriage licenses online in a process similar to obtaining a hunting or fishing license. 

In July, Davis told The Lexington Herald-Leader that he had, in fact, met with Beshear, but was told to do his job or resign

Davis is one of two Kentucky clerks who have refused to issue marriage licenses to both same-sex and opposite-sex couples since same-sex marriage was legalized nationwide. The other, Kim Davis (no relation) of Rowan County, is currently being sued by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of two gay couples and two heterosexual couples for denying them marriage licenses. 

H/T Towleroad 

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The Black Box: Voting in America

Huffingon Post Politics - Wed, 2015-08-26 18:15
We have a serious democracy problem in our country. Maybe our troops should be fighting for democracy right here at home. Eligible voters have dropped out, refuse to vote, or feel ambivalent about voting. "What difference is it going to make?" many of my friends ask me.

In the 2014 midterm elections, less than 37 percent of age-appropriate, registered Americans participated. We have a right to be concerned, because even when we are allowed to vote, are "they" counting our votes correctly? How can we be sure?

The topics highest on my list of concerns are:
1. Voter Suppression
2. Voter Intimidation
3. Computer Vote Tampering and Vote Counting Irregularities
4. The Electoral System
5. Lack of Representative Voting Systems, i.e. First Past The Post vs Instant Runoff Voting
6. "Top Two" Voting

Today's blog is the first of a six-part series on voting, found in Chapter 30 of my book, In Search of the Next POTUS: One Woman's Quest to Fix Washington, a True Story.

1. Voter suppression
A simple way to stop voters from voting is to make it appear that voting isn't working -- whether it means Americans believe their parties no longer represent them, that the ballot box is rigged, or that Congress is whack and no amount of voting is going to change that fact, voter suppression is happening if people aren't showing up at the polls.

Voter suppression comes in many forms. In June 2013, the Supreme Court struck down Article 5 of the civil rights movement's hard-won Voting Rights Act of 1965. Article 5 required nine states (Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia) to obtain federal pre-approval to enact or enforce voting laws.

States have been angling for their own laws to crack down on voting rights. Before 2006, no state required a government-issued photo ID in order to vote. Now, 30 states have some form of voter ID requirement.

One benefit of the Supreme Court ruling is that it allows states to more easily enact online registration, which 20 states have implemented. The Brennan Center for Justice, a nonpartisan law and policy institute seeking to improve our systems of democracy and justice, asserts that 16 states now have better access to voting.

However, voter ID laws aren't part of that better access. The assumption is that IDs will prevent voter fraud. Brennan Center for Justice states in a 2006 fact sheet that it doesn't make sense for someone to pretend to be someone else. "Each act of voter fraud risks five years in prison and a $10,000 fine -- but yields at most one incremental vote. The single vote is simply not worth the price. Because voter fraud is essentially irrational, it is not surprising that no credible evidence suggests a voter fraud epidemic." Despite repeated investigations into allegations of voter fraud, including a five-year examination by G.W. Bush Jr.'s Department of Justice, there is not enough evidence to say that it's as big a problem as the disenfranchisement of many people who would struggle to produce an ID where states now require them.

"In-person voter impersonation on Election Day, which prompted 37 state legislatures to enact or consider tough voter ID laws, is virtually non-existent," write investigative journalists Natasha Khan and Corbin Carson as part of their News21 report called "Who Can Vote?"

Why is it hard for voters to obtain the proper ID?
Can't they just show their driver's license? There are many reasons why this logic breaks down. Families and students who have recently moved won't have the correct address on their driver's license, which disqualifies them from voting in states with strict ID laws. And many people don't drive, hard as that may seem to those of us who do.

If you don't drive, how do you get a government-approved photo ID? You have to present your birth certificate to the proper authorities. Elderly people have difficulty placing their hands on their birth certificates. In fact, people who were not born in a hospital often don't have birth certificates. For poor people, the cost of obtaining a government-approved ID is prohibitive, especially when combining the fee with transportation costs to the proper government building. And there's a catch 22--to obtain your birth certificate, you often need a photo ID, but to obtain the photo ID, you need a birth certificate. So if you were born at home with a midwife, or if you were born in a state that requires you to produce a photo ID to get your birth certificate, you may be out of luck.

How many people don't have photo IDs in this country? The numbers are significant. I'm referring to Americans. The Brennan Institute conducted a thorough study and found it to be around 11 percent, or 1 in 10 Americans for whom obtaining a photo ID is difficult or impossible. The center's report "conclusively demonstrates that this promise of free voter ID is a mirage. In the real world, poor voters find shuttered offices, long trips without cars or with spotty or no bus service, and sometimes prohibitive costs."

The cost of voter restriction laws to our democracy is great. Voter ID laws disproportionately disenfranchise the elderly, the poor, non-drivers, and students--those who typically don't vote Republican. States with elections that could have been swayed by discouraged voters in 2014 were: North Carolina's state senate, Kansas's governor, Virginia's U.S. Senate, and Florida's governor.

In Virginia's 2014 election, strict ID laws prevented 198,000 "active Virginia voters," who did not have acceptable identification according to the Virginia Board of Elections, from exercising a basic right as a U.S. citizen. To give you an idea how close these elections were, Senator Mark Warner bested challenger Ed Gillespie by only 12,000 votes, a lot less than those disenfranchised by ID laws.

In Florida, incumbent Governor Rick Scott squeaked by Charlie Crist with a 1.2% margin. Writes Wendy Weiser, Director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, "Perhaps the most significant for this election was a decision by Scott and his clemency board to make it virtually impossible for the more than 1.3 million Floridians who were formerly convicted of crimes but have done their time and paid their debt to society to have their voting rights restored."

Another voter suppression tactic are laws that make it difficult for volunteers to help eligible citizens register to vote. Florida's House Bill 1355 for elections (not to be confused with HB 1355 Purchase of Firearms by Mentally Ill Persons) became effective in May of 2011. The voting-rights-restrictive HB 1355, that Governor Scott signed, sets forth crazy requirements for any group wanting to register new voters. The League of Women Voters (LWV) whose 91-year history of volunteering without any problems were so discouraged by Scott's law that they stopped helping citizens register in Florida. The new rules required that LWV members pre-register with the state, sign an affidavit under penalty of perjury listing all criminal penalties for any false registration, and run each registration form over to a county official within 48 hours. Oh, and each registrant had to carefully note the time they signed their form so that the county official could make sure the LWV worker got it there before the 48 hour buzzer rang. If the LWV volunteer messed up, she could personally face a $5,000 fine, third degree felony, and up to five years in prison.

Florida is not an isolated case. Ohio's Secretary of State Ken Blackwell instituted rules that make it "extremely difficult for small churches and other nonprofit organizations to hire and train voter registration workers -- and they expose voter registration workers to felony charges for making mistakes."

Six weeks after the Supreme Court's decision to strike down Article 5, North Carolina passed some of the most restrictive voter laws in the country. It banned same-day registration, pre-registration for young voters, eliminated out-of-precinct provisional ballots, shortened the early voting period by one week, and disallowed extending polling place hours in case there were long lines. North Carolina's new laws will also require an ID as of 2016.

These requirements violate the Constitution because they are considered a poll tax. IDs cost time and money to obtain, and the poorer the citizen, the less time and/or money they have to search for an ID.

Who knows if Republican Thom Tillis would have defeated incumbent Democrat Kay Hagen in the 2014 U.S. Senate race in North Carolina without all these restrictions? Rev. William Barber, the preacher credited for the "Moral Monday" movement, rallied a couple hundred activists in Greensboro, North Carolina's Government Square to get out the vote. As Barber explains, "for us the right to vote is not just a constitutional matter, but a right born out of struggle, out of sacrifice and a gift from the God of justice." The election ended with only a two percent spread, but the Republican prevailed despite Barber's Moral Monday activists whose efforts increased black voter turnout 45 percent over 2010 numbers.

Follow this blog to read the other five segments of this article.

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VIDEO: Black Man Pulled Over By White Cop for 'Making Direct Eye Contact'

Huffingon Post Politics - Wed, 2015-08-26 18:11
An Ohio-based viewer of The David Pakman Show contacted me recently making me aware of a video uploaded to Facebook by a man named John Felton. Both John and our viewer live in the Dayton, Ohio area. The video, uploaded by Mr. Felton, a black man, shows him being pulled over by a white police officer.

Initially, the reason given for the traffic stop by the officer is that Mr. Felton failed to signal within 100 feet of turning. Note that this is different than failure to signal -- it was never in question that Mr. Felton did use his turn signal, but in the officer's opinion, he didn't switch the turn signal on more than 100 feet from the location of the turn.

After going back to his police cruiser and eventually returning to Mr. Felton's car, the officer in question is asked again about why he really pulled over Mr. Felton. In a moment of surprising candor, the officer admits to Mr. Felton that the reason he pulled him over was that Mr. Felton "made direct eye contact" with him.

I encourage you to take a look at Mr. Felton's video below. Pulling someone over for "making direct eye contact" is absurd at face value, but a bit of additional exposes how utterly ridiculous this is as probably cause. As suspicious as "making direct eye contact" may be to a police officer, doing the exact opposite -- that is, avoiding eye contact with a police officer -- could be considered equally suspicious by an officer. In other words, both making eye contact and not making eye contact with police could, conceivably, be grounds for a traffic stop, if you agree with the general principle suggested herein.

This video has NOT been reporting on by other media as of today, as Mr. Felton has provided the video directly to The David Pakman Show. Take a look:

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Obama On Virginia Shooting: 'It Breaks My Heart'

Huffingon Post Politics - Wed, 2015-08-26 18:09

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President Barack Obama expressed his sadness Wednesday over the shooting of two television journalists during a live broadcast.

"It breaks my heart every time you read or hear about these kinds of incidents," Obama told WPVI's Monica Malpass during an interview at the White House.

"What we know is that the number of people who die from gun-related incidents around this country dwarfs any deaths that happen through terrorism," Obama added.

Reporter Alison Parker, 24, and cameraman Adam Ward, 27, of Roanoke-based news station WDBJ in Virginia were shot and killed Wednesday morning by a former WDBJ reporter. Suspect Vester Lee Flanagan later died of self-inflicted gunshot wounds.

Read more on the shooting here.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest renewed the Obama administration's call for more common sense gun control reforms during a press conference Wednesday afternoon.

Obama is no stranger to mass shootings, having spoken out on more than 14 since taking office. He has called the failure to pass gun reform "the greatest frustration" of his presidency, but vowed to not give up on the issue.

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Is Political Correctness Really "Killing America"?

Huffingon Post Politics - Wed, 2015-08-26 18:08
"Political correctness is just absolutely killing us as a country." -- Donald Trump

"Political correctness is antithetical to our founding principles of freedom of speech and freedom of expression. Its most powerful tool is intimidation." Dr. Ben Carson

Republicans believe in the superiority of America, in an American Exceptionalism, or as Reagan termed it, the country is: "a shining city on a hill." At the same time, they wholeheartedly believe that political correctness is a sort of Manchurian candidate unleashed by Democrats to undermine our greatness and establish conformity and mediocrity.

To be fair, such radically left comedians as Bill Maher and Chris Rock have insisted political correctness is undermining comedy, a much narrower and more coherent argument than the Republican one. In fact, Chris Rock went so far as to state he no longer plays college campuses because college audiences are too "conservative," not in their political views but in their social views and their unwillingness to offend anybody.

Perhaps there are actual examples of political correctness run amok as when five California students were sent home for wearing American flags on their t-shirts on the Cinco de Mayo holiday. Of course, Republicans may think it too politically correct even to have a traditionally Mexican holiday in American schools.

However, does political correctness really signal the downfall of the country or is it just an argument made by rigid personality types threatened by change? Republicans and Democrats often speak different languages. The term "illegal alien" is widely used among Republicans, while the more inclusive "undocumented immigrant" is preferred by the left. Trump was, after all, defending his use of the term "anchor baby" which is an inherently offensive term. It infers an insidiousness to an otherwise inherently innocent being, especially so given that Republicans are so reflexively protective of the unborn child even when the life of the mother is at risk. Ironically, Republicans would object to an undocumented woman having an abortion, but then turn around and want to deport her American born baby who has citizenship status.

Why do Republicans use such terms as "anchor babies?" It objectifies and dehumanizes what can not be otherwise described as anything but an infant with no inherent guilt. If the immigrant baby is conceived just as a ploy to have citizenship status conferred on it, surely the parents are all the more cunning, crafty, and undeserving of sympathy, like modern day Fagin's. In the Vietnam war, our soldiers called the communist soldiers "gooks" to have less guilt and cognitive dissonance about taking their lives. After all, it is much easier to live with the fact that one has killed a "gook" than taken the life of another human. In Somalia, our soldiers used the somewhat less pejorative term "skinnies" for enemy soldiers and the term "Hajji" in Iraq. Roughnecks in Boston recently beat a homeless man while shouting their sympathies with Trump. "Donald Trump was right," the two men said, according to police, as they beat the man with a metal pipe and then urinated on him. "All these illegals need to be deported." The objectification of people has real consequences.

Ironically, Republicans are masters of changing the meaning of language for political gain when it suits them. The inheritance tax becomes the "death tax," which was conjured from the Orwellian mind of Republican pollster Frank Luntz. He was also the initial advocate of the right's use of the term "climate change" as a less frightening expression for global warming. "As one of Luntz's focus group participants noted, climate change "sounds like you're going from Pittsburgh to Fort Lauderdale." While global warming has catastrophic connotations attached to it, climate change suggests a more controllable and less emotional challenge."

Emotion is what Republican use of language is all about. "[C]onservatives use language more effectively than liberals in communicating their deepest values," writes George Lakoff, a linguist at the University of California, Berkeley, in "The Little Blue Book: The Essential Guide to Thinking and Talking Democratic." Liberals "present the facts and offer policies," he claims. Republicans, by contrast, go straight for the gut. The term "death panels" comes to mind!

However, the real argument here is why do Republicans always use diversionary tactics as a substitute for substance? One can think of much greater problems pressing America, like such as things as poverty, the increasing income gap, stagnant wages, mass incarceration, etc., as opposed to the use of politically correct speech being the death knell of the country. In reality, illegal immigration has little impact on wage stagnation or unemployment, as opposed to what Republican front-runner Donald Trump and also-ran Rick Santorum both claim.

According to the Washington Post:

"One report, published in June by the American Enterprise Institute and Immigration Works, found that immigrants today dominate the labor market in almost every job that entails a high level of danger, discomfort, repetition or extreme temperatures."

"According to some experts, the flood of Hispanic immigrant workers in the past 25 years -- both legal and illegal -- has had a much smaller effect on employment patterns than other trends, including factory flight overseas, weakened labor unions and a spate of recessions.

"We have to be honest here. Low-skilled immigration has costs, but it also has benefits," said Harry Holzer, a professor of public policy at Georgetown University. While some individuals and locations can be harmed, he said, the positive impact on the U.S. economy is unquestionable."

"According to Holzer, removing immigrants from the job market would not necessarily drive up wages to a level Americans today would accept -- or companies would be willing to pay."

"Sure, that would add appeal," Holzer said. "The problem is that if wages kept on rising, employers would start eliminating jobs, substituting technology and other norms of production. Immigration is really only one small factor."

The real fear of Republicans about politically correct discourse is their over-reliance on offensive language to arouse the emotions in their base of marginally-educated white males by appealing to their fear of "the other." At the same time, Republicans want to divert our attention from real issues. Thus, we have Fox news claiming billionaires are the real victims in our society, discrimination ended with the success of the civil right's movement in the 1960s, and the network's nostalgia for the hegemony of the white male, for the re-birth of a society resembling the television show Mad Men.

The presidential primary season should be one for important debates on pressing issues, certainly not silly, impotent calls to repeal the 14th amendment demanded in all seriousness. The fact that Republicans use such an important platform for such babble is lamentable. The fact that the press covers both parties as equally sane when one, the Democratic party, at least speaks to real issues offering practical solutions, while the other has seemingly fallen through the looking glass, is the real tragedy of our times. So Trump dictates the terms of the debate and the political discourse stagnates and takes a hateful turn. The world watches somewhat bemusedly, if sadly.

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Violence Is Our Good Teacher -- Can We Learn From It?

Huffingon Post Politics - Wed, 2015-08-26 18:01
In "A History of Violence," I wrote about our culture of violence and the Newtown tragedy in particular.

Now it's Roanoke, VA. Violence served up live. News as violence, violence as news. I'm tired of people claiming that it's solely the mentally ill who are responsible for this epidemic. Otherwise perfectly adjusted British teenagers volunteer for ISIS. The draw of violence is indubitable. We are co-creators of a culture of violence. Violence is big business. But we don't see how it operates or is sustained because we keep things in compartments without grasping how interconnected they really are. We slice and dice "causality" and correlation" without seeing that this is because that is. We interare, as my old teacher used to say. What happens here affects what happens there, and visa versa.

Here's a simple and timely example. Donald Trump calls women the most vile names, and yet his star continues to rise. Verbal insults, a form of violence, co-create an environment where violence is not only countenanced, it is celebrated. We become desensitized; what offended us yesterday becomes today's new normal. The bar is raised. We're like the frog in a pot of warm water. Feeling good. The temperature rises in tiny increments, and it still feels okay. But the frog doesn't realize he's being cooked. I am not preaching politeness or phony political correctness. This is about seeing how we are creating the conditions in which violence and the anguish it spawns thrive.

Since 2006 my colleagues and I have worked with thousands who know violence and its impacts all too well: returning service members, veterans, their families, and their caregivers. Here's one of the things I learned: War trauma is like an IED blast. The sonic waves radiate out on multiple levels simultaneously, fragmenting the intrinsic connections within the warrior, his body, brain, mind, and soul, fragmenting his family, social supports, relationship with his community, the organizations charged with his care, the institutions and leaders responsible for protecting the country, and the entire culture. For a very long time.

This is how our humanity actually works. This is cause and effect in action, sometimes called karma, and pitifully misunderstood. Do you think Trump's conduct, and our relishing it, doesn't contribute to Roanoke? Doesn't make increasingly dramatic examples of violence much more likely? Think again. What happens here affects what happens there.

In Waking Up From War: A Better Way Home For Veterans and Nations, (Pitchstone Publishing, 2015, Foreword by H.H. The Dalai Lama) I share important lessons learned about what heals the violence that is war trauma, about the transformitive power of communities of safety and peace, and about how those ingredients are the same ones that our country can use right now. To wake up from violence.

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Alleged Virginia Shooter Requested Personnel Records On Victims

Huffingon Post Politics - Wed, 2015-08-26 18:01

WASHINGTON -- Vester Lee Flanagan, the man suspected of killing two Virginia television reporters Wednesday morning, attempted to subpoena personnel records on both of those victims, as well as other staff members, as part of a lawsuit against the TV station.

Flanagan’s lawsuit, filed in the Roanoke City General District Court in March 2014, requested $25,000 from WDBJ, the station, which had terminated his employment the previous year. The suit cited wrongful termination, unpaid overtime wages, racial discrimination and sexual harassment for identifying as gay. The case was dismissed due to lack of evidence, although it’s unclear whether a settlement was reached.

The 168 pages of court filings, obtained by The Huffington Post, show that Flanagan had connections to Alison Parker, 24, and Adam Ward, 27, prior to allegedly shooting them dead on Wednesday. As part of his effort to extract payment from WDBJ, Flanagan requested personnel records for dozens of employees, including Parker and Ward. He also asked for information on Chris Hurst, who has identified himself as Parker’s boyfriend.

According to an internal memo included in the court documents, after Flanagan was presented with a severance letter in February 2013, he said, "You better call police because I'm going to make a big stink." A newsroom employee called 911, and police officers arrived to physically escort Flanagan from the building.

Memos indicate that Ward videotaped Flanagan as he was escorted out. Flanagan told Ward to “lose your big gut,” and flipped off the camera.

WDBJ objected to Flanagan’s request for employee documents, claiming the personnel records were proprietary information and irrelevant to his claims.

The court filings also include Flanagan’s application for employment at WDBJ and his resume, in which he reported graduating from San Francisco State University with a 3.7 grade point average and his affiliation with the National Association of Black Journalists. 

Flanagan was offered a position with WDBJ on March 6, 2012, as a multimedia journalist/general assignment reporter with an annual salary of $36,000. However, he quickly racked up a misconduct record during his year of employment. 

In a performance review in August 2012, Flanagan was given a “1,” the lowest rating, for being “respectful to coworkers at all times,” but a “4” for work diligence and attendance. He was written up in November 2012 for wearing a Barack Obama sticker. 

By the end of that year, his supervisor was expressing dissatisfaction with the quality of Flanagan's work, as well as his attitude towards his co-workers. Dan Dennison, the station's news director at the time, cited a story in which Flanagan reported on a local church’s response to the mass shooting at Newtown, Connecticut.

“You often state the obvious: ‘people are saddened and concerned.’ Of course they are,” Dennison said in a memo, pointing out that Flanagan had opted to report the story from the station’s studio rather than live from the church. “This story … had the subject material to be interesting and memorable. Instead it was predictable and pedestrian.”

In communications with the Roanoke City General District Court judge in 2014, Flanagan alleged that there were racial tensions in the office. He claimed that a colleague said, “What am I supposed to do, make a list of things I can’t say to black people?” and that a watermelon “was placed in a strategic location where it would be visible to newsroom employees.” Flanagan also requested that his jury be made up of “African-American women.”

But in internal emails included in the filings, staff portrayed Flanagan as the one who was creating a hostile environment. “On three separate occasions in the past month and a half, you have behaved in a manner that has resulted in one or more of your co-workers feeling threatened or uncomfortable,” a staff member wrote in May 2012.

According to an internal memo, after Flanagan was presented a severance letter, he allegedly said, "You better call police because I'm going to make a big stink." 

The lawsuit appears to be part of a wider pattern of Flanagan suing former employers. In 2000, he filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida against news station WTWC-TV, where he worked from 1999 to 2000, according to his resume. Flanagan alleged racial discrimination in that case as well. WTWC-TV denied most of his allegations at the time, but acknowledged that an employee “may have” told a black tape operator to "stop talking ebonics."

In the Roanoke case, Flanagan told the judge at one point, “Your Honor, I am not the monster here. I get along with my current co-workers and I was just recognized by a senior manager at corporate. That sure doesn’t sound like the monster I was painted to be.”

Read the court filings here:

This is a developing story and will be updated.

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In Alaska, Not All 'Sex Traffickers' Are Sex Traffickers

Huffingon Post Politics - Wed, 2015-08-26 17:59

An Alaskan researcher and former sex worker is spearheading an effort to fight the state's anti-sex trafficking law that she and others argue is harming the very people it was ostensibly designed to protect.

Alaskan law enforcement does too little to prosecute actual sex traffickers and instead punishes sex workers for taking measures to keep themselves safe, according to Tara Burns, who received a master's degree in social justice from the University of Alaska-Fairbanks this spring.

As part of her graduate research, Burns said she looked at the effects of a 2012 state law that broadly redefined sex trafficking.

At the federal level, "sex trafficking" means coercing, forcing or deceiving an adult into a commercial sex act, and "child sex trafficking" means inducing a minor by any means to perform a commercial sex act. Under Alaska law, however, coercion, force and deception are not necessary to garner a sex trafficking charge.

The 2012 law, for example, defines "procuring a patron" for a prostitute as second-degree sex trafficking, which is a felony. Managing or owning a "place of prostitution" is third-degree sex trafficking, also a felony. Fourth-degree sex trafficking, a misdemeanor, is described as "engaging in conduct that institutes, aids, or facilitates" prostitution other than through "a prostitution enterprise."

When then-Gov. Sean Parnell (R) signed the bill into law, he said that he had only recently become aware of "the depth and extent of this depravity in our state." He said he'd heard horrific stories from law enforcement about young women and girls -- particularly Native girls -- being lured into what were basically lives of slavery.

Burns takes no issue with punishing those people who abuse and exploit others. But she said some of Alaska's measures -- specifically, those that define consensual sex-related activity among adults as "trafficking" -- do little to deter real traffickers while actually punishing sex workers.

Before 2012, many consensual actions within the sex trade, such as managing a house where multiple sex workers voluntarily choose to meet with clients, were criminalized under Alaska's "promoting prostitution" law, Burns said. Now that those acts have been redefined as sex trafficking, the penalties "have seriously increased," she said.

Not to mention, a sex trafficking arrest on a person's record looks far more menacing than one for promoting prostitution. Living with a sex trafficking conviction is similar to being on a sex offenders list, Patrick Ventgen of behavioral health services provider Akeela told Alaska Dispatch News last year. In Alaska, sex trafficking is also a barrier crime, meaning that offenders are banned from certain areas of employment.

Burns' research found that authorities are arresting people on non-violent, non-coercive "sex trafficking" charges far more often than they are targeting the kinds of people the governor described. That is, the 2012 law is being used mostly to crack down on sex workers, not to prosecute traffickers. 

At first, she found, the law was barely used at all. In its first two years on the books, only two individuals were even charged with sex trafficking, and neither were what people traditionally think of as traffickers. One was a woman charged with fourth-degree trafficking for advertising her own services on Craigslist. A second woman was charged with trafficking for persuading two much younger women, aged 19 and 20, to perform sex acts for money. Despite being alleged trafficking victims, the latter two were each charged with prostitution.

The rate of sex trafficking arrests ramped up in 2014 with the formation of a sex trafficking unit within the Alaska State Troopers. Burns said that authorities are now filing such charges "like clockwork every month or so," but that records indicate few of the people charged did anything like what Parnell had in mind when he signed the bill.

She added that the unit has not yet charged anyone with trafficking a person under 18. 

The Alaska Department of Public Safety has not responded to a request for comment from The Huffington Post.

Armed with her research, Burns created an online petition aimed at repealing the 2012 law. So far, more than 37,000 people have signed it.

Sex worker advocate Maxine Doogan told Truthout last year that the broad nature of the statute means officials wind up punishing sex workers for trying to keep themselves safe.

"We see people who are working together, sharing space, sharing customers, can be charged with enterprising sex trafficking," Doogan said. "The safety conditions we set up for ourselves are now being called sex trafficking."

Both Doogan and Burns have pointed to the case of Amber Batts, the owner of an Alaskan escort agency who was sentenced to five years in prison on sex trafficking charges in August. Batts' supporters -- who include her former employees -- say she helped keep her workers safe by screening clients with background checks and providing a secure place to meet clients. Burns, who does not know Batts personally, created a social media campaign using the hashtag #WhoresUNITED907 to draw attention to Batt's trial and Alaska's sex trafficking laws. (The area code for most of the state is 907.)

Intensified law enforcement also means potential for police brutality. When Burns surveyed 40 people involved in various aspects of the Alaska sex trade and interviewed an additional eight, twenty-six percent of them said they had been sexually assaulted by an officer and 9 percent said they had been beaten or robbed by an officer. Thirty-three percent of those who had ever tried to report a crime to police had been threatened with arrest while doing so.

"I myself have had [officers] pose as customers and actually complete a sexual act with me and then try to arrest me," one participant said. Another described an officer threatening to throw a woman in a river "if she didn't perform oral sex on him."

Burns' research suggests that if the government wants to help trafficking victims and others vulnerable to exploitation, it should increase oversight of law enforcement's actions and focus on making resources like housing, counseling and health care available to those who need them. In her online petition, she also advocates for decriminalizing all aspects of consensual sex work. 

If anyone is going to be prosecuted for abusive trafficking, she argues, perhaps the state should look at its own policies that drive people into the sex trade. From turning minors out onto the street without means to support themselves to slapping sex workers with criminal records that make it nearly impossible to find other employment, the state frequently makes selling sex the only viable option.

"When I think of the people I met in my 20 years or so of sex work who hated sex work and did not want to do it, but felt forced because it was their only means of survival," Burns said, "it was always a government body who had placed them in that situation." 

Contact the author of this article at Hilary.Hanson@huffingtonpost.com.

-- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.