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Moral Monday Returns With Public Opinion, If Not The North Carolina Legislature, On Its Side

Huffingon Post Politics - Wed, 2015-01-28 18:51
WASHINGTON -- More than 100 faith leaders and protesters affiliated with the Moral Monday movement staged a protest at the North Carolina legislature Wednesday, continuing for a third straight year to pressure lawmakers on issues such as income inequality and voting rights.

After Republicans took control of the governor's mansion and both chambers of the state legislature in 2012, the party's leadership moved swiftly to cut unemployment benefits, eliminate the earned income tax credit, slash corporate tax rates, cut education spending and restrict voting rights. The Moral Monday movement began in response to these actions, with thousands gathering weekly at the state capitol.

The group was not deterred by GOP wins in the state in 2014, the Rev. William Barber II, one of the movement's leaders, told The Huffington Post. Former State House Speaker Thom Tillis (R) -- whom Barber called the "architect" of the legislature's rightward shift -- defeated former Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) in a close race, and the GOP solidified veto-proof majorities in the state House.

"We believe we go into this year with a lot of momentum," Barber said. "Sure, [conservative legislators] are extremists and they will probably try to continue their extreme agenda, but it’s setting up a real showdown with the people."

The legislature has addressed raising teacher pay, an issue the Moral Monday movement champions. The minimum salary for a North Carolina public school teacher is expected to go up this year, following a controversial bump some teachers already received last year.

Moral Monday also hopes to push North Carolina to adopt Medicaid expansion as included in the Affordable Care Act. An estimated 500,000 North Carolinians would gain coverage if the state expanded the program. Some politicians in the state have recently come out in favor, and even Gov. Pat McCrory (R) has said he is considering pushing for expansion. He met with President Barack Obama earlier this month and raised the possibility of a waiver that would require employment or job training for residents to be eligible for the program.

But both state Senate President Phil Berger (R) and House Speaker Tim Moore (R) oppose Medicaid expansion, and the North Carolina General Assembly passed a law in 2013 barring any expansion without its approval.

Barber pointed to various polling data -- including those that show falling support for the legislature and increased support for Medicaid expansion -- to make the case that the movement has influenced public opinion. He also argued Tillis' narrow victory over Hagan demonstrated the movement's effectiveness in the months leading up to the election.

"They threw their best at us and the best they could do was a 1.6 percent margin, which actually has emboldened our people to say, if we keep organizing, building and litigating, we can turn this tide," he said.

This app could help you literally save someone's life

TreeHugger Science-Tech - Wed, 2015-01-28 17:15
We have citizen scientists and citizen journalists, so why not citizen first responders?

Explore one of the West's last wild rivers with Google Street View

TreeHugger Science-Tech - Wed, 2015-01-28 08:00
The software lets you virtually float down the Yampa River, which has been largely unchanged by man.

Jatuporn Prompan, Thai Red Shirt Leader, Gets 2-Year Jail Term For Insulting Former Prime Minister

Huffingon Post Politics - Wed, 2015-01-28 05:05

BANGKOK, Jan 28 (Reuters) - A Thai court on Wednesday handed a two-year jail term to a leader of the "red shirt" opposition movement for defaming a former prime minister, a move the group says is proof of the junta's ambition to crush its opponents.

Thailand's Criminal Court found Jatuporn Prompan, chairman of the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD), or red shirt group, guilty of insulting former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva in two speeches in October 2009.

The ruling comes just days after ousted Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, whose government was backed by the red shirts before a May coup by the military, was banned from politics for five years.

Yingluck was removed from office for abuse of power in May, days before the coup, which the army said was necessary to end months of unrest.

The ban is the latest twist in 10 years of turbulent politics that have pitted Yingluck and her brother Thaksin, himself a former prime minister, against the royalist-military establishment that sees the Shinawatras as a threat and reviles their populist policies.

Red shirt leader Jatuporn has been in legal hot water before and has faced a number of court cases, including for slander.

"On October 11 the accused went on stage at Democracy Monument and spoke about Abhisit, and on October 17, he spoke again outside Government House," a court official told Reuters.

"After reviewing the evidence the court found his words against Mr. Abhisit to be untrue."

Jatuporn was granted bail of 200,000 baht ($6,000). His lawyer, Wiyat Chatmontree, said he would appeal the ruling.

The sentence was emblematic of the junta's ambition to root out Thaksin's influence, said a red shirt member, who asked not to be identified for fear of repercussions.

"The junta's supporters want it to eradicate the Shinawatra clan from politics and that is exactly what they are doing."

Thailand has been bitterly split between supporters of the Shinawatras in the agricultural north and northeast and the Bangkok-based royalist-military establishment, which sees Thaksin, a telecoms billionaire turned politician, as a threat.

Abhisit, head of the conservative, pro-establishment Democrat Party, faced popular opposition in 2010, after tens of thousands of red shirt activists demanding fresh elections took to the streets of the Thai capital, accusing his government of being elitist and army-backed.

His former deputy, Suthep Thaugsuban, led street protests in 2013 and 2014, backed by Bangkok's middle classes, that helped lead to Yingluck's ouster. (Reporting by Aukkarapon Niyomyat; Writing by Amy Sawitta Lefevre; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

U.S. Signs $2 Billion Loan Agreement With Ukraine, Offers To Increase Pressure On Russia

Huffingon Post Politics - Wed, 2015-01-28 03:43

KIEV, Jan 28 (Reuters) - The United States on Wednesday signed an agreement providing war-torn Ukraine with $2 billion in loan guarantees to help it with "near-term social spending" in 2015 and said it was prepared to step up sanctions against Russia if necessary.

After signing the loan agreement with Ukrainian Finance Minister Natalia Yaresko, U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew referred to Russian support for separatists in Ukraine which has led to the United States and the European Union imposing sanctions on Russia.

Saying the United States was opposing "Russian aggression," Lew went on: "We remain prepared to do more (on sanctions) if necessary. To that end, we will continue to work with our allies to increase the pressure on Russia." (Reporting by Alessandra Prentice; Writing By Richard Balmforth; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

New England Blizzard Buries Residents In Snow Amid Forecast Second-Guessing

Huffingon Post Politics - Wed, 2015-01-28 01:54

BOSTON (AP) — New Englanders savaged by a blizzard packing knee-high snowfall and hurricane-force winds began digging out as New Yorkers and others spared its full fury questioned whether forecasts were overblown.

The storm buried the Boston area in more than 2 feet of snow and lashed it with howling winds that exceeded 70 mph. It punched a gaping hole in a seawall and swamped a vacant home in Marshfield, Massachusetts, and flipped a 110-foot replica of a Revolutionary War ship in Newport, Rhode Island, snapping its mast and puncturing its hull.

"I had to jump out the window because the door only opens one way," Chuck Beliveau said in the hard-hit central Massachusetts town of Westborough. "I felt like a kid again. When I was a kid, we'd burrow through snow drifts like moles."

But signs of normalcy emerged: Flights were to resume at dawn Wednesday at Logan International Airport, among the nation's busiest air hubs, and Boston's public transit and Amtrak trains to New York and Washington were set to roll again.

Bitter cold threatened to complicate efforts to clear clogged streets and restore power to more than 15,000 customers shivering in the dark, including the entire island of Nantucket. A 78 mph wind gust was reported there, and a 72 mph one on neighboring Martha's Vineyard.

The low in Boston on Wednesday was expected to be 10 degrees, with a wind chill of minus 5. Forecasters warned that it won't get above freezing for a week.

The Philadelphia-to-Boston corridor of more than 35 million people had braced for a paralyzing blast Monday evening and into Tuesday after forecasters warned of a storm of potentially historic proportions.

The weather lived up to its billing in New England and on New York's Long Island, which also got clobbered.

In the New York City area, the snowfall wasn't all that bad, falling short of a foot. By Tuesday morning, buses and subways were starting to run again, and driving bans there and in New Jersey had been lifted.

The glancing blow left forecasters apologizing and politicians defending their near-total shutdown on travel. Some commuters grumbled, but others sounded a better-safe-than-sorry note and even expressed sympathy for the weathermen.

National Weather Service director Louis Uccellini said his agency should have done a better job of communicating the uncertainty in its forecast. But he also said the storm may in fact prove to be one of the biggest ever in some parts of Massachusetts.

Around New England, snowplows struggled to keep up, and Boston police drove several dozen doctors and nurses to work at hospitals. Snow blanketed Boston Common, where the Redcoats drilled during the Revolution, and drifts piled up against Faneuil Hall, where Samuel Adams agitated for rebellion against the British.

More than 23 inches of snow coated Boston's Logan Airport by Tuesday night, while Worcester got 26 inches and Auburn and Lunenburg each reported 36 inches.

Providence, Rhode Island, got 17 inches. Sixteen inches piled up in Portland, Maine, and 33 inches in Thompson, Connecticut. Montauk, on the eastern end of Long Island, got about 2 feet.

Two deaths, both on Long Island, were tied to the storm by police: a 17-year-old who crashed into a light pole while snow-tubing down a street and an 83-year-old man with dementia who was found dead in his backyard.

While Philadelphia, New York and New Jersey had been warned they could get 1 to 2 feet of snow, New York City received just under 10 inches and Philadelphia a mere inch or so. New Jersey got up to 10 inches.

National Weather Service forecaster Gary Szatkowski, of Mount Holly, New Jersey, tweeted an apology: "You made a lot of tough decisions expecting us to get it right, and we didn't."

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie defended his statewide ban on travel as "absolutely the right decision to make," given the dire forecast. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city will look at whether storm procedures could be improved but added: "You can't be a Monday morning quarterback on something like the weather."

The blizzard posed a test for Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, who took office three weeks ago, and Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh, who just finished his first year in office.

With the storm drawing near, the governor banned all non-essential travel, and the mayor ordered city schools closed for two days.

"So far, so good," Tufts University political science professor Jeffrey Berry said. "What's important for a governor or a mayor is to appear to be in charge and to have a plan to finish up the job and to get the city and the state back to work."


Associated Press writers Patrick Whittle in Portland, Maine; Michelle R. Smith in Providence; Rhode Island; Steve LeBlanc and Sylvia Lee Wingfield in Boston; Amy Crawford in Westborough, Massachusetts; Pat Eaton-Robb in Columbia, Connecticut; Jennifer Peltz, Kiley Armstrong, Ula Ilnytzky and Verena Dobnik in New York; Shawn Marsh in Trenton, New Jersey; Jill Colvin in Jersey City, New Jersey; Geoff Mulvihill in Haddonfield, New Jersey; and Sean Carlin, Michael Sisak and Kathy Matheson in Philadelphia contributed to this report.

Howard Dean Apologizes To Veterans For 'American Sniper' Comments

Huffingon Post Politics - Tue, 2015-01-27 22:27
Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean (D) apologized to military veterans on Tuesday for his recent comments linking audiences for the film "American Sniper" to angry tea party enthusiasts.

Appearing on "Real Time With Bill Maher" last week, Dean said that there was maybe "a lot of intersection" between people seeing the movie and the tea party.

"There's a lot of anger in this country. And the people who go see this movie are people who are very angry," Dean said. "This guy basically says, 'I'm going to fight on your side.' They bite for it."

The film, directed by Clint Eastwood, tells the story of Chris Kyle, who may have been the deadliest military sniper in U.S. history. Kyle was killed in 2013 by another veteran. The film has been nominated for several Academy Awards, including best picture.

After criticism from conservatives, including actor Gary Sinise, Dean apologized, acknowledging he hadn't seen the movie.

“I’ll apologize to the veterans. I haven’t seen the movie and I think I was wrong,” Dean said on the MSNBC show "Hardball." "I make no apologies to all of the right-wing nut-jobs that have been twittering me in nasty language, but I do apologize to the veterans.

"We owe them a lot and I think this movie was much more nuanced than I thought."

The film has been criticized for its portrayal of war, notably by filmmaker Michael Moore.

Obama Should Give Up Keystone XL to Raise the Minimum Wage

Huffingon Post Politics - Tue, 2015-01-27 22:12

The Keystone XL Pipeline is the 1,664 mile project that has become the political football of the 114th Congress. What most folks don't know about this football is that it is already operating from Steele City, Nebraska to Port Arthur, Texas. President Obama is in an interesting position because the already completed Northern leg extension (which would transport oil between Hardisty, Alberta to Steele City) has been awaiting a Presidential permit for a little over three years now.

President Obama has stalemated on this issue. We can all agree that it is difficult to decipher fact, fiction, and feeling in this matter, but now is the time to make a move. The amount of crude oil being shipped and sold by the barrel has skyrocketed since the XL Pipeline project began in June of 2010 - TransCanada is making their profit, you can believe that. They have the ability to run out the clock on Obama's last term, and the President is just sitting in the Red zone, chips stacked, ball in his court with the ability to clinch a major win for the American people.

According to the State department, Keystone XL would create 1,950 jobs over a two-year period after which 50 permanent jobs would remain. The State Department also estimates that the Keystone would contribute $3.4 billion to the U.S. economy (.02 percent of GDP). Though this is a positive, if all we wanted from Obama was to blindly boost the economy, legalizing marijuana could have gotten that job done years ago.

These facts have been known for quite some time and the people have spoken. Whether it is because they think it will create jobs, boost the economy, prevent a price spike at the pump, or just flat out don't believe the environmental hype - roughly 65-70 percent of Americans support the approval of the pipeline extension. Coincidentally, about 71% would support a raise in the federal minimum wage to $12.50 or above. The President is in a major position of leverage. I say, President Obama: double your pleasure, double your fun -- propose a bill to Congress raising the minimum wage with a promise that you will approve the Keystone XL Pipeline.

America! The battle on the Keystone is over and both sides have lost! Environmentalists have convinced Americans that building the Keystone is a bad thing and with the freefalling price of crude oil, potential Keystone XL oil profiteers are on target to lose their profit margins. If the President is willing to play a quick game of "lets make a deal," working families can be the real winners. Why not trade in the Keystone to benefit those Americans currently making minimum wage or about the cost of a 2015 Kia Rio per year ($17,160 based on 8 hours/day, 260-day work year here in the District). The current minimum wage has too many Americans families living in poverty. If the inevitable approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline is the cost, it is a small price to pay - baggage and all.

Richard Fowler is the youngest syndicated progressive and/or African-American radio host in the United States.

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12 Numbers That Break Down What Happened In NYC During That 'Historic' Snowstorm

Huffingon Post Politics - Tue, 2015-01-27 21:53
On Monday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio warned of a "potentially historic" snowstorm that could dump up to 3 feet of snow across the five boroughs. The city had 1,800 plows at the ready and 250,000 tons of salt to spread over the 6,000 miles of city roads.

But when New Yorkers woke up Tuesday morning, they saw a more paltry 7 to 9 inches of the white stuff outside -- a veritable Snor'easter.

And while city-dwellers were spared the worst of the storm -- which pummeled parts of Long Island and New England with over 30 inches of snow and up to 70 mile per hour winds -- that doesn't mean it didn't leave its mark on the Big Apple.


The number of rabbits seized from a Brooklyn backyard as the storm approached the city. The bunnies' owner told DNAinfo that about 20 police officers temporarily confiscated the cuddly pets to protect them from the elements.


The number of non-emergency vehicles that should have been on the city’s streets after 11 p.m. Monday. Mayor de Blasio announced a travel ban, which ended at 7:30 a.m. Tuesday morning.

The NYPD said Tuesday that no one was arrested or issued summonses for violating the ban. The streets were eerily empty in Manhattan:

Somebody was making a #snow angel in an empty #TimesSquare #NYC. That made me smile, thanks @EarthCam pic.twitter.com/gcSR4XCPJS

— Gigi A (@gigi_nyc) January 27, 2015


Number of people who thought it was a good idea go paddleboarding off Rockaway Beach at the beginning of the storm.

Blizzard boarding, anyone? Today's shot of an undeterred paddle boarder on 126th Street. Photographer: @shamrockawaygirl❄️ #rockawaybeach #eastcoast #atlanticocean #queens #nyc #juno #noreaster #blizzardnyc #newyork #surfnyc #sup #surfeast

A photo posted by rockawaybeach_nyc (@rockawaybeach_nyc) on Jan 26, 2015 at 1:14pm PST


The percent uptick in liquor sales in Boston and New York City on the delivery service Drizzly, according to the company:

Deliveries of alcohol in BOS & NYC were up 235% over typical winter Monday. @DrizlyBos (+345%) @DrizlyNY (+117%) #WinterStormJuno

— Drizly (@Drizly) January 27, 2015


Acres of New York City parks that were closed to the public during the storm. The parks are back open now, but de Blasio warned people to be on the look out for falling branches as trees are weighed down with snow.

Central Park blanketed in snow @DNAinfo pic.twitter.com/sCrPsocd9d

— Sybile P. (@SybilePenhirin) January 27, 2015


The approximate number of bros playing beer pong in the middle of First Avenue in the East Village Monday night before they decided to destroy the beer pong table.


The number of dicks drawn on this NYPD car:

@evgrieve pic.twitter.com/FtoIfVR8ZZ

— ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ (@ThePeterHa) January 27, 2015


The number of points on the star-shaped snowflakes falling in and around New York City during the storm. According to Gothamist, they are "rimed crystals—snowflakes with cloud droplets frozen on them."

Star shaped snow. #brownstonesteps #snowstorm #blizzard #homewithteaandspotify http://t.co/FMnyDs5kRH pic.twitter.com/cLJOwqaeKD

— Foladé (@alifeinboxes) January 26, 2015


The number of people Louis C.K. had to tell that he was canceling his sold-out show at Madison Square Garden because of the storm.

From an email CK sent to the ticketholders:

"...there seems to be a massive storm approaching New York City. They are calling this storm "historic" which.... Well I didn't know you could call a thing historic if it hasn't happened yet. But I'm not one to defy future historic events. And I have to be respectful of the responsibility I have to the 15,000 people who are holding tickets to the show and could be stranded somewhere historically trying to get to or from my show. I think it's clearly better that I alter history in the name of safety and cancel. Besides, if you've ever tried to get your deposit back when you rent a banquet hall for a wedding that gets snowed out, you don't want to even know what the deposit is on Madison Square Jesus Christing Garden is."


The number of stray kale leaves left at this New York City grocery store during Monday evening’s shopping rush.

Oh New Yorkers... you and your kale (and yes, I bought some today too)... http://t.co/tb2dK3lN01 #blizzardof2015

— Eleanor C. Whitney (@killerfemme) January 26, 2015


The number of men in Brooklyn looking for that special woman on Craigslist who wants to have sex in the snow. (We actually wouldn't be surprised if there were others. After all, plenty of people flocked to the site in search of company during the storm.)

"Looking for a pretty lady that has a fetish for cold," the post reads. "After making naked snow angels we will then proceed to have 'hot' snow sex. I understand this is a very unique fetish so no experience is needed!"


Approximate miles of subway tracks that were devoid of passengers from 11 p.m. Monday until 9 a.m. Tuesday. It was the first time the subway service has ever been suspended because of a snowstorm.

Hillary Clinton Willing To Testify Before Benghazi Panel, Democrat Says

Huffingon Post Politics - Tue, 2015-01-27 21:02
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has agreed to testify before the House committee investigating the 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi — setting up what could be an explosive hearing for the likely 2016 presidential candidate.

'The Rent Is Too Damn High' Candidate Jimmy McMillan Facing Eviction

Huffingon Post Politics - Tue, 2015-01-27 20:51
NEW YORK (AP) — A New York City man who made his political name over the claim that "the rent is too damn high" may soon not have a place to live.

Jimmy McMillan says he's facing an eviction notice that says he has to leave his rent-stabilized Manhattan apartment on St. Mark's Place.

McMillan, who ran for governor in 2010, filed papers in federal court in Brooklyn seeking a stay of the eviction notice.

His attorney has filed with an appeals court as well, seeking a stay of the eviction order.

McMillan says his landlord wants him out to be able to charge market rent to someone else. He says he pays $872.96 per month.

A call to the landlord company and an email to its attorneys were not answered.

Warren Hill Executed Despite Being Labeled Intellectually Disabled

Huffingon Post Politics - Tue, 2015-01-27 20:24
ATLANTA (AP) -- A man convicted in the killing of a fellow inmate has been executed in Georgia despite claims by his lawyers that he was intellectually disabled.

Warren Lee Hill was put to death by injection of a single drug Tuesday at the state prison in Jackson. The 54-year-old was pronounced dead at 7:55 p.m. He did not make any final statement.

Hill had previously come within hours of execution on three separate occasions, but courts granted temporary reprieves each time. The Supreme Court on Tuesday denied a stay, however.

His lawyers argued Hill was intellectually disabled and shouldn't be executed. The state argued the defense failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Hill is intellectually disabled.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

The Supreme Court has refused to halt the execution of a Georgia man whose lawyers say he is ineligible to be executed because he is intellectually disabled. Warren Lee Hill's lawyers argue he shouldn't be executed because he is intellectually disabled.

The justices on Tuesday turned away a last-minute plea from Warren Lee Hill. He is scheduled to be executed at 7 p.m. at the state prison in Jackson, Georgia.

Different courts have intervened with temporary reprieves at the last minute on three previous occasions. Justices Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor said they would have granted Hill another reprieve.

State and federal courts had already rejected his filings this time around, and the State Board of Pardons and Paroles -the only entity authorized to commute his sentence to life in prison - denied him clemency Tuesday. Hill has filings pending before the U.S. Supreme Court, which is now the only potential barrier between him and a lethal injection of the drug pentobarbital.

"The clemency board missed an opportunity to right a grave wrong," Brian Kammer, a lawyer for Hill, said in an emailed statement Tuesday. "It is now up to the U.S. Supreme Court to ensure that an unconstitutional execution of a man with lifelong intellectual disability is prevented."

Hill was sentenced to serve life in prison for the 1986 killing of his 18-year-old girlfriend, who was shot 11 times. While serving that sentence, he beat a fellow inmate, Joseph Handspike, to death using a nail-studded board. A jury in 1991 convicted Hill of murder and sentenced him to death.

Lawyers for Hill have long argued he is intellectually disabled and, therefore, shouldn't be executed. State law and a 2002 U.S. Supreme Court decision both prohibit the execution of the intellectually disabled.

But Georgia has the toughest-in-the nation standard for proving intellectual disability. It requires capital defendants to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that they are intellectually disabled in order to avoid execution on those grounds. The state has consistently said Hill's lawyers failed to meet that burden of proof.

Hill's lawyers argued that Georgia's standard is unconstitutional because mental diagnoses are subject to a degree of uncertainty that is virtually impossible to overcome. But the standard has repeatedly been upheld by state and federal courts.

In the challenge currently pending before the U.S. Supreme Court, Hill's lawyers have cited a ruling that court issued in May that knocked down a Florida law. The high court said defendants should have a fair opportunity to show the Constitution prohibits their execution. Hill's lawyers say that ruling should also invalidate Georgia's tough burden of proof.

Hill was previously set to die in July 2012, February 2013 and July 2013, but courts stepped in at the last minute with temporary stays so they would have time to consider challenges filed by Hill's lawyers. The July 2012 and July 2013 challenges each effectively halted executions in Georgia while they were pending, for about six months and 10 months, respectively.

Days before Hill was to be executed in February 2013, his lawyers submitted new statements from the three doctors who had examined Hill in 2000 and testified at his trial that he was not intellectually disabled. In their new statements, the doctors wrote that they had been rushed at the time of Hill's trial, and new scientific developments had surfaced since then. All three reviewed facts and documents in the case and wrote that they believed Hill is intellectually disabled.

Included with the clemency application Hill's lawyers submitted to the parole board were letters from former President Jimmy Carter and his wife and groups that advocate for those with disabilities. In their letter dated Jan. 21, the Carters noted that Georgia was the first state, in 1988, to outlaw the execution of the mentally disabled.

"In light of the undisputed evidence that Mr. Hill is more likely than not `mentally retarded,' his execution would undermine the State of Georgia's historic leadership in promoting the rights of the developmentally challenged," Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter wrote.

Rupert Murdoch Still Won't Back Mitt Romney

Huffingon Post Politics - Tue, 2015-01-27 20:17
The usually grim-faced media mogul practically swooned in his seat. Moments after Jeb Bush delivered what many in the audience described as an unremarkable talk at a conference in Washington, Rupert Murdoch turned to his seatmate, Valerie Jarrett, the White House adviser, to gush over its content and tone.

Why Is the 'Climate President' Approving More Oil Drilling?

Huffingon Post Politics - Tue, 2015-01-27 20:12

Something doesn't compute here.

Last week, President Obama rightly declared in his State of the Union address: "No challenge poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change."

This week, the Obama administration announced plans open up the Atlantic Ocean to oil and gas drilling and offer more lease sales in the sensitive Arctic waters off Alaska. Ramping up offshore drilling will not only raise the risk of disastrous oil spills and threats to wildlife, but will also deepen our dependence on the very fossil fuels driving us into the global climate crisis.

Here's the thing about dealing with global warming: You can't say you want to make it better and then do the opposite. Rhetoric won't curb carbon dioxide emissions and poetic speeches won't stop the seas from rising and the planet from warming.

Producing and burning what's believed to be recoverable oil and gas in the Arctic Ocean could release 15.8 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere - that'd be like adding the equivalent of nine years' pollution of all the cars, trucks, airplanes and other forms of transportation in the United States.
That's taking us in exactly the wrong direction.

Climate scientists tell us we need to reduce carbon in the atmosphere to 350 parts per million to avoid catastrophic, irreversible impacts. Today it's hovering at around 400 parts per million, so we have a long way to go.

The clock is ticking though. The decisions we make now about fossil fuels and energy development will have massive repercussions for future generations - coasts swallowed by rising oceans, dangerously warm temperatures, droughts, food shortages, deadly weather events, wildlife extinctions, the list goes one. We can still avert the worst that climate change will bring but the window for action is rapidly closing. And once it's shut, there's no going back.

President Obama ought to be banning offshore drilling in the Arctic and along the Atlantic coasts, not giving them new life. It's a disappointing and troubling move that casts a long shadow over his promises to finally tackle this crisis.

Yes, the oil and gas industries will be thrilled to sink their drills into these pristine places but the rest of us - people and wildlife today and tomorrow - will be left coping with a planet suffering from the terrible cost of policies that valued profit and greed over all else.

We can do better. And we must, before it's too late.

Photo: Kulluk offshore drilling rig run aground in Alaska (Coast Guard)

It's National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. What's Congress Doing About It?

Huffingon Post Politics - Tue, 2015-01-27 20:00
January 2015 is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. In a proclamation commemorating the month, President Obama explained:

Stained from a history of slavery and shaped by ancestors brought to this country in chains, today, America shines as a beacon of hope to people everywhere who cherish liberty and opportunity. Still, our society remains imperfect, and our Nation has more work to do to uphold these values.

Sex trafficking is the fastest-growing business of organized crime and the third-largest criminal enterprise in the world, according to the FBI. In 2013, nearly 5,000 cases of human trafficking were reported to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center. Today, as many as 300,000 American youth are at risk of becoming a victim of sex trafficking. The enactment of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (TVPA) in 2000 made child sex trafficking in interstate commerce a federal crime. The TVPA authorized services to victims of trafficking and was most recently reauthorized in 2013. (Source: House Judiciary Committee)

Last year, the Dept. of Homeland Security re-launched their Blue Campaign, which works in collaboration with law enforcement, government, non-governmental and private organizations to combat human trafficking. To report suspected human trafficking, call 1-866-347-2423. Or to get help from the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, call 1-888-373-7888 or text HELP or INFO to BeFree (233733).

Human Trafficking Prevention in Congress
This week, the House will be voting on a series of bills related to human trafficking prevention. These bills all have bipartisan support in the House. Here's a look at their proposals:

- Human Trafficking Prioritization Act (HR 514): To prioritize the fight against human trafficking within the Department of State according to congressional intent in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 without increasing the size of the Federal Government.

- International Megan's Law to Prevent Demand for Child Sex Trafficking (HR 515): "A serious attempt to mitigate child sex tourism by noticing countries of destination concerning the travel plans of convicted pedophiles. And to protect American children, the bill encourages the President to use bilateral agreements and assistance to establish reciprocal notification so that we will know when convicted child-sex offenders are coming here," according a floor statement by the sponsor in 2014. "In 1994, a young girl in my home town and district was lured into the home of a convicted pedophile who lived across the street from her home. Megan Kanka, seven, was raped and murdered. No one, including Megan Kanka's parents, knew that their neighbor had been convicted and jailed for child sexual assault. The combination of concern for children and outrage towards those who abuse led to enactment of Megan's Laws -- public sex offender registries -- in every state in the country."

- Human Trafficking Prevention Act (HR 357): "Requires additional training for Department of State officials related to human trafficking," according to the bill sponsor.

- Improving Response to Child Sex Trafficking (HR 246): To improve the response to victims of child sex trafficking.

- Trafficking Awareness Training for Health Care Act (HR 398): "Trains healthcare workers to recognize the hallmark signs of human trafficking, thus allowing professionals to intervene on a patients' behalf. This legislation trains healthcare workers to recognize the hallmark signs of human trafficking, thus allowing professionals to intervene. This legislation requires the Dept. of Health and Human Services (HHS) to award a grant to a medical or nursing school within each of the 10 administrative regions to develop best practices for health care professionals. These best practices will allow for them to recognize, respond, and intervene on behalf of human trafficking victims," according to the bill sponsor.

- Human Trafficking Detection Act (HR 460): To direct the Secretary of Homeland Security to train Department of Homeland Security personnel how to effectively deter, detect, disrupt, and prevent human trafficking during the course of their primary roles and responsibilities.

- Trafficking Awareness Training for Health Care Act (HR 398): To provide for the development and dissemination of evidence-based best practices for health care professionals to recognize victims of a severe form of trafficking and respond to such individuals appropriately.

- Human Trafficking Prevention, Intervention, and Recovery Act (HR 350): "Launches a review that will look into federal and state trafficking prevention activities in order to identify best practices to stop human trafficking; requires an inventory of existing federal anti-trafficking efforts to make sure all federal agencies and programs work together and that federal resources are being targeted where needed; and improves existing Department of Justice grants, ensuring that the grants also support shelters for survivors, according to the House Judiciary Committee.

- Stop Exploitation Through Trafficking Act (HR 159): "Provides incentives to states to adopt safe harbor laws that treat trafficked children as victims, rather than as criminals or delinquents. The bill also provides an avenue for victims to access job skills training so that they can begin to rebuild their lives," according to the House Judiciary Committee.

- Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act (HR 181): "Boosts support and protection for domestic human trafficking victims by increasing and streamlining law enforcement resources, enhancing victims' services, and strengthening our laws to ensure that both buyers and sellers engaged in sex trafficking are held accountable for their crimes," according to the House Judiciary Committee.

- Stop Advertising Victims of Exploitation Act (HR 285): "To criminalize those who knowingly advertise or profit from advertisements that offer the commercial exploitation of children and trafficking victims," according to the House Judiciary Committee.

- Enhancing Services for Runaway and Homeless Victims for Youth Trafficking Act (HR 468): Would "improve support provided specifically to runaway and homeless youth who are victims of sex trafficking," according to the House Education and Workforce Committee. Enable the Secretary of Health and Human Services to apply existing grant resources to train relevant staff on the effects of human trafficking in runaway and homeless youth victims, and for developing state-wide strategies to serve such youth. Allow the secretary to utilize the Street Outreach Program to provide street-based services for runaway and homeless youth who are victims of trafficking.

- Strengthening Child Welfare Response to Trafficking Act (HR 469): Would "improve practices within state child welfare systems to identify and document sex trafficking victims," according to the House Education and Workforce Committee. Direct states to have procedures to identify and assess reports involving children who are victims of sex trafficking, and train child protective services workers on how to do so. Require states to identify services that address the needs of children who are victims of sex trafficking.

POPVOX.com is a neutral, nonpartisan platform that connects people with their lawmakers. Highlighting a bill doesn't imply a POPVOX endorsement in any way. Rather, we're simply trying to offer one more way to stay informed of a complex legislative system.

Sheldon Silver Out As New York Assembly Speaker By Next Week

Huffingon Post Politics - Tue, 2015-01-27 19:35
New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver will vacate his post by next week, Democratic lawmakers said in a Tuesday press conference.

Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle said Silver will either resign from his post by Monday, or be expelled from it by his colleagues. Morelle will serve as interim speaker until an election for the post is held on February 10.

Silver was arrested last week on corruption charges. On Sunday, he agreed to temporarily relinquish his duties as he fought the charges.

Silver has held the post since 1994.

Below, more details from the Associated Press:

Silver did not address his colleagues or reporters on Tuesday but late Monday night said he expected to be exonerated. It is unclear whether Silver plans to resign or whether his tenure will be formally ended Monday by legislative action. Messages left with Silver's office were not returned.

The 70-year-old Manhattan Democrat was taken into custody last Thursday on federal charges he took nearly $4 million in payoffs and kickbacks, but he insists he is innocent. He has led the Assembly for 21 years — the second-longest tenure of any sitting speaker in the nation.

Members of the Assembly said Silver's criminal charges had become a distraction and a problem for entire chamber.

"There is a strong sense among members it would be best for the speaker to step down and for this body to elect a new speaker," Assembly member Patricia Fahy, D-Albany, said Tuesday. "There is a lot of hard work ahead to move ahead and unite the body behind a new speaker who can best represent the entire state, champion reforms and restore confidence in the Assembly."

She noted, though, that the chamber and Silver have been instrumental in raising New York's minimum wage, legalizing same-sex marriage, funding prekindergarten and other progressive measures.

Silver had one vocal ally remaining. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, a fellow Democrat, has called Silver "a man of integrity" and said Tuesday that he shouldn't resign. He added that people have to respect the Assembly's decision, but "it's crucially important" that there is leadership that's fair to the city, which often doesn't get its fair share from the state government.

Some legislators also want rules changed to lessen the central power of the speaker's office and seniority system, establish more transparency in how the chamber operates and make decisions and give the chairmen of Assembly committees more authority.

Silver faces five counts, including conspiracy and bribery, and is accused of using his position to obtain millions of dollars in kickbacks masked as legitimate income from two law firms.

On Sunday, Silver proposed letting five senior legislators temporarily take over the speaker's duties while he kept the post and fought the federal charges. Lawmakers rejected the idea as unworkable.

There was no clear immediate consensus on Silver's permanent replacement. Morelle, Assemblyman Keith Wright of Harlem and Assemblyman Carl Heastie of the Bronx have all been mentioned as likely candidates.

Michelle Obama Forgoes Headscarf In Saudi Arabia

Huffingon Post Politics - Tue, 2015-01-27 19:31
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — For first lady Michelle Obama, just a few hours in Saudi Arabia were enough to illustrate the stark limitations under which Saudi women live.

Joining President Barack Obama for a condolence visit after the death of the King Abdullah, Mrs. Obama stepped off of Air Force One wearing long pants and a long, brightly colored jacket — but no headscarf. Under the kingdom's strict dress code for women, Saudi females are required to wear a headscarf and loose, black robes in public. Most women in Saudi Arabia cover their hair and face with a veil known as the niqab. But covering one's head is not required for foreigners, and some Western women choose to forego the headscarf while in Saudi Arabia.

As a delegation of dozens of Saudi officials — all men — greeted the Obamas in Riyadh, some shook hands with Mrs. Obama. Others avoided a handshake but acknowledged the first lady with a nod as they passed by.

Saudi Arabia imposes many restrictions on women on the strict interpretation of Islamic Shariah (shah-REE'-yuh) law known as Wahhabism. Genders are strictly segregated. Women are banned from driving, although there have been campaigns in recent years to lift that ban. Guardianship laws also require women to get permission from a male relative to travel, get married, enroll in higher education or undergo certain surgical procedures.

Sarah Palin Just Gave A Pro-Hillary Group A Big Boost

Huffingon Post Politics - Tue, 2015-01-27 19:30
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) has helped raise so much money for a pro-Hillary Clinton super PAC that she qualifies to co-chair the group's national finance council.

The group, Ready For Hillary, used comments about Clinton that Palin made over the weekend in Iowa to raise more than $25,000.

"It's going to take more than a village to beat Hillary," Palin said on Saturday. "I'm ready for Hillary. Are you coming?"

Ready For Hillary immediately seized on the comments and emailed supporters, asking them to donate. On Tuesday evening, the group emailed supporters again, announcing that the super PAC had raised more than $25,000 as a result of Palin's comments -- enough to qualify the former GOP candidate for vice president to be a co-chair of Ready for Hillary.

Ready For Hillary said in Tuesday's email that it would wait for Palin to call before officially adding her name to the list of co-chairs.

Palin has said recently that she is "seriously considering" running for president in 2016.

After Palin's speech on Saturday, the Democratic National Committee issued a two-word statement: "Thank you."

GenZe 2.0 could be the Vespa of electric scooters

TreeHugger Science-Tech - Tue, 2015-01-27 18:24
With a range of 30 miles, a top speed of 30 mph, and a recharge time of just 3.5 hours, the GenZe 2.0 could be one solution for clean urban transportation.

Jon Stewart Figures Out What's Really Going On In Sarah Palin's Bizarre Iowa Speech

Huffingon Post Politics - Tue, 2015-01-27 05:21
Jon Stewart found a lot of odd moments to cover during the Iowa Freedom Summit, from Sen. Ted Cruz channeling Ned Flanders to Texas Gov. Rick Perry channeling Howard Dean.

But the most bizarre moment of the weekend had to be Sarah Palin's head-scratching speech, which has been described as "meandering and bizarre," "weird" and "terrible."

Here's an excerpt:

"Things must change for our government. Look at it. It isn’t too big to fail. It’s too big to succeed! It's too big to succeed, so we can afford no retreads or nothing will change with the same people and same policies that got us into the status quo. Another Latin word, status quo, and it stands for, ‘Man, the middle-class everyday Americans are really gettin’ taken for a ride.'"

“You know, that’s the kind of talk you normally hear right before the pharmacist says, ‘Ma’am, you’ve got to leave the Walgreens,’" Stewart said on Monday night's "Daily Show." “Now we know what it’s like to get cornered by Palin at an open-bar wedding."

Maybe Palin wasn't setting the stage for a presidential run in 2016. Maybe she was doing something else entirely... and Stewart thinks he knows exactly what it is.

Check out the clip above to find out.