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Huffingon Post Politics - Thu, 2016-06-23 05:22

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Welcome to the HuffPost Rise Morning Newsbrief, a short wrap-up of the news to help you start your day.

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Rural Pennsylvanians Say Fracking 'Just Ruined Everything'

Huffingon Post Politics - Thu, 2016-06-23 05:07

This story was originally published by the Center For Public Integrity.

AVELLA, Pa. — Sixty years after his service in the Army, Jesse Eakin still completes his outfits with a pin that bears a lesson from the Korean War: Never Impossible.

That maxim has been tested by a low-grade but persistent threat far different than the kind Eakin encountered in Korea: well water that’s too dangerous to drink. It gives off a strange odor and bears a yellow tint. It carries sand that clogs faucets in the home Eakin shares with his wife, Shirley, here in southwestern Pennsylvania.

The Eakins told the state environmental agency about their bad water nearly seven years ago and hoped for a quick resolution. Like thousands of others who live in the natural gas-rich Marcellus Shale, however, they learned their hopes were misplaced.

Today, the state is still testing their water. The results of those tests will dictate whether a gas exploration and production company is held responsible for providing them with a clean supply. Meanwhile, the Eakins drink donated bottled water and in late 2014 began paying for deliveries of city water to avoid showering in contaminants such as lead and manganese.

Since 2007, at least 2,800 water-related complaints have been investigated by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s Oil and Gas Program. Officials found ties to the drilling industry in 279. Another 500 or so cases, including the Eakins’, are open. While regulators try to catch up to natural gas exploration, some residents of the state have gone months, even years, without access to clean water at their homes.

Responding to a public-records request by the Center for Public Integrity, the Department of Environmental Protection, or DEP, provided data on 1,840 complaints lodged since 2010. More than half took longer than the agency’s target of 45 days to resolve. Almost one in 10 took more than a year.

The state’s often-plodding response has left hundreds of rural Pennsylvanians in a sort of forced drought, scrambling to pay for water deliveries, seek remedies in court, take out second mortgages or even abandon their homes.

Complaints filed with the DEP reveal people’s fear and frustration. In 2011, a Butler County resident reported that her previously crystal-clear water had turned “brown and rusty looking” with a “terrible odor.” 

In 2013, someone a few miles away complained of drinking water that “feels slimy and causes [his/her] skin to break out.” Last October a Westmoreland County father of five wanted to know whether his water was safe to drink — it had begun staining the bathtub and “didn’t smell like normal water should smell like.” He’s still waiting for the results of the DEP investigation.

If the past is any guide, the family may drink the malodorous water for months before finding out whether it is contaminated and whether the gas-drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, that swept the Marcellus a decade ago had anything to do with it.

Even if the DEP determines that there is a connection, relief may prove unsatisfying or slow to come. In each of the dozen households interviewed for this story that received “positive determination” letters from the state, people were still dealing with the burdens of water contamination. Some who have the energy and resources are seeking compensation in court, while others accept endless supplies of bottled water or filtration systems without knowing when or if their well water or property values will return to what they once were.

After Texas, Pennsylvania produces the most natural gas in the United States. It also has the second-highest number of private water wells, behind Michigan, with about 3.5 million users. Meanwhile, it’s one of only two states without regulations for private-well construction.

Fracking took hold here years before its potential health impacts were considered. The extent of these impacts remains unknown. The Pennsylvania Department of Health only began pulling residents’ health complaints into a registry this year. The DEP didn’t establish protocols for gas-related water investigations until 2015; it is still building a computerized system for tracking the results of such investigations.

“What I tell people is, don't think that there's somebody up there [in Harrisburg] watching out for you, because they’re not,” said David Brown, an environmental health scientist at the nonprofit Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project. “That's a pretty sobering message, and it's not one I would think I would give in many states but Pennsylvania.” (The project has received funding from The Heinz Endowments, as has the Center for Public Integrity).

In 2011, the state began requiring gas companies to report certain complaints from residents, who often call the local driller instead of the DEP. Between the complaints that never reach the agency and its inconsistency in recording the ones that do, however, the DEP is unable to provide a complete tally.

Residents have the option of closing DEP complaints and settling them privately with gas companies. But the agency doesn’t systematically track those settlements, which are often accompanied by non-disclosure agreements. The public is left in the dark.

In 2014, Pennsylvania’s auditor general, Eugene A. DePasquale, found that the DEP’s handling of water complaints from 2009 through 2012 was “a serious impediment to complainants’ quality of life” and called its documentation “egregiously poor.” The agency disagreed with all of his findings.

In a recent interview with the Center for Public Integrity, DePasquale said the DEP is headed in the right direction but has far to go.

Low-income Pennsylvanians with water problems are being left to fend for themselves “way too many times,” he said. “That's beyond not having good technology to track complaints. It’s ignoring your duty as public officials.”

The Center has sought interviews with DEP officials since January; none was granted. In a written statement, Scott Perry, deputy secretary over the agency’s Office of Oil and Gas Management, wrote, “Protecting Pennsylvania’s water is a key part of the DEP mission, and the Department takes these complaints very seriously. DEP staff conduct a full investigation, including lab analysis of water samples, for each complaint received. Unfortunately, there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution to impacted water supplies.”

The DEP is close to finalizing rules on gas drilling “that strengthen the protections for water supplies,” Perry wrote. The rules would ban disposal pits, which can contaminate groundwater, and impose more stringent requirements for water-supply replacement.

At a panel discussion last year, Perry acknowledged the department’s regulation of oil and gas has been a work in progress.

“The Pennsylvania DEP is really an international leader in managing the potential environmental impacts of oil and gas development,” he said. “We certainly did not start that way. We have nonetheless risen to these challenges and modernized our regulations across the board.” The agency has toughened standards for gas drilling, increased its number of inspectors and boosted permitting fees, Perry said.

But the DEP is struggling with a shrinking budget, outdated technology, and a divided General Assembly. Last month, the department’s secretary, John Quigley, resigned following the release of an email he’d sent to several environmental groups, accusing them of weak support for oil and gas regulations that had been rejected by lawmakers the day before.

“Where … were you people yesterday?” Quigley wrote. “The House and Senate hold Russian show trials on vital environmental issues and there’s no pushback at all from the environmental community?”

The natural gas industry wields considerable influence in Pennsylvania. From 2014 through 2015, it contributed $2.7 million to political campaigns in the state and spent about $17.5 million lobbying, according to a new report released by Common Cause Pennsylvania and Conservation Voters of PA. Top spenders included the Marcellus Shale Coalition, an industry group, which gave $7.4 million to lobbyists, and Range Resources, a gas exploration and production company, which gave $1.7 million.

In a news release, Josh McNeil of the voters group blamed “corrosive ties” between fossil-fuel interests and legislators for the “recent disruption of longstanding efforts to create cleaner air and water for the people of Pennsylvania . . .”

Fracking takes off, water complaints grow

Around 2005, energy companies began drilling natural gas wells into America’s vast shale deposits. New technology — fracking — had made dislodging gas from ancient, underground rock formations feasible on a large scale. The process involves pumping millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals deep into the earth at high pressure to break apart the rock and release the gas.

While operators extracted enough gas to make the United States one of the world’s leading energy producers, they were still perfecting certain parts of the process — how to construct a well so gas wouldn’t escape underground, for instance, or how to safely dispose of chemical-infused wastewater.

Research into fracking’s health and environmental effects was slow in coming; relatively few papers were published before 2013. By that time, Pennsylvania had issued permits for nearly 11,000 wells in the Marcellus Shale and had investigated at least 1,600 water-supply complaints, concluding that almost none had ties to fracking.

After their water went bad in 2009, the Eakins noticed rashes and mole-like, flesh-colored growths on their skin that seemed to pop up after showers. Their legs felt heavy. They stopped planting their annual garden in 2012 because the fruits and vegetables died right after they were watered. “It just ruined everything — the whole life,” said Shirley, 80.

When the Eakins complained about their water to Atlas Energy, the company that had begun fracking in the park uphill from their home, they knew little of the Marcellus — which encompasses 95,000 square miles in New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio and Maryland — or the estimated 85  trillion cubic feet of natural gas trapped within it. As it turned out, the three-bedroom house they built in 1978 in a remote part of Washington County, 30 miles southwest of Pittsburgh, rested atop what would become one of the most heavily drilled parts of the county.

Their water was never tested for fracking-related contaminants until sand began to clog their faucets. The DEP is still testing to determine whether their water may have been affected by gas drilling. In a letter to the Eakins last fall, the agency said contaminant levels kept fluctuating, making it difficult to reach a conclusion.

An Atlas spokesman said the company uses the best practices in the industry, but would not comment on any alleged environmental or property damage because of pending litigation by people other than the Eakins.

Among the dozen or so houses in the Eakins’ neighborhood, known as Rea, water quality differs from address to address. Residents of at least nine homes have stopped drinking water from their wells. One, Jeannie Moten, is certain fracking tainted her well water and led to her father’s premature death from heart failure. The well no longer functions; it collapsed one too many times after the gas drilling began, and her disability income won’t cover the cost of a new one.

One time, Moten said, she was standing in line at a restaurant behind an industry worker who was talking about Rea’s environmental problems. She heard him say that with only 15 homes, the community wasn’t worth worrying about. “We've been feeling like nobody since 2009,” she said.

There’s no shortage of cases like Moten’s and the Eakins’ across the state. People notice their water quality suddenly change and see a correlation with oil or gas drilling in their area. News outlets do stories on brown, bubbly water, but the DEP rarely finds proof of a connection. The buzz dies down; clean water doesn’t come.

Ben Groover sold his motorcycle and pickup truck to raise the $15,000 he needed to connect his home in Fayette County, 60 miles southeast of the Eakins, to a municipal water line in 2010.

Groover’s water well was 2,400 feet from a gas well drilled by Atlas Energy. Company records show the well was fracked on February 3, 2010. The same day, Groover filed a complaint with the DEP, saying his sink and toilets were filled with “brown muck.”

Groover, who had signed an agreement with Atlas allowing it to pipe gas across his land, had his water tested before the drilling started. Tests afterward showed that levels of a few contaminants commonly associated with fracking — suspended solids, iron and manganese — had gone up.

At the time, Pennsylvania law said gas companies were only presumed responsible for water pollution within 1,000 feet of a well. Groover was out of luck, even though scientists from Penn State University sampled his water in 2011 and concluded that it showed “potential impact from disturbance related to drilling or some other nearby activity.”

The following year, the law was updated: Gas wells drilled within 2,500 feet of a water supply that went bad would now be presumed responsible for the damage. Groover’s well likely would have fallen into this category, meaning Atlas would have been required to fix the problem. Groover said he filed multiple complaints with the DEP in an attempt to hold Atlas responsible, but his calls and emails to the agency had no effect. “I have less respect for the DEP than I do the gas industry,” he said. 

He never got clean water from either the company or the state. He and several neighbors have filed a lawsuit against Atlas and other gas companies operating in the area.

In its answer to the complaint, Atlas said it was not liable for the alleged injuries and damages. Any problems that occurred “were the result of unavoidable circumstances beyond the control of Atlas, which could not have been reasonably foreseen or prevented by any person or entity…,” the company said.

A spokesman for the Marcellus Shale Coalition declined to be interviewed for this article. In a recent blog post, however, the group said that “natural gas development in Pennsylvania is governed by modern, tight regulations that in addition to the industry’s commitment to best practices strengthen our environment and protect local communities.”

In another post, the coalition noted that a state-imposed fee on natural gas has generated more than $1 billion since 2011. “These critical revenues are sent directly to local governments, which allows those closest to the development to invest in infrastructure improvements and community programs,” the group’s Dave Spigelmyer is quoted as saying.

The number of oil and gas industry jobs in Pennsylvania increased by more than 15,000 during the boom years — from 2007 through 2012 —  though a recent  drop in gas prices has moved companies to downsize. The number of active rigs in the state has dropped by more than half in the past year, though increasingly efficient gas-extraction techniques have sent production to new highs.

Evolving science

Scientists are still unraveling how, and under what circumstances, fracking can affect water. In Pennsylvania, methane or other impurities are sometimes present before drilling occurs, making things difficult for investigators. A 2012 Penn State study found, for example, that 40 percent of wells tested before fracking contained at least one contaminant above safe limits.

Rob Jackson, a professor of environmental earth systems science at Stanford University, has been investigating possible ties between fracking and poor water quality since 2009, when he and his colleagues realized that no peer-reviewed papers on the topic had been published.

When Jackson’s team released the results of studies showing evidence of such links in Pennsylvania and Texas, it quickly felt backlash from industry. When the team found no correlation in Arkansas, environmentalists were dismissive.

“It really depends on what we say, and always someone is unhappy with our conclusions,” Jackson said.

His work suggests that fracking impacts only a fraction of water supplies. In those cases, there is “very strong evidence” of a connection, Jackson said. Yet people whose water has been blighted “can’t get anyone to listen.”

A 2016 analysis of 58 water-quality studies by PSE Healthy Energy, an environmental research and policy group that has received funding from The Heinz Endowments, found that 69 percent showed an association between fracking-related activities and water contamination. Most air-quality studies reviewed indicated elevated risks from gas drilling as well.

The study’s lead author, Jake Hays, wanted to assess the state of the science, knowing much of it remains unsettled. “Unfortunately,” he said, “that’s in many ways paralyzed actual action on the issues.”

It also makes things hard for doctors who treat people living near drilling operations.

Dr. Poune Saberi, an assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine who also serves on PSE Healthy Energy’s advisory council, trains doctors to ask such patients about fracking-related exposures.

“The true prevalence of health symptoms is way underestimated,” Saberi said, because many of those conversations aren’t happening. Patients often hesitate to talk about their experiences. “It's like, ‘Oh, they're going to think I'm crazy.’ ”  

Some residents of the Woodlands area of Connoquenessing Township, north of Pittsburgh, can relate. The township runs a weekly water drive funded by donations because about 45 households have found their water unsuitable to drink since 2011. There are 65 gas wells within two and a half miles of the neighborhood. 

Resident Kim McEvoy allowed her home to go into foreclosure and moved away from the Woodlands because of her black, foamy water. Every day for more than six months, she and her then-fiancé would fill 30 one-gallon jugs at work or friends’ houses so they could cook and shower.

“Every morning you woke up, you thought about, ‘Where I am going to get water today?’ ” McEvoy said. She underwent therapy to deal with her anxiety and depression.

At least eight families in the Woodlands are suing the gas driller, Rex Energy, and its contractors. Rex Energy, which initially provided some families with water after they complained, did not respond to interview requests from the Center. In 2012, a spokesman told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that “a battery of tests” performed by experts had concluded that natural gas development had not affected water quality.

The DEP investigated 12 complaints from the Woodlands made within a year and found no ties to fracking in any of the cases. 

Limited EPA powers

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says it has limited ability to help private well owners when their water degrades. The EPA doesn’t regulate such wells. It is barred from enforcing federal drinking water standards when fracking is involved — unless the contaminant is diesel, as per a provision in the 2005 Energy Policy Act.

The exemption codified a 2004 finding by the EPA that national regulation was not necessary. At the time, Vice President Dick Cheney, former CEO of Halliburton, an oilfield services company that pioneered the use of fracking, was in charge of energy policy for the White House, prompting critics to dub the provision the “Halliburton Loophole.”

One tool the agency does have when local officials have not acted is Section 1431 — “emergency powers” — of the Safe Drinking Water Act. It’s the legal authority the EPA used — albeit belatedly — after the lead crisis in Flint, Mich. came to light in 2015. All told, the EPA has issued 228 orders under Section 1431 since 1991, forcing polluters to address “situations where there may be an imminent and substantial endangerment.”

In 2010, the EPA used this authority against a gas company for the first and only time. Range Resources, a major presence in the Marcellus, was accused of fouling two water wells near Fort Worth, Texas, with benzene, methane, propane and toluene. Range said the contaminants were naturally occurring and sued the EPA.

The EPA ultimately dropped the four orders it had issued against the company, saying it wanted to avoid a costly legal battle, and that the affected families had been switched to an alternate water supply. Range Resources agreed to monitor wells in the area and participate in a national EPA study of fracking’s effects on water. As it turned out, the company didn’t have a role in the study.

In 2012, the EPA also tested water wells in the heavily drilled northeastern Pennsylvania town of Dimock after receiving complaints about brown, sometimes flammable, water. It said the water was safe to drink, though in 2016 the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, reported that chemical levels in at least 27 wells during a six-month period in 2012 were “high enough to affect health.”

The DEP ordered Cabot Oil & Gas, which operated in the area, to compensate people whose water had degraded. Dozens of residents later sued the company, and most of the lawsuits were settled. Two families whose cases went to trial were awarded $4.24 million by a jury this year. Cabot is appealing, saying methane found in their water was naturally occurring.

Southwestern Pennsylvania was one of five case studies included in the EPA study, released in draft form in 2015. Jesse and Shirley Eakin’s well in Cross Creek Township was one of 16 sampled in the area. After analyzing the water in 2011 and 2013 and considering an array of reasons for its poor quality, the EPA didn’t reach a conclusion about the cause of the contamination. Among the possibilities: natural sources, gas drilling and coal-mine drainage

In the Eakins’ case, the situation was clouded by the lack of pre-drill water testing. But Jesse Eakin said, “You can't have a pre-drill test when you don't know nobody's coming.” Before significant drilling began in the area in 2008 he had tested only for bacteria, not pollutants commonly associated with fracking.

In addition to the one filed by the Eakins, the DEP received at least six water-related complaints from Cross Creek Township in 2009. One resident reported water that looked like tea. Three others said their water flow had slowed to a trickle or stopped.

Nineteen more complaints came in over the next few years. Some cases were settled privately with Range Resources; others were closed after state inspectors decided the water wells were too far away from drilling to have been impacted.

The DEP tracks all complaints in a system developed in the early 1990s, though it’s working on an update. Most information about cases is still kept in paper form at the agency’s regional offices. In January, two Center reporters visited the DEP office in Meadville, in the northwestern part of the state, to review complaints, consent orders, gas company correspondence and other documents. The reporters were given incomplete case files, heavily redacted determination letters and materials that were unresponsive to open-records requests.

The antiquated system has been the subject of several battles between the DEP, journalists and environmentalists. It took the Scranton Times Tribune a year to get access, through a lawsuit, to letters the department had sent between 2008 and 2012 to residents telling them whether their water had been impaired by oil and gas activities. The DEP had argued that it couldn’t provide the documents to the newspaper because it didn’t know where they were kept.

Later, the DEP told the investigative news outlet Public Herald that complaints were considered confidential because the department feared they would cause alarm. It took the outlet two years to obtain complaint documents for 17 of 40 counties in the Marcellus Shale.

In an analysis of more than 200 complaints, Public Herald identified the many ways cases were being closed prematurely or minimized. In some, the DEP claimed pre-drill tests proved that complainants’ water had been bad all along. (In fact, these tests had been done after drilling started.) In others, it diverted complaints from the Office of Oil and Gas Management to divisions within the agency such as the Environmental Cleanup Program. This kept the DEP from classifying the cases as energy-related.

Pressure from environmentalists and Auditor General DePasquale prompted the DEP to begin publishing positive determination letters — informing recipients that their water had been affected by “oil and gas activity” — online. To date, 279 such letters have been posted.

Companies deemed responsible for damaging a water supply are legally required to replace or restore it. This is easier said than done. A new well might tap into the same unclean groundwater source as the old one. Filtration systems don’t always remove every contaminant. Connecting homes to city water lines can cost tens of thousands of dollars.

Ed and Karen Atwood, who live in Warren County, in northwestern Pennsylvania, received a positive determination letter from the state more than three years ago.

In November 2012, sand started coming out of the Atwoods’ showerhead. DEP tests found high levels of iron, manganese and chlorides, all of which can be associated with oil and gas activity. In May 2013, the department ordered an oil well operator, Waste Treatment Corporation, to provide the Atwoods with a replacement water supply.

For two years afterward, the Atwoods received bottled water. They washed their clothes at laundromats and continued to bathe in their well water.

By 2014, their home was still crowded with big blue bottles, and they were eager to be connected to the nearest city water line, 830 feet away. Waste Treatment agreed to pay, on the condition that the Atwoods release the company from any past or future liability. They demurred. They sold their truck for $3,500 and convinced their bank to give them a $14,000 home-equity loan, even though their poor water quality had lowered their property value.

“Mother just took all her life savings,” Ed said of his wife. The couple still owes $1,105 on the loan and pays a monthly water bill of about $80. “We went bare-assed because of the oil people to pay for this city water,” Ed said.

Waste Treatment representative Kelly Roddy said the company does its best to limit environmental impacts.  She blamed the Atwoods’ ordeal on the DEP’s “notoriously slow” process for resolving water complaints and the couple’s decision to seek legal counsel. Last year, the DEP told the Atwoods their water had returned to pre-drill quality and Waste Treatment was no longer responsible for replacing it. But they still don’t feel comfortable drinking it, and won’t recover what they’ve spent.

Down in Washington County, the Eakins stopped using their well water for showers in late 2014, a year before they learned from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry that it contained aluminum, iron, manganese, sodium, lead and di-ethylhexyl phthalate — a man-made chemical commonly added to plastics — at levels of potential concern. The agency said residents faced a “slight increased risk of developing cancer” if they consumed the water for a lifetime.

Earlier that year, Shirley had had surgery to remove a large tumor — “the size of a lime” — from her heart. The growths on her skin had gone away while she was at the hospital. 

Sitting in her living room in Rea, she cried remembering how she felt when the doctors told her she could go home. “Am I going to be going home and bathing in that water again?” she asked them. “I said, ‘I don't want to go home.’ ”

Jie Jenny Zou of the Center for Public Integrity contributed to this story.

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Man Charged With Murder For Allegedly Driving His Partner To Suicide

Huffingon Post Politics - Thu, 2016-06-23 04:06

For approximately 10 years, Minnesota authorities say, Jessica Haban was physically and emotionally abused by her partner. Long Vang, 34, allegedly smashed her head into a washing machine, tossed her into the wall by her hair, held a knife to her throat, and in May 2015, punched her in the head with a closed fist, causing a traumatic brain injury.

The head trauma left Haban struggling with dizziness, confusion and nausea. She fell into a depression, and told a social worker that she felt as though Vang had already killed her. While Vang was under court order to stay away from her, she told police, he was continuing to call and text. The abuse, she said, was starting to take a severe toll on her mental health.

Haban was hospitalized on three occasions, but never stayed long. She was afraid of losing custody of her kids -- which, according to a social worker, is what Vang told her would happen if she continued receiving care.

On December 16, 2015, three days after being discharged from the hospital, Haban committed suicide at age 28. Earlier this month, in a surprising move, authorities arrested Vang and charged him with murder for allegedly driving his partner to take her own life.

"I believe Mr. Vang’s conduct directly contributed to the death of his partner," Olmsted County Attorney Mark Ostrem said in a press release. "Mr. Vang was clearly aware of the precarious state of his partner’s emotions following her hospitalizations and he continued the relentless contacts until her death."

It’s extremely rare for a person to be charged with causing someone else's suicide. People who commit suicide are typically considered to have intentionally and voluntarily taken their own life. None of the experts contacted for this story had heard of a similar case involving domestic violence. 

However, in the past few years, there have been a few high-profile cases involving children. In 2013, Florida officials charged two girls with felonies for allegedly bullying a 12-year-old girl until she committed suicide. And in 2015, a Massachusetts teen was charged with manslaughter for allegedly encouraging her online boyfriend to kill himself.

Vang was charged with a type of murder referred to as "depraved heart murder," which doesn’t require prosecutors to prove an intent to kill. Instead, they must prove that the suspect consciously did something that was very likely to kill, and in doing so, displayed complete disregard for human life -- or, in other words, acted with a depraved mind. (The ancient-sounding charge received renewed attention this year, when the Baltimore police officer who drove the van Freddie Gray rode in before he died was charged with depraved heart murder.)

"In common law, courts and judges decided over time that sometimes people were so reckless, so indifferent to human life, that it was functionally equivalent to intending to kill them," explained Joseph Kennedy, professor of law at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  "A modern example would be a guy who rode his high-speed motorboat through a lake crowded with swimmers. Maybe you can’t prove that he was intending to kill someone, but he is so indifferent to the high risk that it is a functional equivalent of intending to kill."

For the prosecution to make a successful case against Vang, Kennedy said, they would need to prove that he consciously disregarded a substantial risk that Haban would kill herself as a result of his conduct.

"If he can prove that, I think the depraved part comes easily," he said. "Domestic violence is antisocial by its very nature."

Experiencing domestic violence significantly increases a person's risk of suicide, according to research.

"Women who make suicide attempts experience higher rates of domestic violence than women who do not, and women who experience domestic violence have higher rates of suicide attempts and ideation than women who have not been victimized by an intimate partner," said Carole Warshaw, director of the National Center on Domestic Violence, Trauma & Mental Health.

She pointed to a 2012 survey conducted by the National Domestic Violence Hotline in which 73 percent of callers reported that their partner deliberately did things to make them feel like they were going crazy or losing their minds.

"It's critical that people be attuned to the ways that perpetrators of domestic violence actively engage in behaviors designed to undermine their partner's sanity," Warshaw said. "They may try to control their access to treatment, coerce them to overdose on drugs, threaten them with involuntary commitment or take actions to sabotage their recovery. The stigma associated with these issues can mean that the perpetrator is seen as more credible than the person they have been abusing for years." 

It's critical that people be attuned to the ways that perpetrators of domestic violence actively engage in behaviors designed to undermine their partner's sanity.
Carole Warshaw, National Center on Domestic Violence, Trauma & Mental Health

Liz Richards, director of the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women, said this was the first case that she was aware of in which an accused domestic abuser faced criminal charges for his partner’s suicide.

“We know that domestic violence, and specifically, domestic violence that involves coercive control and occurs across many years, does have a negative impact on people’s psychological and mental well-being,” she said.

After years of hearing anecdotal reports about domestic violence victims who committed suicide, members of Richards' organization did some research into the problem. They pulled all the public records of adult women in Minnesota who committed suicide from 2009 to 2011, and cross-referenced them with protective orders and criminal charges of domestic violence.

"Even with extremely limited information, we found that between 7 and 14 percent of those cases had a documented domestic violence record," Richards said. "This is an area that would be nice for someone to look into deeper."

David Rossman, professor of law at Boston University School of Law, said the case against Vang raises complicated legal questions. In many cases of suicide, he said, it would be easy to find someone in an individual's past who had mistreated them when they were vulnerable. But how far back do you go? And how do you prove that it was another person's actions that ultimately caused the suicide?

Rossman also worried about prosecutorial overreach.

"It leaves a lot of power in the hands of the prosecutor to bring a criminal prosecution when there is an awful lot of speculation," he said.

For Haban's family, the charges offer some reassurance that authorities are taking her death seriously.

"There is finally going to be some justice for Jessica,” her mother, Rita Prinzing, told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. "While we know that it won’t bring her back, he will be held accountable."

An obituary for Haban described her as a highly talented young woman who excelled at everything she put her mind to.

"She loved her children with all her heart and did everything she could to make their dreams come true," it read. "She really made an impact on many people's lives and was known for her caring heart, long conversations and putting others in front of her own personal needs."

Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) for the National Domestic Violence Hotline.


Melissa Jeltsen covers domestic violence and other issues related to women’s health, safety and security. Tips? Feedback? Send an email or follow her on Twitter.


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In Orlando Killer's Hometown, Religious And LGBT People Choose To Build Bridges

Huffingon Post Politics - Thu, 2016-06-23 04:05

FORT PIERCE, Fla. -- With its slender minaret pointing toward the sky, the beige and teal-trimmed mosque where Omar Mateen once prayed looks much like any small-town Christian church.

But in the days after Mateen stormed into the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, shooting 49 people to death and injuring dozens more, the mosque has attracted the attention of some angry people who blame the shooter’s religion for his outburst of violence.

People have shouted insults from their passing cars. Others have used social media to send death threats. To protect its congregants, the Islamic Center of Fort Pierce now has two armed security guards at night, shining flashlights toward the faithful as they arrive to break their daily fasts and to join evening prayers in the holy month of Ramadan.

Rehman Tahir, a 32-year-old Fort Pierce native who attends the mosque, said he finds the threats disheartening, but he doubts that most locals share in that hostility.

“There’s obviously been people who threaten the masjid and the people who come here,” Tahir told HuffPost, using the Arabic word for “mosque.” “But nobody expected this and nobody knows how to react. I think, overall, everyone has handled themselves very well.”

If Tahir’s reaction appears optimistic, he’s not alone. After finding out that Mateen came from Fort Pierce, Rev. Bob Baggott of the Community Church of nearby Vero Beach started sending emails. He wanted to hold a religious event not just to speak to his own non-creedal Christian congregation, but to bring together people from the Muslim faith and the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community as well.

“Our feeling here was we needed to come together,” Baggott told HuffPost. “What better place to do that than in a house of worship? And then we said to ourselves, if we’re coming together in a house of worship, we need to come together with all the faiths.”

All told, members of four major religions -- Christians, Jews, Muslims and Hindus -- joined with the LGBT community for an inter-faith gathering at Baggott's church last week to share a message of love and compassion in response to the shooting.

For Baggott, one of the most touching moments of the night was when a Muslim teenager played “Amazing Grace,” a Christian song, on the clarinet before reading aloud from the Quran in Arabic.

“It was really powerful,” Baggott told HuffPost. “It was something this community has never seen.”

John Hillhouse, 86, read from the Bible's Sermon on the Mount that night. Having come out to himself at age 13 and to the gay community by the time he was 20, Hillhouse has lived through a long arc of LGBT history. He remembers feeling that he'd done something wrong when he first realized he was attracted to other boys -- maybe it was because he didn't like sports, he thought back then. 

But even after a killer massacred people at a gay nightclub, Hillhouse said he felt inspired by the widespread support for the LGBT community and by President Barack Obama's speeches following the attack. 

“Coming from all that self-hatred and the hatred from society, today it’s a long way,” Hillhouse said. “It’s incredible the support gay people are getting.”

Victor Begg, a Muslim leader who spoke at the inter-faith event, is worried about the ongoing anger directed at those who practice Islam.

Begg and his wife retired to the area three years ago, moving from Detroit to a condo with a beach view. In Michigan, Begg had helped his local mosque build up a congregation, and he remains active in religious circles, calling himself an “ecumaniac.”

While Mateen had claimed to act on behalf of the Islamic State group in a 911 call during the shooting, Begg questioned the killer’s adherence to the Muslim faith, noting that he had carried out the attack during Ramadan. Had he been practicing the faith he professed, Begg said, Mateen would have been at the mosque for prayers or at home with his family.

“How could this man claim to be a practicing Muslim?” Begg said. “He just committed the ultimate sin, 49 times.”

Last week’s inter-faith gathering left Begg feeling hopeful, although he remains concerned about the wider hostility toward Islam -- which he sees as more intense than even the backlash after Sept. 11, 2001. He noted that after those earlier attacks, then-President George W. Bush spoke in defense of the American Muslim community, declaring that “acts of violence against innocents violate the fundamental tenets of the Islamic faith.”

By contrast, presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump has reiterated his call for a ban on Muslims entering the United States, slurred all Muslim immigrants as incipient terrorists and said it's time to consider racial profiling. He has also urged surveillance of mosques.

“I think the big problem is the charged political climate,” Begg told HuffPost.

“The community never had a problem here,” he added. “Every hospital you go to has Muslim doctors. However, this election season has caused problems. You turn on the TV and hear this guy [Trump], and he uses the media very effectively.”

While he refrained from discussing politics, Tahir said he thought that other Americans might view the congregation at his mosque with more fellow feeling if they just knew more about them.

“I was born and raised here,” Tahir said. “I’m probably the only Muslim who watches NASCAR, listens to country and drives a truck.”

Christopher Mathias contributed reporting. 

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This Is Muhammad Ali's Louisville

Huffingon Post Politics - Thu, 2016-06-23 04:03

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- They flocked to Louisville from all over the world to pay last respects to Muhammad Ali a week after The Champ had died. A Nigerian from Venice Beach who spent a two-hour flight telling everyone around him how much Ali meant to him and the people of Africa. A woman from Ohio who, just days after hip surgery, had suffered four hours on the road to see Ali one last time. A man from Georgia who, in the airport the day after the ceremony, said he knew this was where he “had to be.”

They came to Louisville to mourn and celebrate the life of the city’s most famous icon, the boxing great who was a three-time heavyweight champion of the world inside the ring, and had an immeasurable political and cultural impact outside of it.

If any of the visitors were unaware of what Ali meant to his hometown before they arrived, they couldn't help but understand once there. Tens of thousands of people lined Bardstown Road, south of the city, for the start of a 19-mile processional that snaked through Louisville. An estimated 50,000 more waited for the processional along Muhammad Ali Boulevard and Broadway downtown. City workers in orange “I Am Ali” T-shirts were ubiquitous downtown; public buses changed their displays to read “Ali -- The Greatest." Banners marking his death flew from lampposts. Tributes were visible on theater marquees and in shop and restaurant windows across town.

A banner that declares him "Louisville's Ali" hangs from the side of the Louisville Gas & Electric building downtown, visible to travelers on both Interstates 64 and 65. It has been there for more than a decade, but its message was particularly poignant now: For the week following his death, the city and its most famous athlete had become inseparable.

It wasn’t always this way.

The Louisville of Ali’s birth was a city still plagued by Jim Crow, a town to which he, a black Olympic gold medalist, returned from Rome in 1960 to find he couldn’t sit in the same downtown restaurants as his white neighbors. Even as he shot to national and international fame, large swaths of white Louisville rejected Ali for his unflinching embrace of his blackness; for his conversion to Islam; for his resistance to the Vietnam War; and most of all, for challenging and questioning the racial status quo that white Louisville -- and white America -- had created and demanded he respect.

Ali's activism and outspokenness once sharply divided opinions of him in his hometown. And though the city united to celebrate Ali in the week following his death, there were still concerns among some in the African-American community that the city was celebrating a simpler version of its hero, one who became more ambassadorial and statesman-like in his later years, and whose boisterous voice was silenced by his fight with Parkinson's syndrome. Louisville has certainly changed since Ali's most controversial days, and its embrace of Ali reflects that. But it also seemed possible that this city-wide celebration could serve to paper over the many divides that Ali once challenged -- and that still exist today.

“There is a great danger of making Muhammad Ali our convenient hero,” said Dr. Kevin Cosby, the senior pastor at St. Stephen’s Church in West Louisville and the president of the historically black Simmons Bible College downtown. “Because then we can feel comfortable with the reinvented Ali, to continue to perpetuate the systemic evils that Muhammad Ali fought against."

"To do that," he added, "minimizes the courage of Muhammad Ali, and the purpose of his pronouncements.”

Cosby, like Ali, was a child of West Louisville, the side of town where most of the neighborhoods were, and still are, more than 90 percent African-American.

Cosby’s family moved east across town during his teenage years, and in 1971, he was one of the only black students at Waggener High School. That made him one of the few students in the school who took Ali’s side in his first bout with Joe Frazier.

“It was one of the most difficult times of my life,” Cosby said. “Most of the kids did not like Muhammad Ali, because their parents did not like Muhammad Ali, because he rejected white norms and standards.”

Seven years before that first Frazier fight, Ali had shed his given name, Cassius Clay, and joined the Nation of Islam. In 1968, he refused to join the military and became one of the most prominent resisters of the Vietnam War. Ali’s opposition was rooted in Islam, but it also flowed from his skepticism of fighting for a country that didn’t treat him or other African-Americans equally.

Ali might have been a Louisvillian. But his direct challenges to the city’s -- and America’s -- systemic white supremacy, and his outspokenness and unapologetic blackness, turned much of white Louisville against him.

He was our Moses that landed.
Christopher 2X

Those feelings lingered after his retirement. In the late 1970s, when the city council launched an effort to rename a stretch of Chestnut Street -- one of the main roads downtown -- after Ali, white business owners opposed the plan. They hid behind specious claims that it would cost them too much money to replace stationery and signage, and pushed city leaders to choose another alternative, like giving the street dual names or naming Central High School, Ali's alma mater, after him instead. The implication, as a letter from one black resident laid bare, was obvious: The businesses didn’t want their addresses associated with Ali, and pitched naming something in black Louisville after him instead to avoid it. Local citizens wrote to the Louisville Courier-Journal, whose editorial board and sports columnists supported the Chestnut Street change, to complain that Louisville should name the street “Draft Dodger Boulevard.” One resident asked if the council planned to honor Adolf Hitler next.

But what made Ali a pariah to many whites had quite a different impact on African-Americans.

“Any accomplishment that a black person made from 1930 through 1960 chipped away at the mythology of white supremacy,” Cosby said. “It infused in the collective minds of African-Americans that we are not inferior, and it infused in African-Americans much-needed pride. In medieval theology, pride is one of seven deadly sins. In African-Americans, the absence of pride is the pre-eminent sin.”

That Ali was from Louisville only inspired more pride in the city’s African-American communities.

“Every time they would introduce him -- ‘From Louisville, Kentucky, the heavyweight champion of the world, Muhammad Ali’ -- for a black kid growing up, to hear Muhammad Ali connected with Louisville, Kentucky? A tremendous source of pride,” Cosby said. “Because I’m from Louisville, and he looks like me.”

When Ali came home in the 1970s for speaking engagements and other conventions, the crowds that greeted him were made up of “mostly young blacks,” as the Courier-Journal noted in a story about one such appearance. They couldn’t wait to see him in person.

“I believe wholeheartedly that we’ve always thought about him in our mind in trying times,” said Christopher 2X, a local community activist whose office sits on Muhammad Ali Boulevard in West Louisville. “A lot of us always thought about his fighting spirit as it related to our own lives and trials and tribulations.”

In West Louisville especially, 2X said, Ali "was our Moses that landed.” 

The crowds began to gather in front of the little pink house on Grand Avenue, in the West Louisville neighborhood of Parkland, before 9 a.m. on the Friday morning of Ali’s funeral ceremony. All week, people from around the world had come to visit the house at 3302, where Ali lived as a boy. But on this day, the majority of the 1,500 or so people who swarmed the street were West Louisvillians themselves. Jackie Hughes waited along Grand Avenue with two friends under a homemade sign that read, like the banner downtown, “Louisville’s Ali!”

“He was inspirational, motivational, sensational. He meant the world to me,” Hughes said. “He gave a lot of people courage and hope.”

This was Ali's Louisville: West Louisville. Black Louisville.

And though the city as a whole has changed since the days he lived here as a boy, it doesn't require a deep dig to see the ways in which this part of Louisville has been left behind.

The county’s school system, which includes city schools, has earned national praise for its decades-long efforts to integrate. But that culture of integration hasn't extended to the rest of the city, even 50 years after it first instituted fair housing laws.

Nearly half of all Louisville residents live in neighborhoods that qualify as “extremely segregated,” according to a 2014 report from the Louisville Metro Human Rights Commission. Forty-eight percent of white Louisville residents, the report found, live in neighborhoods that are at least 95 percent white, while 40 percent of African-Americans live in areas that are at least 80 percent black.

The metro area as a whole -- which includes counties across the Ohio River in southern Indiana and those that border Jefferson County -- is the fourth-most segregated in the country, according to another survey.

Louisville’s black population, which makes up nearly 23 percent of Jefferson County’s 615,000 residents, is heavily concentrated in the city’s western neighborhoods. West of Ninth Street, decades of widespread disinvestment and policies that perpetuated the legacies of Jim Crow have created neighborhoods that are poorer, less educated and less healthy than the wealthier, primarily white neighborhoods to the east. Louisville's black unemployment rate is three times higher than the rate for whites, and these neighborhoods are also more exposed to pollution and violence. Last year, nearly half of all shootings and three-quarters of Louisville’s homicides occurred in the West End. Two-thirds of the victims were black.

We integrated everything, or attempted to integrate everything, except what needed to be integrated: the power and the money."

Even before Ali’s death, there were signs that Louisville’s political leadership was taking steps to address these issues, even if  -- as acknowledged by both city officials and leaders in the black community -- that progress won’t be quick.

The Human Rights Commission report laid out a 20-year plan to address housing segregation, and last year, the city’s Democratic mayor, Greg Fischer, unveiled a $12 million plan to build 2,500 new affordable housing units, the first phase of a goal to build 24,000 such units over the next 15 years. The Louisville city council has also tried to update the area's housing codes to allow the development of more affordable housing, according to WFPL, a local news station.

Before the end of the year, the commission plans to release detailed maps of how and where redlining took place across the city. Carolyn Miller-Cooper, the executive director of Louisville’s Human Rights Commission, called it another step in the process of understanding “how we ended up where we are, and how we move forward and change this.”

In January, Cosby appeared on a panel at a forum about economic development in West Louisville, and challenged the city to have an “honest conversation about race.” Why, Cosby asked, had many of the economic development efforts in West Louisville targeted a traditionally white neighborhood, instead of seeking to create opportunities and promote black-owned businesses in African-American communities?

“We integrated everything, or we attempted to integrate everything, except what needed to be integrated: the power and the money,” Cosby told HuffPost.

Christopher 2X, whose Hood 2 Hood organization works with children in the hopes of reducing gun violence across the city, describes himself as “a realist” when it comes to racial progress in his hometown.

“We have to judge by the actions. And as of right now,” he said, pausing for a few moments and looking down at his desk, “we haven’t got there. We gotta work really hard. Those people who are really behind the eight ball, let’s try to connect, at least feel some of their pain. That was [Ali’s] message.”

Jazz tunes played over a loudspeaker on Grand Avenue in the hours before Ali's processional rolled by. A man who lived nearby pranced down the street, urging others to join him in “Ali, Bomaye!” chants. A young man who grew up here carried a painting of a proud, beautiful Ali -- he’d painted it just this week -- and said he’d donate it to the Muhammad Ali Center downtown. "He's Still Pretty," another sign read, playing off of one of his most famous declarations, "I'm pretty!" As the clock ticked toward noon and the procession fell more than an hour behind schedule, some called their bosses to say they might be late to work. To kill time, anyone with an Ali story shared it. 

This was more of a celebration than a mourning -- and that the parts of Louisville that created Muhammad Ali remain underserved, underdeveloped and largely ignored only added significance to his life in this neighborhood and others like it. That was particularly true for the generations who hadn’t experienced The Greatest firsthand.

Last year in Smoketown, a poor neighborhood in the eastern part of downtown Louisville, James Dixon opened Louisville TKO, a gym just a few blocks from the one where Ali first trained. A mural of a defiant Ali in his most iconic pose is painted on one of its outside walls.

“It was very important to me when I opened this gym that I got to the right kids,” said Dixon, who is from Upton, Kentucky, but has lived in Louisville for two decades. “With the violence, the gangs, the drugs, I got tired of turning on the TV and seeing young men going off to jail, and shooting one another. I just knew they had to be exposed to something else.”

It was a deliberate choice to open the gym so close to where Ali got his start. Dixon wants to share Ali’s message through boxing.

“Every kid’s not going to make the Olympic team. Every kid’s not going to become a champion,” Dixon said. “But you can become a world-class citizen.”

The morning of Ali’s ceremony, Robert Cox paused while taking out the trash in front of his house, on 32nd Street just around the corner from Ali’s former home, and ran back inside.

He returned holding a worn manila envelope filled with two dozen original black and white images of Ali fighting in the 1960s. Jagged on the edges and yellowed from age, the pictures were so fragile it felt they might disintegrate if handled at all. Cox, 42, hadn’t seen Ali fight himself, but his father loved The Champ so much he gave Robert “Ali” as a middle name. In the days after Ali’s death, Cox began to pass his father’s stories down to his own son.

“I’m just letting him know: It’s easy to get out here, easy to get caught up, easy to quit. But knowing about Muhammad Ali, thinking about the things he’s accomplished, you’ve just gotta keep pushing,” Cox said. “Keep fighting and pushing and trying to do the right thing, and speaking up. That’s the only way to really win. “

On Grand Avenue, a dozen black children gathered under a tree that provided respite from the beating sun. “Ali Is Parkland,” read a sign they held. For an hour, they chanted: “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. R-I-P, Muhammad Ali.”

Kids from nearby Parkland Boys & Girls club chanting for Ali. Club is a block away from his childhood home. pic.twitter.com/F2ss3ijQcY

— Travis Waldron (@Travis_Waldron) June 10, 2016

The children came to Grand Avenue from the Parkland Boys & Girls Club just a block away. Ebonne Ingram-Jones, the club’s unit director, spent the week after Ali’s death teaching them about The Greatest. None of them had seen Ali fight or lived through the racial and political tumult of the '60s. Still, Ali resonated.

“We oftentimes take for granted identity, and what it means to know that you are a part of something greater than yourself, and that you are connected to someone who has done great things,” said Ingram-Jones, who, like Ali, is a Central High graduate. “I brought these children here not only to recognize such an influential and dynamic person, but to give them the opportunity to identify with greatness, and to see Ali in themselves.”

Finally, word came that the procession was near, and a raucous chant broke out as the processional finally turned off of 34th Street toward Muhammad Ali’s old home.

“Ali! Ali! Ali!”

Here's the moment Ali passed his boyhood home for the final time pic.twitter.com/WvkPR79R8I

— Travis Waldron (@Travis_Waldron) June 10, 2016

The throngs were so thick, the urge to push onto the pavement for the best view of The Champ so strong, that the limousines that carried his family could barely pass.

The crowd that had endured the hottest day of the year so far for one last glimpse of their biggest local hero followed the processional around the corner when it turned on to 32nd Street. “Thank you for sharing him with us,” a man yelled to the car that carried Ali’s wife, Lonnie, and daughter, Laila, herself a heavyweight champion.

There were smiles and laughter and tears for the man who’d come back after never really leaving. And then, Ali was gone from this part of West Louisville for the last time. His last visit home had lasted just a few minutes.

“Back to normal,” someone yelled.

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GOP-Led House Ignores Dems' Sit-In, Approves $1.1 Billion To Fight Zika

Huffingon Post Politics - Thu, 2016-06-23 03:33

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WASHINGTON, June 23 (Reuters) - The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday agreed to $1.1 billion to fight the Zika virus, short-changing President Barack Obama's $1.9 billion funding request and angering Democrats by making other cuts to pay for it.

The House approved a funding deal that had been agreed to on Wednesday by Republicans from both the House and Senate. But the bill's future was uncertain in the Senate, where the Democratic minority has more power to stop legislation, and Democratic leader Harry Reid has declared his opposition.

"It is a responsible plan that assures the administration will continue to have the needed resources to protect the public," Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan said. Republicans said the deal included funding for fiscal years 2016 and 2017.

But the White House said the allocation fell short.

"This plan from congressional Republicans is four months late and nearly a billion dollars short of what our public health experts have said is necessary to do everything possible to fight the Zika virus, and steals funding from other health priorities," White House press secretary Josh Earnest said in a statement before the House voted.

Earnest said the Republican plan would limit needed birth control services for women seeking to prevent Zika, which can be spread through unprotected sex -- "a clear indication they don't take seriously the threat from the Zika virus."

Democrats have been urging Republicans for months to agree to more Zika funding, and the Obama administration has already reprogrammed nearly $600 million that had been set aside to fight Ebola.

House Democrats said they could not go along with the deal because of $750 million in budget cuts elsewhere that the Republicans want to use to pay for the Zika spending.

Senate Democrats also voiced displeasure, clouding the outlook for it passing.

"A narrowly partisan proposal that cuts off women's access to birth control, shortchanges veterans and rescinds Obamacare funds to cover the cost is not a serious response to the threat from the Zika virus," Reid said.

Still, Ryan urged the Senate to move on the bill.

According to House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, $543 million of the $1.1 billion would come from unspent funds set aside for implementing Obamacare in U.S. territories, while $107 million would come from unused funds to fight another virus, Ebola. Another $100 million would come from unused administrative funds at the Department of Health and Human Services, he said.

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NRA-Owned GOP Does Wall Street's Bidding While People's Protest Burns Bright

Huffingon Post Politics - Thu, 2016-06-23 01:33
The NRA's captive House Republican majority rammed through a vote permitting Wall Street "advisors" to scam the elderly over the strains of "We Shall Overcome" sung by anti-assault weapon Democrats.

Such a vivid demonstration of the vastly differing goals of competing political interests has not been seen since the storming of the Bastille in 1789.  Then, the Bastille was a symbol of the abuse of the people by the monarchy; here, the Republican majority is just as tone deaf to the will (and safety) of the people as were the French royals. That event was the flashpoint for the French Revolution.

The Democrat sit-in can be the flashpoint for a new American Revolution. Not a violent one, but an electoral one. Approximately 80% of Americans favor restrictions on guns but the House has not permitted Democratic gun control proposals to reach a vote.

This event was aided by technology, which permitted the live-streaming of the sit-in via Periscope, which we could all watch in real time on our smartphones.  Communication via Twitter and Facebook was instant. The C-SPAN cameras were turned off under House rules, sparing the GOP's shaming by the Democrats.

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan likely committed political suicide by ignoring the protests as the clueless GOP voted to loosen the ethical strings of financial advisors as they sell financial products to the vulnerable elderly, protecting them from charges of elder financial abuse as they sell inappropriate financial instruments to people on limited income with limited life spans within which to recover from bad investments.  This furthers the GOP goal of eliminating every piece of the government-supported social safety net, from social security to medicare to Obamacare and beyond.

Indeed, Ryan didn't show up an hour later when another bill was brought up to vote by the House.

What should happen next?

Skilled negotiators know that the first one willing to be unreasonable will win a negotiation, and this is indeed a negotiation.  The Democrats must now raise the stakes, and not merely acquiesce to a vote on weak gun control reforms dealing with background checks, internet sales and sales to suspected terrorists.

The Democrats should sit in until the assault weapons ban, which expired in 2004, is reinstated.

Opponents of the assault weapons ban say it wasn't effective. But if it wasn't effective, why did violent mass murders increase after the ban was lifted?


cover photo: screen grab from C-span via Twitter Moments


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NRA Radio Host Compares Congressmen Staging Sit-In Over Gun Control To 'Criminals And Terrorists'

Huffingon Post Politics - Thu, 2016-06-23 00:36

A National Rifle Association radio host compared the lawmakers staging a sit-in at the House of Representatives over a gun control vote to "criminals and terrorists" on Wednesday.

Cam Edwards, host of the NRA's "Cam & Company," griped that the lawmakers were acting "in violation of House rules on photography" because they livestreamed the event after House Republicans cut off C-SPAN cameras.  

Then, Edwards said:

"So in order to push legislation that the sponsors say would not have prevented the attacks in Orlando, Florida, they’re also going to flout the House rules. Kind of like, you know, criminals and terrorists flout the rules that we have in place right now and will continue to do so?"

See his full comments in the clip above, posted online by Media Matters.

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You Will Never Be As Ecstatic As This Woman Delivering Pizzas To Rep. John Lewis

Huffingon Post Politics - Wed, 2016-06-22 23:33

Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), a civil rights icon who led historic sit-ins in the 1960s, staged another sit-in on the floor of the House of Representatives Wednesday to pressure Republicans to bring up a vote on gun control legislation.

People showed their support for Lewis in a variety of ways: Fellow House Democrats sat with him on the House floor; Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) brought donuts; protesters gathered outside the U.S. Capitol.

And according to HuffPost's Jennifer Bendery, someone in California paid $344 to deliver pizzas to Lewis. And boy, was the woman who got to deliver them ecstatic:

Someone in California paid $344 to deliver 10-12 Domino's pizzas to John Lewis. This woman is excited to deliver em. pic.twitter.com/sIaAP0Rwg5

— Jennifer Bendery (@jbendery) June 23, 2016

Read more on the House Dems' sit-in here.

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How Donald Lost His Mojo

Huffingon Post Politics - Wed, 2016-06-22 23:33
When political historians look back on the 2016 presidential contest, they'll likely consider May 4th to the present as the decisive period. On May 4th, Donald Trump won the Indiana Republican primary; his last competitor, Ted Cruz, dropped out; and the press labeled Trump the presumptive GOP candidate. A week later, Trump got a polls "bump" and was effectively tied with Hillary Clinton. Then Donald lost his mojo.

At the moment, Hillary Clinton leads Donald Trump by 7.5 percent in the Huffington Post Poll of Polls and the spread increases daily. Clinton also leads in fundraising and is generally credited with having a more effective campaign. Clinton was the first to run TV ads in critical swing states.

What happened to Trump? How did he squander his advantage?

Donald didn't adjust. It's a political axiom that it takes different tactics to win a general election for president than it does to win a primary election - it's one thing to win over Party partisans and quite another to win over the general population. Trump didn't recognize this and, therefore, kept running the same style of campaign and employing the same tactics.

Trump doesn't have a campaign infrastructure because he hasn't raised the money necessary. A recent Huffington Post article said that Trump only has 70 paid staff members compared to Clinton's 732. The New York Times reported that, in this 45 day period, Trump has yet to run a TV ad; Clinton and surrogates have spent $25.5 M on ads.

A Time Magazine article observed: [Trump] has planned no big fundraising blitz or major TV ad campaign for the fall. He has little interest in the latest advances in data analysis or digital strategy. And despite a personal fortune that runs into the billions, Trump does not want to hire a big staff in the states to get out the vote and to court local leaders. He prefers to talk to reporters and surrogates himself, betting on his own gut and guile. "Trump's campaign is entirely ad hoc. It's a guerilla operation built on the concept of mass communication."

On June 20th, Trump fired his campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski.

Donald lost focus. For the first three weeks after he won the GOP nomination, Trump kept doing what he had been doing - emphasizing key Trump issues such as immigration and attacking Hillary Clinton. Then he lost focus. On May 27th, a Federal judge in a civil case involving Trump "University" ordered the depositions made public. The next day, Trump used a California campaign speech to attack the judge, accusing him of bias because the judge's parents emigrated from Mexico.

When asked about his comments, Trump doubled down. In a May 31st press conference Trump repeated his charges against the judge and attacked the press, in general.

On June 2nd, Hillary Clinton gave what she had labeled a foreign policy speech. It was a prolonged attack on Trump. Clinton declared Trump temperamentally unfit to be President. She declared his ideas as "dangerously incoherent," adding that they consisted of "a series of bizarre rants, personal feuds, and outright lies." Trump was so obsessed with the "Trump University" case that he didn't respond to Clinton.

Donald blew his opportunity to get back on course. Presidential campaigns take a long time and external events usually present an opportunity for course correction. On June 12th there was a horrendous shooting spree in an Orlando gay nightclub. Because the killer was an American Muslim, the event was an opportunity for Trump to trumpet his signature issues: domestic security, immigration reform, and Muslim ban.

On June 12th Trump tweeted: "Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism." On June 13th, Trump responded with a speech so over-the-top that it was universally panned. Politico reported a spot poll: 51 percent of respondents did not like the way Trump responded to the Orlando massacre, while only 25 percent approved.

Donald failed to united Republicans. After he secured the nomination, Trump had a chance to unite Republicans. He didn't do this. He got a lukewarm endorsement from Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan and did not garner the support of Republican elders such as George W. Bush and Mitt Romney.

On May 7th Trump boasted he could win the presidency without unifying the Republican Party: "'I'm very different than everybody else, perhaps, that's ever run for office."

Donald Trump has made mistakes and they've cost him. A recent Washington Post/ABC News poll found that 70 percent of respondents had an unfavorable view of Donald Trump versus 29 percent favorable, a historic low.

The results are worse by demographic sector. For example, in a CNN poll 73 percent of female voters said they had a negative view of Trump. A recent Gallup Poll provided additional information on the gender gap. Non-White women favor Clinton by 56 points; White women favor Clinton by 2 points.

Donald has lost his mojo and, quite possibly, the election.

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The Voices Missing From The Debate

Huffingon Post Politics - Wed, 2016-06-22 23:32
This summer Congress will debate and vote on numerous issues of importance to veterans including funding levels for the VA, troop levels in Afghanistan and Iraq, how to combat ISIS, critical job placement programs for veterans and much more.

Of course, we'll hear the usual rhetoric from Senators and Congressmen and women, only heightened in election years, about honoring our nation's heroes. But what we won't see or hear are policy solutions studied and written by the very people these policies impact most... veterans.

There are more than 2.5 million veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars returning home from over-seas deployment. Many recognize how decisions made in Congress greatly impact and have long-lasting effects on their lives as well as the lives of their family and friends. At the same time, they see the lowest percentage of veterans in Congress in generations.

In short, their experience is underrepresented.

For years, Congressional offices have expressed a desire to add veterans to their team, but veterans' lack of Hill experience has been an obstacle.

To combat this problem, the VetVoice Foundation, a non-profit, non-partisan 501(c)(3) organization with over 450,000 veteran and veteran family members, have committed our organization to the first-of-its-kind veterans fellowship on Capitol Hill.

With a generous gift from the Corvias Foundation, we've been able to recruit, train, support and place veterans in Congressional offices for a nine-month period and begin the process of building a bench of high quality veterans who are experienced in how Congress works and who understand how public and foreign policy is developed, authorized and executed.

While many companies and organizations talk a good game about helping our nation's heroes, few step up to the plate like the Corvias Foundation has.

Because of the Corvias Foundation, we have been able to ensure that our veteran fellows earned a living wage so they could afford to accept positions in Congressional offices at no cost to the offices.

Our first class of fellows in the offices of Senators Brown, Ernst, Murphy, Manchin, and Donnelly will be winding down their fellowships over the next few months. Thanks to the opportunity these Senators gave our veterans, they have gained experience to be better positioned to develop their careers. This is not only benefiting these five veterans, but also the offices they are working in and the country they are once again serving - this time in a suit, not a uniform.

As our first class of fellows has has already shown, 21st century veterans are a great asset on Capitol Hill and provide first-hand accounts that are helpful to developing legislation and programs that support our veterans and members of the armed forces and in the development of national security policy.

Soon we will be recruiting our next class of fellows to continue this program to make sure veterans' voices are heard on Capitol Hill. One thing the last nine months has shown us is that we need more, not fewer, veterans on the Hill.

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Protesters Gather Outside U.S. Capitol To Push For Vote On Guns

Huffingon Post Politics - Wed, 2016-06-22 23:15

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Protesters gathered outside the U.S. Capitol Wednesday night to show support for House Democrats staging a sit-in to pressure Republicans to vote on gun control legislation.

Democrats literally sat down on the floor of the House chamber Wednesday, forcing the House into a temporary recess. Nearly 11 hours after the sit-in began, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) gaveled the House back into session, but still refused to hold a vote on gun control legislation.

The crowd outside the U.S. Capitol grew through the evening:

Hundreds of people are outside of the @uscapitol at 9:30 PM. Men, women & children, standing & sharing pic.twitter.com/S37lpv2bWI

— Alex Howard (@digiphile) June 23, 2016

Incredible crowd outside US Capitol to support @repjohnlewis @HouseDemocrats #GVP sit-in #NoBillNoBreak #DoYourJob pic.twitter.com/5z2QBP5sFy

— Vicka Chaplin (@vickachaplin) June 23, 2016

A message for @SpeakerRyan from the citizens outside the @uscapitol. #ShameOnYou #NoBillNoBreak @HouseDemocrats pic.twitter.com/bFe3cJX2Er

— Caitlin S, PhD (@Paleophile) June 23, 2016

Wow-- HUGE crowd outside the House chamber shouting "do your job!" Had no idea they were here. pic.twitter.com/vi721RotYu

— Jennifer Bendery (@jbendery) June 23, 2016

Walked by #NoBillNoBreak supporters gathered outside the @uscapitol on an evening stroll a few hours ago. #DC pic.twitter.com/4jip5VxheT

— Lo Gz (@GutzyLo) June 23, 2016

Join us @Capitol to support @repjohnlewis sit-in for vote on gun safety legislation. #NoBillNoBreak #NoFlyNoBuy pic.twitter.com/UPorDhIGs2

— Pamela Barnett (@barnettp3) June 23, 2016

HuffPost caught up with a couple of the protesters.

Marge Landis, of Fairfax, Virginia, hadn't planned on spending her night outside the Capitol. But when she heard that Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) was leading a sit-in about gun violence, she got in her car and made the 40-minute drive to the House. 

"John Lewis decided what he was going to do today, so I decided what I was going to do today," she said. "So here I am. I have to be here."

Landis said she's long been in favor of sensible gun control -- "sensible" she repeated -- and said she, like just about everyone she knows, has a personal experience with gun violence. In her case, she was on the scene at the National Zoo, when seven kids were shot in 2000. 

"I was driving by on Connecticut Avenue and pop, pop, pop, I heard the guns. I pulled over and dialed 911, got out and walked around. There was this child with blood coming out the back of his head," Landis said, pausing before continuing. "You hear it all day long. If you don't have a story, the person next to you has a story."

A DC resident who gave his name as Sean said he lives blocks from the Capitol and rode his bike to the protest to check out the scene. He said he's not particularly involved in gun control issues, but agrees with the push for action and thinks it makes a difference for lawmakers to see average people rooting for them.

"Hopefully it at least gives them some sort of support," he said. "They can see their constituents are behind them."

At one point, several Democrats -- including Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), the civil rights icon who led Wednesday's sit-in -- came out to speak to the protesters:

John Lewis and a few other Dems just came outside and talked to protesters. Crowd went bananas. pic.twitter.com/sWZ2Br5mH4

— Jennifer Bendery (@jbendery) June 23, 2016

Dem Reps. Sean Patrick Maloney and Tim Ryan now talking to protesters. pic.twitter.com/8JXVBd7fyQ

— Jennifer Bendery (@jbendery) June 23, 2016

Plenty of food made its way to the protesting Democrats, some thanks to supporters of the cause:

Someone in California paid $344 to deliver 10-12 Domino's pizzas to John Lewis. This woman is excited to deliver em. pic.twitter.com/sIaAP0Rwg5

— Jennifer Bendery (@jbendery) June 23, 2016

Elizabeth Warren is cheered after bringing an armful of Dunkin’ Donuts to the House sit-in https://t.co/pja66KI1Sq pic.twitter.com/86H7vXBTzJ

— The Boston Globe (@BostonGlobe) June 23, 2016

Read more on the sit-in here.

Jennifer Bendery contributed reporting.

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Democrats Cause Chaos On House Floor As Republicans Pretend Everything Is Fine

Huffingon Post Politics - Wed, 2016-06-22 23:07

WASHINGTON -- Democrats took over the House floor Wednesday in a "sit-in" demonstration over Republican leaders' refusal to hold a vote on gun legislation.

Their efforts to achieve this goal continued throughout the night, even after the Republican lawmakers snuck into the chamber at 2:30 a.m. and voted to adjourn the session until Jul. 5.

It was an incredible scene. Throughout the day, Democrats clogged the House floor, holding the printed names of gun victims over their heads and loudly chanting "No Bill, No Break." Democrats were protesting the Republicans' refusal to take up the so-called No Fly, No Buy legislation, which would bar people on the terrorist watch list from purchasing guns.

Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) gaveled the House back into session, nearly 11 hours after the Democratic sit-in began. He read a prepared script to set up a procedural vote, as if the House was in order and that Democrats weren't breaking rules.

When Ryan stepped down from the podium, Democrats chanted "Shame!"

As the vote progressed, Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) tried to address the House.

"To my Republican friends," Deutch began. But Republicans shouted Deutch down and didn't let him speak.

Eventually, Democrats sang in response, "We Shall Overcome."

The singing was interrupted when presiding officer Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) called the vote. That prompted Democrats to chant: "Give us a vote!"

The scene capped a day of tumult.

At the end of the vote series, Democrats and Republicans lingered on the House floor, unsure what would happen next.

Democrats broke into sporadic chants of "Shame!" and "No Bill, No Break." Eventually, they returned to making speeches at the podium, giving no signal they would stop their occupation of the House floor.

Some Republicans hung around, occasionally shouting at them. Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.) antagonized Democrats for not having a plan to fight terrorism, and Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) started yelling.

"Radical Islam killed these people!" Gohmert shouted, pointing to a poster of gun violence victims from Orlando.

Gohmert even got into a shouting match with Rep. Corrine Brown (D-Fla.), which other Democrats and Republicans had to break up. 

The protests continued overnight, with Democrats sharing stories of gun violence victims and railing against their counterparts' "cowardice." Even after the Republicans voted in the middle of the night to adjourn until after the Jul. 4 holiday, Democrats remained on the floor, fighting for a vote on gun control measures.

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From Brexit To Breakup: A Scottish View On The EU Referendum

Huffingon Post Politics - Wed, 2016-06-22 22:51

CC Image courtesy of Rareclass

Something we in Scotland learned the hard way in 2014 is that referendum questions are dangerous because they make both choices on the ballot paper seem equally plausible. By giving the people a choice we somehow assume that either option is a safe one. In the EU referendum context, that can make voters view leaving as an equally valid option compared to the status quo of remain. After all, what politician in his right mind would allow the people a democratic choice which might risk economic prosperity and the security of the West?

Of course, it is possible that David Cameron believed that he would never have to follow through on his referendum pledge--either due to the coalition with the Liberal Democrats continuing after 2015--or that in the unlikely event that he did have to hold a referendum, that it could be won easily. So much for that.

The Prime Minister has spent the last few years playing constitutional roulette with the integrity of the United Kingdom and we will discover this week whether his luck, and Britain's, has finally run out. Such a distillation of the complex ledger of advantages and drawbacks of UK's EU membership to a simple binary yes or no answer is wholly unequal to the magnitude of the stakes involved in this referendum. Professor Neil Walker of Edinburgh University observes that for most shades of political opinion in the UK and beyond "European 'membership' for a country of Britain's size, influence and location should be less a matter of 'yes or no' than one of 'more or less'."

As a strong supporter of Scotland staying part of the UK in 2014, I wrote op-eds in the Scotsman, the Daily Record, and Huffington Post criticising Alex Salmond's grievance and fantasy rich, but policy light, plan for Scotland existing outside the UK. I never imagined there could ever be a more divisive ideological campaign than the Scottish independence referendum, but the EU Referendum has managed it.

The Leave Campaign has replicated Alex Salmond's Project Fantasy, but with added venom and disinformation in practically every area of policy where voters would like answers. From the £350 million a week we don't send the EU to the outrageous, oft repeated and xenophobic falsehood from Armed Forces Minister Penny Mordaunt that the UK doesn't have a veto on Turkey joining the EU.

Like the Yes Campaign in Scotland during the independence referendum, Leave is all about the politics of grievance. Angela Merkel says she hopes the UK stays in the EU; Kate Hoey translates that as Merkel 'telling the British people how they should vote'.

We are in grim times when Ms Hoey castigates the leader of a liberal democratic Germany, which has entrenched democracy and human dignity as the highest values in its constitutional order since World War Two, yet she is perfectly happy staging Titanic style photo ops on the Thames with a grinning demagogue who the next day was propagandizing a Goebbels-esque poster of helpless Syrian refugees.

Meanwhile, Oxford educated Michael Gove enunciates the words 'elites' and 'experts' with even more venom than Alex Salmond used to spit 'Westminster' - an achievement in itself. Despite his current hostility to experts, one senses that Mr Gove wouldn't want a road sweeper performing open heart surgery on him anytime soon. There may be some truth to the writer Philip Pullman's comment that "when a clever man starts advocating stupidity he's after something and we should watch him."

Those that want us to leave the EU claim that Britain can be a leading player on the world stage without the constraining influence of our European partners. In reality, the UK has influenced the EU far more than it has been constrained by it. When the UK joined the EU in the 1970s (after twice being vetoed in the 1960s by De Gaulle), it was far more aligned with French interests. But after over four decades of the UK being an EU member, exerting its influence and gaining allies, the EU has, as Professor Jan Werner-Mueller notes, "been reshaped in the image of the UK" and more closely reflects British interests. As highlighted above, the UK has a veto to prevent new countries joining the EU, but so do all other EU members, many of which have populations and politicians opposed, in particular, to Turkey joining.

My point here is not about the merits of countries such as Turkey joining, but rather that the EU is not a static organisation. It is the sum of its parts, which happen to be our European neighbours; not a small Brussels bureaucracy, about the same size as Birmingham City Council, which manages to serve 500 million people. Power in the EU lies not with bureaucrats but with Britain, Germany, France and all the other independent sovereign states which exert control through the European Council. If we can't lead in Europe among countries that share our concerns and values on so many issues, the idea that we can exert any influence on other continents is for the birds.

If the UK votes to leave the EU then a second independence referendum in overwhelmingly pro- EU Scotland seems likely. Whether Scotland would vote to leave the UK in a second independence referendum following a Brexit is the million dollar question. Polling figures from Professor John Curtice indicate a possible post-Brexit swing of between 3 and 6 points, creating a narrow majority for independence of 51 or 52%, but still short of the 60% figure which the SNP is apparently looking for before it would risk holding a second referendum. All of these figures are, of course, purely hypothetical but they show that the risk of a second referendum and independence is real following a UK vote to leave the EU.

As a strong opponent of Scottish independence last time around and a strong supporter of being part of the EU, Brexit would certainly change my calculation when weighing up which way I would lean in a second Scottish independence referendum. Here are some thoughts:

Nicola Sturgeon has proved to be a much more able, more likeable, and less divisive First Minister than Alex Salmond. If the Scottish Government decided to hold a second independence referendum she would be a much more convincing advocate of independence than her predecessor. That would not be enough in itself though.

Ms Sturgeon would also have to make a significantly stronger case for Scotland's ability to go it alone than was presented in 2014. The collapse in the price of oil since the last referendum has, of course, blown one major hole in the financial viability of an independent Scotland. However, there is more to the Scottish economy than just oil and a resurgence in the price of oil (possibly caused by geopolitical turmoil such as Brexit?) could change the context again.

What would change the economic equation significantly are both the consequences of Brexit to the Scottish economy, as well as the prospects of Scotland being able to join the EU. In 2014, EU figures such as former EU Commission President, José Manuel Barroso, did everything possible to discourage Scotland from seceding from one of its member states, the United Kingdom, lest it encourage separatist movements in other EU member states (with Catalonia being the most prominent example). That position would no longer hold after Brexit as the EU would no longer have a vested interest in maintaining the territorial integrity of a former member state. Indeed, a Scottish application to join might be positively welcomed to remind other restless states of the potential pitfalls of leaving the EU. Furthermore, as former European Court judge Sir David Edward noted at the time of the Scottish referendum, there is no question that Scotland could become an EU member; the only question would be the terms and timing of it.

Most people in Scotland, myself included, have no wish to repeat the experience of the 2014 Scottish referendum anytime soon. Neither, though, do we wish to be dragged out of the EU against our collective will, or for Great Britain to become Lesser England. However, a vote to leave the EU may well herald the beginning of the end of the United Kingdom as we know it today. So when casting your ballot on Thursday please consider the futures of all the peoples and nations of the British Isles and vote to remain in the EU.

David Miles is a Carnegie Scholar at the University of St Andrews researching American and German constitutionalism. He has written for the Huffington Post, the Daily Beast and the Scotsman, and is Managing Editor of Global Politics.

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Farewell to "Darling Corey" Lewandowski

Huffingon Post Politics - Wed, 2016-06-22 22:38

Donald Trump just said "you're fired" to his campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski.

This was predictable. In fact, it was predicted years ago in a traditional bluegrass folk song called "Darling Corey."

The Corey in the song is a woman, but otherwise it fits the tragedy of Corey Lewandowski to a tee. Her fate was sealed when she got involved with what the song describes as a "gamblin' man," clearly a reference to Trump's casino operation. The song is also prescient about Trump's tax problems ("the revenue officers are coming"). Corey's partner was a con man engaged in selling moonshine liquor made in a local "still house." Is this not an obvious reference to Trump's effort to enter the booze business through Trump Vodka, which the Donald marketed under the slogan "Success Distilled," but which quickly failed?

The "meadow" and the "graveyard" in the song no doubt refer to Trump's burial site. Some folks recently erected a tombstone to the presumptive GOP presidential candidate in the Sheep's Meadow section of Central Park. Since Trump just killed Lewandowski's job, perhaps he'll be generous enough to bequeath his "lonesome graveyard ground" to his former campaign manager.

Questions about the size of Trump's wealth are clearly anticipated in the first verse, which is found in the earliest published version of the song, "The Gambling Man," collected from oral tradition by folklorist Cecil Sharp, as sung by Mrs. Clercy Deeton, at Mine Fork, Burnsville, N.C., on Sept. 19, 1918. Versions of "Darling Corey" were recorded by The Weavers, Buell Kazee, Doc Watson, the Monroe Brothers, Flatt and Scruggs, Jean Ritchie, the Kingston Trio, and Pete Seeger, among others.

My pocketbook full of money,
My friends are all standing around.
My pocketbook are empty
And I ain't got a friend to be found

Wake up wake up darling Corey
What makes you sleep so sound?
The revenue officers are coming
They're gonna tear your still house down

Dig a hole dig a hole in the meadow
Dig a hole in the cold cold ground
Dig a hole dig a hole in the meadow
Gonna lay darling Corey down

Can't you hear those bluebirds a singing
Don't you hear that mournful sound
They're preaching darling Corey's funeral
In some lonesome graveyard ground

Oh yes, oh yes, my darlin'
I'll do the best I can
But I'll never take my pleasure
With another gamblin' man

Throughout its many versions, the basic theme of the song has remained the same: Don't mess around with people involved in shady and illegal activities.

Peter Dreier teaches Politics and chairs the Urban & Environmental Policy Department at Occidental College. His most recent book is The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century: A Social Justice Hall of Fame (Nation Books). This article was originally published in American Prospect.

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Nest thermostat now helps users avoid peak electricity rates

TreeHugger Science-Tech - Wed, 2016-06-22 08:00
The smart thermostat will help people save even more money and help utilities curb peak demand loads.

Donald Trump Fails Math Question, Still Insists He Got It Right

Huffingon Post Politics - Wed, 2016-06-22 05:37

While Donald Trump takes heat for his policies on the presidential campaign trail, Mother Jones just unearthed some evidence that his math skills aren't quite up to snuff either.

Watch Trump incorrectly multiply 17 x 6, arriving at 112 as the answer. The correct answer is 102. Then watch him gloat that he got 112 under the misguided notion that he outsmarted his children, Ivanka and Donald Jr.

This math-block moment hails from a 2006 visit to Howard Stern's radio show, MJ reports. Trump's kids bragged in the clipped that their dad couldn't buy their way into Wharton and that they had to earn entry on their own merits. 

It's then that Stern launches the pop quiz. In all fairness, doing even relatively easy multiplication might be tough with an audience. But you'd think at some point that one of the Trumps might come up with the right answer.

President Barack Obama told Jay Leno on "The Tonight Show" in 2012 that he was no math wiz either, but we doubt he'd get stumped on 17 x 6.

Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar,rampant xenophoberacistmisogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.

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HuffPost Rise: What You Need To Know On June 22

Huffingon Post Politics - Wed, 2016-06-22 05:26

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Welcome to the HuffPost Rise Morning Newsbrief, a short wrap-up of the news to help you start your day.

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Here's Why Your Scanner Freaks Out If You Try To Copy Money

Huffingon Post Politics - Wed, 2016-06-22 05:08

Ever wondered what would happen if you tried to copy money on your printer or copier? Here's your answer. 


Nothing happens because most modern scanners recognize money and won't copy or print it, according to a clip posted online by Wendoverproductions

How do the scanners know? One way is a hidden pattern called the Eurion Constellation, which is found on banknotes issued all over the world: 

When a scanner spots the pattern, it stops.

But there's also a newer and even more secretive system called the Counterfeit Deterrent System, and it's so effective that photo-editing software will often refuse to open a file that contains even a small piece of an image of a banknote.

See the full explanation in the clip above.  


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Gay Rights Advocates Stage Massive Protest Outside Trump Tower

Huffingon Post Politics - Wed, 2016-06-22 04:56

Supporters of LGBT, Muslim, and Latino rights gathered outside Trump Towers in New York to protest the presumptive Republican nominee.

"Donald Trump continues to advocate discrimination against peaceful [M]uslims while meeting with anti-gay and anti-transgender hate groups," gay rights group ACTUP said Tuesday.

The group also criticized the former reality TV star's "use of the recent massacre at a gay bar in Orlando to polarize Americans."

Advocates organized a "die in," where protesters laid on the ground and simulated corpses, to speak out against recent acts anti-gay acts of violence.

CNN's Jim Acosta said it was the largest protest of its kind that he'd seen.

Biggest anti Trump protest outside Trump Tower I've seen right now being staged by Act UP pic.twitter.com/sVsraKEyFP

— Jim Acosta (@Acosta) June 21, 2016

Trump responded to the massacre of 49 people at Pulse nightclub by attacking Muslims and suggesting that the U.S. engage in racial profiling. 

"I hate the concept of profiling, but we have to start using common sense," he said on Sunday.

Orlando shooter Omar Mateen was Muslim and had pledged his allegiance to the so-called Islamic State. However, as House Speaker Paul Ryan said,"there’s a really important distinction ... this is a war with radical Islam — it’s not a war with Islam. Muslims are our partners."

Protesters at Tuesday's rally demanded an end to Trump's hateful rhetoric.

“The LGBTQ community is a rainbow coalition of races and religious beliefs. While we stand united against any kind of religious bigotry, we will not stand silent while our Muslim LGBTQ brothers and sisters continue to be targets of hate speech,” ACTUP said in a statement.

Trump, who has referred to himself as a supporter of LGBT rights, met with evangelical leaders on Tuesday. One of those was Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council, a group that opposes gay rights and whose leaders often makes derogatory comments about LGBT people.

“By continuing to embrace, rather than condemn these hate groups, Donald Trump and the Republican Party are spitting on the victims of the Orlando Massacre," the group said.

Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar,rampant xenophoberacistmisogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.


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