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Hillary Clinton Is Against Boots On The Ground, Except When She's For It

Huffingon Post Politics - Thu, 2016-02-04 22:16

When asked if she is comfortable with the 4,000 U.S. troops based in Iraq providing support to local forces fighting the Islamic State group, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton indicated during the latest debate that she would replicate President Barack Obama’s policy of vowing not to send American combat troops to Iraq and Syria, while deploying special forces and military trainers who serve, on the ground, in dangerous combat roles.

The Obama administration’s “no boots on the ground” policy has come under increasing ridicule as U.S. troop deployment has escalated from several hundred to several thousand soldiers. In October, an American soldier was killed in Iraq during a raid intended to free prisoners from the Islamic State, also known as ISIS. Still, the Pentagon declined to characterize his death as killed in combat.


If Clinton’s definition of American boots on the ground is concerningly vague, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) didn’t offer much more. When the same question was presented to him, Sanders turned to his go-to foreign policy response -- that he, unlike Clinton, voted against the 2003 Iraq invasion.

If you go to my website,” boasted the senator, “you’ll see my statement from 2002.”

To that, Clinton shot back, “A vote in 2002 is not a plan to defeat ISIS.”

Read the latest updates on the debate below:

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HuffPost Rise: What You Need To Know On February 4

Huffingon Post Politics - Thu, 2016-02-04 05:19

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 How Cities Should Treat Homeless People During The Super Bowl

Huffingon Post Politics - Thu, 2016-02-04 05:03

In August, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee said homeless people would "have to leave the street" during Super Bowl 50, and promised to provide alternative shelter. But as those people are moved out of busy tourist areas, advocates for the homeless say the city could have taken a different approach. 

The actual Super Bowl is being held at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara -- roughly 50 miles south of San Francisco. But the City by the Bay is home to many of the pregame festivities, including concerts, fan events and the "Super Bowl City" on the Embarcadero, a bustling waterfront bordering the city's Financial District. The fan village has shut down several blocks to traffic for about three weeks, prompting bus lines to reroute and some city dwellers to avoid the area altogether. It's also where several dozen homeless people sleep, and the city has moved them out of the area.

According to the city, 24 people living in that area were given shelter at Navigation Center, an in-demand temporary housing facility in the Mission District. 

But the Coalition on Homelessness says officials have conducted sweeps on homeless camps in other parts of the city. An ABC investigative team caught some of these sweeps on video. The coalition has also heard reports of ticketing, confiscation of tents and other personal property and threats of further discipline. (Sam Dodge, the city's homelessness czar, denied any "coordinated effort" by the city to remove these people or their property, adding that the city would further investigate these actions.)

Homelessness has long been controversial in San Francisco, which has about 7,000 individuals currently living on city streets or in shelters. But the problem is one that comes up in any city hosting a major sporting event.

Here's how advocates say future Super Bowl hosts could treat their homeless residents better. 

Plan ahead

The NFL selected San Francisco as the Super Bowl 50 host in May 2013 -- meaning the city had more than two years to prepare. Advocates argue that in that time, the city could have constructed more shelters and put programs into place to address the root causes of homelessness head-on.

"There are going to be more Super Bowls, and it would be good to see some other approaches," said Maria Foscarinis, executive director of the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty.  

Consider the homeless in the Super Bowl budget

All of the big game brouhaha is coming at a huge cost to taxpayers -- the city is spending an estimated $4.8 million on the pre-Super Bowl events. That's money coming out of the city's general fund, not the Super Bowl host committee's coffers. (That the city reportedly agreed to cover these costs with a handshake deal is controversial among San Franciscans.)

That hefty price tag has advocates wondering why some of that money couldn't have gone toward providing shelter or adding showers, bathrooms and other facilities for the city's homeless.

"That money could have been better spent on housing people," says Jennifer Friedenbach, the executive director of San Francisco's Coalition on Homelessness.

Foscarinis also suggested cities could set aside a portion of fees from corporate sponsors, or place a small tax on restaurants and other industries bolstered by tourist dollars during the event.

Tickets and arrests aren't going to help

Foscarinis said sweeping people out of sight, taking away their belongings and handing them tickets only makes the problem worse.

"It's adding criminalization to an already really terrible situation and making it harder to get out of homelessness," she said.

Criminalizing homelessness might also be unconstitutional, according to a Justice Department brief filed last year.

“Many homeless individuals are unable to secure shelter space because city shelters are over capacity or inaccessible to people with disabilities,” the DOJ's Vanita Gupta said in August. "Criminally prosecuting those individuals for something as innocent as sleeping, when they have no safe, legal place to go, violates their constitutional rights."

Instead, Foscarinis said, the best immediate response would be to provide them a place to sleep and storage for their belongings.

Treat homeless people the same as other residents

Foscarinis stressed the importance of city leaders not treating homeless people as an "other."

"Seeing people as other than full members of a community is a big problem and really works against finding solutions," she said.

Friedenbach also pointed out how the Super Bowl City has effectively barred homeless people from entering by prohibiting large bags, shopping carts, tents or anything considered "inappropriate" by event security.

"They're overtly excluding the most impoverished residents from participating in this public event," she said.

Commit to addressing the roots of the problem

Above all, cities have to commit to solving homelessness altogether.

That means investing in affordable long-term housing for the city's poorest residents and providing services like mental health care, substance abuse treatment, child care and job training.

While San Francisco has made major strides in addressing the problem, advocates say it could be doing more. 

"We're looking for a sustained commitment to end homelessness by the city, and that is something that has not happened," said Friedenbach.

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The Senate Has Plenty Of Racial Diversity, But Not The Kind You Brag About

Huffingon Post Politics - Thu, 2016-02-04 05:00

WASHINGTON -- To a casual observer, the halls of Congress look pretty white. But according to Anthony Thomas, people of color abound there, so long as you know where to find them.

"It's all black and Hispanic people downstairs," said Thomas, a 23-year-old African-American from the suburb of New Carrollton, Maryland.

Thomas works as a dishwasher in the Senate cafeteria in the basement of the Dirksen building. His duties include catering special parties held in the Capitol and the Senate office buildings, where lawmakers and staff rub elbows with lobbyists and other power brokers. Though there are exceptions, it's mostly white people drinking and dining, and people of color like Thomas cleaning up after them, he said.

A report released in December by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies found that the most influential Senate staffers are disproportionately white. Among senior-level Senate staff -- chiefs of staff, legislative directors and other folks who ultimately shape the laws we all live by -- a mere 7.1 percent are people of color, researchers found. Yet people of color comprise 36 percent of the U.S. public at large. (There may well be more diversity among mid- and low-level Senate staff, but no such numbers are available.)

So where is all the Senate's diversity? Apparently, much of it is concentrated at the opposite end of the power structure.

For the past year and a half, a group called Good Jobs Nation, funded by the Change to Win federation of labor unions, has been organizing janitorial and food workers in the Senate offices and the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center. The group compiled a database of 160 rank-and-file employees it assumes would be eligible to vote if workers filed for a union election. (SEIU, a member of Change to Win, lost a union election among Senate dining employees three years ago, though the union could file for another election.)

When the group examined demographics, it found the makeup of the service workforce to be the exact opposite of the senior-level Senate staff.

The low-wage workers were almost exclusively people of color -- a whopping 97 percent, according to a demographic breakdown Good Jobs Nation provided to The Huffington Post (the breakdown did not identify individual workers). That number shouldn't be all the surprising, given the demographics of D.C. -- a majority of residents are people of color -- and the way low-wage food and janitorial jobs already skew heavily toward minorities in the U.S. at large, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

A caveat: This was not a scientific study. The database was compiled through on-the-ground outreach done by the group's organizers, not through government records or an official survey. And since the group is only organizing rank-and-file employees, the numbers don't account for middle management, where the workforce appears more mixed. Yet the figures should ring true for anyone who's taken a close look at the workers cleaning the dishes and mopping the floors in the Senate.

"I think what's happening at the Capitol reflects a larger trend in our economy -- the gap between the knowledge economy workers and the service-sector workers," said Joseph Geevarghese, director of Good Jobs Nation. "You've got a class of workers who are higher paid, and then you have an underclass of service workers who are low-paid and struggling to make ends meet."

Geevarghese's group has been agitating for raises for the workers at the Capitol, along with a host of other federal sites around Washington, including the Smithsonian and Union Station. It has succeeded in pressuring President Barack Obama to issue an executive order mandating a minimum wage of $10.10 per hour for workers on federal contracts. It also has gotten a lot of U.S. senators on board with the call for a $15 wage floor and a union in the Senate buildings, with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt) and Democrats sending a stern letter to one of the main Capitol contractors, food giant Compass Group.

There's a simple explanation for the campaign's growing political support: It's embarrassing that many of the people who take out lawmakers' trash and make their lunches are struggling to cover basic needs in one of the country's most expensive cities. It's also emblematic of larger trends in income inequality around the country. As The Washington Post reported last year, one employee, Charles Gladden, has periodically been homeless while working as a janitor in the Senate.

The racial disparity should be just as unsettling, said the Rev. J. Herbert Nelson, director of the Presbyterian Office of Public Witness, which leads the church's social justice efforts. Nelson has been a backer of the campaign, showing up for rallies and strikes to speak to workers.

"These people are really unseen in the public square, and there's no real intermingling across economic lines -- not just in the Senate buildings, but out in society," Nelson said. "We have some significant struggles with regards to race, wage earning and how individuals are selected to serve in positions of power. Work is racialized, and that's the great challenge that we have."

Arhmed Claggette, 30, works as a janitor cleaning bathrooms in the Senate buildings, earning $11.83 per hour, a wage that he said doesn't cut it in Washington. He said he took part in one-day walkouts because many of his colleagues have gotten only small raises after years on the job. He said the racial disparity between those who run the Senate and those who clean it is hard to miss.

"It would make a difference if the people who work with the senators could shed a little light on what it's like for people like me to struggle," Claggette said.

The Senate cafeteria workers recently won a raise through a new contract. The average pay for the 115 workers under the contract is supposed to rise from $13 to $14.50, though some workers have claimed they were quickly reclassified into different positions, negating the pay hikes. Under federal contracts, workers' wages fall within a certain range for their occupations, so a lesser title means less pay. One cook told The Washington Post he was downgraded to a "food service worker," which amounts to a difference of nearly $3 per hour.

Anthony Thomas, the dishwasher, said his base pay recently went up a dollar, to $13.30, and believes the recent protests played a big role in the raise. But even with the bump, he said he feels he should earn more, given the nights and odd hours he has to work for special events. His goal is to rise to the position of cook, to be in a better position to support his fiancee and their 6-month-old son. The splendor of the Capitol, he said, has a way of reminding him of his financial struggles.

"Sometimes I'll walk around and think, 'That column right there is worth more than my salary,'" he said.

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Computer Glitches Force IRS To Stop Accepting Electronically-Filed Tax Returns

Huffingon Post Politics - Thu, 2016-02-04 03:39

The U.S. Internal Revenue Service said on Wednesday it is experiencing computer failure across several systems and temporarily cannot accept many taxpayer returns.

"Several of our systems are not currently operating, including our modernized e-file system and a number of other related systems," the IRS said in a statement.

"A number of taxpayer and tax practitioner tools are unavailable," it said. "IRS.gov remains available, although a number of the services on the site are not, including Where’s My Refund."

The agency said it is in the process of making repairs and anticipates some of the systems will remain unavailable until Thursday.

The IRS said it does not anticipate major refund disruptions. "We continue to expect that nine out of 10 taxpayers will receive their refunds within 21 days," the agency said.

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'Jesus' Reads Quotes From Republican Candidates On 'Jimmy Kimmel Live'

Huffingon Post Politics - Thu, 2016-02-04 00:47

Faith is playing an important role on the campaign trail, especially among politicians trying to appeal to evangelical Christian voters. 

But some of the things the candidates have said aren't exactly biblical.

To show just how those words might sound coming from the leader of the faith the candidates profess to follow, Jimmy Kimmel had an actor dressed as Jesus Christ read actual quotes from Republican presidential candidates on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" on Tuesday night.

Check it out in the clip above. 


(h/t Raw Story)

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Hillary Clinton Reveals How She Tricked Everyone When She Was First Lady

Huffingon Post Politics - Wed, 2016-02-03 23:59

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton may have tricked Washington tourists and residents when she was first lady by going for walks in disguise, she revealed on Wednesday.

"I would put on a baseball cap and sunglasses and, you know, sweatpants and a sweatshirt and pull my hair back, and I would go for a walk," Clinton said at a CNN town hall for Democratic candidates in New Hampshire. "I would tell the Secret Service they had to wear casual clothes, take the thing out of their ears and look like tourists. I would end up on the [National] Mall, and a family would come up and say, 'Would you mind taking our picture in front of the White House?'" 

Clinton's anecdote was in response to a question from moderator Anderson Cooper, who asked if she ever wishes she could be anonymous, given her decades in the public eye.

"There's nothing I like better than to be anonymous, as hard as that is to achieve," Clinton said.

Clinton told Cooper that her ideal day would include walking, spending time at a cafe or a book store, and talking with old friends, whom she said "keep me grounded, keep me honest."

"Of course, it would have to end with seeing my granddaughter," she continued.

Clinton frequently tells stories about her granddaughter Charlotte on the campaign trail and has said that she has a "grandmother glow" that motivates her.

She said Wednesday that her daughter Chelsea had brought Charlotte to Monday's Iowa caucus. 

"It was so thrilling," Clinton said. "Chelsea brings her in, and she sees me, and she goes, 'Grandma!' The caucus could have happened right there."

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Donald Trump Is Just A 'Big Sulking Baby,' Ben Stein Says

Huffingon Post Politics - Wed, 2016-02-03 23:48

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) accused former GOP front-runner Donald Trump of throwing a #Trumpertantrum for demanding a new caucus in Iowa after losing Monday night's opening contest in the presidential nomination process. 

Does this mean Trump is acting like a whining child? At least one conservative voice seems to think so. 

Actor and former Nixon speechwriter Ben Stein called Trump a "big sulking baby" on Fox News. 

When asked to explain by "Your World" host Neil Cavuto, Stein added: 

"This is just an opinion. I’m not a pediatrician, so I don’t really know what a big sulking baby is, but it seems to me that he is a person who cannot deal with even the slightest bit of frustration and that doesn’t, to me, bode well in a president of the United States. I'd like to see somebody with a little more solid character dealing with the problems we're going to have."

Stein said he has a "high opinion of the way he cuts through the political correctness crap," but isn't happy with how Trump handled losing in Iowa.


Editor's note: Donald Trump is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynistbirther and bully who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims -- 1.6 billion members of an entire religion -- from entering the U.S.


(h/t Mediaite)


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Huffingon Post Politics - Wed, 2016-02-03 23:19
Suffer little children to come unto me. . . .
Gospel according to St. Luke

In Brazil it is caused by the mosquito. In Flint it is caused by the politician. The one is not completely understood. The other is understood all too well. Both have inflicted untold harm on their victims and brought great sadness to them and their families. The victims are the children and parents whose lives have been altered in profound ways and no amount of science or money can compensate the children and parents for what they have lost. The effect on the children in Brazil is apparent as soon as they are born. The effect on children in Flint may not be known for years to come.

In Brazil it is believed that there may be as many as 1.5 million residents infected with the Zika virus. In Flint it is an untold number of children who may have their development impaired because of lead poisoning.

Brazilian babies with microcephaly from the Zika virus may have, among other things, abnormally small heads and their brains may have failed to develop properly. The difficulties these children may face include developmental delays, intellectual deficits or hearing loss. Birth defects suffered by Brazilian children are apparent for all to see as their parents are shown on the evening news holding their tiny malformed infants tenderly, not knowing what the future holds for them, their pitifully deformed infants and other members of their families. Zika families do not wonder what they or anyone else could have done to prevent the tragedy that has befallen them. It is just one of those things. Flint is very different but the affected population is the same.

Young children living in Flint are not in danger of suffering microcephaly nor any of the other consequences of the innocently malevolent mosquito. They are, instead, in danger of other developmental issues that may not manifest themselves for years to come. According to reports, as many as 8,000 Flint children under age 6 may have been exposed to lead in Flint's water. That exposure may have done irreparable damage to some of their nervous systems and brains. The children who have suffered the effects of exposure to lead may require extra help in school because of learning disabilities and may require treatment for medical problems that can go on for years. Fetuses and young children are especially vulnerable to the effects of lead in the water. No one could have done anything about the mosquito. Lots of people could have done something about the water.

In 2014 when Flint's emergency manager began providing water to residents from Flint River to save money, residents detected changes in the taste, smell and color of the water. High levels of bacteria were discovered and city officials told residents to boil their water before drinking it. When residents complained about water quality to state officials, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder's people and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality ignored their complaints. Even after state officials knew there was a problem they did nothing. Lynna Kaucheck, a Food and Water Watch organizer said: "It's hard to believe that in 2016 people in the United States have to contend with poisoned drinking water, but that's the sad situation that many Flint residents are contending with. . . . [S]ome residents continue to receive water that is undrinkable, due to lead contamination." It has now been reported that in January 2015 fresh bottled water was provided for state employees working in office buildings in Flint even though residents had been told Flint tap water was safe to drink. A spokesman for the agency that manages state buildings said the bottled water was introduced after Flint failed to pass tests of water standards having nothing to do with lead in the water. In Michigan some Flint residents have begun a class action law suit against the government alleging that the "City has failed to provide drinkable water to Plaintiffs from April 2014 to present." No one knows how that suit will end many years from now.

In Brazil the sadness brought to the families was brought by the mosquito. In Flint it was brought by the politicians. The one is not completely understood. The other is understood all too well. Both have inflicted untold harm on their victims. The mosquito has not apologized. Michigan's governor has. Neither the apology nor the lack of an apology makes the tiniest bit of difference to those affected. They are the children and parents whose lives have been altered in profound ways and no amount of science or money can compensate the children and parents for what they have lost. Christopher Brauchli can be emailed at brauchli.56@post.harvard.edu. For political commentary see his web page at http://humanraceandothersports.com

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Marco Rubio Slams Obama's Speech On Fighting Islamophobia

Huffingon Post Politics - Wed, 2016-02-03 23:19

Republican presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) somehow found a way to criticize President Barack Obama's speech on Wednesday denouncing anti-Muslim bigotry

Rubio, who often stresses religious liberty and his own faith on the campaign trail, said Obama's words at a Baltimore mosque were intended to divide, rather than unite, the American people.

"I'm tired of being divided against each other for political reasons like this president's done," Rubio said at a Wednesday campaign stop in Dover, New Hampshire. "Always pitting people against each other. Always! Look at today: He gave a speech at a mosque. Oh, you know, basically implying that America is discriminating against Muslims."

Rubio added: "Of course there's discrimination in America, of every kind. But the bigger issue is radical Islam. And by the way, radical Islam poses a threat to Muslims themselves. They argue that. They'll tell you that. But again, it's this constant pitting people against each other. I can't stand that. It's hurting our country badly."

In an historic visit to the Islamic Society of Baltimore, Obama, in his first visit to a mosque as president, proclaimed attacks on Islam as attacks on all faiths and urged awareness of how Islamophobia affects Muslim children. He didn't name names, but implicitly referred to Republican presidential candidates, like Donald Trump, who last year proposed a temporary ban on Muslims from entering the United States, and widespread Republican opposition to Syrian refugees, even those who are children, being allowed into the country.

“We have to reject a politics that seeks to manipulate prejudice or bias, and targets people because of religion,” Obama said, praising American Muslims and their role in U.S. history.

Obama isn't the first president to visit a mosque in order to stress unity and tolerance. President George W. Bush did so days after the Sept 11, 2001, terror attacks to reassure American Muslims.

Hate crimes against American Muslims have tripled since the terror attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, including incidents where vandals have thrown bacon and even a severed pig's head at mosques.

The president's speech received praise from some Republicans. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, a Rubio rival in the race for the GOP nomination, said it was "important for the president to lead in this regard" and "important for people to know that they have worth, that they have value, that we’re all, you know, we’re all American."

Conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, no friend of Obama, called the president's speech "superb." 

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Bernie Sanders Endorses Donald Trump, Sort Of

Huffingon Post Politics - Wed, 2016-02-03 22:40

Real estate mogul Donald Trump got an unlikely endorsement from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Wednesday.

Sanders, speaking at a CNN town hall in New Hampshire, said that he looks forward to defeating Trump in the general election.

"I would love the opportunity to run against him," Sanders said. "I think we would win by a lot."

Sanders also mocked Trump's claim that climate change was a hoax "created by and for the Chinese."

"Trump, as you know, is a well-known scientist, a brilliant scientist," Sanders joked.

In a head-to-head matchup, most polls indicate that either Sanders or his challenger in the Democratic primary, Hillary Clinton, would defeat Trump if they faced him the general election.

Trump quickly responded on Twitter:


Sanders says he wants to run against me because he doesn't want to run against me. He would be so easy to beat!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 4, 2016

Both Sanders and Clinton have criticized Trump's offensive rhetoric toward immigrants and Muslims.

Sanders, in responding to a question Wednesday asking whether he can appeal to a wider audience of voters, reminded Democrats that Trump holds an attraction to some people.

"Look, in the real world, there are people -- I hesitate to say this in this room, but there are people who like Donald Trump. I know," Sanders said to some boos. "There are -- not in this room! But there are. And, you know, that's the world. We are a diverse political nation."

Editor's note: Donald Trump is a serial liarrampant xenophoberacist,misogynist, birther and bully 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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Does Ted Cruz Have a Path to the GOP Nomination?

Huffingon Post Politics - Wed, 2016-02-03 22:38
I have been following Ted Cruz' political career closely ever since he orchestrated the government shutdown in the fall of 2013. His theatrical efforts were calculated to secure the support of bedrock conservatives for a future presidential bid. Yes, his ambitions were transparent even then. I condemned him at the time as a dangerous mix of P.T. Barnum and Joe McCarthy and I stand by that criticism today.

At least in a technical sense, Cruz is now the front-runner for the GOP nomination. He scored a decisive and somewhat unexpected victory in the Iowa caucus and he now leads in the delegate count, albeit by a margin of one. It is therefore appropriate to ask: Does he have a path to the Republican nomination? I believe that he does.

In the month of February, he has two main objectives. He must survive the New Hampshire primary. And he must win in South Carolina. Let's look at these two contests.

New Hampshire is not friendly territory. Cruz carried the day in Iowa on the strength of a hyper-mobilized evangelical base. New Hampshire, on the other hand, has a very different religious composition. A quarter of the population is Catholic. Mainline Protestants come next, and the largest two Protestant denominations are the United Church of Christ and the United Methodist Church. Ted Cruz' summons to "awaken the Body of Christ" in the name of an uncompromising conservative political agenda will not work with this New England audience.

So, what does Cruz need to do? He might hope to finish first in a deeply fractured field, though if the polling is accurate outright victory seems to be only a remote possibility. More realistically, he should want to finish no worse than third.

To do this, he will need to shift his message. For a New England electorate, he will likely downplay his religious appeal and emphasize other elements of his ultra-conservative platform. He will probably talk about his support for a balanced budget amendment and his opposition to bank bailouts. He will insist on the need to audit the Federal Reserve and sing vague but pleasing hymns to the magic of free markets. He must also campaign the New Hampshire way -- town hall appearances and small-group meetings with the voters.

Will he win New Hampshire if he does these things? Probably not. Time is short. But his goal in New Hampshire finally is not victory but the avoidance of humiliation. What he wants to do is to get to the next battlefield, which is South Carolina.

Look for South Carolina to be the most feverishly contested primary to date. The voting will occur on Saturday, February 20, and it will be South Carolina that makes or breaks the Ted Cruz campaign. It is telling that after his victory in Iowa, Cruz paid a call on supporters in Greenville, South Carolina, in the Upstate region. South Carolina is a Ted Cruz kind of state.

The religious demography is all in his favor. In Iowa, Cruz was the beneficiary of a record-setting turnout by evangelical voters, who made up 64 % of Republican caucus-goers. Evangelical Protestants, particularly Baptists, make up the largest part of South Carolina's religiously-affiliated population, and have historically proven to be foundational support for the Republican Party. Cruz must ensure that these voters turn out and support him in large numbers. He has a significant grassroots operation already in place. His main competitor for the South Carolina religious-right vote is Donald Trump (it is difficult to see the Ben Carson campaign remaining viable through February 20).

My guess is that Cruz will be totally ruthless in his campaigning. He proved in Iowa that he could do that, and we shall more of it in South Carolina. We shall see attacks on "New York values" and whisper campaigns of the sort we saw directed against Ben Carson in Iowa.

But if Cruz wants to use South Carolina as a launching pad for further success, he will need to move beyond narrow appeals to the religious right. My prediction is that he will play to one of his strengths -- his perceived reputation as a constitutional lawyer. He will single out in particular the two Supreme Court decisions that jointly upheld the constitutionality and legality of the Affordable Care Act, NFIB v. Sebelius (2012), and King v. Burwell (2015).

Both of these decisions were written by Chief Justice John Roberts. In their reasoning, they represent a conservative interpretation of the law, but one that is friendly to sustaining legislative intent. I can, however, foresee Cruz challenging these opinions relentlessly. A third case he will target, furthermore, is Obergefell v. Hodges (2015), the same-sex marriage decision authored by Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy, like Roberts, a Republican appointee.

Cruz will criticize these decisions as betrayals of conservative principle. He will denounce them as representative of the timidity of the Republican establishment. He will, in other words, build a case for what he likes to call "constitutional conservatism" and use that to discredit the Republican establishment and thereby win South Carolina. And then he means to use South Carolina to propel him to victory in the Super Tuesday contests ten days later. In other words, Ted Cruz means to run to the right of John Roberts, perhaps the most conservative Supreme Court justice since the 1920's!

The damage that such a campaign will cause to the American body politic will be significant. I am a firm believer that health care is a basic right. If I have a problem with the Affordable Care Act it is that the law does not go far enough in ensuring health care for all. I am also a strong defender of same-sex marriage and the Obergefell decision. Cruz is ruthless, however, and nakedly ambitious, and if it moves him closer to the Republican nomination, I can easily see him waging a scurrilous campaign against the Supreme Court.

Cruz' goal is to carry South Carolina by a large enough margin that he should do well in Super Tuesday's southern primaries -- Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia. If he prevails in those states, his road to the Republican nomination may well be clear.

In many respects, I find Ted Cruz to be an even more troubling candidate than Donald Trump. Trump is a nativist and a xenophobe. But Cruz is something new on the American scene -- a religious zealot with a strong chance of becoming the nominee of one of America's two major political parties. He is half demagogue, half conspiracy theorist, and he means to be elected president. We should all be worried about that.

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Firefighters Slam Ted Cruz For Claiming To Be Their Champion While Opposing 9/11 Health Bill

Huffingon Post Politics - Wed, 2016-02-03 22:36

MANCHESTER, N.H. -- A powerful firefighters union went after Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) Wednesday for claiming to be their defender and champion in his Iowa caucuses victory speech.

"What Ted Cruz did the other night in his Iowa victory speech is disgusting," said Harold Schaitberger, president of the International Association of Fire Fighters. "He said he embraces fire fighters and the dangerous work they do, says he’s our friend and calls himself a great patriot. But when it came time to actually have the backs of fire fighters across the U.S., he was AWOL. Cruz is the worst kind of politician who will say or do anything to get elected." 

That anger stems from Cruz invoking the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the work of the first responders in his remarks Monday night, when he said he would be different from President Barack Obama. 

"To the police officers, and the firemen and the first responders, the heroes who rushed in to burning buildings instead of out of burning buildings -- the last seven years of having a president, having an attorney general that demonizes you, that vilifies you, that sides with the criminals and looters instead of the brave men and women of law enforcement -- that will end on Jan. 20, 2017," he said.

But what irks Schaitberger is that Cruz opposed reauthorizing the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, which provides health care for those same firefighters and first responders. 

More than 72,000 people are monitored by the 9/11 health program, and 33,000 ailing responders rely on it for treatment.

"He left the 9/11 responders behind," Schaitberger said. "If those are Ted's values, we don't like them. He's the epitome of saying one thing to get votes, then doing another." 

Tim Burn, the spokesman for the union, said they plan to do more in the coming days on this issue as well.

Steve Cassidy, president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association representing New York City firefighters, also went after Cruz for his remarks. 

"I say to you Senator: You had your chance to stand up for those who rushed into the burning towers on 9/11 and you failed them," Cassidy wrote in the New York Daily News Tuesday. "While sick and dying firefighters spent months in Washington, D.C., working to convince Congress to extend the Zadroga Act and provide healthcare for ill 9/11 responders, Sen. Cruz was nowhere to be found."

The Cruz campaign did not return a request for comment.

After significant lobbying by 9/11 first responders -- and also former "Daily Show" host Jon Stewart -- Congress finally passed the $8.1 billion James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Reauthorization Act. Obama then signed it into law in early January. 

Cruz, along with other presidential hopefuls, spoke to the IAFF summit in March, and his remarks didn't go over that well. The IAFF's membership leans Republican, but the union traditionally endorses Democrats because of the party's pro-labor stances. 

IAFF had planned to endorse Vice President Joe Biden; after he decided against running for president, the union decided to hold off on endorsing a candidate. 

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No, The CDC Did Not Tell Women To Stop Drinking

Huffingon Post Politics - Wed, 2016-02-03 21:51

More than 3.3 million women are at risk for alcohol-exposed pregnancies, which can result in birth defects, developmental disabilities, miscarriage and fetal alcohol syndrome, according to a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report published Tuesday. 

What's more, three out of four women who reported wanting to get pregnant "as soon as possible" continued drinking alcohol. 

News agencies and social media, however, focused on a secondary part of the report, which warned women who aren't trying to get pregnant that alcohol exposure could harm unborn babies if they accidentally did get pregnant. News agencies interpreted the report as a mandate that all women of childbearing age who aren't on birth control shouldn't drink. At all. Ever.

"CDC to Women: Protect Your Womb From the Devil Drink," sneered The Atlantic. Slate wondered: "CDC Says Women Shouldn't Drink Unless They're On Birth Control. Is It Drunk?!?"

Jezebel, Elle and USA Today all expressed (righteous) outrage at the idea that a government agency should suggest an entire population of adult women stop drinking because of theoretical fetuses. 

Just one problem: That's not quite what the CDC said

"We definitely didn't make any recommendations for women who are pre-pregnant," said Lela McKnight-Eily, an epidemiologist and clinical psychologist on the Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Prevention Team at the CDC. 

"It's more a matter of women knowing and being informed that if they are drinking alcohol, sexually active and not using birth control, that they could be exposing a baby to a teratogen, and that could cause fetal alcohol spectrum disorders," McKnight-Eily said.

The warning was really directed at the three out of four women who reported wanting to get pregnant "immediately," but who said they continued drinking as they tried to conceive. 

It was intended to inform women about the risks of alcohol and pregnancy (both expected and unexpected) -- not to control the behavior of women who aren't trying to have a baby. 

"Women should have conversations with their health professionals about drinking alcohol and their health, in general, "McKnight-Eily added. "Particularly if they are planning to get pregnant or trying to get pregnant, this should be part of the conversation that they're having." 

McKnight-Eily declined to comment on the Internet backlash unleashed by the report.

What the report really said

The report rightly noted that half of pregnancies in the United States are unplanned, and found no difference in alcohol consumption between women who were trying to get pregnant and women who weren't.

While the report did note that sexually active women of reproductive age who drink alcohol and don't use birth control are at risk for alcohol-exposed pregnancies, the thrust of the warning was directed at the group actively trying to conceive. 

“Every woman who is pregnant or trying to get pregnant -- and her partner -- want a healthy baby," Coleen Boyle, director of CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, said in a statement. "But they may not be aware that drinking any alcohol at any stage of pregnancy can cause a range of disabilities for their child." 

Who's at risk

According to the report, which surveyed more than 4,000 non-pregnant, non-sterile women between ages 15 and 44, the highest risk for alcohol-exposed pregnancy was in women between the ages of 25 and 29, who were married, cohabitating and had given birth to one child previously. Women who smoked were at a slightly higher risk of having an alcohol-exposed child than nonsmokers. 

There also was a link between a mother's education and alcohol-exposure pregnancy. That finding tracks with previous CDC research showing that alcohol use during pregnancy is twice as common among women with college degrees than among women with high school diplomas or less. 

Experts say the guideline isn't realistic

"People can take six months to get pregnant. They can take a year to get pregnant," Amy Bryant, an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of North Carolina, told The Huffington Post. "Personally, I think it’s a pretty unrealistic mandate."

Despite the paternalistic undertones many saw in the CDC's message, Bryant noted that the agency is simply trying to give clear guidance to women about their reproductive health.

"They see the cases of fetal alcohol syndrome," she said.

Advising women about drinking during pregnancy is particularly fraught, since drinking during pregnancy hasn't been studied much, largely for ethical reasons. As a result, the CDC takes a hard-line stance: No amount of alcohol is safe during pregnancy. 

"It's really unclear what the effect of alcohol is on miscarriage and on conception," Bryant said. "It’s probable that that one glass of wine is not going to do anything, but you tell women that it’s safe to drink in pregnancy and then you end up with all this fetal alcohol syndrome -- and it is entirely preventable."

While the CDC team could have framed the recommendation better, the new report is in line with the agency's long-held stance on alcohol during pregnancy.

"There isn't a new guideline. It's been recommended for decades that women not drink during pregnancy," McKnight-Eily said.

"We think that there are a lot of mixed messages out there, and we want to give women a clear message that there is no safe time, there is no safe amount or type of alcohol to drink during pregnancy."

In trying to cut through this misinformation and simplify mixed messages for women, the CDC's public health message got confused, giving many the impression it was more punitive than clarifying.

"They really do want people to be aware, even in early pregnancy, alcohol can affect a fetus," Bryant said. "But I think it's a little excessive to say that any woman who's not on contraception shouldn't drink." 

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Black Lives Matter Activist Jumps Into Baltimore Mayoral Fray

Huffingon Post Politics - Wed, 2016-02-03 21:17

DeRay Mckesson, whose activism over the last year and a half has vaulted him from obscure Twitter sage to a political force in the national Black Lives Matter movement, announced Wednesday that he was running for mayor of Baltimore.

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Michigan Governor Says Flint Residents Should Get A Discount On Toxic Water

Huffingon Post Politics - Wed, 2016-02-03 21:04

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder announced a proposal Wednesday that would allocate state money to pay part of Flint residents’ water bills during the ongoing lead contamination crisis. 

Snyder, a Republican, will make the case for the $30 million plan when he presents his budget next week for the coming fiscal year. Pending the state legislature's approval, his proposal would lower residents’ bills by about 30 percent until water is safe to drink, and credit their past bills going back to April 2014. Former residents would also be eligible for refunds. 

“I agree with Flint residents, that they should not have to pay for water they cannot drink,” Snyder said in a statement.

The city's problems date back to 2014, when it stopped buying pre-treated Lake Huron water from Detroit as a cost-cutting measure. It began using Flint River water without treating it to prevent corrosion, and the water then wore down the system's aged pipes and leached lead from them.

In young children, lead exposure can have lifelong effects on health development, and local organizations consider it a public health crisis that could last decades.

The city switched back to Detroit's water system, but there is no timeline for when it will be safe to drink from the tap again. In the meantime, bottled water and filters are being distributed to residents for free. 

All the while, Flint residents have been billed for water that poisoned children

State and federal officials didn’t act on the crisis for months, a failure that has prompted extensive criticism, including from members of Congress at a hearing Wednesday morning

Just because residents could do laundry with the lead-contaminated water, doesn’t mean they should have to pay for it, state Rep. Phil Phelps said. Phelps is a Democrat who represents parts of Flint.

"At the end of the day, people were paying for water,” Phelps said. “That water was destroying their plumbing, and it was destroying their washer, their hot water heater, other items in the house, like dishwashers, and it was destroying the plumbing of the city. Yeah, I think they shouldn’t have to pay anything for the water whatsoever."

Phelps added that he’s "excited" that the governor is putting money toward reimbursing residents and hopes that the state will eventually agree to cover the entire water portion of people’s bills.

Flint’s average monthly water and sewer bill was $140 in 2014, much higher than neighboring cities, according to the Flint Journal. Under Snyder’s proposal, a family paying $140 would get about a $40 credit.

"This governor has yet to give the people of Flint 100 percent of anything, including leadership and the truth,” Michigan Democratic Party Chair Brandon Dillon said in a statement. “The least he could do is refund them every penny they paid for unusable, poison water. Once again, Governor Snyder is showing he cares more about numbers than he does people."

Marc Edwards, the Virginia Tech University professor who fought for officials to recognize the lead crisis, said in the statement issued by the governor that the plan was “an amazing gesture of common sense and good will."

Snyder last week appointed Edwards to a committee overseeing long-term solutions for Flint’s water crisis.  

"It corrects an injustice,” the professor added.

Kate Abbey-Lambertz covers sustainable cities, housing and inequality. Tips? Feedback? Send an email or follow her on Twitter.

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Note to Donald Trump: Really Smart People Never Claim They Are Smart

Huffingon Post Politics - Wed, 2016-02-03 20:52
I have had the good fortune to have known some very, very smart people in my life, including my youngest brother who was literally a genius.

None of them ever said they were smart. For one thing, really smart people know what they do not know or understand better than the rest of us.

More importantly, and this is for Trump more than anyone, if you really are smart, you would think that you need not say it, that people would notice, if people noticing it were important to you. Truly smart people rarely require the attention or recognition by others of their intelligence that Trump seems to crave. Many are embarrassed when others comment on it.

As Malcolm Gladwell (Outliers) and Daniel Goleman (Emotional Intelligence) have explained, beyond a certain IQ (~130s) the most important success skill is "emotional intelligence": roughly, the ability to notice, evaluate, label and use emotional and psychological constructs to guide behavior and performance. It includes cooperation, grace under pressure, insight into others' needs, seeing yourself as others see you,...and, yes, humility.

In Built to Last (Porras and Collins), and Good to Great (Collins), the authors note that the the great leaders were not bombastic or charismatic, nor do they engage in what Veblen called "conspicuous consumption". They are clock-builders, not time-tellers.

I become instantly skeptical when someone tells me they are smart, or have great interpersonal skills, or anything that cannot be easily tested. ( By contrast, if you say you are a very fast runner, we could time you; if you say you are a great pianist, we could listen to you play). But, if you say you are well-liked, or smart, or a great dealmaker, or highly intuitive....well, I would just doubt it until shown otherwise.

Trump keeps telling us that he is smart, terrific, and a great dealmaker. Perhaps he is. But, he has not volunteered his college transcripts or his SAT scores. Perhaps he will cut much better deals, as he calls them, with China. Perhaps his deal to have his clothing line made in China is light-years better than any other similar deal for off-shore manufacturing instead of creating jobs in the United States. We do not know. We have not seen that deal.

All we know is that Trump is a great huckster.

He has not had to say that for us to know it.

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Panel Says LAPD Killing Of Homeless Man Was OK. You'll Just Have To Trust Them.

Huffingon Post Politics - Wed, 2016-02-03 20:32

LOS ANGELES -- When police killed Charly Keunang, a homeless man, last March, it sparked protests and ignited another round of debate about the Los Angeles Police Department's use of deadly force. A video recorded by a witness to the fatal shooting called into question the official narrative that Keunang had reached for an officer's holstered gun as the two grappled on the ground, leading other nearby officers to open fire.

On Tuesday, the Los Angeles Police Commission, a civilian body that oversees the LAPD, moved to put an end to those questions -- without actually answering them. The board agreed with the police account, finding that the actions of the officers who killed Keunang were "in policy."

Keunang, a 43-year-old Cameroonian immigrant who was known as "Africa" in Skid Row, was shot six times, including twice in the chest. He was not armed. 

The commission's ruling described body camera footage of the incident, saying it showed Keunang's hand "holding onto" the officer's gun as it was "substantially removed" from the holster. But the ruling was not accompanied by release of those videos, which were recorded by cameras worn by two officers on the scene.

The LAPD and the civilian commission both told The Huffington Post that there is no plan to release the videos in the future. In effect, the public will yet again have to take the police at their word.

The decision not to release critical footage in this case underscores broader concerns about the efficacy of body cameras. Law enforcement agencies across the country have begun adopting the equipment for the stated purpose of fostering transparency. If they're permitted to suppress video when it's potentially damning to police, however, many critics argue that transparency comes with an asterisk.

"LAPD's refusal to release the body-worn video footage seriously undercuts the Department's credibility and makes it seem like they have something to hide," said Peter Bibring, director of police practices at the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California. "If the video so clearly shows the officer acted properly, they should release it."

He added, "Of course, the department should release video of shootings and other serious uses of force regardless. When police kill a civilian, the public deserves to judge for themselves what happened and whether officers' use of deadly force seems appropriate to the communities' standards." 

Never shared these pics before. This is Charly, whose killing, unarmed, in his home LAPD today declared "in policy." pic.twitter.com/AYOdQcYhVz

— JeffSharlet (@JeffSharlet) February 3, 2016

While the body camera videos in Keunang's case have not been released publicly, a handful of journalists have reviewed the footage. Their observations suggest the recordings raise significant doubt about the officers' tactics and use of lethal force.

Jeff Sharlet wrote in a GQ story last year that the videos make a few things clear:

Charly does not have the gun, of this there is no question. He may have reached for it. His arm may have convulsed. He may have never come near. [LAPD Officer Joshua] Volasgis will tell the detectives he was straddling the suspect, by which he means his right hip — his gun — was close, or close enough to Charly's hand. He will insist that the suspect had "defeated" the two safety measures on his holster. He will say he was holding the suspect's hand down as the suspect attempted to draw his weapon. And yet, on [Sgt. Chand] Syed's and [Officer Francisco] Martinez's cam footage, we cannot see Charly reach. Volasgis will say the suspect lets go of his pistol only after the first shot is fired. But this is not true. When Martinez shoots Charly, Volasgis is already on his way to standing. The gun is beyond reach.

Reporters at the Los Angeles Times, who also reviewed the police video, said the footage showed Volasgis' gun still in its holster after Keunang was shot.

There are other recordings that the public has seen: surveillance video from a nearby building and cell phone video taken by an eyewitness. The latter begins with Keunang spinning toward a group of LAPD officers, arms flailing. One officer punches Keunang and tackles him to the ground, where the scuffle continues. Moments later, Keunang is dead.

But those videos were filmed at a greater distance than the body camera footage, and it’s difficult to discern what exactly is happening in the former.

This is not a matter of interpretation: LAPD Chief Charlie Beck is lying about the killing of Charly Keunang.

— JeffSharlet (@JeffSharlet) February 3, 2016

LAPD Chief Charlie Beck has maintained that Keunang reached for the holstered gun and that his officers had no choice but to defend themselves. Not everyone is willing to trust him.

Before Tuesday's announcement, the Los Angeles Community Action Network, which focuses on issues affecting the city's low-income and homeless residents, had argued that the civilian commission was stalling on Keunang's case and even tried to keep it "under wraps."

Network members were in attendance when Matt Johnson, president of the police commission, announced its conclusion that the killing occurred "in policy."

So, hear it straight from the mouth of President Matt Johnson. #CantKillAfrica @DocMellyMel @BLMLA @stoplapdspying pic.twitter.com/ZBhnkbUmaY

— LA CAN (@LACANetwork) February 3, 2016

The commission did cite Officer Volasgis for being "out of policy" in that he failed "to maintain control" of his pistol and baton.

Keunang's family has filed a $20 million wrongful-death lawsuit against the city of Los Angeles. Joshua Piovia-Scott, the family's lawyer, called for the LAPD to release the body camera videos if, as the police claim, they truly show the officers engaging in justifiable behavior.

By not doing so, the LAPD risks enhancing suspicions about its treatment of the city's most vulnerable populations and undermining public trust in its commitment to transparency.

"To the extent the public supports body cameras, they do so because they believe cameras will be used to provide transparency and hold officers accountable," said Bibring. "But body cameras don't provide transparency if the Department doesn't share the video with the public."

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Grand Jury Indicts 16 In Connection With Oregon Occupation

Huffingon Post Politics - Wed, 2016-02-03 20:30

(Reuters) - In early January, occupiers of a wildlife refuge in eastern Oregon mulled how the siege would end and what would become of them, including facing prison or dying.

What they did not anticipate was an apparent splinter group of armed occupiers ignoring their pleas and refusing to leave the remote Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

Now frustration is mounting as the holdouts cloud the fate of nine former occupiers in custody, charged with conspiracy to impede federal officers. Two others were released on condition that they wear tracking devices as they await trial.

A judge has cited the continuing standoff as a major obstacle to the release of at least some of those who remain in custody.


Andrew Kohlmetz, an attorney for arrested protester Jason Patrick, referred to the holdouts as "four idiots" at odds with his client's aims.

"I can only say that it does impact everyone's chance at release," said Kohlmetz, whose client remained briefly at the refuge after state police shot one protester dead and arrested several others, including leader Ammon Bundy on Jan. 26.

From jail, Bundy asked through his attorney for the remaining occupiers to stand down, and Patrick was arrested soon after.

But the holdouts have ignored that plea, as Federal Bureau of Investigation agents and Oregon law enforcement continue to block access to the refuge 30 miles (48 km) from Burns in the state's rural east.

At a court hearing on Wednesday for Bundy and the other defendants, prosecutors revealed they had obtained a grand jury indictment against 16 people, including the defendants, said Bundy's attorney Mike Arnold.

Gerri Badden, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Portland, declined to disclose details and said the document would be unsealed on Thursday morning.



The four holdouts have been identified as Jeff Banta, 46, David Fry, 27, and a married couple, Sean Anderson, 47, and Sandy Anderson, 48, according to The Oregonian newspaper.

None of the four were among the original group of occupation leaders, according to a Reuters witness who spent a night with the occupiers in early January as they pondered their fate.

Sean Anderson has a warrant out for his arrest in his previous home state of Wisconsin on misdemeanor charges from 2014 of resisting an officer, possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia, according to court records.

The occupiers took a stance reminiscent of the so-called Sagebrush Rebellion, a decades-old conflict over federal jurisdiction of millions of acres in the West.


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The Flint Water Crisis -- Action Steps Needed Now

Huffingon Post Politics - Wed, 2016-02-03 20:23
For the past two years, the 100,000 people of Flint, Michigan, have been forced to use a poisoned public water system causing, disabling and likely even fatal, health effects.

Yet now -- despite an incomplete and ineffective patch-job of repair efforts -- the latest tests show highly toxic levels of lead contaminated water still flowing through the local water taps.

The human medical toll is steadily rising and the community-wide health risk continues -- especially for vulnerable children now facing the threat of life long brain damage from the lead contaminated water.

The state officials who triggered this community water-poisoning catastrophe continue to offer excuses -- half measures, ineffective faucet filters -- and show no sign of an all-out effort to fully confront this public health emergency.

What has happened in Flint by State Government fiat was madness; and the abject failure to now fully remedy the problem is a monstrous dereliction of duty.

The Governor of Michigan, Rick Snyder, needs to directly face these hard destructive truths and step forward to fully support three urgent action initiatives described below.

Two current news stories illuminate this crisis situation -- and what now must be done.

A recent Reuters news account indicates the FBI has joined the investigation of the Flint water crisis at the request of the U.S. Attorney in Detroit, Reuters noting that "the city was under the control of a state-appointed emergency manager when it switched its source of tap water from Detroit's system to the Flint river in April 2014... The more corrosive water from the river leached more lead from the city pipes than Detroit water did."

This lead-poisoning damage to Flint's children was only later discovered by an alert Flint doctor -- who performed her own blood tests of children -- and found the alarming high levels of lead concentration in their blood. As lead in blood can cause severe and permanent brain damage in exposed children -- her findings punched a hole in the often repeated Governmental assurance that the water was safe for human use.

Even a sudden and unusual spike in Legionnaires Disease -- with at least nine reported deaths -- suspected by some to be caused by the contaminated water -- did not initially receive significant public attention or public warning from State health officials. In recent days, a $100 million lawsuit has been filed in behalf of the families which experienced the Legionnaires Disease deaths.

We can only wonder how many other serious or even fatal health episodes have been triggered over the past two years as people consumed and used the contaminated water -- while relying on official claims of its safety.

And now the Wall Street Journal of February 2 has reported that while Federal law requires that public water supplies must limit traces of lead contamination to no more than 15 parts per billion -- the most recent tests in January from Flint water taps -- show lead concentration levels far above the safe level. The Journal article reports that more than 30 test samples tested above 150 parts per billion -- over 10 times the allowable limit. Even worse -- it reported an additional seven test locations -- where the lead levels exceeded 1,000 parts per billion.

Clearly no child -- or person of any age -- should be at risk to these astronomical levels of lead contamination from their local water supply.

So what must now be done? Three immediate steps are needed. None are easy -- all are urgently required.

Health Assessment of All Flint Citizens

First, we must have a prompt individual health assessment of each person in Flint who has been consuming the contaminated water.

Individual blood tests and other appropriate health measurements need to be taken -- to see what abnormal health problems may now have been created in these individuals -- and then a medical determination of what kind of remedial health treatment may be required. This must cover people of all ages and regardless of ability to pay. It is known for example, that lead poisoning in adults can result in serious conditions of gout, respiratory illness and hypertension.

Only a community-wide individual health assessment -- and city-wide aggregate profile -- can tell us what health harm has been caused by the contaminated water -- and what may be needed for treatment.

Remove and Replace Lead Pipe Water Distribution System

Second, the old, damaged and corroded lead pipe water distribution system in Flint must be pulled out of the ground --- and replaced with safe new lead-free distribution pipes that can protect the flow of pure water directly into all local homes and businesses.

Not a single corroded lead pipe can be left in the distribution system -- as any toxic leaching in one area -- can send poisoned water flow to unknown locations elsewhere. This contamination risk cannot be permitted.

This task of removing the dangerous and corroded lead distribution pipes must be done with urgency -- just as quickly as work can start -- because each day those damaged lead pipes remain in place -- presents a clear and present danger to anyone using the local water supply.

The lead pipe removal and replacement task is a big job -- and expensive. But whatever the cost -- and however it is funded -- it must start immediately. It would seem that the Michigan State Government which created this health emergency with their mandated directives -- should now bear the direct financial responsibility for fixing the problem they created.

Federal financial help should also be made available -- and promptly -- to help mitigate this environmental and public health disaster and the continuing medical risks to the citizens of Flint.

Full Legal Review and Determination of Responsibility

A third necessary step is to have all the legal justice units of Government -- Federal, State and local -- fully engaged, using whatever resources are necessary -- to reconstruct all the decisions and actions that led to this water poisoning/public health catastrophe -- and determine why it was that false assurances of water safety were given to the citizens of Flint for some two years -- while the systematic contaminated poisoning of the Flint water supply was occurring.

This complete trail of events and official conduct must be fully established -- with depositions under oath -- subpoenas as necessary -- and all relevant email traffic and all other relevant communications provided -- without redactions -- or hidden behind claims of executive privilege -- or be considered exempt from freedom of information requests.

When people are poisoned by misguided and severely damaging official actions and decisions -- which result in innocent lives being impaired or lost -- then there must be a full and accurate recounting of what transpired. All the cards in the deck must be turned face up so we can see exactly how this community tragedy was created; so those responsible are held to account; that proper attention and redress is provided, including full medical treatment; and that every needed step is taken to re-establish and sustain a pure water distribution supply in Flint.

And beyond these necessary immediate steps -- there must also be a commitment from all levels of government to do what is needed to help restore the economic viability of the community as a whole -- now that it has been so severely damaged.

The people of the city of flint deserve no less -- and it is the duty of government to rectify its own errors -- and accept the responsibility to correct and restore what has been damaged.

People's faith in government -- depends upon the good faith of the government toward the people they serve -- and the proper exercise of what is termed "the duty of care".

Faith in government can only endure -- IF government itself demonstrates its good faith toward the citizens it serves. The highest obligation of any public official is the "duty of care" --which is only met with government official's honor and protect the health and well-being of its citizens.

Tragically, that standard was violated in Flint. It now must be redeemed.

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