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GOP Congressman Says He Uses Medical Marijuana To Ease Arthritis Pain

Huffingon Post Politics - Tue, 2016-05-24 19:51

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), a leading voice for the reform of marijuana laws in the United States, became the first sitting member of Congress in recent history to admit to medical marijuana use.

Rohrabacher, speaking to a group of cannabis activists on Tuesday on Capital Hill, said he has been an avid surfer for about three decades but had not been able to enjoy the sport for about a year and a half due to arthritis pain he's developed in his shoulder. The pain became so severe that it has disrupted his sleep, the lawmaker said.

That is, until he tried medical marijuana.

“I went to one of these hempfests or something like that they had in San Bernardino,” Rohrabacher said, as first reported by Russ Belville at Cannabis Radio.

At the hemp festival, he met a vendor who introduced him to a cannabis-infused topical rub. 

“This guy was showing me the medical things and all that, and he says, ‘You should try this.’ And it’s a candle and you light the candle, and the wax is in there and it melts down, and then you rub it on whatever you’ve got problems with,” the Republican congressman said.

He finally tried the product a couple of weeks ago, and that was "the first time in a year and a half that I had a decent night's sleep because the arthritis pain is gone."

The attendees cheered his comments.

Rohrabacher, a vocal supporter for reform of the nation's marijuana laws, is one of the main sponsors of a measure that blocked the Department of Justice from using funds to target and prosecute medical marijuana patients or businesses who are operating legal in their state. The amendment has been reauthorized for the past two fiscal years. 

"Now don't tell anybody I broke the law, they'll bust down my door and take whatever's inside and use it as evidence against me, whatever it is," Rohrabacher said. "The bottom line is, there's definitely cannabis in there and it makes sure that I can sleep now."

Listen to Rohrabacher's full remarks at Cannabis Radio.

This was the first time Rohrabacher has spoken publicly about using medical cannabis, his press secretary Ken Grubbs told The Huffington Post. 

It was also the first time in recent history that a sitting congressman admitted to using medical marijuana, said Marijuana Majority founder Tom Angell.

"Putting a face on the people who use marijuana will help immensely in the battle to end criminalization and other forms of harmful discrimination," Angell added. "It’s now going to be much harder for members of Congress, particularly those in the GOP caucus, to vote against medical marijuana, since they now know that one of their friends and colleagues is directly benefiting from it."

California, along with 23 other states and the District of Columbia, has legalized medical marijuana. This year, voters in four more states are expected to consider doing the same via ballot initiative. Attitudes toward the plant and strict prohibition policies have rapidly shifted in recent years. An April CBS News poll found that 90 percent of Americans support the use of marijuana for medical purposes, with 56 percent in support of legalization for recreational use. 

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article misspelled Russ Belville's last name.

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Prison Gerrymandering Is Unconstitutional, Federal Judge Rules

Huffingon Post Politics - Tue, 2016-05-24 19:41

The population of Cranston, Rhode Island, was 80,387 as of the 2010 census. Within its borders lies the state's only state prison, the Adult Correctional Institutions, which houses 3,433 inmates.

A federal judge in Rhode Island ruled on Tuesday that counting those prisoners as city residents and allocating the inmate population to a Cranston ward is unconstitutional, and ordered the city to redraw its map so that it only counts actual city residents, not prisoners.

Cranston, which is divided into six wards of about 13,500 residents each, had been the target of a 2014 lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and other advocacy groups that sought to invalidate its 2012 redistricting map. The groups alleged that the population of the Sixth Ward diluted city residents' voting power across the board.

U.S. District Judge Ronald Lagueux concluded this arrangement violates the Constitution's "one person, one vote" principle, and gave the city 30 days to come up with a new map that fixes the problem. He also prohibited city officials from holding new elections until he approves the new districting plan.

"For every vote that ten residents of those wards casts to elect a city councillor or school committee member, the officials in Ward Six need only get seven votes to prevail," Lagueux wrote, adding that this effect is "constitutionally untenable." He calculated that without the prison inmates, the Sixth Ward population drops to 10,209.

The judge relied in large part on the Supreme Court's recent decision in Evenwel v. Abbott, which instructed states to observe the principle of "representational equality" when redrawing voting districts that include non-voting populations such as children and college students.

Lagueux pointed out that Cranston does nothing to represent the state prisoners inside its borders -- the vast majority are not allowed to partake of the city's civic life, don't benefit from its public services and are not targeted in campaigning.

"Nonetheless, their numerical presence in the Ward is unfairly inflating the voice of the Ward’s other inhabitants," Lagueux wrote. 

The judge reasoned that -- unlike local college students who are affected by municipal decision-making -- the same wasn't the case with prisoners, who are wards of the state and thus cannot benefit from the Constitution's "one person, one vote" principle, which covers those who are otherwise meaningfully represented.

This lack of a "representational nexus" with Cranston, the court said, meant that the city's current districting plan couldn't stand.

Our goal is for the incarcerated to be counted, but in the right place -- the place that is really their true residence, because you don't lose your residence by imprisonment.
Brenda Wright, vice president of policy and legal strategies at Demos

Robert Coupe, the director of administration at Cranston, said in an emailed statement to The Huffington Post that city officials strongly disagree with the ruling and will likely appeal.

"The ACLU is creating a controversy that should not exist after the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding similar districts based upon population," Coupe said, in a reference to last month's Evenwel decision. He noted that the city's 2012 plan comported with census figures, the city's charter and state law.

The ACLU didn't respond to a request for comment, but praised the ruling on its Rhode Island website.

Brenda Wright, an attorney with the public policy group Demos -- which backed the lawsuit along with the Prison Policy Initiative -- said the the litigation was aimed at getting localities to account for prisoners where it truly counts.

"Our goal is for the incarcerated to be counted, but in the right place -- the place that is really their true residence, because you don't lose your residence by imprisonment," Wright said.

Wright explained that many inmates at the Cranston facility are there temporarily because they're awaiting trial or are convicted of misdemeanors, which means they'd be eligible to vote. Yet they aren't allowed to use Cranston as their address for voting purposes.

In March, the ACLU won a favorable ruling in Florida using an argument similar to the one that prevailed in Rhode Island. The judge in Tuesday's ruling quoted extensively from that decision.

"The end game in our view is for the Census Bureau to change its rules for how incarcerated people are counted," Wright said. "That would solve the problem nationwide."

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Meet The Right-Wing Reality Show 'Rabbi' Hustling His Way Into the Trump Campaign

Huffingon Post Politics - Tue, 2016-05-24 19:26

Shmuley Boteach promotes himself as “America’s rabbi” and “the most famous rabbi in America.” A man of many hustles, he has inserted himself as political liaison to far-right pro-Israel casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, close confidante of Senator Ted Cruz, spiritual guide to Michael Jackson, pal of Oprah Winfrey, soulmate of Eli Wiesel, buddy of Senator Cory Booker, star of his own reality TV show,  and bestselling self-help author of Kosher Sex. This month Boteach scrambled between a meeting with Donald Trump, whose candidacy for president he recently endorsed, and a ritzy gala for his own organization, thrown on the solemn Holocaust Memorial Day, at which he bestowed special honors on the former "Baywatch" star Pamela Anderson and Yoko Ono, among other dignitaries.

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Cigarette butts make for better, cleaner bricks

TreeHugger Science-Tech - Tue, 2016-05-24 10:12
A process that recycles cigarette butts into bricks for construction could kick a nasty littering habit.

HuffPost Rise: What You Need To Know On May 24

Huffingon Post Politics - Tue, 2016-05-24 05:29

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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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Samantha Bee Breaks Down How The GOP 'Legitimized' The Abortion Issue

Huffingon Post Politics - Tue, 2016-05-24 05:09

Abortion may be a key issue for evangelical Christian voters, but Samantha Bee says that wasn't always the case.

On Monday night, the "Full Frontal" host went back in time to the late 1970s to explain how the issue was manufactured by power-hungry leaders of the religious right and then legitimized by the Republican Party.

"Last week, we took a look at the religious right, those coveted evangelical voters that conservatives spent decades pandering to only to be dumped just before November prom for a heretical billionaire bully who only says the word 'God' when he is ejaculating on a pile of money," said Bee.

"Many people think the new religious right arose as a response to the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision," she added. "But that's not true."

Bee played a clip showing Dartmouth religion professor Randall Balmer revealing how leaders of the religious right held a conference call in 1979 to discuss which issues they should politicize. One member suggested abortion.

"Wait, were they founding a movement or deciding what toppings to get on their pizza?" asked Bee. "Now they just needed to tell the rest of us that abortion was bad."

Bee then spoke to filmmaker Frank Schaeffer, the son of prominent Christian theologian Francis Schaeffer, who produced propaganda videos (such as the one below) to promote the pro-life movement.

It was to become "the single greatest regret of my life," Schaeffer said.

"Most evangelical leaders didn't want anything to do with [the issue of abortion]. They wanted to just preach Jesus," said Schaeffer. "They thought politics was dirty. They didn't want anything to do with it. We had to talk them into it."

Schaeffer said the religious right's anti-abortion agenda was legitimized with the help of Jack Kemp, who went onto become President George H. W. Bush’s housing secretary.

"(Kemp) brought in 50 senators and congressmen including Henry Hyde and Bob Dole and a bunch of other people and gave it respectability," Schaeffer said. And the rest, as they say, is history.


Check it out in the clip above.

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EA Sports Is Betting Millions You'll Watch This Guy Play 'FIFA'

Huffingon Post Politics - Tue, 2016-05-24 05:08

NEW YORK -- Mohamad Al-Bacha was shook. He stared blankly out over the capacity crowd of 1,500 in Harlem’s famed Apollo Theater, dropped his Xbox controller onto his lap, bent at the waist and buried his head in his hands.

Al-Bacha, a 17-year-old from Denmark, had cruised through the first two days of the FIFA Interactive World Cup -- the video game equivalent of soccer’s biggest spectacle -- without so much as conceding a goal.

But in the two-match final in late March, Al-Bacha’s impenetrable defense finally broke. Al-Bacha gave up two goals in the first match, settling for a disappointing 2-2 draw. Now, with just minutes remaining in the second match, his opponent, Sean Allen of England, had scored again to take a 3-1 lead, securing a 5-3 advantage between the two matches. All Al-Bacha could do was hang his head and rub his eyes as the crowd erupted around him.

"FIFA," which EA Sports first launched in 1993 with an exclusive licensing agreement with soccer’s governing body, is an absurdly popular video game. It ranks among the 15 best-selling video games of all time, and is one of just a handful of titles to sell more than 100 million copies.

But over the past decade, many video games have changed from solitary or small-group activities to spectator activities known as e-sports -- and "FIFA" hasn't kept pace.

In 2014, more than 27 million people watched the world championship for "League of Legends," the planet's most popular video game. Professional gamers command endorsement deals and six-figure salaries. The top tournaments have million-dollar prizes. The e-sports industry is already worth half a billion dollars, and it could generate over a billion dollars in revenue by the end of the decade.

Broadcasters, sports teams, leagues and game manufacturers like EA are investing in events like the FIFA Interactive Cup because they want a piece of that billion-dollar business.

But almost no one watches "FIFA," or any other e-sport based on a real-life sport.

Instead, the most popular e-sports are team-based games where people play as soldiers, superheroes or legendary beasts, not athletes. Why play as virtual Cristiano Ronaldo or Leo Messi when you can be a commando, a superhero or a mythical creature? To vault "FIFA" into the top tier of spectator e-sports, EA will have to convince people that watching someone play a video-game version of baseball, football or soccer is just as fun as the real thing -- and that it's as fun as watching superheroes fight, too.

That's a tall order.

Alexi Lalas, the former U.S. Men’s National Team star who is now an analyst on Fox Sports’ international soccer coverage, watched the FIFA Interactive final from the back of the theater as part of the broadcast team streaming the event across the world. Lalas has played in two World Cups, including the 1994 event, which helped launch a new wave of soccer popularity in the United States. This was his first time at the virtual tournament.

“I am hyped,” Lalas said at the top of the broadcast. “I am going crazy. I cannot wait to see somebody crowned the best in the world. It doesn’t matter what it is, I love to see someone crowned the best in the world.”

Perhaps it was genuine sentiment. But there was at least a hint of salesmanship in the former soccer star’s voice too. In those earliest moments, as Lalas tried to dramatize the event and convince the audience it was a big deal, it sounded as though he still needed to persuade himself, too.

Afterward, Lalas -- who'd peppered co-host Spencer FC, a popular gamer and "FIFA" YouTube personality, with questions about the tournament throughout the broadcast -- admitted he hadn’t totally known what to expect.

“It was definitely...” he said, “different.”

Competitive gaming once consisted of “a bunch of kids playing video games” at parties in small hotel ballrooms, said Craig Levine, a longtime gamer who is now the chief executive of the American division of the Electronic Sports League.

Today, competitive gaming is one of the fastest growing “sports” in the world. In Seoul, for instance, e-sports are “more popular with teenagers than baseball,” ESPN The Magazine’s Mina Kimes wrote last year.

While titles like "League of Legends," an open-source and free online strategy game, have reached mass audiences in recent years, sports games never caught fire as competitive products, at least not professionally. That is in part because sports games focused their growth on Xbox and PlayStation -- consoles that until the last decade had more limited online gaming capabilities than PCs.

Al-Bacha began playing "FIFA" in 2011, when he was a 12-year-old football fanatic. He turned his focus to gaming when he realized he probably didn’t have a future on the actual field.

“I was all right, but I was like, ‘I probably ain't going to be nothing,’” Al-Bacha said. “I just loved football, and I wasn't that good in real life, so I decided to play football on a virtual pitch.”

In the mid-2000s, the most popular sports titles began to develop advanced online modes, like "FIFA"'s Ultimate Team function, that allowed players like Al-Bacha to play more competitive opponents than the friends he’d grown tired of beating.

FIFA and EA Sports launched the Interactive World Cup in 2004 as a bare-bones, eight-player tournament at the soccer organization’s headquarters in Zurich. It remained small in its early years, but its growth has accelerated: Thirty-two players qualified for this year’s grand finale in 2016, and for the first time in the tournament's 12-year history, EA Sports signed a major broadcast partner, Fox Sports, to televise the semifinal and final matches.

But even before Fox’s cameras appeared on the final day of this year's tournament, Michael Ribeiro, an American who made the semifinals at the 2008 tournament and lost in the quarterfinals this time around, noticed major changes from his first appearance in the final nearly a decade ago. The venues have improved, and so have the perks. Players are now treated to sightseeing tours around local attractions. In 2014, when the tournament was held in Rio de Janeiro, the finalists received tickets to watch a match in the actual World Cup. Prize money, too, has increased, albeit incrementally.

“I don’t think it’ll ever be as big [as other games],” Ribeiro said. “But it’s definitely growing. Comparing this to 2008? Not even close.”

In the last five years, "FIFA" has emerged as a major online gaming force -- in 2013, gamers played more than 7.3 million online matches per day, according to EA Sports. By the next year, EA boasted that online gameplay had grown by 50 percent -- "FIFA '15" attracted 3.4 million online players on its first day of release.

That growth also spurred interest in the Interactive World Cup, which this year drew 2.3 million players to its worldwide qualifiers, in which players competed online for the 32 spots in the final -- making it, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, the largest e-sports competition in the world. In order to reach the final, Al-Bacha followed a similar path as national teams in the actual World Cup: He progressed through regional online qualifying stations to reach New York City, where he had to win his way out of a three-match group stage and a 16-player knockout phase. 

With just 45 seconds of gameplay remaining, Al-Bacha won a free kick deep into Allen’s defensive territory. Instead of firing a shot on goal, he laid off a short pass to a wide-open attacker. A quick tap of the B button later, the ball was in the back of the net.


The Apollo crowd, watching the action projected on a screen above the stage where Al-Bacha and Allen sat, roared to life. The typical sounds of soccer -- the rising wave of anticipatory cheers when a player springs open in front of goal, the desperate gasps and groans when a shot hits the post or the keeper makes a diving save -- had filled the theater all night. Now, the entire crowd was on edge. A match they’d thought was over, just moments before, wasn’t quite yet -- and thanks to an advantage in tiebreaker rules, Al-Bacha needed just one more goal to steal the title from Allen.

"You could really feel the energy,” Al-Bacha later said. “I've never experienced something like that. When you sit and watch football games in Denmark, the crowd is so dead, but that was just insane at the Apollo.”

The crowd buzzed again as Al-Bacha pressed pause and pushed four attackers to the front of his formation, a last-ditch tactical change to try to rescue the final.

The event’s play-by-play announcers, standing only feet away from the competitors, reminded the audience that just 30 seconds remained.

Allen tapped the ball back into play, and pressed forward down the right wing toward Al-Bacha’s waiting defenders. The crowd gasped as Al-Bacha took the ball back and fired a pass deep into Allen’s defensive area -- one final, desperate attack.

If sports titles don’t have the deep roots of the games that dominate e-sports now, they may have a major advantage when it comes to creating their own boom. If the teams, leagues, companies and organizations that make up the infrastructure of global sports come to view competitive e-sports as a supplement to their popularity, rather than as a threat, that could unlock a new level of success for their virtual counterparts.

FIFA, soccer's international organizing body for which the game is named, has for years understood that there is an overlap between the game of soccer and its video game series, and that many, if not most, of its gamers are also soccer players and fans of professional clubs. The number of online "FIFA" contests spikes during halftime of major soccer matches -- a stat FIFA has cited in recent years to trumpet the fact that the game's players are also soccer fans. In the United States, the rising popularity of "FIFA" has translated into increased American interest in professional soccer.

Individual teams are now starting to look at "FIFA"’s popularity the same way.

In February, VfL Wolfsburg, a top club in Germany’s domestic soccer league, signed Englishman David Bytheway as its official "FIFA" gaming representative. Bytheway, one of the world’s top "FIFA" players, now competes in international tournaments while wearing the club’s lime-green and blue jersey.

Other teams are showing interest in e-sports -- FC Schalke, another German club, recently announced plans to create a "League of Legends" team -- and if more clubs follow Wolfsburg into the "FIFA" market, it could boost interest in the games while helping promote and financially sustain a crop of elite gamers, the way professional e-sports teams have done in other genres.

“It’s groundbreaking in the competitive gaming scene. All it takes is just for one more team to get involved, and then it’s a domino effect,” said Bytheway, who was in New York to provide livestream updates for online audiences. “The game is so relatable to football clubs, so it’s kind of strange it’s taken this long for something like this to happen.”

E-sports leagues and teams are watching the development of competitive sports gaming closely, too, said Levine, the Electronic Sports League America CEO. The rise of sports games like "FIFA" could open doors to an entirely new group of fans and players.

“Seeing the way different genres can broaden out the appeal of players to us is really interesting,” Levine said. “Maybe one of the big e-sports organizations... picks up a 'FIFA' player, and now you're cross-pollinating a fan. You see they're playing a 'League of Legends' match and you don't know anything about the game, but you know you like their 'FIFA' player, so you get into it.”

The biggest development, however, may be EA Sports’ major new investment in e-sports. In the next few months, the company plans to launch its own competitive gaming division, and while it won’t be solely focused on sports games, "FIFA" and the "Madden NFL" series are expected to be a part of its early efforts, based on EA's announcement of the new venture in December. In May, EA announced that it was launching another competitive tournament based around its "Ultimate Fighting Championship" game, with a grand finale to take place in Las Vegas this July.

Details of how much money EA has put into the e-sports market have been scarce since the December announcement, and the company would not comment for this story. But at the Interactive World Cup in March, FIFA marketing director Thierry Weil said his organization and EA have meetings planned for how to continue to grow "FIFA" and its marquee competitive tournament. “I'm convinced,” Weil said, “that today we have reached another stage of this game.”

Still, while top players in other games can earn millions, even the world’s best "FIFA" players barely scratch out enough to make a living.

Based on other companies’ investments, turning a title like "FIFA" into a major player in the competitive gaming world could cost as much as $10 million annually, said Peter Warman, the CEO of Newzoo, a European firm focused on market and data analysis of the gaming industry. It’s impossible to know whether EA will put that kind of weight behind "FIFA" or any other game, but Warman is “super-optimistic” about the company’s push into the e-sports world.

“That’s part of the success of any franchise,” Warman said. “Will they be one of the top five e-sports franchises globally with their sports? I doubt it. But I don't think they should have that ambition. They should have the ambition to provide full-on entertainment for the fans of their franchises.”

A plunge into e-sports, Warman said, could have huge benefits for EA. In the old days of sports gaming, developers focused primarily on initial sales -- that is, attracting an audience on the day of release. But gaming has changed and EA has evolved with it, building in features like "FIFA"'s “Ultimate Team” that allow players to spend money to enhance their gaming experience on a day-to-day basis. That’s made "FIFA" and other titles more adaptable to the e-sports model, Warman said. While he wouldn’t put a number on the financial potential, a full-on investment in competitive gaming could allow EA to tap into new revenue streams: the sale of media rights to companies like Fox, new sponsorships, outside investments and more players.

Games based on actual sports have a place in the e-sports market, Warman believes. But part of capturing new audiences, he and Levine both suggested, involves something that other e-sports and traditional sports alike have mastered: highlights. Sports are full of the types of moments -- diving catches, wonder goals, posterizing dunks -- that can be replayed and Vined over and over again. Games like "League of Legends," too, have marketed themselves through replays of thrilling, out-of-nowhere kills and skill moves that can be looped repeatedly.

“Traditional sports games don't have so many unique, explosive moments to share” on platforms like Twitch, a major e-sports streaming service, Warman said. “It's all about creating moments in the game that are shareable.”

In the last moments of the Interactive World Cup final, Al-Bacha delivered one.

With no more than 15 seconds left in the match, Al-Bacha's attacker sprinted past Allen's defenders.

Al-Bacha had gutted opponents all week with counterattacks and incisive through-balls that carved up his opponents' defense. So in retrospect, what seemed unbelievable when it happened in the fleeting moments of the final was almost inevitable. Al-Bacha pressed the yellow Y button at the top of his controller and slid a hard pass into the path of his attacker, who gathered it just off the penalty spot. The crowd gasped as Al-Bacha tapped the B button to shoot, then erupted when the shot sliced past Allen’s keeper into the back of the net.

Allen’s shoulders sagged. Al-Bacha sprinted toward the front of the stage and leaped into the waiting arms of half a dozen fans. Around the theater, emotions bounced from raucous excitement to stunned disbelief. Even an hour later, pockets of spectators stood around the lobby of the theater, unwilling to leave, still shaking their heads and chuckling at what they’d witnessed.

Al-Bacha's fellow competitors bounced him up and down in their arms so many times that his glasses fell to the floor. He wasn’t sure what to think.

“I don't think anything actually went through my mind,” Al-Bacha said. “I was like, ‘What the hell is going on? This is not realistic. What have I just done?’”

Lalas, the veteran of two World Cups, watched from Fox’s set in the back of the theater, his 7-year-old son clinging to his leg. On the way to the Apollo, his son had picked Al-Bacha to win the title. Over two decades ago, Lalas and his World Cup teammates had created the moments that helped a nation fall in love with his sport. He knew his son would never stop talking about the moment he’d just witnessed, either.

“Maybe there was somebody at home watching on Fox tonight that was a young kid, a 7-year-old kid,” Lalas said, gesturing down to his own son. “That game that he's playing, he sees Mohamad up there in that iconic victory pose, and says, 'Man, that is cool.'”

“How can you not be excited about something like that?”

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Donald Trump Only Uses The Word 'Rape' When He Has Something To Gain

Huffingon Post Politics - Tue, 2016-05-24 05:05

WASHINGTON -- Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump doesn't hesitate to use the word "rape" when talking about Mexican immigrants, the Chinese government or former President Bill Clinton -- all of whom it helps him politically to condemn.

But in other cases -- like when the person accused of sexual misconduct is a wealthy or powerful man who doesn't happen to be married to Hillary Clinton -- Trump is less enthusiastic about assigning blame. In fact, he's been known to promote misleading and damaging ideas about victims, which fits into his larger pattern of misogyny.

On Monday, Trump released an attack ad featuring audio clips of Juanita Broaddrick, a woman who in 1999 accused Bill Clinton of rape. Trump used the word "rape" in an interview with Fox News last week to describe Broaddrick's claims. He also tweeted last week that Clinton was "the WORST abuser of wom[e]n in U.S. political history." (Bill Clinton attended Trump's 2005 wedding to Melania Knauss, and Trump has praised the former president in the past, before Hillary Clinton became his biggest political opponent.)

In June 2015, Trump famously said that Mexico was sending "rapists" to the U.S. and proposed building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. He later tried to defend his comments by citing a Fusion story noting that 80 percent of Central American women and girls crossing into the United States are raped. When CNN's Don Lemon pointed out that the story was about victims, Trump replied: "Well, somebody's doing the raping, Don! I mean somebody's doing it! Who's doing the raping?"

In 1989, Trump helped lead the witch hunt against the so-called Central Park Five, a group of black and Hispanic teenagers in New York City who were wrongfully convicted of raping and assaulting a white female jogger that year. Before the boys had a trial, Trump reportedly paid $85,000 for newspaper ads calling to bring back the death penalty. He called out then-Mayor Ed Koch -- whom Trump had recently battled over real estate -- for wanting "hate and rancor removed from our hearts." Trump wrote, "I want to hate these muggers and murderers."

But there have been plenty of cases where Trump, whose campaign did not respond to a request for comment for this article, didn't advocate quite so forcefully for women.

In 2013, Trump tweeted a statistic about the high number of unreported sexual assaults in the military. He added, "What did these geniuses expect when they put men & women together?" -- seemingly suggesting that when women are in the same place as men, it's just inevitable that they'll be assaulted. In another tweet, he claimed that "the Generals and top military brass never wanted a mixer but were forced to do it by very dumb politicians who wanted to be politically C!"

In 2011, when comedian Jon Stewart skewered GOP presidential hopeful Herman Cain over sexual harassment allegations, Trump jumped to Cain's defense, calling Stewart's segment "very very racist."

And in 2014, Trump suggested that Bill Cosby, who has to date been accused of sexual misconduct by more than 50 women, needed to step up his public relations game.

"Well, I think it's very sad and frankly I don't think he's handling it well," Trump told E! News. "To have absolutely no comment, I think, he's getting very bad advice from a PR standpoint, and he should do it differently."

When asked in August 2015 whether he would like to see the Cosby investigations reopened, Trump dodged the question.

"I've never been a fan," he told The Hollywood Reporter of Cosby. "I had one bad experience with him. I was on Letterman and he was following me on the show. He said, 'Oh, I want to buy you a suit.' It was nice, he bought me a suit. And then he was on [the "Today" show], and my name was mentioned, and he went absolutely crazy. And I said, 'What the hell was that all about?'"

In 1992, Trump leaped to the defense of former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson, who had been convicted of raping an 18-year-old Miss Black America contestant. In stark contrast to how he would later treat Juanita Broaddrick's accusations against Clinton, Trump publicly cast doubt on Tyson's victim. He remarked that year that the woman "knocked on [Tyson's] door at 1 a.m. and was up and dancing at eight the next morning" -- implying that there is a "right" way for rape victims to act, and this woman didn't follow the rules.

While Tyson was awaiting sentencing for that conviction, Trump also argued that instead of serving time in prison, the boxer should be allowed to participate in an upcoming fight and donate proceeds to the teenager and other "rape and abuse" victims. 

"What has happened to him, the conviction, is already punitive," Trump said, according to the Associated Press. "The victim has had the satisfaction of humbling him and being vindicated."

As Mother Jones reported, Trump, who had advised Tyson in the past, stood to gain financially if the fight was hosted at one of his casinos. 

A reporter asked Trump whether he would also encourage a victim to accept cash from a rapist if that victim was his sister.

"I think," Trump replied, "every individual situation is different." 

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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Trump's America Wouldn't Have Welcomed This Muslim Military Hero

Huffingon Post Politics - Tue, 2016-05-24 05:03

Nearly 6,000 members of the U.S. military self-identify as Muslim, according to the Pentagon. Their next commander-in-chief could be a man who has called for a blanket ban on all people of their faith from entering the U.S.

Here, in his own words, is the story of how one immigrant -- who happens to be Muslim -- joined the U.S. Army, fought overseas, became a citizen, won a Bronze Star, and is now worried about the possibility of raising his children in a country where Donald Trump is president.  

Hanif Sangi and his wife Kanwal live in Elliott City, Maryland, with their three children. Sangi works for the federal government as an engineer.

I came to the United States in 1999 from Pakistan and my first thought was, “How can I serve this great country?” In 2000, as many migrants to this country have done, I joined the United States military. I served in the U.S Army’s 1st Cavalry Division and in the Army’s elite Special Forces.

When I was deployed into harm’s way and my family remained stateside, I was diligent to honor the flag and American values, to preserve our way of life and our constitutional freedoms. America’s enemies were my enemies, and still are.

My jihad (struggle) was to stand up for my faith and the citizens of this great nation.
I am personally offended by those who attempt to further their personal or political agenda by mischaracterizing my religion.

My name is Hanif Sangi, and I am an American, an immigrant, a Muslim, a U.S Army veteran who served in combat, and a recipient of the Bronze Star for heroism.

'The best decision I ever made.'

Pakistan is a different society. You need to know somebody to get a job. There's a lot of corruption going on. When I graduated from the prestigious Mehran University of Engineering and Technology in Jamshoro, I had a very hard time finding a job. And I was poor. My father was poor. We didn't know anybody and we had no money. I decided I needed to go. I needed to leave this country.

We didn't have cell phones or Internet then, but I was looking at a newspaper and it said that the U.S. green card lottery was the best option.

So I was just having tea together with college friends one day, and I received big packet in mail from the national visa center in D.C. I had never received such a big package before, so I knew it was something that should be exciting. It had a green letter inside.

I started screaming! It said, “Congratulations! You have been randomly selected for the visa lottery” out of millions of people. That was a big big deal for me. I still have that copy in my file, the original envelope and everything.

Coming to the U.S. was the best decision I ever made.

I had never gone anywhere outside of Pakistan. It was my first time here. I arrived in New York and had a connecting flight to LA. Of course it was a new land, a new country, a new language. I'd never had any interaction with Americans except for the visa interview at the embassy. It was a moment of excitement, coming to the land of opportunity. I was very happy, very excited to be here.

There were many opportunities here from Pakistani businessmen offering me the chance to be a manager at one of their stores -- but money wasn’t my priority. I needed to serve this country in any capacity I could. I needed to learn the language and integrate into society. That was my first priority. I went online to the army website.

In the army, was given time to go to Friday prayers in boot camp. I was given a meal in the middle of the night and exempted from physical fitness training during Ramadan when I was fasting. I never thought that would happen in the army. I have been blessed, yes.

I was trusted in the military. That's not gonna happen anywhere in world, I believe. I had a Pakistani passport but I was responsible for all the weapons in my unit. To be Pakistani and have someone trust you with this kind of thing, I believe no other country will trust you or give you the opportunity.

I was at Fort Hood in Texas on Sept. 11. We had morning formation every morning. We were driving to that, as part of duty, and listening to the radio. Then throughout the day, everyone was in shock. We were watching TV all day, looking at these horrible pictures all day.

Because of my cultural knowledge, I reached out to the special forces and offered my services.  

I was a regional expert for South Asia. I trained special forces about the culture, about the religion, about the language in Afghanistan and Pakistan. I worked at the U.S. embassy in Islamabad. I assisted the Pakistani military. I served in Afghanistan with the United States Army’s Special Operations Command, completed two short tours. I was involved in multiple operations where we faced the enemy.

I’m not allowed to go into all the details of why I received the Bronze Star for heroism. It was for a special ops detail, a supporting task force, and part of the global war on terrorism team. It was a combat role.

I got my citizenship in 2003 while in the military. A judge held the ceremony in court in San Antonio, Texas. That was a great moment, a very exciting moment. That was the biggest reward for my family. I was looking to sponsor my parents for a green card so they could come and see me and my family. I couldn't do that as a green card holder, but I could as a U.S. citizen.

I was invited by the White House to President Barack Obama's first visit to a mosque this February. It was great. We wanted to hear from him. He specifically told everyone, "You are American and Muslim." Saying that on national media and global media -- that the Islamic State and Muslims are not the same -- was a big moment for us.

'Has Mr. Trump put his life in danger to serve this country?'

My parents now come here often. They stay with us, and stay with the kids while we’re at work. When you have Trump telling people, "We will block all Muslims from entering the U.S.," it would mean I cannot see my dad, I cannot see my mom, even though I served in the military, fought in wars, have a Bronze Star, and now work for the federal government. But I would be unable to meet with my parents because they are Muslim?

We can't turn on Fox News or our kids will freak out. My son Aariz asked me, "Daddy, Trump just won Florida. He's getting closer to winning the nomination and chances are increasing for him to be president. He'll build a wall and kick us out. What are we gonna do?" I really had no words to reply to him. He may be right. I tell him, “Nothing is going to happen to you.”

We go to the local halal market for groceries and spices and other things. A few weeks ago, somebody vandalized the halal market in Columbia, Maryland, ran a truck into the door at night. So my kids not only hear about Trump, but they also see this kind of thing.

I want to ask Trump: Have you or your children ever done something to serve this country? Done something so our American people can sleep at night? Have you done anything? Have you gone overseas? Name one contribution that you’ve done except making money for yourself. Have you done anything for the American people you can be proud of? All they have done is gone after the money, and built the buildings. Has Mr. Trump put his life in danger to serve this country? 

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity. 

Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liarrampant 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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An Open Letter to Donald Trump: Release Your Tax Returns to the Public

Huffingon Post Politics - Tue, 2016-05-24 00:47
It is critical that candidates for the highest office in the land release their income tax returns for multiple years, especially you Mr. Trump. After all, you are running for president based on your wealth and business ability. And every other presidential candidate has done so for the past 40 years.

Instead, you're hiding behind the phony excuse that you can't release any returns until the IRS finishes auditing them, which might not be until after Election Day. The IRS has repeatedly stated that taxpayers can release whatever information they want about their own returns, whenever they want. (Of course, the very fact that, by your own complaint, you're audited every year raises important questions about whether you are a tax dodger.) Nothing prevents you from releasing your tax returns prior to 2009, which have been cleared by previous IRS audits.

You said Mitt Romney should release his tax returns when he ran for president in 2012. Now is not the time to be hypocritical. And, by a two-to-one margin, the American public wants to see your tax returns, according to recent polls by The Washington Post/ABC News and The New York Times/CBS News.

What exactly are you afraid the American people will learn about you and your business dealings if you release your tax returns? Could it be:

You're not paying any federal income taxes? Real estate tycoons like you have myriad ways to zero out your tax bills. You can borrow money against your hotels and apartment buildings and live off those loans, which are not taxed. You can take hefty tax deductions by claiming your buildings are depreciating in value, even as their value keeps going up and up. You can even swap a piece of real estate you want to sell for a new one, thereby deferring capital gains taxes indefinitely. Are you living tax free like you did for at least two years in the late 1970s, Mr. Trump? Are you forcing the rest of us to pick up your tab?

You're paying rock bottom tax rates by exploiting One Percent tax loopholes? Rich people like you often pay lower tax rates than working people. That's because we tax wealth less than we tax work. Money made from Wall Street investments and real estate--capital gains and dividends--that mostly benefit those at the top is taxed at as little as half the rate that money made from work is taxed. Your fellow billionaire Warren Buffett has lamented that he pays a lower tax rate than his secretary. Mitt Romney, a private equity multimillionaire, paid a 14% tax rate the year before he ran for president. That's about half what a lot of teachers and electricians pay. How little are you paying, Mr. Trump?

You're not as rich as you claim? Income tax returns don't list assets, but from the kind and amount of income you receive from those assets, a pretty good estimate can be made of just how rich you really are. Outside experts have already determined from your earlier financial disclosures that you've greatly exaggerated your wealth. Would your tax returns prove you were even a bigger fibber?

You've got shady business dealings? The Panama Papers have revealed just how much the rich and powerful use offshore shell companies and other accounting tricks to hide what they're doing with their money. You own 240 limited liability companies (LLC's), which operate your real estate holdings and other businesses. Are any of those registered offshore? What about the income you generate from properties offshore and the licensing of your name overseas. There is even speculation that your name may be trademarked and owned by an offshore shell company located in a tax haven, which could license its use in order to dodge paying U.S. taxes. Do you use these or other offshore tax loopholes to obscure your business dealings? If so, how much do they cut your taxes?

You're a cheapskate when it comes to charity? Your tax returns would tell us just how much of your wealth you've given away recently, and to what causes. For instance, you claim to have given away $102 million to charities over the last five years, but an analysis found that not a dime of that money was contributed by you personally. You also claim to be a big funder of veterans' groups--your returns would back that claim up if true. It's easy to talk big about supporting veterans and others that need our help. Are you as generous with your money as you are with your words?

How much would you save in taxes from your tax plan? It is estimated that your tax plan will cut the taxes owed by the top 0.1 percent by an average of $1.3 million in 2017, and by $275,000 for the top 1 percent. The corporate tax rate will plummet from 35% to 15%. Your tax returns will give us a very good idea of how much you will benefit, Mr. Trump.

So, what do you have to hide, Mr. Trump? We deserve to know.

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Will Political Winds Favor the Libertarians?

Huffingon Post Politics - Mon, 2016-05-23 23:16
The one common thread is this presidential election is how much voters dislike the presumptive candidates of our political duopoly. The reality is -- voters want more choices.

Sadly, one area where Republicans and Democrats are most willing to cooperate is stopping third party efforts with rules and regulations meant to protect the duopoly. One such reform in California now means many areas are effectively one-party states. For instance, my choice for Congress was limited to Republican A or Republican B. No other option allowed.

The big parties rig the system to do as much harm to third party options as possible.

When Republicans were losing their breakfast over Trump's likely nomination they discussed a third party option. But, the laws they helped push through made it virtually impossible. There are so many hurdles and barriers to entry, political competition is effectively illegal.

Libertarians are the only third party in position to secure ballot status in all 50 states, which often means spending their limited resources to secure ballot status, leaving little for a campaign.

Over the years Democrats and Republicans faced third party efforts and learned how to use their law-making ability to cripple third parties before they start.

In spite of the crippling efforts, Libertarians have suddenly found themselves in an enviable position. Not only do they look likely to have ballot status in all states, but also have two declared candidates who are credible, experienced and newsworthy -- Governors Gary Johnson and William Weld.

More enviable is these two candidates -- and only these two -- are politically positioned toward the middle-of-the-road voter. Over and over polls have shown most voters are fiscally conservative but socially liberal. This is most true of the largest block of voters: independent voters.

But, the duopoly refuses to offer voters that ideological combination. Republicans insist candidates support free markets -- but not too free -- and social intolerance. Democrats don't want to regulate the bedroom, but want heavily politicized markets, which reduce competition and protect special interest groups.

Only Governors Johnson and Weld have consistently represented the middle ground. Both were fiscal conservatives elected as Republicans who refused to kowtow to the Religious Right. They supported a woman's right to choose and same-sex marriage. This combination of fiscal responsibility and tolerance won them office in their respective states -- New Mexico and Massachusetts -- in spite of each being Democratic strongholds.

In 2007, Southern Baptist theologian R. Albert Mohler, Jr., complained America was a "post-Christian" nation. Jon Meacham, at Newsweek, asked what common set of values held America together as a society, if not religion. His answer:

If we apply an Augustinian test of nationhood to ourselves, we find that liberty, not religion, is what holds us together. In The City of God " Augustine -- converted sinner and bishop of Hippo -- said that a nation should be defined as "a multitude of rational beings in common agreement as to the objects of their love." What we value most highly -- what we collectively love most -- is thus the central test of the social contract.

Judging from the broad shape of American life in the first decade of the 21st century, we value individual freedom and free (or largely free) enterprise, and tend to lean toward libertarianism on issues of personal morality.

Meacham put his finger on the main issue -- liberty, not religion, holds America together. That's why the Religious Right lost their crusade against marriage equality, and why they'll eventually lose the entire "culture war" they started. They demand religious-based laws, which reduce the liberty of others. As much as it would annoy them to know it, they proposed a strongly anti-American position and will be beaten because of it

Molly Worthen correctly noted in the New York Times, America's political shift is not toward liberalism, but toward secular libertarianism. She isn't particularly happy our "homegrown libertarian ideology" allows people freedoms she'd prefer they didn't have -- something conservatives lament as well, though on different issues.

Worthen said the Supreme Court decision on marriage equality "signals that secular libertarianism is on the ascent while its Christian cousin is in retreat."

keen to engage in censorship, think immigration reform is needed to make it easier for immigrants, aren't keen to ban abortion, don't want higher taxes, worry about over-regulation, and are skeptical of foreign interventionism. Gallup's Governance Survey found 27% think government too big and shouldn't interfere with business so much, but also say government shouldn't be promoting "traditional morality" either; in other words, they're fiscally conservative and socially liberal. No other political ideology polled higher.

America is ready for a real third party. It may not be the Libertarian Party -- which also has to battle it's own ideologues within the party -- but if one does come into existence it will have to embrace the middle ground of social liberalism and fiscal conservatism.

However, this year, and in this election, the political winds are being kind to Gary Johnson and William Weld, provided the Libertarians have the sense to realize it at their nominating convention

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Bernie Sanders on the Real Reason Hillary Clinton Backed out of the California Debate

Huffingon Post Politics - Mon, 2016-05-23 22:54
Earlier today, Hillary Clinton backed out of a scheduled debate in California with Bernie Sanders. In his first sit down interview since learning the news, Sanders explains the "obvious" reasons she cancelled.

For my full conversation with Sen. Sanders, be sure to tune in tomorrow night to Tavis Smiley on PBS. Check our website for your local TV listings: www.pbs.org/tavis.

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On Welfare Reform, Moynihan Was Right

Huffingon Post Politics - Mon, 2016-05-23 21:56
Twenty years ago, to acclamation in some quarters and disdain in others, Daniel Patrick Moynihan predicted devastation would trail in the wake of welfare reform, especially for children, whom he anticipated would be "put to the sword" and collected "sleeping on grates." Sometimes decades are required to prove visionaries right.

While I was writing a book on Moynihan's political thought, even admirers of the late statesman often asked: "What are you going to do with welfare reform?" The implication was a widespread assumption that the prophet who had called so many future events correctly had missed his mark on this one. The correct answer: With respect to the worst poverty, Moynihan was right.

Welfare reform appears to have made several salutary gains, many of which would have pleased Moynihan, including some that might have surprised him. But when it comes to the most vulnerable, about whom Moynihan was most concerned, time is tragically revealing his foresight. They have been left without a lifeline in a society saturated with plenty.

As Kathryn J. Edin and H. Luke Shaefer show in their landmark $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America, an astonishing number of Americans, including 1.5 million households with some 3 million children, live in poverty that, even accounting for the broad array of programs from housing to nutrition assistance, leave them struggling to survive on cash incomes of no more than $2 a day.

Edin and Shaefer note that if Moynihan erred, it was in supposing that the poverty left by welfare reform would be visible: the kind that left children on grates that passers-by would see. Yet in a recent spate of newspaper stories about the collapse of the safety net for the poorest of the poor, these Americans are beginning to emerge from the shadows.

Robert Pear of The New York Times reports that the maximum benefit for a family of three with no other income is $278 a month in Arizona. Benefit cuts and inflation have "reduced the buying power of the maximum benefit by about half" since welfare reform was enacted.

States have also outdone the federal lifetime limit of five years for cumulative welfare receipts. In Arizona, it is now one year, a harsh cutoff that begins July 1 to consequences unknown, except the likelihood and, one suspects, the intent, of driving the impoverished from Arizona. In Massachusetts, 10,000 people lost nutrition assistance this year that was only worth $4.40 a day to start with. In some states, infantilizing requirements are micromanaging what recipients can buy with the paltry benefits that remain.

All told, up to a million people, The Washington Post notes, will lose their food stamps this year as a work requirement that was suspended during the Great Recession is reinstated. The requirement is to work 20 hours a week. Yet steady and, crucially, predictable hourly work is not a reliable feature of today's economy. "Roughly 4 in 10 workers who are paid hourly," The Post reports, "are informed of their schedules less than a week in advance." They spend months finding jobs--an average of more than six.

As the scholar Scott Winship shows in an excellent symposium on the anniversary of welfare reform at the Online Library of Law and Liberty, the 1996 law does seem to be the variable responsible for drops in poverty, including among children, in the 1990s--which exceeded the drops in poverty in other economic expansions.

Yet a problem persists at rock bottom, where several million children live. And it is there that Moynihan can be said to have been right.

Is that a case against the law? That is a question we need not answer. Retrospection allows us to reap its benefits and fix its flaws. The best, and most Moynihanian, disposition toward the bill today might be neither to refight the battles of 1996, nor to debate who got what right, but rather to ask what problems persist that require solutions today. The moral challenge is clearly the relentless and--the word is unavoidable--wretched poverty in the unseen trenches of American society.

Yuval Levin makes a thoughtful and perceptive case that mere cash benefits, especially at the national level, encourage a distant and faceless relationship between individual and state. His counsel, consistent with Moynihan's major welfare reform in 1988 and with Moynihan's tireless emphasis on restoring the institutions of family and community, is robust local experimentation and variation that fosters human connection.

This, Levin notes, would match the spirit of the American regime and the nature of contemporary society. It should come with a guarantee society can afford: that whatever the nature of the variation--and there is no reason such a prescription cannot include cash benefits without being reduced to them--the level of authority at which it occurs must guarantee an adequate level of subsistence, especially for children.

The case for this to be nationally set is to avoid the race to the bottom that may be occurring between states, which have an incentive to cut benefits to avoid attracting beneficiaries. The political parties may debate its generosity--it is worth noting that setting it gratuitously low as an instrument of provocation does not seem to have succeeded as social policy--but a minimum should be enforced.

All should proceed with open eyes: Setting a minimum invokes moral hazards and almost certainly entails subsidizing bad behavior for some. That is the cost of a moral commitment to all, especially to children. The moral position is that there is a level of poverty a wealthy society simply will not permit no matter how blamable its causes and no matter what hazards ensue from that commitment.

Moynihan, it is worth recalling, was a lifelong welfare reformer deeply concerned about the problem of dependency. His concern was that the 1996 law repealed rather than reformed the safety net, leaving nothing in place for the families and especially the children who faced the worst.

Any policy to restore that safety net ought to be guided by the principle of empowerment rather than punishment. Senator J. Robert Kerrey, for whom I had the privilege to work, used to say he never met anyone who went out and got poor because the benefits were so good. The causes of poverty are manifold and mysterious, but insufficient misery is not among them.

Most important, even to the extent one may believe punitive measures are warranted against adults, children are never their just targets. Thus Moynihan in Senate debate on the bill 20 years ago: First precept: Our overriding goal ought to be to save the children. Other goals--reducing the cost of welfare, discouraging illegitimacy, and preventing long-term welfare dependency--are all worthy. But they should be secondary to the goal of improving the life prospects of the next generation.

In this most of all, Moynihan was right. Once again, we ought to listen.

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Democratic Party Gives Bernie Sanders Bigger Role In Shaping Its Platform

Huffingon Post Politics - Mon, 2016-05-23 21:16

WASHINGTON -- In a move meant to cool down tensions between his campaign and the Democratic establishment, the Democratic Party will give Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) a greater role to play in establishing its platform at this summer's Democratic National Convention.

Under an agreement the party reached with Sanders and opponent Hillary Clinton, Sanders can select five people to serve on the party's platform committee, a third of the committee's members. Clinton will name six members, and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.), the party chair, will name four, according to the Washington Post.

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Typically, the chair names all 15 members to the committee, which sets the party's agenda and guiding principles at the convention in July. This year's change is a concession to the Sanders campaign, which has accused the party of rigging the nominating rules against him and is concerned the party will ignore Sanders' progressive policy proposals with Clinton as the nominee.

Though Clinton leads Sanders in the delegate count and is expected to clinch the nomination when the primaries wrap up next month, the Vermont senator and his supporters hope his influence on the party will continue and he'll bring the progressive movement he has built to the general election. 

"We believe that we will have the representation on the platform drafting committee to create a Democratic platform that reflects the views of millions of our supporters who want the party to address the needs of working families in this country and not just Wall Street, the drug companies, the fossil fuel industry and other powerful special interests," Sanders said in a statement.

Among the five members Sanders is expected to name to the committee are environmental activist Bill McKibben; Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus; and James Zogby, a DNC member and pro-Palestine activist.

Democratic leaders want to ensure that Sanders can unite his supporters around the party's general election efforts, as tensions between the party and the Sanders campaign have boiled over in recent weeks.

Earlier this month, Sanders supporters attacked Democratic leaders in Nevada over the party's delegate procedures. On Saturday, Sanders announced his endorsement of Wasserman Schultz's progressive challenger, Tim Canova. And some supporters have said they will not back Clinton as the nominee, creating a larger gulf between his campaign and the party, and potentially jeopardizing Democrats' chances at winning the White House in November.

Sanders has vowed to stay in the race through the convention in July and is campaigning heavily in California ahead of its primary on June 7. Despite some Democrats calling his decision to keep up his fight a "scorched earth" approach, Clinton on Sunday said that he has the right to continue his campaign.

“Senator Sanders has every right to finish off his campaign however he chooses,” she said.

Sanders acknowledged that his chances at the nomination are slim, but reiterated on Sunday that he hopes to make his mark on the party's platform. He argued that Clinton will "have her problems" if she doesn't make concessions to the progressive movement.

"I don’t want to see the American people voting for the lesser of two evils," Sanders told ABC. "I want the American people to be voting for a vision of economic justice, of social justice, of environmental justice, of racial justice."

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TSA Security Head Fired Over Long Lines

Huffingon Post Politics - Mon, 2016-05-23 21:12

WASHINGTON, May 23 (Reuters) - The head of security for the U.S. Transportation Security Administration has been removed from his position, according to an internal TSA memo on Monday seen by Reuters, after the agency was criticized for long lines at airport security checkpoints.

Kelly Hoggan, who had served as TSA assistant administrator for security operations since May 2013, was replaced by his deputy, Darby LaJoye, who will serve on an acting basis, according to the memo from agency head Peter Neffenger.

Long security lines at U.S. airports this spring have frustrated travelers and caused thousands of passengers to miss flights. TSA has blamed the problem on a lack of security screeners and an increase in passenger volumes.

Hoggan came under fire at a U.S. House Oversight Committee hearing on May 12 for receiving over $90,000 in bonuses and awards over a 13-month period in 2013-14.

Earlier this month, TSA said it would add screeners at the country's busiest airports.

About 231 million passengers will fly on U.S. airlines from June through August, up 4 percent from the same period last year, according to trade group Airlines for America.

In the memo, Neffenger said TSA is doing a better job of moving passengers through security at Chicago's O'Hare Airport after particularly long lines at the nation's second-busiest airport made national news several weeks ago.

He also said TSA has established a National Incident Command Center at agency headquarters in Washington to track daily screening operations nationwide and shift resources in advance of higher predicted passenger volumes.

A TSA spokesman said the agency does not comment on personnel matters. (Reporting by Eric Beech; Editing by Eric Walsh)

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Huffingon Post Politics - Mon, 2016-05-23 20:04

There's a question on the minds of many Democratic Party leaders right now, which might be phrased: Will there be PUMAs? Or, to update it a bit: Will there be BOBs? Or maybe even PUMA BOBs? Perhaps you'll hear, at the convention: "I'm Bob Puma, glad to meet you"?

Cheap acronymic humor aside, the question is an important one. PUMAs, for those who have forgotten the 2008 Democratic primary race, were the supposedly-numerous Hillary Clinton supporters who refused to back Barack Obama (due to slights perceived during the hard-fought primary, as well as ideological differences), and were instead going to defect en masse and vote for John McCain. The name stood for "Party Unity My Ass!" which was also their rallying cry. This year, they may be replaced by the "Bernie Or Bust!" crowd, or (to coin a neologism) the BOBs.

But before we got to the BOBs, a quick historical review of the PUMAs is necessary. The entire "Party Unity My Ass!" movement (if it can even be called that, in retrospect) was the result of two things which turned out to not actually be representational of how the party's base was feeling. The first was the viciousness of the online flamewar between supporters of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Exactly eight years ago, reading the comments section on any article or blog post about the state of the Democratic race was like watching a to-the-death gladiator battle. No holds were barred, no scathing insult deemed too extreme. From both sides, I hasten to mention (lest I be called biased). The personalities of Barack and Hillary were being savaged online, on a daily basis. This might sound familiar to anyone watching the Bernie-versus-Hillary flamewars online today. But while it's hard to accurately measure such things, it certainly seemed a lot more personal and vicious back then (at least, to me -- I certainly don't read every article's comments section, though).

So you had loud voices screaming at each other online. Due to the loudness and nastiness, some in the media started a narrative that the Democratic Party was split beyond repair. The convention, they all confidently predicted, would be contentious and possibly even violent. The spectre of 1968 was trotted out. For weeks before the convention, the media fanned these flames vigorously. I reached a different conclusion, however:

But personally, I think the entire PUMA ("Party Unity My Ass") effect is going to be about as effective as the Yippies were in nominating Pigasus (an actual pig) to the 1968 Democratic ticket. Which is to say, not very. And I think the demonstrations outside [the convention] are going to be similarly ineffective.

By the time the convention got underway, the narrative had reached ridiculous proportions in the media coverage. This led me to write a little parody of their "reporting," which I prefaced with: "You have to read this with an Australian accent, of course," but which I really should have led into with: "Imagine Eric Cartman saying this in his atrocious 'Crocodile Hunter' Australian accent."

"Crikey! We're on the hunt for the elusive PUMA, here on the streets of Den-vah. The PUMA is a wily beast and has so far evaded every attempt we've had to corner her. We asked hundreds and hundreds of women delegates inside the convention hall, and absolutely none of them would rant and rave in full PUMA fashion before our cameras. By crikey, we've heard stories that say the PUMA is a mythological animal, and even though we haven't found one yet, we're still out here looking..."

The only one to ever actually find any of the elusive PUMAs seemed to be Chris Matthews, who apparently got the "scoop" interview with some ranting Hillary supporters. That was pretty much it, for actual PUMAs (versus the perceived power of the PUMAs by the media). After Clinton gave a truly rousing speech at the convention in support of Obama, I noticed that someone in the media had gotten it right (but, sadly for historical review reasons, I failed to note exactly who it was):

For the first two days, the media kept beating the "Hillary people are going to show a divided party" drum, and it never happened. What was the overwhelming image out of the convention so far? Party unity.... I had to give credit to one talking head (I forget who it was, it may have been Bob Schieffer on CBS) who, obviously speaking without a script, said immediately after Hillary's speech something along the lines of: "Well, we've all be telling the story of how divided the Democrats are, but we were wrong. They are united." I didn't write down the exact words, but to me it was a stunning admission of journalistic failure -- for almost everyone in the media. They really, really wanted a fight. They didn't get one. Too bad. One would like to hope that now their media narrative will pivot on a dime into "It's astonishing how united the Democratic Party has become," but (as always when expecting things from the media) I'm not going to hold my breath or anything.

PUMAs, for all their online ranting, failed to materialize at the convention. I point this out as a cautionary tale for the mainstream media at large, because I think they'll all be tempted to try another crack at this storyline this year. Of course, that doesn't mean that the BOBs might not become a whole lot more real than the PUMAs ever were. Which brings us back to the present.

Losing candidates in a very close race always have a certain degree of fervency among some of their followers. That much is pretty conventional. But Bernie Sanders has run anything but a conventional campaign, and his supporters are not exactly a conventional slice of the Democratic base.

Bernie, in his own words, is trying to lead a "political revolution." So far, he has succeeded in revolutionizing Democratic Party politics. Others have tried to yank the party back to where it was under F.D.R., but none have had anywhere near the success that Bernie's seen. Democrats tacked heavily towards the center in the 1990s, when Bill Clinton remade the party with a very different ideology than had been traditional for Democrats. It would become a more business-friendly and law-and-order party than it had been in the previous few decades. Hillary Clinton has been caught in a bind during the 2016 campaign, because she originally wanted to run on not just continuing (and improving on) Obama's agenda, but also doing the same for her husband's agenda. Nostalgic talk of how things were pretty darn good under President Bill were supposed to be a strong point on the campaign trail.

Bernie forced a major reconsideration of this strategy, of course. Bernie talks about "The People" in just about every sentence, and stands for fighting for Main Street concerns like income inequality and criminal justice reform. By championing such issues as fighting trade agreements and raising the minimum wage (to $15 an hour) and tuition-free public college for all, Bernie forced Hillary to, essentially, reject some of her and her husband's political legacies. By doing so, Bernie drove a lot of the primary agenda in the Democratic race. He showed leadership within the party, and millions of people reacted very favorably to the agenda Bernie laid out. Hillary famously put "17 million cracks in the glass ceiling" for women, but Bernie has likewise put millions of cracks in the old Democratic Leadership Council's version of what the Democratic Party's agenda should be.

If Bernie Sanders loses the nomination to Hillary Clinton (which is now almost a mathematical certainty), what will his supporters do? This is the big question everyone in the political media world is now about to contemplate, for roughly the next two months. There has been (much like in 2008) a contingent of Sanders supporters online who have quite vocally vowed never to support Clinton. They swear they'll either: (a) write in Bernie's name in November, (b) vote for Donald Trump, or (c) just stay home and grumble. The slogan this time around is "Bernie Or Bust!"

But how many of them will still feel that way in November? That is really the more important question than how many Bernie supporters feel that way now. Time is a great healer of wounds, and Donald Trump is not exactly John McCain.

Three things are really going to have to happen, if the BOB movement is to be defused. The first is that Hillary Clinton is going to have to be as magnanimous in victory as Barack Obama was, back in 2008. Back then, Clinton didn't even concede the race on the last primary day. It took four whole days and a private face-to-face meeting with Obama before Clinton would even concede she had lost the race to him. But Obama didn't hold it against her, and went on to be as inclusive as possible at the Democratic National Convention. Hillary got most of the convention concessions she wanted, and in the end she personally (from the floor of the convention) cast the New York state delegate votes that put Obama over the top in the official nomination roll call, in one of the most brilliantly staged bits of political theater I've ever witnessed. Obama showed Hillary the respect her 17 million votes demanded, and Hillary turned right back around and gave Obama the same level of respect. That level of civility must be the goal of both the Clinton and the Sanders camps this year.

The second thing that has to happen is Clinton is going to have to let Sanders make major changes to the official party platform document. Bernie's millions of votes demand that the party rethink its core partisan agenda. The party simply has to chart a new direction for the future, period. By doing so, it could become a lot more appealing to the hordes of young voters Bernie Sanders has so excited this time around. Even if Hillary Clinton becomes president and serves two terms, the Democratic Party as a whole needs to reach out in a big way to the youth vote, because they are indeed the party's own future. Sooner or later there will be another open presidential election on the Democratic side, and the party would do well to position itself for that eventuality by beginning to address some of the problems Bernie Sanders has been pointing out. Changing the party platform document has no real tangible consequences for the nominee (few people read the platform, and the nominee is not bound by it), but at the same time the platform has always served as an aspirational document for the future of the party. As such, who better to make changes than the man who has inspired so many young voters this time around?

The third and final thing that absolutely has to happen to make the BOBs just as irrelevant as the PUMAs has to come from Sanders himself. Bernie has to have the speech of his life ready to go on the night of June 7, when the final states hold their primaries (Washington D.C. Democrats will still not have voted, but it won't matter one way or the other). He has led his revolutionary forces farther than any other populist Democrat has managed in decades. They could almost taste the victory, but in the end they're going to be denied. I say this as a person who will be casting his vote for Bernie in California two weeks from now, I should mention. But even if he wins here -- even if he sweeps all six states that night, in fact -- Bernie Sanders is not going to be the Democratic nominee. Hillary Clinton will go over the top in the delegate count, no matter which final states Bernie picks up. So Bernie's got to begin the process of letting his own supporters down gently. A lot of them are going to be outright disgusted that Bernie could rally behind Hillary after such a hard-fought campaign. That disgust is going to become quite public, almost immediately. But Bernie still has to give a speech which clearly explains to his own base that denying Donald Trump the presidency is indeed reason enough to support the Democratic Party's nominee.

Sanders will have to make this case repeatedly, over a period of weeks. Once the initial acute disappointment of his supporters wears off a bit, maybe he'll be persuasive. If Clinton is seen as giving Bernie due deference at the convention, this will help ease the tensions between the two in a big way. My guess (on nothing but gut feeling, I'll freely admit) is that Bernie will be largely successful at convincing his supporters to back Clinton in November. All along, his campaign hasn't been personality-driven, it has been driven by the power of ideas. Fighting to get the Democratic Party to fully back those ideas is still a worthwhile fight, even if you believe that Hillary Clinton doesn't agree with a large part of Bernie's agenda. Turning the party sharply away from the old Democratic Leadership Council agenda and starting to refocus on the needs of working men and women and families is a change worth making. Bernie has spent much of the primary season attempting (and succeeding, in many cases) to change Hillary Clinton's position on some of these key issues. He can still be effective at doing so after she becomes the nominee -- or, at least, that's the case he'll have to make to his supporters.

I think this is going to be a convincing argument, in the end. There may be a Bernie Or Bust faction that has an influence both at the convention and in November, but at this point I think the BOB faction will be a lot smaller than expected (or hyped) by the media.


Chris Weigant blogs at:

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Should Leaders Focus On Results or People?

Huffingon Post Politics - Mon, 2016-05-23 20:02

People often debate what makes a better leader: the no-nonsense, results-focused type or the motivational, people-focused type. New research has provided the answer -- neither.

James Zenger surveyed over 60,000 employees to see which leadership characteristics made leaders "great" in the eyes of their employees. Two of the characteristics that Zenger looked at were "results-focus" and "people-focus," and he found that neither characteristic consistently produced great leadership.

Leaders who primarily focused on results were seen as great just 14% of the time, and leaders who primarily focused on people were seen as great only 12% of the time.

However, leaders who were able to balance their approach and focus equally on results and people were seen as great a whopping 72% of the time. In other words, results-focus and people-focus are weak predictors of great leadership on their own. It's the potent combination of the two that consistently makes leaders great.
"If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader." - John Quincy Adams
Leaders who can focus equally on results and people motivate people to be their best, without losing sight of the bigger picture. This balance enables them to achieve extraordinary results, because they do five things that few other leaders are able to accomplish.

They deliver feedback flawlessly. It takes a tactful leader to deliver feedback that is accurate and objective but also considerate and inspirational. Leaders who are balanced know how to take into account the feelings and perspectives of their employees while still delivering the message they need to hear in order to improve.

They put the right team of people together to execute a plan. Putting together a good plan of attack can require a heavy-handed focus on results. You have to foresee obstacles, find the right approach, and then make certain you have the right people to make it happen. There are a lot of good leaders out there who are capable of putting together a perfect plan. However, it takes a great leader to actually pull a motivated team of people together who are capable of executing that plan and interested in doing so. Leaders capable of blending a people-focus into their results-oriented plans select the ideal people and know their strengths and weaknesses and how these can be made to work together.

They solve problems as a team.
Poorly structured meetings stifle creativity and hinder teams from reaching good solutions. Often this is because people either yield to the most outspoken member of the team, are afraid to share their opinions, or don't know how to effectively critique others' ideas. When results-focused leaders bring a people-focused mentality to the table, they create the right environment for new ideas to thrive. These leaders are able to draw out as many good ideas from their team as possible while prudently steering a process that creates workable solutions.

They hire the best employees.
The foundation of any good company is a great hiring system. Effective hiring leads to high levels of performance, a strong workplace culture, and a high retention rate. We've all seen new hires who are brilliant but a horrible fit socially. Likewise, we've all experienced the new hire who fits in socially and makes friends but who doesn't produce quality work. Great leaders know how to find employees who both do their jobs effectively and are good social and cultural fits. This kind of hire builds morale and improves your bottom line.

They balance work and fun. There are plenty of bosses out there who know how to have fun. Unfortunately, this is often at the expense of results. And for every boss out there who has a bit too much fun, there's one who doesn't know how to have any fun at all. It takes a balanced leader to know how to motivate and push employees to be their best but to also have the wherewithal to slow it down at the appropriate time in order to celebrate results and have fun. This balance prevents burnout, builds a great culture, and gets results.

Bringing It All Together

Leadership, like most things in life, requires balance. You can't succeed without focusing on your people, and they won't succeed unless you're focused on results.

Have you worked for a balanced leader? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below, as I learn just as much from you as you do from me.

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Internal Facebook Investigation Finds No Evidence Of Political Bias On 'Trending Topics'

Huffingon Post Politics - Mon, 2016-05-23 19:48

SAN FRANCISCO, May 23 (Reuters) - Facebook Inc will no longer rely on a top-10 list of websites to help choose items for its Trending Topics section, even though an internal probe showed no evidence of political bias in the selection process, the company said on Monday.

The world's largest social media network said in a blogpost that changes include clearer guidelines for human editors on the Trending Topics team, more training to emphasize avoiding ideological or political basis, and more robust review procedures.

The internal investigation was prompted by a letter from Republican Sen. John Thune earlier this month demanding that the company explain how it selects news articles for its "trending" list. 

A former Facebook contractor had accused the company's editors of deliberately suppressing conservative news. The allegations were reported by technology news website Gizmodo, which did not identify the ex-contractor.

Facebook said its investigation showed that conservative and liberal topics were approved as trending topics at nearly identical rates. It said it was unable to substantiate any allegations of politically motivated suppression of particular subjects or sources.

In his letter, Thune called on Facebook to respond to criticism that it suppressed conservative news and sought answers by May 24 to several questions about its internal practices.

"Any attempt by a neutral and inclusive social media platform to censor or manipulate political discussion is an abuse of trust and inconsistent with the values of an open Internet," Thune said.

Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg last week met with more than a dozen conservative politicians and media personalities to discuss issues of trust in the social network.

(Reporting by Yasmeen Abutaleb in San Francisco and Sangameswaran S in Bengaluru; Editing by Mary Milliken and Richard Chang)

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Bernie Sanders: Feel the Math

Huffingon Post Politics - Mon, 2016-05-23 19:48
In sports and in politics--the old rules apply; win with ease and lose with grace. Early on in the process, Bernie Sanders surprised Hillary Clinton with a series of improbable wins, starting in New Hampshire and moving outward. For a short period of time, it appeared that Sanders might eclipse the frontrunner that was intent upon becoming the first female president of the United States. Just like 8 years earlier, Secretary Clinton found herself in another war of attrition. However, unlike 2008, it was be highly improbable that there would be any mass exodus of Democratic super delegate support from Clinton to Sanders. Clinton's center held and those super delegates gave her enough strength to put Sanders away in the latter stages of the campaign, where she closed the gap with reaching a majority of pledged delegates.

Worse for Sanders, the behavior of his own followers who caused a near-riot at the recent Nevada Democratic Convention, gave many left-leaning publications the excuse to move away from him or at least question his behavior. The Nation, which endorsed Sanders in early January, tore Sanders and his campaign apart after the behavior of his followers and the tone of his response. Sanders supporters published the personal information of Nevada Democratic officials, who were harassed with obnoxious comments and even death threats. Instead of taking a moment to corral his own supporters, Sanders went after process issues in Nevada.

Any real chance for the nomination slipped from Bernie Sanders fingers long ago. However, how he behaves, regardless of any misguided zeal some of his most ardent supporters have shown, will be critical if he hopes to have any of his ideas make it into the mainstream.

In 1980, then former UN Ambassador and former CIA Director George HW Bush found that he was chasing Ronald Reagan across the country. After winning the first three of four contests, including the Iowa caucus, Bush found himself on the outside looking in as Reagan won a great majority of the remaining contests. Anybody could see the writing on the wall immediately knew that George Bush was going to be headed back to Kennebunkport while Ronald Reagan would win the nomination and face Jimmy Carter in the fall. In May 1980 Jim Baker, who ran the Bush effort, effectively shut it down. By withdrawing before the California Primary, Baker set in process a chain of events that led to Reagan choosing George HW Bush as his Vice Presidential nominee. That one phone call not only set the table for Bush's political career but also set things in motion for the creation of the Bush political dynasty.

However, it is clear that Bernie Sanders is not that kind of political figure and finesse has rarely played into his political persona. For Sanders he should be looking at the behavior of Gene McCarthy in 1968 and how his petulance tipped the general election to Richard Nixon in the fall.

Like Sanders, in 1968 Gene McCarthy started out as a one-note candidate who stood against the war in Vietnam, especially after RFK chose to remain on the sidelines. After McCarthy scored well in New Hampshire, Robert Kennedy entered into the fray, and Lyndon Johnson soon exited the race in a nationally televised address. Both RFK and McCarthy duked it out in a number of state primaries while Johnson's Vice President Hubert Humphrey, announced his own candidacy and quickly began to sew up state delegations.

As the 1968 Democratic Convention descended into chaos, McCarthy washed his hands and walked away. He refused to support the Humphrey-Muskie ticket and many of his white, well-to-do youthful supporters also sat on their thumbs as Richard Nixon built up a large initial lead. Finally in October, all McCarthy could muster was a statement that he would vote for Humphrey in November. However, he withheld his endorsement for the nominee. In the end while Humphrey made it close, he lost the popular vote by a slim 500,000 votes. In the Electoral College, had Humphrey had some help from those who "Came Clean for Gene," in Ohio, Illinois, New Jersey, and Wisconsin (three of four states won by McCarthy in the primaries), Humphrey would have won the election.

Instead Richard Nixon won the election and we got 4 more years of war in Vietnam, Kent State, 19,000 more dead soldiers, Watergate, and an impeachment process that divided the nation. A little help from McCarthy back then could have gone a long way.

In 2016 the stakes are far higher. The emergence of Donald Trump is a truly frightening political nightmare which threatens to wreck the American political experiment. Worse, the Republican Party is slowly beginning to pick up speed and rally around their new standard bearer.

All of this brings us back to Bernie Sanders because how he behaves in the run up to the convention in Philadelphia will determine his political legacy. Sanders is only a Democrat of convenience, having joined the Democratic Party in November of 2015, only weeks before the Iowa Caucus. Before that, he was a political independent from 1979 until his 2015 conversion. Before 1979, he was a member of a left-wing fringe organization called the Liberty Union Party. However, Sanders' political mien is perhaps most comfortable within the Green Party than anything that resembles the Democratic Party.

Since its time in the wilderness during between 1968 and 1988 when Democrats only won 1 out of 5 presidential elections, our fortunes have changed. Since 1992, Democrats have won 5 of 6 presidential elections in the popular vote totals and 4 of 6 in the Electoral College.

How Sanders behaves as the convention comes nearer will be the key. Should he accept reality and gracefully exit to allow Hillary Clinton to prepare for a greater race against Donald Trump, then he will be well remembered.

However, if Sanders sits on his thumbs as McCarthy sat on his two generations ago, we may be in for a very dark time and he will have to take some responsibility for the outcome.

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Google creates Science Journal app to inspire the next generation of scientists and makers

TreeHugger Science-Tech - Mon, 2016-05-23 10:48
The app lets kids and adults alike explore, measure and test the world around them.