Liberal News

  • Extra Bonus Quote of the Day
    by Taegan Goddard on November 20, 2019 at 19:07

    “You know what these proceedings look to me like right now? They look like the Kavanaugh hearing without the vagina hats.” — Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA), quoted by Bloomberg, on the House impeachment inquiry.

  • Trump Falls Apart And Stages a Re-Enactment of His Sondland Conversation
    by Sarah Jones on November 20, 2019 at 19:02

    “This is the final word from the president of the United started. I want nothing,” President Trump told reporters on the White House lawn Wednesday, after making sure their cameras were rolling.

  • Former Baltimore Mayor Charged with 11 Counts
    by Taegan Goddard on November 20, 2019 at 19:00

    “Federal prosecutors have charged former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh (D) with 11 counts of fraud, tax evasion and conspiracy in what they allege was a corrupt scheme involving her sales of a self-published children’s book series,” the Baltimore Sun reports.

  • DAYS OF IMPEACHMENT: A funny thing happened to American discourse!
    by <b>bob somerby</b> on November 20, 2019 at 18:57

    WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 20, 2019All silly, wherever you looked: A funny thing happened to the American experiment on its way through the first few decades of the 21st century.In November 2016, in part due to the nation’s peculiar electoral system, Donald J. Trump was elected president. He had highly unusual views concerning America’s role in the world and, on an alternate track, he often engaged in peculiar conduct and made extremely peculiar statements.Roughly one year into his term, it was decreed that the national press should not discuss the possibility that his behavior was caused by some form of mental illness, psychological disorder or cognitive impairment. Instead, the nation’s influencers agreed to be “shock, shocked” on a daily basis by whatever peculiar thing the disordered president had most recently said.The president’s intellectual disorder tracked that which had prevailed in the upper-end press corps for decades. By the time of the days of impeachment, assessments of this type were commonly being made:GIVHAN (11/20/19): The uniform did what uniforms are designed to do.When Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman appeared before the House Intelligence Committee, his striking presence in his serviceable eyeglasses and his military uniform exuded authority, ferocity and patriotism. As one of the Democratic committee members noted admiringly, Vindman was wearing a Purple Heart on his uniform. He also had a Combat Infantry Badge pinned on the left side of his chest, indicating he’d been involved in active ground combat. For civilian viewers, it was helpful to understand the meanings of some of the insignia on his jacket. But even without the details, anyone looking at the vast collage of medals spread across his chest could understand the story they told: that Vindman is one of the many dedicated individuals who choose to stand guard so that others might sleep easily.In the case of this particular witness, it wasn’t just his military uniform which let the nation’s influencers assess his character. His “serviceable eyeglasses” let hapless citizens “understand the story” too.Normal intellectual standards had almost completely disappeared. On the highest-rated “corporate liberal” cable TV program, viewers put up with self-referential nonsense like this as the days of impeachment started:MADDOW (11/14/19): Tomorrow will be a big day. Not only is tomorrow a Friday in the year 2019, tomorrow’s going to be day two of the impeachment hearings. Marie Yovanovitch, ousted as Ukraine ambassador, her testimony and that second impeachment hearing will start at 9:00 a.m. Eastern. Also tomorrow, a closed door deposition from somebody named David Holmes. He’s the first of potentially two staffers from Kiev who heard President Trump on a phone call to Ambassador Gordon Sondland in a restaurant in Ukraine asking Sondland about the investigations into the Bidens that he wanted Ukraine to do. I should also tell you that tomorrow, we will be awaiting a jury verdict in the Roger Stone trial. The jury is already out deliberating in that case. It’s going to be a big day tomorrow. We’ll see you then. That does it for us tonight. Now, it’s time for The Last Word, where Joy Reid is in for Lawrence tonight. Good evening, Joy.REID: Good evening, Rachel. So, I can tell you that as of tomorrow, you can officially class me as a shut-in. I will not leave my home. No one is to call me. Do not text me. I will not answer. I am so ready for this. I’m so fascinated by it. I don’t know if you’ve responded to it the same way. I cannot stop watching it.MADDOW: I have to tell you I’m already nervous now about how fast I need to sleep so I can be awake and do all my business, like have breakfast and have a shower and have a shower and walk the dog and do all the things I need to do so that I’m seated and paying attention by 9:00 because 9:00 a.m. is not my key time of day. REID: I’m with you.MADDOW: We’re stressed about it.REID: It’s hard because I have insomnia, really bad insomnia. MADDOW: I know you do.REID: So I’ve been trying to trick myself to fall asleep at 11:00, so I can be up at 8:00. So, I’m like trying tricks. I’ve got like the calm app going because I’m like–my poor husband, I’m like I’ve got to be asleep. I need to sleep in like ten minutes. I’ve got to get up at 8:00. You know, it’s really bad. At least with me, it`s really not been easy this week. (LAUGHTER)MADDOW: Also I love how you and I have the same approach to sleeping. Like, “Must sleep now, focus, sleep fast.”REID: Turn on Matthew McConaughey app where he reads me a story now. Like it`s really bad.MADDOW: Yes, and then you scream at it and it’s weird, it doesn’t relax you but you just sleep. I know. We’re terrible people. But at least you and I are in the same boat. Thank you, my friend.REID: There are at least two of us. There are two of us. So, I don’t feel alone.MADDOW: I think there’s more. You and I will both be awake all night and sleep on Saturday. Fair? REID: There you go. Sounds good.MADDOW: Fair, thanks, my friend. All right.REID: All right, have a good night. Bye.Just for the record, we’d have insomnia too, if we were willing to behave that way night after night, on national TV, for very large corporate pay checks. You aren’t allowed to know how large. But in such ways, the multimillionaire “chattering class” had long since agreed to chatter. Nothing was clear as impeachment proceeded, except that Candidate Warren had flipped on Medicare for all. She had instead decided to propose a public option, even as she agreed to pretend that she still had a plan to pursue the original proposal in Year 3 of her term.The gods on Olympus had long since stopped laughing at what was transpiring. It was embarrassing all the way down, as even these great gods acknowledged.Tomorrow: Maria Butina’s boyfriend to jail! Plus, NBC’s Watergate theme song!

  • Gantz Fails to Form Government In Israel
    by Taegan Goddard on November 20, 2019 at 18:56

    “Benny Gantz, the chief political rival of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said Wednesday that he had failed to form a new government ahead of a looming midnight deadline, propelling a deeply divided Israel into a new, uncharted phase of political chaos and increasing the likelihood of a third election in a year,” the New York

  • Sondland Implicates Pence In Ukraine Scandal
    by Taegan Goddard on November 20, 2019 at 18:49

    “Vice President Pence was informed just before meeting with the president of Ukraine in September that a U.S. ambassador believed that stalled military aid to Ukraine would likely not be released until Ukraine agreed to announce political investigations sought by President Trump,” the Washington Post reports. “Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union,

  • Gordon Sondland Just Did a Full John Dean
    by John Nichols on November 20, 2019 at 18:48

    John Nichols In extraordinary testimony, a key Trump appointee provides testimony that will underpin articles of impeachment. The post Gordon Sondland Just Did a Full John Dean appeared first on The Nation.

  • Doom Arrives For Trump Cult As They Are Told That Impeachment Is Coming
    by Sarah Jones on November 20, 2019 at 18:43

    Fox News has had the highest ratings of any cable outlet carrying the impeachment inquiry., and they told Trump’s cult that their leader will be impeached.

  • Trump World Spins During Sondland’s Testimony at Impeachment Hearing
    by Jared Holt on November 20, 2019 at 18:37

    Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, appeared Wednesday before the House Intelligence Committee and testified that there was, in fact, a quid pro quo involved in President Donald Trump’s request that Ukraine announce it would investigate a potential 2020 political opponent. CNN reported that the GOP and the White House were particularly anxious about

  • Busted Mike Pence Just Fell Into The Democrats’ Trap On Impeachment
    by Jason Easley on November 20, 2019 at 18:22

    Gordon Sondland testified that Vice President Mike Pence knew about the Ukraine plot weeks before the Trump/Zelensky phone call.

  • Impeachment Witnesses Decry Trump’s Pressure on Ukraine to Probe the Bidens
    by Melody Ng on November 20, 2019 at 18:11

    There is no disagreement among the witnesses that what President Trump did was wrong.

  • Sondland: Top Trump Administration Officials All in the Loop in Ukraine Scandal
    by Melody Ng on November 20, 2019 at 18:08

    Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland delivered an explosive opening statement for his impeachment testimony.

  • Trump Holds Bonkers Press Briefing With Sharpie Notes
    by Frances Langum on November 20, 2019 at 18:08

    How does one even begin to describe what happened this morning outside the White House? Donald Trump, reading from large print Sharpie notes, yelled to reporters “I WANT NOTHING!” If Gordon Sondland’s testimony was this year’s stupid Watergate’s John Dean moment, then Trump’s appearance outside the White House was the “Pray with me, Henry” meltdown. Trump yelled his notes to reporters: “I say to the Ambassador in response: ‘I want nothing, I want nothing. I want no quid pro quo. Tell Zelensky, President Zelensky, to do the right thing.'” And regarding Sondland, of course Trump doesn’t know him. “I don’t know him very well. I have not spoken to him much. This is not a man I know well. Seems like a nice guy though. But I don’t know him well. He was with other candidates.” Trump with Melania and Sondland, Sondland and Trump chatting before boarding Air Force One, Sondland speaking aboard Air Force One while traveling with Trump, Sondland and Trump walking toward Air Force One:

  • Trump Regularly ‘Can’t Remember’ Things
    by Taegan Goddard on November 20, 2019 at 18:00

    Newsweek: “Much of the nearly 260 pages of the anonymous official’s tome, A Warning, which hit bookshelves on Tuesday, has been dedicated to sounding the alarm about Trump’s alarming behavior.” “While the anonymous author, who is described only as a senior official in the Trump administration admits they are not ‘qualified to diagnose the president’s

  • At Private California Fundraiser, Pete Buttigieg Explains Limited Black Support
    by Akela Lacy on November 20, 2019 at 17:59

    At a Palm Springs fundraiser, Buttigieg said former Vice President Joe Biden is polling ahead among black voters in South Carolina because of “familiarity.” The post At Private California Fundraiser, Pete Buttigieg Explains Limited Black Support appeared first on The Intercept.

  • Fox News Tells Trump He Committed Bribery And Will Be Impeached
    by Jason Easley on November 20, 2019 at 17:54

    Fox News’s Ken Starr gave Trump a dose of reality by making it clear that the President Of The United States will be impeached.

  • On Trans Day of Resilience, Artists Show Us a Future of Liberation
    by Merula Furtado on November 20, 2019 at 17:45

    Five poets and five visual artists honor trans lives lost to violence and tell us what resilience means to them.

  • The Folly of the Iraq War Has Never Been Clearer
    by Maj. Danny Sjursen on November 20, 2019 at 17:44

    New Iranian intelligence leaks have laid bare just how pointless the invasion truly was. As a former soldier, it’s almost too much to bear.

  • Giuliani Defends Himself
    by Taegan Goddard on November 20, 2019 at 17:35

    With Ambassador Gordon Sondland putting him at the center of the Ukraine scandal, Rudy Giuliani defended himself on Twitter: I came into this at Volker’s request. Sondland is speculating based on VERY little contact. I never met him and had very few calls with him, mostly with Volker. Volker testified I answered their questions and

  • Trump’s Notes
    by Taegan Goddard on November 20, 2019 at 17:33

    President Trump made comments outside the White House on the impeachment hearings and his notes were visible to reporters.

  • Chairman Adam Schiff Finally Gets Mad
    by Aliza Worthington on November 20, 2019 at 17:27

    We’ve seen Rep. Adam Schiff play it cool under circumstances that would make the calmest of us break into a Devin Nunez flop sweat. The so-called President of the United States mocks and derides him, even sliding into anti-Semitism with the nickname he’s chosen for Schiff. Schiff barely raises an eyebrow. He is the choreographer of the public Impeachment hearings as head of the Intelligence Committee, which he has handled with the deftness, suspense and storytelling grace of Jerome Robbins. When the GOP members whine about having to follow the rules (written by THEM) or waste their time by talking over witnesses or interrupting for meaningless parliamentary inquiries, Schiff handles their tantrums with the zen firmness of the parent I’d always wished I’d been. “No, you can’t have more time.” “You know the rules.” “I’ve already explained that.” When the rest of us would be screaming “GGGAAAHHHHHHH THIS IS WHY PARENTS EAT THEIR YOUNG!!!” Yesterday, though, at the end of a long Day 3 of hearings, Chairman Schiff got mad. He raised his voice, even. In his closing statement, addressing Ambassador Volker, he thanked him for finally telling the whole truth about Ukraine. But turning to focus on his Republican colleagues, we finally saw the more

  • House Lawmakers Extend Illegal Collection of Americans’ Sensitive Data
    by Melody Ng on November 20, 2019 at 17:26

    The extension of surveillance legislation was covertly included in a must-pass, short-term funding bill.

  • In Rare Move, N. Carolina County Removes Confederate Statue
    by The Associated Press on November 20, 2019 at 17:25

    The state has been at the center of the debate over what to do with such monuments, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

  • Trump Is Watching As Gordon Sondland Gets Him Impeached
    by Jason Easley on November 20, 2019 at 17:11

    The White House admitted that Donald Trump is watching as his EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland is getting him impeached.

  • Take Action Now: Stop the EPA’s Assault on Our Natural Resources
    by NationAction on November 20, 2019 at 17:10

    NationAction Tell Congress to ban toxic pesticides and support lawyers tackling EPA rollbacks, plus call on the Senate to hold a fair impeachment trial. The post Take Action Now: Stop the EPA’s Assault on Our Natural Resources appeared first on The Nation.

  • Nikki Haley Is All In on Trump
    by Taegan Goddard on November 20, 2019 at 17:00

    New York Times: “Ms. Haley remains close with the president’s daughter Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner, and they warned her to be more careful talking about Mr. Trump, according to two people familiar with the conversation. A spokeswoman for Ms. Haley said she never received such a warning.”

  • I’ve Given Up All Hope in Senate Republicans Voting to Impeach
    by Melody Ng on November 20, 2019 at 16:42

    Apparently, nothing can convince Republicans to abandon their support for Trump.

  • Wrong Time to Go Off the Record
    by Taegan Goddard on November 20, 2019 at 16:40

    Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) asked a group of reporters: “Let me go off the record for just a second.” He apparently did not realize he was being broadcast live on C-SPAN.

  • Live Chat: November 20 Debate Night
    by The Nation on November 20, 2019 at 16:39

    The Nation Join The Nation’s national-affairs correspondents and contributing writers during tonight’s Democratic debate for up-to-the-minute commentary and analysis. The post Live Chat: November 20 Debate Night appeared first on The Nation.

  • For a Third Time, Chris McDonald and Mark Taylor Smear Tom Hanks as a Pedophile
    by Kyle Mantyla on November 20, 2019 at 16:34

    For the third time in recent months, right-wing commentator and radical conspiracy theorist Chris McDonald used his nightly “The MC Files” program to baselessly assert that actor Tom Hanks is “one of the biggest pedophiles in Hollywood.” During Monday night’s broadcast, McDonald, who frequently hosts Republican Rep. Phil Roe of Tennessee on his program, said

  • White House Tried to Get Heads Up on Testimony
    by Taegan Goddard on November 20, 2019 at 16:30

    Washington Post: “White House lawyers pressed in recent days to learn from Sondland’s legal team what the ambassador would tell Congress about the president and claims of a ‘quid pro quo’ in his much anticipated testimony today.” “Sondland’s lawyers declined however to provide the White House with an early peek into the account that this

  • Giuliani Should Be Prosecuted for Bribery And Pompeo Impeached
    by Sarah Jones on November 20, 2019 at 16:28

    It’s not just Trump who’s in deep trouble after bombshell testimony on Wednesday. Rudy Giuliani, AG Bill Barr, and Secretary Pompeo are going down as well.

  • Will Today’s Hearing Move Public Opinion?
    by Taegan Goddard on November 20, 2019 at 16:22

    Nathaniel Rakich: “Today’s hearing strikes me as having the potential to actually change people’s minds about impeachment. So far, we don’t have a lot of evidence that the hearings have done so.” “We’ve only seen a few polls conducted after last week’s hearings. The Economist/YouGov found that Americans support the House impeaching Trump by 5

  • Gordon Sondland Says ‘Everyone’ Knew of Quid Pro Quo
    by LISA MASCARO, MARY CLARE JALONICK and ERIC TUCKER / The Associated Press on November 20, 2019 at 16:06

    Testifying before Congress, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union admits he pushed for a deal with Kyiv at the president’s request.

  • Senators Press Amazon for Answers on Ring’s Sloppy Security Practices
    by Sam Biddle on November 20, 2019 at 16:00

    Five Democrats demand answers on private footage accessed in Ukraine. The post Senators Press Amazon for Answers on Ring’s Sloppy Security Practices appeared first on The Intercept.

  • Trump Didn’t Care About Actual Investigations
    by Taegan Goddard on November 20, 2019 at 15:59

    When explaining the quid pro quo with Ukraine, Ambassador Gordon Sondland said President Trump was mainly interested in the announcement of investigations by Ukraine President Zelensky into the Bidens. Said Sondland: “He had to announce the investigations, he didn’t actually have to do them, as I understood it.” He later added: “The only thing I

  • For-Profit Colleges Tap a Fox News Host to Influence Trump
    by by Isaac Arnsdorf on November 20, 2019 at 15:50

    by Isaac Arnsdorf ProPublica is a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power. Sign up for to receive our biggest stories as soon as they’re published. Pete Hegseth, the Fox News personality who urged President Donald Trump to pardon service members charged with war crimes, is trying to influence the White House on another military-related cause. An Army veteran who talks to Trump periodically and has dined with him at the White House, Hegseth traveled to New Orleans in June to address leaders of for-profit colleges at their annual convention. They are pushing to enroll more veterans, a lucrative class of students — and Hegseth is the face of the colleges’ new campaign to defend a favorable carve-out in federal law. Under the law, for-profit colleges can’t receive more than 90% of their revenue from federal education funds. The logic, according to the staffer who drafted the provision, was that the education should be good enough that at least some students are willing to pay. But veterans’ benefits, such as GI Bill stipends, don’t count as federal education funds (even though they also come from the federal government). This “90/10 loophole” means that for every veteran enrolled, a school can admit nine more students using federal loans. Veterans advocates and congressional investigators say this loophole leads to predatory and deceptive marketing tactics that sometimes leave veterans with unexpected debt and useless degrees if schools lose their accreditation or go out of business. Get Our Top Investigations Subscribe to the Big Story newsletter. Don’t miss out on ProPublica’s next investigation. Sign up and get the Big Story email whenever we break news. This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply. Hegseth has pushed back on that criticism, framing the issue as protecting veterans’ freedom to choose where they go to school. Speaking at the Career Education Colleges and Universities convention in New Orleans, Hegseth pledged to use his relationship with Trump to fend off legislation to close the 90/10 loophole. “Right now you’ve got a president that would veto the bad stuff,” he said in the speech, which was flagged at the time by Media Matters, a Democrat-aligned group that scrutinizes Fox News and other right-wing media. “And if he ever gave me a call — and sometimes he does — I’d tell him that.” Trump has indeed dialed Hegseth into the Oval Office to discuss veterans policy and considered appointing him as secretary of veterans affairs. A frequent presence on the president’s favorite morning show, “Fox & Friends,” Hegseth has interviewed Trump on the air multiple times and been the subject of several of Trump’s adoring tweets. Hegseth prominently encouraged Trump to grant pardons or other relief in high-profile war crimes cases, which the president he did on Friday. Thank you Pete. Our great warfighters must be allowed to fight. I would not have done this for Sgt. Bergdahl or Chelsea Manning!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 17, 2019 Since June, Hegseth has given at least 11 speeches for CECU and related groups, according to posts on his Twitter feed and the organizations’ websites. One of the appearances billed his keynote as “sponsored by Career Education Colleges and Universities.” Hegseth declined to comment. “I can’t give interviews because I work for Fox News,” he said before hanging up. He did not respond to follow-up questions sent by text message. Fox News and CECU didn’t respond to requests for comment. While Hegseth and CECU would not discuss his compensation, he has in the past spoken to political groups that paid $5,000 to $10,000 to his agency, Premiere Speakers Bureau, according to campaign finance records compiled by Media Matters. Premiere did not respond to requests for comment. CECU has paid another advocate, Callista Gingrich, at least $5,000, according to the financial disclosure she filed for her appointment as Trump’s ambassador to the Vatican. In addition to the speeches, Hegseth published two op-eds, on the websites of Fox News and The Hill. The articles defend for-profit colleges and attack veterans groups that oppose the 90/10 loophole. Neither article disclosed Hegseth’s work for CECU. A spokeswoman for The Hill, Lisa Dallos, said Hegseth told the newspaper he doesn’t have a “paid relationship” with CECU and signed paperwork saying he doesn’t have a conflict of interest. The White House didn’t respond to requests for comment about Hegseth’s advocacy efforts. (Trump’s education secretary, Betsy DeVos, has also championed for-profit schools.) But Hegseth’s suggestion that Trump would use his veto pen to protect for-profit colleges is looking less hypothetical than in June when he spoke in New Orleans. On Thursday, four senators introduced the upper chamber’s first-ever bipartisan bill to close the 90/10 loophole. “This bill puts reasonable protections in place that are fair to veterans, taxpayers, and schools,” Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., one of the co-sponsors, said in a statement. “This bill is a bipartisan solution to put the best interest of our veterans first while also recognizing that the majority of for-profit post-secondary institutions, but unfortunately not all, offer quality programs that accommodate the needs and unique skill sets of our veterans and servicemembers.” The senators’ announcement for the bill included endorsements from the American Legion and Veterans Education Success, which were both called out by name in Hegseth’s most recent op-ed, as well as from seven other organizations representing veterans and service members. Do you have access to information that should be public about veterans at for-profit colleges? Email Isaac at Here’s how to send tips and documents to ProPublica securely. For more coverage, read ProPublica’s previous reporting on Trump’s VA.

  • Brian Kilmeade Does Not Understand How Phones Work
    by Frances Langum on November 20, 2019 at 15:49

    Oh, Brian Kilmeade, you are more entertaining than a rotting stump, but you are not more intelligent than one. This morning’s Fox and Friends has given up trying to parse serious matters in the Impeachment inquiry. Good call! So Brian Kilmeade wonders aloud about Gordon Sondland’s Ukrainian restaurant phone call with Donald Trump. (Transcript via Media Matters): BRIAN KILMEADE: I also find it hard to believe that people just accept that you can hear both sides of a phone call three thousand — or five thousand miles away. AINSLEY EARHARDT: Unless it’s on speakerphone. KILMEADE: I’ve never heard both sides of a phone call when you have it to your ear.

  • Bonus Quote of the Day
    by Taegan Goddard on November 20, 2019 at 15:42

    “That sounds like something I would say. That’s how Trump and I communicate. A lot of four-letter words. In this case three letters.” — Ambassador Gordon Sondland, confirming he told President Trump that Ukraine President Zelensky “loves your ass, he’ll do whatever you want” while talking to him on a cell phone at a Kiev

  • Ken Starr On Fox: Will GOP Senators Ask Trump To Resign?
    by Frances Langum on November 20, 2019 at 15:39

    If you don’t think today testimony is a huge nail in the coffin of the Trump presidency, switch over to Fox for a minute. There you’ll note that Ken Starr, yes, the Clinton impeachment Ken Starr, is wondering aloud if Republican Senators are considering a “walk to the White House” the way Republican senators headed over to tell Nixon that it was time to quit in 1974. “Are senators going to now say, in light of what we hear today….we need to make a trip down to the White House—that historic example set during the Nixon presidency,” said Starr. If dawn is breaking over Fox News, you can bet Republican Senators are squirming. “President Pelosi” is trending on Twitter. Ken Starr, lead prosecutor in Clinton impeachment hearings: “There is now proof that the President (Trump) committed the crime of bribery…This has been one of those bombshell days.” — Jennifer Griffin (@JenGriffinFNC) November 20, 2019

  • Sondland Goes Full John Dean And Lays Out The Ukraine Quid Pro Quo
    by Jason Easley on November 20, 2019 at 15:38

    Gordon Sondland is using his testimony to go full John Dean and is showing Congress where all the bodies are buried in the Ukraine scheme.

  • The Spirit of the Indigenous Occupation of Alcatraz Lives On, 50 Years Later
    by Melody Ng on November 20, 2019 at 15:34

    In 1969, Indigenous activists occupied Alcatraz Island, demanding that their treaties be honored.

  • ‘Wow. Sondland Flipped’: Ambassador Testifies Trump Inner Circle All ‘In the Loop’ During Explosive Opening Statement
    on November 20, 2019 at 15:26

    Julia Conley, staff writer”Everyone was in the loop,” Sondland told the committee. “It was no secret.”

  • A John Dean Moment
    by Taegan Goddard on November 20, 2019 at 15:25

    Since the start of the impeachment probe, President Trump has insisted that there was no quid pro quo with Ukraine, there were no conditions placed on a White House meeting and no strings attached to releasing U.S. military aid. Trump has repeatedly claimed it’s just another “witch hunt” or “hoax” perpetrated by Democrats. Republicans have

  • On Universal Children’s Day, It’s Time to Stop Imprisoning Kids Everywhere
    by Merula Furtado on November 20, 2019 at 15:20

    Let’s use the momentum against migrant child detention to end U.S. complicity in locking up kids everywhere.

  • Sondland Blames Inconsistent Testimony on Administration
    by Taegan Goddard on November 20, 2019 at 15:17

    Ambassador Gordon Sondland blamed inconsistencies in his previous testimony saying repeatedly that the State Department and the White House didn’t allow him access to the things he needed to provide accurate previous testimony. Said Sondland: “I have not had access to all of my phone records, State Department emails and other State Department documents. And

  • Gordon Sondland Drops Bombshell That Trump Ordered Ukraine Extortion
    by Jason Easley on November 20, 2019 at 15:02

    EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland testified that Trump ordered, Rick Perry, Kurt Volker, and himself to work with Rudy Giuliani on Ukraine.

  • Oh Boy, Gordon Sondland’s Testimony Has Republicans In A Panic
    by Susie Madrak on November 20, 2019 at 14:46

    The Republicans weren’t AT ALL prepared for Sondland’s testimony, and it sure is fun to watch. Even the White House didn’t know what was coming: Gordon Sondland: “I know that members of this committee have frequently framed these complicated issues in the form of a simple question: Was there a ‘quid pro quo?’ With regard to the requested White House call and White House meeting, the answer is yes.”#ImpeachmentHearings — (((DeanObeidallah))) (@DeanObeidallah) November 20, 2019 NEWWWSWorried White House tried to get a sneak peak at what “wild card” Amb. Sondland would say … they were politely rebuffed. Me @jdawsey1 — Carol Leonnig (@CarolLeonnig) November 20, 2019

  • Ohio Farmer Who Left The GOP Over Trump’s Trade War Is Planning To Run Against Jim Jordan
    by Sean Colarossi on November 20, 2019 at 14:23

    An Ohio farmer who left the Republican Party after getting destroyed by Donald Trump’s trade war is planning to challenge Rep. Jim Jordan

  • Sondland Throws Giuliani, Pompeo, And Trump Under The Bus
    by Frances Langum on November 20, 2019 at 14:18

    We’ll have video in a bit. Meanwhile, enjoy this transcript of Ambassador Gordon Sondland’s opening statement, released to the media this am: AMBASSADOR GORDON SONDLAND: First, Secretary Perry, Ambassador Volker and I worked with Mr. Rudy Giuliani on Ukraine matters at the express direction of the President of the United States. We did not want to work with Mr. Giuliani. Simply put, we played the hand we were dealt. We all understood that if we refused to work with Mr. Giuliani, we would lose an important opportunity to cement relations between the United States and Ukraine. So we followed the President’s orders. Second, although we disagreed with the need to involve Mr. Giuliani, we did not believe that his role was improper at the time. As I previously testifed, if I had known of all of Mr. Giuliani’s dealings or of his associations with individuals now under criminal indictment, I would not have acquiesced to his participation. Still, given what we knew at the time, what we were asked to do did not appear to be more

  • Because Stephen Miller Is ‘A Verified White Supremacist Controlling US Immigration Policy,’ Says Ocasio-Cortez, He Must Leave White House
    on November 20, 2019 at 14:12

    Eoin Higgins, staff writer”This is not to be dismissed. People’s lives are at risk. He needs to go now.”

  • Sondland Throws ‘Everyone’ Under the Bus
    by Taegan Goddard on November 20, 2019 at 14:01

    U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland will give explosive testimony before the House Intelligence Committee this morning. He will say that “everyone” knew about a quid pro quo demanded of Ukraine for military aid and that the scheme was explicitly directed by President Trump. Said Sondland: “We followed the president’s orders.” From his

  • LIVE STREAM: Amb. Gordon Sondland Testifies In Impeachment Inquiry
    by Karoli Kuns on November 20, 2019 at 14:00

    This morning’s testimony comes from Gordon Sondland, one of the lead actors in the effort to extort Ukraine into investigating the Bidens. Sondland is the Ambassador to the EU. Ukraine is not part of the EU, but he nevertheless insinuated his way into their affairs on orders of Donald Trump, or so he says. Sondland also had a conversation with Donald Trump the day after Trump’s call to President Zelenskiy, in which he was overheard saying that Ukraine would investigate. He also told diplomat David Holmes that “Trump doesn’t give a shit about Ukraine” and the only thing Trump cares about is “big stuff” like “investigating Joe Biden.” This one should be interesting. Watch with us and leave your comments below.

  • Stockholm Syndrome: The Nobel Prize Organization Is Now Fully Engaged in the Business of Genocide Denial
    by Peter Maass on November 20, 2019 at 13:58

    The Swedish Academy, which chose Peter Handke for the Nobel literature prize, issued a letter casting his Bosnia war books as reasonable. The post Stockholm Syndrome: The Nobel Prize Organization Is Now Fully Engaged in the Business of Genocide Denial appeared first on The Intercept.

  • Impeachment Hearings Continue
    by Taegan Goddard on November 20, 2019 at 13:45

    The House Intelligence Committee begins its most consequential hearings in the impeachment inquiry at 9 a.m. ET. Ambassador Gordon Sondland is scheduled to testify in the morning session. Laura Cooper and David Hale will testify in the afternoon session. Leave your reactions in the comments.

  • Biden Coasts as Opponents Face Firing Squad
    by Taegan Goddard on November 20, 2019 at 13:31

    Politico: “Michael Bloomberg is under fire for his stop-and-frisk policy. Deval Patrick is facing questions about his lucrative business career. Elizabeth Warren lost ground in a major Iowa poll as her Medicare for All plan revived questions about her electability. “And Joe Biden is sitting back and watching the show.” “Biden — who since April

  • Top Economist Robert Pollin Answers Key Questions on the Emerging Divide Between Sanders and Warren on Medicare for All
    on November 20, 2019 at 13:25

    Jon Queally, staff writer”I clearly don’t think it is premature to have detailed discussions on funding Medicare for All,” says co-author of 200-page study on that exact subject. “How Sanders or Warren should handle the matter politically,” he adds, “is another matter.”

  • WATCH LIVE: Day 4 of Trump Impeachment Hearings
    on November 20, 2019 at 13:21

    Common Dreams staffGordon D. Sondland, the United States ambassador to the European Union, “will most likely be the day’s most consequential witness.”

  • Trump’s Removal Can’t Wait for Impeachment
    by Paul Street on November 20, 2019 at 13:13

    Legal procedures designed by 18th-century slaveholders won’t save us. Only mass civil disobedience can sweep our fascist regime from power.

  • Republicans Are Lying: Impeachment Ratings Have Not Plummeted
    by Sarah Jones on November 20, 2019 at 13:01

    Public polling does not show what people are watching on TV. To understand that, we turn to this thing called “television ratings.”

  • Forget About Plans, Which Candidate Can Get Things Done?
    by Rashad Robinson on November 20, 2019 at 13:01

    Rashad Robinson The question debate moderators need to ask tonight is not what changes candidates want to make but how they will make them happen. The post Forget About Plans, Which Candidate Can Get Things Done? appeared first on The Nation.

  • Where There’s Smoke…
    by Matt Wuerker on November 20, 2019 at 13:00

    Matt Wuerker Fossil fuel’s climate change lies. The post Where There’s Smoke… appeared first on The Nation.

  • Why I’m Endorsing Elizabeth Warren
    by Ady Barkan on November 20, 2019 at 12:57

    Ady Barkan Elizabeth or Bernie? It’s a difficult and wonderful choice to have. The post Why I’m Endorsing Elizabeth Warren appeared first on The Nation.

  • Gordon Sondland Testifies
    by Taegan Goddard on November 20, 2019 at 12:56

    Playbook: “Theoretically, he should be a great witness for Democrats: He’s the man who, in their telling, was leading the effort to get Ukraine to commit to investigating the Bidens in exchange for aid and a visit with Trump.” “Here is the Republican game plan to discredit Sondland: The GOP will try to paint Sondland

  • “We followed the president’s orders”: Sondland gives up Trump — and everyone else
    on November 20, 2019 at 12:45

    Former Trump loyalist Gordon Sondland rats out Trump and multiple senior White House officials in Ukraine scheme

  • NYT: Sondland Reported Details Of Ukraine Blackmail Scheme To Mike Pompeo
    by Susie Madrak on November 20, 2019 at 12:42

    Whomp, there it is! Despite Republicans efforts to pin the whole Ukraine mess on the hapless Gordon Sondland as some kind of loose cannon, truth is leaking out around the edges. Turns out good old senator-wannabe Mike Pompeo was informed every step of the way, according to the New York Times: WASHINGTON — Gordon D. Sondland, the diplomat at the center of the House impeachment inquiry, kept Secretary of State Mike Pompeo apprised of key developments in the campaign to pressure Ukraine’s leader into public commitments that would satisfy President Trump, two people briefed on the matter said. Mr. Sondland informed Mr. Pompeo in mid-August about a draft statement that Mr. Sondland and another American diplomat had worked on with the Ukrainians that they hoped would persuade Mr. Trump to grant Ukraine’s new president the Oval Office meeting he was seeking, the people said. Later that month, Mr. Sondland discussed with Mr. Pompeo the possibility of pushing the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, to pledge during a planned meeting with Mr. Trump in Warsaw that he would take the steps being sought by Mr. Trump as a way to break the logjam in relations between the two countries, the people said. Mr. Pompeo expressed his approval of the plan, they said, but Mr. Trump later canceled his trip to more

  • How One Town Developed a New Way to Police
    by Glenn Nelson on November 20, 2019 at 12:30

    Glenn Nelson Renton, Washington, has become a national model for inclusive governing. The post How One Town Developed a New Way to Police appeared first on The Nation.

  • Sondland Kept Pompeo Informed
    by Taegan Goddard on November 20, 2019 at 12:23

    New York Times: “Gordon Sondland, the diplomat at the center of the House impeachment inquiry, kept Secretary of State Mike Pompeo apprised of key developments in the campaign to pressure Ukraine’s leader into public commitments that would satisfy President Trump.” “Mr. Sondland informed Mr. Pompeo in mid-August about a draft statement that Mr. Sondland and

  • Today, Navy Officials Will Try To Eject Criminal SEAL Pardoned By Trump
    by Susie Madrak on November 20, 2019 at 12:17

    (Watch the video. It’s five months old, but still fresh.) Edward Gallagher, the Navy SEAL who was just pardoned by Trump, has been ordered to appear before Navy leaders this morning, and is expected to be notified that the Navy intends to oust him from the elite commando force, according to the New York Times: The move could put the SEAL commander, Rear Adm. Collin Green, in direct conflict with President Trump, who last week cleared the sailor, Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher, of any judicial punishment in the war crimes case. Military leaders opposed that action as well as Mr. Trump’s pardons of two soldiers involved in other murder cases. Navy officials had planned to begin the process of taking away Chief Gallagher’s Trident pin, the symbol of his membership in the SEALs, earlier this month. But as he waited outside his commander’s office, Navy leaders sought clearance from the White House that never came, and no action was taken. Admiral Green now has the authorization he needs from the Navy to act against Chief Gallagher, and the formal letter notifying the chief of the action has been drafted and signed by the admiral, the two officials said. One thing is clear: Green knows this action is likely to end his career. But he’s not alone:read more

  • When Asked How They’ll Pay for Their Plans, Democrats Should Answer Just as Trump Does: Mexico
    by Mehdi Hasan on November 20, 2019 at 12:00

    At Wednesday’s debate, Democrats should refuse to play the GOP’s “How will you pay for it?” game. The post When Asked How They’ll Pay for Their Plans, Democrats Should Answer Just as Trump Does: Mexico appeared first on The Intercept.

  • When It Comes to Being Gay-Friendly, Women’s Sports Are Ahead of the Game
    by Payal Dhar on November 20, 2019 at 12:00

    Payal Dhar Women’s leagues have become much safer spaces for queerness, while men’s sports are still trapped in a culture of repression. The post When It Comes to Being Gay-Friendly, Women’s Sports Are Ahead of the Game appeared first on The Nation.

  • Stephanie Grisham’s Lies And The Anonymous Lying Liars Who Back Up The Liar’s Lies
    by Steve M. on November 20, 2019 at 11:52

    Hey, Stephanie — pics or it didn’t happen. White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham claimed on Tuesday that departing former aides to President Barack Obama left notes saying “you will fail” and “you aren’t going to make it” for the incoming staff of Donald Trump. Former Obama aides quickly denied Grisham’s claim, reacting to a tweet from a CNN reporter that Grisham had said during an earlier radio interview, “Every office was filled with Obama books and we had notes left behind that said ‘you will fail,’ ‘you aren’t going to make it.'” At the Daily Mail, Republican apparatchik David Martosko writes: Stephanie Grisham told a Virginia radio host at the White House on Tuesday about finding the notes, and office cabinets brimming with Obama-authored more

  • Massive blow to Trump: Gordon Sondland pins Ukraine “quid pro quo” on president
    on November 20, 2019 at 11:43

    EU ambassador describes Ukraine “quid pro quo” to Congress: “Everyone was in the loop. … The answer is yes”

  • As President, Pete Buttigieg Wants to Give 25 Percent of Federal Contracts to Minorities. As Mayor, He Gave 3 Percent.
    by Akela Lacy on November 20, 2019 at 11:33

    Even as Buttigieg pushes diversity efforts as mayor, less than 3 percent of South Bend’s business in 2018 went to minority- and women-owned firms. The post As President, Pete Buttigieg Wants to Give 25 Percent of Federal Contracts to Minorities. As Mayor, He Gave 3 Percent. appeared first on The Intercept.

  • The Secret Weapon in the Fight Against Climate Change: Worker Power
    by Kate Aronoff, Alyssa Battistoni, Daniel Aldana Cohen, Thea Riofrancos on November 20, 2019 at 11:30

    Kate Aronoff, Alyssa Battistoni, Daniel Aldana Cohen, Thea Riofrancos Capitalists created the climate crisis. But a low-carbon labor movement can help solve it. The post The Secret Weapon in the Fight Against Climate Change: Worker Power appeared first on The Nation.

  • “Nunes read the wrong opening statement”: GOP strategy flops as Sondland throws Trump under the bus
    on November 20, 2019 at 11:04

    “Nunes’ opening statement suggests GOP didn’t know Sondland was flipping until the last minute,” one reporter notes

  • Ghosts of Mossadegh: The Iran Cables, U.S. Empire, and the Arc of History
    by Intercepted on November 20, 2019 at 11:01

    Iranian-American author and analyst Hooman Majd is this week’s guest. The post Ghosts of Mossadegh: The Iran Cables, U.S. Empire, and the Arc of History appeared first on The Intercept.

  • Fixing the US Economy Isn’t Just About Money
    by Joelle Gamble on November 20, 2019 at 11:00

    Joelle Gamble To make meaningful changes to our unequal economy, organizers, politicians, and candidates must target who has power. The post Fixing the US Economy Isn’t Just About Money appeared first on The Nation.

  • Army steps up protection of Vindman as White House pushes talking points attacking service member
    on November 20, 2019 at 10:50

    The Trump administration attempts to discredit Vindman, even though he still works at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue

  • Evo Morales Urges United Nations to ‘Denounce and Stop This Massacre’ as Bolivian Military Guns Down Protestors
    on November 20, 2019 at 10:29

    Jake Johnson, staff writerThe former Bolivian president accused coup leaders of carrying out “genocidal policies” against indigenous people.

  • Are Republicans even trying to defend Trump? Or just doing Vladimir Putin’s bidding?
    on November 20, 2019 at 10:25

    Trump’s Ukraine extortion scheme is now clear — but the entire Republican Party has become a Russian asset

  • Blame Over Justice: The Human Toll of the Navy’s Relentless Push to Punish One of Its Own
    by by Megan Rose on November 20, 2019 at 10:00

    by Megan Rose ProPublica is a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power. Sign up for to receive our biggest stories as soon as they’re published. It was 10 p.m. on Jan. 15, 2018, when the phone rang in Navy Cmdr. Bryce Benson’s home tucked into a wooded corner of Northern Virginia. Benson had just gotten into bed, and his chest tightened as he saw the number was from Japan. It was his Navy attorney calling. The lawyer said he wished he had better news, but he’d get right to the point: The Navy was going to charge Benson with negligent homicide the following day. Benson, 40, stared at the ceiling in the dark, repeating the serenity prayer as his feet pedaled with anxiety. Next to him, his wife, Alex, who’d followed him through 11 postings while raising three kids, sobbed. Seven months earlier, Benson had been in command of the destroyer the USS Fitzgerald when it collided with a massive civilian cargo ship off the coast of Japan, ripping open the warship’s side. Seven of his sailors drowned, and Benson was almost crushed to death in his cabin. It was then the deadliest maritime accident in modern Navy history. Benson, who’d served for 18 years, accepted full responsibility. Two months after the crash, the commander of the Pacific fleet fired Benson as captain and gave him a letter of reprimand, each act virtually guaranteeing he’d never be promoted and would have to leave the service far earlier than planned. His career was essentially over. Then, days later, another of the fleet’s destroyers, the USS John S. McCain, collided with a civilian tanker, killing 10 more sailors. The back-to-back collisions exposed the Navy to bruising questions about the worthiness of its ships and the competency of the crews. Angry lawmakers had summoned the top naval officer, Adm. John Richardson, to the Hill. Under sustained fire, Navy leaders needed a grand, mollifying gesture. So, in a nearly unprecedented move in its history, the Navy decided to treat an accident at sea as a case of manslaughter. Hastily cobbling together charges, the Navy’s top brass announced — to the shock of its officers — that the captains of both destroyers would be court-martialed for the sailors’ deaths. Get Updates on Our Navy Reporting T. Christian Miller, Robert Faturechi and Megan Rose are writing about their experience reporting on the Fitzgerald disaster and the Navy’s neglect of its ships and sailors at sea for ProPublica’s Disaster in the Pacific newsletter. This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply. The Navy told ProPublica that “given the tragic loss of life, scope and complexity of both collisions,” it had an “obligation to exercise due diligence” and its investigation had “informed charges against” Benson and the captain of the McCain. To many officers, the Navy had gone too far. “There was a deflection campaign,” one admiral said recently, likening the Navy’s response to shielding itself from an exploding grenade. “It was pretty clear Richardson wanted to dampen the frag pattern.” Even then, no one, least of all Benson, could have predicted how relentless the Navy’s pursuit of him would be. In the early hours of June 17, 2017, a trio of junior officers guiding the USS Fitzgerald made a calamitous series of mistakes in basic navigation that veered the destroyer directly into the path of a hulking cargo ship three times its size. As the civilian vessel bore down, the panicked officers squabbled about what to do. Benson’s written orders were clear: When in doubt, wake me up. But no one called the captain, sleeping in his cabin just a 30-second walk away. At 1:30 a.m., the cargo ship slammed into the side of the Fitzgerald, knocking the warship into a violent tilt and ripping it open like a can of tuna. Water rushed into an enlisted sleeping area below deck. Benson awoke trapped in his destroyed cabin, which had been shoved 20 feet by the impact and no longer had an exterior wall. He called for help, delirious, bleeding and perilously close to the gaping hole and the black, cold ocean below. Crew members battered his steel door open with dozens of wild swings of a sledgehammer and a kettlebell, then formed a chain in the darkness to reach Benson and haul him by his arm over the debris to safety. Benson stumbled barefoot up the ladder to the bridge of the ship, determined to take charge. Amid the chaos, he sat in the captain’s chair, but before he could give any orders his arms spasmed awkwardly and he slid to the floor. Benson, barely conscious with a traumatic brain injury, had to be airlifted off his crippled ship. Two months after the collision, Benson, still struggling with nightmares and his memory, sat in a small, bare conference room, tensely waiting to be called into the 7th Fleet commander’s office. Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, who was in charge of all the ships in the western Pacific, had summoned Benson for a disciplinary hearing called an Admiral’s Mast. Earlier that day, after the Navy held a press conference announcing he’d be fired, Benson had the surreal experience of watching the end of his career flash on TV in the base gym. But he’d known lying in his hospital bed right after the crash that this is where he’d end up. Alex Benson spent months making a blanket with a destroyer on it as a gift for her husband when he deployed with the Fitzgerald. Benson was sleeping under it when the collision happened. He went back to retrieve the blanket, torn at one corner and stained with chemicals, after the crash. (Hector Emanuel, special to ProPublica) Now, his hair freshly cut and wearing a hand-pressed white uniform, Benson was relieved that the day had come. These formal proceedings would close the chapter. And he hoped that the Navy would finally let him leave Japan to seek necessary medical care back in the States. A month had passed since doctors had said he needed critical neurological and mental health care at Walter Reed Military National Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. The base in Yokosuka, Japan, had limited resources to help him deal with his debilitating post-traumatic stress, and he was growing increasingly desperate. Aucoin called him in. Benson took a deep breath, saluted and listened, occasionally looking down at his hands, as Aucoin matter-of-factly read the administrative charges against him. Aucoin emphasized that there had been serious mistakes, and as captain, Benson was ultimately responsible. Aucoin regarded Benson with empathy. The admiral had spent his two years in charge of the 7th Fleet begging, to no avail, for more men and a more reasonable pace of missions. He’d taken the issues with the ragged fleet into account when punishing Benson. Aucoin had the backing of his boss, Adm. Scott Swift, who’d assured him that top Navy leadership wouldn’t have supported anything more severe. Aucoin came around the table and shook Benson’s hand. “That’s done now,” Aucoin told him. Benson had the right to appeal the findings of his disciplinary hearing, but a Navy lawyer told him he wouldn’t be able to leave for the States until any appeal was completed. Benson waived his rights on the spot. Later that day, Aucoin wrote an email asking when Benson would be permitted to move. Vice Adm. Robert Burke, the head of Navy personnel who has since been promoted to the Navy’s No. 2 position, responded that he’d been “awaiting word from [Navy lawyers] that all the paperwork had been signed regarding [Benson’s] intent to appeal.” With that finished, Burke wrote he’d now release the orders. A Navy spokesman, citing privacy concerns, declined to answer questions about specifics, saying only that the Admiral’s Mast process did not affect Benson’s move. Nearly nine weeks after his doctors’ recommendation, Benson stepped into Walter Reed for the first time. On Halloween, Benson grabbed a bucket of candy and strode down his driveway in a brown, furry Chewbacca suit. He sat out there for awhile, gaily greeting trick or treaters. Alex Benson watched from the window, her breath caught in her chest. It was her first glimpse of the old Bryce in more than four months. She’d come to understand it would be a long time before her husband of 18 years grasped his way back to any semblance of who he used to be. Benson attends weekly therapy for PTSD at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. (Hector Emanuel, special to ProPublica) She and her children had quickly become alert to the signs of his PTSD, jumping to the aid of the man who once seemed indomitable. In crowded public spaces like the grocery store, they looked out for when his face would suddenly go blank with his light blue eyes staring unfocused in the distance. One of them would step in front of him, take his hand and lead him out. Alex felt like she was always watching him, ever since he checked “yes” on a hospital form in Japan asking if he was suicidal. She’d even sit vigil by the tub when he took a bath. Benson attended therapy twice a week at the sprawling Walter Reed complex. He was doing a nine-step, cognitive behavior therapy program for PTSD. At his Monday group therapy session, he was quiet at first. He’d always taken a while to open up to new people. But he’d hit it off with a Navy chief and veteran of Fallujah, Iraq, who was a regular at the group. As “accountability buddies,” they’d check in with each other regularly and text pictures of their workouts to show they were doing the self-care helpful in recovery. The Navy assigned Benson to the office that oversees special events in the Capitol, such as the planning for Sen. John McCain’s funeral. It wasn’t where he’d thought he’d be, but after a few months he started to believe what Aucoin had said after the disciplinary hearing back in August: “You’re a good officer who could still provide value to the Navy.” Benson knew he had only a short time left to serve, but putting on the uniform most weekdays felt like stepping back into himself. The Navy had been the center of Benson’s identity since he was 18 years old and joined the ROTC at Marquette University in 1995. In the service, he’d found a place that suited his idealism, said Benson’s friend since that ROTC program, retired Navy Cmdr. Ryan Farris. Throughout his career, Benson struck colleagues as quiet and focused, and he had an almost cliched Midwesterner’s hardworking earnestness that lent itself to teasing. “He only spoke when he had something meaningful to say,” Farris said. Benson participates in a weekly fly-fishing class, which the nonprofit Project Healing Waters holds for wounded service members at Walter Reed. Tying flies requires precision on a tiny scale, making it impossible to think about anything else, and for that hour, Benson can’t obsess about what happened. (Hector Emanuel, special to ProPublica) Benson and his wife heard on the news that the Navy assigned an admiral to review the punishments from the Fitzgerald and McCain collisions. But his lawyer told them that since he had already been disciplined at a high level — by a three-star admiral — he was unlikely to be a target. Richardson had agreed with Aucoin’s judgment at the time, and it was rare for an admiral’s discipline to be overturned. And the Navy’s internal reviews into root causes of the collisions pointed to policy decisions made at the Pentagon level, involving critical shortages in training, manning and maintenance time, none of which were controlled by Benson and Cmdr. Alfredo Sanchez, captain of the McCain. In December on vacation in Massachusetts, Benson surprised his family when rather than staying home by himself, he joined them snowshoeing. They laughed together as they got caught in a big snowstorm. Alex Benson took out her phone to capture the moment in a selfie, each of their hats covered in fat snowflakes, her husband with a wide grin. On Martin Luther King Day in 2018, when the halls of the Navy Yard would normally be fairly quiet, lawyers scrambled to finalize homicide charges against Benson and Sanchez. Richardson was due for a second battery of questions from outraged lawmakers later that week. During heated hearings earlier that year, then-Arizona Sen. John McCain had warned Richardson and the secretary of the Navy. “We will identify shortcomings, fix them and hold people accountable,” he said, as family members of some of the fallen sailors looked on. Afterward, Navy leaders had decided the “close temporal proximity” of the two crashes meant they needed to reassess “whether all appropriate accountability actions have been taken,” Adm. Bill Moran, the second-in-command at the time, wrote in an order assigning an admiral to the task. Benson, who’d thought his punishment had been levied, would now face harsher scrutiny because another captain on another ship crashed two months after him. Richardson announced the new charges days before he sat in front of the House Armed Services Committee, assuring its members that the Navy was taking accountability very seriously. Richardson, now retired and newly installed on the board of Boeing, didn’t respond to requests for an interview. A Navy spokesman said the hearings helped guide policy changes to prevent future tragedies and did not affect disciplinary actions. The Benson family’s time in Hawaii has become a touchstone. They often look back on those happy memories when overwhelmed by the present. (Hector Emanuel, special to ProPublica) The news rocketed through the Navy community, stunning current and former officers, and angering many Fitzgerald sailors. “This breaks my heart,” Cmdr. Sean Babbitt, the executive officer on the Fitzgerald, messaged Benson. “Bryce, call me if you need anything. I’m worried,” Babbitt wrote later when he hadn’t heard back. The night after the charges were announced, Benson and his wife, nauseated with worry, lay side-by-side in bed, messaging on their phones with friends in Japan. Alex Benson, who couldn’t stop shaking, told Babbitt’s wife, “I don’t understand why they are doing this, and why THAT extra charge.” Sanchez’s wife, perhaps the only other person who could truly grasp what Alex was going through, messaged that she couldn’t shake the feeling that their husbands were the sacrificial lambs for the Pentagon. “I feel the same way,” Alex wrote back. “This is so much bigger than our husbands.” Benson’s uniforms, once the pillar of his identity, are tucked into the far side of his closet, where he rarely looks at them. This jacket has a special liner with his name inscribed on the inside, a rare bit of flair. (Hector Emanuel, special to ProPublica) When Benson went into work after the charges were filed, he was greeted by stares of awkward pity. His boss sent him home, telling him he should focus on his defense and recovery. Benson was devastated that this job, too, was taken from him. Why, Alex asked, would you want to put any more time into the organization that charged you with homicide? Because, he told her, “I love the Navy.” Holding the hand of his 7-year-old son, Benson stepped into the red brick Methodist church a few minutes from his house. He’d been raised a Baptist, but he figured that’s where his neighbors went. He and his son slid into a wooden pew in the back right before the service started and slipped out just as it was ending. He was uncertain he’d be welcomed. When the TV news covered the developments of the Navy’s case against him, his official portrait, displayed like a mugshot, and the word “homicide” were often on screen together. He worried his neighbors might not want their kids to play with his. The Navy community Benson and his wife had devoted their entire adult lives to had largely abandoned them long before the court-martial. Capt. Joe Carrigan, who’d been the skipper of the USS Antietam when it ran aground six months before the Fitzgerald crash, had called to prepare him: “You know, your membership to the club is revoked.” After the Antietam accident, several mentors offered Carrigan support, but the institution cast him aside. He went from being widely regarded as a future admiral to being left off the invite list for official Navy functions. Carrigan knew how swiftly Benson would be ostracized and how lonely it would be, and “I wanted him to know that he had a friend in me.” Benson recently started wearing his large collection of Hawaiian shirts again, hoping they might help him reconnect with who he used to be. He’d heard that another trauma survivor had found wearing clothing from her past to be therapeutic, and he thought he’d give it a try. (Hector Emanuel, special to ProPublica) Benson started cataloging responses from friends and colleagues, if he got any at all, by how long they waited to reach out. Many checked in only once. After deflecting for months the offers of the church’s pastor, Grace Han, to help him work through his despair, Benson finally agreed. At a small table in her office each week, he tried to figure out why he survived when others didn’t. He wept about meeting the mother of one of the sailors who died and professed his fears about the court-martial, the seriousness of his life being on the line and what it was doing to his family. “I think in part he came out of some desperation to want to be able to find a supportive voice or person that wasn’t his lawyer or his therapist,” Han said. “He didn’t feel safe in a community, and it’s hard to heal from something you feel like you can’t ever talk about.” When Benson made it out of the Fitzgerald alive, he was expected as captain of the ship to offer himself at least metaphorically as a sacrifice. By long Navy tradition, the skipper bears “absolute accountability,” which has often meant accepting whatever punishment the Navy imposed and quietly going away, properly chastened. But to Benson and many of his peers, the homicide charges pushed that concept beyond reason. “It was such an unprecedented aberration,” said Michael Junge, a captain and professor at the U.S. Naval War College who wrote a book about the history of command accountability. In other accidents involving deaths in the Navy’s modern history, the commanding officers were not charged with homicide or manslaughter. And in several instances when lower level sailors have been court-martialed on such charges, they were acquitted. (A Navy spokesman said the commanding officer of the USS Belknap, involved in a deadly collision in 1975, was charged with manslaughter, but ProPublica has not found evidence in the public record of such a charge.) The accountability the Navy thrusts on its commanders today, Junge said, far exceeds their actual authority. “In this case, as the investigation detailed, there were many significant contributing causes to the accident that extend well beyond the captain and crew,” said retired Vice Adm. Kevin Donegan. Those who know Benson well weren’t surprised when he decided to fight. “That’s his character, to stand up for what he thinks is right,” said Cmdr. Jean Marie Sullivan, who served with Benson on their first ship and has been a close friend since. Benson was assigned a local Navy counsel, then-Lt. Cmdr. Justin Henderson, a tenacious lawyer with a reputation for not bowing to the company line. Henderson told Benson that the charges on their face were bogus. What the Navy was alleging weren’t actual crimes that could be punished under military law, he said. The official charge sheet itself was so sloppily put together the Navy later had to use pen to cross out words and replace phrases. Navy leadership, Henderson told Benson, had overreached. Benson went over the details of his 35 days in command of the Fitzgerald again and again. He’d stepped into the role as captain after more than a year as the ship’s executive officer, but he set out to sea with a largely new, and green, crew. He knew his exacting standards had helped him rise through the ranks, but they also at times made him difficult to work for. Almost immediately, Benson’s bosses had upended his plans to get his crew up to speed, cutting short his training schedule in favor of an unrelenting series of missions and forcing him to do training on the fly. He worried about deploying when his crew lacked competency in high-skill tasks like ballistic missile defense. But, he said, “if I felt my watch standers couldn’t avoid a 30,000-ton tanker, I would not have gotten underway.” Of course, if he hadn’t gone forward, he said, “I would’ve been left there on the pier and someone else would’ve got the ship underway.” After the crashes, lawmakers had pressed Richardson on just this point: Could a commander say his ship couldn’t safely do the mission without blowback? “If I could go down there and give that commander a handshake and a medal, I would do that,” Richardson replied at the time. “This is exactly the kind of honesty and transparency we need to run a Navy that’s safe and effective.” Many current and former ship captains scoffed at what they saw as Richardson’s hypocrisy. In the real world of the Navy, a ship captain telling his command he couldn’t safely get underway is “impossible,” one former skipper said in an interview. No one believes there is a legitimate risk, only that the captain is failing to do what’s needed. “The subtext is that you’re a bad officer and probably a bad person too,” another officer said. By pursuing Benson, the officers said, Richardson and others atop the Navy hierarchy could avoid taking responsibility for their role in setting commanders, and their ships, up for disaster. For years, a ProPublica story in February found, the Navy had ignored reports, audits and the warnings of many top Navy and Pentagon officials that the fleet was dangerously overworked, undermanned and in disrepair, putting sailors’ lives at risk. Navy spokesman Cmdr. Clay Doss said in a written response to questions that the service “cannot fail to learn from these tragedies” and is working to change its “must-do culture.” “The direction from our fleet commanders is clear: The Navy will not deploy ships if they are not ready to sail safely and confidently,” Doss wrote, and the service expects commanders to “raise problems loudly … without fear of repercussions.” Benson finds it therapeutic to tap out his story on this typewriter, creating a physical document he can hold. So far he’s only shared his writing with his therapy group. (Hector Emanuel, special to ProPublica) Shortly before the Fitzgerald’s collision, the destroyer had been stuck in port because of computer system glitches on the ship. A senior officer remembered overhearing a phone call in which Benson’s boss, the commodore, Capt. Jeffrey Bennett, berated him for asking for help. “You expect me to fix your problems now?” Bennett yelled. Benson could say only that he’d try harder to take care of it on his own. “His choice was to do the best he could or be relieved,” the officer said. Bennett couldn’t be reached for comment. Now, Benson tortured himself over what he could have done differently. He’d certainly faced criticism for some of the decisions he made that night, such as choosing to sleep instead of overseeing his young crew during a nighttime passage. And some said it reflected badly on Benson that his officers ignored his orders to wake him at the first sign of trouble. But he couldn’t fathom how any of his decisions had landed him in a courtroom. He’d been dismayed when Sanchez, the McCain captain, had tearfully pleaded guilty in May of last year to lesser charges in front of the fallen sailors’ grieving family members. Sanchez “is not a criminal,” Benson said. The Navy “shouldn’t have done that to him.” Sanchez declined to comment. Then in June, without explanation, the Navy dropped the homicide charges against Benson. It pushed forward in prosecuting him for dereliction of duty resulting in death and hazarding a vessel, charges that carried more than five years in prison. Benson reached into his closet for the Navy uniform he now only wore when he was due in court. In the fall of 2018, Henderson had filed a flurry of motions, knocking back a little bit more of the Navy’s case against him, but the wheels seemed to keep moving inexorably toward a trial. With the lead-up to each hearing, Benson was on edge even more than normal. Once he launched a pill bottle at the wall, sending a watercolor of a sailboat crashing to the ground. Not only had the Navy dumped him, it seemed determined to bring its full weight publicly against him. Almost any time Benson heard the Navy’s top officers talk about the collision, they framed it as preventable if not for his incompetence and said he “owned” the tragedy. He was frustrated by their megaphone and how he had to wait until the court-martial to tell his own story. Benson was heartened somewhat when in December the judge called out Navy leadership for their PR campaign. The trial would be allowed to go forward, but the judge admonished Richardson and his deputy, Moran, for violating a sacred tenet of military criminal justice: to not poison the system by making their opinions clear. By doing so, any potential jurors would know exactly what the top brass wanted. A month later in January, the judge handed the Navy a final blow: The admiral in charge of the criminal proceedings was disqualified for improperly using his position to help the prosecution gather evidence against Benson. The Navy’s case had collapsed, but more than three months dragged by before it finally dropped the remaining charges against Benson. (The day the charges were dropped, ProPublica had informed the Navy it would be publishing a story detailing the extensive, troubling mistakes made by the Navy’s leadership in Benson’s case.) The next day, the Navy took one more swipe at Benson, this time with a public letter of censure. The secretary of the Navy, Richard Spencer, wrote an admonishment that repeatedly used the same words and phrases, such as “failure” and “unworthy of trust,” basically restating the charges the Navy was unable to bring to court, without an avenue for appeal. In an email, Spencer’s spokeswoman declined to provide details about why he wrote the letter. Alex Benson felt like the ordeal was finally over, but when she looked at her husband, she saw someone with a still-open wound. He’d lost his chance to affirmatively, publicly, be found innocent, because the Navy, Benson told her, “screwed it up.” In June, Benson nervously walked into a ballroom at the stodgy Army Navy Country Club in Arlington, Virginia, for a job networking event. It was tailored for military officers leaving the service and he was surrounded by his peers. For once, he was grateful he no longer wore the uniform, a silver oak leaf on his shoulder projecting his identity as a Navy commander. Just a blue suit, yellow tie, flag pin. Still, he almost crept about the room, feeling as if a giant spotlight were on him. Benson listened to panels on pragmatic topics that a military career didn’t prepare him for, such as how to negotiate a salary. One panelist mentioned an interesting job opening at a nonprofit, and Benson approached him afterward. The man squinted at him. “Bryce Benson,” he said, wagging his finger as he put it together. “You commanded the Fitzgerald during the collision …” Panic seized Benson. He thought to himself, “All right, breathe.” “You know, you’re really going to need to address this during any interview process,” the man told him. Benson nodded, face tight. He made it through the conversation and fled the country club. “Just over two years ago, I was one of the most powerful men in the Navy as a destroyer captain at sea,” Benson said. Now he was having to rehearse lines before introducing himself to a professional contact. He didn’t recognize himself. While his classmates celebrated the 20th anniversary of their commissioning, Benson had moments when he wished that he’d never joined the Navy. Alex Benson could tell he was obsessing when he chewed on the inside of his cheek. Some days she’d have to restrain herself from yelling: “Let it go!” At a loss for purpose, Benson began volunteering a few hours each week at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. On a recent sunny Saturday morning, he stood across from the striking black marble wall etched with the names of those that died in the war. He wore a yellow polo shirt and ball cap stitched with the word “volunteer” and the round emblem of the national park. “This has provided me a place to come in a uniform,” he said. Once a week, Benson volunteers at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington. It’s a place where he says he still feels of use. (Hector Emanuel, special to ProPublica) The namesake of the destroyer he captained, “William C Fitzgerald,” is engraved on the wall. Fitzgerald had sacrificed his life to save those of his men and defend his outpost when the base was overrun. Benson, like many captains before him, made a pilgrimage to Vermont to visit Fitzgerald’s widow before taking command. Volunteering near his name “makes me feel close to my crew,” Benson said. When a hunched veteran shuffled up with his two daughters, Benson smiled broadly as he helped the man to locate his fallen comrade on the 10-foot wall. Then, keeping up a banter, he climbed a ladder to the top and used tracing paper and a pencil to make a rubbing of the name. More than two years after the crash, Benson realizes he has become an infamous part of naval history, a cautionary tale. A technician at a recent medical appointment casually mentioned that her son, an officer in the Navy, was unsure he wanted command because of what the Navy did to that poor guy hanging out of the side of a ship in Japan. Benson told her she was talking about him. “It was like an out-of-body experience,” he said. His treatment by the Navy has also jogged something loose among his fellow commanders. One officer said in an interview that he’d decided that he’d opt to retire before commanding a ship again. “We all realize we’re completely going at this alone,” another officer said, “and are expendable in the eyes of those who only crave rank authority and shirk responsibility.” Commanders still talk about how Richardson was publicly saying safety first while privately urging commanders to be more daring and take more risks. One skipper boldly asked Richardson at a luncheon how his position squared with prosecuting commanding officers “when something goes wrong.” Richardson, said some in attendance, sidestepped the question. Sullivan, captain of the USS Whidbey Island, said all captains accept that they are responsible for what happens aboard their ships — even if they are asleep. But, she said, it “was very shocking” to see Navy leadership decide to hold the commanders criminally accountable. “I’m willing to sacrifice my life; that’s my job. But it’s hard to do that when you don’t think the organization has your back.” In all, Sullivan said, “The herd is spooked.” The call, like the others before it, came when Benson thought his ordeal was mercifully over. He learned in September that the Navy had not given up; it was taking him to a Board of Inquiry, an adversarial hearing before a three-person military panel that would judge the value of Benson’s 20 years of service in light of his “misconduct.” He’d have to fight to keep his rank and retire honorably. “How much does the Navy want me to lose?” he asked, gripping the back of a dining room chair in his suburban Virginia home. “When is it going to be enough?” Benson was wearing a Hawaiian shirt. Before the crash, he’d worn them often and had recently pulled them out again, hoping they’d help summon who he used to be. But now, as he seethed at the Navy, he cursed himself too. Why had he let hope creep in? The namesake of the destroyer Benson captained, “William C Fitzgerald,” is inscribed on the wall. He says volunteering near it makes him feel close to his crew. (Hector Emanuel, special to ProPublica) Alex leaned over and touched his face, fearful of the red mark blossoming on his cheek, a sign she’d learned meant he was upset — maybe he’d been screaming in the car or crying. Over the summer, Benson’s therapist at Walter Reed had written to the admiral charged with deciding whether Benson could retire and told him that the Navy’s continued pursuit of him had “led to an exacerbation of his PTSD symptoms and stymied his progress.” While he had improved, she wrote, “his status remains tenuous” and he had suicidal thoughts. She recommended that Benson be allowed to retire. A military review board over the summer also found him medically unfit for service because of his PTSD. When Benson’s 14-year-old daughter, Mia, learned there was yet another round to fight, she told her mom she wanted to write her own letter to Navy leaders to tell them how her house only used to have vitamins and Tylenol and now there’s lots of prescription bottles. How her house is a stressful place. How she’d just like to have her dad back. On Oct. 28, after seven more weeks of limbo, the Navy reversed course and decided not to take Benson to the misconduct hearing. But, with now-numbing predictability, the Navy swiftly followed up with a letter warning Benson that it might not be over. “You are advised this determination does not in any way preclude or limit … future administrative or other proceedings.” The head of Navy personnel could ask the secretary of the Navy to decide whether Benson should be allowed to retire with his rank, the letter said. Henderson said he’d never seen anything like it with this set of facts. Then, a week after ProPublica sent the Navy a list of questions about its actions in Benson’s case, the Navy made a final decision: Benson would be allowed to medically retire at his current rank of commander. For the first time in almost two and a half years, he had an end date. On Dec. 29, he’ll be a civilian again. But neither Benson or his family feel their trauma has ended. Alex Benson clings to a collection of screenshots of Facebook Memories, the old pictures resurfaced by the social media site. She opens her Facebook app and there at the top of the feed is her husband, livelier, freer. Maybe grinning as he swings their youngest in the air. The digital scrapbook is both a comforting testimony that their happiness did, in fact, exist and a source of grief. “I just want to go back to those times before everything just went to shit,” she said. Benson still talks about the shame he feels the Navy continues to cast on him. He tries to separate the guilt from who he is as a person, a distinction he said is crucial to stay off the path he describes as “blame, shame,” and then almost mouthing the last word, “suicide.” Ever since it filed the charges, he said, it feels like “the Navy has been trying to put me back in my cabin to kill me.” This story is based on hours of interviews with Bryce Benson and his wife, Alex, over the course of several months, as well as interviews with Benson’s family members; his lawyer; those who have known him for decades in and out of the Navy; more than a dozen current and former ship captains and Navy officers; and experts in military leadership and criminal justice. ProPublica also drew from information provided by a Navy spokesman; ProPublica’s extensive investigations into the Fitzgerald and McCain crashes and Navy accountability leading up to them; and thousands of pages of investigative and legal documents. Correction, Nov. 20, 2019: This story originally misstated Michael Junge’s military status. He is active duty, not retired.

  • Make Dental Care a Health Care Benefit
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    Dental care is not a luxury—it is essential for overall health.

  • House of Representatives Finally Recognizes Armenian Genocide
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    It is shocking that it has taken this long for even one house of the U.S. Congress to recognize this historic tragedy. Somehow it is always a “bad time” to upset the government of Turkey.

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  • ‘Se eu me debatesse, eles poderiam me dar um tiro’: a história da advogada presa durante audiência
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  • Rachel Maddow Says GOP-Called Impeachment Witnesses Only Confirmed Trump’s Corruption
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  • Adam Schiff Closes Impeachment Hearing With A Fiery Takedown Of GOP Committee Members
    by Sean Colarossi on November 20, 2019 at 01:59

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  • Democrats Get Big Win As Judge Grants Rush Judgement On Don McGahn Testimony
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  • Quid Pro Uh-Oh: Ukraine Cooperating With Criminal Probe Of Giuliani
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  • Right Wing Round-Up: Trump’s Not Sick, The Media Is
    by Kyle Mantyla on November 19, 2019 at 22:34

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  • Climate Groups Applaud Newsom’s Temporary Fracking Ban in California, But Say Other ‘Critical Next Steps’ Still Needed
    on November 19, 2019 at 22:10

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    by Jason Easley on November 19, 2019 at 21:59

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  • Tortured by CIA and Detained at Gitmo Without Trial, Ahmed Rabbani Gives Haunting Review of ‘The Report’—a New Film He’ll Likely Never See
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  • Little Kids, Locked Away
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  • White House Slams ‘Illegitimate’ Hearing
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  • The Many Lies and Untruths We’re Being Told About the Bolivian Coup
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  • Regardless of Party, Poll Shows 66% of Key Early State Voters Support ‘Ending Production of Fossil Fuels’
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    by Sarah Jones on November 19, 2019 at 17:07

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  • Rep. Ilhan Omar asks judge sentencing the man who threatened to murder her to show “compassion”
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  • Un hospital cobra a una de sus enfermeras casi $900,000 tras dar a luz a una bebé prematura
    by por Marshall Allen on November 19, 2019 at 16:00

    por Marshall Allen ProPublica es un medio independiente y sin ánimo de lucro que produce periodismo de investigación en pro del interés público. Suscríbete para recibir sus historias en español por correo electrónico. Read this story in English. Cuando Lauren Bard abrió la factura del hospital quedó paralizada. En negrita decía: MONTO ADEUDADO: $ 898,984.57. La hija de Bard, Sadie, nació en otoño pasado tres meses antes de tiempo. Como enfermera, sabía que los costos de atención para Sadie serían altos, pero había asumido que la mayor parte estarían cubiertos por la empresa dueña del hospital donde trabajaba: Dignity Health, cuyo lema es “Hola bondad humana”. Estaba equivocada. Bard, de 30 años, quedó atrapada en una dinámica implacable: a medida que los costos de atención médica aumentan, los empleadores transfieren los gastos a sus trabajadores, reduciendo lo que cubrirán o aumentando las primas y los desembolsos de los empleados. Pero un bebé prematuro entre gastos médicos asombrosamente altos crea una especie de bomba de beneficios, por lo que un empleador — especialmente uno que financia sus propios beneficios — podría buscar una forma de esquivarla por completo. Manténte informado/a Suscríbete a nuestra newsletter en español y te avisaremos cada vez que publiquemos una historia en español. This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply. Y Bart, que tras dar luz a su hija estaba distraída por la precaria salud de la niña y por su propia hospitalización por afecciones graves relacionadas con el embarazo, descubrió esto de la peor manera posible. Su batalla contra su propio empleador es una historia que puede servir de advertencia para otros futuros padres. La pesadilla de Bard comenzó traumáticamente el 21 de septiembre de 2018 cuando dio a luz a Sadie con solo 26 semanas de gestación en el Centro Médico Irvine de la Universidad de California, al sur del estado. Con un peso de menos de una libra y media — tan pequeña que cabía en las manos de su madre — Sadie fue trasladada de emergencia a la unidad de cuidados intensivos neonatales. Tres días después de su nacimiento, Bard llamó a Anthem Blue Cross, la administradora de su plan de salud para comenzar la cobertura. Tanto el departamento de facturación de Anthem como la unidad de cuidados intensivos de Irvine le aseguraron que Sadie estaba cubierta, asegura Bard. Pero el plan de Dignity, como muchos, requiere que los empleados inscriban a los recién nacidos antes de 31 días a través de su sitio web, algo que Bard dijo que no sabía en ese momento. Creyendo que todo estaba bien con sus beneficios, Bard pasó nueve de esos 31 días recuperándose en el hospital y luego tuvo que regresar a la sala de emergencias por una infección. Pasó todo el tiempo que pudo en la unidad de cuidados intensivos neonatales (UCIN, por sus siglas en inglés), donde Sadie, en una incubadora, conectada a tubos y cables, luchaba contra una serie de condiciones críticas relacionadas con el parto extremadamente prematuro. En algún momento, los médicos le dieron una probabilidad de supervivencia de 50%. “Desde que nació es una luchadora”, dice Bard. Ocho días después de la fecha límite de 31 días, el departamento de facturación de Cuidados Intensivos de Irvine alertó a Bard sobre un problema con la cobertura de Sadie. Anthem dijo que no podía procesar los reclamos relacionados con su bebé, que todavía estaba en la UCIN. Bard, enfermera de emergencias del Centro Médico St. Bernardine en San Bernardino, llamó al departamento de beneficios de Dignity e hizo un descubrimiento repugnante. Sadie no estaba inscrita en su plan de salud. Era demasiado tarde, le dijeron, ya no podía agregar a su bebé. Dignity se anuncia como el quinto sistema de salud más grande del país, con servicios en 21 estados. Esta enorme organización sin fines de lucro autofinancia sus beneficios de salud, lo que significa que asume el costo de facturas como las de Sadie. Y no parece tener poco dinero. En 2018, reportó $6.6 mil millones en activos netos y pagó a su CEO $11.9 millones en compensación reportable, de acuerdo con las declaraciones de impuestos. Ese mismo año, más de dos docenas de ejecutivos de Dignity ganaron más de $1 millón en compensación, según los registros. Dignity también es una organización religiosa que dice que su misión es promover “el ministerio de la curación de Jesús”. Bard recuerda haber pensado que seguramente tendrían compasión de ella. Bard hizo un collage de los traumáticos primeros días de su hija. Sadie nació tres meses antes de tiempo y pasó 105 días en la unidad de cuidados intensivos neonatales. (Arlene Mejorado para ProPublica) Con la sombra de las facturas sobre ella, Bard dijo que literalmente le rogó a Dignity que cambiara de opinión en múltiples llamadas telefónicas, llegando incluso hasta los supervisores. Les insistió que pensaba que había inscrito a Sadie con su llamada a Anthem, pero no era así. Fue un error inocente. Los representantes le dijeron que la información sobre la regla de los 31 días estaba en los documentos que recibió cuando fue contratada. No importaba que hubiera sido hace seis años, mucho antes de que ella soñara siquiera con tener a Sadie. El representante también le dijo que no era solo la decisión de Dignity: el Servicio de Impuestos Internos (IRS, por sus siglas en inglés) no les permitiría agregar a la bebé al plan. Con el plan de Dignity, Bard podría tener dos apelaciones por escrito. Ella no llegó a ninguna parte con ninguna de ellas. “Las regulaciones del IRS y las disposiciones del plan nos impiden hacer una excepción de inscripción”, escribió Dignity en su respuesta del 30 de noviembre de 2018 a su primera apelación. Al ser consultados, los funcionarios del IRS dijeron que no podían hablar sobre casos específicos debido a problemas de privacidad ni tampoco hacer comentarios para cumplir con la fecha límite de ProPublica. Dignity rechazó la segunda apelación escrita de Bard en una carta del 8 de julio, diciendo que la fecha límite estaba incluida en un paquete enviado nueve días antes del nacimiento de Sadie. Pero en ese momento, Bard ya había sido ingresada en el hospital debido a complicaciones de salud. La carta de Dignity decía que “no puede hacer una excepción a las disposiciones del plan”. Pero el regulador federal del plan de Dignity dijo que tales planes sí que contemplan excepciones. Un funcionario del Departamento Federal de Trabajo, ente que regula los beneficios de salud autofinanciados, le dijo a ProPublica que los planes pueden hacer concesiones siempre que los apliquen por igual a los participantes. Además, la ley federal permite planes para tratar a las personas con “factores de salud adversos” más favorablemente, dijo el funcionario. Bard luchó, inútilmente, para ver si algún plan de seguro financiado con fondos públicos podría cubrir los costos. Mientras tanto, las facturas comenzaron a llegar: $206 en noviembre, $1,033 en enero, $523 en febrero y $69,362 en abril, con la mayor parte aún por venir. Sadie había pasado 105 días en el hospital y tuvo varias cirugías — y las facturas serían de Bard solamente. La cuenta total del hospital de Sadie rozaba el millón de dólares y seguía en aumento cuando ProPublica habló por primera vez con Bard. “Trabajaré el resto de mi vida o me declararé en bancarrota”, afirmó. Bard dijo que ella y su prometido — el padre de Sadie — Nathan Benton, consideraron retrasar su boda para que él no estuviera legalmente cargado con las facturas también. Bard quedó paralizada cuando abrió esta factura del Irvine Medical Center de la Universidad de California y vio el monto adeudado: $898,984.57. (Arlene Mejorado para ProPublica) La inminente deuda y el rechazo de su empleador hicieron que Bard se tambaleara cuando ya sufría de depresión posparto. Regresó a su trabajo mientras la posibilidad de perder su casa en Norco la agobiaba. Lloró y se culpó una y otra vez por no cumplir con el plazo: ¿cómo no pensó en algo así? Ella debería haberlo sabido. Ella debería haber estado más pendiente de eso. Anthem declinó hacer comentarios para esta historia. La Unidad de Cuidados Intensivos de Irvine, donde Bard dijo que la atención fue excelente, comentó que casos como el de Bard son inusuales pero pueden ocurrir en 1% o 2% de los nacimientos. El hospital intenta trabajar con los pacientes cuando tienen problemas con las facturas, dijo un portavoz del centro. Con las apelaciones agotadas, la factura de $898,000 llegó. Bard pudo ver de inmediato que manejarlo de la manera típica, con un plan de pago, no iba a funcionar. Si lo fraccionaba en $100 al mes, pagar la deuda le tomaría más de 748 años. “Tardaría tanto tiempo que estaría muerta”, dijo Bard. No encontraba ninguna salida. El 7 de octubre, publicó una fotografía de la factura de $898,000 en Facebook. “Cuando Dignity Health (la compañía para la que trabajo) te jode sacando del seguro a tu hija…”, escribió. Una semana después, ProPublica, que había sido notificada sobre el caso de Bard mientras informaba sobre excesos en los seguros médicos, contactó a un representante de medios de Dignity. Al día siguiente, Bard recibió una llamada del vicepresidente senior de operaciones de Dignity Southern California, quien se disculpó y dijo que había escuchado sobre su situación a través del equipo de medios de la organización y que la ayudarían. Dos días después, Dignity agregó a Sadie al plan, retroactivo a su fecha de nacimiento. Cubriría las cuentas. Los funcionarios de Dignity le dijeron a ProPublica que se habían enterado de Bard a través de su publicación de Facebook. Bard dijo que dudaba que Dignity hubiera cambiado el rumbo de no haber sido por las preguntas de ProPublica. Bard carga a Sadie, quien ya tiene 13 meses. Está sana y avanza en su desarrollo. (Arlene Mejorado para ProPublica) Dignity aseguró en un comunicado que revisaría cómo podría educar mejor a los nuevos padres sobre el requisito de inscripción. Pero Bard todavía quiere saber por qué su empleador la hizo pasar por tal prueba. En una carta que recibió la semana pasada, el departamento de beneficios de Dignity dijo que había recibido información adicional que los hizo reconsiderar su caso, pero parece ser la misma información que les había estado dando todo el tiempo. “Basamos esta nueva decisión en ciertas circunstancias atenuantes y convincentes que, con toda seguridad, le impidieron inscribir a su hija recién nacida dentro del período de inscripción de 31 días requerido por el Plan”, se leía en la carta. Bard reconoce una oscura ironía en el comportamiento de su empleador, un hospital cristiano, y eso hace que sea escéptica. Además, instó al departamento de beneficios a cambiar su proceso para que a otros empleados no se les nieguen sus beneficios. “Dignity necesita poner en práctica sus propios ideales”, le dijo a ProPublica. “No los pueden tener solo como una fachada (…) Tienes que vivirlo. Tienes que recorrer el camino”. Bard dijo que ella y Benton aún no conocen el total final por el cuidado de Sadie. Pero a veces llaman a su pícara cachetona de 1 año, que está sana y desarrollándose, su “bebé de un millón de dólares”. ¿Su empleador ha negado por error sus beneficios de salud? Comparta su historia con el reportero Marshall Allen en

  • The Furor Over Medicare for All Ignores a Key Question
    by Katrina vanden Heuvel on November 19, 2019 at 15:59

    Katrina vanden Heuvel Do we have the courage to make health care a right, not a privilege? The post The Furor Over Medicare for All Ignores a Key Question appeared first on The Nation.

  • Chris McDonald: John Brennan ‘Is Going to Hang From a Noose’
    by Kyle Mantyla on November 19, 2019 at 15:40

    Upset by former CIA director John Brenna’s reply to President Trump’s tweet disparaging former U.S.ambassador to the Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, last week, right-wing commentator and radical conspiracy theorist Chris McDonald declared that Brennan is “going to hang from a noose.” During Yovanovitch’s testimony on the second day of the public impeachment hearings into Trump last

  • Vindman Just Destroyed Trump’s Ukraine Call Cover Story
    by Jason Easley on November 19, 2019 at 15:40

    Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman testified on Tuesday that he listened to both of Trump’s Ukraine calls, and corruption was never mentioned.

  • WATCH LIVE: Day 3 of Trump Impeachment Hearings
    on November 19, 2019 at 15:39

    Common Dreams staffTestimony on Wednesday came from two key witnesses Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman and Jennifer Williams in the morning. In a separate afternoon hearing, testimony was provided by Ambassador Kurt Volker, former U.S. Special Envoy to Ukraine and Timothy Morrison, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Europe and Russia, National Security Council.

  • ‘Disqualifying’: Buttigieg Faces Backlash for Praising Right-Wing Tea Party Movement in Resurfaced 2010 Video
    on November 19, 2019 at 15:38

    Jake Johnson, staff writer”I believe we might find that we have a lot in common,” Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg said during an event hosted by Citizens for Common Sense.

  • Trump assails Nancy Pelosi for impeachment quote — but it actually came from Fox News
    on November 19, 2019 at 15:15

    “She wants to change our voting system. Wow, she’s CRAZY!” Trump declared

  • Trump Is an Aggressive Arms Dealer. So Were His Predecessors.
    by William D. Hartung on November 19, 2019 at 15:00

    William D. Hartung America has been dealing arms to the Middle East since Nixon, fueling a lucrative and disastrous kind of foreign policy. The post Trump Is an Aggressive Arms Dealer. So Were His Predecessors. appeared first on The Nation.

  • Trump Wants to Treat Undocumented Migrants Like Enemy Combatants
    by Sasha Abramsky on November 19, 2019 at 15:00

    Sasha Abramsky But US soldiers who commit war crimes? They’re “deserving individuals” who deserve “second chances.” The post Trump Wants to Treat Undocumented Migrants Like Enemy Combatants appeared first on The Nation.

  • Letters From the December 2/9, 2019, Issue
    by Our Readers, Eric Alterman on November 19, 2019 at 14:40

    Our Readers, Eric Alterman The truth about lies… Fixing a supreme injustice… The post Letters From the December 2/9, 2019, Issue appeared first on The Nation.

  • From ‘outside voices, please’
    by Valerie Hsiung on November 19, 2019 at 14:30

    Valerie Hsiung The post From ‘outside voices, please’ appeared first on The Nation.

  • Lindsey Graham, Legal Scholar
    by Calvin Trillin on November 19, 2019 at 14:20

    Calvin Trillin The post Lindsey Graham, Legal Scholar appeared first on The Nation.

  • Comix Nation
    by Jen Sorensen on November 19, 2019 at 14:17

    Jen Sorensen The post Comix Nation appeared first on The Nation.

  • Vindman responds to “vile” attacks on impeachment witnesses: “I will be fine for telling the truth”
    on November 19, 2019 at 14:17

    Fox host Laura Ingraham was among those who questioned Vindman’s loyalty to America after he contradicted Trump

  • Impeachment: There goes Trump’s “hearsay” defense; GOP tries to out whistleblower
    on November 19, 2019 at 13:25

    Lt. Col. Vindman and Williams blow a hole through another Trump defense — and implicate Pence in Ukraine scandal

  • The Other Americans: Indigenous Guatemalans Mobilize to Denounce Coup in Bolivia
    by Jeff Abbott on November 19, 2019 at 13:09

    Repression against indigenous Bolivians has spurred protests across the Americas.

  • Up in Smoke
    by Paul Karasik on November 19, 2019 at 13:00

    Paul Karasik Vaping manufactures hit their target market. The post Up in Smoke appeared first on The Nation.

  • ‘What Momentum Looks Like’: Sanders Becomes Fastest Presidential Candidate in History to Reach 4 Million Individual Donations
    on November 19, 2019 at 12:45

    Jake Johnson, staff writer”This is damn impressive,” said progressive strategist Rebecca Katz.

  • The Songs of Canceled Men
    by Joe Bucciero on November 19, 2019 at 12:30

    Joe Bucciero A new book revisits the lives of artists like James Brown, Elvis Presley, and Frank Sinatra and asks how music criticism can reckon with the lives of immoral artists. The post The Songs of Canceled Men appeared first on The Nation.

  • Sweden drops rape investigation into WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange
    on November 19, 2019 at 12:28

    Assange is currently in jail in the U.K. for breaching his bail conditions in 2012 at a hearing related to the case

  • Supreme Court temporarily blocks subpoena for President Trump’s tax returns from House Democrats
    on November 19, 2019 at 12:17

    The court issued a temporary stay on a ruling that requires Trump’s accounting firm to turn over his tax returns

  • Surviving Indonesia’s Antigay Clampdown
    by Nicole Einbinder, Gabriela Bhaskar on November 19, 2019 at 12:00

    Nicole Einbinder, Gabriela Bhaskar They met, fell in love, and were nearly torn apart in a country where LGBTQ people are increasingly persecuted. The post Surviving Indonesia’s Antigay Clampdown appeared first on The Nation.

  • GOP’s impeachment antics backfire: Maybe Elise Stefanik just wants to lose
    on November 19, 2019 at 11:31

    Stefanik’s fall: Why did a congresswoman from an upstate New York purple district just set herself on fire?

  • Ted Chiang’s Sci-Fi Goes Beyond the Promise of Technology
    by Stephen Kearse on November 19, 2019 at 11:30

    Stephen Kearse In his short story collection Exhalation, he builds social worlds where every character and object is deeply intertwined in history and in future possibility. The post Ted Chiang’s Sci-Fi Goes Beyond the Promise of Technology appeared first on The Nation.

  • Third official testifies that Mike Pompeo called Fox News host Sean Hannity about Marie Yovanovitch
    on November 19, 2019 at 11:05

    A Fox News analyst claims that Hannity is being “smeared,” even though a State Dep’t official confirmed the call

  • What the Iran Cables Tell Us About the U.S.-Made Hellscape in Iraq
    by Intercepted on November 19, 2019 at 11:01

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  • A Deadly Game of Chicken in Iraq and Lebanon
    by Thanassis Cambanis on November 19, 2019 at 11:00

    Thanassis Cambanis Popular revolts in the Middle East are pitting people against regimes. The post A Deadly Game of Chicken in Iraq and Lebanon appeared first on The Nation.

  • The Quiet Rooms
    by by Jennifer Smith Richards, Chicago Tribune, and Jodi S. Cohen and Lakeidra Chavis, ProPublica Illinois on November 19, 2019 at 11:00

    by Jennifer Smith Richards, Chicago Tribune, and Jodi S. Cohen and Lakeidra Chavis, ProPublica Illinois This investigation is a collaboration between ProPublica Illinois and the Chicago Tribune. ProPublica Illinois is a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power. Sign up to get weekly updates about our work. The spaces have gentle names: The reflection room. The cool-down room. The calming room. The quiet room. But shut inside them, in public schools across the state, children as young as 5 wail for their parents, scream in anger and beg to be let out. The students, most of them with disabilities, scratch the windows or tear at the padded walls. They throw their bodies against locked doors. They wet their pants. Some children spend hours inside these rooms, missing class time. Through it all, adults stay outside the door, writing down what happens. In Illinois, it’s legal for school employees to seclude students in a separate space — to put them in “isolated timeout” — if the students pose a safety threat to themselves or others. Yet every school day, workers isolate children for reasons that violate the law, an investigation by the Chicago Tribune and ProPublica Illinois has found. Children were sent to isolation after refusing to do classwork, for swearing, for spilling milk, for throwing Legos. School employees use isolated timeout for convenience, out of frustration or as punishment, sometimes referring to it as “serving time.” For this investigation, ProPublica Illinois and the Tribune obtained and analyzed thousands of detailed records that state law requires schools to create whenever they use seclusion. The resulting database documents more than 20,000 incidents from the 2017-18 school year and through early December 2018. Of those, about 12,000 included enough detail to determine what prompted the timeout. In more than a third of these incidents, school workers documented no safety reason for the seclusion. State education officials are unaware of these repeated violations because they do not monitor schools’ use of the practice. Parents, meanwhile, often are told little about what happens to their children. The Tribune/ProPublica Illinois investigation, which also included more than 120 interviews with parents, children and school officials, provides the first in-depth examination of this practice in Illinois. Because school employees observing the students often keep a moment-by-moment log, the records examined by reporters offer a rare view of what happens to children inside these rooms — often in their own words. Without doubt, many of the children being secluded are challenging. Records show school employees struggling to deal with disruptive, even violent behavior, such as hitting, kicking and biting. Workers say that they have to use seclusion to keep everyone in the classroom safe and that the practice can help children learn how to calm themselves. But disability advocates, special-education experts and administrators in school systems that have banned seclusion argue that the practice has no therapeutic or educational value, that it can traumatize children — and that there are better alternatives. No federal law regulates the use of seclusion, and Congress has debated off and on for years whether that should change. Last fall, a bill was introduced that would prohibit seclusion in public schools that receive federal funding. A U.S. House committee held a hearing on the issue in January, but there’s been no movement since. Nineteen states prohibit secluding children in locked rooms; four of them ban any type of seclusion. But Illinois continues to rely on the practice. The last time the U.S. Department of Education calculated state-level seclusion totals, in 2013-14, Illinois ranked No. 1. Although state law requires schools to file a detailed report each time they use seclusion, no one is required to read these accounts. Several school district officials said they had not reviewed seclusion reports from their schools until reporters requested them. The Illinois State Board of Education does not collect any data on schools’ use of isolated timeout and has not updated guidelines since issuing them 20 years ago. “Having a law that allows schools to do something that is so traumatic and dangerous to students without having some sort of meaningful oversight and monitoring is really, really troubling,” said Zena Naiditch, founder and leader of Equip for Equality, a disabilities watchdog group that helped write Illinois’ rules in 1999. Informed of the investigation’s findings, the Illinois State Board of Education said it would issue guidance clarifying that seclusion should be used only in emergencies. Officials acknowledged they don’t monitor the use of isolated timeout and said they would need legislative action to do so. This investigation, based on records from more than 100 districts, found seclusion was used in schools across every part of the state and by a range of employees, from teachers and aides to social workers and security personnel. Some districts declined to provide records or gave incomplete information. Others wouldn’t answer even basic questions, saying the law did not require them to. Of more than 20 districts reporters asked to visit, only three said yes. “Is this something that we’re ashamed of? It’s not our finest,” said Christan Schrader, director of the Black Hawk Area Special Education District in East Moline, which documented about 850 seclusions in the time period examined. Schrader said she thinks her staff generally uses seclusion appropriately but acknowledged room for improvement. She met with reporters at the district’s administration building but wouldn’t let them see the seclusion rooms in the school across the parking lot. “Nobody wants to talk about those things because it doesn’t reflect well,” she said. “I’m Crying Alone” About 20 minutes after he was put in one of his school’s Quiet Rooms — a 5-foot-square space made of plywood and cinder block — 9-year-old Jace Gill wet his pants. An aide, watching from the doorway, wrote that down in a log, noting it was 10:53 a.m. on Feb. 1, 2018. School aides had already taken away Jace’s shoes and both of his shirts. Jace then stripped off his wet pants, wiped them in the urine on the floor and sat down in the corner. “I’m naked!” Jace yelled at 10:56 a.m. Staff did not respond, the log shows, except to close the door “for privacy.” By 11 a.m., Jace had also defecated and was smearing feces on the wall. No adults intervened, according to the log. They watched and took notes. “Dancing in feces. Doing the twist,” staff wrote at 11:14 a.m., noting that the boy then started pacing back and forth. “I need more clothes,” he called out. “We know,” an aide answered. Jace banged on the walls and tried to pry open the door. He sat against the wall, crying for his mom. 11:42 a.m.: “Let me out of here. I’m crying alone.” The incident began that morning when Jace ripped up a math worksheet and went into the hallway, trying to leave school. Jace was diagnosed with autism when he was 3 and began having epileptic seizures at 5. In first grade, officials at his local school referred him to the Kansas Treatment and Learning Center, a public school in east-central Illinois for children with emotional and behavioral disabilities. Jace’s mother, Kylee Beaven, had heard about the Quiet Rooms at Kansas and had strong reservations about the concept, even before she took a school tour and stepped inside one. She recalls being told he would never be shut inside alone. “I remember standing there and thinking, like, if I was a kid, how would I feel if I was in this room by myself?” she said. In the years Jace spent at the Kansas TLC, he was placed in the Quiet Rooms again and again — at least 28 times in the 2017-18 school year. Once, he was shut in after he pushed a book off his desk, said “I hate reading,” raised his fist and tried to leave the classroom. Another day, he refused to get out of his grandmother’s car at school drop-off, so a staff member took him straight to a Quiet Room. After he went into a Quiet Room on Feb. 1, a staff member took notes every one or two minutes. The handwritten incident report stretches nine pages on lined paper. Jace spent more than 80 minutes in the room before someone stepped inside to hand him a change of clothes, wipes to clean his feet and some lunch. A mental-health crisis worker arrived to talk to him, but he wouldn’t answer her questions. He was not released until his grandmother — his “Gammy” — came to pick him up at 2:07 p.m. Jace’s mother remembers this incident, in part because she was surprised to learn that he had defecated in the room. Hadn’t she been told he wouldn’t be alone? When reporters showed her the lengthy report, she read and reread it for at least 20 minutes, tears falling onto the pages. “I didn’t know it was like this. I didn’t know they wrote this all down,” Beaven said. “None of it should have happened.” In the nearly 50,000 pages of reports reporters reviewed about Illinois students in seclusion, school workers often keep watch over children who are clearly in distress. They dutifully document kids urinating and spitting in fear or anger and then being ordered to wipe the walls clean and mop the floors. Kansas TLC is operated by the Eastern Illinois Area Special Education district, which serves students from eight counties and is based in Charleston. Illinois has about 70 regional special-education districts that teach students who can’t be accommodated in their home districts. Eastern Illinois officials ultimately released roughly 10,000 pages of records chronicling nearly 1,100 isolated timeouts. Analysis of those records shows more than half of seclusions there were prompted by something other than a safety issue. When students at any of the three schools have been disrespectful or disruptive, they are required to take a “head down” — to lower their heads and remain silent for a set number of minutes. If they refuse, they often are sent to a Quiet Room — sometimes for hours — until they comply. Zayvion Johnson, 15, remembers how it felt. He used to go to the Kansas school, too, and spent time in the same rooms as Jace. “They told us it was there to help us, but it just made everybody mad,” said Zayvion, now a sophomore at Charleston High School who plays running back and middle linebacker on the football team. “The Quiet Room, it irritates people. … You’re isolated from everybody else. You can’t talk to anybody else.” The Eastern Illinois district’s executive director, Tony Reeley, said he had not grasped how often seclusion was being used in his schools until he read some of the documents requested by reporters. “Looking at a stack of 8,000 pages at one time really did kind of hit home,” Reeley said when he met with reporters in the spring. He has not responded to recent requests for comment, including about specific incidents. Reeley and assistant director Jeremy Doughty said they were surprised and concerned about how frequently staff used seclusion rooms after students were disobedient but not physically aggressive. “When we read it, it reads punitive,” Doughty said. “We have to do something to address this,” said Reeley. In October 2018, Jace died at home in rural Paris of a seizure in his sleep. He had not returned to Kansas TLC that fall; his family had decided to home-school him, in part to keep him out of the Quiet Rooms. In the family’s living room, Jace’s mom shared photos of him at a Wiggles concert, in a Spider-Man costume, sitting on Santa’s lap. A favorite image features the family wearing “Team Jace” T-shirts at an autism walk; Jace’s shirt reads “I’m Jace.” “He loved his dad and loved me and he loved his Gammy,” his mother said. “He had issues, but they weren’t his fault. He couldn’t control it.” A Boy in a Plywood Box The plywood box in the middle of Ted Meckley’s special-education classroom was 3 feet wide, 3 feet deep and 7 feet tall. The schools around Pontiac had been using boxes to seclude students for years, and Ted, a nonverbal 16-year-old with developmental disabilities, was routinely shut inside. In 1989, Ted’s mother, Judith, started speaking out. Newspapers published stories, people got upset, and the boxes were removed. Judith Meckley joined a state task force to examine the use of seclusion. After a brief ban on the practice, the state Board of Education issued guidance and then, a few years later, rules that carried the weight of state law. The Illinois rules accepted the need for seclusion, a practice already used in psychiatric hospitals and other institutional settings. After Congress enacted a 1975 law guaranteeing a free public education to children with disabilities, the colleges and universities that trained teachers sought guidance from behavioral psychologists on how to manage these potentially challenging students. At the time, some researchers favored using cattle prods and electric shock to discourage unwanted behavior. Another method was to move the misbehaving patient into an environment with fewer stimuli — someplace calmer. “It gave a psychological justification for seclusion,” said Scot Danforth, a professor at Chapman University in California who studies the education of children with disabilities and believes seclusion is ineffective. Illinois’ rules, now 20 years old, require that school employees constantly monitor the child and that they be able to see inside the room. Locks on the doors must be active, meaning they have to be continuously held in place. That’s so a child can’t be trapped during a fire or other emergency. But the rules also cemented the use of seclusion in Illinois’ public schools. “Essentially the regulations legitimized practices that place students at risk of serious harm and trauma,” said Naiditch, of Equip for Equality. The Illinois law also lists reasons children can be physically restrained, a practice sometimes used in conjunction with seclusion. But the law is less precise about seclusion than about restraint, leaving room for misinterpretation by school officials. “It makes it even more dangerous because schools are widely using it as punishment,” Naiditch said after reading some of the incident reports obtained by ProPublica Illinois and the Tribune. School administrators who use seclusion say they need it to deal with students whose behavior is challenging, disruptive and, at times, dangerous. “If (students are) committed to hurting someone, that room is a way to keep them safe,” said Alicia Corrigan, director of student services for Community Consolidated School District 15, which operates a therapeutic day program in Rolling Meadows for 40 students with disabilities. Students there were secluded about 330 times in the time period reporters examined. But “that’s the smallest part of our day,” Corrigan said. “That is not what we do all day.” The Belleville Area Special Services Cooperative, near St. Louis, has two timeout rooms. Scratch marks are visible in the blue padding inside and on the windows in the heavy, locking doors. “Does it actually teach them anything or develop a skill? Absolutely not,” said Jeff Daugherty, who heads the cooperative. He allowed journalists to tour the Pathways school and see timeout rooms. “It’s never pleasant. I do believe it’s a necessary tool for our line of work with our students.” The U.S. Department of Education warned in 2012 that secluding students can be dangerous and said that there is no evidence it’s effective in reducing problematic behaviors. A few school districts in Illinois prohibit seclusion, including Chicago Public Schools, which banned it 11 years ago. But these districts often send students with disabilities to schools that do use it, such as those operated by most of Illinois’ special-education districts. Danforth said seclusion goes unexamined because it largely affects students with disabilities. To put children in timeout rooms, “you really have to believe that you’re dealing with people who are deeply defective. And that’s what the staff members tell each other. … You can do it because of who you’re doing it to.” Ted Meckley, whose experiences in Pontiac’s timeout box as a teenager helped change the practice of seclusion, is now 45 and living in a group home. When a reporter told his mother that seclusion still is widely used, she gasped. “No!” Meckley said. “My goodness. That is the most discouraging thing. I spent six years of my life fighting on this very issue. It’s so discouraging to think that, 25 years later, here we are. No progress.” In fact, reporters identified several schools that have added more seclusion rooms in the past year or so. North Shore School District 112 converted two coat closets to isolation rooms. The McLean district in Normal opened two rooms in an elementary school. And at Dirksen Elementary School in Schaumburg, two new 6-by-6 rooms are in use. They’re called “resolution rooms.” The Revolving Door By 8:35 a.m. on Dec. 19, 2017, all five of the timeout “booths” at Bridges Learning Center near Centralia were already full. School had been in session for five minutes. Each booth is about 6 by 8 feet, with a steel door. That day, one held a boy who had hung on a basketball rim and swore at staff when they told him to stop. In another, a boy who had used “raised voice tones.” Two boys were being held because they hadn’t finished classwork. Inside the fifth room was a boy who had tried to “provoke” other students when he got off a bus. Staff told him he’d be back again “to serve 15 minutes every morning due to his irrational behavior.” None of those reasons for seclusion is permitted under Illinois law. Yet, over the course of that one day, the rooms stayed busy, with two turning over like tables in a restaurant, emptying and refilling four times. The other three were occupied for longer periods, as long as five hours for the boy who hung off the basketball rim. In all, Bridges staff isolated students 20 times. Seclusion is supposed to be rare, a last resort. But at Bridges, part of the Kaskaskia Special Education District in southern Illinois, and at many other schools, it is often the default response. Bridges used seclusion 1,288 times in the 15 months of school that reporters examined. The school has about 65 students. According to the Tribune/ProPublica Illinois analysis of Bridges records, 72% of the seclusions were not prompted by a safety issue, as the law requires. “There were kids there every day,” said Brandon Skibinski, who worked as a paraprofessional at Bridges for part of the 2018-19 school year. “I didn’t think that was the best practice. I don’t know what the best practices are, though.” Cassie Clark, who heads the Kaskaskia Special Education District, did not respond to requests for comment about the district’s practices. In nearly 6,000 of the incidents reporters analyzed from schools across the state, students were secluded only because they were disruptive, disrespectful, not following directions, not participating in class or a combination of those reasons. “That is clearly not good practice,” said Kevin Rubenstein, president of the Illinois Alliance of Administrators of Special Education, which represents 1,200 public and private special-education administrators in the state. “To the extent there is bad practice going on across the state, we need to fix that.” The Kaskaskia district’s revolving-door use of the timeout booths stands out, but some other districts seclude children nearly as frequently. The Special Education District of Lake County used isolated timeout about 1,200 times over the 15-month period reporters examined. Northern Suburban Special Education District in Highland Park put children in seclusion more than 900 times. Some traditional school districts also relied on seclusion. For example, Valley View School District 365U in Romeoville and Schaumburg District 54 each secluded students more than 160 times in the time period examined. Wilmette District 39 put students in isolated timeout 361 times in 2017-18 alone. Illinois’ seclusion rules are more permissive than federal guidelines, which say seclusion should be used only in cases of “imminent danger of serious physical harm.” In Illinois, children can be secluded for physical safety concerns regardless of the threat level. The state law also doesn’t encourage staff to try other interventions first. And while federal officials suggest that seclusion should end as soon as the problematic behavior stops, Illinois law allows a child to be secluded for up to 30 minutes more. Even with these looser rules, the ProPublica Illinois/Tribune investigation found that Illinois schools regularly flout and misinterpret state law. Some schools use seclusion — or the threat of it — as punishment. At the Braun Educational Center in south suburban Oak Forest, a classroom door features a sign saying: “If you walk to the door or open it you WILL earn” a visit to the “isolation and reflection” space. The school’s director said the sign is not a threat but a visual reminder that leaving is a violation of school rules. Others won’t release children from seclusion until they apologize or sit against a wall or put their heads down. The Tri-County Special Education district in Carbondale routinely made children write sentences as a condition of release, records show. Students there often were kept in isolation long after the safety threat was over, sometimes even starting their next school day in a timeout room. Tri-County Director Jan Pearcy told reporters those practices ended this year. Administrators in some districts have decided that putting a child in a room is not an isolated timeout if there is no door or the door is left open — even though the student is being blocked from leaving. State law does not say an isolated timeout requires a closed door. “We only consider something isolated timeout if a student is in the room with the door shut and magnet (lock) held,” said Kristin Dunker, who heads the Vermilion Association for Special Education in Danville. “I understand this isn’t going to look good for us.” At Bridges, records show how staff violated the state’s rules. Schools aren’t supposed to put students in seclusion for talking back or swearing, but Bridges did repeatedly. Workers also shut many students in booths for hours after the child’s challenging behavior ended. One boy argued with Bridges workers as they tried to force him into isolation in March 2018 for being uncooperative. “I don’t want to go in a booth,” he said. “You’ll lock me in there all day.” He was kept in the booth for nearly five hours. Laura Myers saw Bridges’ timeout booths during school meetings and told administrators they should never be used on her 6-year-old son, Gabriel. A tiny, giggly boy with bright red hair, Gabriel has autism and is nonverbal, though he can sign a few words, including “blue,” “green” and “truck.” “There’s a metal bench, the lock and key, the whole nine,” Myers said. “The sad part is there are parents there who don’t know it’s wrong and don’t know how their children are being treated.” She was assured Gabriel would not be secluded. But she started to worry when he came home signing “timeout.” Now, she’s fighting for a different school placement. Harm to Children Darla Knipe could hear it when she walked toward the timeout room in her son’s school: a thudding sound, over and over. She turned to a school aide and asked: “‘What is that noise?’” It was her 7-year-old son, Isaiah. The first grader was banging his head against the concrete and plywood walls of the timeout room at Middlefork School in Danville. Knipe was shocked. He didn’t do that at home, she said. Documents from Isaiah’s school, part of the Vermilion Association for Special Education, show that he was put in the timeout room regularly beginning in kindergarten. He started banging his head in first grade and continued through third, doing it nearly every time he was secluded. “Isaiah states he has headache and ringing in his ears,” according to a report from Dec. 8, 2017. “Nurse filling out concussion form.” Then, a month later: “Nurse is concerned he has been head banging several times, even slower to answer than usual, he was dizzy when he stood up, almost fell over.” Sitting in his home last spring, Isaiah, now 10, looked down when asked why he hits his head. “I tell the teachers why,” he said. “The timeout room … I don’t like it.” Records and interviews show how seclusion can harm children. Students ripped their fingernails or bruised their knuckles hitting the door. Their hands swelled and bled from beating the walls. In some cases, children were hurt so badly that ambulances were called. Several parents said their children became afraid of school. Some said their children didn’t want to sleep alone. Other families said the rooms were so distressing that their children would not talk about them. Angie Martin said her 9-year-old son now sees himself as such a bad child that he believes he belongs in seclusion. In less than three weeks at the start of this school year, he spent 731 minutes — more than 12 hours — in isolated timeout, records show. “My concern is the damage that has been done, socially, emotionally and physically,” said Martin, whose son went to school in the Lincoln-Way Area Special Education district program in Chicago’s southwest suburbs. He now attends a private school. The Tribune/ProPublica Illinois analysis found that the median duration of a seclusion was 22 minutes; in at least 1,300 cases the student spent more than an hour in isolated timeout. One incident lasted 10 hours, with the student kept inside from breakfast into the evening. Ross Greene, a clinical child psychologist and author of the book “The Explosive Child,” said repeated seclusion fuels a harmful cycle. Children who are frustrated and falling behind academically are taken out of the classroom, which makes them more frustrated and puts them even further behind. “You end up with an alienated, disenfranchised kid who is being over-punished and lacks faith in adults,” Greene said. Amber Patz, whose 11-year-old son Dalton was repeatedly secluded at The Center, an elementary school in East Moline for children with disabilities, said spending so much time in isolation put him behind academically and did not help him regulate his behavior. “Putting you in this little room while you get red-faced does not work for him,” she said. “You have to think outside the box, but instead we are literally putting them in a box.” Parents often do not know the details of what happens in seclusion. Though state law requires schools to notify families in writing within 24 hours each day a child is secluded, that doesn’t always happen. While some notices describe the incident, others are form letters with just a checked box to indicate that a child was secluded. The law requires only that parents be notified of the date of the incident, whether restraint or seclusion was used, and the name and phone number of someone to call for more information. Some parents said they got such abbreviated notices they didn’t know what seclusion meant or how long their child had been in a room. Others said staff used euphemistic language to describe seclusion, making it hard to understand what really happened. Crystal Lake school employees have suggested to Kayla Siegmeier that her son, Carson, who has autism, might benefit from time in a “Blue Room,” she said. “It turns out the Blue Room is a locked, padded room,” she said. She read Illinois’ isolated timeout law and got a doctor’s note last year that prevented the school from secluding Carson, now a second grader. “Hard stop,” she said she told the school. Crystal Lake school officials acknowledged they could be more transparent with parents and said they use the rooms only in emergencies. In Danville, Darla Knipe knew that her son Isaiah was frequently in seclusion, but she didn’t know the school kept detailed incident reports each time it happened until reporters showed them to her. “I never got anything like this,” Knipe said. When she requested the reports from the district, she said, officials told her she could have asked for them any time. “Why would I ask for an incident report I didn’t know about to begin with?” she said. The district gave her 212 reports, and she didn’t tackle the huge pile of paper right away. Then one night she woke up at 2 a.m. and stayed up for hours reading them. She learned what set Isaiah off and how he reacted. “If we had talked after three, five, six of these, was there something I should have been doing?” she wondered. She said she would have shared the reports with doctors who were working to diagnose the cause of his behavioral challenges. “I think about how different that boy could have been.” Dunker, the district director, said that although parents don’t get minute-by-minute reports, they are notified by phone and then in writing after a seclusion. “I feel like that is just fine in terms of what a parent needs,” she said. A Better Way There are school districts in Illinois — and all across the country — where seclusion isn’t the response to defiant or even aggressive behavior. In fact, it’s never an option. Jim Nelson, who took over the North DuPage Special Education Cooperative in July 2016, said he put in a maintenance request on his first day to take the door off the seclusion room at Lincoln Academy, a therapeutic day school for students with emotional and behavioral difficulties. The year before, the school in suburban Roselle, which has an enrollment of about 30, had placed students in the room 181 times, federal data shows. The space now has a lava lamp, fuzzy pillows, a beanbag and puzzles, and students go there on their own when they need a break, Nelson said. He said he thinks all schools could get rid of seclusion and still be able to educate students. Since ending the practice, the North DuPage district has not seen an increase in the number of students transferred to more restrictive schools, he said. “We have outbursts every day,” Nelson said, but “you are now trying to figure out what is the root of this outburst: Is it a home issue, a bus issue, a peer issue, a relationship issue, environment or fluorescent lights? We have to problem solve.” Administrators at schools that have closed their rooms say the cultural shift takes a lot of effort and training. Eliminating seclusion generally requires two steps: first, embracing the philosophy that isolating children is unacceptable; second, teaching staff members how to identify and address the causes of challenging behavior before it reaches a crisis point. Zac Barry, who teaches a system based at Cornell University called Therapeutic Crisis Intervention, said staff often get into a power struggle when students don’t obey, even over trivial matters. “Don’t argue with them,” Barry said at a recent training session in Peoria for people who work with children. “If they don’t want to sit down, don’t try to make them sit down!” Among other strategies, TCI teaches that it’s more effective to back away from an upset student, giving him space, than to move in closer. Teachers are trained how to stand in a nonthreatening way. In Naperville School District 203, the rooms formerly used for isolated timeout are now sensory areas stocked with weighted stuffed animals and sound-blocking headphones. Christine Igoe, who oversees special education in the 16,000-student district, said eliminating seclusion helps teachers and other staffers build relationships with students. Without seclusion as an option, she said, students and staff are less likely to be on high alert and anxious that situations will escalate. “When you change your lens from ‘the student is making a choice’ to ‘the student is lacking a skill,’ everything changes,” Igoe said. Kim Sanders, executive vice president of the Grafton behavioral health network in Virginia, which includes private therapeutic day schools, said schools there overhauled their approach after employees were injured in confrontations with students so frequently that the district lost its workers’ compensation insurance. “Our outcomes were not great,” she said. “It was horrible for our staff morale.” Since then, Grafton has developed a behavior model called Ukeru that it now sells to other schools. It’s based on the idea that staff should attempt to comfort, not control, children. When a child becomes violent, the system suggests staff use cushioned shields to protect themselves. “If seclusion or restraint worked,” Sanders said, “wouldn’t you have to do it once or twice and you’d never have to do it again? It’s not working.” Little Kids, Locked Away Illinois schools secluded an 8-year-old boy who got upset when he couldn’t ride the green bike during recess, a first grade boy who didn’t want to stop playing tag and a third grader who didn’t get the prize he wanted. Even preschool children spent time in isolated timeout, records show. The majority of incident reports reviewed for this investigation did not specify the grade of the child. But ProPublica Illinois and the Tribune identified more than 1,700 incidents when the student being secluded was in fifth grade or younger. Hundreds of seclusions involved kids in preschool, kindergarten or first grade. One 7-year-old boy named Eli spent 1,652 minutes — 27½ hours — in the “reflection rooms” as a first grader at a school called The Center in East Moline, school records show. Still learning to say some of his letters, Eli calls the spaces the “flection” rooms. When his mom, Elisha, gently corrects him, he snuggles into her side. “It’s hard to really say,” he explained. Eli was referred to The Center, which offers a program for children with behavioral and emotional disabilities, when he was in kindergarten. Records show he sometimes had trouble coping with the frustrations of elementary school — not unlike many other Illinois children who were secluded after outbursts common for their age. When staff told him he couldn’t play with toys, he started to tip desks and chairs. Because he didn’t want to come inside from recess, he began “flopping,” refused to walk and was “being unsafe.” He “could not continue to play nice” with blocks and started to hit and tried to run out of class. Sometimes, he would kick staff or throw objects around the room. According to records from the school district and his family, Eli was secluded more than a dozen times in kindergarten, beginning when he was 5. In first grade, it happened 49 times. His longest timeout was 115 minutes. “There is no reason my child should be in a timeout room for two hours,” said his mother, who asked that the family’s last name not be published. Elisha pulled her son out of The Center at the end of last school year after noticing bruises on his arm and a fingernail indentation that broke the skin. Records show Eli was physically restrained by three staff members and put in isolated timeout that day. He now attends a private school. Schrader, director of the Black Hawk Area Special Education District, which operates The Center in northwestern Illinois, said staff at the school use the seclusion room “on a case-by-case basis, incident by incident” to help students learn strategies to calm themselves. She declined to comment on Eli’s case or that of any specific child. “We use it more as a way to help the student learn to deescalate themselves and constant supervision to maintain their safety,” she said. When a reporter asked Eli whether the calm down rooms helped him calm down, he shook his head no. How did he feel when in the room? “Mad,” he said quietly. Movie Day The seclusion rooms inside Braun Educational Center in Oak Forest look like so many others across Illinois: blue padding along the walls, a small window where staff can look in. The red button outside that locks the door. A mirror in the upper corner to give a fuller view. In one room, three long tear marks were visible in the padding of the door — left there, the principal said, by a student with autism. About 150 elementary through high school students with disabilities attend programs at Braun, which is operated by the Southwest Cook County Cooperative Association for Special Education. Gineen O’Neil, the co-op’s executive director, described many as troubled and challenging; some are homeless, abuse drugs, get pregnant or struggle with mental illness, she said. Some, she said, “run the streets” at night. “People have to realize they get educated somewhere, and this is where it is,” O’Neil said. Over 1½ school years, staffers isolated students nearly 500 times. O’Neil said students are not secluded as punishment. But the Tribune/ProPublica Illinois analysis found that in 46% of seclusions at Braun, staff documented no safety reason that preceded the isolation. O’Neil said some of these incidents could have involved a safety issue despite the lack of documentation, but she also described the findings as “disturbing” and ordered a review of practices. “You are making 1,000 judgment calls a day, you know what I mean?” O’Neil said. “You don’t always call them right.” On a recent Friday afternoon, it was quiet in the halls. Most of the children had gathered to watch a movie and eat popcorn. They had earned the reward for good behavior. But one boy didn’t qualify — and he was mad. The principal, Kristine Jones, said that after the rest of his class left for the movie, he shouted: “This place sucks. I’m leaving.” He didn’t actually leave. But the boy was a “runner” when upset, Jones said, and they wanted to “pre-correct” his behavior. So they took him to an isolation room.

  • How We Reported This Story
    by by Jennifer Smith Richards, Chicago Tribune, and Haru Coryne, Jodi S. Cohen and Lakeidra Chavis, ProPublica Illinois on November 19, 2019 at 10:59

    by Jennifer Smith Richards, Chicago Tribune, and Haru Coryne, Jodi S. Cohen and Lakeidra Chavis, ProPublica Illinois This investigation is a collaboration between ProPublica Illinois and the Chicago Tribune. ProPublica Illinois is an independent, nonprofit newsroom that produces investigative journalism with moral force. Sign up for our newsletter to get weekly updates written by our journalists. The state of Illinois does not collect any data on how often public schools put students in seclusion, why they do it or for how long. Though state rules require schools to document each “isolated timeout” incident in detail, these records are stored by schools and are not submitted for review to the Illinois State Board of Education or any other state agency. Public school districts are required to provide the U.S. Department of Education certain data on seclusion as well as physical restraint, but the most recent available numbers are from the 2015-16 school year. Government watchdogs also have found that the self-reported data is significantly flawed. To understand how frequently Illinois schools used seclusion and the reasons why, reporters from the Chicago Tribune and ProPublica Illinois used the Freedom of Information Act to seek the detailed incident reports kept by schools in accordance with state rules. The public records requests asked for all narrative reports on isolated timeout and physical restraint incidents, logs of isolated timeout use, staff training documentation and parent notifications from the 2017-18 school year through early December 2018. In all, reporters examined nearly 50,000 pages of records. Dive Deeper Into Our Reporting Our newsletter is written by a ProPublica Illinois reporter every week Discover what makes Illinois tick from our team of investigative journalists covering the state. Delivered every Friday. This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply. Over the course of nearly a year, a team of reporters from both news organizations logged each incident into a database, including the location, date, length of time the child was secluded, documented reasons for the seclusion, names of staff involved, whether parents were notified and more. The age, grade, race and gender of the student were noted if this information was available. Reporters reviewed the reasons school employees gave for using seclusion and grouped them into categories, which included disruption, physical aggression, verbal abuse, damaging property, not participating in class and being disrespectful. For example, if the narrative mentioned a child “kicking staff,” it was categorized as physical aggression. Illinois law allows seclusion only when students pose a safety threat to themselves or others, such as by attacking an employee or fellow student. Reporters noted in the database whether school employees had documented such a safety issue and, if so, whether it occurred before or after the start of the isolated timeout. Illinois has more than 900 school districts, including 68 regional districts or cooperatives that serve only students with special needs. Reporters focused their records requests on the 133 districts that reported to the federal government that they had secluded students in the 2015-16 school year, the most recent available data. Reporters filed public-records requests with all of these districts, plus the state’s special-education districts and cooperatives, regardless of their federal reporting status. In a handful of cases, parents contacted reporters to say their district was using seclusion even though it hadn’t reported doing so to the federal government. Reporters sought records from those districts too. Nearly 200 districts responded to the requests and more than 100 provided records documenting their use of seclusion or restraint. Some districts said they had no records to provide because they no longer use these practices. Some special-education cooperatives said that although they offer certain educational programs, they do not operate schools and thus had no seclusion or restraint incidents to report. Other school districts provided individual incident summaries, but not full reports. Some districts that initially denied the records request later provided a total number of seclusion incidents after a ProPublica lawyer intervened; these were included in the database, but it was impossible to assess whether they followed state seclusion rules. Nine districts refused to provide any records. They were Barrington 220, Collinsville 10, Massac 1, Rock Island-Milan 41, Shawnee 84, West Carroll 314, Woodridge 68, East St. Louis Area Joint Agreement and the Southern Will County Cooperative for Special Education. In all, reporters were able to quantify about 20,000 seclusions by 83 districts over the 15-month time period examined. They also documented incidents of physical restraint to be explored in an upcoming story. Not all records that districts provided were included in the database. In some cases, districts sent incident reports detailing interventions that did not qualify as isolated timeout under Illinois law, such as when students went to a seclusion room voluntarily to calm down and left when they wanted. Those cases were excluded. Conversely, reporters sometimes included incidents in the database that school officials did not consider to be isolated timeouts. For example, some officials said the door of the timeout room had to be closed for the incident to qualify as seclusion. Reporters included such cases in the analysis if the students were not free to leave, in accordance with Illinois rules. Because the forms used to document isolated timeouts varied from district to district, a larger team of reporters spot-checked a sample of records to ensure that data had been entered consistently across districts and to look for systemic flaws in the data entry. The team examined a sample of 631 records from 53 districts, focusing on 14 fields critical to the reporting. If spot-checkers did not agree with the way a particular record was entered into the database, they flagged it for further investigation, and the original reporting team determined whether an error had occurred. Although a small percentage of fields contained such disagreements, no widespread problems were found. In addition to the records requests used to create the database, reporters filed a separate set of requests designed to test the accuracy of the seclusion and restraint data collected by the U.S. Department of Education from Illinois schools. For 75 randomly selected districts that had reported zero instances of seclusion to the federal government for the 2015-16 school year, reporters asked officials for incident reports, logs and parental notifications dating to 2015 to check whether some of those districts had in fact isolated children during that period. To understand the physical spaces in which children were isolated, reporters asked more than 20 districts to allow them to visit. Only three did. Reporters then filed an additional 20 public-records requests for floor plans, images, dimensions and other information about timeout rooms. The investigation also drew on reviews of civil lawsuits, federal and state special-education complaints, police reports, injury reports, school handbooks and more than 120 interviews with experts, parents, children, advocates and school employees. In the story, reporters named students only with the permission of their families. View map on web browser. Jennifer Smith Richards is a data reporter at the Chicago Tribune.

  • The Federal Government Collects Data on How Often Schools Seclude Children. The Numbers Don’t Add Up.
    by by Lakeidra Chavis and Jodi S. Cohen, ProPublica Illinois, and Jennifer Smith Richards, Chicago Tribune on November 19, 2019 at 10:59

    by Lakeidra Chavis and Jodi S. Cohen, ProPublica Illinois, and Jennifer Smith Richards, Chicago Tribune This investigation is a collaboration between ProPublica Illinois and the Chicago Tribune. ProPublica Illinois is an independent, nonprofit newsroom that produces investigative journalism with moral force. Sign up for our newsletter to get weekly updates written by our journalists. In fall 2015, Glacier Ridge Elementary School in Crystal Lake first used its Blue Room, a padded space that allows school workers to place students in “isolated timeout” for safety reasons. Students were secluded in that room more than 120 times during the 2015-16 school year, according to records obtained by ProPublica Illinois and the Chicago Tribune. Yet the district, in its required reporting to the federal government, said it hadn’t used seclusion at all that school year. Crystal Lake District 47 is an example of how even with federal reporting requirements, it’s nearly impossible to know how often some Illinois schools seclude children. An investigation by the Tribune and ProPublica Illinois found widespread use of seclusion but little transparency. All public school districts are required to report their use of seclusion and physical restraint to the U.S. Department of Education as part of its Civil Rights Data Collection, which the department uses to help investigate discrimination complaints and to ensure districts follow federal policies. The data is collected every other school year and published online. Because the Illinois State Board of Education does not monitor the use of seclusion or restraint in public schools, the federal data is the only systematic way for communities to determine whether and how frequently those practices are being used in their schools. Dive Deeper Into Our Reporting Our newsletter is written by a ProPublica Illinois reporter every week Discover what makes Illinois tick from our team of investigative journalists covering the state. Delivered every Friday. This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply. Some public schools, however, either reported incorrect data or failed to submit any information — making it difficult for parents to know with certainty whether their children’s school secludes or restrains students. A spokeswoman for Crystal Lake District 47 said its failure to report accurate data was a mistake. To determine whether Illinois districts complied with reporting requirements, the Tribune and ProPublica Illinois filed requests under the state’s Freedom of Information Act with 75 randomly selected districts where the federal data showed no instances of seclusion for the 2015-16 school year. Those requests asked for records documenting the use of seclusion or restraint from 2015 through the end of 2018 — records that Illinois law requires districts to keep. In addition to Crystal Lake, five districts provided records showing they had used seclusion or restraint in 2015-16 despite indicating to the Department of Education they had not. The superintendent of Big Hollow District 38 in Ingleside, in the suburbs north of Chicago, said he was unaware the district had failed to report its three instances of restraint. “There’s a lot of (Office for Civil Rights) data, so if that one slipped through the cracks, it was definitely not intentional by any means,” Superintendent Bob Gold said. Chris Johnson, an administrator at New Trier Township High School District 203, said a “records management issue” was likely responsible for the district’s failure to report the six restraints that school workers used on students. He said the district will look into amending its reports for previous years. “We always strive to have our data be accurate and to be as transparent as possible to the community, so if there’s an opportunity to amend it we will,” Johnson said. Districts are allowed to correct what they’ve submitted, but those corrections do not change what is available in the Department of Education’s searchable database. Instead, revisions are noted in a document on a separate part of the site. For some Illinois districts, reporters also found dramatic discrepancies between the number of seclusions reported in the federal data and the number documented in records just two school years later, raising questions about whether the districts had underreported the use of seclusion in 2015-16. For example, the Black Hawk Area Special Education District in East Moline reported that four children were secluded one time each in the 2015-16 school year. But records examined by reporters show that from September 2017 to December 2018, employees secluded children close to 850 times. The district’s director, Christan Schrader, said she wasn’t aware of the disparity but was not surprised. “Maybe someone didn’t take the time to put in the accurate information,” she said. The Northern Suburban Special Education District in Highland Park, meanwhile, reported 146 seclusions for the 2015-16 school year. That is significantly lower than the 968 seclusions documented in records examined by reporters from September 2017 to December 2018. Andy Piper, an administrator for the district, said many factors contribute to how often seclusion is used in a given year, including student enrollment. “Even a handful of students can significantly impact the total number of reported incidents,” he said. Some regional special education cooperatives, which draw students from many districts, didn’t provide information on seclusion and restraint to the Department of Education for 2015-16. The Tribune and ProPublica Illinois found that these cooperatives used those practices hundreds of times in subsequent years. Administrators told reporters that it was the responsibility of their member districts to provide that data, but those districts didn’t report either. Officials from some member districts said they didn’t understand who was responsible for reporting, the district or the co-op. A state Board of Education spokeswoman said it is not the agency’s responsibility to determine which districts should submit data because it is a federal reporting requirement. Gineen O’Neil, director of the Southwest Cook County Cooperative Association for Special Education, provided an email from federal officials saying that she did not have to report her cooperative’s use of seclusion and restraint. After questions from reporters about who should report the information, O’Neil said she created a system to provide data on seclusion and restraint to her 11 member districts so they can report it. The Belleville Area Special Services Cooperative, near St. Louis, allowed a photographer to visit two timeout rooms at Pathways school. The padded rooms have fluorescent lights and observation windows, which students have scratched. (Zbigniew Bzdak/Chicago Tribune) In January, the U.S. Department of Education announced a plan to improve the Civil Rights Data Collection, and in August, it sent a letter to districts asking them to check the accuracy of the data on seclusion and restraint they submitted for the 2017-18 school year. The letter noted that the recommendations were based in part on a June report from the Government Accountability Office that concluded the database does not “accurately capture” how often the practices are employed. “I think that would be concerning to any parent or policymaker who is interested in understanding the scope of seclusion and restraint incidents in public schools,” said Jacqueline Nowicki, a director with the GAO. Kevin Rubenstein, president of the Illinois Alliance of Administrators of Special Education, said schools should be required to report their use of seclusion and restraint to the state Board of Education. “We report on pretty much everything else,” said Rubenstein, an administrator in the Lake Bluff school district in Chicago’s northern suburbs. “Certainly if I am working at the state Board of Education and I see … high numbers from one school district or another that demonstrate a high level of restraint or seclusion, I think we need to take a closer look at that.” Crystal Lake District 47 officials said the next time federal data is released to the public, for the 2017-18 school year, the data for the district will be inaccurate again. It did not report its use of seclusion or restraint. Data obtained by ProPublica Illinois and the Tribune shows children were secluded at least 130 times at district schools. The district now has timeout rooms in five schools. A district spokeswoman called the data omissions an oversight and said the district would provide accurate data to the federal government in the future. Kayla Siegmeier, who has a second grader at one of the schools, criticized the district’s failure to inform federal officials. “What they are doing is harming the kids and the parents by not allowing them to understand what is truly happening across the whole district,” she said. Jennifer Smith Richards is a data reporter at the Chicago Tribune.

  • Handing Trump ‘Terrifying Authoritarian Surveillance Powers,’ House Democrats Include Patriot Act Reauthorization in Funding Bill
    on November 19, 2019 at 10:17

    Jake Johnson, staff writer”Wow. House Democrats are ignoring civil liberties and including a three month straight reauthorization of the Patriot Act (with zero reform) in the continuing resolution.”

  • Nonprofit Workers Join the Movement to Unionize
    by Sarah Jaffe on November 19, 2019 at 10:12

    Increasing numbers of people in mission- and passion-driven fields are waking up to the fact that they are, despite the trappings of middle-class-ness, still workers doing a job.

  • Inside Purdue Pharma’s Media Playbook: How It Planted the Opioid “Anti-Story”
    by by David Armstrong on November 19, 2019 at 10:00

    by David Armstrong ProPublica is a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power. Sign up for ProPublica’s Big Story newsletter to receive stories like this one in your inbox as soon as they are published. This story is a collaboration between ProPublica and STAT. In 2004, Purdue Pharma was facing a threat to sales of its blockbuster opioid painkiller OxyContin, which were approaching $2 billion a year. With abuse of the drug on the rise, prosecutors were bringing criminal charges against some doctors for prescribing massive amounts of OxyContin. That October, an essay ran across the top of The New York Times’ health section under the headline “Doctors Behind Bars: Treating Pain is Now Risky Business.” Its author, Sally Satel, a psychiatrist, argued that law enforcement was overzealous, and that some patients needed large doses of opioids to relieve pain. She described an unnamed colleague who had run a pain service at a university medical center and had a patient who could only get out of bed by taking “staggering” levels of oxycodone, the active ingredient in OxyContin. She also cited a study published in a medical journal showing that OxyContin is rarely the only drug found in autopsies of oxycodone-related deaths. “When you scratch the surface of someone who is addicted to painkillers, you usually find a seasoned drug abuser with a previous habit involving pills, alcohol, heroin or cocaine,” Satel wrote. “Contrary to media portrayals, the typical OxyContin addict does not start out as a pain patient who fell unwittingly into a drug habit.” The Times identified Satel as “a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and an unpaid advisory board member for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.” But readers weren’t told about her involvement, and the American Enterprise Institute’s, with Purdue. Get Our Top Investigations Subscribe to the Big Story newsletter. Don’t miss out on ProPublica’s next investigation. Sign up and get the Big Story email whenever we break news. This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply. Among the connections revealed by emails and documents obtained by ProPublica: Purdue donated $50,000 annually to the institute, which is commonly known as AEI, from 2003 through this year, plus contributions for special events, for a total of more than $800,000. The unnamed doctor in Satel’s article was an employee of Purdue, according to an unpublished draft of the story. The study Satel cited was funded by Purdue and written by Purdue employees and consultants. And, a month before the piece was published, Satel sent a draft to Burt Rosen, Purdue’s Washington lobbyist and vice president of federal policy and legislative affairs, asking him if it “seems imbalanced.” On the day of publication, Jason Bertsch, AEI’s vice president of development, alerted Rosen to “Sally’s very good piece.” “Great piece,” Rosen responded. Purdue’s hidden relationships with Satel and AEI illustrate how the company and its public relations consultants aggressively countered criticism that its prized painkiller helped cause the opioid epidemic. Since 1999, more than 200,000 people have died from overdoses related to prescription opioids. For almost two decades, and continuing as recently as a piece published last year in Slate, Satel has pushed back against restrictions on opioid prescribing in more than a dozen articles and radio and television appearances, without disclosing any connections to Purdue, according to a ProPublica review. Over the same period, Purdue was represented by Dezenhall Resources, a PR firm known for its pugnacious defense of beleaguered corporations. Purdue was paying Dezenhall this summer, and still owes it money, according to bankruptcy filings. Purdue funded think tanks tapped by the media for expert commentary, facilitated publication of sympathetic articles in leading outlets where its role wasn’t disclosed, and deterred or challenged negative coverage, according to the documents and emails. Its efforts to influence public perception of the opioid crisis provide an inside look at how corporations blunt criticism of alleged wrongdoing. Purdue’s tactics are reminiscent of the oil and gas industry, which has been accused of promoting misleading science that downplays its impact on climate change, and of big tobacco, which sought to undermine evidence that nicotine is addictive and secondhand smoke is dangerous. Media spinning was just one prong of Purdue’s strategy to fend off limits on opioid prescribing. It contested hundreds of lawsuits, winning dismissals or settling the cases with a provision that documents remain secret. The company paid leading doctors in the pain field to assure patients that OxyContin was safe. It also funded groups, like the American Pain Foundation, that described themselves as advocates for pain patients. Several of those groups minimized the risk of addiction and fought against efforts to curb opioid use for chronic pain patients. Purdue’s campaign may have helped thwart more vigorous regulation of opioid prescribing, especially in the decade after the first widespread reports of OxyContin abuse and addiction began appearing in 2001. It may also have succeeded in delaying the eventual reckoning for Purdue and the billionaire Sackler family that owns the company. Although Purdue pleaded guilty in 2007 to a federal charge of understating the risk of addiction, and agreed to pay $600 million in fines and penalties, the Sacklers’ role in the opioid epidemic didn’t receive widespread coverage for another decade. As backlash against the family swelled, the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in September. An essay that ran in The New York Times in October 2004. The author’s employer had an undisclosed financial relationship with Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin. (STAT) “Efforts to reverse the epidemic have had to counter widespread narratives that opioids are generally safe and that it is people who abuse them that are the problem,” said Caleb Alexander, co-director of the Center for Drug Safety and Effectiveness at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, who has served as a paid expert witness in litigation alleging that Purdue’s marketing of OxyContin misled doctors and the public. “These are very important narratives, and they have become the lens through which people view and understand the epidemic. They have proven to be potent means of hampering interventions to reduce the continued oversupply of opioids.” Satel, in an email to ProPublica, said that she reached her conclusions independently. “I do not accept payment from industry for my work (articles, presentations, etc),” she wrote. “And I am open to meeting with anyone if they have a potentially interesting topic to tell me about. If I decide I am intrigued, I do my own research.” As for Purdue’s funding of AEI, Satel said in an interview that she “had no idea” that the company was paying her employer and that she walls herself off from information regarding institute funders. “I never want to know,” she said. She didn’t disclose that the study she referred to was also funded by Purdue, she said, because “I cite peer-reviewed papers by title as they appear in the journal of publication.” The sharing of drafts before publication with subjects of stories or other interested parties is prohibited or discouraged by many media outlets. Satel said she didn’t remember sharing the draft with Rosen and it was not her usual practice. “That’s very atypical,” she said. However, Satel shared a draft of another story with Purdue officials in 2016, according to emails she sent. In that case, Satel said, she was checking facts. Satel said she didn’t remember why the doctor with a patient on high doses of painkillers wasn’t named in the Times story. The draft she sent to Purdue identified him as Sidney Schnoll, then the company’s executive medical director, who defended OxyContin at public meetings and in media stories. In an interview, Schnoll described Satel as an old friend and said her description of his patient was accurate. He left Purdue in 2005 and now works for a consulting company that has Purdue as a client, he said. Purdue, in a statement, said it has held memberships in several Washington think tanks over the years. “These dues-paying memberships help the company better understand key issues affecting its business in a complex policy and regulatory environment,” it said. “Purdue has been contacted over the years by policy experts at a variety of think tanks who are seeking additional context on industry issues for their work. Our engagement has always been appropriate and aimed at providing a science-based perspective that the company felt was often overlooked in the larger policy conversation.” The company declined to discuss specific questions about internal documents and emails reviewed by ProPublica. A spokeswoman for the Times, Danielle Rhoades Ha, said in an email that the company doesn’t know the details of how the Satel story was handled because the editors who worked on it are no longer employed there. She noted that the Times labeled the article as an “Essay” and cited Satel’s connection to AEI. Currently, she said, Times editors “generally advise reporters not to share full drafts of stories with sources in the course of fact-checking,” but there is no formal rule. Purdue launched OxyContin in 1996, and it soon became one of the most widely prescribed opioid painkillers. By 2001, it was generating both enormous profits as well as growing concern about overdoses and addiction. That August, a column in the New York Post opinion section criticized media reports that OxyContin was being abused. The piece — headlined “Heroic Dopeheads?” — mocked a “new species of ‘victim,’ the ‘hillbilly heroin’ addict.” The real victims, the article contended, were pain patients who may lose access to a “prescription wonder drug.” At 5:17 a.m. on the day the article was published, Eric Dezenhall, the founder of Washington, D.C., crisis management firm Dezenhall Resources, sent an email to Purdue executives, according to documents filed by the Oklahoma attorney general in a lawsuit against opioid makers. “See today’s New York Post on OxyContin,” he wrote. “The anti-story begins.” A crisis management firm hired by Purdue praised this 2001 New York Post column. (STAT) Purdue had hired Dezenhall Resources that summer. Dezenhall’s hard-nosed reputation fit the blame-the-victim strategy advocated by Purdue’s then-president, Richard Sackler. “We have to hammer on the abusers in every way possible,” Sackler wrote in a 2001 email quoted in a complaint by the state of Massachusetts against the company. “They are the culprits and the problem. They are reckless criminals.” Purdue later followed this approach to fend off a New Jersey mother who was urging federal regulators to investigate the marketing of OxyContin. Her daughter had died while taking the drug for back pain. “We think she abused drugs,” a Purdue spokesman said without offering evidence. Purdue later apologized for the comment. However, pain patients with legitimate prescriptions for OxyContin and similar painkillers can and do become addicted to the drugs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that “anyone who takes prescription opioids can become addicted to them,” and that “as many as one in four patients receiving long-term opioid therapy in a primary care setting struggles with opioid addiction.” A review article in The New England Journal of Medicine reported rates of “carefully diagnosed addiction” in pain patients averaged just under 8% in studies, while misuse, abuse and addiction-related aberrant behaviors ranged from 15% to 26% of pain patients. Although Dezenhall Resources was working for Purdue until recently, it rarely has been linked publicly to the company. Purdue paid Dezenhall a total of $309,272 in July and August of this year and owes it an additional $186,575, according to bankruptcy court filings. The total amount paid to Dezenhall since 2001 was not disclosed in records reviewed by ProPublica. Dezenhall Resources has also defended Exxon Mobil against criticisms from environmental groups and former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling as he fought against fraud charges, according to a 2006 BusinessWeek profile of Eric Dezenhall that called him “The Pitbull of Public Relations.” (Skilling was later convicted.) It reported that Dezenhall arranged a pro-Exxon demonstration on Capitol Hill to distract attention from a nearby environmental protest, and that the company discussed a plan to pay newspaper op-ed writers to question the motives of an Enron whistleblower. “We believe a winning outcome can only be achieved by directly stopping your attackers,” Dezenhall Resources states on its website. ProPublica reviewed emails to Purdue officials in which Dezenhall and his employees took credit for dissuading a national television news program from pursuing a story about OxyContin; helping to quash a documentary project on OxyContin abuse at a major cable network; forcing multiple outlets to issue corrections related to OxyContin coverage; and gaining coverage of sympathetic pain patients on a television news program and in newspaper columns. “Dezenhall has been instrumental in helping with the placement of pain patient advocacy stories over the last several years,” Dezenhall Executive Vice President Sheila Hershow wrote in a 2006 email. Eric Dezenhall told ProPublica that he does not confirm or deny the identity of clients. While declining to answer questions about Purdue, or comment on the BusinessWeek article about him, he said that his company acts appropriately and seeks fair and truthful coverage. “We regularly work with experts and journalists, including Pro Publica, to ensure accuracy in reporting and persuade and dissuade them regarding various storylines with facts and research,” he wrote. “Ultimately, these journalists and experts decide how to use the information provided.” One of Dezenhall Resources’ first moves, after being hired by Purdue, was to cultivate Satel. In July 2001, Hershow reported to Purdue officials that she and Eric Dezenhall had lunch with Satel and the doctor was “eager to get started.” Hershow said Satel had read a “debunking package” and was “interested in doing an opinion piece on the medical needs of patients being sacrificed to protect drug abusers.” Satel said that the meeting with Dezenhall was not unusual, and that “I often talk to people who have interesting stories.” Satel was raised in Queens and has an Ivy League pedigree. She attended Cornell University as an undergraduate before going to medical school at Brown University. She was a psychiatry professor at Yale University for several years and then moved to Washington. For a little over a decade beginning in 1997, she was a staff psychiatrist at a methadone clinic in the city. She has become an influential voice on opioids, addiction and pain treatment. Her writings have been published in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The Atlantic, Slate, Health Affairs, Forbes, Politico and elsewhere. She frequently appears on panels, television shows and in newspaper articles as an expert on the opioid crisis and pain prescribing guidelines. “We’ve entered a new era of opiophobia,” she recently told The Washington Post. Satel has been a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute since 2000. Among the notable figures who have spent time at AEI are the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and former Trump national security adviser John Bolton. Current fellow Scott Gottlieb returned to AEI this year after serving as commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which approves and regulates prescription drugs like OxyContin. Purdue said its annual payments of $50,000 to AEI were part of the institute’s corporate program. That program offers corporations the opportunity to “gain access to the leading scholars in the most important policy areas for executive briefings and knowledge sharing,” according to the institute’s website. Corporations can choose between three levels of donations: At $50,000 a year, Purdue was in the middle level, the “Executive Circle.” Besides the annual payments, Purdue has also paid a total of $24,000 to attend two special events hosted by the institute, according to a company spokesman. Internal emails show the main Purdue contact with AEI was Rosen, the drugmaker’s in-house lobbyist based in Washington. In one email, Rosen described the leaders of the think tank as “very good friends” and also noted that former FDA Commissioner Mark McClellan ascended to that job after a stint at AEI as a scholar. Rosen also organized a group of pain reliever manufacturers and industry funded groups into an organization called the Pain Care Forum. It met to share information on government efforts to restrict opioid prescribing, according to records produced in litigation against Purdue. Veronique Rodman, a spokeswoman for AEI, said the institute does not publicly discuss donors. She said that the institute does not accept research contracts, and that its researchers come to their own conclusions. “It makes sense” that Satel would be unaware of AEI funders, she said. Dezenhall’s courting of Satel soon paid off. A month after the lunch with Dezenhall and Hershow, Satel defended Purdue’s flagship drug in an article for the opinion page of The Boston Globe. “Something must be done to keep OxyContin out of the wrong hands, but the true public health tragedy will be depriving patients who need it to survive in relative comfort day to day,” she wrote. In February 2002, AEI held a panel discussion at its headquarters to answer the question, “Who is responsible for the abuse of OxyContin?” The panel of experts included Satel, a Purdue executive and a Purdue lawyer. Covering the event, Reuters Health reported that the panel “mostly agreed that Purdue Pharma should not be viewed as the culprit in the problem of the abuse of its long-acting painkiller OxyContin.” Two months later, Purdue approved spending $2,000 to pay for Satel to speak to the staff of a New Orleans hospital about addiction, according to internal company records. Satel said she had “absolutely no memory of speaking at a hospital in New Orleans.” The physician who organized the planned event said he doesn’t recall if it took place, and the hospital no longer has records of medical staff talks from that period. This article by Sally Satel ran in The Boston Globe in 2001 shortly after she met with Purdue’s public relations consultant. (STAT) In 2003, a Dezenhall staffer recommended Satel as a guest to a producer for “The Diane Rehm Show” on NPR. The firm and Purdue executives, including Vice President David Haddox, helped prep Satel for the appearance. Haddox passed along what he called “interesting intel for Sally” that Rehm’s mother suffered from chronic headaches. “Thanks for helping us get her up to speed for the show,” Hershow replied. A spokeswoman for WAMU, the NPR station in Washington that produced the Rehm show, said there was no policy to ask guests about funding of their organizations, or if there was a financial connection to the show’s topic. “For most segments, the producers would try to bring as many perspectives to the table as possible so that listeners would be better able to make their own informed judgment of the topic at hand,” wrote the spokeswoman, Julia Slattery. ProPublica was unable to reach Haddox for comment. Also that year, when conservative radio commentator Rush Limbaugh revealed that he was addicted to prescription painkillers, Purdue declined a request from CNN for a company representative to discuss the news on the air. Instead, Purdue recommended Satel, who assured viewers that OxyContin was a “very effective and actually safe drug, if taken as prescribed.” Dezenhall’s Hershow told Purdue executives in an email that she was “very glad Sally went on.” Hershow, a former investigative producer at ABC News, declined comment for this article. In September 2004, Forbes magazine published a Satel article under the headline, “OxyContin doesn’t cause addiction. Its abusers are already addicts.” “I am happy this morning!” Purdue’s then general counsel, Howard Udell, emailed other company executives and Eric Dezenhall with the subject line “RE: Forbes Article.” Three years later, Udell and two other Purdue executives would plead guilty in federal court to a misdemeanor criminal charge related to misleading patients and doctors about the addictive nature of OxyContin. As part of that 2007 settlement, Purdue admitted to acting “with the intent to defraud or mislead” when it promoted OxyContin as less addictive and less subject to abuse than other painkillers. In an article for The Wall Street Journal headlined “Oxy Morons,” Satel defended the company. “The real public-health damage here comes from the pitched campaign conducted by zealous prosecutors and public-interest advocates to demonize the drug itself,” she wrote. After Purdue and Dezenhall launched their “anti-story,” media reports of OxyContin addiction and abuse declined for several years. In 2001, there were 1,204 stories that included the words “OxyContin,” “abuse” and “Purdue” published in media outlets archived on the Nexis database. The number plummeted to 361 in 2002 and to 150 in 2006. Purdue’s counterattack against an ambitious investigative series about OxyContin abuse may have contributed to that drop. An October 2003 series in the Orlando Sentinel, “OxyContin Under Fire,” found that Purdue’s aggressive marketing combined with weak regulation had contributed to “a wave of death and destruction.” The series, however, was marred by several errors that were detailed in a front-page correction nearly four months later. The reporter resigned, and two editors on the series were reassigned. While acknowledging the mistakes, the newspaper did not retract the series, and its review upheld the conclusion that oxycodone was involved in a large number of the overdoses in Florida. Dezenhall Resources, in an email, took credit for forcing the newspaper to issue the corrections. “Dezenhall’s efforts resulted in a complete front-page retraction of the erroneous 5-day, 19-part, front-page Orlando Sentinel series,” Hershow wrote in a 2006 email summarizing Dezenhall’s work for Purdue under the subject line “Success in Fighting Negative Coverage.” Purdue officials and the company’s public relations agencies came up with a 13-point plan to generate media coverage of the errors. It included getting a doctor to talk about how the series “frightened and mislead (sic) the people of Florida” and having a pain patient write a newspaper opinion column on the subject. The Sentinel series, one Purdue official wrote to other company executives and Dezenhall’s Hershow, was an opportunity to let the country know about “all of the sensational reporting on OxyContin abuse over the past 4 years. The conclusion: this is the most overblown health story in the last decade!” In the six years after Purdue challenged the Sentinel’s findings, the death rate from prescription drugs increased 84.2% in Florida. The biggest rise, 264.6%, came from deaths involving oxycodone. The state became a hotbed for inappropriate opioid prescribing as unscrupulous pain clinics attracted out of state drug seekers. The route traveled by many from small towns in Appalachia to the Florida clinics was nicknamed the “Oxycontin Express.” In 2017, 14 years after the Sentinel series was published, the Columbia Journalism Review described it as “right too soon” and said it “eerily prefigured today’s opioid epidemic.” Purdue couldn’t hold off restrictions on opioid prescribing forever. Since 2011, a growing number of states, insurers and federal health agencies have adopted policies that have led to annual declines in prescribing. Advocates for pain treatment have complained that this turnabout has gone too far, and the CDC recently advised doctors against suddenly discontinuing opioids. Still, the U.S. remains far and away the world leader in per capita opioid prescriptions. Under increasing pressure, Purdue enlisted other public relations firms known for aggressively helping corporations in crisis. Burson-Marsteller, which after a merger last year is now known as BCW, signed an agreement in 2011 to provide Purdue “strategic counsel.” Burson-Marsteller represented Johnson & Johnson as it responded to the Tylenol poisoning case and Union Carbide after the deadly Bhopal explosion in India. According to documents, it helped Purdue identify and counter “potential threats,” such as congressional investigators and the group Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing. A 2013 proposed work plan between the companies called on Burson to perform as much as $2.7 million of work for Purdue. BCW did not respond to requests for comment. Purdue also employed the services of Purple Strategies, a Washington-area firm that reportedly represented BP after the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Purdue paid $621,653 to Purple Strategies in the 90 days prior to the drugmaker’s Sept. 15 bankruptcy filing and owes it an additional $207,625, according to court filings. Purple Strategies did not respond to requests for comment. Purdue also added Stu Loeser to its stable. The head of an eponymous media strategy company, Loeser was press secretary for Michael Bloomberg when he was mayor of New York City, and he is now a spokesman for Bloomberg’s possible presidential bid. Soon after Loeser began representing Purdue, Satel wrote in a 2018 piece for Politico headlined, “The Myth of What’s Driving the Opioid Crisis,” about “a false narrative” that the opioid epidemic “is driven by patients becoming addicted to doctor-prescribed opioids.” Loeser told Purdue executives in an email that “we are going to work with AEI to ‘promote’ this so it comes across as what it is: their thoughtful response to other writing.” His team was working to target the Satel story “to land in social media feeds of people who have searched for opioid issues and potentially even people who have read specific stories online,” he added. Loeser said in an interview that he didn’t end up working with AEI to promote the story. He said Purdue is no longer a client.

  • We Asked the 2020 Contenders How They Plan to Tackle Inequality
    by Sam Pizzigati on November 19, 2019 at 09:30

    Sam Pizzigati A surging egalitarian current is shifting the Democratic Party’s policy mainstream—so we asked the presidential candidates about it. The post We Asked the 2020 Contenders How They Plan to Tackle Inequality appeared first on The Nation.

  • What the Frack? New Mexico Wants to Recycle Radioactive Wastewater
    by Frances Madeson on November 19, 2019 at 07:06

    The state’s famous green chiles may be hot for a whole new reason.

  • Senate investigates IRS whistleblower complaint that GOP hid from Democrats
    on November 19, 2019 at 07:00

    The whistleblower, a career IRS official, has alleged improper interference on Trump, Pence tax returns

  • Trump’s still pushing the CrowdStrike conspiracy theory: But why, and where did it come from?
    on November 19, 2019 at 06:00

    Republicans are probably just pretending to believe’s Trump’s crazy 2016 conspiracy theory. But that’s no excuse

  • Fake news a R$ 25 mil por mês: como o Google treinou e enriqueceu blogueiros antipetistas
    by Rodrigo Ghedin on November 19, 2019 at 05:02

    Grupo de blogueiros aproveitou a onda do impeachment e as instruções da empresa para lucrar com anúncios. The post Fake news a R$ 25 mil por mês: como o Google treinou e enriqueceu blogueiros antipetistas appeared first on The Intercept.

  • Climate activists occupy Nancy Pelosi’s office, launch global hunger strike
    on November 19, 2019 at 05:00

    Extinction Rebellion to Pelosi: “Meet with us or leave us to starve while you jet to your Thanksgiving feast”

  • New Jersey Political Boss Defends Tax Breaks, Denounces “King George” Critics
    by by Jeff Pillets and Nancy Solomon, WNYC on November 19, 2019 at 01:48

    by Jeff Pillets and Nancy Solomon, WNYC This article was produced in partnership with WNYC, which is a member of the ProPublica Local Reporting Network. ProPublica is a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power. Sign up for ProPublica’s Big Story newsletter to receive stories like this one in your inbox as soon as they are published. TRENTON, N.J. — The influential New Jersey businessman at the center of an investigation into the state’s troubled tax-incentive program appeared on Monday before state legislators, rebuffing allegations of corruption and defending the hundreds of millions of dollars in incentives to him and his business partners. Facing a panel of friendly lawmakers and a room of boisterous demonstrators, George E. Norcross III said the tax breaks had laid the groundwork for a “rapid and stunning renaissance” in Camden, the South Jersey city where he was born and where he built himself into the most powerful unelected figure in state politics. The special committee of state senators was appointed by Senate President Stephen Sweeney, a Norcross ally, to examine the $11 billion incentive program after months of revelations by news organizations and a task force appointed by the governor. But at the hearing, the legislators had little in the way of tough questions for Norcross, who used the forum to assail critics as well as the news organizations and state investigators who have identified alleged irregularities in the nearly $300 million in tax breaks that went to firms in which Norcross had either an ownership stake or an oversight role. Get Our Top Investigations Subscribe to the Big Story newsletter. Don’t miss out on ProPublica’s next investigation. Sign up and get the Big Story email whenever we break news. This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply. “They need to stop it. The residents of Camden and New Jersey deserve better,” Norcross said. “Nothing would have occurred in Camden without these tax incentive programs.” Dozens of demonstrators, all wearing stickers saying “Camden Makes, Norcross Takes,” packed the Statehouse hearing room and hectored Norcross as he arrived with an entourage that included union supporters from Camden County. Many shouted “Down with King George” as Norcross made his way through throngs of reporters and onlookers. Others taunted Norcross with chants of “FBI, FBI, FBI,” referring to recent news of a federal probe into the Camden tax breaks. In a spectacle of apparent confusion, Sue Altman, state director of the nonprofit New Jersey Working Families and a leader of the protests, was dragged from the hearing room by two state troopers. Sen. Robert Smith, the committee chairman, had ordered the police to remove a boisterous crew of pro-Norcross union members. But the troopers instead ejected Altman, who told reporters she was charged with disorderly conduct. “Today, George Norcross and his political allies resorted to thuggery and violence to silence the voices of Camden residents and advocates seeking to make their voices heard on the ongoing incentives scandal,” Altman said after being issued a summons. The confrontation with Altman delayed the hearing for about 15 minutes as police tried to reestablish order. Gov. Phil Murphy, speaking at an appearance later Monday, said the treatment of Altman was “outrageous and unacceptable” and called for the committee to issue her an apology. The task force formed by Murphy in January found that the tax break program was poorly administered and rife with abuses. State oversight of the program was so lax that Trenton was unable to verify that jobs promised by employers were ever created. The work of the task force has deepened divisions in Trenton, with Murphy and his allies demanding big changes in the incentive programs while Norcross, a prolific Democratic fundraiser, and his allies in the Legislature resist such changes. In May, WNYC and ProPublica reported that about $1.1 billion of the $1.6 billion in tax incentives awarded to Camden firms went to companies owned by or closely connected to Norcros or to his brother Philip, a lawyer and lobbyist whose law firm helped write the tax break legislation. The news organizations also found that Holtec International, a nuclear services firm based in Camden that received a $260 million tax break, made key omissions on its 2017 application for the incentives: The firm failed to tell the state of an ethical censure and 2010 disbarment from the Tennessee Valley Authority for contracting fraud. In response to the story, the state has frozen Holtec’s tax award and may withdraw or reduce it, officials said. Norcross, an unpaid member of the Holtec board and longtime friend of CEO Kris Singh, said in his testimony on Monday that the criticism was unfounded. “He’s an American success story, a poor boy who came here from India,” Norcross said of Singh. Norcross said Singh, like himself and other businessmen who used tax breaks to move their firms to Camden, invested hundreds of millions up front. He added that he and two business partners, who earlier this year moved into a new 18-story headquarters on the Camden waterfront, have spent about $300 million in investments in the city. “We took a chance because of these incentives,” he said. “No one was going to invest in a city where you could buy sex, get murdered and buy drugs all in the same block. No one.” ProPublica and WNYC are spending the year investigating the power and influence wielded by party bosses in New Jersey’s political system. If you know something about the state’s controversial tax incentive program, we’d like to hear from you. We’d particularly like to hear from: Past or present state employees who can tell us about the mechanics of the tax break program Past or present employees at companies that received tax breaks since 2013 who can tell us about the application process If you have something to share with us, here’s how to do it: Via email: Via phone call, text. You can also reach us through this number on Signal or WhatsApp, which are more secure: 347-244-2134 Here’s more information on ways to send us documents and other materials. Jeff Pillets, a 2008 Pulitzer Prize finalist, has written about politics and public corruption in New Jersey for more than 20 years. Nancy Solomon is managing editor for New Jersey Public Radio and WNYC. Follow Pillets on Twitter at @jpillets. Email Solomon at and follow her on Twitter at @nancysolomon2.

  • Right Wing Round-Up: Pardoning War Criminals
    by Kyle Mantyla on November 18, 2019 at 22:32

    Amy Russo @ HuffPost: Barr Rips ‘War Of Resistance Against’ Trump In Partisan Rant. Cristina Cabrera @ Talking Points Memo: Trump Made A Mysterious Unscheduled Hospital Visit. Here’s What We Know. Connor Mannion @ Mediaite: Stephanie Grisham, Jeanine Pirro Praise Trump’s Health After Unexpected Checkup: ‘He’s Almost Superhuman!’ Steve Benen @ The Maddow Blog: Ignoring

  • Trump ‘Pandering to His Extremist Base’ on Israeli Settlements, Says Bernie Sanders
    on November 18, 2019 at 21:52

    Eoin Higgins, staff writerSanders was one of a number of critics who saw the Monday announcement that the White House won’t treat the settlements as illegal as another attack on the Palestinian people. 

  • If You Care About Medicare for All or a Green New Deal, Here’s the Senate Primary That Matters
    by Ryan Grim on November 18, 2019 at 21:25

    Coons, a devotee of bipartisanship, is being challenged by Jess Scarane, who was inspired by progressive Kerri Harris’s 2018 Senate campaign. The post If You Care About Medicare for All or a Green New Deal, Here’s the Senate Primary That Matters appeared first on The Intercept.

  • Fueling Concerns of Approaching Catastrophic ‘Tipping Point,’ Deforestation of Brazilian Amazon Hit Highest Level in Decade
    on November 18, 2019 at 21:17

    Andrea Germanos, staff writer”These figures confirm what we feared, namely that 2019 has been a dark year for the rainforest in Brazil.”

  • Colin Kaepernick Refused to Bend to Roger Goodell’s Will
    by Dave Zirin on November 18, 2019 at 20:29

    Dave Zirin The quarterback remade the NFL’s hastily called league-wide tryout and demanded transparency. The post Colin Kaepernick Refused to Bend to Roger Goodell’s Will appeared first on The Nation.

  • Driven by Anti-Science Agenda, Trump Agencies Defying Mandate to Save Endangered Species From Climate Risk
    on November 18, 2019 at 20:26

    Julia Conley, staff writerA new study exposes serious gaps in the U.S. government’s commitment to fighting the effects of the climate crisis on endangered species, which federal agencies are required by law to protect.

  • The Pentagon Is Not Ready to Face Our Biggest National Security Threat
    by Michael T. Klare on November 18, 2019 at 20:00

    Michael T. Klare Our military’s obsession with Russia and China is proving to be dangerously distracting in the face of accelerating climate change. The post The Pentagon Is Not Ready to Face Our Biggest National Security Threat appeared first on The Nation.

  • ‘There Is No More Two-State Solution’: Trump Administration to Further Soften Opposition to West Bank Settlements
    on November 18, 2019 at 19:57

    Eoin Higgins, staff writer”How the hell is it possible for the U.S. policy to be any softer?”

  • It’s been obvious for a long time!
    by <b>bob somerby</b> on November 18, 2019 at 19:15

    MONDAY, NOVEMBER 18, 2019No, we aren’t making this up: Earlier today, we discussed the so-called “dullard journalism” currently being popularized by the New York Times.Principally, experts use that term to refer to a type of journalism which avoids facts and information in favor of novelized storylines—supersimplified renderings which may even border on fable and fairy tale.Why is American health care spending so astoundingly high? Within the school of “dullard journalism,” a question like that will never be answered, and the reason is simple:In the world of “dullard journalism,” the basic statistics defining that problem will never be reported!Increasingly, the Times is becoming famous for its adoption of this Hamptons-based school, sometimes known as “the new anti-journalism.” Basic data are never reported concerning even the most basic topics. Preconceived novelizations prevail. How dumb can “dullard journalism” become? What effect can it have on a newspaper’s readers?You’re asking important questions! This morning, on the Times’ “reimagined” page A3, this feature appeared (print editions only):The ConversationFOUR OF THE MOST READ, DISCUSSED AND SHARED POSTS FROM ACROSS NYTIMES.COM[…]4. It Was Obvious from Day 1This Vows column told the story of Ariel Shepherd-Oppenheim and Eliza Ladensohn, who were married Oct. 26 in California. The first time someone asked them how long they had been together, it was the very first day they met.Key point! What follows isn’t meant as a reflection on the couple in question. That said, consider this:Consider everything which was reported over the weekend “from across” Then, try to imagine how this item could possibly be one of “the most read, discussed and shared posts” from across the vast sweep of national and world events.In truth, we find it hard to believe that the item in question actually was one of the most read, discussed and shared posts. We’ll assume that someone within the New York Times structure selected this item as some sort of branding exercise.For what it’s worth, this item was the only “fluff” item included in today’s “most read” listing. By way of contrast, the third item looked like this:3. How FedEx Cut Its Tax Bill to $0In the 2017 fiscal year, FedEx owed more than $1.5 billion in taxes, an effective tax rate of 24 percent. The next year, it owed nothing, thanks to the Trump administration’s signature tax cut—and had not made good on its promises to invest in new equipment and other assets, this Times article found.This article appeared on the front page of the Sunday Times. Assuming the reporting is accurate, it concerns a very serious topic—the decades-long attempts to rig the system in favor of American oligarchs.Our questions:What are the chances that this report will ever be discussed on “liberal cable?” In our view, it’s much more likely that cable will continue with its standard diet of easy-listenin’ topics—Trump Trump Trump, impeachment impeachment, polls polls polls polls polls.Second, average citizens, red and blue voters alike, are undermined by this kind of rigging. Why can’t liberals and Democratic pols use such topics as a way to build red/blue political coalitions?This question will never be discussed at any time in any forum. With the modern liberal world, we’re trained to avoid and loathe The Others, full-satisfying-stop.That tribal training is another part of “dullard journalism.” According to future experts, the practice of this style of journalism was very good for short-term profits, but helped bring on Mister Trump’s War.Just for the record: Below, you see an excerpt from one of the “most read, discussed and shared posts from across”VARIAN (11/15/19): A few nights later, at Ms. Ladensohn’s suggestion, they met for drinks at Palihouse in West Hollywood. Ms. Shepherd-Oppenheim, just 23 at the time, was impressed by the hotel’s stylish lounge and rooftop view of Hollywood Hills. Ms. Ladensohn took notice of Ms. Shepherd-Oppenheim’s drink order.“I was ordering a vodka club soda, but Ariel was ordering all these really fun drinks off the cocktail menu,” Ms. Ladensohn said. “I remember thinking this is cool, she’s adventurous.”For ourselves, we don’t believe that actually was one of the most-discussed posts. Remarkably, someone within the New York Times doesn’t see what a slander they’re performing against the newspaper’s readers.Our upper-end culture is hopelessly daft. Future experts sometimes refer to this culture as “the dumbnification of everything.”A modern society can’t function this way. At the Hamptons-based New York Times, people aren’t able to see this.

  • Bolivia’s Coup Is Still Happening
    by Zeeshan Aleem on November 18, 2019 at 18:46

    Zeeshan Aleem Everything you wanted to know about Bolivian politics, but were afraid to ask. The post Bolivia’s Coup Is Still Happening appeared first on The Nation.

  • Trump’s Child Separation Policy “Absolutely” Violated International Law Says UN Expert
    on November 18, 2019 at 18:31

    Andrea Germanos, staff writerThe way the Trump administration was “separating infants from their families only in order to deter irregular migration from Central America to the United States of America, for me, constitutes inhuman and degrading treatment.”

  • House Impeachment Investigators Probing Whether Trump Lied to Mueller
    on November 18, 2019 at 18:24

    Jake Johnson, staff writer”The House is trying to determine whether the current president should remain in office. This is unbelievably serious and it’s happening right now, very fast.”

  • ‘Time Is Up’: Campaigners Occupy Pelosi’s Office, Launch Global Hunger Strike for Climate Action
    on November 18, 2019 at 17:11

    Julia Conley, staff writerThe global grassroots movement Extinction Rebellion is resorting to a hunger strike Monday with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as its primary target in the United States, demanding that the Democratic leader embrace bold climate action as progressive lawmakers have.

  • ‘Just Not a Serious Opinion in 2019’: Critics Pan Joe Biden Claim That Marijuana Is a Gateway Drug
    on November 18, 2019 at 17:07

    Eoin Higgins, staff writer”Perpetuating unsubstantiated theories like this hurts people.”

  • What Could Happen if a $9.4 Billion Chemical Plant Comes to “Cancer Alley”
    by by Lylla Younes on November 18, 2019 at 17:00

    by Lylla Younes This article was produced in partnership with The Times-Picayune and The Advocate, which is a member of the ProPublica Local Reporting Network. ProPublica is a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power. Sign up for ProPublica’s Big Story newsletter to receive stories like this one in your inbox as soon as they are published. One evening in early July, a stream of people filed into a nondescript building on a bend of the Mississippi River in St. James Parish to fight over the permits to build a new chemical plant. Four years earlier, the Taiwanese plastics company Formosa had applied to build a $9.4 billion petrochemical complex about 20 miles north. If approved, it would be one of the largest and most expensive industrial projects in the state’s history. The hearing was a chance for residents to be heard by the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality. The scene was typical of the growing conflict between the chemical industry and the communities that flank the river between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. A Formosa spokesperson made opening remarks, noting the importance of plastics in the global economy and emphasizing the company’s commitment to St. James. A handful of speakers, including the parish president, announced their support for the development, highlighting opportunities for job growth in an area so plagued with unemployment that many of its promising young people have to move away in order to make a living. Then dozens of attendees lined up to speak against Formosa’s plans. Get Our Top Investigations Subscribe to the Big Story newsletter. Don’t miss out on ProPublica’s next investigation. Sign up and get the Big Story email whenever we break news. This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply. Over the course of the five-hour hearing, parish residents, lawyers and environmental activists weighed in. Some talked about the chemicals the company was proposing to emit, including ethylene oxide, a substance that a 2016 Environmental Protection Agency study concluded can cause cancer even with limited exposure. Others brought up safety violations at other Formosa facilities around the country. They talked about the company’s plant in Illinois that exploded in 2004, killing five people and seriously injuring two others. “We need no more pollution. We are already devastated,” said Rita Cooper, a longtime resident of the area where the plant would be located. “Our bodies can no longer take any more.” “I want you to look at every law that they have broken. I want you to look at every violation standard that they have not kept,” said Norman Marmillion, owner of a nearby plantation that’s become a tourist attraction. But despite the community’s objections — and despite a recent settlement that required the company to pay $50 million to the state of Texas for polluting waterways — the Formosa permits are sailing through Louisiana’s review process. If the DEQ grants the permits, the people of St. James Parish will likely experience steep increases in toxic chemical concentrations in the air when the complex opens in 2022, according to a ProPublica analysis. Look Up an Address In a Notoriously Polluted Area of the Country, Massive New Chemical Plants Are Still Moving In Data from an EPA model indicates that communities along the lower Mississippi River corridor already face severely elevated cancer risks from industrial activity. Massive new chemical plants are slated to be built there anyway. ProPublica analyzed data from an EPA model to estimate current toxic levels of cancer-causing chemicals in the air of St. James Parish. We hired Michael Petroni, a Ph.D. candidate at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry and an expert in the EPA’s Risk-Screening Environmental Indicators dataset, to model the effect of Formosa’s emissions in the region. The analysis estimates that across the Mississippi in Convent, hundreds of residents will face double the toxic levels of cancer-causing chemicals than they currently do. One mile east in the St. James community, those levels could more than triple. ProPublica’s analysis estimates that the air around Formosa’s site is more toxic with cancer-causing chemicals than 99.6% of industrialized areas of the country. If the complex emits all the chemicals it proposes in its permit application, it would rank in the top 1% nationwide of major plants in America in terms of the concentrations of cancer-causing chemicals in its vicinity. The EPA did not object to Formosa’s air permits during their 45-day review period last summer. After the DEQ finishes reviewing all public comments — it has received more than 15,000 — it will issue a final decision on whether to approve Formosa’s permits. “I’m Pro Safe Industry” Formosa is not the only chemical company that has its eyes trained on south Louisiana. An investigation by ProPublica and The Times-Picayune and The Advocate recently found that a rush of new development is slated for some of the most polluted areas of “Cancer Alley” — a stretch along the lower Mississippi River known for its concentration of chemical plants. The state has already approved new projects in the industrial towns of Geismar and Killona. But no area is seeing as much new development as St. James. Last year, the DEQ granted Chinese chemical giant Yuhuang a permit to build a large methanol complex in the parish. In January, South Louisiana Methanol announced a $2.2 billion investment in a second methanol project, expected to be one of the largest methanol manufacturing facilities in the world. The energy company Ergon has been cleared for a $200 million expansion to its oil terminal next door. The projects are stacked along an abrupt bend in the river in the parish’s predominantly black 5th District. The Mosaic Faustina plant in St. James, one of several chemical plants in the parish. (Brett Duke/The Times-Picayune and The Advocate ) Some residents say that this is no coincidence. In 2014, the parish adopted a land-use plan that designated much of the district for industrial development. Since then, large swaths of farmland have been purchased by companies looking to take advantage of the enviable river access. Today, thin strips of residential buildings are sandwiched between sprawling, industry-owned land parcels. Other areas of the parish have been shielded from industry. The Parish Council barred two chemical companies — Wolverine and Petroplex — from building new developments inside and across the river from the parish’s majority white 3rd District. “I view it as environmental racism,” said Clyde Cooper, the council member for the 5th District. “It’s a decision based on, ‘We don’t want it in the white area, but we don’t mind it being in the black area.’ That’s what it came down to, and that’s the truth.” While Cooper has fought new industrial projects in the parish, he said he is usually outvoted by council members from other districts. When it came to Formosa, Cooper voted yes, but only because he decided there was no way the project would be voted down. He said he used his yes vote as leverage to get other concessions from Formosa, like free health screenings and an agreement to set up air monitoring stations. One of Cooper’s colleagues on the council, Jason Amato, says race wasn’t a factor in his decisions. “I don’t look at color,” he said. “I look at making sure that the company coming in is safe.” Amato has worked at the Shell chemical plant in Geismar, in neighboring Ascension Parish, for 30 years. He said in an interview that his experience in industry led him to question the safety standards of Wolverine and Petroplex. He expects the new developments in the 5th District to be safe. “I don’t rubber-stamp industry … I’m pro safe industry,” Amato said. “I recognize that YCI [Yuhuang] is a methanol facility which is pretty safe. Formosa, the products they’re making are safe.” Residents say they are not worried about the products Formosa makes; it’s the toxic chemicals its plants will release that concern them. Pollution from the complex will contain seven cancer-causing chemicals, including benzene and formaldehyde. This month, the EPA proposed new rules to reduce ethylene oxide emissions by 10 tons nationwide. Those rules will not impact the Formosa complex, which is expected to release 7.7 tons of the chemical every year, according to the company’s permit files. The DEQ declined to comment on Formosa’s proposed complex because its permit applications are still under review. Formosa spokesperson Janile Parks said the company went through an “extensive site selection process” and settled on St. James Parish’s 5th District because it is “away from population centers in the parish and in an area designated for industrial use.” The 5th District, while considerably more rural than some other parts of the parish, is far from empty. About a mile down the road from Formosa’s proposed complex is a church. Near the church, an elementary school. Across the river in Convent, neighborhoods hug the levee. Barbara Washington, a longtime resident of Convent, said the issue affects everybody, even those who don’t live right next to the proposed site, “because the air travels.” Barbara Washington and her husband, Eddie. Their home in St. James overlooks the Nucor Steel plant. (William Widmer, special to ProPublica) “State-of-the-Art Facilities” The size of Formosa’s proposed complex sets it apart from the other new industrial developments slated for “Cancer Alley.” The project will consist of 16 facilities and cover an area approximately the size of 80 football fields. It would constitute the largest new source of greenhouse gases from a U.S. petrochemical complex since at least 2012, according to data from the Environmental Integrity Project. Bryan Johnston, an air permits administrator at the DEQ for over 20 years, told ProPublica that fears over the size and capital costs of incoming plants are misplaced. “Size [of a chemical project] does not mean a horrible emissions profile,” Johnston said. “These are state-of-the-art facilities.” Unlike older facilities along the river that belch out pollution, new plants use technologies designed to minimize toxic emissions, he said. Johnston added that most new facilities have extremely tall “stacks,” industrial chimneys that release airborne chemicals. Many of Formosa’s emissions will exit the facility hundreds of feet in the air. At that altitude, toxic chemicals decay significantly before mixing with the ground-level air that people breathe. But not all of Formosa’s stacks are the same height. Some of the complex’s lower emissions points will expose nearby communities to increased levels of toxic chemical concentrations. Formosa’s permit applications indicate that one source of ethylene oxide releases will be a stack under 10 feet tall. The cancer-causing chemicals benzene and formaldehyde will be released through similarly sized units. It is unlikely that all of Formosa’s emissions will exit the facility through stacks. During highly pressurized industrial processes, equipment leaks and spills often cause gases to escape into the environment. These releases, known as “fugitive emissions,” are typically included in permit applications and modeled by government agencies. ProPublica’s analysis estimates that fugitive emissions could account for 37% of increases in toxic air levels in neighborhoods affected by the proposed St. James site. Parks declined to confirm or dispute that analysis, but said that the company’s air modeling indicates that the proposed complex will be in compliance with Louisiana’s air standards. Those rules dictate, for each monitored chemical, a maximum allowable concentration in the air. A review of regulatory programs in other states indicates that Louisiana has among the most lax air standards in the country. A car zips southward down River Road in St. James Parish past a sign protesting a $9.4 billion Formosa chemical plant planned just to the north. (David Mitchell/The Times-Picayune and The Advocate ) This comes as little surprise to residents and environmental activists who, throughout Formosa’s public hearing, pointed to what they see as the state’s cozy relationship with industry. Anne Rolfes, executive director of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, described a 2011 EPA inspector general report that listed Louisiana as among the poorest enforcers of environmental regulations in the country, due in part to “a culture in which the state agency is expected to protect industry.” At the time, the DEQ defended its enforcement practices, arguing that the state inspects all major polluters at two-year intervals. Jim Harris, an industry consultant who represents much of Louisiana’s petrochemical industry, said in an interview that the DEQ “checks industry every step of the way to make certain it is acting in accordance with the strict rules and regulations mandated by law and the EPA.” But Rolfes says otherwise. She pointed to the company’s track record in the state. A review of EPA records shows that for at least the past three years, Formosa’s PVC manufacturing site in Baton Rouge has been out of compliance with the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. The agency also cited the facility for “high priority” Clean Air Act violations during every quarter of that same period. Nonetheless, Gov. John Bel Edwards in August trumpeted a $332 million expansion of the site. The permit for that project also is pending. “The agency is captured by industry, it is controlled by industry, it is not protecting the people,” Rolfes told attendees at the hearing in July. “When the governor comes and cuts a ribbon and slaps the good old boys on the back about [a new] facility … it pretty much seems like a done deal.” Read More Welcome to “Cancer Alley,” Where Toxic Air Is About to Get Worse Air quality has improved for decades across the U.S., but Louisiana is backsliding. Our analysis found that a crush of new industrial plants will increase concentrations of cancer-causing chemicals in predominantly black and poor communities. ProPublica researcher Claire Perlman, ProPublica news applications developer Al Shaw and Ph.D. candidate Michael Petroni contributed to this report.

  • FLINT AND FICTITION: Terrify the children well!
    by <b>bob somerby</b> on November 18, 2019 at 16:20

    MONDAY, NOVEMBER 18, 2019Whole city poisoned, she said: In July of 2018, their column appeared on the op-ed page of the New York Times.Who wrote the column in question? According to the Times’ identity line, “Dr. Gómez and Dr. Dietrich are experts in toxicology and environmental health.” Indeed, where their column appears on line, the Times describes their credentials further:Hernán Gómez, an associate professor at the University of Michigan, emergency medicine pediatrician and medical toxicologist at Hurley Medical Center, was the lead author of the study “Blood Lead Levels of Children in Flint, Michigan: 2006-2016.” Kim Dietrich, a professor of epidemiology and environmental health at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, is the principal investigator of the Cincinnati Lead Study. None of this means that Gomez and Dietrich will automatically be right in every assessment they make. That said, their column appeared beneath a striking headline—a headline which sought to refute several years’ worth of irresponsible, scary claims delivered on MSNBC:The Children of Flint Were Not ‘Poisoned’Outrageously, Gomez and Dietrich were stating an outrageous view. The children of Flint had not been poisoned, the pair of experts now said!Are Gomez and Dietrich allowed to make such statements? Their thoroughly outrageous column outrageously started like this:GOMEZ AND DIETRICH (7/23/18): Words are toxic, too. Labeling Flint’s children as “poisoned,” as many journalists and activists have done since the city’s water was found to be contaminated with lead in 2014, unjustly stigmatizes their generation.Let’s be clear. It’s unacceptable that any child was exposed to drinking water with elevated lead concentrations. We know that lead is a powerful neurotoxicant, that there is no safe level, that the very young are particularly vulnerable and that long-term exposure to low to moderate levels of lead is associated with decreased I.Q.s and other cognitive and behavioral problems, including criminal behavior.But there is no reason to expect that what happened for a year and a half in Flint will inevitably lead to such effects. The casual use of the word “poisoned,” which suggests that the affected children are irreparably brain-damaged, is grossly inaccurate. In a city that already battles high poverty and crime rates, this is particularly problematic. “Words are toxic too,” the pair of alleged experts said. In their most outrageous statement, they even said this:With regard to the children of Flint, the casual use of the word “poisoned” is grossly inaccurate.So the experts said. And as you can see from what we posted, they also said this, right at the start of their column:There’s no reason to expect that the Flint water problem will inevitably lead to “decreased I.Q.s and other cognitive and behavioral problems, including criminal behavior.As President Trump himself might have asked, where do they get these jokers? But uh-oh! As Gomez and Dietrich continued, they began presenting some of the basic data which seem to be relevant here. If we care about the children of Flint, we need to consider these data:GOMEZ AND DIETRICH (continuing directly): In the mid-1970s, the average American child under the age of 5 had a blood lead level of 14 micrograms per deciliter. The good news is that by 2014 it had fallen dramatically, to 0.84 micrograms per deciliter, largely because of the banning of lead in paint and the phaseout of lead in gasoline, among other measures.The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now considers a blood lead level in children of 5 micrograms per deciliter and higher to be a “reference level.” This measure is intended to identify children at higher risk and set off communitywide prevention activities. Good grief! As recently as the mid-1970s, when many cable news watchers were young, the average American child had a blood lead level of 14 micrograms per deciliter. Today, though, thanks to improved environmental factors, the average reading, nationwide, is less than 1 microgram per deciliter.Today, the experts seemed to say, kids are considered to be at higher risk if their reading goes above 5 micrograms per deciliter. That’s way below the average reading for the average American child in the 1970s—and as they continued, Gomez and Dietrich reported what happened in Flint:GOMEZ AND DIETRICH (continuing directly): After Flint’s water was switched from Detroit’s municipal system to the Flint River, the annual percentage of Flint children whose blood lead levels surpassed the reference level did increase—but only from 2.2 percent to 3.7 percent. One of us, Dr. Gómez, along with fellow researchers, reported these findings in a study in the June issue of The Journal of Pediatrics, which raised questions about how risks and statistics have been communicated regarding this issue. Before Flint’s water problem started, 2.2% of the city’s kids had readings above the 5 micrograms per deciliter “reference level.” As a result of the water crisis, that percentage did indeed increase—but only to 3.7 percent of the city’s kids.Ideally, you wouldn’t want any kids to display such blood/lead levels. But might we repeat the basic point of comparison offered by Gomez and Dietrich? In the mid-1970s, the average reading, across the whole country, was almost three times that high!Might these data help us put the Flint water problem in in some sort of perspective? As they continued, Gomez and Dietrich tried to make it so clear that even the modern “cable news star” would be able to puzzle it out:GOMEZ AND DIETRICH: For comparison, consider the fact that just 20 years ago, nearly 45 percent of young children in Michigan had blood lead levels above the current reference level. If we are to be consistent in the labeling of Flint children as “poisoned,” what are we to make of the average American who was a child in the 1970s or earlier? Answer: He has been poisoned and is brain-damaged. And poisoned with lead levels far above, and for a greater period, than those observed in Flint. Gomez and Dietrich were making a basic point. They were suggesting that people were overstating the actual situation when they kept saying that the children of Flint had been “poisoned.” As they continued, they made their most outrageous statement of all—and they tried to inform the public about some basic facts:GOMEZ AND DIETRICH (continuing directly): People were understandably dismayed by the government’s apparent failure to act quickly to switch back the water once concerns were raised in Flint. But based on this more comprehensive view of the data, we are forced to admit that the furor over this issue seems way out of proportion to the actual dangers to the children from lead exposure.Furthermore, the focus on Flint seems to be distracting the public from a far more widespread problem. Although blood lead levels have long been declining nationwide, there remain many trouble spots. Right now in Michigan, 8.8 percent of children in Detroit, 8.1 percent of children in Grand Rapids and an astounding 14 percent of children in Highland Park surpass the C.D.C. reference level. Flint is at 2.4 percent. A comprehensive analysis of blood lead levels across the United States reveals at least eight states with blood lead levels higher than Flint’s were during the water switch.Are Gomez and Dietrich permitted to say such things? The experts claimed that “the furor” over the problem in Flint seemed to be “way out of proportion to the actual dangers to the children.” And ohourgod, they even said this:Blood lead levels are substantially higher in other cities, and are even higher across entire states. Does anyone give a flying fig about the children who live in those places? The answer to that question is obvious, as has been for a long time. That said, this is the way our species functions, anthropologists have glumly said.In their article from July 2018, Gomez and Dietrich were reporting remarkable data about lead exposure in the recent American past—in the decades before leaded gasoline was outlawed. They explained that the lead exposure in Flint had been dwarfed, across the country, by the exposure to lead of that recent past.They were also reporting that undesirable lead exposure exists in many communities. “It is clear that lead exposure is not one city’s problem, but the entire nation’s,” they said.For the record, none of this information was new when this column appeared. Kevin Drum had reported similar data, again and again, in his blog at Mother Jones. We’ll link you to this one post again. You can google up many more such discussions by Drum.All that said, so what? On MSNBC, the corporate channel’s leading star kept saying that the entire city of Flint had been “poisoned” during the water crisis. Despite her status as Our Own Rhodes Scholar, she never told her misused viewers about the wider range of actual facts which Drum and others had bruited.In our view, that cable star’s judgment is so poor that she shouldn’t be on the air. Her treatment of Flint was especially gruesome because it was so obvious that she was mainly interested in using the topic as a way to get the Republican governor of Michigan thrown into jail. (In such ways, we liberals get pandered to, tribally pleasured, on this particular TV show.)Along the way, a reporter for the New Yorker had reported the way the children of Flint were being affected by all the exciting hyperbole. This is part of what happens people like Maddow sift facts in the way Maddow does:STILLMAN (1/15/17): Key shared a personal story about the son of a family friend who had begun acting out in school. The boy’s mother had come to Key for help. When Key asked the boy what was going on, he replied, “Well, they said I’m not going to be smart anyway.”“These kids are internalizing the messages about how the lead is affecting them,” Key said.[…]As their last day in Flint drew to a close, Shankar and Tucker-Ray hurried to a final meeting. They had arranged to talk with a disabled Gulf War veteran and community activist named Art Woodson, who didn’t think much of the federal government. At a local municipal building, where an enlarged photograph of corroded lead pipes adorned one wall, Woodson told Shankar about his worry that local kids would give up when lead’s symptoms surfaced, or even before. “What I see,” he said, “is hopelessness.”Thanks to people like Maddow (and her corporate bosses), the public was being massively misinformed—and children were becoming convinced that they were irreparably damaged. Gomez and Dietrich finished their column by raising this basic point:GOMEZ AND DIETRICH: In the case of Flint, even when taking into account the change in the water supply, the decrease in blood lead levels over the last 11 years has actually been a public health success. The Journal of Pediatrics study found that between 2006 and 2015, the percentage of Flint children testing above the reference level decreased substantially, to 3.7 percent from 11.8 percent.It is therefore unfair and inaccurate to point a finger at Flint and repeatedly use the word “poisoned.” All it does is terrify the parents and community members here who truly believe there may be a “generation lost” in this city, when there is no scientific evidence to support this conclusion.We should stop scaring the children well, the experts outrageously said.That said, our upper-end journalism runs on fictitions; it has done so for many years. Our journalists love their simpleton story lines and their studied avoidance of information. At present, they especially seem to enjoy pretending that they care about black kids.The New York Times is the leading proponent of this so-called “dullard journalism.” And so, it came to pass, as the gods of fictition decreed that it must:There’s nothing but damaged kids in Flint! So this ridiculous newspaper said, atop its front page, on Thursday, November 7.As we await the start of Mister Trump’s war, information and data no longer exist. It’s nothing but silly fictitions now, or so leading experts have said.

  • Indiana Teachers to Rally for Better Pay, Better Schools
    by Sarah Lahm on November 18, 2019 at 16:11

    The notoriously conservative, right-to-work state has proven to be fertile ground for market-based education reform policies—and teacher discontent.

  • Comedian Jeff Garlin isn’t afraid of political correctness
    on November 18, 2019 at 16:00

    The “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and “Goldbergs” actor talks about dreams, donuts, and his new Netflix special

  • Congressional Survey on Hate Crimes
    by by Rachel Glickhouse and Derek Willis on November 18, 2019 at 15:45

    by Rachel Glickhouse and Derek Willis See the responses.

  • Jeffrey Epstein Isn’t Going Away
    by Jeet Heer on November 18, 2019 at 15:33

    Jeet Heer In the absence of a full reckoning, conspiracy theories about Epstein fester and allow the far right to exploit the popular mistrust of elites. The post Jeffrey Epstein Isn’t Going Away appeared first on The Nation.

  • ‘Fear of Victory’ for Sanders or Warren in 2020 Driving Bloomberg and Patrick Bids, Say Progressive Critics
    on November 18, 2019 at 15:26

    Jake Johnson, staff writer”There’s clearly anxiety from parts of the Democratic Party establishment and donor class about becoming a party that is unapologetic about taking on oligarchs, whether they’re Donald Trump or Jeff Bezos.”

  • Can ‘Climate Sanctions’ Save the Planet?
    by Nicholas Mulder on November 18, 2019 at 15:00

    Nicholas Mulder Economic pressure can be a force for environmental good—if it targets companies, not countries. The post Can ‘Climate Sanctions’ Save the Planet? appeared first on The Nation.

  • Don’t Suppress Votes of New Citizens
    by Terri Gerstein on November 18, 2019 at 14:54

    A new kind of voter suppression is being perpetrated by the federal government and flying largely under the radar: a multi-faceted effort to prevent legal immigrants from becoming citizens in time to vote.

  • Press Watch: Why was Trump rushed to the hospital? Count on the media to swallow official lies
    on November 18, 2019 at 14:30

    An unexpected hospital visit is legitimate news. But the White House lied, and the press corps just swallowed it

  • Sign of the Times
    by Ileana Doble Hernandez on November 18, 2019 at 13:00

    Ileana Doble Hernandez Elementary education. The post Sign of the Times appeared first on The Nation.

  • Mati Diop’s ‘Atlantics’ Is a Startling Study of Power
    by Namwali Serpell on November 18, 2019 at 12:30

    Namwali Serpell As the contemporary film landscape heralds the coming of a class war, Diop’s beautiful movie reckons with capital and labor in groundbreaking fashion. The post Mati Diop’s ‘Atlantics’ Is a Startling Study of Power appeared first on The Nation.

  • How Should We Remember the Puritans?
    by Andrew Delbanco on November 18, 2019 at 12:30

    Andrew Delbanco In his new book, Daniel Rodgers not only offers a close reading of Puritan history but also seeks to rescue their early critique of market economy. The post How Should We Remember the Puritans? appeared first on The Nation.

  • Yang Doesn’t Add Up
    by John Nichols on November 18, 2019 at 12:00

    John Nichols The presidential candidate is great at identifying problems, but his policy proposals need a lot of work. The post Yang Doesn’t Add Up appeared first on The Nation.

  • Smart Ass Cripple: When Pot Is Legal, Except in Public Housing
    by Mike Ervin on November 18, 2019 at 11:49

    As the holidays approacheth, and pot becomes legal in my state, I’m considering reviving my Dysfunctional Family Christmas tradition.

  • Secret US Intelligence Files Provide History’s Verdict on Argentina’s Dirty War
    by Peter Kornbluh on November 18, 2019 at 11:30

    Peter Kornbluh Recently declassified documents constitute a gruesome and sadistic catalog of state terrorism. The post Secret US Intelligence Files Provide History’s Verdict on Argentina’s Dirty War appeared first on The Nation.

  • ‘Pinochet-Style Dictatorship’: Bolivia’s Coup Government Threatens to Arrest Leftist Lawmakers and Journalists
    on November 18, 2019 at 10:42

    Jake Johnson, staff writer”Bolivia is living through a violent, regressive, completely undemocratic power grab. All governments must sever relations with this illegal regime.”

  • Vazamento inédito revela os detalhes da espionagem do Irã no Iraque
    by Tatiana Dias on November 18, 2019 at 09:57

    Mais de 700 telegramas do serviço secreto iraniano revelam como o país se aproveitou do caos após a queda de Saddam Hussein para influir no Iraque. The post Vazamento inédito revela os detalhes da espionagem do Irã no Iraque appeared first on The Intercept.

  • The Story Behind the Iran Cables
    by Betsy Reed on November 18, 2019 at 05:11

    A note from the editors and a video discussion hosted by Jeremy Scahill. The post The Story Behind the Iran Cables appeared first on The Intercept.

  • From the Rubble of the U.S. War in Iraq, Iran Built a New Order
    by Jeremy Scahill on November 18, 2019 at 05:11

    The chaos unleashed by the U.S. invasion allowed Iran to gain a level of influence in Iraq that was unfathomable during the reign of Saddam. The post From the Rubble of the U.S. War in Iraq, Iran Built a New Order appeared first on The Intercept.

  • Iran’s Quds Force and the Muslim Brotherhood Considered an Alliance Against Saudi Arabia
    by James Risen on November 18, 2019 at 05:10

    An Iranian intelligence document describes a meeting between Iran’s Quds Force and the Muslim Brotherhood in a Turkish hotel. It didn’t go well. The post Iran’s Quds Force and the Muslim Brotherhood Considered an Alliance Against Saudi Arabia appeared first on The Intercept.

  • While U.S.-Led Forces Dropped Bombs, Iran Waged Its Own Covert Campaign Against the Islamic State
    by Murtaza Hussain on November 18, 2019 at 05:10

    In many ways, the Iranian intelligence campaign against ISIS mirrored the U.S. strategy for dealing with Iraq. The post While U.S.-Led Forces Dropped Bombs, Iran Waged Its Own Covert Campaign Against the Islamic State appeared first on The Intercept.

  • Leaked Iranian Intelligence Reports Expose Tehran’s Vast Web of Influence in Iraq
    by James Risen on November 18, 2019 at 05:10

    Seven hundred pages of leaked documents reveal how Iranian spies have infiltrated every aspect of Iraqi political life. The post Leaked Iranian Intelligence Reports Expose Tehran’s Vast Web of Influence in Iraq appeared first on The Intercept.

  • Democrats Not Headed Too Far Left, Says Ocasio-Cortez, ‘We Are Bringing the Party Home’
    on November 17, 2019 at 20:28

    Jon Queally, staff writer”I want to be the party of the New Deal again,” says the progressive congresswoman from New York. “The party of the Civil Rights Act, the one that electrified this nation and fights for all people.”

  • ‘Too Clever for Its Own Good’: Progressives Concerned Over Warren’s New Medicare for All Strategy
    on November 17, 2019 at 19:05

    Jon Queally, staff writer”The idea that the next Democratic president could pass a major public option bill and then, perhaps after the 2022 midterm elections, be in a position to pass actual Medicare for All is just not tenable. It’s just not.”

  • With 67% of the Vote, California Young Democrats Endorse Bernie Sanders for President
    on November 17, 2019 at 17:27

    Jon Queally, staff writerSanders received more than twice the number of votes as Elizabeth Warren and while Pete Buttigieg received just one vote, former Vice President Joe Biden received zero.

  • Texas Court Halts Rodney Reed Execution Over Questions of Withheld Evidence, False Testimony
    by Jordan Smith on November 17, 2019 at 16:52

    In a dramatic turn of events, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals issued an indefinite stay of execution for Rodney Reed on November 15. The post Texas Court Halts Rodney Reed Execution Over Questions of Withheld Evidence, False Testimony appeared first on The Intercept.

  • Did Obama Make a Mistake by Deporting 3 Million People? Bernie Sanders: ‘Yes’
    on November 17, 2019 at 15:22

    Jon Queally, staff writer”We’re not talking about tearing down the system—we’re fighting for justice,” said 2020 candidate in response to former president’s reported warning that some Democrats moving too far left.

  • A Novel Retells the Assassinations that Marked the End of the Cold War in El Salvador
    by Jefferson Morley on November 17, 2019 at 13:00

    “November,” a newly translated novel by Jorge Galán, retells the execution of six Jesuit priests by El Salvador’s U.S.-backed right-wing military. The post A Novel Retells the Assassinations that Marked the End of the Cold War in El Salvador appeared first on The Intercept.

  • Novo projeto de poder de Bolsonaro, a Aliança pelo Brasil é o primeiro partido neofascista do país
    by João Filho on November 17, 2019 at 11:51

    Após abandonar um um partido nanico alugado para se eleger, o bolsonarismo inaugura uma nova sigla que resgata valores integralistas e não tem qualquer apreço pela democracia. The post Novo projeto de poder de Bolsonaro, a Aliança pelo Brasil é o primeiro partido neofascista do país appeared first on The Intercept.

  • Left Twitter Responds With Viral #TooFarLeft Hashtag After Obama Counsels Democrats to Tamp Down Progressive Ambitions
    on November 16, 2019 at 20:03

    Jon Queally, staff writer”I launched the #TooFarLeft tag,” declared Peter Daou, “because I’ve had it with Republicans, media elites, and corporate Dems enabling fascists while denigrating those who seek economic and social justice as ‘too far left.’  I’d like to ONCE hear them complain America is too far right.”

  • While Warning of Nazi-Like Fascism and Corporate Crimes, Pope Francis Proposes Adding ‘Ecological Sin’ to Church Teachings
    on November 16, 2019 at 17:55

    Jon Queally, staff writerIn remarks at the Vatican, the leader of the Catholic Church condemned “the large-scale delinquency of corporations.”

  • Extinction Rebellion Members Blockade Private Jet Terminal Used by Wealthy Elites in Geneva
    on November 16, 2019 at 17:01

    Jon Queally, staff writer”We want to denounce this completely absurd means of transport since a private jet emits twenty times more CO2 per passenger than a conventional airplane.”

  • The Post explores the scarf and the brooch!
    by <b>bob somerby</b> on November 16, 2019 at 16:34

    SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 16, 2019Embarrassed experts complain: With apologies, it has happened again—and according to expert anthropologists, it tells “the ultimate story.”The article appears on the front page of this morning’s Style section, the only part of the Washington Post anyone actually reads. The article explores an important part of yesterday’s impeachment hearing. Rather, it provides a novelized account of same, appearing beneath this headline:CRITIC’S NOTEBOOKAt hearing, former ambassador’s scarf is draped with symbolismBy Robin Givhan On Thursday morning, the New York Times had teased a vast amount of meaning from George Kent’s bow tie. That ridiculous piece, by Vanessa Friedman, had been published as an actual news report in the Times’ National section.This morning, the Washington Post asked Givhan to fabulize in similar ways about the wardrobe selections of former ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. The headline focused on her scarf, but after some introductory sputtering, Givhan started with the various things we could learn from her brooch:GIVHAN (11/16/19): She entered the room with her American flag sparkling and sabers flying.Former ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch sat before the House Intelligence Committee already speaking the language of diplomacy with its peculiar mix of calm, bluntness and symbolism. Before she uttered a single word, she had already announced her patriotism, toughness, experience and individual humanity, all with her style.[…]Her clothes sketched out the broad strokes of her identity as a veteran of Washington. “The woman,” as President Trump referred to her in a July 25 phone call, had slipped off her red coat to reveal a sizable American flag brooch glittering from the lapel of her dark jacket. It was striking because of its size, but also because it was a classically feminine accessory with its sparkly stones and its swirling lines. It was notable in the room, because the lapels of the mostly male panel—which was separated by party—were adorned with their congressional pins. Those little round discs rooted them in politics, in the inescapable talking points, inevitable grandstanding and poisonous unctuousness.Yovanovitch signaled that she was there for country, for elusive, nonpartisan facts. Her brooch was in the stylish tradition of former secretary of state Madeleine Albright who built an entire diplomatic vocabulary on the symbolism of her many and varied pins.Before she’d uttered a single word, Yovanovitch had defined herself—had signaled her intentions—through the lines of her sizable brooch, which borrowed from Albright’s diplomatic vocabulary. The tribalized conclusion was inevitable:Through the magic of her brooch, Yovanovitch had somehow “signaled that she was there” to provide “nonpartisan facts.” She wasn’t there for grandstanding or even for poisonous unctuousness!Given the messages conveyed by her brooch, it’s odd to think that Yovanovitch had been required to take any questions at all! At any rate, Givhan now transferred her anthropologically meaningful mind-reading act to the former ambassador’s scarf:GIVHAN (continuing directly): In addition to her jewelry, Yovanovitch was also wearing an oversize scarf draped around her neck. It wasn’t tied. It wasn’t prim. The scarf was like a silken billboard. The eye was drawn to the gold, military references in its formal design. The scarf appeared to be a “grand uniforme” design by Joachim Metz for Hermès. In the center of a red border, there are eagles and crowns and references to sabers. It’s not a ghoulish or overtly violent pattern. It’s a stately declaration of military might, of a willingness to fight for one’s honor and the importance of respected traditions.To those who would fabulize in these ways, that oversize scarf was no scarf at all. The oversize scarf was a billboard, and it wasn’t ghoulish at all!The Post has allowed Givhan to fabulize and dream in these ways since 1995, with a four-year “sanity break” starting in 2010. On this occasion, the fabulizing was so extreme that even the Princeton grad briefly took a step back, taking stock of her procedures:GIVHAN (continuing directly): Is that reading too much into a few feet of silk? When committee chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) asked Yovanovitch to assess her work abroad, she noted, “I actually think where I’ve served over the years, I and others, have made things demonstrably better.” And then, she quietly but firmly pointed out that credit for improvements in areas where she was stationed goes to “the work of the United States and to me as the ambassador.”Yovanovitch did not come before Congress to deny, play down or shrug off her professional acumen and her experience. She was prepared to defend her reputation because it was a presidential assault on it that had brought her there in the first place. And as she stood up for herself, she also tried to protect the country she served. Her scarf was a billowing reminder of the value of the state—the beauty of it, even.Even Givhan briefly wondered if she might be “reading too much into a few feet of silk.” Quickly, though, we got her answer—Hell no!Stating the obvious, “journalism” of this type lies just this side of madness. The same was true of the New York Times’ bow tie exegesis, which it published as a news report in the paper’s “National” section.Anthropologists pulled us aside, then glumly denounced the foolishness. “They might as well be running news reports about the witnesses’ horoscopes,” these despondent future exoerts exclaimed.The disconsolate scholars despondently told us what this sort of thing means. “Our species was never the ‘rational animal,’ ” these future credentialed experts said, exhibiting a slightly embarrassed tone. “The impulse toward building tribalized fictitions was in fact always bred in the bone,” these scholars despondently told us. Any impulse toward “rational” conduct was especially likely to disappear at times of major tribal warfare, these experts despairingly said.Indeed, novelized stories are everywhere as impeachment looms. Next week, we’ll be covering “The Impeachment Monologues” at this site, with some emphasis on the excited, self-involved presentations of Our Own Rhodes Scholar.That said, the stone-cold flight from “Enlightenment values” is now on display wherever you look. Or so these experts have told us. For ourselves, we almost “got Schwedeled” today when Slate offered a link to the latest exploration by its most puzzling journalist. (“A Viewer’s Guide to the Conspicuously Hot Guy Who Comes Out of Nowhere in Charlie’s Angels.”) For our anthropologists, though, the note of sadness was brought in when Andrew Sullivan discussed Ibram X. Kendi’s current best-seller, which apparently includes this proposal for an antiracist constitutional amendment:KENDI: It would establish and permanently fund the Department of Anti-racism (DOA) comprised of formally trained experts on racism and no political appointees. The DOA would be responsible for preclearing all local, state and federal public policies to ensure they won’t yield racial inequity, monitor those policies, investigate private racist policies when racial inequity surfaces, and monitor public officials for expressions of racist ideas. The DOA would be empowered with disciplinary tools to wield over and against policymakers and public officials who do not voluntarily change their racist policy and ideas.To those who thought the DMV was occasionally poorly run, this proposal may seem unwieldy.Wryly, Sullivan notes that these “formally trained experts on racism” would “presumably all [be] from critical race-theory departments.” He also notes that these formally trained experts would be “unelected”—and according to our future experts, therein lies the ultimate illogic of Kendi’s proposal:Who would choose these “formally trained experts on racism?” Who would decide that these formally trained experts were actually “experts” at all? Such questions take us back to the dawn of the west, to the western world’s first halting attempts at logic, when Plato suggested rule by philosopher kings.”There’s no escaping this hard-wired mess,” embarrassed anthropologists have told us. Persistently, these scholars lament their failure to speak in real time.Coming next week: Next Monday, we’ll finish our series on the fictitions which have flowed out of Flint. At that point, it will be on to impeachment.That said, we plan to transfer soon to “The Rational Animal Files.” One thinks of Plato’s despair in the Seventh Letter. We still think that Professor Lee has it just about right:PLATO: The existing constitution, which was subject to widespread criticism, was overthrown…and a committee of Thirty given supreme power. As it happened some of them were friends and relations of mine and they at once invited me to join them, as if it were the natural thing for me to do. My feelings were what were to be expected in a young man: I thought they were going to reform society and rule justly, and so I watched their proceedings with deep interest. I found that they soon made the earlier regime look like a golden age. Among other things they tried to incriminate my old friend Socrates, whom I should not hesitate to call the most upright man then living, by sending him, with others, to arrest a fellow-citizen, and bring him forcibly to execution; Socrates refused, and risked everything rather than make himself a party to their wickedness. When I saw all this, and other things as bad, I was disgusted and withdrew from the wickedness of the times.Is it all anthropology now? Yes, but this opens the door to the humor of despair. Bring on Lord Russell’s wonderfully comical “set of all sets not members of themselves!” Or so we jauntily cry, in these last few final days before we meet Mister Trump’s War.

  • Police in Bolivia Pepper Spray Journalist ‘On Purpose’ During Live Coverage of Anti-Coup Protests
    on November 16, 2019 at 14:45

    Jon Queally, staff writer”I hate to be the story because we are here to report on what is happening to the people in the amazing country,” said Al-Jazeera English senior correspondent Teresa Bo. “I hope it helps denounce that such practices cannot be tolerated. Not here not anywhere.”

  • The Chicago Teachers Strike Was a Lesson in 21st-Century Organizing
    by Sarah Jaffe on November 16, 2019 at 13:39

    Sarah Jaffe Despite the Janus decision and years of labor losses, the Chicago Teachers Union has figured out how to organize—and win. The post The Chicago Teachers Strike Was a Lesson in 21st-Century Organizing appeared first on The Nation.

  • ‘Grand American Tradition of Immunizing Its War Criminals’ Continues as Trump Pardons US Soldiers
    on November 16, 2019 at 06:05

    Jon Queally, staff writer”A shameful use of presidential powers,” said the ACLU. “It sends a clear message of disrespect for the law, morality, the military justice system, and those in the military who abide by the laws of war.”

  • Rodney Reed Lawyers ‘Relieved and Thankful’ After Stay of Execution Granted by Texas Court
    on November 16, 2019 at 05:31

    Jon Queally, staff writer”Reed’s execution should not just be delayed, but canceled,” said Bernie Sanders. “Real criminal justice reform must include joining every other major democracy in eliminating the death penalty.”

  • ‘This is What a Dictatorship Looks Like’: Bolivian Security Forces Open Fire on Indigenous Protesters in City of Cochabamba
    on November 15, 2019 at 22:36

    Eoin Higgins, staff writer”State violence in Bolivia.”

  • Putting ‘Health of All Species’ in Danger, Trump EPA Proposal Guts Restrictions on Toxic Herbicide Linked to Birth Defects
    on November 15, 2019 at 22:20

    Andrea Germanos, staff writer”The pro-industry zealots now running the EPA’s pesticide office are making a mockery of science and eliminating key safety measures, all for company profits.”

  • Attempted Bribery Is Bribery
    by John Nichols on November 15, 2019 at 22:11

    John Nichols The Constitution’s authors had an understanding of bribery that legal scholars say “not only encompasses Trump’s conduct—it practically defines it.”   The post Attempted Bribery Is Bribery appeared first on The Nation.

  • The latest stupidity from Donald J. Trump!
    by <b>bob somerby</b> on November 15, 2019 at 21:19

    FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 15, 2019It didn’t begin with him: We spent the bulk of the day watching the impeachment hearings. Tomorrow, we’ll finish our current report, Flint and Fictition.For today, we thought we’d insert a word about Donald J. Trump’s tweet this morning. It started off like this:”Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad. She started off in Somalia, how did that go?”For the record:Yovanovitch was posted to Somalia in 1986. It was one of her first postings with the foreign service. She was 28 or 29 at the time. Needless to say, she wasn’t in charge of the American mission. For a list of American ambassadors to Somalia during that period, you can just click here. Stating the obvious, disasters which happened in Somalia weren’t their fault or doing either.In his tweet, Trump presented the latest example of the blinding stupidity which dominates so much of the American discourse. In fairness to Donald J. Trump, the blinding stupidity of our American discourse didn’t begin with him. He’s just made it more extreme, more constant.The modern era of public stupidity involves some of our own liberal team’s biggest stars. At the start of the MSNBC era, these stars served under an American oligarch, GE chairman Jack Welch, to whose wishes they deferred and under whom they became very wealthy.How much money have they been paid? Under our own tribe’s oligarchic arrangements, we aren’t allowed to know such things, and they’d prefer that we didn’t ask.Hillary Clinton was like Nurse Ratched! When our own stars would say such things, we liberals kept forgetting to complain. Soon, Jack Welch’s Lost Boys moved ahead to their next task, electing George W. Bush, and Nicolle got busy helping him set up all those anti-gay marriage ballot measures.Eventually, this headlong public stupidity gave us Donald J. Trump. The stars who called Hillary Clinton “Nurse Ratched” were very, very upset with his bad conduct today.We assume that Trump is mentally ill. What’s our tribe’s excuse?

  • Break Free From Plastic Movement Blasts Big Polluters on Industry-Backed ‘America Recycles Day’
    on November 15, 2019 at 20:21

    Jessica Corbett, staff writerMembers of the global Break Free From Plastic movement on Friday marked the annual “America Recycles Day” by highlighting criticism of the industry-backed event and pressuring corporate polluters to “reduce the production of plastics, instead of focusing on cleaning it up after the fact.”

  • Irish Youth Activists at First-Ever Climate Assembly Implore Govt to Listen to Science
    on November 15, 2019 at 20:00

    Andrea Germanos, staff writerLawmakers were told they must “work on our behalf to ensure that we—and you—have a future.”

  • Amnesty International Amplifies Clemency Demand for Rodney Reed as Supreme Court Considers Taking Up Case
    on November 15, 2019 at 20:00

    Julia Conley, staff writerAs the Supreme Court debated whether to take up the case of death row inmate Rodney Reed, Amnesty International on Friday demanded that Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott grant clemency to Reed days before he is set to be executed despite mounting evidence that he did not commit the crime he was convicted of two decades ago.

  • Massive Anti-Coup Protests Explode Across Bolivia ‘Against the Many Violations to Democracy’
    on November 15, 2019 at 19:26

    Eoin Higgins, staff writer”Do you think we are ignorant?”

  • ‘Pure Propaganda’: New York Times Condemned for Comparing Sanders Green New Deal to Trump Border Wall
    on November 15, 2019 at 19:01

    Jake Johnson, staff writer”Article misses a key ‘expert’ perspective: The climate scientists who are saying we need to radically transform every aspect of our economy in the next decade if we want even a 50 percent chance of averting catostrophic climate crisis.”

  • We Need to Support Students Who Are Still Learning English
    by Scott Lee on November 15, 2019 at 18:50

    Scott Lee It’s easy to forget that the United States has no official language. The post We Need to Support Students Who Are Still Learning English appeared first on The Nation.

  • ‘A Victory for the Whole Country’: Chile to Hold Referendum on Rewriting Constitution
    on November 15, 2019 at 17:07

    Eoin Higgins, staff writer”We are here thanks to many Chileans that have risked their lives to make Chile a fairer country.”

  • To Ensure ‘Genuine Public Service for All,’ UK Labour Party Proposes Free, Nationalized Broadband
    on November 15, 2019 at 16:38

    Andrea Germanos, staff writer”Instead of you forking out for your monthly bill, we’ll tax the giant corporations fairly—the Facebooks and the Googles—to cover the running costs.”

  • Must-See Labour Ad Shows When Right Wing Blames Immigrants for Everything ‘You Know They’ve Run Out of Ideas’
    on November 15, 2019 at 16:38

    Julia Conley, staff writerAhead of next month’s general election, the British Labour Party released an ad Thursday ridiculing Conservative claims that immigrants—not austerity policies and corporate greed—are to blame for failing schools, long wait times for medical care, and a frayed social safety net.

  • Applauding His Record of Standing Up to ‘Charter Billionaires,’ United Teachers Los Angeles Endorses Bernie Sanders
    on November 15, 2019 at 16:30

    Jake Johnson, staff writer”Critically, like UTLA, Sen. Sanders believes in building a national movement for real, lasting change.”

  • The Foreign Policy Establishment Is Hijacking Impeachment
    by Jeet Heer on November 15, 2019 at 15:38

    Jeet Heer Trump should be impeached for using his office for corrupt purposes—not for challenging the national security consensus. The post The Foreign Policy Establishment Is Hijacking Impeachment appeared first on The Nation.

  • 5 Ways to Debunk the GOP’s Defense of Donald Trump
    by Elie Mystal on November 15, 2019 at 15:04

    Elie Mystal The Republican anti-impeachment arguments are weak but pernicious. Here’s how to counter them. The post 5 Ways to Debunk the GOP’s Defense of Donald Trump appeared first on The Nation.

  • Under Trump, We’re All Alice in Blunderland
    by Tom Engelhardt on November 15, 2019 at 13:00

    Tom Engelhardt The president has taken us—and the US empire—down the rabbit hole. The post Under Trump, We’re All Alice in Blunderland appeared first on The Nation.

  • Burning Planet
    by Alessandra Mondolfi on November 15, 2019 at 13:00

    Alessandra Mondolfi Fire emergency. The post Burning Planet appeared first on The Nation.

  • Trump’s ‘Remain in Mexico’ Policy Isn’t Just Cruel, It’s Illegal
    by Sasha Abramsky on November 15, 2019 at 12:30

    Sasha Abramsky As the administration continues its war on asylum seekers, a former asylum officer says forcing applicants to wait in Mexican camps violates international law. The post Trump’s ‘Remain in Mexico’ Policy Isn’t Just Cruel, It’s Illegal appeared first on The Nation.

  • American Graffiti: My Cousin and the California Mass Shooting
    by Kevin Powell on November 15, 2019 at 12:15

    This shooting was especially jarring for me because one of my cousins, LaShawn, lives in that area.

  • My Friend’s Husband Joined the Racist Brexit Party. Help!
    by Liza Featherstone on November 15, 2019 at 12:00

    Liza Featherstone Another reader asks why they got fired after they’d already quit. The post My Friend’s Husband Joined the Racist Brexit Party. Help! appeared first on The Nation.

  • Who Gets to Tell the Story of a Lost Music Culture?
    by David Hajdu on November 15, 2019 at 11:30

    David Hajdu A new archival collection of little-heard music from the Balkans prompts questions of how and why we recover sounds from history. The post Who Gets to Tell the Story of a Lost Music Culture? appeared first on The Nation.

  • What Readers Told Us About Our Story, “The Legend of A-N-N-A”
    by by Logan Jaffe on November 15, 2019 at 10:00

    by Logan Jaffe ProPublica Illinois is an independent, nonprofit newsroom that produces investigative journalism with moral force. Sign up for our newsletter to get weekly updates written by our journalists. How are you? I, for one, have a cat sitting in my lap. I’ve been busy the last few days reading and replying to many of your thoughtful, interesting responses to the story we published last week, “The Legend of A-N-N-A: Revisiting An American Town Where Black People Weren’t Welcome After Dark.” If I haven’t gotten back to you yet, I will! I wanted to share some of those responses and weave in a few of my own thoughts. I’ll start with one email from a southern Illinois resident with roots in Anna, who raised an important question, one I’d been asking myself as I reported the story: “What good do you bring the world by digging up skeletons?” he wrote. First, I’d like to challenge the notion that skeletons of the past are buried. Nearly everyone I talked to in Anna and Union County knows Anna stands for A-N-N-A (“Ain’t No N-words Allowed”). No, it’s not often talked about on a daily basis. But it doesn’t have to be. People know. I met an 11-year-old there who told me he first heard the saying from his father, who, he said, doesn’t “like black people.” Dive Deeper Into Our Reporting Our newsletter is written by a ProPublica Illinois reporter every week Discover what makes Illinois tick from our team of investigative journalists covering the state. Delivered every Friday. This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply. It’s not the fault of today’s Anna residents that a mob of white Anna men ran black workers out of town in 1909. But 110 years later, Anna’s racial makeup — 95.7% white according to the 2010 census, which makes Anna one of the whitest communities in southern Illinois — remains similar to what it was before the civil rights era. For much of Anna’s history, that demographic was intentional. White people made white communities. White people can change that today. Here’s another reader perspective, from Twitter: “We need a lot more stories like this. The folks who say it’s only a problem if you talk about it are wrong, but you sense that some of them truly believe it.” — @BadGuysSuck And this: “… It kills me when folks (white) used to say ‘we got no racial problems’ yet they’ve never asked black folk their opinion or experience about their alleged lack of racial problems. …” — @AhnJonson I heard people express similar sentiments during my reporting. One woman I spoke with told me that there aren’t many “racial issues” in Anna because there aren’t many black people who live there. It can be easy for white people to not have to think about whiteness as a race. That is one of the issues I wanted to address in the story. I’m heartened that the story has prompted readers to share stories and memories of their own — from around the country. Anna is not an anomaly. According to the book “Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism,” by James W. Loewen, there are thousands of sundown towns, places that at some point in their histories were all or nearly all white on purpose, across the country. I’d encourage people to research their own communities. The more stories there are about these places, the better. Here are two recollections that readers posted on Twitter: “This reminds me of a shocking event from my teens. In the late 60’s, my dad and I were waiting with our new housekeeper at a bus stop in Burbank, CA, when the police pulled up and told us our housekeeper had to be out of town before sunset-so disillusioning, horrifying, sad.” — @JBEnglish1 “The place was Golden Valley NC. I saw the sign in 1997. I could not find the picture, but I remember the sign, ‘The sun never set on a black man in Golden Valley’ – right on the side of the road. I couldn’t get it out of my mind for a long time, and still think about it.” — @No_Bod_There Lastly, two responses about the story’s portrayal and characterization of Anna mean a lot to me: “My family is from this town, and yes I can vouch that these stories are all real” — @z_treece “This thread explains my hometown better than I can. …” — @gmorris1919 What kept me up at night while I reported this story was the question of whether I could fairly characterize the city of Anna as a whole. As journalists, we check facts. But how do you fact-check the underlying narrative of a community — especially one you do not live in — and how you write about it? Answering that question could be a whole other newsletter. And, of course, perceptions of a community vary greatly depending on your experiences and relation to it. I asked just about everyone I spoke with in Anna how they would describe their community. I did my best to reflect that, but also acknowledged in the story the potential shortcomings of even trying: “Still, I’m not going to claim I know Anna’s full story — I’m an outsider,” I wrote. “But after hearing A-N-N-A said aloud that night, I realized my race made me a sort of insider, too.” I’m curious how that acknowledgement of being an insider/outsider struck you. I’m also curious to hear what you think of the story, especially if you are an Anna or Union County resident. Feel free to email me. Downtown Anna, during an early sunrise (Whitney Curtis, special to ProPublica Illinois)

  • Cap and Trade Is Supposed to Solve Climate Change, but Oil and Gas Company Emissions Are Up
    by by Lisa Song on November 15, 2019 at 10:00

    by Lisa Song ProPublica is a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power. Sign up for ProPublica’s Big Story newsletter to receive stories like this one in your inbox as soon as they are published. Gov. Jerry Brown took the podium at a July 2017 press conference to lingering applause after a steady stream of politicians praised him for helping to extend California’s signature climate policy for another decade. Brown, flanked by the U.S. and California flags, with a backdrop of the gleaming San Francisco Bay, credited the hard work of the VIPs seated in the crowd. “It’s people in industry, and they’re here!” he said. “Shall we mention them? People representing oil, agriculture, business, Chamber of Commerce, food processing. … Plus, we have environmentalists. …” Diverse, bipartisan interests working together to pass climate legislation — it was the polar opposite of Washington, where the Trump administration was rolling back environmental protections established under President Barack Obama. Brown called California’s cap-and-trade program an answer to the “existential” crisis of climate change, the most reasonable way to manage the state’s massive output of greenhouse gasses while preserving its economy, which is powered by fossil fuels. “You can’t just say overnight, ‘OK, we’re not going to have oil anymore,’” he said. But there are growing concerns with California’s much-admired, much-imitated program, with implications that stretch far beyond the state. Get Our Top Investigations Subscribe to the Big Story newsletter. Don’t miss out on ProPublica’s next investigation. Sign up and get the Big Story email whenever we break news. This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply. California’s cap-and-trade program was one of the first in the world, and it is among the largest. It is premised on the idea that instead of using regulations to force companies to curb their emissions, polluters can be made to pay for every ton of CO₂ they emit, providing them with an incentive to lower emissions on their own. This market-based approach has gained such traction that the Paris climate agreement emphasizes it as the primary way countries can meet their goals to lower worldwide emissions. More than 50 programs have been developed across the world, many inspired by California. But while the state’s program has helped it meet some initial, easily attained benchmarks, experts are increasingly worried that it is allowing California’s biggest polluters to conduct business as usual and even increase their emissions. ProPublica analyzed state data in a way the state doesn’t often report to the public, isolating how emissions have grown within the oil and gas industry. The analysis shows that carbon emissions from California’s oil and gas industry actually rose 3.5% since cap and trade began. Refineries, including one owned by Marathon Petroleum and two owned by Chevron, are consistently the largest polluters in the state. Emissions from vehicles, which burn the fuels processed in refineries, are also rising. Critics attribute these increases, in part, to a bevy of concessions the state has made to the oil and gas industry to keep the program going. They say these compromises have blocked steps that would have mandated real emissions reductions and threaten the state’s ability to meet its ambitious goal of slashing its emissions 40% by 2030. “There’s no question a well-designed regulation on oil and gas can have an effect,” said Danny Cullenward, a Stanford researcher and policy director at Near Zero, a climate policy think tank. “And that was traded away for a weak cap-and-trade program.” Experts say cap and trade is rarely stringent enough when used alone; direct regulations on refineries and cars are crucial to reining in emissions. But oil representatives are engaged in a worldwide effort to make market-based solutions the primary or only way their emissions are regulated. Officials with the state Air Resources Board, which oversees cap and trade, say those fears are exaggerated, that California’s program is doing what it needs to do and they can tweak it over time as needed. They point to the state’s overall drop in emissions since cap and trade began in 2013, even as its economy grew. They tout a host of other, more traditional climate regulations widely considered the best in the country. But even with all those rules working together, California needs to more than double its yearly emissions cuts to be on track to meet the 2030 target. Meanwhile, the scope of the climate crisis and public pressure for strong regulations on fossil fuel companies have risen exponentially, even in the past year. ProPublica delved into the mechanics of California’s cap-and-trade program, examining 13 years of political horse-trading, regulatory tinkering and industry lobbying to make sense of rising fears that it will not deliver the emissions reductions it is supposed to. Five areas of concerns have emerged, some specific to the state’s program and some so fundamental that they raise questions about whether market solutions anywhere can do the work that is needed to take meaningful climate action while there is still time. Cap and trade isn’t designed to hold any one company accountable. It treats every polluting facility as if it were engaged in a giant group project. If enough companies in California reduce their emissions, the entire state gets an A, despite the slackers who didn’t pull their weight. Here’s how it works: The state sets a cap, or limit, on CO₂ emissions from major polluters. The emissions under that cap are turned into permits, which each give the owner permission to release 1 metric ton of CO₂. Some are given out for free. Others are sold at auction by the state, and the funds are used for climate programs like electric vehicle rebates. Companies with more permits than they need can sell the extras, enabling other companies to buy the right to emit more, hence the trade. Supply and demand helps determine how much each permit is worth. The cap gets lowered every year, theoretically applying increasing pressure on polluters to reduce emissions. There were 346 million available permits in 2019. The program was born of a goal set in an executive order by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2005: for the state to lower its CO₂ emissions 25% by 2020. The following year, the Legislature put the Air Resources Board in charge of figuring out how to do it. Europe had already put into place a market solution, and a coalition of northeastern American states followed a few years later. In 2013, California launched its cap and trade program. In 2016, the state hit its climate target four years early. But a government report concluded that the “cap is likely not having much, if any, effect on overall emissions,” and that reductions up to that point could be attributed to the 2008 recession, which slowed manufacturing, consumption and travel, as well as climate rules on renewable energy and vehicle standards. The board predicted cap and trade would account for 30% of reductions in 2020 — but even after the state met its first benchmark, the board has not calculated how much the program has reduced emissions. This kind of study is hard to do; the only available analysis comes from Chris Busch of Energy Innovation, a climate policy think tank, who estimates that in 2015 and 2016, cap and trade was responsible for only 4% to 15% of the state’s reductions. Erica Morehouse, a senior attorney at the Environmental Defense Fund, said California’s climate policy operates “as a team sport,” so it doesn’t matter how much of the heavy lifting is being done by cap and trade, as long as the state’s overall emissions stay under the cap. She said the other regulations alone can’t ensure California will meet the 2030 goal. Now that cap and trade has been extended, the board predicts it will drive 47% of the CO₂ reductions in 2030, but critics wonder how much it will actually deliver. “It’s very difficult to have any faith in those projections,” given that the board hasn’t provided any “quantifiable evidence” of what cap and trade has achieved so far, said Kevin de León, former state Senate president and a candidate running for Los Angeles City Council. What became most clear about the cap-and-trade program after it hit the first benchmark was how it can mask increases. According to a study from California researchers, almost all the CO₂ savings came from the electricity sector, which cut its use of imported power from out-of-state coal plants. It was low-hanging fruit, cheap savings that will be hard to repeat. The cut was enough to make up for emissions increases even within that sector; pollution from in-state power generation increased. In fact, most facilities — 52% — increased average emissions within California during the first three years of cap and trade. These include cement and power plants as well as producers and suppliers of oil and gas. The way market-based climate change solutions are set up provides loopholes and giveaways. The success of any cap-and-trade program depends on how it is designed, starting with the cap. Experts warn that California set its early caps too high, allowing companies to buy permits and bank them for the future when the cap gets tougher. A peer-reviewed paper co-authored by Cullenward found that by the end of 2018, companies had banked more than 200 million permits — enough for almost as many tons of CO₂ as the total reductions expected from cap and trade from 2021 to 2030. Though the purpose of the system is to apply financial pressure to industry, California gave away a bunch of free permits to companies they worried would face a competitive disadvantage compared with those outside the state. Those that couldn’t feasibly relocate had to buy permits at market price. A dozen industries, including oil and gas drilling, got most of their permits for free through 2020. Refineries got the same treatment for the first few years, and the board planned to reduce the free permits in 2018. But when cap and trade was extended in 2017, state officials extended the same level of giveaways through 2030. Cap and trade offers another way for polluters to avoid reducing emissions at their facilities: Many programs allow companies to cancel out some of their CO₂ by purchasing what are called offsets — paying to protect trees or clean up coal mine emissions in another city, state or country. Studies raise serious questions about whether offsets in California’s program are canceling out the emissions they’re meant to. A ProPublica investigation highlighted similar concerns involving international forest offsets, which California supports. The biggest buyers of offsets are the worst polluters in the state, with oil companies at the top of the list. Although state regulators have reduced the number of future allowable offsets, Barbara Haya, a University of California-Berkeley research fellow who studies carbon markets, said they could account for half of all emissions cuts expected to be achieved by cap and trade from 2021 to 2030, making the environmental integrity of the offsets paramount. Her research found that California regulators have oversold the climate benefit of offsets by underestimating how protecting one patch of forest pushes logging into other forests. The board stands by its calculations, and the two sides have continued to debate the issue. Cap-and-trade programs usually include offsets, and “offset programs largely don’t work,” Haya said. At this critical moment, when so many people are developing market solutions, “it really worries me that we are going to implement policies that reduce emissions on paper and not in practice,” she said. Among the most fundamental design elements of cap and trade is the price of carbon, ultimately what is supposed to force businesses to change. Economists have tried to find the lowest cost per ton that will move them. A new paper co-authored by Gernot Wagner, an economist at New York University, found that the accepted wisdom on carbon pricing — which aims for an initial cost of roughly $40 a ton that grows over time — is far from sufficient. His research concluded prices should start much higher, well above $100 a ton, and get lower over time as technologies improve and uncertainties about the extent of climate damage clear up. California’s price is $17 a ton. Regulators can strengthen the program by setting a minimum permit price; in California, it’s currently $16. A World Bank report recommends prices of $40 to $80 by 2020 to be on track for the Paris climate goals. Only a handful of the world’s market programs meet that standard. Stanley Young, the board’s communications director, said that it can take time for cap and trade to affect industries like oil and gas, and that the mere presence of a carbon price impacts corporate decisions in ways that aren’t always visible. Rajinder Sahota, an assistant division chief at the board, points to the fact that permit prices are climbing; state data shows they have increased from about $13 to $17 over the past three years. Sahota says that alone should serve as a warning signal to industry that one day, the cost to pollute will be unaffordable. California’s oil industry has blocked efforts to make cap and trade tougher on them. The Western States Petroleum Association, the main oil industry group in California, has lobbied on cap and trade every quarter since 2006, spending $88 million on it and other regulations. Records show the industry has advocated on virtually every aspect of its design, including offsets, fees and the allocation of permits. Its biggest wins happened in 2017, when cap and trade was up for extension. Two bills aimed to make the extension contingent on forcing emissions reductions by restricting offsets and free permits. One introduced by Sen. Bob Wieckowski tried to force banked permits to expire by 2020 and get rid of offsets. Vox called it “the most important advance in carbon-pricing policy in the U.S. in a decade. Maybe ever.” But it needed a two-thirds majority vote to pass the Legislature, thanks to an oil industry-sponsored ballot measure from 2010 that reclassified many state and local fees as taxes. The measure had a huge impact on environmental regulations; the only viable bills now were those that could gain broad political buy-in. Wieckowski’s bill was viewed as too radical to support and never got a vote. He said he couldn’t even get a meeting with the governor about it. The other bill, by Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, proposed using cap and trade to limit the toxic gases that streamed out of smokestacks alongside CO₂. Garcia’s district in Los Angeles was among the most polluted in the state. Her bill made companies with rising CO₂ or toxic pollutants ineligible for free permits. In three months in 2017, Chevron spent $6.3 million lobbying against her bill and related regulations, while WSPA lobbied against both Garcia’s bill and Wieckowski’s. Each effort had a lobbyist who was a former state legislator. Garcia’s bill had initial support from a crucial constituency: labor unions representing construction workers. That changed after Chevron promised the unions a five-year contract to retrofit its refineries — the result of a safety bill inspired by a 2012 fire at its Richmond facility, which sent thousands of people to the hospital with breathing problems. Cesar Diaz, who lobbied for the unions, said his organization supports climate regulation. Its opposition to Garcia’s bill had nothing to do with the Chevron deal, he said, but was inspired by fears that it would hurt the economy. The defeats prompted Brown to step in to save the extension, holding closed-door meetings with moderate legislators and oil interests deep into the night, according to several sources with knowledge of the negotiations. The industry’s influence became clear after articles revealed how draft language in the emerging bill matched a “wish list” from a lobbying firm working for WSPA. The list included tools to slow rising carbon prices and increased free permits for oil and gas among other industries — all things that ended up in the final bill and subsequent amendments. Brown later testified in a state Senate hearing, where he called it the most important vote of the legislators’ lives. Brown, whose term ended in January, declined to be interviewed for this story. In response to ProPublica’s inquiries about cap and trade, Brown’s spokesman pointed to the broad coalition of environmental, academic and industry interests that supported the bill, and he emphasized that program is just one part of California’s extensive climate regulations. Morehouse, the EDF attorney, said the oil industry may have won a few battles with the bill, but it “lost the war.” California has maintained an extremely ambitious 2030 target, she said. It’s no surprise the oil industry advocates for its own interests, Morehouse said. “First they want no climate policy. Then they want it delayed as long as it can be. Then they want it to be basically meaningless,” she said. By the time the industry starts focusing on something like free permits, “you can actually start negotiating.” WSPA, which opposes direct regulations, praised the extension’s passage as “the best, most balanced” solution, “the best available path forward for our industry in the toughest regulatory environment in the world.” Dean Florez, an Air Resources Board member critical of the concessions made, said the industry supports the new program because it “figured out how to game the system.” The industry got almost everything it wanted, he said, leaving it “offset happy and surplus rich.” More meaningful regulations are being sacrificed. One of the industry’s biggest victories from the 2017 bill was a provision that prohibits new CO₂ regulations on refineries and oil and gas production. Earlier that year, the Air Resources Board had proposed a regulation to lower refinery emissions 20% by 2030. The bill killed that plan. The bill also prevented local air districts from imposing regional caps on CO₂, heading off a five-year grassroots effort from Bay Area residents. Incensed by the Richmond refinery fire, they packed into hearings held by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District and waited for hours to speak. Torm Nompraseurt is a community organizer with the Asian Pacific Environmental Network. His group spent years working with other activists to push for a local cap on CO2 from the region’s refineries. At times, busloads of activists filled hearing rooms, waiting for hours for a chance to speak. Their efforts were thwarted by political negotiations in the 2017 cap-and-trade bill. (Max Whittaker, special to ProPublica.) The residents lobbied for a cap on CO₂ as a way to force reductions in other pollutants. Their plan was on the verge of approval, with a draft rule that local regulators hailed as an unprecedented “model for the state and nation to follow.” Then, the state cap-and-trade bill rendered it moot. For the oil industry, the strategy of embracing market solutions to avoid more direct regulation extends far beyond California. At an international climate conference last year, Shell Oil executive David Hone boasted he had written a key part of the United Nations’ Paris agreement that makes market solutions the primary way to deal with climate change. “The ideal for a cap-and-trade system is to have no overlapping policies,” he told The Intercept. In Washington state, oil interests led by BP defeated a statewide carbon tax ballot initiative partly because the proposal didn’t include provisions to preempt other climate rules. InsideClimate News reported that BP helped derail an earlier attempt to pass the tax through the Legislature after the governor wouldn’t make certain concessions, like allowing its refineries to use offsets to lower their tax payments or prohibiting local governments from creating or enforcing their own climate regulations. On a national level, Exxon Mobil, BP and Shell helped economists, environmentalists and bipartisan former politicians with the Climate Leadership Council design a federal carbon tax of $40 a ton — one that’s contingent on eliminating all other federal climate regulations on major polluters such as power plants and refineries. The council cites a report by an energy policy group that says the tax would help the U.S. meet its Paris targets. “Exceeding the U.S.’s Paris goals is, of course, good and a terrific start. But it’s only a start,” Wagner, the NYU economist, said. The Paris targets aren’t stringent enough to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. Wagner said oil companies support the tax because it’s “much too little” for the kind of change that’s needed. “That is a very clear instance where the single-minded push for a carbon tax gets in the way of ambitious climate policy,” he said. “Why settle for what Exxon wants?” We’re dependant on fossil fuels. Just 20 fossil fuel companies — including Chevron, BP and Exxon Mobil — are responsible for a third of all global emissions since 1965. There is overwhelming evidence that ensuring a livable planet requires keeping fossil fuels in the ground, unextracted and unburned. But fossil fuels are so integrated into our lives that phasing them out would require us to change everything about how and where we live, how we get around and how we make money. Fuel prices affect everyone, and while higher carbon prices help the environment, they can be passed on to consumers. The industry is quick to remind everyone of this of any time an environmental regulation comes up. When California’s Air Resources Board held a hearing last year to discuss the maximum allowed permit price, dozens of speakers turned up to testify, including a group of black pastors from Los Angeles who’d advocated against oil and gas drilling in their communities. One by one, the pastors said the board proposal would hurt low-income, minority families. The group was organized by the Rev. Jonathan Moseley Sr., who said he heard about the event from a contact at Prime Strategies, a consulting firm that gave him free updates on policy discussions in Sacramento. Moseley said Prime offered to fly the pastors to the hearing, and he believed the money came from a group called Californians for Affordable and Reliable Energy, or CARE. The Chevron oil refinery in Richmond, California, is among the state’s largest CO₂ emitters. For years, Bay Area activists tried to cap CO₂ emissions locally to help control air pollution. Their efforts were thwarted by oil industry lobbying on a 2017 cap-and-trade bill. (Max Whittaker, special to ProPublica) He said he didn’t know CARE was funded by oil interests. CARE’s 2017 tax forms, the most recent available, show it raised $9 million that year. Nearly two-thirds of the money came from Chevron and WSPA, according to lobbying records. CARE also gave Prime Strategies $53,000 around the time of the hearing. Robert Lapsley, the chairman of CARE, said the group represents business interests beyond oil and gas. It is led by the California Business Roundtable, a trade group for the state’s biggest companies. Lapsley said CARE advocates for regulators to consider how climate regulations affect consumer costs. CARE helped craft and lobby for the cap-and-trade extension and solicited funds from donors like WSPA who had similar goals, he said. CARE’s public campaigns have used the images of blue-collar workers and people of color to argue against initiatives promoting electric cars and other efforts aimed at reducing fossil fuel consumption. Its homepage features a young man and woman studying a piece of paper. The description, according to a stock images website that sells the photo, is, in part, “African Millennial stressed married couple sitting on sofa at home checking unpaid bills.” The page also features a photo and quote from Bishop Lovester Adams, another pastor who testified before the board. Adams and Prime Strategies did not return requests for comment. At the hearing, the Rev. Oliver Buie said, “I’m here to stand and speak for the community which I represent, which is a brown community, which is deeply injured whenever there’s any increase in any cost. … We need to look at the people more than the corporations.” But he, too, acknowledged he was unaware that oil interests effectively backed his Sacramento trip. “They didn’t tell us they were a wolf,” he said. “We thought they were a sheep.” The board seemed puzzled by the resistance at the hearing and voted to maintain the maximum allowable price of nearly $100 a ton by 2030. The effort was mostly symbolic, as regulators assured the crowd they didn’t expect prices to get that high. Instead, Sahota, the assistant division chief, predicted it would hover at the minimum price for the next few years, but rise above it by 2030. Cullenward said the reality of society’s reliance on fossil fuels leaves regulators in a bind — stuck between knowing what it will take to manage climate change but adopting a market solution that’s too weak by design. Any attempt to seriously strengthen it risks a consumer backlash that makes it “politically toxic,” he said. “Essentially, what we’re doing is kicking the can,” Cullenward said. “We’re saying, keep prices low, let’s not do a lot, and later, we’ll hope for a miracle.” Sophie Chou and Lexi Churchill contributed to this report.

  • Devin Nunes’ Imagined Worlds
    by Mark Fiore on November 15, 2019 at 09:49

    If you can’t justify what your insane president has done, just confuse the jury with nonsense.

  • New EPA Rules Aim to Reduce Toxic Emissions. But Many “Cancer Alley” Chemical Plants Won’t Have to Change.
    by by Mark Schleifstein, The Times-Picayune and The Advocate on November 14, 2019 at 21:30

    by Mark Schleifstein, The Times-Picayune and The Advocate This article was produced in partnership with The Times-Picayune and The Advocate, which is a member of the ProPublica Local Reporting Network. ProPublica is a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power. Sign up for ProPublica’s Big Story newsletter to receive stories like this one in your inbox as soon as they are published. Environmental groups had been waiting nearly three years for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to comply with a federal judge’s orders to update Clean Air Act rules governing emissions of various toxic chemicals. The agency finally proposed those new rules last week, saying they would reduce emissions of ethylene oxide, a carcinogen that the EPA recently determined is more dangerous than the agency once believed. But interviews and records show that the new rules, if implemented, would scarcely make a dent in emissions of the cancer-causing pollutant. The rules call for annual airborne emissions of ethylene oxide to be reduced by 10 tons nationwide, which would represent a roughly 7% reduction from the 140.7 tons that chemical plants emitted in 2018. That reduction would barely make up for the ethylene oxide that’s likely to be emitted by a planned Formosa Chemicals plant in St. James Parish, which according to permitting documents will release up to 7.7 tons of the carcinogen into the atmosphere each year. The plant is scheduled to be built by 2022. The proposed rule change comes as the Mississippi River corridor between Baton Rouge and New Orleans is experiencing a dramatic expansion of petrochemical facilities, and with it an increase in the toxic emissions they produce. A recent analysis by ProPublica and The Times-Picayune and The Advocate show that many of the new plants, like the Formosa facility, are being built in communities that already have very high concentrations of toxic chemicals. Get Our Top Investigations Subscribe to the Big Story newsletter. Don’t miss out on ProPublica’s next investigation. Sign up and get the Big Story email whenever we break news. This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply. Ethylene oxide is used in the manufacture of a number of other chemicals, including ethylene glycol, which is used as an antifreeze. Louisiana has 13 plants that emit ethylene oxide in sufficient amounts that they must report it to the Toxics Release Inventory, a database maintained by the EPA. Eleven of the 13 plants are between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, while the other two are near Lake Charles. Between them, the Louisiana plants in 2018 released 27.8 tons of ethylene oxide, about one-fifth of the total produced nationwide. The new rules will only affect parts of two of those 13 plants, according to the EPA. Officials with the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality dispute that, saying only one plant in the state will be affected. Regardless of which agency is correct, the reason is that the new rules apply only to a small subset of processes and equipment used at American chemical plants, and those processes and equipment account for a small proportion of the total amount of ethylene oxide produced. According to the EPA, the Louisiana plants that would be affected are two of the state’s largest producers of ethylene oxide: BASF’s plant in Geismar and Dow Chemical’s plant in Plaquemine. In 2018, BASF reported 7.6 tons of ethylene oxide emissions, while Dow reported 1.5 tons in Plaquemine. It’s unclear whether the proposed rules would have any effect on the planned Formosa plant. A spokeswoman for Formosa said that they would not and that the amount of the chemical that Formosa releases will be within the standards DEQ says will protect human health and the environment. But Maggie Sauerhage, a spokeswoman for the EPA, said federal officials believe that the proposed Formosa plant may be affected by the new rules, although she said more information is needed. Corinne Van Dalen, an Earthjustice attorney representing residents opposed to the plant, said a review of Formosa’s permit requests indicate at least five of its 16 facilities would fall under the rule, but not the two that would emit ethylene oxide. By 2022, when Formosa’s 16 facilities are scheduled to be operational, its permits would allow the release of 800 tons of toxic air pollutants each year, which would double the parish’s current emissions. In 2017, St. James ranked ninth among Louisiana’s 64 parishes and among the top 100 counties in America for toxic air emissions. The new rules were drafted in response to a March 2017 order by a federal judge in Washington, D.C., who ruled that the EPA had for years illegally delayed updating its rules requiring pollution reductions under the Clean Air Act. The order gave the EPA three years to comply. According to the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, acute exposures to ethylene oxide may result in respiratory and lung problems, headache, nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath and other health issues. Chronic exposure has been associated with birth defects, mutations, brain damage and allergic reactions to chemicals, in addition to cancer. In announcing the new rules, the EPA called current ethylene oxide emissions “unacceptable” and confirmed concerns that the chemical is more dangerous than previously thought — with exposure to even small amounts linked to several types of cancer. Last year, the agency released a National Air Toxics Assessment report that said one census tract in St. Charles Parish near the Union Carbide plant there — owned by Dow — faced the highest risk in the country of developing lymphoid or breast cancers because of exposure to ethylene oxide emitted by the plant. The assessment, as well as increased awareness of the risks posed by ethylene oxide, has focused new attention on the plants that make it. Early this year, Illinois officials ordered the temporary closure of a controversial plant in the Chicago suburbs that emitted large amounts of the chemical. The company, Sterigenics, announced in September the plant would be closed permanently. The assessment also prompted DEQ officials to ask Dow for information about its plans to reduce ethylene oxide emissions at the Union Carbide plant. Look Up an Address In a Notoriously Polluted Area of the Country, Massive New Chemical Plants Are Still Moving In Data from an EPA model indicates that communities along the lower Mississippi River corridor already face severely elevated cancer risks from industrial activity. Massive new chemical plants are slated to be built there anyway. In January, the company told the agency that the EPA’s risk assessment was flawed because it was based on an initial estimate from Dow that its St. Charles Parish plant had released 15.03 tons of the carcinogen in 2014. In fact, Dow said, it only released 10.35 tons of the chemical that year, resulting in less risk of cancer than what the EPA found. In its letter, Dow said a 2016 project that reduced vapor emissions during the loading of rail cars had also lowered ethylene oxide emissions at the plant by 2.64 tons a year. According to the company’s 2018 Toxics Release Inventory report, the most recent available, it released under 4 tons of the chemical in St. Charles Parish last year. A DEQ spokesman said Dow’s Union Carbide plant was among 31 state facilities that received letters last November requesting that they review ways to reduce their ethylene oxide emissions. According to the Toxics Release Inventory database maintained by the EPA, the largest emitters of ethylene oxide in Louisiana last year were the Sasol Chemicals facility in Lake Charles, with 8.4 tons; BASF in Geismar, with 7.6 tons; Shell Chemical in Geismar, with 5.2 tons; the Union Carbide plant, with 4 tons; and Dow’s Plaquemine chemical facility, with 1.5 tons. DEQ spokesman Gregory Langley said only one company other than Dow responded to the letters. That company, Georgia-Pacific, told the state that its Port Hudson facility was permitted to release only 20 pounds of the chemical a year, and that its actual rate of release was only about 2 pounds a year. Kim Cusimano, a spokeswoman for Sasol, said testing this year of an ethylene oxide control device at its plant indicated the company has been dramatically overestimating its emissions of the chemical. Cusimano said the company now believes its 2018 reported emissions should have been reduced by 95%. The proposed EPA rules must still be published in the Federal Register and will then be subject to a 45-day public comment period. The suit prompting the order was filed in 2015 against the EPA by nine environmental groups, including the Louisiana Bucket Brigade of New Orleans and the Louisiana Environmental Action Network, based in Baton Rouge. The groups charged that the EPA had failed to update 20 sets of Clean Air Act regulations, including the one dealing with ethylene oxide, which had not been adjusted since 2003, even though the EPA was required to adjust them at least every eight years. The proposed rules change would also result in a reduction of 106 tons a year for other hazardous chemicals, including toluene, methanol, xylene, hydrogen chloride and methylene chloride. The federal government says all those substances also can cause cancer, as well as other adverse health effects including irritation of the lungs, eyes and mucous membranes, and effects on the nervous system. The EPA says the current estimated risk of cancer from inhalation of ethylene oxide and associated chemicals is 2,000 for every 1 million people exposed, well above the agency’s goal of reducing the risk to no more than 100 per 1 million exposed. However, an attorney for Earthjustice, a nonprofit organization that represented the environmental groups in the lawsuit, said the proposed rules will still allow industries to release ethylene oxide in amounts that would result in 200 to 300 cancer cases per 1 million people exposed — two or three times the agency’s targets. Earthjustice attorney Emma Cheuse noted the rules also continue to allow releases of ethylene oxide resulting from so-called force majeure incidents, including some accidents and major storms, such as hurricanes. “Communities in the Gulf states need protection every day, not just on sunny days,” Cheuse said. The new rules also do not require the installation of fenceline monitoring stations that could independently determine if the companies are complying with the reduction requirements, she said. Such fenceline monitoring already has been required in the Los Angeles area by the local South Coast Air Quality Management District, but it has not been required for many plants in Louisiana. Read More Welcome to “Cancer Alley,” Where Toxic Air Is About to Get Worse Air quality has improved for decades across the U.S., but Louisiana is backsliding. Our analysis found that a crush of new industrial plants will increase concentrations of cancer-causing chemicals in predominantly black and poor communities. And Anne Rolfes, founding director of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, said she doesn’t believe it when companies say that because they’re following state regulations, their emissions do not threaten local residents. “Formosa is a serial polluter,” she said, pointing to a court settlement reached by Formosa Plastics in Texas, where the company agreed to tighter wastewater discharge standards and to pay $50 million to settle allegations that the company has spilled tons of plastic pellets into waterways near the Gulf of Mexico. “We have no confidence in any of the company’s modeling, in any of its air monitoring or in any of its promises to abide by the law.” Officials with Formosa’s Texas plant, however, insisted that they will abide by the terms of the settlement and federal environmental laws. “The conditions agreed to in this settlement demonstrate Formosa’s commitment to manufacturing our products in a safe and environmentally friendly manner,” Ken Mounger, executive vice president of the Texas facility, said when the settlement was announced. “We will continue to partner with local communities and stakeholders to ensure that FPC USA environmental programs are at the top of our industry.”

  • Kent praises all the other George Kents!
    by <b>bob somerby</b> on November 14, 2019 at 20:03

    THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 14, 2019His bow tie sets him apart: For the record, we assume that everything Donald Trump does is likely to be disordered, deranged and corrupt.Unfortunately, we don’t think that’s the main issue at this point. The issue is the dangerous tribalization within which we all now live, along with the tribal propaganda which flowed so freely last night.Throw in the sheer inanity routinely displayed by our upper-end elites and you may have a bit of a dying culture. If only for entertainment’s sake, let’s start with that upper-class dumbness. For that, we direct you to Vanessa Friedman’s analysis of George Kent’s bow tie in today’s New York Times. Friedman is fashion director and chief fashion critic for the Times. “No one was saying [that Kent’s bow tie] was the most important detail of a historic day—of course it wasn’t,” she wrote in this morning’s Times. But then, she went on to say this:FRIEDMAN (11/14/19): But it was impossible for many to ignore because, like the moment itself, it was singular; an anomaly in an anomalous time. And in that sense, it almost seemed to symbolize not just Mr. Kent himself, but also the whole experience.There you see the silly, novelistic dreamscape within which this upper-class guild has long dwelled. Within this silly upper-class dreamscape, any chosen item or incident can come to symbolize—no, to seem to symbolize—anything the daft insider wants. What did Kent’s bow tie seem to symbolize—no, almost seem to symbolize—to this ridiculous newspaper’s barmy fashion director? We’ll let Friedman tell you herself, although it’s a very old tale:FRIEDMAN (continuing directly): The bow tie, at least onscreen, appeared to be blue and yellow (some said orange, others ocher and turquoise), in a sort of chain/paramecium pattern. It was paired with a matching pocket square and was worn with a light blue shirt and gray plaid three-piece suit, complete with neatly buttoned-up vest.It also looked hand-tied, listing slightly as if to underscore its own authenticity—and, maybe, that of the man who wore it. It was the same bow tie that Mr. Kent wore for his portrait currently on view on the State Department website, a nod to both continuity and the fact that he was appearing in his professional capacity.Of course! As with Saints McCain and Bradley in 1999 and 2000, Kent’s hand-tied tie almost seemed to maybe symbolize the “authenticity” of Kent himself!Our upper-class scribes are constantly spotting “authenticity” in those with whom they’re aligned. As this dreamer allowed herself to dream, the possibly blue and yellow bow tie seemed to say something else:FRIEDMAN (continuing directly): Some speculation had it that it was his good-luck bow tie. Or his power bow tie, depending. Either way, it was definitely a signature tie. Mr. Kent adopted a similar look—a paisley bow tie and matching pocket square—during his closed-door testimony on Oct. 15.And, in its truncated shape, the opposite of the Trump tie, which is famously worn extending below the belt.Of course! The bow tie seemed to symbolize Kent’s obvious authenticity. Not coincidentally, it also struck Friedman as “the opposite of the Trump tie.” Thanks to the tie, she could see that Kent is highly authentic, and the opposite of Trump!In The Birth of Tragedy, Nietzsche describes the dreamer calling out to himself, “This is a dream! And I want to continue dreaming!” This is the way our political discourse has worked at least since the determined stereotyping of the four major candidates in Campaign 2000, with Candidates McCain and Bradley cast as straight-shooting truth-telling straight-talkers and the heinous Candidate gore cast as the man who had “a problem with the truth.”(Just for the record, the pundits could tell that Gore lacked authenticity because he was wearing earth tones! People are dead all over Iraq because they behaved that way.)Fish gotta swim and birds gotta fly and scribblers like this have to novelize. And sure enough! All over cable last night, our own tribe’s hirelings were telling us stories designed to set hearts at ease.One such story involved the moral purity of Kent and his fellow witness, William Taylor. To our eye and ear, the two men came across quite differently in yesterday’s hearing, but no such thought was allowed to intrude on our tribe’s cable reverie.Nicholas Kristof even bought the package this morning, midway through a column containing some very constructive work:KRISTOF (11/14/19): The first witnesses before the impeachment hearings were two distinguished foreign policy experts with a long commitment to public service and no history of partisanship. One, George Kent, noted that “there has been a George Kent sworn to defend the Constitution continuously for nearly 60 years.” And Ambassador William Taylor, a Vietnam veteran who was appointed acting ambassador to Ukraine by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, emphasized, “I am not here to take one side or the other, or to advocate for any particular outcome of these proceedings.”To Kristof, they were two of a kind. After the mandatory citation of Taylor’s service in Vietnam, Kristof seemed to praise that statement by Kent—Kent’s peculiar statement in praise of all the other George Kents. As we pondered the nation’s deadly tribal divide, Kent’s statement struck us quite differently. As he began his opening statement, these were his more extensive remarks in praise of his excellent breeding:KENT (11/13/19): Good morning. My name is George Kent, and I am the deputy assistant secretary of state for Eastern Europe and the Caucasus. I have served proudly as a nonpartisan career foreign service officer for more than 27 years under five presidents, three Republican and two Democrat.As I mentioned in my opening comments last month in the closed-door deposition, I represent the third generation of my family to have chosen a career in public service and sworn the Oath of Office that all U.S. public servants do in defense of our Constitution. Indeed, there has been a George Kent sworn to defend the Constitution continuously for nearly 60 years, ever since my father reported to Annapolis for his plebe summer.After graduating first in his Naval Academy class in 1965, the year best known for his Heisman-winning classmate, Roger Staubach, my father served a full, honorable 30 years, including as a captain of a nuclear ballistic missile submarine during the height of the Cold War.Five great-uncles served honorably in the Navy and the Army in World War II. In particular, Tom Taggart was stationed in the Philippines at the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor. He survived the brutal Bataan Death March, and three and a half years in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp, unbroken. He returned to service as an Air Force judge advocate, upholding the rule of law until his death in 1965.That was the speech of a Harvard graduate (class of 1989)—and, in its tone, of an old-school Eastern elite. In completely irrelevant manner, he praised the several generations of Taggarts and Kents, not failing to mention five great-uncles, his father’s academic standing, and no aunts or mothers at all.Like his bow tie, his genealogy served to identify Kent to many Americans, we’ll guess in divergent ways. In our view, his speech in praise of his excellent breeding was completely unnecessary. In our view, so was the attitude and the manner we detected through the course of the day.We’ll guarantee you that many Trump supporters were quickly turned off by this guy. To us, he seemed the very embodiment of crusty old world upper-class self-admiration, in a way Ambassador Turner very much did not.Kent and Taylor seemed very different to us. On liberal cable, they were two peas in a pod. To the Times fashion director, Kent’s bow tie seemed to suggest his authenticity, and of course his difference from Trump.By way of contrast, we’ll guess that many Trump voters saw Kent as the essence of everything they don’t trust about our eastern elites, sometimes called the deep state. We thought his opening speech was strange, and a bit of a class offense. The fact that our cable helpers saw none of this is part of the era we live in.We live in a deeply dangerous tribalized time. Our tribe is perhaps just a tiny bit blind, as of course is theirs. For the record: They sold us this same silly twaddle at Vox. Just as a simple matter of fact, our tribe just isn’t real sharp.

  • Bernie and AOC’s Green New Deal for Public Housing Act Would Transform America
    by Daniel Aldana Cohen, Julian Brave NoiseCat on November 14, 2019 at 19:42

    Daniel Aldana Cohen, Julian Brave NoiseCat The proposed legislation would cut 5.6 million tons of carbon emissions and create 240,000 jobs. The post Bernie and AOC’s Green New Deal for Public Housing Act Would Transform America appeared first on The Nation.

  • Stop Comparing the Trump Impeachment Probe to Watergate
    by Joan Walsh on November 14, 2019 at 17:51

    Joan Walsh Our obsession with looking backward makes it seem we’re afraid to look forward. The post Stop Comparing the Trump Impeachment Probe to Watergate appeared first on The Nation.

  • A New Way to Memorialize Racial Violence
    by Arvind Dilawar on November 14, 2019 at 17:48

    Arvind Dilawar A proposed public art project in Chicago seeks to preserve the memory of the city’s worst race riot. The post A New Way to Memorialize Racial Violence appeared first on The Nation.

  • Why Are We in Ukraine?
    by Stephen F. Cohen on November 14, 2019 at 16:02

    Stephen F. Cohen Historically and even today, Russia has much in common with Ukraine—the United States, almost nothing. The post Why Are We in Ukraine? appeared first on The Nation.

  • Foreign Correspondent: A New Arab Spring in Lebanon and Iraq
    by Reese Erlich on November 14, 2019 at 15:57

    Once again, people in the Middle East want democratic reforms and an end to corruption and foreign domination.

  • FLINT AND FICTITION: To what extent were Flint’s kids harmed?
    by <b>bob somerby</b> on November 14, 2019 at 15:12

    THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 14, 2019Or should we just type up a novel?: To what extent were Flint’s children harmed by the Flint water crisis, or perhaps by the Flint water problem?We’d like to see a serious discussion of that important question. But then, there are other discussions we’d like to see. A few would go something like this:Health care spending: As you may know, we’d like to see a serious discussion of the source of these astounding statistics:Per capita spending, health care, 2018United States: $10,586Canada: $4974France: $4965Japan: $4766United Kingdom: $4070What explains all the “missing money” within our stumblebum “health care system?” Where does all that extra money go?We’d love to see a discussion of that extremely important question, but no such discussion is allowed within our stumblebum “press corps.” Presumably, Ukrainian-style “corruption” is involved in this systemwide code of silence. We hate corruption over there, practice it widely at home.Generational rise in Naep scores: We’d like to see a serious discussion of the rise in public school test scores over the past fifty years. For today, we’ll restrict ourselves to the past few decades and to the performance of black kids on the so-called “Main Naep,” as opposed to the Long-Term Trend Assessment:Average scores, Grade 8 math, NaepBlack students, U.S. public schools2019: 259.211993: 239.28According to a very rough but widely-used rule of thumb, today’s black eighth-graders are outperforming their counterparts from 1993 by roughly two academic years, even after a drop-off of several points from the high point of their performance in 2013.We’d like to see a serious discussion of this (apparently) very large score gain. That said, by common agreement, the very fact of this score gain is almost never reported in “newspapers” like the New York Times and the Washington Post. Readers aren’t told that these gains have occurred, let alone offered a discussion of their possible cause.Over the bulk of the past twenty years, entities like the Post and the Times have been steeped in an “education reform” fictitions according to which “nothing has worked in our public schools.” Possibly for that reason, but also of course because “statistics are boring and hard,” readers haven’t even been told about these, and other, large gains.Generational drop in homicide rates: We’d like to see a serious discussion of the large drop, across the nation, in violent crime, including homicides. Sticking with 1993 as an arbitrary point of comparison, the violent crime rate had essentially been cut in half by 2016.Just a guess: Most people have never seen a report of any such fact, let alone seen a serious discussion of the reasons for this major decline. For data from the leading authority on the subject, you can just click here, scroll to “Crime over time.”Public school achievement gaps: We’d like to see a serious discussion of our (apparently very large) public school “achievement gaps.” Below, you see one such set of gaps:Average scores, Grade 8 math, NaepU.S. public schools, 2019White students: 291.46Black students: 259.21Hispanic students: 267.96Asian-American students: 309.39Based on that very rough rule of thumb which we mentioned above, those are enormous gaps. Based on that rule of thumb, white kids outperformed their black counterparts by something resembling three academic years!We’d like to see a serious discussion of the actual size of those gaps; of the possible causes of those gaps; and of the implications for classroom instruction. Instead, the New York Times hires legacy children to hand you the silly novelized treatments of which Hamptons-based swells are currently very fond. (The thinking: Mommy was our gender editor. So “Sally”—not real name—surely knows all about schools!)The data which detail those very large gaps never appear in our major “newspapers.” Presumably, the size of the gaps is too embarrassing to permit disclosure or discussion. Instead, we’re offered silly, childish attempts to pretend that the gaps are more illusory than real.Those are just a few of the serious discussions we’d like to see. Unfortunately, as Flint’s own Michael Moore once said, “We live in fictitious times.” Our “news reporting” is constantly built around silly, novelized story lines. These story lines satisfy an array of tribal longings and/or industry or interest group imperatives. All too often, our “news” is fiction all the way down. In his best-selling book, Sapiens, Professor Harari has glumly suggested that this is the best our stumblebum species can sensibly hope to achieve!It was against this background that we encountered last Thursday’s front-page report in the New York Times. It tickled our longing for a serious discussion of the following questions:To what extent were the children of Flint harmed by the Flint water crisis? Was the typical child actually harmed at all?If the typical child in Flint was harmed, was he or she harmed to an extent that anyone would be likely to notice? To what extent have the kids of Flint had their life prospects affected?These questions popped into our head because we’d already spent six years reading Kevin Drum’s work on the effects of exposure to lead. Drum’s reporting started with this “cover story” in the January 2013 Mother Jones. That detailed cover report preceded the Flint water problem by several years.As the Flint water crisis went center stage, Drum discussed it again and again at his Mother Jones blog. He offered fascinating data about the levels of exposure to lead which prevailed, across the nation and in Flint, before leaded gasoline was removed from the market.In yesterday’s report, we linked you to the post Drum authored after The New Yorker reported that children in Flint had begun to believe that they’d been deeply, irreparably damaged.This belief, in itself, was a tragedy, Drum wrote. He offered this general assessment that day, as he had done before:DRUM (1/26/17): Children in Flint had mildly elevated levels of lead in their bloodstream for about a year or two. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone, but the effects of this are fairly modest. To put it in terms most people will recognize, it means that some children in Flint will lose about one IQ point. Maybe two. That’s a tragedy, but it’s an even bigger tragedy if kids and their parents respond to this by thinking their lives are permanently ruined. The truth is that in nearly all children, the effects will be only barely noticeable.Drum is not the lord god Zeus, nor has he claimed to be. We’d like to see a serious discussion of the various data-driven assessments he has offered over the years, starting with that detailed cover report in January 2013. Drum is not the oracle at Delphi. As with any writer on any topic, his assessments could be wrong in some manner or to some extent—or not. That said, he also isn’t some local observer being quoted by the New York Times on a subject where she presumably has no expertise at all, with her sweeping statement being culled for use in a damaging front-page headline. Tomorrow, we’ll link you to some of Drum’s reports about lead exposure and its historical discontents. This will include his reports about what blood lead levels were like, around the country and in Flint, in the decades before the 2015 crisis.Why have national crime rates dropped? Why have national test scores risen? The legacy children at the Times won’t even report that such things have occurred, but both effects may be connected to lead exposure and lead abatement.We’d like to see a serious discussion of that possibility. But especially at the New York Times, our national discourse is largely fictitious. Our news is children’s fairy tales, pretty much all the way down.Tomorrow: Links and a scary word—”poisoned”

  • Puzzle No. 3516
    by Joshua Kosman and Henri Picciotto on November 14, 2019 at 14:00

    Joshua Kosman and Henri Picciotto The post Puzzle No. 3516 appeared first on The Nation.

  • We Investigated the Crisis in California’s Jails. Now, the Governor Calls for More Oversight.
    by by Jason Pohl, The Sacramento Bee, and Ryan Gabrielson, ProPublica on November 14, 2019 at 13:30

    by Jason Pohl, The Sacramento Bee, and Ryan Gabrielson, ProPublica This article was produced in partnership with The Sacramento Bee, which is a member of the ProPublica Local Reporting Network. This story is part of an ongoing investigation into the crisis in California’s jails. Sign up for the Overcorrection newsletter to receive updates in this series as soon as they publish. Faced with a surge of homicides in some of California’s largest jails, inmates held in inhumane suicide-watch conditions and elected sheriffs who rebuff state inspectors, Gov. Gavin Newsom is crafting plans that would give the state more power to oversee local sheriffs and the lockups they run. The measure will be part of a broader criminal justice reform package he plans to introduce next year, he told The Fresno Bee editorial board last week. Also on the table: adding “step-down facilities” to bolster rehabilitation and reentry options for people being released from custody and, ultimately, shuttering one of the state’s 35 prisons. “I’m generally not satisfied with oversight, period. Across the board,” Newsom said, when asked whether he was content with the state’s supervision of county jails that house about 70,000 inmates. Local decision-making fosters “wonderful flexibility” in running governments, providing services and operating local criminal justice systems. But, he added, there’s “not a lot of accountability and oversight in terms of these issues and county jails.” He said his administration is studying what could change but did not offer specifics. A spokeswoman declined to offer additional information about the plans. She said Newsom would announce the changes in January when he reveals his state budget proposal. Newsom’s comments follow a yearlong investigation by McClatchy and ProPublica that exposed how county jails have struggled to handle an influx of inmates serving longer sentences after realignment, the 2011 series of reforms that diverted inmates from the state’s unconstitutionally overcrowded prisons to local facilities. Lawmakers created the California Board of State and Community Corrections to oversee the increasingly burdened jails and award funding for facility construction, but the news organizations found that the agency is toothless. The board does not monitor jail deaths, even as inmate-on-inmate homicides have soared in several local lockups. And it cannot force counties to construct new, safer facilities, even after it awards billions of dollars in state financing to help them replace decrepit facilities — projects that become mired in costly delays. Read More Deadly Delays in Jail Construction Cost Lives and Dollars Across California Sixty-five jail construction projects, totaling $2.1 billion, were awarded funds since realignment. Only 11 have opened. Meanwhile, dangerous jails have become more deadly. No other county in California has seen a sharper increase in overall inmate deaths than Fresno. In the seven years since realignment began, at least 47 people have died in the county jail, more than twice the number who died in the seven years before the overhaul. Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims has said that the county jails hold many dangerous people, and that awful events, including deaths, are almost inevitable. Last week, McClatchy and ProPublica published an investigation of Kern County’s extreme use of isolation cells for inmates who deputies put on suicide watch. An inspector from the state corrections board cited the county last year for violating minimum jail standards when it locked suicidal inmates in closet-sized rooms with nothing but a grate in the floor for bodily fluids and a yoga mat to sleep on. The county’s sheriff, Donny Youngblood, rebuffed the inspector’s findings eight months later. Then his department purchased more mats. Kern County sheriff’s officials said their jails have used isolation to prevent suicide deaths for decades without criticism. After McClatchy and ProPublica asked questions about Kern County’s isolation practices and its use of yoga mats, the sheriff’s office replaced the mats with blankets that are resistant to rips. State corrections officials do not have the authority to make county leaders change, and they generally see themselves as partners, not regulators, said Allison Ganter, deputy director overseeing the inspection team. “We are not enforcement,” she said. Positioning himself as a Democratic counterweight to the Trump administration, Newsom has worked with a Democratically-controlled Legislature to press changes to the criminal justice system. This year, the governor signed legislation into law that tightens police use-of-force standards, and he penned an executive order placing a moratorium on the death penalty in the state. He has also moved toward abolishing private prisons. But challenging local sheriffs could prove more difficult. Read More A Jail Increased Extreme Isolation to Stop Suicides. More People Killed Themselves. The Kern County, CA Sheriff’s Office places hundreds of people into suicide watch each year. They’re held for days or weeks in rooms without mattresses and sometimes toilets. A bill that would have allowed counties to create oversight groups with subpoena power over county sheriffs was shelved this year after opposition from local law enforcement. The California State Sheriffs’ Association, which wields significant influence in public safety legislation, called that measure “unnecessary.” Cory Salzillo, a lobbyist for the sheriffs, made a similar statement Tuesday when asked about Newsom’s calls for additional oversight. “Sheriffs and jails are already overseen or monitored,” he said, referring specifically to the state corrections board, local elected officials and the courts. The bill’s author, Assemblymember Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento, vowed to make another try next year, citing the McClatchy and ProPublica investigation. “This report is yet another example of mental health abuses, negligence and lack of proper oversight by a county sheriff’s department,” he said. “This type of lax oversight results in lawsuits and settlements where taxpayers continue to foot the bill and pay for the misconduct of our sheriff’s departments across California.” ProPublica and The Sacramento Bee are spending 2019 examining overcrowding, resources and inmate treatment in county jails across California. Share your story with us here or get in touch with the reporting team by emailing or calling/texting 347-244-2134. And stay updated with our reporting by signing up for our newsletter. Jason Pohl reports on criminal justice for The Sacramento Bee. He has reported since 2011 on public safety, mental health and disasters for newspapers in Colorado and Arizona.

  • Facebook Logo Redux
    by Paul Mavrides on November 14, 2019 at 13:00

    Paul Mavrides Keeping a stiff Zucker lip. The post Facebook Logo Redux appeared first on The Nation.

  • ‘Insanely Despicable, Ridiculously Stupid’ Attack on Education in Florida Continues
    by Kathleen Oropeza on November 14, 2019 at 10:47

    New governor Ron DeSantis is the ultimate #FloridaMan. His political games are an insult to the children, teachers, and parents who are the heart and soul of our public schools.

  • A Trump Tax Break To Help The Poor Went To a Rich GOP Donor’s Superyacht Marina
    by by Justin Elliott, Jeff Ernsthausen and Kyle Edwards on November 14, 2019 at 10:00

    by Justin Elliott, Jeff Ernsthausen and Kyle Edwards ProPublica is a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power. Sign up for ProPublica’s Big Story newsletter to receive stories like this one in your inbox as soon as they are published. The Rybovich superyacht marina lies on the West Palm Beach, Florida, waterfront, a short drive north from Mar-a-Lago. Superyachts, floating mansions that can stretch more than 300 feet and cost over $100 million, are serviced at the marina, and their owners enjoy Rybovich’s luxury resort amenities. Its Instagram account offers a glimpse into the rarefied world of the global 0.1% — as one post puts it, “What’s better than owning a yacht, owning a yacht with a helicopter of course!” Rybovich owner Wayne Huizenga Jr., son of the Waste Management and Blockbuster video billionaire Wayne Huizenga Sr., has long planned to build luxury apartment towers on the site, part of a development dubbed Marina Village. Those planned towers, and the superyacht marina itself, are now in an area designated as an opportunity zone under President Donald Trump’s 2017 tax code overhaul, qualifying them for a tax break program that is supposed to help the poor. Get Our Top Investigations Subscribe to the Big Story newsletter. Don’t miss out on ProPublica’s next investigation. Sign up and get the Big Story email whenever we break news. This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply. Then-Florida Gov. Rick Scott bestowed the tax break on the marina after a direct appeal from Huizenga Jr., according to a 2018 letter Huizenga Jr. wrote that was obtained by ProPublica. Huizenga and his family have been major donors to Scott. Even though the opportunity zone program is supposed to subsidize only new investment, Huizenga cited the already-planned Marina Village in his appeal to Scott. Noting the “significant private sector investment that is poised to take place,” Huizenga wrote, “This project has been planned for some time as part of the larger Marina Village initiative which incorporates the Rybovich working waterfront marina.” The state of Florida, based on an analysis of unemployment and poverty rates, had not originally intended to pick the census tract containing the superyacht marina for the program. But those plans changed in response to Huizenga’s lobbying, according to documents from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity obtained by ProPublica. A little more than a week after the Huizenga letter, Scott announced his opportunity zone picks, which included the Rybovich marina area. At the same time, Scott rejected other, poorer tracts that the city of West Palm Beach had asked to be named opportunity zones. Two other Scott donors, both billionaires, also benefit: Jorge Pérez, the Related Group chairman and CEO known as the condo king of South Florida; and Stephen Ross, a prominent Trump fundraiser, real estate magnate, and Miami Dolphins and Equinox gym part-owner. Ross’ Related Companies owns a quarter of Related Group, which is Rybovich’s partner on the planned Marina Village development. Rybovich, which describes itself as a “world renowned luxurious resort-style Superyacht marina,” can accommodate $100 million-plus yachts that stretch more than 300 feet. It offers an on-site concierge, tiki bar and yoga. (Saul Martinez for ProPublica) It’s unclear how valuable the tax break could be, and the public may never know because the Trump law included no public reporting requirements. But Pérez recently boasted that the new subsidy would add jet fuel to the investment returns, telling Bloomberg this year: “It worked as a market-rate rental. Now, it works that much better as an opportunity zone.” Huizenga and Pérez weren’t the only beneficiaries of Scott’s largesse. In a separate case in Tampa, the Florida documents show, Scott made a wealthy downtown area an opportunity zone at the request of a firm controlled by yet another billionaire donor, Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik. This, too, does not involve a new investment. Since as early as 2014, Vinik has been planning a massive redevelopment project in the area that will include luxury residences, hotels and shops. Trump has hailed the opportunity zone program. Opportunity zones “are doing unbelievably well. And you’ll see that, and you’ve already seen it,” he said in August. “And the biggest beneficiary there is African Americans.” But in Florida, the tract selections highlight one significant vulnerability in the opportunity zone process. The Trump tax law gave governors the authority to distribute valuable tax breaks, and they have wielded it to benefit the politically connected. “That’s the real scary part of this program, that you give such incredible power to politicians to designate zones,” said Nathan Jensen, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin who studies economic development. “The fact that this process was not transparent in almost any state is shocking.” Previous revelations about billionaires taking advantage of the opportunity zone program for already-planned developments in wealthy areas have spurred congressional scrutiny. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., introduced a bill to overhaul the program, while Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., has called for it to be abolished. Trump Tax Break: Superyachts In; Poorer Communities Out Gov. Rick Scott rejected impoverished areas originally identified by West Palm Beach leaders as top picks for the opportunity zone program, while also bestowing the tax break on a tract that includes a superyacht marina owned by a major GOP donor. Source: U.S. Census, Google (Al Shaw/ProPublica) A spokesman for Scott, who is now one of Florida’s U.S. senators, declined to comment on the superyacht marina case but said in a statement: “Then-Governor Scott’s focus was on supporting job creation in low-income areas in the state, based on federal requirements and what would offer the best return on taxpayer dollars. That’s what guided every decision he made.” In a statement, Rybovich President Carlos Vidueira denied the firm had sought the tax break for its own benefit. “The motivation to seek approval of an Opportunity Zone designation was to create incentives for redevelopment by third parties in the surrounding neighborhood. The letter was not motivated by an attempt to create incentives for Rybovich” or the Related Group. He pointed to the firm’s support of a nonprofit effort to revitalize the area called Purpose Built Communities, which aims to create affordable housing and jobs. Vidueira added that “Rybovich has never planned the use of any Opportunity Zone tax deferment for its property.” He declined to comment on whether it might raise money from other investors taking advantage of the tax break, or on Related Group’s stated plans to use the tax break. Related Group’s general counsel, Betsy McCoy, said the firm “had no involvement in former Governor Scott’s designation of Florida’s Opportunity Zones.” She added Related Group first learned of the tax break when the governor’s press release went out. A spokeswoman for Ross’ Related Companies did not respond to questions. The opportunity zone tax break was pitched as the prime anti-poverty measure of Trump’s signature legislative achievement, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. An idea that drew bipartisan support — notably from Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J. — the program is supposed to incentivize investors to direct their capital to needy areas. In exchange, they get a lucrative break on capital gains taxes. After the new law passed, there was a brief, high-stakes window at the start of 2018 when decisions were made. First, the Treasury Department drew up a list of eligible census tracts based on income and poverty data. Then each governor selected a quarter of the tracts in their state for opportunity zone status. Finally, the Treasury OK’d those picks. The process gave enormous autonomy to the governors, especially because the Treasury applied little scrutiny to the selections before approving them. In the newly designated opportunity zones, investors get a trio of subsidies. If investors take capital gains — generated, for example, by the sale of stock that has increased in value — and put it into a deal in one of the zones, they don’t have to pay capital gains tax up front. Later, their tax bills are trimmed. And, most important, any appreciation on the new investment in the opportunity zone is tax-free after a decade. The designation was an immediate boon to owners of property within the selected areas. Values on development sites went up on the expectation that new investment could come in, studies suggest. Plans for the Marina Village development filed with the city of West Palm Beach by Rybovich and condo developer Related Group. (Related Group/Rybovich via City of West Palm Beach) When the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity created a statistical model incorporating unemployment rate, poverty and population density to come up with a list of opportunity zone picks, Huizenga’s superyacht tract was not included, according to the Florida agency’s internal documents. City leaders identified three other tracts in the North End of West Palm Beach as their top picks to be opportunity zones. All three are poor. “The core tracts of the North End are racially and ethnically diverse, with a population of approximately 57,000 people, of which over 65% earn less than $15,000 per year,” according to a city memo. They were also attractive areas for growth. All “are rebounding from significant blight and are well positioned for new investment,” the memo said. The tract with the superyacht marina was wealthier and whiter than the tracts identified by city leaders. Based on median income, it is hardly rich. But the area is testament to how the overall economic data of a single census tract can mask pockets of extreme wealth. On North Flagler Drive along the Intracoastal Waterway, multimillion-dollar mansions dot the waterfront, obstructed from street view by walls and palm trees. Last year, Rybovich’s Huizenga bought a $5 million property from Rosie O’Donnell there, down the road from the superyacht marina. Sylvia Moffett, a former West Palm Beach city commissioner, said in an interview there is little connection between the predominantly poor areas of the North End and the wealthy stretch of waterfront. “The houses along the Intracoastal get torn down and rebuilt a lot. Mansions go up,” she said. Gated mansions line the waterfront near the marina, obstructed from street view by walls and palm trees. (Saul Martinez for ProPublica) In an April 2018 letter addressed to Scott, Huizenga made his pitch to the governor to add the superyacht tract and two others. He cited the Rybovich-Related Marina Village project: “Within these census tracts, The Related Group is planning to invest $120 million into the construction of a new rental residential building that is scheduled to break ground in the first quarter of 2019,” Huizenga wrote. He also noted Rybovich support for a “community based initiative that will be bringing hundreds of jobs” to the area. Rybovich officials got the city of West Palm Beach to amend its initial requests to the state to add the superyacht tract, emails show. The city added the new areas because of “expressed interest by a major local employer,” a West Palm Beach official wrote to the state economic development agency. Huizenga’s letter was included in the city’s recommendations submitted to the state. A Florida Department of Economic Opportunity document subsequently listed the superyacht tract under Rybovich’s name, marked as “Added From Request.” A week later, on April 19, Scott announced his selections for the opportunity zone tax break, the superyacht tract among them. In a press release about the West Palm Beach picks, a Florida official said the program “will continue our progress in revitalizing low-income and rural regions of the state.” Two out of three of West Palm Beach’s original, poverty-stricken priority areas did not make Scott’s cut. A Scott spokesman declined to comment on his specific decisions. West Palm Beach did not respond to requests for comment. A Florida Department of Economic Opportunity spokeswoman said in a statement that the agency “accepted input from communities across the state, including local government, business leaders, economic development organizations and investors. … Governor Scott ultimately made all decisions on which census tracts were nominated as opportunity zones.” An empty lot in a West Palm Beach tract that Gov. Rick Scott rejected as an opportunity zone. City leaders wrote that the tracts they recommended were poor but “well positioned for new investment.” (Saul Martinez for ProPublica) The plans for the Marina Village project have changed several times, and it has not started on schedule. But last year, the developers announced rents would be up to $3,000 a month for one-bedroom units and $4,500 for three-bedroom units, plus penthouses for an undisclosed sum. The project is physically oriented away from the poor parts of the census tract, where schools are struggling and the crime rate is high. The chairman and founder of Related Companies, Ross, along with Pérez and Huizenga, are all donors to Scott. Collectively, they and their families have given at least $1 million to Scott and the Florida GOP in the last decade. In 2013, Scott gave Wayne Huizenga Sr. a Great Floridian award, the state’s rough equivalent of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He died last year. Another politically connected developer successfully lobbied Scott for an opportunity zone, for yet another already-planned project, this time in Tampa. As far back as 2014, Vinik, the Tampa Bay Lightning owner, has had his eye on redeveloping a swath of the city’s downtown surrounding his hockey team’s arena. In mid-2017, Strategic Property Partners, a joint venture between Vinik and Bill Gates’ Cascade Investment, announced a $3 billion redevelopment plan for the area. The project, Water Street Tampa, is slated to include luxury apartments, hotels, stores and restaurants catering to Tampa’s growing millennial population. In early 2018, documents show that Vinik’s firm, along with the city of Tampa, requested that the area for the investment be made an opportunity zone. Vinik has given hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to Scott in recent years. Scott picked the tract that contains most of the development for the tax break. The tract has a median family income almost twice as high as the Tampa metro area, placing it among the top 0.5% of opportunity zones nationwide in terms of income. In a statement, Strategic Property Partners defended the area’s designation, saying: “Downtown Tampa has long been a candidate for development and the establishment of Opportunity Zones has helped increase and accelerate investment. Water Street Tampa is transforming a vacant area of land in downtown Tampa into a new community within the city.” While the law gave the Treasury the power to vet the selections of each governor, the agency appears to have simply rubber-stamped the picks, said Brett Theodos, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute who studies opportunity zones. “Treasury appeared to elect for the lowest common denominator screening, to just make sure tracts were technically eligible,” Theodos said. “We have yet to hear that Treasury ever denied a nominated zone because it didn’t fit within the spirit of the objective of the program.” In response to that criticism, a Treasury spokesman said that the opportunity zone provision of the tax law “gave governors the discretion to nominate areas for designation as Opportunity Zones. The Department had a limited role in the process.” Thanks to reader Janna Owens. Do you have information about opportunity zones? Contact Justin Elliott at or via Signal at 774-826-6240, and Jeff Ernsthausen at

  • First day of the hearings proceeds!
    by <b>bob somerby</b> on November 13, 2019 at 22:10

    WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 13, 2019The other Conway speaks: We spent the bulk of the day watching the bulk of the hearings. We still haven’t seen the whole thing or had a chance to review certain things which were said.Adding to the excitement, George Conway appeared today as part of MSNBC’s standard Panel of The Like-Minded. At New York magazine, this early comment by Conway was being featured as of 9:37 A.M.:“I don’t frankly want to be on television, I just don’t get why people can’t see this and why people are refusing to see this. It’s appalling to me.”We’re always struck by commentators who make this type of comment. The ability to “get why people see things” the way they do is the essence of social and political intelligence. We’re always amused when people treat their inability to understand the viewpoints of others as a mark of their ultimate wisdom.We’re in favor of “getting” the viewpoints of others. It’s the way large societies work!You can’t understand the way people think? Citizen, fair enough! But if you can’t understand such things, what are you doing on television?

  • Police Don’t Do a Good Job Tracking Hate Crimes. A New Report Calls on Congress to Take Action.
    by by Rachel Glickhouse on November 13, 2019 at 19:00

    by Rachel Glickhouse ProPublica is a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power. Sign up for ProPublica’s Big Story newsletter to receive stories like this one in your inbox as soon as they are published. A report made public Wednesday by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights called on Congress to adopt legislation that would use funding to incentivize police departments across the country to produce annual accountings of hate crimes. The commission also recommended that the police departments establish dedicated hate crime units aimed at better identifying and investigating reports of those incidents. The commission issued its proposals a day after the latest FBI report on hate crimes, an accounting the commission said remained deeply flawed. The FBI’s report, the commission noted, still depends on the voluntary submission of data from local police agencies, a process that has regularly produced what almost everyone agrees is a vast undercount of actual hate crimes. Get Our Top Investigations Subscribe to the Big Story newsletter. Don’t miss out on ProPublica’s next investigation. Sign up and get the Big Story email whenever we break news. This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply. “We live in deeply dangerous times, and we have had an insufficient government response to that danger,” said Catherine E. Lhamon, chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. The FBI report issued Tuesday showed that slightly fewer police agencies than last year responded to the request for hate crime data, and that of the departments that did respond, just 13% reported one or more hate crimes in 2018. Alabama and Wyoming submitted zero hate crimes last year. “The need for improved data collection and reporting is astonishing, and the absence of effective data hamstrings any effective response that we as a nation might have,” Lhamon said. ProPublica requested comment from the FBI and the Department of Justice, and will post their responses as soon as they are received. The commission’s recommendation to pass legislation incentivizing police to report hate crimes resembles part of the No Hate Act bill currently under consideration in Congress, though the report does not mention specific legislative proposals. Lhamon said the recommendation isn’t tied to particular legislation. Examining the challenges faced by local police in investigating hate crimes, the commission addressed the widespread lack of training for officers in how to identify, investigate and prevent such crimes. Creating bias crime units would allow police to “gain a better understanding about hate crimes that are occurring in their cities and to increase the likelihood of accurate classification,” the report said. The commission said the DOJ ought to provide grants for cultural competency training and take the lead in detailing how many hate crimes are successfully prosecuted nationally. The FBI report showed the highest levels of violent hate crimes since 2001, according to the Arab American Institute. The Anti-Defamation League said the number of hate crime murders in 2018 was the highest since the bureau began tracking them in 1991. Eleven of those killed were the victims of a mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue. Read More Hate Crime Training for Police Is Often Inadequate, Sometimes Nonexistent Only a fraction of bias crimes ever get reported. Fewer still get successfully prosecuted. Perhaps the widespread lack of training for frontline officers has something to do with that. The FBI data showed a 14% rise in anti-Latino hate crimes, the third year of increases of these types of offenses. This trend preceded the August 2019 shooting in El Paso, Texas, that left 22 people dead, one of the deadliest attacks on Latinos in modern U.S. history. The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights report cites the Bureau of Justice Statistics 2011-15 survey of bias crime victims, which shows Latinos experience a higher rate of violent hate crime victimization than white or black victims, but some are less likely to report incidents to the police because of fears about immigration status. The report recommends improvements to community policing and outreach, which could potentially encourage more victims to report. The chair of the commission said that in the absence of effective tracking of hate crimes by the government, the public had been forced to rely on journalists for a fuller appreciation of the number and kinds of crimes taking place in the country. The report specifically credits ProPublica’s hate crime reporting, as well as stories from partners such as Education Week and The Baltimore Sun, which published investigations as part of the Documenting Hate project. “The nation has benefited from aggressive ongoing reporting about the existence of hate crimes, because these communities need to know and these communities need to be able to respond,” Lhamon said. Brian Levin, a former NYPD officer and the director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, told ProPublica that better incentives for agencies to report to the FBI are key. Making training and policy standards contingent on funding could help, he said, as could expanding resources and personnel. The commission’s report also urges more transparency on hate crime statistics and prosecutions, which it said could help improve accountability. It recommends that Congress fund a federal repository run by the DOJ containing hate crimes and bias incident resources, which would include information on hate crime prosecutions and convictions and court records. Currently, only press releases on individual federal hate crime cases are available on the DOJ site. Read More 5 Things You Need to Know About Hate Crimes in America We answer questions about hate crimes and give you a kind of primer to our Documenting Hate project, now in its third year. Finally, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights makes a number of suggestions to state and local police, including investigating and tracking hate incidents that may not rise to the level of crimes, making hate crime data public and easy to access, and establishing dedicated bias crime units. Michael Lieberman, the Anti-Defamation League’s Washington counsel, said that tracking noncriminal hate incidents is a best practice for police in terms of building trust. Cities like Seattle and Arlington, Texas, have adopted this approach. “It’s not punishing speech,” Lieberman said, “but it is demonstrating communities can feel threatened even when it’s not a crime.”

  • FLINT AND FICTITION: The bad judgment never ends!
    by <b>bob somerby</b> on November 13, 2019 at 17:35

    WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 13, 2019A truly astounding quotation: Long ago and far away—actually, it was January 2017, the month in which Donald J. Trump ascended to power—a lengthy report in The New Yorker painted a deeply unfortunate portrait.The report was written by Sarah Stillman. She was reporting on the efforts of Maya Shankar, “an Obama staffer who was looking at ways that behavioral science might be put to work in Flint” in the wake of that city’s high-profile water problem.We’re quoting from Kevin Drum’s post concerning this unfortunate matter. And alas—below, you see the unfortunate state of affairs which emerged when Shankar discussed the children of Flint with Michigan State’s Kent Key. The children of Flint had begun to believe that they had been damaged beyond repair by their city’s water crisis:STILLMAN (1/15/17): Key shared a personal story about the son of a family friend who had begun acting out in school. The boy’s mother had come to Key for help. When Key asked the boy what was going on, he replied, “Well, they said I’m not going to be smart anyway.”“These kids are internalizing the messages about how the lead is affecting them,” Key said. The children of Flint were beginning to believe that they would never be smart. Flint’s children had heard, again and again, that they’d been “poisoned” by what had occurred. According to Key, they were now “internalizing the messages” about the damage which had been done.As Stillman continued, so did her portrait of this unfortunate state of affairs: STILLMAN: Shankar began contemplating aloud the possibilities. She said to Tucker-Ray, “Did you see how my eyes widened when he said that thing about the kids giving up because they think they’re going to be dumb?”….As their last day in Flint drew to a close, Shankar and Tucker-Ray hurried to a final meeting. They had arranged to talk with a disabled Gulf War veteran and community activist named Art Woodson, who didn’t think much of the federal government. At a local municipal building, where an enlarged photograph of corroded lead pipes adorned one wall, Woodson told Shankar about his worry that local kids would give up when lead’s symptoms surfaced, or even before. “What I see,” he said, “is hopelessness.” These were anecdotal reports, accompanied by subjective assessments, but they point to an obvious problem. When kids are told that they’ve been badly damaged, perhaps in ways which can’t be repaired, those kids will often believe what they’re told.Hopelessness and despair may set in. As of late 2016, Shankar seemed to believe that this was occurring in Flint.Question! To what extent have the children of Flint been harmed by the water crisis? We’ll consider that question tomorrow. To see one of Drum’s many assessments, you can read his post about that New Yorker report, atop which his headline said this:In Flint, We Are Laying Tragedy on Top of Tragedy on Top of TragedyAccording to Drum, the harm caused by the water crisis was nowhere near as large as was being described and imagined. Kids were being led to a state of “hopelessness” by loud, unintelligent shouting by various adults.How badly have Flint’s kids been harmed? Have the bulk of children in Flint likely been harmed in any significant or measurable way at all?We’ll examine those questions tomorrow. But we recalled that New Yorker report when we read last Friday’s New York Times—when we read an astounding above-the-fold, front-page report built around this deeply unfortunate statement by a veteran teacher:GREEN (11/7/19): “We have a school district where all that’s left are damaged kids who are being exposed to other damaged kids, and it’s causing more damage,” said Stephanie Pascal, who has taught in Flint for 23 years.”All that’s left are damaged kids who are being exposed to other damaged kids?” Incredibly, the New York Times built a major front-page report around that astonishing statement.Might we speak frankly just once? Despite the relentless branding to which we’re all exposed, the sheer stupidity never ends at the New York Times—and the paper’s decision to run with that statement is one of the all-time examples.Of one thing you can be sure—that remarkable statement will be repeated on every playground in Flint. Every child is going to hear that he or she is “a damaged kid”—a damaged kid who’s being exposed to other such kids, thereby creating more damage.Flint’s children will believe what they hear, as will many of their parents. Only a newspaper like the Times is too brain-dead, too clueless to understand this and exercise caution about the wild statements it prints.Every child in the city of Flint is going to hear that he, and every kid he knows, is damaged and causing more damage. Many kids will believe that crazy remark—and yes, that statement is crazy.How crazy is that high-profile statement? How crazy was the New York Times to publish such a wild statement, then use it as the basis for a front-page headline?How crazy was the Times? Let’s consider the type of “evidence” which surrounded that crazy statement in the Times report:GREEN (11/7/19): The contamination of this long-struggling city’s water exposed nearly 30,000 schoolchildren to a neurotoxin known to have detrimental effects on children’s developing brains and nervous systems. Requests for special education or behavioral interventions began rising four years ago, when the water contamination became public, bolstering a class-action lawsuit that demanded more resources for Flint’s children.That lawsuit forced the state to establish the $3 million Neurodevelopmental Center of Excellence, which began screening students. The screenings then confirmed a range of disabilities, which have prompted still more requests for intervention.The percentage of the city’s students who qualify for special education services has nearly doubled, to 28 percent, from 15 percent the year the lead crisis began, and the city’s screening center has received more than 1,300 referrals since December 2018. The results: About 70 percent of the students evaluated have required school accommodations for issues like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, also known as A.D.H.D.; dyslexia; or mild intellectual impairment, said Katherine Burrell, the associate director of the center.“We have a school district where all that’s left are damaged kids who are being exposed to other damaged kids, and it’s causing more damage,” said Stephanie Pascal, who has taught in Flint for 23 years. “All that’s left are damaged kids?” To the extent that the Times’ Erica Green thought she should provide support for such a sweeping claim, she cited the fact that 28 percent of the city’s kids have now been assigned to special ed, up from 15 percent before the crisis began.Is 28 percent a lot or a little? Green made no attempt to answer this obvious question. But 28 percent isn’t everyone—it’s actually well less than half—and as she continued, Green seemed to say that this and other diagnostic increases may be more illusory than real:GREEN (continuing directly): Medical experts say there is no way to prove that the lead has caused new disabilities. Pediatricians here caution against overdiagnosing children as irreparably brain damaged, if only to avoid stigmatizing an entire city. The State Department of Education, in battling the class-action lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan and the New Jersey-based Education Law Center, enlisted an expert who testified that the real public health crisis was not the lead-contaminated water but the paranoia of parents, students and teachers exposed to it.But Dr. Burrell said that proving the cause of the students’ problems was not the point. Many of the problems uncovered by the lead testing could certainly have existed before.Say what? “Medical experts say there is no way to prove that the lead has caused new disabilities?” It’s possible that the increase in testing and diagnosis has been caused, in part or in whole, by the post-crisis increase in screenings? By something resembling “paranoia?” It’s possible that this heightened state of concern has led to something like “overdiagnosing?” It’s possible that this is the cause, in part or in whole, for the jump in special ed diagnoses—a jump of some thirteen points?How much have the children of Flint been harmed by the water problem? We’ll discuss that problem tomorrow—and you may be surprised by Drum’s estimates, offered in many reports.For Drum’s original Mother Jones cover report about the problems caused by exposure to lead, you can just click here. That lengthy report predated the problem in Flint. For today, we’ll only say this:The bad judgment never ends at the New York Times. That said, we’ve never seen a worse decision than the decision to build a lengthy front-page report around a sweeping, deeply unfortunate claim by someone who isn’t an expert on the topic at hand.That said, we’ll guess that the irresponsible statement is being repeated on every Flint playground. On the brighter side, the Times has once again taken the chance to show how deeply it cares.Tomorrow: Remarkable statistics, past and present

  • Wisconsin’s Chronic Black-White Achievement Gap
    by Alexandria Millet on November 13, 2019 at 15:09

    The nation’s report card demonstrates yet again that students of color are underserved—and education reformers are all too eager to bank on the opportunity.

  • Follow the Money in the Ukraine Scandal
    by by Katie Zavadski on November 13, 2019 at 09:00

    by Katie Zavadski This story was co-published with WNYC. Stay up to date with email updates about WNYC and ProPublica’s investigations into the president’s business practices. The Ukraine scandal is mostly viewed through the prism of politics — an attempt by President Donald Trump to gain an advantage over a political opponent. But, as most things are, it’s also about money — and we found lots of it flowing between key players in the scandal. On this week’s episode of “Trump, Inc.,” we follow the money. First, Let’s Meet Our Cast of Ukraine Players Richest among them is Dmitry Firtash, an oligarch who has been battling to avoid an extradition flight to Chicago, where he faces federal charges of bribery. The Department of Justice has described Firtash as an “upper-echelon” associate “of Russian organized crime.” (He denies the charges and says the prosecution is politically motivated.) Firtash made his fortune as a behind-the-scenes middleman selling heavily marked-up Russian gas to Europe. So he wasn’t happy when Vice President Joe Biden pushed Ukraine to roll back corruption. After Biden gave a speech in Kyiv, Ukraine, in 2015 saying the energy sector “needs to be competitive, ruled by market principles — not sweetheart deals,” Firtash called it “repulsive.” Firtash hired attorneys Victoria Toensing and Joe diGenova, who frequently appear on TV defending Trump over Ukraine. The two also represent journalist John Solomon, whose stories ended up spreading Ukraine disinformation. Dmitry Firtash (Herbert Neubauer/AFP via Getty Images) And then there’s Lev Parnas, who translated for Firtash’s legal team and is an associate of Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani. “I’m the best-paid interpreter in the world,” Parnas reportedly said. Parnas and his partner Igor Fruman were indicted in October over allegedly funneling foreign money into U.S. elections. (They deny the charges.) Firtash and the rest of the Ukraine players have all been busy with a flurry of intertwined business ventures. Let’s take a look: Business Venture No. 1: Natural Gas and the Firing of an Ambassador At the same time Parnas and Fruman were suddenly becoming big Republican donors, they were trying to leverage those new political connections to advance their needs in the natural gas industry in Ukraine. Their goals would have been very profitable for Firtash. It didn’t work. But they did get something else they were pushing for, specifically, the firing of U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. “They were interested in having a different ambassador at post, I guess for — because they wanted to have business dealings in Ukraine, or additional business dealings,” Yovanovitch testified. “I didn’t understand that, because nobody at the embassy had ever met those two individuals.” Get More Trump, Inc. Stay up to date with email updates from WNYC and ProPublica about their ongoing investigations. Business Venture No. 2: Submarines, Yachts, Real Estate and Other Things Rich People Like Fruman, we’ve learned, has an interesting company, Otrada Luxury Group, that appears to be catering to those with lots of disposable income. A partial list of goods, according to the company’s brochure: jewelry and expensive watches, yachts, speedboats, private planes, high-end real estate and, of course, submarines and amphibious vehicles. We went to the U.S. address listed on a brochure. It’s a rent-by-the-hour office. No one there seemed to know of Fruman or Otrada. Business Venture No. 3: Cybersecurity Consulting Starring Giuliani An intriguingly named company owned by Parnas, Fraud Guarantee, paid Giuliani $500,000 for consulting. The Wall Street Journal dug into the company and could find no actual business or customers. Giuliani said the money came from a domestic source, but he declined to say from whom. Business Ventures No. 4 and No. 5: Giuliani’s Podcasts Rudy Giuliani (Joe Raedle/Getty Images) As ProPublica has reported, Giuliani was also working on a podcast with The Hill, the publication that ended up passing along Ukraine disinformation. Giuliani said he was “never paid” for the work and said it was a “perfectly legitimate situation.” The Hill said it had been planning a “podcast network with a multitude of political voices from all sides.” Although nothing came of that effort, Giuliani is still apparently looking to get into the podcast game. He was overheard during a recent lunch discussing a potential podcast focused on the impeachment. “He is considering several options,” a Giuliani spokeswoman told CNN. “Many Americans want to hear directly from Rudy Giuliani.” And Then There Is the Jewish Refugee Charity Fruman is also at the helm of a U.S.-based nonprofit that raises money for a Jewish refugee settlement outside Kyiv. The nonprofit, American Friends of Anatevka, sponsored a trip Giuliani was planning to take to Ukraine to dig up dirt on Trump’s opponents. Giuliani is also the settlement’s honorary mayor. American Friends of Anatevka is currently advertising a million-dollar match for donations. Its tax returns show it had less than $1,500 in income in 2017. Listen to it all unfold here. You can contact us via Signal, WhatsApp or voicemail at 347-244-2134. Here’s more about how you can contact us securely. You can always email us at And finally, you can use the Postal Service: Trump, Inc. at ProPublica 155 Ave of the Americas, 13th Floor New York, NY 10013

  • Candidate Biden calls Warren a schoolmarm!
    by <b>bob somerby</b> on November 12, 2019 at 20:24

    TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 12, 2019″Whiff of sexism” found: Yesterday morning, the New York Times was concerned about Joe Biden’s sexism.Or was it? Frankly, we weren’t sure. Below, you see the way the Times report began. We’re including the hard-copy headline, because that’s where the piece got its “juice:”GLUECK AND KAPLAN (11/11/19): In Attacks by Biden, Some Warren Allies Detect a Whiff of SexismSenator Elizabeth Warren is “instructing” voters on what to believe. Her policy vision smacks of an “academic exercise.” Her advocacy style is “my way or the highway,” and she has displayed an “elitist attitude.”In ways overt and subtle, Joseph R. Biden Jr., his campaign and his allies have begun mounting personal attacks on his most formidable rival in the 2020 primary race, portraying her as embracing a rigid, condescending approach that befits a former Harvard professor with an ambitious policy agenda.It is a politically risky case to make against a leading female candidate, especially to a Democratic primary electorate that has so far signaled little appetite for intraparty warfare. Women historically make up a majority of Democratic primary voters, and for many, memories of attacks against Hillary Clinton in 2016 are still fresh.So the report began. According to the headline, it wasn’t that Candidate Biden was necessarily displaying sexism. The problem was that some supporters of Candidate Warren had detected “a whiff” of the attitude, which upper-end journalists finally turned against within the past few years.Meanwhile, we were puzzled. What was it about the specific “attacks” Biden had made which had produced this whiff? Based upon those first few paragraphs, we had little idea.According to Glueck and Kaplan, it was “politically risky” to say such things about “a leading female candidate.” Did that mean it would be OK to say that a man had displayed “an elitist attitude” or a “rigid approach?”Apparently, yes—that would be OK! But what was supposed to turn those claims into “sexist” attacks?As they started, Glueck and Kaplan had us puzzled. As they continued, though, they semi-quoted Warren herself. They said she’d been “denouncing criticism from ‘powerful men’ who try to tell women how to behave.”It sounded like Warren was saying that she had detected a whiff of sexism herself! But then the rubber hit the road! The scribes had come up with this:GLUECK AND KAPLAN: [Biden’s] criticism of Ms. Warren troubled some voters who came to see her on the campaign trail over the weekend.“I think it’s sexist,” Savannah Johnson, 49, a social worker who supports Ms. Warren and who attended a town hall she held in Goose Creek, S.C., on Saturday, said of Mr. Biden’s criticism.“I just don’t think that he’d be saying the same thing about a male candidate,” she added. “I think that all strong women kind of get labeled that unfairly.”Niamh Cahill, 21, a college student who also came to the town hall, said Ms. Warren would not be getting as much grief if she were a male candidate. “Yeah, she’s fired up, she’s angry, but for a good reason,” she said. “There are a lot of things that are wrong in this country.”So telling! The Times reporters had found two Warren supporters who thought Biden was being sexist! A 21-year-old college student seemed to suggest that Warren wouldn’t be criticized for being angry if she were a man.Citizens, can we talk? Reporters can run with any theme they want if that’s all it takes to trigger journalistic pushback. Only after quoting the two supporters did Glueck and Kaplan begin to explain the nature of Biden’s criticism, which he said was triggered in part by Warren’s courteous suggestion that Biden should be running for president in the Republican Party.Out of all this cock and bull emerged the scripted complaint. Continuing, Glueck and Kaplan reported that Biden had continued to criticize Warren’s “attitude” in a way “that struck some voters and political operatives as sexist.”Please don’t talk about a female candidate in such an unpleasant way! That said, has any male candidate ever been criticized for being too angry or for having the wrong attitude?Candidate Howard Dean, come on down! Back in 2004, Howard Dean was the angry candidate—and in a Warren-like manner, he kept saying that he represented “the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party.”Rightly or wrongly, Candidate Dean was widely assailed for his attitude and for his anger. Here, for example, was Tim Jones, in the Chicago Tribune. Anger-based headline included:JONES (2/18/04): Howard Dean: Tapping into party’s angerHoward Dean is seldom more than a few finger wags short of a scold.Repeal the tax cut, we can’t afford it, he argues. Bash China for American job losses if you will, he says, but admit your own complicity. Get angry about health- care costs, but cut down on the fast-food meals and start exercising.”We go to Wal-Mart and buy all that stuff that’s made in China, and then we wonder why our jobs are going someplace else. Think about that,” Dean tells supporters in Iowa recently. Then he later adds: ” . . . You can’t expect to be well and eat 27 gallons of french fries.”Such an odd way to run for president, shunning the cherished campaign tradition that Americans are blameless and embracing the medicinal logic—and the political illogic—that some popular things simply aren’t good for you.That’s part of the unorthodox campaign liturgy of Howard Dean, M.D., the former Democratic governor of Vermont, the self-styled populist Rottweiler.Candidate Dean was a male candidate, and he was assailed for his anger. Jones didn’t seem to like the anger, or the certitude, much at all:JONES: The fist-waving, finger-jabbing certitude of Howard Brush Dean II—opposing the war in Iraq, urging repeal of the federal tax cut, taking on a then-very popular President Bush—is the signature trait of a man who has tapped into Democratic voter anger and shocked his competition with early success. He is leading his rivals in polls and fundraising, and last week turned down public financing, enabling him to raise and spend as much as he can.Dean is on a mission to “take back America.” Just ask him. Or just wait a few moments and he’ll tell you.[..]Emerging from the scenic obscurity of Vermont to win the hearts and dollars of Democrats who like their politics served hot, with a couple of sides of outrage, Dean runs on high-octane anger. He rails against “Ken Lay and the boys” at Enron, the “petulance” of Bush, the fossilized Washington retainers and Democrats who are afraid to stand up and be Democrats.”Give him credit. He really understood that the real Democrats are pissed off at Bush,” said Frank Bryan, a University of Vermont political scientist who has known Dean for 20 years.This is the picture of Candidate Warren fifteen years later. But just as a matter of simple fact, Dean was widely assailed for his anger and his attitude, even though he was a male! Eventually, he was said to have shouted too loud at an Iowa rally. Famously, the mainstream press corps landed on him like a ton of bricks.In our view, Candidate Biden is a terrible candidate; Candidate Warren is too. They’re terrible in different ways, but they’re terrible candidates both.Also terrible is the gossipy way the New York Times covers politics. We won’t even attempt to discuss this report about the ways other candidates don’t like Candidate Buttigieg, the latest offering from the Times’ trademarked “mean girls (and mean boys)” school of pseudo-reporting.The “whiff of sexism” monologues concern a serious topic. As usual, the Times is sidling up to it in the dumbest possible way.They found a 21-year-old voter who didn’t remember the way the allegedly angry male candidate got hammered for his perceived anger when she was only 6. Her complaint let Times reporters run with their preferred “story.” Eventually, you pretty much knew that they would succumb to this:GLUECK AND KAPLAN: Mr. Biden’s attacks, in effect if not intent, include descriptions that some voters and researchers on women and politics see as sexist tropes about female politicians: portraying them as overbearing, schoolmarmish or different from the norm.Biden’s “attacks” have that effect if not that intent! Meanwhile, did Biden call Warren a schoolmarm?Actually no, that was the Times, employing the power of paraphrase—the power to put words the target didn’t say into the target’s mouth. This practice gives a report more color, and it sticks in the reader’s head.In upper-end press corps circles, it’s suddenly cool to pretend to care about this topic. The Times is going to dumb the topic down in the laziest possible way.

  • Giuliani Was Close to a Podcast Deal With the News Outlet That Spread His Ukraine Conspiracies
    by by Mike Spies, Jake Pearson and J. David McSwane on November 12, 2019 at 18:16

    by Mike Spies, Jake Pearson and J. David McSwane ProPublica is a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power. Sign up for ProPublica’s Big Story newsletter to receive stories like this one in your inbox as soon as they are published. After John Solomon ran columns in The Hill that touched off a disinformation campaign against Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, the publication had discussions with Rudy Giuliani about a business venture. As ProPublica revealed last month, Giuliani associate Lev Parnas had helped arrange an interview Solomon conducted with a Ukrainian prosecutor who claimed the Obama administration interfered with anti-corruption cases involving high-profile people, including Biden’s son Hunter. Giuliani, President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, trumpeted Solomon’s work on cable news. The Hill articles are now a central component of the Trump impeachment investigation. Less than four months after Solomon’s reporting, Giuliani and The Hill actively pursued a deal to create a podcast together, with Solomon acting as an intermediary, according to emails obtained by ProPublica. The project, which never came to fruition for unclear reasons, featured the former New York City mayor interviewing various public figures. The emails include recordings of lengthy chats with the commissioner of Major League Baseball, Rob Manfred, and a retired Marine Corps general named James T. Conway. Get Our Top Investigations Subscribe to the Big Story newsletter. Don’t miss out on ProPublica’s next investigation. Sign up and get the Big Story email whenever we break news. This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply. The Conway interview largely concerned MEK, the dissident Iranian group that the United States had designated a terrorist group until 2012. MEK has paid Giuliani at least $20,000 for appearances and lobbying on its behalf. Conway declined to comment on the interview. Giuliani told ProPublica that the podcast grew out of discussions with The Hill’s owner, Jimmy Finkelstein, a Republican and longtime friend who served as a fundraiser for Giuliani’s failed 2008 presidential run. “I was talking to Jimmy about a podcast that didn’t happen,” Giuliani said in an email, adding that “John Solomon was just trying to help Jimmy get it done.” Solomon repeatedly declined to comment, saying, “I refer you to The Hill for any matters involving Hill business.” He said he had no formal business relationship with Giuliani. “He has never had anything to do with my personal or private business, at all. He does not now, nor will he ever,” Solomon said. The Hill, confirming the Giuliani discussions, said it was planning to create a “podcast network with a multitude of political voices from all sides.” Giuliani said he was “never paid” for his podcast work. “I continue to believe that your interest in this is not legitimate,” he said in emails to ProPublica. “Don’t ever try to give me bull I’ve been around too long. This is a hit job on a perfectly legitimate situation.” Giuliani himself seems to have had a wry attitude about his close relationship with Solomon. In late June, a month before Trump urged Ukraine’s leader to investigate his top political rival, the president’s personal attorney went to a London cigar shop with Parnas and his partner Igor Fruman. Giuliani later emailed a photo of the moment to Solomon, with a subject line that began: “Smoked Filled Room.” Rudy Giuliani at the James J. Fox cigar bar in London, with Lev Parnas, left, Igor Fruman, speaking on the phone, and a third associate. (Obtained by ProPublica) Federal prosecutors in Manhattan indicted Parnas and Fruman last month on allegations that they illegally funneled money into U.S. political campaigns. Giuliani is under investigation by the same office, according to multiple reports. Details on Solomon’s role in the genesis of the campaign against Biden continue to emerge from the Democrats’ effort to impeach the president. This month, the House committees carrying out the impeachment inquiry released text messages from September between Kurt Volker, Trump’s former special envoy to Ukraine, and Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union. Volker informs Sondland that Giuliani will “talk w Solomon” and that the president’s attorney had “urged” him to do the same. Solomon told ProPublica last month that his reporting was accurate and defended his sourcing, saying, “No one knew there was anything wrong with Lev Parnas at the time.” Internal records show The Hill’s higher-ups were concerned about Solomon’s mixing of journalism and business. At one point in 2017, the then-publisher warned in an internal memo that Solomon was engaged in “reputation killing stuff.” Giuliani sent a second photo of himself seated in Winston Churchill’s chair at the Fox cigar bar to John Solomon. (Obtained by ProPublica) The memo alleged that Solomon brokered a branded content deal while influencing news coverage that benefited the group that paid for the content. Solomon deferred comment about those deals to the Hill. When asked if he was compensated for arranging those deals, he repeatedly declined to answer. While Solomon has left The Hill, he continues to publish stories about Ukraine and the Bidens on his personal blog. He is also a Fox News contributor. Giuliani, in turn, continues to use his work to advance the counternarrative that it was the former vice president, not Trump, who is mired in a scandal involving a foreign power. On Nov. 5, for instance, Solomon published a story on his personal website that featured State Department emails that he said were evidence that the Ukrainian gas company on whose board Hunter Biden sat used its affiliation with the vice president’s son to leverage a meeting with a top State Department official to improve the firm’s image. The next day, Giuliani posted an image on Twitter of one of the emails from Solomon’s story. “Total smoking gun!” the president’s lawyer proclaimed. Correction, Nov. 12, 2019: This story originally misstated Joe Biden’s status in the 2020 presidential race. He is a Democratic candidate, not the Democratic nominee.

  • FLINT AND FICTITION: New York Times to Flint: Drop dead!
    by <b>bob somerby</b> on November 12, 2019 at 14:33

    TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 12, 2019Paper discards city’s children: You’re right! It’s pointless to criticize the New York Times for this kind of “reporting.”Fish gotta swim and birds gotta fly—and the life-forms at the New York Times are hard-wired to produce this kind of “reporting.” According to future experts with whom we consult, this kind of reporting will continue through the first few days of the global conflagration they refer to as Mister Trump’s War.We refer to the pseudo-report which sat top the Times front page last Thursday morning. The hysteria was general within that report. In print editions, its four-column headline said this:A Legacy of Poisoned Water: ‘Damaged Kids’ Fill Flint’s SchoolsFlint, of course, is the city in Michigan which experienced a widely-publicized major water problem starting in 2015. That headline seemed to describe the outcome of this breakdown—and it seemed to describe a major disaster.Do “damaged kids” now fill Flint’s schools? And why do those two key words appear inside quotations marks?We’ll answer your second question below. For now, let’s describe the large photograph which ran across four columns at the top of the Times’ front page, right above that four-column headline.Readers, prepare for a good horror story! The kind of story we very much love, especially at this time of year!The photograph atop the front page showed an adult woman standing arm in arm with a boy who seemed to be ten years old. The caption ran across four columns. The photo’s caption said this:Nakiya Wakes’s son, Jaylon, has had 30 suspensions. “Soon, you’re going to have to suspend the whole school system,” she said. They’re going to have to suspend the whole school system! Whatever has happened inside Flint’s schools, it sounds like it was extremely dramatic—extremely dramatic, amazingly so, and very, very bad.The front-page report, by Erica Green, started, as all such reports apparently must, with an anecdotal account of one particular problem. Quoting a fuller statement by Wakes, Green described the problems Wakes’s son has faced in school in the past few years. That said, one struggling child isn’t a whole school system! Meanwhile, Green’s lengthy report would do very little to let readers know what’s actually happening across the sweep of the Flint public schools.Green’s report is wonderfully scary, but as an attempt at analysis, it’s spectacularly incompetent. That said, the report was based on a second wonderfully scary quotation—a scary quotation which was sampled in the headline we’ve already posted.The quotation appeared in paragraph 6 of Green’s lengthy report. It’s very, very, very hard to produce “journalism” which is worse than this: GREEN (11/7/19): “We have a school district where all that’s left are damaged kids who are being exposed to other damaged kids, and it’s causing more damage,” said Stephanie Pascal, who has taught in Flint for 23 years. Yes, that’s what we read that morning in our hard-copy New York Times. We read an astounding quotation from a veteran teacher in the Flint public schools—and this is what she said: We have a school district where all that’s left are damaged kids who are being exposed to other damaged kids!What a remarkable thing to say! But also, for present purposes, what a heinous statement to put into print!The veteran teacher the Times chose to quote may be the world’s finest person. That said, the Times committed a heinous act when it put that statement in print.Surely, everybody understands what will happen because of the Times’ exciting decision. That sweeping, irresponsible statement will be repeated again and again, on every playground in Flint.It will be repeated in every home. It will be repeated until every child in the city of Flint had heard that he or she is damaged goods—damaged goods who’s just producing more damage.Every 10-year-old child is going to hear that. So is every parent.To the extent that the statement can even be parsed, there is nothing in Green’s report which suggests, in any way, that this sweeping statement is actually accurate. But every child who lives in Flint is going to hear it.Who knows? Perhaps that teacher was having a very bad day when she delivered that deeply destructive statement. Perhaps she doesn’t understand the extent of the harm such sweeping statements can cause when they’re quoted by a nation’s most famous newspaper and sent out into the ether.That said, what can you say for the New York Times—for the paper which decided to publish that statement? For the paper which decided to insert that statement into a four-column front-page headline, atop a report which should have been written in crayon, given the level of analytical skill it put on display?Are Flint’s schools filled with “damaged kids?” Transitioning away from the type of language more suitable to tales of goblins and ghosts, how much harm may have been caused by the extensive water problem which took place in Flint?How much damage took place among the city’s children? You can search all through the Times report to find a serious attempt to answer that question. You see, that would require competent analysis, and at the Times they have a saying:Work like that is hard!How much actual harm may have been done to the children of Flint? In the next few days, we’ll try to offer a few of the basic facts which might help a serious person try to answer that question.We’ll be citing past work by Kevin Drum, starting with this cover report in Mother Jones about the effects of exposure to lead. That report appeared in January 2013, long before the problem in Flint got started. But at his blog for Mother Jones, Drum has offered many posts about the problems in Flint. We’ll link to some of those posts too.To what extent have Flint’s kids been harmed? Given the way our upper-end press corps tends to function, the information published by Drum might come as a bit of a surprise. But at the eternally hapless times, an unnamed editor knew what to do. He or she gave us the kind of scary story we very much seem to enjoy, especially at this time of the year.The Times used a couple of scary quotes to move the excitement along. In the process, Times readers received the greatest gift—we were gifted with the ability to feel that we actually care. In the process, we were deceived, as is the lot of this newspaper’s readers. On the brighter side, we were almost able to feel that it’s still 1619! At the present unsettled time, this is a great tribal joy.Meanwhile, a statement is being widely repeated by the children of Flint. We’re damaged goods, those children are saying.Times to Flint children: Drop dead!Tomorrow: Just amazingly dumb, as anybody can see

  • Sanctions Against North Korea Hurt Women
    by Marie O’Reilly on November 12, 2019 at 11:50

    “Maximum pressure” sanctions have failed to change policies in Pyongyang, and have had grave human costs.

  • Can Google’s Soul Be Saved?
    by Michelle Chen on November 12, 2019 at 10:40

    Rank-and-file Silicon Valley tech workers are using their leverage to push companies toward more ethical business models, or at least away from destroying the environment and undermining human rights.

  • The Way America Votes Is Broken. In One Rural County, a Nonprofit Showed a Way Forward.
    by by Jessica Huseman on November 12, 2019 at 10:00

    by Jessica Huseman ProPublica is a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power. Sign up for ProPublica’s Big Story newsletter to receive stories like this one in your inbox as soon as they are published. ACKERMAN, Miss. — Choctaw County’s election centers opened at 7 a.m. last Tuesday, and voters were greeted by poll workers who’d just set up brand-new voting machines. “If you need any help, just holler,” poll worker Albert Friddle told a voter as he walked her through the new system. She didn’t holler. Using a machine the size of a briefcase, she selected her choices, printed and double-checked her ballot, and dropped it into a secured blue box provided by the county. Indeed, the day went without anyone hollering. Get Our Top Investigations Subscribe to the Big Story newsletter. Don’t miss out on ProPublica’s next investigation. Sign up and get the Big Story email whenever we break news. This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply. “Everything went just fine,” said Amy Burdine, Choctaw County circuit clerk. “Just as expected.” The scene in Mississippi, if modest in its particulars, was seen by some as a telling moment at a time of great anxiety about the accuracy and security of the nation’s voting systems. Mississippi is one of only a few states in the country to allow the use of voting machines that have not been certified by federal authorities, and the state has no certification process of its own. As a result, the machines at work for the first time in Choctaw County last week were built by VotingWorks — a small nonprofit organization founded by Ben Adida and Matt Pasternack. Adida and Pasternack selected the state both for its regulatory environment and because many counties in the state continue to use paperless voting systems, allowing the company, Adida said, to “very quickly improve the security of voting in Mississippi by reintroducing paper.” The machines, VotingWorks said, were inexpensive to make, easy to fix and no problem to set up and take down. The hope, the organization said, was to produce shorter lines and more reliable results, a wish that seemed realized on Nov. 5. “To be on the ground floor of something like this as one of the poorest counties in the state, that’s pretty exciting,” said Wayne McLeod, an election commissioner in Choctaw County. For VotingWorks and the election officials in Mississippi, the fact that the machines had not been federally certified was a plus, not a risk. Set up nearly two decades ago to try and improve the reliability of voting systems, the federal certification process is today seen by many as an impediment to the kind of technological progress urgently needed in the field. The process — overseen by the federal Election Assistance Commission — is both lengthy and costly. And the long track record over the years of election scandals and controversies makes clear it hasn’t been all that effective. “Certification can be a double-edged sword,” said David Becker, the executive director of the Center for Election Innovation & Research. “On the one hand, we want and need minimum standards for access and integrity in our voting machines. But on the other hand, certification can be a significant barrier to innovation.” Experts and election officials across the country have argued that the certification process has helped the small handful of major voting systems companies to dominate without a great incentive to invest in more effective and trustworthy technology. Last Tuesday, machines made by ES&S, the nation’s largest voting machine company, were at the center of yet another controversy. Read More The Market for Voting Machines Is Broken. This Company Has Thrived in It. Half the country votes on machines made by ES&S. Many experts and election officials say the manufacturer remains dominant because there’s little government regulation and almost no oversight. In Northampton County, Pennsylvania, voters suffered through long lines only to learn that the voting results were severely inaccurate, forcing a count of paper ballots. “I’m shaking here. I have no idea if these numbers are right,” Lee Snover, head of the Northampton County Republican Party, told local media last week. The county executive described the situation as a “three-alarm, raging fire.” The ES&S machines deployed in Northampton County went through more than two years of development and testing before the episode on Election Day. ES&S did not respond to requests for comment or written questions on how it plans to proceed in Northampton. Northampton County Executive Lamont McClure said that it may be several weeks before the cause of the problem is determined. “It wasn’t great,” he said. “We must fix it.” In an interview last month, Ben Hovland — vice chairman of the federal voting assistance agency — recognized that the certification process was often too slow to spark innovation. The standards are currently being updated (a process that has dragged on since 2015), which he says is allowing the agency to rethink a variety of issues. “I think it’s a great time to really step back and look at the process as a whole and see if there are ways that we can make it better make it more efficient,” he said. Adida and Pasternack, the VotingWorks officials, said its machines were first tested in Mississippi in a single precinct in Choctaw County during the state’s primaries, monitoring for problems and features that confused voters and poll workers. After the initial trial and a second user test at a retirees potluck lunch, the county election commissioners enthusiastically allowed the company to test the machines countywide during the general election on Tuesday. “When the other commissioners saw these machines, they said, ‘We want these in November,’” said McLeod, the Choctaw County election commissioner. VotingWorks machines are housed in a black case, light and easily carried by poll workers, many of whom can be older. The case contains a simple touch-screen tablet that can be purchased off the shelf and that has custom software installed on it. Voters are given a card by a poll worker that has a chip in it loaded with the appropriate ballot, and they install it in a card reader so that their ballot pops up on the touch-screen device. When they finish, they take the card to a separate station and print the ballot. The printing station erases the data on the card, and the voter reviews the ballot for accuracy before inserting it into a thick blue cloth ballot box that can be sealed. Unlike most voting machines, they did not come with a stand and are meant to be propped up on tables. At polling places in Choctaw County — mostly volunteer fire stations — the machines were sitting on top of folding tables. In others, they were on desks. The machines took poll workers less than two minutes to fully construct, shortening lines and keeping voters calm. Poll workers uniformly said they loved this feature, as it made the machines easier to maneuver and take down. Adida said the company hasn’t ignored existing standards. “We’ve looked at the aspects of certification that we think are meaningful,” he said. “The certification process would not have helped us with building something that works for poll workers,” said Adida, who said VotingWorks set out to build a product that poll workers with little training could manage securely and set up easily. Adida and Pasternack recognize that there is justified trepidation around proceeding with machines that haven’t been formally certified, but they said that they are confident that their process will result in a more secure, affordable and user-friendly machine. “I’ve never seen any technology product built that’s great for users if the users don’t get to touch it for the first two years of development,” Pasternack said.

  • “They Want to Be Treated Like Men and Women, Not as a Subhuman”
    by by ProPublica on November 11, 2019 at 20:26

    by ProPublica As a community organizer with the criminal justice advocacy organization Silicon Valley De-Bug, Jose Valle helps incarcerated people and their families navigate the justice system. This includes both people in county jails, designed to briefly hold inmates awaiting trial or serving short terms, and in prisons that house people convicted of felonies and sentenced to years behind bars. In recent years, Valle has been hearing a surprising refrain from people being held in California’s Santa Clara County jails. “All the time we hear these guys telling us, ‘I can’t wait to go to prison,’” he said at a recent event held by ProPublica, The Sacramento Bee and the Stanford Criminal Justice Center at Stanford Law School. “I don’t think that’s what realignment was about.” “Realignment” is a policy passed by California lawmakers in 2011 to address overcrowding in the state’s prisons, under which people newly convicted of nonviolent, non-serious offenses are ordered to serve their sentences in county jails instead of state prisons. A ProPublica and McClatchy investigation found that while the prison population has declined, jails have often failed to keep inmates safe. Outdated facilities are ill-equipped to accommodate people serving long sentences, do not have enough staff and lack mental health resources. The problems are compounded by virtually nonexistent oversight. As a result, since 2011, homicides among incarcerated individuals have risen 46% in California’s county jails compared to the seven years before realignment, the ProPublica and Sacramento Bee analysis found. “Now you have individuals that are asking for more — and not because they’re spoiled or they want luxuries,” Valle said. “They’re asking for more basic human rights behind walls that are, believe it or not, sometimes a little better [in prison]. … They want to be treated like men and women, not as a subhuman.” Valle joined San Francisco Sheriff Vicki Hennessy and Sacramento Bee reporter Jason Pohl on a panel last week moderated by Stanford Criminal Justice Center executive director Deborah Mukamal. In an introductory summary, ProPublica reporter Ryan Gabrielson explained that problems with California county jails include decrepit facilities that make it very difficult to monitor what’s going on inside cells, homicides carried out without any systems in place to impede them, people at risk for suicide being held in “safety cells” that consist of four walls and a grate in the floor for bodily fluids, and no mental health care. While California officials created an agency to oversee the jails and revise standards, it has no authority to mandate changes or improve conditions. If the body, called the Board of State and Community Corrections, finds violations at a county jail, the county gets to decide whether to address the issues. “It almost reads more like an invitation than a mandate,” Pohl said. “And that’s coming from the oversight board, which we thought was pretty surprising.” San Francisco’s county jails, overseen by Hennessy, are not plagued by the same problems as many other jails. Her reforms include pretrial release for people who are accused but not yet convicted to stabilize the jail population, as well as working closely with the Department of Public Health to maintain the community’s standards of both physical and mental health. “The other thing is, in San Francisco, our people are in there mingling with people in jail,” Hennessy said. “They’re not up above in a capsule, so there’s a lot of contact.” While Hennessy declined to speak for other sheriffs, she said she would welcome a BSCC that had more authority, if lawmakers decided to pursue stronger state oversight. “I’d rather have a state organization do it in a way that’s thoughtful, that holds us to accountable standards, and then gives us the opportunity to correct those standards if we need to.” (While we invited several state lawmakers to join the discussion, they all declined.) “We come from this old thinking where, because you did something wrong, you’ve got to pay for it and have the worst experience possible,” Valle said. “And, somehow, because you have the worst experience possible, you’re going to have an epiphany and change. That might happen for some people, but the numbers obviously don’t add up to that.” Valle, however, sees an opportunity for change. “This is a great time period to say: ‘You know what, maybe we shouldn’t put people in the hole. Maybe we can look at incarceration differently. Maybe there’s a different way.’” Watch the Full Discussion

  • Healing the Desert Wounds that Trump’s Wall Is Opening
    by Gary Paul Nabhan on November 11, 2019 at 16:52

    On the thirtieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, here in the U.S. we gather to mourn the construction of a new border wall, and all the human and animal rights it threatens.

  • Candidate’s mouth washed out with soap!
    by <b>bob somerby</b> on November 11, 2019 at 15:41

    MONDAY, NOVEMBER 11, 2019Paraphrase conquers again: We’re treating today as a holiday, in part because it is.Tomorrow, we’ll consider this New York Times campaign report. One of our takeaways goes like this:Paraphrase conquers again!

  • STARTING TOMORROW: Flint and fictition!
    by <b>bob somerby</b> on November 11, 2019 at 15:33

    MONDAY, NOVEMBER 11, 2019All the world’s a novel: “All the world’s a stage,” William Shakespeare famously said, “And all the men and women merely players.”At the 2003 Oscars, Michael Moore went the bard one better. “We live in fictitious times,” the documentary filmmaker said.Moore was accepting the “best documentary” prize for his 2002 film, Bowling for Columbine. It was generally believed that he was referring to the presidency of George W. Bush. This interpretation was based on his fuller remarks:MOORE (3/23/03): I’ve invited my fellow documentary nominees on the stage with us. They are here because they are in solidarity with me because we like nonfiction. We like nonfiction, and we live in fictitious times. We live in the time where we have fictitious election results that elects a fictitious president. We live in a time where we have a man sending us to war for fictitious reasons. Whether it’s the fictition of duct tape or the fictitious [sic] of orange alerts, we are against this war, Mr. Bush!Moore continued briefly from there.We’ve been told that Shakespeare has recently amended his famous remarks. We’ve heard it said that he’s recently been saying this:All our journalism’s a novel. And all the men and women who form it are merely typists of same.If Shakespeare has been saying that, he’s guilty of mild overstatement. But it isn’t hard to see where he may be getting these new ideas.As we’ve noted in recent weeks, press coverage of the “Stanford rape case” has been heavily novelized. Basic facts and basic logic have been rearranged and sanded down to produce a simplified version of events—to produce a simplified story which comes fairly close to the status of fable, or even fairy tale.That said, our journalism has worked this way for a very long time now. Or do you really believe that Candidate Gore “had a problem with the truth” in 1999 and 2000—a problem which emerged in all the weird statements journalists put in the candidate’s mouth?Is Shakespeare’s reported rethinking on target? Is it true that the people we think of as journalists are mainly involved in constructing novelized versions of our most important affairs?Starting tomorrow, we’ll apply this revolutionary theory to this front-page report from last Thursday’s New York Times. The report took us back to the water crisis which occurred in Flint, Michigan starting in 2014.We thought the Times showed very poor judgment with that front-page report—and a major disinterest in facts. Meanwhile, Michael Moore grew up in Flint! Is all the world a novel?We live in fictitious times, Moore said. Does that hold true, even now, as the Times says we’ll always have Flint?

  • #ThisIsACoup
    on November 11, 2019 at 12:52

    Evo Morales didn’t resign as the president of Bolivia. No one resigns with a gun to their head.

  • Democrats think the darnedest things!
    by <b>bob somerby</b> on November 9, 2019 at 16:44

    SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 9, 2019Four items from that Times survey: What the heck do Trump voters think? When the occasional journalist decides to ask, we liberals tend to get mad. We tend to tell these journalists to stop.As part of a recent survey in the six states Trump won by the narrowest margins, the New York Times took a different approach. The Times asked Democratic voters in those states to state their view about several topics. We thought the answers those Dem voters gave were very much worth considering.In this report from yesterday’s Times, Nate Cohn reports what those Democratic voters said they think about a series of topics. He also reported the views of registered voters who lean Democratic but didn’t vote in 2016. By staying home in 2016, these Dem-leaners helped Trump win.What do Democratic voters in those swing states think? We’ll consider four different topics:So-called political correctness: In what struck us as a startling rate of response, 61 percent of Democratic voters said they agree with this statement: “Political correctness has gone too far.”Additionally, 68 percent of Democratic leaners who didn’t vote stated the same view.What do these people have in mind when they state this view? We can’t answer that question. But claims about “political correctness” largely originated, decades ago, as a fusillade from the right. When 61 percent of Democrats who voted for Clinton express that view about “political correctness,” we can only imagine how many votes may have been lost among others who hold such views.Media condescension: According to Cohn, 28 percent of Democratic voters said they think “the media looks down on people like them.” A walloping 39 percent of Dem-leaners who didn’t vote stated the same view.We don’t know what these people would say if they were asked to explain this view. For ourselves, we wouldn’t be inclined to respond to such a broad question.Racial discrimination: Citizens, get ready to howl! According to Cohn, 24 percent of Democrats who voted for Clinton in these states believe that “discrimination against whites has become as big a problem as discrimination against blacks.” 33 percent of Dem-leaning non-voters stated the same view.We don’t know what these people would say if asked to explain this view. But over here in our liberal tribe, we like to associate this view with the snarling racists widely found in the other tribe. For whatever reason, a large contingent of people who voted for Clinton say that they hold the same view.Likable hopefuls: The fourth question is one of those survey questions which seem to have been designed to separate us by tribe. On its face, the question is worded in such a convoluted way that you’d think it would mainly serve to separate thoughtful people like Us from horrible people like Them.In this case, that didn’t quite happen. According to Cohn, 25 percent of Democrats who voted for Clinton said they agree with this statement: “Sometimes, it feels like most women who run for President just aren’t that likable.” 37 percent of Democratic non-voters agreed.The statement these people were asked to assess includes a remarkable string of qualifiers. In theory, though, well-trained people will know that they shouldn’t agree with the statement. The Others would blunder ahead.In this case, one-fourth of Democrats who voted for Clinton said they agreed with the statement. Cohn doesn’t tell us how many Republican voters agreed with the statement, and no one was asked to respond to a similar question about candidates who are men.So how about it? What do we the Democrats think? In our view, the size of the response about “political correctness” is extremely striking. But all these matters should be examined further, unless our progressive thought leaders just don’t care what our “Joe and Jane Lunchbuckets” think.By the way, how many black and female Democrats agreed with the statements about discrimination and likability? It’s our impression that pollsters generally don’t publish such data.We Democrats think the darnedest things. But so do we people in general!Concerning some basic confusion: As we read Cohn’s report, we found its basic lack of clarity maddening. We’re especially thinking of the way he jumbled two separate questions together:How would Candidate Clinton have fared with a larger Democratic turnout? Versus, How would Candidate Clinton have fared with a larger overall turnout?Many people have said that Clinton failed to inspire a large turnout among Democratic constituencies. It seemed to us that Cohn created a lot of confusion when he seemed to run those two questions together.We struggled to make out what he was saying. Valuable minutes ticked away as we tried to figure things out!

  • Timothy Egan speaks to Trump voter!
    by <b>bob somerby</b> on November 8, 2019 at 21:40

    FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 8, 2019In this case, it’s his sister: Why do various people vote for Donald J. Trump? Since 63 million people did, we’ll assume there are different reasons.The New York Times’ Timothy Egan has spoken to one such voter—his sister. His account of his sister’s outlook is almost surely worth thinking about. It may even align, to some minor extent, with our own report from this morning.That said, will our admittedly superior tribe ever get over itself and its greatness? Major top credentialed experts—and yes, they’re speaking to us from the future—inform us that the chances of that aren’t necessarily good.Addendum: An important point from Egan’s column:”It’s worth remembering that nearly two-thirds of all American adults do not have a four-year college degree.”Does that make these people “less?” Compare and contrast. Continue to carry the one.

  • DEATH BY NOVEL: These are a few of our favorite texts!
    by <b>bob somerby</b> on November 8, 2019 at 17:20

    FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 8, 2019The worst we’ve ever seen: What do Joe and Jane Lunchbucket think? You know? The “average” people?Once in a while, the nation’s elites stop to ponder such questions. And sure enough! In this morning’s New York Times, an intriguing new fact has appeared.This intriguing fact appears in a somewhat confusing report by Nate Cohn. His report emerges from the Times’ recent survey of voters in seven swing states. We’ll plan to discuss Cohn’s fuller effort tomorrow. For today, we’ll restrict ourselves to this one finding:Among Democratic voters surveyed in those six of those states, 61 percent said they believe that “political correctness has gone too far.”Remember—those people are Democrats, and they’re people who voted. Even so, 61 percent agreed with the statement in question. Beyond that, 68 percent of nonvoters who lean Democratic stated the same view.What do these Biff Lunchpail types mean when they state such a view? We can’t necessarily answer your question. If would be interesting to see a selection of these run-of-the-mill people asked.Having said that, full disclosure! For ourselves, we wouldn’t have answered that question. We would have taken a pass.Dating back at least two decades, we’ve never engaged with the language of “political correctness.” We’ve always regarded that term as essentially propagandistic—as a term destined, or perhaps designed, to shed much more heat than light.We wouldn’t have affirmed that statement ourselves. But a wide swath of “Jill Average” types do—and they’re allowed to vote!What do Sluggo and Daisy Mae think they mean by that statement? We’ll now take a wild guess. Some may be thinking of cases like the so-called “Stanford rape case,” in which, in terms of California law, no rape ever occurred. (We can of course be thankful for that.)More precisely, some may be thinking of the way this case, and others like it, have been described in the upper-end press and have been handled on college campuses. This brings us back to Chanel Miller’s well-received new book, about which we’ll make a confession:Let’s be candid! A unanimous jury found that Miller was the victim of a sexual assault. As we’ve noted, their verdict seemed to work on a rather slender thread of logic. But no one wants to heap abuse on a young person whose case has been so adjudged, and who seems to have had a very tough time recovering from the experience and its aftermath.Sensible people will naturally want to cut such a person some slack. Having said that, we now make that confession:If we weren’t grading on such a curve, we’d have to say that Miller’s text is, on balance, one of the worst we’ve ever encountered.Don’t get us wrong—we love poorly-reasoned texts! We love them for the light they shed on the human condition. In Annie Hall, Alvy Singer’s books were the ones which all had “death” in the title. Our own favorite books would be the ones which, in the end, make no apparent sense.More widely, this would be true of our favorite texts. To wit:Fondly, we think of Nova’s attempt to explain Einstein’s seminal claim that “there is no absolute time.” But then, we think of Einstein’s attempt to explain the same point in his own “Einstein made easy” book, a project at which even the great Einstein failed.We think of Professor Goldstein’s attempt, a hundred years after the fact, to justify Lord Russell’s eternally comical views concerning “the set of all sets not members of themselves,” the foundation of Russell’s Paradox. This was part of Goldstein’s “Godel made easy” book, a project at which she failed. Descending to a less lofty realm, we think of Maureen Dowd’s last column before Election Day 2000, the column which opened with Candidate Gore exploring his bald spot in the mirror while singing “I Feel Pretty.”(Full disclosure: Children are dead all over Iraq because of columns like that!)We think of Chris Matthews trashing Hillary Clinton, calling her Evita Peron and Nurse Ratched, after she announced her run for the Senate from New York. We think of Matthews’ vast love for Gennifer Flowers and Kathleen Willey, so widely expressed on the TV machine. We think of the time when Matthews and Willey came this close to getting a journalist killed, thanks to a flatly false statement which brought a disordered person with a gun to the journalist’s home.We think of Matthews’ crazy faux attempts to explain the Buddhist temple, a clear forerunner of three thousand such episodes from President Donald J. Trump. We think of the appalling columns in which Dowd slimed Howard Dean’s physician wife, who wasn’t sufficiently coiffed.We think of Amy Chozick’s lengthy pseudo-discussion of the possibility that Candidate Obama was too skinny to get elected president. We think of Rachel Maddow’s heroic attempt to pretend she didn’t know why she’d been challenged on Meet the Press concerning the gender wage gap.So many favorite texts, so little time! So many deaths around the world because of the ways our journalists, being human, tend to play such games!In the end, we include every “Einstein made easy” book ever attempted, from Einstein’s own through the later attempts by Stephen Hawking and Brian Greene. And today, we add Chanel Miller’s book to the list of those favorite texts.It’s natural to cut Miller some slack as an adjudicated victim of a sexual assault. In the end, though, her book is so god-awful bad judged as a text that attention must be paid, lest the truth be dismissed.At the New York Times and at The New Yorker, reporters and editors will ignore the comically awful elements found on so many pages of Miller’s lengthy book. In an ultimate bit of amusement, they’ll even do what The New Yorker did in this passage:ST. FELIX (10/11/19): In 2015, Miller was a recent college graduate, working at a startup and living at home with her parents in the Bay Area. We meet her artful mother, a writer who wins awards for works that she publishes in China; her younger sister, Tiffany, who Miller feels a bracing need to protect; her gentle father, who cooks a meal of broccoli and quinoa for Tiffany, Miller, and Tiffany’s friend Julia, on January 17th, 2015, the night they decided to attend a party at the fraternity Kappa Alpha at Stanford. “I, to this day, believe none of what I did that evening is important, a handful of disposable memories. But these events will be relentlessly raked over, again and again and again,” Miller writes. Too funny! After meeting her artful mother, her younger sister and her caring father, we’re told that Miller believes that nothing she did that night is important.Since she can’t remember what she did that night, it’s hard to be entirely sure how she draws this conclusion. But this is the comical logic with which we’re often asked to live in this best of all possible press corps—and since The New Yorker eliminates all reference to any drinking that night at all, its readers will have no idea what type of conduct Miller is disavowing.(For herself, Miller says, again and again, that she was drunk that night. She refers to herself as having been “drunk” four different times in just her first five pages. Coming along behind her, The New Yorker cleaned that up.)What does any of this have to do with the views of the Less-Than-Ivy crowd concerning “political correctness?” Just this:As similar cases have emerged from college campuses, the occasional observer—one thinks of Emily Yoffe when she was still at Slate—has drawn one possible lesson: young people should perhaps avoid getting massively drunk in certain types of social settings.People should perhaps avoid getting blackout drunk. People should perhaps avoid getting so drunk that they end us passing out. People should perhaps avoid getting so drunk in public settings that they would register at more than three times the legal limit.As advice, this is blindingly obvious. But when people like Yoffe have breathed any such word, they have been assailed for slut-shaming and victim-blaming. Seeking the logic of fairy tale, our tiny minds tend to function this way. By the time these cases reach The New Yorker, no drinking occurred at all!The New Yorker’s account of Miller’s book is comically thus wonderfully awful in various ways. When we stop grading on the curve, Miller’s book is wonderfully awful too, viewed simply as a text.We’d list Einstein’s “Einstein made easy” book as one of our favorite failed texts. Having wrestled with it for the past four weeks, we’d put Miller’s remarkably writerly book on the shelf next to his.One sad note. The Lunchbucket crowd may not understand the lofty way we highly educated elites react to such texts, and to other such matters. Our insights tend to fly over the heads of these average types. This makes them more likely to vote for Donald J. Trump, and perhaps for his straight-talking son after that.On page after page after page after page, this young person’s book is deliciously flawed, unless we review on the curve. And in truth, our tribe is going to react on the curve to many things, again and again and again.The bulk of our crowd even seems to think that this impulse has gone too far. Even in some tiny way, could it be that they aren’t wholly wrong?

  • Why the Bronx Burned
    by Mrill Ingram on November 8, 2019 at 12:22

    In “Decade of Fire,”a South Bronx native puts an end to the narrative that blames the victims of ten years of urban conflagrations.

  • Jeff Sessions for Senate!
    by Mark Fiore on November 8, 2019 at 09:00

    This man should not be allowed to walk the streets, let alone run for Senate.

  • Pacific Gas & Electric on the Brink
    by Harvey Wasserman on November 8, 2019 at 00:00

    The campaign by local governments to break up and take over the utility could mark a turning point in the history of American energy.

  • New York Times drops bomb on Flint!
    by <b>bob somerby</b> on November 7, 2019 at 19:01

    THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 7, 2019″Nothing but damaged kids left:” We can only hope that Kevin Drum will spend some time on this New York Times front-page report.That said, has there ever been such an unfortunate muddle? Early in this massive report, are we being told that the Flint water crisis has produced a lot of new disabilities among the children of Flint? Or are we being told that it’s all pretty much an illusion?GREEN (11/7/19): Five years after Michigan switched Flint’s water supply to the contaminated Flint River from Lake Huron, the city’s lead crisis has migrated from its homes to its schools, where neurological and behavioral problems—real or feared—among students are threatening to overwhelm the education system.The contamination of this long-struggling city’s water exposed nearly 30,000 schoolchildren to a neurotoxin known to have detrimental effects on children’s developing brains and nervous systems. Requests for special education or behavioral interventions began rising four years ago, when the water contamination became public, bolstering a class-action lawsuit that demanded more resources for Flint’s children.That lawsuit forced the state to establish the $3 million Neurodevelopmental Center of Excellence, which began screening students. The screenings then confirmed a range of disabilities, which have prompted still more requests for intervention.The percentage of the city’s students who qualify for special education services has nearly doubled, to 28 percent, from 15 percent the year the lead crisis began, and the city’s screening center has received more than 1,300 referrals since December 2018. The results: About 70 percent of the students evaluated have required school accommodations for issues like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, also known as A.D.H.D.; dyslexia; or mild intellectual impairment, said Katherine Burrell, the associate director of the center.“We have a school district where all that’s left are damaged kids who are being exposed to other damaged kids, and it’s causing more damage,” said Stephanie Pascal, who has taught in Flint for 23 years.Medical experts say there is no way to prove that the lead has caused new disabilities. Pediatricians here caution against overdiagnosing children as irreparably brain damaged, if only to avoid stigmatizing an entire city. The State Department of Education, in battling the class-action lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan and the New Jersey-based Education Law Center, enlisted an expert who testified that the real public health crisis was not the lead-contaminated water but the paranoia of parents, students and teachers exposed to it.But Dr. Burrell said that proving the cause of the students’ problems was not the point. Many of the problems uncovered by the lead testing could certainly have existed before.Under any circumstance, we think that quotation about all the damaged kids is heinous. In our view, the Times should never have run it.It’s especially heinous if the alleged new disabilities aren’t actually real. So how about it? Are these alleged new disabilities “real” or are they just “feared?” Are those disabilities actually new? Or are they pre-existing disabilities being turned up by extensive new testing? Is this whole thing “paranoia?”This report goes on at massive length, but it makes little attempt to address these basic questions. “Medical experts” are quoted in that one paragraph, and that’s pretty much where it’s left.For various reasons, this report strikes us as incompetent, thoughtless work. It’s tremendously winning, though, as a modern novel.Concerning Kevin Drum: Drum has done a lot of work on the effects of lead. He has reported, again and again, that the likely effects of the water in Flint were massively overstated. Also quite striking: His work on what blood lead levels were like, all over the country, when today’s adults were kids.Unfortunately, Drum kept citing basic statistics and the like as he discussed these topics. Perhaps for that reason, his work was ignored by C-minus orgs like the New York Times.

  • DEATH BY NOVEL: We were told to take what we need!
    by <b>bob somerby</b> on November 7, 2019 at 17:59

    THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 7, 2019What we’ve been needing is fable: It’s a dangerous way to start a book. For that reason, we’ll post it again:MILLER (page vii): INTRODUCTIONThe fact that I spelled subpoena, subpeena may suggest that I am not qualified to tell this story. But all court transcripts are at the world’s disposal, all news articles online. This is not the ultimate truth, but it is mine, told to the best of my ability. If you want it through my eyes and ears, to know what it felt like inside my chest, what it’s like to hide in the bathroom during trial, this is what I provide. I give what I can, you take what you need. At the start of her well-received memoir, Chanel Miller—a talented though very young writer—laid out that dangerous plan. She was going to tell us how it felt. If we were after something more, we could look up the court transcripts and the press reports for ourselves.She was going to give what she could. We could take what we need. As it turned out, what we’ve been needing is novelized narrative, blending toward fable or fairy tale. We’ve been needing to sand away relevant facts looking for simplified stories.We’ve needed perfect heroes and heroines, along with perfect villains. For various reasons, the “Stanford rape case”—under California law, it involved no rape—became one of the most striking such cases in recent years.Stating the obvious, a vast complexity entered this case through the drunkenness which was involved. It isn’t just that our journalists don’t know what happened that night, the victim doesn’t know either!This adds complexity to the case. In service to fabulized fairy tale, that complexity has been disappeared.Alas! The victim had been blackout drunk for roughly an hour by the time the events in question occurred. She doesn’t know what she may have said and done during the course of that hour, but we liberals needed the perfect victim. And so, at upper-end sites like The New Yorker, her story is now told like this:ST. FELIX (10/11/19): Miller is a gifted storyteller who establishes her authority by stacking details, setting scenes…In 2015, Miller was a recent college graduate, working at a startup and living at home with her parents in the Bay Area. We meet her artful mother, a writer who wins awards for works that she publishes in China; her younger sister, Tiffany, who Miller feels a bracing need to protect; her gentle father, who cooks a meal of broccoli and quinoa for Tiffany, Miller, and Tiffany’s friend Julia, on January 17th, 2015, the night they decided to attend a party at the fraternity Kappa Alpha at Stanford. “I, to this day, believe none of what I did that evening is important, a handful of disposable memories. But these events will be relentlessly raked over, again and again and again,” Miller writes.In what feels like slow motion, Miller pieces together what happened to her, first at the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, where she awakes to find herself sore, the backs of her hands crusted with blood. Two Swedish grad students had found Turner on top of her by a dumpster at Kappa Alpha; he fled when they yelled at him, but they detained him until police arrived. She was found, according to intake documents, with “no wallet, no I.D.” She fills out paperwork, administrative flotsam that unceremoniously informs of her new identity: “I stopped when I saw the words Rape Victim in bold at the top of the sheet.” As noted: Under terms of California law, Miller wasn’t a rape victim. But the novel is better this way.In our view, The New Yorker’s Doreen St. Felix “is a gifted storyteller” too, of the type our tribe most enjoys. We say that for this reason:When the New York Times profiled Miller’s forthcoming book, Concepcion de Leon was at least willing to say that Miller “remembers having some drinks” at the frat party in question.In fact, Miller had had so many drinks in the course of the evening in question that she was blackout drunk by roughly midnight; completely unconscious by roughly 1 AM; and was later assessed to have been slightly more than three times the legal limit. It is these facts which make the resulting events so complex, so hard to parse as both a moral and legal matter.That said, we liberals have increasingly come to need our fables neat. And so, the New York Times sanded the drunkenness all the way down. Miller had apparently had some drinks, then had somehow become unconscious, in a way we were left to speculate about.St. Felix goes that one better. There is no alcohol at all in her account of what happened that night. Comically, she quotes Miller’s defiant definitive statement—“I, to this day, believe none of what I did that evening is important”—without explaining what it is that Miller is refusing to own! In this perfectly managed account, Miller goes to the party and turns up unconscious with “drinks” playing no role at all.(For Miller’s account of “having some drinks,” see below.) For ourselves, we’d march the former president of Stanford away before we’d jail anyone else. Such august figures get very young people massively drunk, then send them off into the night. They then proceed be express vast shock when very bad outcomes (routinely) occur.We’d march that fellow off first. But the journalism surrounding this event has displayed our liberal world’s ongoing need for (intellectual) death by novel. In fairness, we’ve never seen a text as overwhelming as Miller’s vastly well-received, perhaps solipsistic book. In the vastness of its will to power, it’s hard to nail its sprawling text down. It has certainly overwhelmed us.As a text, the book is spectacularly flawed, right from that first unwise declaration on. In telling us “how it felt,” Miller vastly obscures the basic events which occurred, along with the complex logic of these complex events.Sadly, our journalists have been willing to play along. When we do this, an unusually complicated matter ends up a fairy tale.The 19-year-old male was very drunk. The 22-year-old woman was drunker. According to the jury’s logic, he was supposed to realize that she was way too drunk. With Victorian logic upon us again, we’d send Stanford’s former president off to jail, with reeducation for journalists to follow.Tomorrow: The dawn of the modern novelRemembers having some drinks: Here’s Miller’s account of “having some drinks” at the frat party, from Know My Name’s page 4:We discovered a plastic handle of vodka on the table. I cradled it like I’d discovered water in the desert. Bless me. I poured it into a cup and threw it back straight.This followed champagne and shots of whiskey at home, preceded some later stale beer. Given all the harm which ensued, we’ll admit that we find this attitude flippant.By the time The New Yorker arrived, such matters had been disappeared.

  • Midwest Dispatch: The Other Big Winners in the 2019 Election
    by Sarah Lahm on November 7, 2019 at 11:32

    Are the many successful local school funding requests a harbinger of change in 2020?

  • The Reality of Everyday Racism
    by Kiki Monifa on November 7, 2019 at 09:00

    For many black people, the most surprising thing about racism is that anyone is surprised it.

  • What people were told on Fox last night!
    by <b>bob somerby</b> on November 6, 2019 at 18:57

    WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 6, 2019Donald Trump does the right thing: Let’s return to those opening lines from Robert Frost’s last great poem:Back out of all this now too much for us,Back in a time made simple by the lossOf detail, burned, dissolved, and broken offLike graveyard marble sculpture in the weather,There is a house that is no more a houseUpon a farm that is no more a farmAnd in a town that is no more a town.The road there, if you’ll let a guide direct youWho only has at heart your getting lost…Plainly, we’re currently living in a time which is “now too much for us”—a time which isn’t “simple” at all. Our three million local, state and federal laws are bewilderingly complex. So are our society’s three million “checks and balances.” The most basic facts—about health care spending, let’s say—are, by system-wide agreement, never reported or discussed. There are a wide array of players, foreign and domestic, in the various Trump/Rudy undertakings.Then too, we have our cable nets, which offer a wide array of contradictory accounts of the day’s leading events. Consider something we the people were told last night on Fox. The report concerned the amended testimony of Ambassador Gordon Sondland.On liberal cable, the amended testimony was treated as “explosive.” Beyond that, the amended testimony is described in this morning’s featured front-page reports in the New York Times and the Washington Post.In those precincts, the testimony was extremely significant. But people who were watching Fox received a vastly different impression at roughly 8:15 last night. Tucker Carlson was on the air. The full report went like this:CARLSON (11/5/19): Well, House Democrats released transcripts of the testimonies of two key figures in the impeachment inquiry into President Trump. Now, we’re not going to spend the next hour talking about this, because it’s not that interesting. We want to bring you up to date on what has happened. And so to do that, we’re joined tonight by Fox’s Gillian Turner. Gillian!TURNER: Hey, Tucker. So these two transcripts released by Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff today are really the first we’re seeing of, you know, what people who have firsthand direct knowledge of how President Trump has been conducting foreign policy towards Ukraine. And they’re pretty telling, Tucker.E.U. Ambassador Gordon Sondland, asked about a meeting in the Oval Office with Secretary Perry and Kurt Volker, says President Trump repeatedly directed him to talk to Rudy Giuliani, saying, “He wasn’t even specific about what he wanted us to talk to Giuliani about. He just kept saying: Talk to Rudy. Talk to Rudy.”But he also says he called President Trump back in September and asked him point blank, What do you want from Ukraine? To which President Trump answered, “I want no quid pro quo. I want Zelensky to do the right thing.”Now, another key exchange from Ukraine Envoy Kurt Volker’s testimony highlights these major policy disagreements between President Trump and the diplomatic corps over U.S. military involvement in foreign countries.Volker was asked about moves to beef up Ukraine’s military defenses against Russia while he was serving as Special Envoy. The question goes, “How do you reconcile that with the decision to freeze military assistance to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars to Ukraine? Why did that not strike you as highly problematic to U.S. national security or to our national security interest?”To which Volker answers, “It did strike me as problematic and therefore I acted immediately to argue that this has to be reversed and we have to keep the assistance going.”Tucker, the next big ticket item everybody here on Capitol Hill is now waiting for is testimony from John Bolton that’s slated for Thursday. So far, his attorney has not said he is going to be a no show, so there is a little bit of hope that he is going to appear here today.But if the track record so far this week is anything to go by, we’re getting a lot of crickets over here on Capitol Hill. That was the full report. On MSNBC, the new transcripts were explosive. But for people watching Fox, there were “a lot of crickets over here on Capitol Hill.”Sundland said Trump had done the right thing. Volker said that he himself had behaved the same way. That was the full report.It’s impossible to run a modern society when news and information are dispensed in such ways. The most remarkable fact of all may be this:As a general matter, big news orgs like the New York Times don’t report, or critique, the various things which get said at orgs like Fox. When millions of people are given reports like the one we’ve posted above, that isn’t regarded as news.Early in this century, we repeatedly said that crazy claims by Rush and Sean should be reported as news. When millions of people are misinformed in significant ways, that needs to be treated as news.According to the Atlantic’s Jezelle Lanie, Frost’s poem depicts an enormous grief about the way “humans’ carefully built structures of order and meaning must give way to the indifferent natural laws of death, erosion, and decay.”The walls of our failing society have been crashing into the sea for decades now. A modern society simply can’t function in the face of such stressors as these.

  • DEATH BY NOVEL: In truth, the text is profoundly flawed!
    by <b>bob somerby</b> on November 6, 2019 at 16:54

    WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 6, 2019Let us count (some of) the ways: We should have just said it from the start—judged by any normal standard, the text in question, however well written, is a major hot mess.For the record, the text to which we refer is the new memoir about an act which a jury unanimously found to have been a sexual assault. It’s natural to seek to give deference to the author of such a memoir—to the victim of that assault. It’s natural to do that. But in the end, this keeps us from seeing the problem with that person’s text. Much more significantly, it keeps us from marveling at the way this text has been reviewed by our upper-end news organs.What’s wrong with Chanel Miller’s text? Let’s us count a few of the major ways this text, if judged by normal standards, would qualify as a startling fail:She doesn’t know what happened: The problem starts with a basic fact—a basic fact which Miller never begins to acknowledge: Because she was, by her own account, “blackout drunk” on the evening in question, Miller doesn’t actually know what happened on that unfortunate night.Brock Turner says that Miller agreed to leave the frat party with him. He says they agreed to go to his dorm room, each of them very drunk. He says she consented to sexual conduct once they got outside. He says that he, being drunk himself, didn’t realize that she was too drunk to give consent.We have no way of knowing if those statements are true. But Miller, who was blackout drunk, also doesn’t know what she said and did, and she never begins to come to terms with this basic fact. Using her obvious talent as a writer, she constantly advances the impression that she didn’t do and say the things described by Turner. In fact, she doesn’t know if his statements are false. She simply keeps suggesting they are, often in ways which are remarkably fraught.She respects no other viewpoints: Has any author ever shown so little ability to respect the plausible viewpoints of others? Throughout the book, Miller directs fury and contempt at everyone who doesn’t instantly voice agreement with her viewpoint of the moment.She assails the (bald) male judge, whose sentence was too lenient. She assails the (female) probation officer who recommended the sentence the bald male judge imposed.(She also misparaphrases this female probation officer in an invidious manner. We know this because we took Miller’s advice and read the actual probation report, comparing it to the baldly unbalanced account offered in Miller’s book.)She assails the defense attorney when he engages in the most obvious types of courtroom behavior during Turner’s trial. She confronts us with images of her own victimization when these obvious bits of behavior occur. (Examples below.)She ridicules the academic who appears as an expert witness on blackout drunkenness. She assails the character witnesses who testify on Turner’s behalf during the sentencing hearing. She assails Turner’s family members, angrily denouncing his father when he doesn’t apologize to her on behalf of his son during this hearing.She assails the Washington Post, citing an article whose contents she flagrantly misrepresents. She assails the Stanford rep who offers her $150,000 to pay for her therapy and for the therapy of her sister (!). She gives this rep a mocking nickname, even after her family’s Stanford professor friend tells her the rep in sincere.Regarding Turner’s family and friends, she shows no sign of understanding an obvious fact—they may believe Turner’s account of what occurred that night, an account she herself is in no position to contradict.They may believe him when he says that Miller agreed to go to his room and consented to sexual activity when they got outdoors. They may believe him when he says he didn’t realize that she was impaired.We don’t know if his claims are true, but Miller doesn’t know either. But she’s never able to put herself in the place of these others, to imagine what they might understandably think and feel.Advertisements for self: Miller’s book starts with a lengthy advertisement for self. It’s presented as a chronicle of her alleged shyness, but it also positions her as the world’s most thoughtful person.These advertisements continue throughout the book. Speaking about her “baby sister,” she offers this at one point:”One time she became ill on a plane, lurching forward, and I held out my hands to catch her vomit before it could hit her lap.” Who knows—that could even be true! Other examples are offered.Starting in her Introduction, these self-descriptions sometimes take the form of noble claims that she’s only trying to help Brock—that she doesn’t want him or the judge or anyone else getting hurt. These claims are hard to reconcile with the overt hostility aimed at all comers throughout the course of the book.We could go on and on with this recitation. Miller’s flippant attitude about her own drunkenness is often striking, but she never accepts a fairly obvious supposition—except for her own massive drunkenness that night, there is no reason to think that any serious misconduct ever would have occurred.It isn’t wise to get so drunk that you first become “blackout drunk,” then lapse into unconsciouness. This is a blindingly obvious fact, but Miller is never willing to acknowledge even that.Then again, neither have the increasingly ridiculous voices of our own liberal world. As the complications of our world has increasingly become “this now too much for us,” we have increasingly turned to the realm of the novel, the fable, the fairy tale to let us “be whole again beyond confusion.”We simply discard the unwanted facts which make our experiences complex. We end up with a bald male judge who is outrageously sexist. In most cases, we disappear the two female probation officers whose recommendation he followed.This is the way our tiny minds work. It’s known as (intellectual) death by novel. It’s being practiced by our tribe and by our increasingly hapless upper-class news organs.ALSO THIS—Almost burned at the stake: Again and again and again and again, Miller is surprised by the way our legal system works. In one striking example, she writhes in pain as Turner’s defense attorney and the judge engage in what seems to be the most obvious courtroom conduct.In this sequence (see pages 165 and 166), Miller describes three incidents in which her statements on the witness stand are struck down as hearsay. The objections by the defense attorney seem completely obvious, as do the judge’s rulings. That said, Miller betrays no understanding of this fact. Instead, she paints herself, in overwrought ways, as a victim of physical violence as these rather obvious objections are sustained. In the first instance, she writes that she was “struck silent” by the judge’s ruling. After the defense attorney’s third objection, she says “the interruptions felt like being hit.” In her somewhat peculiar Introduction, Miller tells us that she will only be telling us how various incidents felt. This is her account of how it felt after the second of these rulings:MILLER (page 165): Defense: Objection. Move to strike. Hearsay.I was suddenly aware of the defense’s palm wrapped firmly across the top of my head, holding me underwater, saying, Don’t you come up again.That may be the way “it felt.” But as an account of what really occurred, that can only be called a strikingly subjective fail.It may not be surprising that an assault victim would write a book like this. But our major news orgs have cheered her on, as we’ll note tomorrow with reference to a passage from The New Yorker.Their conduct follows a decades-long pattern. Anthropologists, in the future, are calling this death by fable.

  • Don’t Cry for Me Manila: The Queen of Malacañang Palace
    by Ed Rampell on November 6, 2019 at 10:00

    In “The Kingmaker,” director Lauren Greenfield takes aim at Imelda Marcos and the family that ran one of the world’s most repressive dictatorships.

  • Why Trump Is in Worse Shape than Nixon on Impeachment
    by Jud Lounsbury on November 6, 2019 at 01:15

    It’s not really fair to Nixon to even make the comparison.

  • Leonhardt writes a peculiar column!
    by <b>bob somerby</b> on November 5, 2019 at 19:28

    TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 5, 2019Upper-end journos at work: Yesterday, David Leonhardt wrote an unusual column. For starters, the column was unusual because, at least on line, it featured a version of the data shown below. As we’ve noted again and again, that’s simply never done:Health care spending per person, 2018United States: $10,586Germany: $5986Canada: $4974France: $4965Japan: $4766United Kingdom: $4070We draw those remarkable numbers from the OECD site to which Leonhardt links. To see Leonhardt’s less relevant version of the data, involving several less relevant smaller nations, you can just click here.For the record, those data didn’t appear in the hard-copy Times at all—but then, such numbers never do. The fact that those numbers appear on line makes Leonhardt’s column very unusual.That’s one thing which made Leonhardt’s column unusual. Those crazy numbers explain why this country has so much trouble creating a viable health care system.But those numbers about our gigantic health care spending are almost never shown to us the people. For the record, Leonhardt blows past them very quickly as his column proceeds.What made Leonhardt’s column downright peculiar? In our view, it was this paragraph, near the end of his piece:LEONHARDT (11/4/19): It’s important to remember that Medicare for All almost certainly is not happening in 2021 even under a President Warren. It faces too much opposition from congressional Democrats—unlike many of her other ambitious plans, on climate, taxes, education and more.Leonhardt spends his entire column evaluating Warren’s health care proposal. He then says this:It’s “important to remember” that Warren’s proposal isn’t going to pass!Let’s be fair! Leonhardt only says that Warren’s proposal won’t pass in 2021. He goes on to suggest the possibility that the proposal could pass into law at some later date. But if Warren’s proposal won’t pass in 2021 because congressional Democrats oppose it, what are the chances, in Leonhardt’s estimation, that it ever could pass at all? We can’t have health care in this country because of that unexplained massive over-spending. Despite this fact, the data about that crazy spending almost never appear—and when they appeared yesterday, they only appeared on line, and the author quickly blew past them.Meanwhile, Leonhardt spent his entire column evaluating Warren’s proposal. Only at the end did he tell us that the proposal can’t pass.Does any of this seem to make any sense? Our journalistic elites have been working this way for the past many years.”Drink and be whole again beyond confusion.” We believe Robert Frost said that!

  • DEATH BY NOVEL: All this now too much for us…
    by <b>bob somerby</b> on November 5, 2019 at 18:38

    TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 5, 2019…directs us to dumbness by fable: We’ve never really understood Robert Frost’s Directive.Written in 1947, it’s sometimes described as Frost’s last great poem. That said, it starts as shown below. If we imagine Frost as our guide, we’ll admit that he has us lost by the time he gets to those very large knees:Back out of all this now too much for us,Back in a time made simple by the lossOf detail, burned, dissolved, and broken offLike graveyard marble sculpture in the weather,There is a house that is no more a houseUpon a farm that is no more a farmAnd in a town that is no more a town.The road there, if you’ll let a guide direct youWho only has at heart your getting lost,May seem as if it should have been a quarry–Great monolithic knees the former townLong since gave up pretense of keeping covered… Say what? How can a road “seem as if it should have been a quarry?” And where do the great monolithic knees fit in? To whom do the knees belong?From that point on, we’re lost. That said, we’ve been thinking about that opening imagery quite a bit of late:”Back out of all this now too much for us?” As a society, hasn’t “all this” clearly become “too much for us” by this point in time? Hasn’t our time become too complex to navigate due to profusion of “detail?”As the poem continues, our guide continues to direct us, apparently to a place where we can “drink and be whole again beyond confusion.” We don’t know what Frost is talking about. But it sounds like a good idea!At any rate, our social confusion has been great in recent decades. Our liberal world’s reaction to this has been to start crafting novels.More precisely, we’ve been crafting simple-minded tales about race and sex which are little more complex than fables. Fables are perfectly fine in their place, but real-life events involve real people and real facts, and our tribe is increasingly sunk in the childish practice of rearranging basic facts to generate simple-minded escapes from our growing confusion.So it has been when our dumbest upper-class news orgs have tried to react to Chanel Miller’s memoir, Know My Name. Miller’s book is a very challenging text, and we don’t mean that as a compliment. Miller herself is very young. But what is our tribe’s excuse?We’ll try to complete our discussion of this topic in the next few days. If we exit the world of childish fable, it’s hard to get one’s arm around the absurdities of that widely-praised text.The Atlantic tackles Directive: Back in 2017, Jezelle Lanie tackled Directive for The Atlantic. Lanie said she loves the poem “for its depiction of a grief so enormous and incomprehensible that it can only be understood through the story the speaker tells.”In Lanie’s view, the speaker’s story is “a story of the impossibility of wholeness and the inevitability of loss—of how humans’ carefully built structures of order and meaning must give way to the indifferent natural laws of death, erosion, and decay.” We’ve been within that regime for decades now. Especially at its upper ends, our tribe hasn’t dealt with this well.

  • How Peter Morley Turns Pain into Purpose Fighting for Health Care
    by Sari Beth Rosenberg on November 5, 2019 at 12:00

    If the Trump Administration had its way, Americans would be completely unaware that the 2020 ACA enrollment period began on Friday, November 1. Enter Peter Morley.

  • William the Conqueror and CEO pay
    by Sam Pizzigati on November 5, 2019 at 09:33

    In 2018, fifty publicly traded U.S. corporations paid their CEOs more than 1,000 times what they paid their median workers.

  • Investigations Unearth Systemic Corruption in K-12 School Leadership—and Students and Teachers Lose Out
    by Jeff Bryant on November 5, 2019 at 08:00

    Much of the blame lies with an education reform movement that has exhorted schools to operate more like businesses and mimic corporate hiring processes.

  • We’re deferring to Jonathan Chait today!
    by <b>bob somerby</b> on November 4, 2019 at 18:38

    MONDAY, NOVEMBER 4, 2019Trump Trump Trump polls polls: It’s fairly obvious that Jonathan Chait isn’t in touch with Future Anthropologists Huddled in Caves, the disconsolate group of highly credentialed scholars who report from the no-longer-numbered years which lie on the far despondent side of the global conflagration they refer to as Mister Trump’s War.We say that because Chait still seems to think that he can convince our liberal team to cease and desist from our persistent attempts to re-elect Mister Trump. Chait is reporting discouraging news in some swing-state polling. He seems to think that information will affect the ways people behave.For ourselves, we don’t know who will win next year; we aren’t completely sure that Mister Trump will even let us have an election! But just as an objective matter, our candidates seem to be historically awful in various ways and, except for his attempts to slime Candidate Biden, Town Crier Trump hasn’t even started trying to slime them yet.Anyone could win next year, of course, assuming we have an election. But Chait is offering significant news, of the type you aren’t likely to hear on crowd-pleasing corporate cable.On reliable liberal cable, they spent two years telling us that Candidate Trump couldn’t possibly win. After that, they spent two years telling us that Mueller the God was obviously going to decimate Trump. Surely, he already had the tax records! All the former prosecutors were happy to tell us that!So it went on crowd-pleasing cable. Now they’re offering us a diet which goes something like this:Trump Trump Trump Trump Trump Trump Trump impeach impeach polls polls. Regarding the polls, they make poor Kornacki take off his jacket and roll up his sleeves whenever he goes to “the big board.” They do that because, not unlike the New York Times, they seem convinced that we’re all extremely dumb and that we’re subject to influence by the silliest kinds of theater.(Just a guess. It isn’t Kornacki’s fault!)Who is going to win next year if we have an election? We can’t tell you that. But we can report two things about Chait:He isn’t in touch with future scholars. He’s reporting significant facts.

  • DEATH BY NOVEL: The wages of fable are death!
    by <b>bob somerby</b> on November 4, 2019 at 15:28

    MONDAY, NOVEMBER 4, 2019We’re quoting from an old book: Even with an extra hour this weekend, we couldn’t figure out what to do with Chanel Miller’s new book, Know My Name: A Memoir.Know My Name may be the most fascinating text of the modern political era, the era which has ended up giving us Donald J. Trump. That said, let’s set Miller’s fascinating book to the side. Much more important is the inability of upper-end journalists to see that Miller’s memoir is actually a novel—is, in fact, a bit of crazoid fairy tale.There’s nothing wrong with fairy tales and the like, of course, as long as they’re kept in their place. To cite one example, Jesus spoke in parables. He offered no charts or graphs or accumulations of statistics or facts.Aesop reasoned in fables. Basic precepts can be conveyed through such forms. That said, Miller’s book concerns an actual real-life event, not an imagined race between a hare and a tortoise. It also concerns a very important social problem, one our struggling society is struggling to address.Simply put, Miller’s memoir doesn’t show a lot of respect for the importance of that deeply important problem. Much more significantly, people within professional guilds at upper-end orgs like the New York Times seem unable to notice this giant flaw with the widely-praised book Miller has offered.What’s wrong with the volume Miller has offered? As a starting point, we’d start where Miller did—with the very first paragraph in her Introduction.Miller starts with a discourse on method. Her paragraph reads like this:MILLER (page vii): INTRODUCTIONThe fact that I spelled subpoena, subpeena may suggest that I am not qualified to tell this story. But all court transcripts are at the world’s disposal, all news articles online. This is not the ultimate truth, but it is mine, told to the best of my ability. If you want it through my eyes and ears, to know what it felt like inside my chest, what it’s like to hide in the bathroom during trial, this is what I provide. I give what I can, you take what you need.Has Miller actually “told this story” “to the best of [her] ability?” We have no way of knowing, nor is that ultimately significant. We will suggest that that’s a slightly peculiar way to start a book about so important a topic. Beyond that, we’ll suggest that something odd is implied in that passage:If it’s information and facts we want, we can look up the transcripts and news reports ourselves. Miller will focus on how she felt at various times. As readers, we can “take what we need,” whatever that means, from the account she provides.For better or worse, Miller is writing about actual events which involve actual people and an array of very important subjects. Arguably, an author is possibly being a bit willful when she tells us that we can get the facts for ourselves while she tells us how she felt.Meanwhile, the weirdness of “subpoena/subpeena” is replicated all through Miller’s book. So is the instant sympathy grab in which it’s suggested that someone is saying that Miller isn’t qualified to tell this story because she once misspelled a word—in which we’re instantly asked to picture Miller “hiding in a bathroom” during Brock Turner’s trial.Miller is going to give what she can; we will take what we need! Arguably, this could be seen as a slightly flippant, notably weird approach to such an important topic.Then too, there’s the way this very young person started her Chapter 1. We posted this somewhat peculiar material two weeks ago. Today we’ll add one point:MILLER (page 1): 1.I am shy. In elementary school for a play about a safari, everyone else was an animal. I was grass. I’ve never asked a question in a large lecture hall. You can find me hidden in the corner of any exercise class. I’ll apologize if you bump into me. I’ll accept every pamphlet you hand out on the street. I’ve always rolled my shopping cart back to its place of origin. If there’s no more half-and-half on the counter at the coffee shop, I’ll drink my coffee black. If I sleep over, the blankets will look like they’ve never been touched.I’ve never thrown my own birthday party. I’ll put on three sweaters before I ask you to turn on the heat. I’m okay with losing board games. I stuff my coins haphazardly into my purse to avoid holding up the checkout line. When I was little I wanted to grow up and become a mascot, so I’d have the freedom to dance without being seen.In this somewhat peculiar opening passage, Miller rattles a list of points designed to let us know that she’s shy. This opening format—I am shy—continues through a third full paragraph, spilling over onto the second page of this very “writerly” book.As we noted previously, this passage doesn’t just tell us that Miller is shy; it also presents her as the world’s most self-effacing person. She’s perpetually putting others first, in every imaginable way. Such absurdly self-flattering portraits continue all through the book, often in the face of behaviors which might seem to contradict or challenge the self-flattering portraits we’re being “provided.”Something else is somewhat odd about that opening passage. In the second paragraph of Chapter 1, Miller tells us that she’s so shy that she wanted to grow up and become a mascot, so she’d have the freedom to dance without being seen.That may even be true! That said, by the time she describes the central event in her story, Miller is literally dancing on a chair, though possibly not on tables, at a drunken Stanford frat party. There’s nothing “wrong” with doing that, but we’re never told how this behavior comports with the humble-bragging self-portrait we’re “provided” as she opens her book.These points are trivial, a person might say, but that’s exactly the problem. This book is larded with humble-bragging, self-flattering trivia and is quite routinely contemptuous of actual persons and elementary facts. The author of these endless distractions is very young. Beyond that, she underwent a life-altering series of events starting on the night of that party. That said, no such excuse can be generated for the upper-end, upper-class pseudo-journalists who have somehow managed to read this book without seeing its giant, relentless flaws.Miller actually is a “gifted young writer,” as one such reviewer has said. She’s also very young and, perhaps understandably, is deeply self-involved.In even a slightly rational world, we would expect major journalist to be able to notice such facts. But we’ve been failed by our upper-class journalists for at least three decades now, and the wages of such incessant failure is intellectual death.We’re going to spend an additional week writing about this young person’s remarkably novelized memoir. Much more importantly, we’re going to think about the older, upper-class journalists who have taken what they needed from Miller’s novelized fairy tale.The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but our upper-class culture is fatuous. Also, “the wages of sin is death,” an old book once alleged.The wages of our upper-class fatuity have already given us death all over the world. That said, our upper-class posers are going to continue to take what they need from noticeably peculiar books written by very young people.They’re going to take what they need, and what they seem to need is the simple-minded certainty of fable. They need their heroes and villains neat. Unfortunately, the wages of such childish behavior is intellectual death.Tomorrow: The various roads not traveled

  • Unequal Justice: Impeachment, Bill Barr, and the Reichstag Fire
    by Bill Blum on November 4, 2019 at 13:25

    Trump has dispatched Barr to promote a wacky rightwing conspiracy theory that could discredit the Mueller report, divert public attention from Trump’s manifold acts of corruption, and cripple the impeachment inquiry.

  • The Struggle for Emoji Equality
    by Mike Ervin on November 4, 2019 at 10:00

    If you’re not heavily represented on the emoji pallet, you’re nobody.

  • American Graffiti: Church, Cancer, and ‘Hate Faith’
    by Kevin Powell on November 2, 2019 at 10:00

    Spirituality is love. Religion, as often practiced now and through history, is a convenient partner of oppression, and can easily become what I call hate faith.

  • Foreign Correspondent: Boris, Brexit, and the British Elections
    by Reese Erlich on November 1, 2019 at 12:16

    Brexit presents a serious conundrum for left and progressive forces. Liberals and social democrats suddenly find themselves in bed with Britain’s largest capitalist corporations.

  • Long Denied a Voice in Local Schools, Camden Citizens Ready for Historic Vote
    by Rann Miller on November 1, 2019 at 12:00

    Past governance has been racist public policy in the form of municipal paternalism.

  • A Quarter Century Without Erwin Knoll
    by Bill Lueders on November 1, 2019 at 07:00

    We are all the poorer for it.

  • Candidate Rasheen Aldridge on Self-Care as Social Justice
    by Sarah Jaffe on October 31, 2019 at 11:07

    The twenty-five-year-old cut his teeth on the Fight for $15 in St. Louis. Now he’s looking to use those skills as a Missouri state legislator.

  • CTU Strike: Are Charter Schools the Solution, Rather than the Problem, in Chicago?
    by Sarah Lahm on October 31, 2019 at 11:02

    One party is selfish; the other is only interested in educating kids. Can you guess which is which?

  • Vindman’s Ukraine
    by Mark Fiore on October 31, 2019 at 10:53

    It’s a baby double agent!

  • Trump and Friends Revive Loyalty Attacks
    by Leslie Hahner on October 31, 2019 at 00:00

    In Donald Trump’s America, it seems that anyone who speaks against the president will be accused of treachery. But these claims echo those made one hundred years ago.

  • Trump Touts Farmers, Then Ignores Them
    by Anthony Pahnke on October 30, 2019 at 14:40

    At his campaign events, President Donald Trump often reserves time to talk about farmers. Yet, when farmers speak for themselves, the Trump administration doesn’t listen.

  • Lebanon’s Revolution Unites a Divided Country
    by Nicholas Frakes on October 29, 2019 at 17:00

    A long-sectarian society has come together as one people, bringing hope and some much-needed levity to the streets as they push for an end to their current government.

  • Is the Free Ride Over for America’s Mines?
    by Tim Vanderpool on October 29, 2019 at 12:10

    In the Rosemont copper mine decision, a federal judge upended a long-abused law, sparing a beautiful valley and making way for better protections for public lands.

  • How Soldiers Brought a Halt to the U.S. War Machine
    by Roger Bybee on October 29, 2019 at 09:00

    Opposition to the Vietnam war burst into a wide range of activism, including wearing anti-war buttons while in uniform, petitions and demonstrations, guerrilla theater, staging hearings about war crimes, and throwing away the medals they earned.

  • A Chicago Welcome for Mr. Trump
    by Joeff Davis on October 29, 2019 at 00:00

    Trump has drawn the ire of Chicagoland with the many insults he has directed at the Windy City, including calling the city a “total disaster.” On Monday, thousands of people showed up at Trump Tower to share some opinions of their own.

  • The Origins of Depravity: How the U.S. Helped Fuel Extremism in the Middle East
    by Kathy Kelly on October 28, 2019 at 14:12

    As part of a 2004 delegation to Camp Bucca, where Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi was held for 10 months, I heard tales of horrific experiences. It was one of the most hellish spots I’ve ever encountered.

  • Midwest Dispatch: Is Worthington, Minnesota, the Center of the Universe?
    by Sarah Lahm on October 25, 2019 at 10:00

    One Midwestern town finds itself in a race war stoked by the gentry to preserve their own wealth. But there is a glimmer of hope here, too.

  • California Opens the Public Banking Floodgates
    by Aaron Fernando on October 24, 2019 at 12:00

    The move shifts power away from profit-motivated board members of corporate banks and into the hands of the people.

  • Get Over It!
    by Mark Fiore on October 24, 2019 at 09:00

    “The words I said were distorted to reflect what I said.”

  • Political ‘Lynching’: Misusing a Scourge of History
    by Yohuru Williams on October 23, 2019 at 14:39

    Trump’s habit of stirring up animosity toward people of color and other political enemies through his own irresponsible rhetoric is itself reminiscent of lynching times.

  • The Kill Team Kills Again
    by Ed Rampell on October 23, 2019 at 10:00

    The new film illustrates how Washington’s endless imperialist wars of aggression tragically pit Americans against not only overseas “enemies,” but one another.

  • How Chicago Teachers Built Power Between Strikes
    by Sarah Jaffe on October 22, 2019 at 12:22

    It’s easy to glamorize the seeming spontaneity of a “strike wave” and miss the long processes of union organizing.

  • The Charter-to-Prison Pipeline
    by Alexandria Millet on October 22, 2019 at 08:00

    The charter system that often paints itself as a better option for black parents does not acknowledge the harm rigid disciplinary policies can impose on black students.

  • MoveOn Criticizes Sen. Coons’ Reckless Comments on Iran
    by Brian Stewart on September 16, 2019 at 20:57

    After Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) appeared on Fox and Friends this morning and said military action may be called for against Iran, MoveOn had the following statement. Statement of MoveOn campaigns director Justin Krebs: “Senator Coons going on Fox and giving ammunition to Trump administration war hawks who are trying to push the U.S. into The post MoveOn Criticizes Sen. Coons’ Reckless Comments on Iran appeared first on MoveOn.Org | Democracy In Action.

  • Fox guest on possible troop withdrawal from Afghanistan: “The solution is more blood, sweat, and tears” 
    by Media Matters for America on August 2, 2019 at 16:02

    JOHN HANNAH (FORMER VP CHENEY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER): The president, you know, is signaling that he wants done with this. There may be some kind of remnant of counter-terror mission here, but I think the danger is that once we withdraw our support for the Afghan government on the basis of a very phony promise from the Taliban that they are not going to try and reestablish their jihadist tyranny — and in very much in cooperation still with Al Qaeda, that once that Afghan government is brought down, Taliban, Al Qaeda come back. It’s going to be infinitely hard for the United States to conduct an effective counter-terrorism mission without an Afghan government there.  BILL HEMMER (CO-ANCHOR): I apologize for the interruption there. Do you have a better solution then, John?  HANNAH: No, I mean, listen, the solution is more blood, sweat, and tears. I think the mission in Afghanistan, as frustrating and as long as it’s been, Bill, with those several thousand troops there supporting an Afghan government — we’re not in the front lines doing the fighting — I still think it’s a sustainable mission if you believe that things can actually get much, much worse. But it needs a president who actually believes that avoiding a Taliban/Al Qaeda resurgence in the place that spawned 9/11 is important enough to continue this kind of sacrifice. Previously: Fox & Friends guest says a war against Iran would be “pretty quick and easy” The Trump-Fox feedback loop could cause a war with Iran Tomi Lahren: “If the plan were to send a huge surge of land and war power to wipe out Iran and turn it into glass … that might actually solve the problem.”

  • Fox host defends Trump: “Just because you use harsh language doesn’t mean your intent is to denigrate another race”
    by Media Matters for America on August 2, 2019 at 15:48

    STUART VARNEY (HOST): Are you a racist if you criticize an African-American politician? The left says, oh, yes you are. The charge, Trump is a racist, is now an established theme in the Democrats’ 2020 campaign. I object. Just because you use harsh language doesn’t mean your intent is to denigrate another race. Throwing that word around, racist, shuts down the debate. You can’t solve problems if you can’t speak freely. The word racist is applied to just about anybody. It no longer has bite. Baltimore has brought the racist charge to a boil. In a series of tweets, the president has criticized Congressman Elijah Cummings. He is a Democrat who has represent a major — majority Black district for over 20 years. The president described Cummings’ district as quote, “A disgusting rat and rodent-infested mess where no human being would want to live.” Oh, that caused outrage. The media jumped on it, and from there on out, branded the president a racist and a bigot. Again, I object. The president was describing reality. Bernie Sanders has said exactly the same thing, but he wasn’t called a racist. Oh, no, he’s a socialist. Now we find that Congressman Cummings himself had used similar language. He said Baltimore was quote, “drug-infested, and the residents walked around like zombies.” He was saying same thing as the president. Nobody criticized him for telling it the way it is, but Trump is a racist. This smearing, this name calling is a deliberate political tactic, and I think it’s going to fail. The weak performance of Democrats running big cities can no longer be covered up. This president, unlike any other president, is prepared to call it how he sees it, and damn the consequences. The president wants the votes of African-Americans. He’s courting them. Instead of pandering with offers of money, he is asking what happened to the billions already spent? Baltimore got 1.8 billion just from the stimulus package. What happened to it? Where did the money go? The Democrats have opened Pandora’s Box without realizing it. They thought that calling him a racist would silence him. Wrong. They’ve given him a campaign theme. And that theme is, the Democrats failing their own supporters. Previously: Fox host defends Trump’s racist tweets: He was just saying Democrats and liberal policies have destroyed Baltimore  Fox’s Brian Kilmeade on Baltimore: “I don’t think anyone passed statewide tests in some of these inner-city schools” Fox host makes bizarre defense of Trump’s racism: Trump “probably never watched The Wire ”

  • Fox News is talking more about abortion than the Democratic debates did
    by Media Matters for America on August 2, 2019 at 15:21

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters During the four nights of the two Democratic presidential primary debates in June and July, Fox News outpaced CNN and MSNBC in the amount of time it gave to abortion coverage even though the network didn’t host either debate. CNN moderators failed to ask a single question about abortion during the second primary debate this week. And even though MSNBC moderators asked the candidates questions about the topic during the network’s debate in June, Fox News spent more time discussing the issue than CNN, MSNBC, or the candidates themselves did. Right-wing media have been regularly dominating the conversation about abortion ahead of the 2020 elections, filling a void of abortion-related coverage by spreading misinformation and stigma about it. Fox News has been a frequent promoter of anti-abortion misinformation — including the allegation that Democratic support for abortion access is “extreme.” Given this emphasis, as well as the decreasing accessibility of abortion care across the United States, it is essential that moderators ask candidates specific and nuanced questions about abortion during the debates. This trend of right-wing media dominating abortion coverage continued during three of the four nights of the Democratic debates. Media Matters monitored both debates and live pre-debate and post-debate coverage on MSNBC, CNN, and Fox News and found that Fox News discussed the topic for almost 26 minutes total. In comparison, the topic was discussed on MSNBC for 11 and a half minutes and on CNN for about six minutes; this count includes the time when abortion was discussed on the debate stage as well as during pre-debate and post-debate coverage. CNN’s moderators failed to ask the candidates any questions about abortion during the network’s two nights of debates. The only time abortion was discussed during CNN’s July 31 debate night was when Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) asked former Vice President Joe Biden about his different positions on the Hyde Amendment. Notably, even when discussing the Hyde Amendment (which prohibits federal funds from supporting abortion care except in cases of rape or incest), neither Harris nor Biden used the word “abortion.” The topic was also essentially absent from the July 30 debate. Even though abortion was discussed during both nights of the MSNBC debate in June as moderators questioned candidates about it, Fox News still discussed the topic more each night than the debate participants and commentators on MSNBC or CNN did. During the first night of the June debate, Fox News discussed abortion for about nine minutes and 19 seconds between 8 p.m. and 1 a.m. In contrast, debate participants and commentators on MSNBC discussed the topic for only about four minutes and 15 seconds, and CNN commentators discussed abortion for only two minutes. This disparity was even greater during the second night of the MSNBC debate. During the same time period of 8 p.m. to 1 a.m., Fox discussed abortion for 15 minutes and 48 seconds, while debate participants and MSNBC commentators discussed the topic for four minutes and 44 seconds. Commentators on CNN discussed abortion for less than two minutes. Though there are many important topics that moderators should be raising during the 2020 Democratic presidential primary debates, Democratic voters are clear that they want to hear candidates discuss abortion. If moderators continue to prioritize optics, vacuous political theater, and right-wing talking points over substantive questions, right-wing media will continue dominating the discussion and will keep spreading anti-choice misinformation unabated on their own platforms. Methodology Media Matters searched the SnapStream video database for mentions of the following keywords: “abortion,” “Roe,” “reproductive rights,” “right to choose,” “pro-life,” “pro-choice,” “anti-choice,” “pro-abortion,” “decisions about her body,” “infanticide,” or “Hyde.” We searched on Fox News Channel, CNN, and MSNBC between 8 p.m and 1 a.m. for the June debates and between 7 p.m. and 1 a.m. for the July debates due to the earlier start time. We timed segments, which we defined as instances in which a speaker in the debate or on a network discussed abortion or a related topic. Segments included host monologues, news reports or packages, interviews, and guest panels. We did not include teasers for upcoming segments or rebroadcasts.

  • <em>Fox & Friends</em> touts Trump’s “connections to Ohio” without noting they involve housing discrimination
    by Media Matters for America on August 2, 2019 at 15:21

    STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): The president of the United States was in Cincinnati last night. You saw the rally right here on Fox News Channel. There were 17,500 people there at the U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati. The president has connections to Ohio, he’s talked about it in the past. Fifty years ago his father actually owned the Swifton Village housing complex in the Bond Hill area. So he’s got a connection, not only through his family, but also, he won Ohio last time. He needs to win Ohio again this time.   … AINSLEY EARHARDT (CO-HOST): He’s familiar with Skyline Chili and Graeter’s ice cream because he said to that entire audience, he said, “I worked for my dad in the Swifton Village.” He said, “Does anyone know where the Swifton Village is?” And some people, you know, clapped and got excited about it. It’s always nice when someone famous comes into your town and they can relate to the people, and that’s what he does there. 

  • The only Black Republican in the House announced he will not seek reelection. Fox News covered it for 20 seconds.
    by Media Matters for America on August 2, 2019 at 14:32

    Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX) announced on August 1 that he is not seeking reelection in 2020. I have made the decision to not seek reelection for the 23rd Congressional District of Texas in order to pursue opportunities outside the halls of Congress to solve problems at the nexus between technology and national security. — Rep. Will Hurd (@HurdOnTheHill) August 2, 2019 Politico described the importance of Hurd’s retirement: If you are a House Republican, this has been an absolutely gutting few weeks. And, truly, if someone is trying to spin you on how the political picture is not that bad for the House GOP right now — at this moment — you ought to discount them as a political professional or analyst. Because it’s really, really bad, deflating and discouraging. On Thursday night, Texas Rep. Will Hurd — the only black Republican in the House — announced he would not run for reelection. He beat Democrat Gina Ortiz Jones by fewer than 1,000 votes in 2018 in a large district that runs the stretch of the Texas-Mexico border — and she is running again. Republicans like to say this is an R+1 — fine, perhaps — but it’s an R+1 that Hillary Clinton won by 3 points, so it’s not much of an R+1. Others agreed. But while much of the political world is talking about the retirement announcement, Fox News is not as interested. Hurd was not mentioning at all during Thursday’s evening programming or Fox & Friends on Friday, and he has received only 20 seconds of coverage so far during Friday’s America’s Newsroom: Both CNN and MSNBC covered Hurd’s announcement on Thursday and Friday. Fox News has spent plenty of time touting President Donald Trump’s alleged support in the Black community despite polls showing widespread disapproval of the president. Hurd spoke about his decision not to run again with The Washington Post, calling out Trump’s racism: In an interview Thursday with The Post, Hurd criticized Trump’s racist tweets last month in which the president said four Democratic minority congresswomen should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.” Three of the women are from the United States; a fourth, Rep. Ilhan Omar (Minn.), is a Somali refu­gee who became a U.S. citizen as a teenager. “When you imply that because someone doesn’t look like you, in telling them to go back to Africa or wherever, you’re implying that they’re not an American and you’re implying that they have less worth than you,” Hurd said. Hurd recently told Meet The Press, “I shouldn’t be the only African-American Republican in the House of Representatives.”

  • Fox’s Newt Gingrich complains about Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren: “I don’t remember us electing an angry president literally in my lifetime”
    by Media Matters for America on August 2, 2019 at 14:31

    BILL HEMMER (CO-ANCHOR): Go ahead and frame the argument that the president is making there from last night, sir. NEWT GINGRICH (FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR): Look, I think Kim Strassel did a great job with the column where she said the choice is between the left and the crazy left, and the crazy left is winning. I watched the first night. It was amazing the level of anger that you got out of Bernie Sanders and Senator [Elizabeth] Warren. I mean, these are really angry people, and it was kind of amazing to watch them. It’s the opposite of how people normally win the presidency. You go back and you watch Barack Obama with a big smile. You watch Ronald Reagan with a big smile. I don’t remember us electing an angry president literally in my lifetime. And yet you have these people who were almost in a rage. You also had the fact that they’re all drifting towards cloud cuckoo land. I mean, when you have a number of moderate Democrats on the stage — and they’ll all be gone soon because they’re not getting enough support to survive. But they’re on the stage and they’re saying — one of them said if we go down this road of taking away everybody’s health insurance we’ll be lucky to carry two states. Now that was a Democrat in the debate warning his follow Democrats that they could be throwing away the presidency. And I think we have to take that seriously. And of course, the president is watching all this and he’s exactly right, and he wants to stoke the fire a little bit about Obama. What’s turned out is that President Obama is no longer radical enough for the left wing of the Democratic Party. So you’re going to end up with Biden defending Obama while the rest of the party attacks him. The truth is, on things like deportation, President Obama deported more illegal immigrants than any other president in American history. In terms of the Affordable Care Act, which was not affordable, but it didn’t cover everybody that left-wingers want to cover. And so you can go down a list and you realize there’s a real fault line in the Democratic Party, and we’re watching it play out in these debates.  Previously:  After Democratic debate, Fox’s Newt Gingrich calls Democrats “an anti-American party” Fox’s Jason Chaffetz on Democratic debates: “They were doing everything they could to take away your freedoms” Fox & Friends complains that “the thing that was lacking” in Democratic debates over immigration “was the word illegal”

  • Fox’s Stuart Varney: Electing a Democrat as president will lead to an economic contraction
    by Media Matters for America on August 2, 2019 at 12:52

    AINSLEY EARHARDT (CO-HOST): The president was touting the economy last night. STUART VARNEY (FOX BUSINESS HOST): No wonder the Democrats failed to mention the strong economy in their two debates this week, because they don’t have a growth plan, and obviously, President Trump does. The Democrats seem to me to have a contraction plan. No fossil fuels, no private health insurance. That’s a contraction of the economy, rather than the expansion that President Trump’s got. … EARHARDT: Stuart, you mentioned jobs reports, they’re coming out this morning. What can we expect? VARNEY: I think you’ll see the unemployment rate stay around 3.7%. EARHARDT: It’s amazing. VARNEY: Do you realize how low that is? I mean, I have lived in America for 40 odd years, I haven’t seen 3.7% before. Maybe [3.6%] under Trump, I don’t know, but that’s near historic level. EARHARDT: The president said 7 million Americans are off food stamps. Think about that. That’s wonderful. VARNEY: That’s right. That’s right. That’s right. And what is it, 125,000 extra employed people in the state of Ohio? STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): And the job number today is expected to be about 164,000 new jobs. VARNEY: About that. That’s still pretty strong. It might be stronger than that. But here’s something that was buried by the media. DOOCY: Shocking. VARNEY: Right. In the first two years of the Trump presidency, wages and salaries increased 42% more than in the last two years of the Obama administration. EARHARDT: That’s great. VARNEY: Forty-two percent more. EARHARDT: So people can ask themselves are you better off today? VARNEY: How about that? Yes. EARHARDT: Are you better off today and the answer for most people is yes. VARNEY: Well, it shows you — it’s the Trump presidency which turned the economy around. Don’t give me this, that Obama started the recovery. Well, maybe the recovery started in the Obama years, but the expansion, that started with President Donald J. Trump. Previously: Fox Business host Stuart Varney says repealing Trump’s tax cuts for the rich and corporations “would ruin the economy” After first Democratic debate, Fox’s Stuart Varney lashes out at candidates for promising to tax the wealthy: “They attacked the rich”  Fox Business host blames stock market decline on House Speaker Pelosi’s press conference

  • New Bureau of Land Management head complained that federal employees aren’t held “personally responsible for the harm that they do”
    by Media Matters for America on August 2, 2019 at 12:43

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters William Perry Pendley, the new head of the Bureau of Land Management, complained in a 2018 interview that employees like the ones he now manages aren’t held “personally liable” or “personally responsible for the harm that they do” regarding federal land management. He also said that one thing that would prevent such problems in the future “is the federal government owning less land.”   President Donald Trump’s administration this week appointed Pendley, a right-wing lawyer and commentator, as the acting head of the Bureau of Land Management after he worked at the agency for just a few weeks. Media Matters documented that he has argued that climate science isn’t real, claimed that environmentalists want to “destroy” civilization, and once asked, “How many have died and how many more will die because of diversity and race-based decision making?” Conservation and environmental groups have heavily criticized Pendley’s hiring. Kayje Booker, the policy and advocacy director at Montana Wilderness Association, said: “It’s hard to imagine anyone in this position more dangerous or more conflicted than William Perry Pendley.”  Members of the Blackfeet Nation have also criticized the appointment. As The Washington Post summarized, Pendley is “still the counsel of record representing an aging businessman, Sidney Longwell and his small company Solenex. Solenex leased 6,247 acres in northwest Montana in 1982 during the Reagan administration for about $1 an acre. Longwell wants permission to build a six-mile service road and bridge over the Two Medicine River on lands considered sacred by the Blackfeet tribe. Interior wants to cancel the lease. He would use the road to bring in drilling rigs and other oil exploration equipment.”  Pendley takes over an agency that’s responsible for managing public lands even though he once wrote a 2016 National Review opinion piece which argued that the federal government should sell its public lands. In response to concerns about Pendley’s views, an Interior Department spokesperson claimed: “This administration has been clear that we are not interested in transferring public lands.”  However, Pendley also said in a previously unreported television interview that one of the ways to solve alleged problems with land management is for the government to own “less land.” He also criticized his future employees, saying they’re not held “personally liable” or “responsible for the harm that they do.”   Pendley appeared on the January 26, 2018, edition of the Colorado-based libertarian show Devil’s Advocate with Jon Caldara and talked about his cases against the federal government and the Bureau of Land Management. During the show, he said that “the federal government is the world’s worst neighbor. It absolutely is the worst neighbor.”    Later during the program, Pendley said that unlike private individuals, the federal government can dodge responsibility for their problems, alleging: “These agencies, these employees, they’re not personally liable, they’re not personally responsible for the harm that they do. They’re going to move down the hall, they’re going to move across the country.”  Pendley was then asked how to prevent such alleged problems with the federal government. He responded: “One of the things that prevents it is the federal government owning less land. We recognize the federal government, the United States government owns a third of the country, including especially here in the West.” 

  • Sean Hannity says one of his main criticisms of Republicans is that they aren’t more like Rush Limbaugh
    by Media Matters for America on August 2, 2019 at 02:35

    SEAN HANNITY (HOST):  I actually see similarities between you and Trump. Let me tell you what two of them are. Number one, you’ve got to be able to take a punch. You paved the way for a lot of us that are conservatives in the media. You’ve taken more than your fair share. And then, you’ve got to fight for what you believe.  My biggest criticism of Republicans is they are weak, a lot of them, and timid and afraid to do what you do every day. To do what Trump is doing. You’re right, showing them the way. Just fight for what you say you were going fight for.  … RUSH LIMBAUGH: This fear of the media, this fear of being called a racist, everyone needs to get over that now because all of us are racists. Everybody’s racist, they can’t talk about anybody now without labeling them racist. Previously:  Rush Limbaugh has ramped up his Fox News appearances in 2019 On Fox News, Rush Limbaugh says that “climate change is what allows them to poison the minds of young kids” On Fox, Rush Limbaugh complains about efforts to address the climate crisis: “There is no man-made climate change”

  • On Fox, Rush Limbaugh complains about efforts to address the climate crisis: “There is no man-made climate change”
    by Media Matters for America on August 2, 2019 at 02:13

    SEAN HANNITY (HOST): Three words I want to throw at you — Green New Deal. RUSH LIMBAUGH: Well, it’s — it is a trick, the Green New Deal. Even Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, her chief of staff, sackrat — sakreet — sakrot — whatever, Chakrabarti, admitted that it’s not even about the climate. It’s not even about the weather. It’s an economic plan, and it is. It’s designed to get massive federal power, grow the federal government, under the pretense that average Americans cannot be left to live their lives without ruining things, especially for the Democrat Party. It’s unaffordable, it will never happen, and the premise behind it is bogus. There is no man-made climate change. There is nothing we can do to stop whatever the weather is going to do. We can’t make it warmer, we can’t make it colder. We can’t change hurricanes’ directions, we can’t dissipate them. We can’t create them. And yet, they are campaigning and trying to convince people. I mean, look at millennials. It’s really sad, there’s a lot of young people that really think this planet is not going to be habitable by the time they hit 65. These people are ruining people’s lives, they’re ruining their futures all in the pursuit of power for themselves. It’s disgusting on one level to me, and I think that they need to be called out and I think they need — this stuff needs to be said point blank to them, because the media it is not — the media’s their best buddies, the media is their support group, and so forth. It’s a big battle. I’m just — I’m just optimistic, I’m confident that these people can be beat back. Previously: In Hannity segment attacking Green New Deal, climate denier Joe Bastardi says “people are ungrateful” for fossil fuels Hannity invites climate denier Joe Bastardi on his show to deny link between climate change and extreme weather — again Rush Limbaugh on Hurricane Florence: “The forecast and the destruction potential doom and gloom is all to heighten the belief in climate change”

  • On Fox News, Rush Limbaugh says that “climate change is what allows them to poison the minds of young kids”
    by Media Matters for America on August 2, 2019 at 01:51

    RUSH LIMBAUGH: Climate change is what allows them to poison the minds of young kids. To blame people for causing a problem and then offer them redemption, make them feel like they have meaning in their lives by saving the planet. Previously: Rush Limbaugh has dramatically ramped up his Fox News appearances in 2019 Less than 10% of questions were about climate change at CNN’s two-night debate in Detroit Rush Limbaugh shares fake story that sharks are flying around in Hurricane Florence

  • Lou Dobbs says Donald Trump can’t be racist because Mexico is helping the United States
    by Media Matters for America on August 2, 2019 at 01:02

    LOU DOBBS (HOST): This fellow can’t be too much of a quote-unquote “racist,” in point of fact embracing Mexico, its president, its government, because of all of the help they are providing America, acknowledging it, and doing so warmly. Previously: Lou Dobbs laughs at Fox’s effort to restrain anti-Semitism on his show Lou Dobbs guest: “We’ve seen this in Europe, we’re seeing it here, and they are attempting to replace us” Lou Dobbs Says People Should Credit Obama’s Race For His Election Lou Dobbs attacks the media for reporting on DeSantis’ racist comments Lou Dobbs asks if it’s “time for the Trump administration to outright defy the activist” Supreme Court over census ruling

  • Tucker Carlson: Cory Booker was “trying to sound like a Nation of Islam recruiter” 
    by Media Matters for America on August 2, 2019 at 00:27

    TUCKER CARLSON (HOST): Cory Booker meanwhile is in the process of transitioning to a brand-new identity, he spent most of the evening trying to sound like a Nation of Islam recruiter rather than the deeply privileged son of two IBM executives which is what he is. Previously:  Tucker Carlson’s descent into white supremacy: A timeline Tucker Carlson touts hardline approach of far-right ethnonationalists to immigration  Tucker Carlson and guest mock the term “person of color,” call it a racist term because “everyone has a color”

  • Amid unprecedented attacks on reproductive rights, CNN debate moderators completely ignore abortion
    by Media Matters for America on August 1, 2019 at 23:28

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters During the July 30 and 31 presidential debates, CNN moderators Jake Tapper, Dana Bash, and Don Lemon failed to ask 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls a single question about abortion. Nationally, as state legislatures continue to push an increasing number of abortion restrictions — and with right-wing media already amplifying anti-abortion misinformation ahead of the 2020 elections — the primary debates are a crucial opportunity for moderators to ask precise, nuanced questions about how presidential candiates would protect abortion access. CNN’s failure to ask about abortion was out of step with what Democratic voters wanted to hear about during the debates and was a missed opportunity to break right-wing media’s dominance of abortion-related conversations on cable news. Abortion rights garnered hardly any recognition from moderators or candidates alike during the July 30 Democratic primary debate. Montana Gov. Steve Bullock briefly referred to himself as “pro-choice” in his opening statement. The only substantive conversation about abortion happened during the July 31 debate. On stage, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) confronted former Vice President Joe Biden over his past support of the Hyde Amendment, a legislative provision that forbids the allocation of federal funds for abortion care except in limited cases. This amendment disproportionately affects people of color and those of lower socioeconomic status who might depend on federal support to access health care. Although this short exchange was the only discussion of abortion during both nights of the CNN moderated debates, neither candidate said the word “abortion.” In fact, five hours of political discourse yielded a mere two minutes of abortion conversation without anyone — the 20 candidates or three moderators — saying the word “abortion.” This is not the first time CNN moderators have excluded discussion of abortion during presidential debates. After a 2016 Democratic primary debate, critics called out the network for not asking any questions about abortion despite coming days after the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, a case concerning anti-abortion restrictions in Texas. After this week’s debates, abortion rights groups were confounded again by the lack of action Given the already precarious state of abortion access, debate moderators need to ask candidates specific and nuanced questions on abortion — otherwise right-wing media and anti-choice outlets will continue to dominate the conversation with harmful misinformation.

  • Fox hosts shout down colleague Juan Williams when he notes that Trump’s racism is a fact
    by Media Matters for America on August 1, 2019 at 22:20

    JUAN WILLIAMS (CO-HOST): Let me tell you, it’s a fact, it’s a fact, it is a fact. GREG GUTFELD (CO-HOST): No, Juan, it’s an opinion, it’s an opinion. … That’s called an opinion Juan, it’s not a fact. I could keep saying it, he won’t listen. Previously: Fox & Friends guest attacks news outlets noting Trump’s racism: It is “an opinion, not a fact” Tomi Lahren previously pushed the same sexist smear about Kamala Harris on Fox Nation

  • MoveOn members demand Congress Close the Camps
    by Heather Kachel on July 3, 2019 at 18:38

    Every day immigrants are suffering from intentional inhumane conditions created by the Trump administration. News continues to pour out that the Trump administration’s escalation of brutal attacks against immigrants and refugees has reached new, even more horrific lows, with children being held in unspeakable conditions in concentration camps at the border. Just yesterday, more images and stories The post MoveOn members demand Congress Close the Camps appeared first on MoveOn.Org | Democracy In Action.

  • Seven actions you can take right now to help close immigrant detention centers.
    by Tillie McInnis on June 28, 2019 at 20:37

    In the last eight months, six migrant children are known to have died after being taken into U.S. immigration custody.  This tragic tally includes 16-year-old Carlos Hernandez Vásquez, 2 ½-year-old Wilmer Josué Ramírez Vásquez, 16-year-old Juan de León Gutiérrez, 7-year-old Jakelin Caal Maquin, 8-year-old Felipe Gomez Alonzo, and 10-year-old Darlyn Cristabel Cordova-Valle. And a 18-month-old The post Seven actions you can take right now to help close immigrant detention centers. appeared first on MoveOn.Org | Democracy In Action.

  • Elizabeth Warren in First Place, Bernie Sanders In Second In MoveOn’s Latest Member Straw Poll

    by Brian Stewart on June 25, 2019 at 10:00

    Members say they want a candidate who ‘inspires the public with deep progressive values’ and ‘makes the connections between racial, social, and economic injustice.’ WASHINGTON, DC — Sen. Elizabeth Warren leads a new MoveOn straw poll with the support of 38% of members nationwide, followed by Bernie Sanders with 17%. Warren is also in first The post Elizabeth Warren in First Place, Bernie Sanders In Second In MoveOn’s Latest Member Straw Poll
 appeared first on MoveOn.Org | Democracy In Action.

  • MoveOn 2020 Straw Poll Results, June 2019
    by Brian Stewart on June 25, 2019 at 10:00

    Nationwide First Choice Second Choice Elizabeth Warren 37.8% Bernie Sanders 16.5% Joe Biden 14.9% Pete Buttigieg 11.7% Kamala Harris 6.8% Undecided 2.2% Beto O’Rourke 1.8% Andrew Yang 1.1% Jay Inslee 1.1% Cory Booker 1.0% Amy Klobuchar 1.0% Tulsi Gabbard 0.8% Marianne Williamson 0.8% Someone Else 0.4% Michael Bennett 0.3% Julián Castro 0.3% John Hickenlooper 0.3% The post MoveOn 2020 Straw Poll Results, June 2019 appeared first on MoveOn.Org | Democracy In Action.

  • Clinton’s Lost Votes
    by Ron Chusid on May 30, 2019 at 17:57

    Establishment Democrats love to blame third party voters for Clinton losing, but The New York Times recently had data… Posted by Ron Chusid on Monday, May 20, 2019 Establishment Democrats love to blame third party voters for Clinton losing, but The New York Times recently had data disputing this. They looked at people who voted for

  • What Mueller Did Not Say Today
    by Ron Chusid on May 29, 2019 at 15:55

    What Mueller did not say today:1) When he said Russia interfered in the election, he left out the important… Posted by Ron Chusid on Wednesday, May 29, 2019 What Mueller did not say today: 1) When he said Russia interfered in the election, he left out the important perspective that interference in foreign elections is common

  • Rahna Epting Will Be MoveOn’s Next Leader
    by Nick Berning on May 29, 2019 at 14:06

    MoveOn announced today that after an intensive multi-month search process, its boards have selected Rahna Epting to serve as the next executive director of MoveOn Political Action and MoveOn Civic Action, beginning this fall. The post Rahna Epting Will Be MoveOn’s Next Leader appeared first on MoveOn.Org | Democracy In Action.

  • Castro, Gillibrand, Harris, Sanders, and Warren To Appear On Stage At MoveOn’s “Big Ideas Forum” June 1 In San Francisco
    by Brian Stewart on May 9, 2019 at 17:02

    2020 Democratic presidential candidates Secretary Julián Castro, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Senator Kamala Harris, Senator Bernie Sanders, and Senator Elizabeth Warren will all appear on stage at MoveOn’s “Big Ideas Forum” in San Francisco, California, on June 1. At the event, each candidate will present “One Big Idea” that will change people’s lives for the better. The post Castro, Gillibrand, Harris, Sanders, and Warren To Appear On Stage At MoveOn’s “Big Ideas Forum” June 1 In San Francisco appeared first on MoveOn.Org | Democracy In Action.

  • MoveOn’s First Endorsement of 2020 Cycle: Ilhan Omar for Congress
    by Iram Ali on April 24, 2019 at 16:16

    The results are in: With 77% of votes cast in favor, MoveOn members in Minnesota’s 5th District have voted overwhelmingly to endorse Ilhan Omar for re-election to Congress! Representative Ilhan Omar’s endorsement for re-election marks MoveOn’s very first endorsement for the 2020 cycle. Rep. Omar is a uniquely powerful, compelling member of Congress. She ran The post MoveOn’s First Endorsement of 2020 Cycle: Ilhan Omar for Congress appeared first on MoveOn.Org | Democracy In Action.

  • 2020 Candidates Skip AIPAC!
    by Iram Ali on March 22, 2019 at 21:28

    After MoveOn members asked candidates to skip the AIPAC conference, no 2020 Democratic presidential candidates are yet publicly committed to attend the AIPAC conference in DC this weekend! The story comes after a number of leading candidates—Sen. Bernie Sanders, Sen. Kamala Harris, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Beto O’Rourke, Mayor Julián Castro, Governor Jay Inlsee, and Mayor The post 2020 Candidates Skip AIPAC! appeared first on MoveOn.Org | Democracy In Action.

  • MoveOn: 2020 Presidential Candidates Should Not Attend AIPAC Conference
    by Iram Ali on March 20, 2019 at 18:21

    NEW SURVEY: Over 74% of MoveOn Members Believe 2020 Presidential Candidates Should Not Attend AIPAC Conference AIPAC conference to be headlined by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Vice President Mike Pence, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Sen. Mitch McConnell, Sen. Chuck Schumer & Rep. Kevin McCarthy A new survey from MoveOn Political Action asked members if they The post MoveOn: 2020 Presidential Candidates Should Not Attend AIPAC Conference appeared first on MoveOn.Org | Democracy In Action.

  • My Vote
    by Ron Chusid on March 1, 2019 at 19:55
  • A Good Sign For Bernie
    by Ron Chusid on March 1, 2019 at 19:51
  • Russiagate And Censorship
    by Ron Chusid on March 1, 2019 at 19:47
  • Democrats Can’t Take Progressive Votes For Granted
    by Ron Chusid on March 1, 2019 at 19:45
  • Russiagate Nonsense
    by Ron Chusid on March 1, 2019 at 19:43
  • How To Get Rid Of Donald Trump
    by Ron Chusid on March 1, 2019 at 19:41
  • A Younger, Fresher Progressive Candidate
    by Ron Chusid on March 1, 2019 at 19:39
  • Delegitimatizing Anti-War Candidates
    by Ron Chusid on March 1, 2019 at 19:36
  • Politician For Sale
    by Ron Chusid on March 1, 2019 at 19:34
  • The Damage From Russiagate
    by Ron Chusid on March 1, 2019 at 19:31
  • Partisanship
    by Ron Chusid on March 1, 2019 at 19:29
  • Mueller Wrapping Up Soon
    by Ron Chusid on March 1, 2019 at 19:28

    I will be glad when we stop hearing Russiagate conspiracy theorists say “wait for Mueller to finish.” What will they say if he finishes and still has provided zero evidence to support their claims? Hopefully they will be satisfied with the overwhelming evidence that Trump is a crook, and drop the Russia conspiracy theories about

  • Con Men And Liars Of Hollywood
    by Ron Chusid on February 25, 2019 at 16:59
  • PHOTOS: Amazing Fake Trump Emergency Protests
    by Brian Stewart on February 19, 2019 at 02:58

    277 events. 48 states. At least 50,000 attendees. That’s what power looks like. Donald Trump may control the White House for the moment, but we are not giving up on what this country can be. And on Presidents Day, tens of thousands of MoveOn members and allies hit the streets to build a vision of a country where all people—including those seeking The post PHOTOS: Amazing Fake Trump Emergency Protests appeared first on MoveOn.Org | Democracy In Action.

  • MoveOn Statement on Deal to End the Government Shutdown with No Wall
    by Brian Stewart on January 25, 2019 at 21:02

    “Congress must not give into Trump’s demand for increased funding for a wall, his deportation machine, or border militarization in the next round of this fight” WASHINGTON, DC — Moments ago, Donald Trump announced a deal with Congress to end the government shutdown and reopen the federal government for three weeks with no funding for The post MoveOn Statement on Deal to End the Government Shutdown with No Wall appeared first on MoveOn.Org | Democracy In Action.

  • BREAKING: National Day of Action to #ShutDownTheWall, Open Government Announced for Jan. 29
    by Brian Stewart on January 24, 2019 at 01:38

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019 CONTACT: MoveOn, United We Dream, Indivisible, and other groups call for national action on Tuesday, the day Trump intends to deliver a State of the Union address. WASHINGTON — During a television appearance tonight on MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes, Rep. Katie Hill (CA-25) announced that Tuesday, January 29 will be The post BREAKING: National Day of Action to #ShutDownTheWall, Open Government Announced for Jan. 29 appeared first on MoveOn.Org | Democracy In Action.

  • MoveOn’s Executive Directors Announce They Will Depart in 2019 with MoveOn Positioned for Continued Impact
    by Brian Stewart on January 17, 2019 at 17:34

    Under Anna Galland and Ilya Sheyman’s 6 Years of Leadership, People-Powered MoveOn Has Grown Dramatically and Emerged As a Pillar of the Resistance Movement in Landmark Trump-Era Fights Galland and Sheyman Will Continue in Current Roles Until MoveOn’s Boards Conclude Search for New Director and Will then Assist Transition After six years leading MoveOn Civic The post MoveOn’s Executive Directors Announce They Will Depart in 2019 with MoveOn Positioned for Continued Impact appeared first on MoveOn.Org | Democracy In Action.

  • PPP Poll Shows Trump’s Shutdown Will Hurt Senate GOP in 2020
    by Jayne Fagan on January 10, 2019 at 15:36

    For Immediate Release: Thursday, January 10, 2019 Contact: New Poll: Government Shutdown Hurting Senate Republicans Up for Reelection in 2020 Voters would also oppose President Trump declaring a “National Emergency” to fund wall. Washington, DC – New polling from Public Policy Polling (PPP), commissioned by MoveOn and the Immigration Hub, shows the government shutdown The post PPP Poll Shows Trump’s Shutdown Will Hurt Senate GOP in 2020 appeared first on MoveOn.Org | Democracy In Action.

  • 2018 MoveOn Year In Review
    by Brian Stewart on December 28, 2018 at 23:44

    In 2018, MoveOn members helped power spectacular victories at the ballot box, fought back against attacks on our democracy, and provided critical aid to those facing humanitarian crises at home and abroad. Millions of MoveOn members were part of a movement that ended Republican control of the House, marched against gun violence, fought brutality at The post 2018 MoveOn Year In Review appeared first on MoveOn.Org | Democracy In Action.

  • Stop the War, Save the Kids | #YemenCantWait
    by Iram Ali on December 13, 2018 at 20:35

    BREAKING NEWS 56 Senators voted YES on S.J.Res. 54.  On December 13, the Senate chose to move toward ending U.S. complicity in the Saudi-led attacks in Yemen by passing the Yemen War Powers Resolution. In a major move that will hold historical significance in the anti-war and peace movements, a bipartisan group of senators took The post Stop the War, Save the Kids | #YemenCantWait appeared first on MoveOn.Org | Democracy In Action.

  • MoveOn 2020 Straw Poll: Support Up for Grabs Among Wide, Diverse Field
    by Brian Stewart on December 12, 2018 at 17:38

    The results of MoveOn’s first membership-wide straw poll and survey for the 2020 presidential elections are in: Support from members is up for grabs among a wide and diverse field of potential candidates. What’s not up for grabs is what MoveOn members hope for in the next president: The top factors MoveOn members said they The post MoveOn 2020 Straw Poll: Support Up for Grabs Among Wide, Diverse Field appeared first on MoveOn.Org | Democracy In Action.

  • MoveOn 2020 Straw Poll: Field Wide Open; Members Want Strong Progressive Voice To Challenge Trump
    by Brian Stewart on December 11, 2018 at 17:13

    Group To Hold Series Of Events In Early 2019 In Early Primary States To Allow Candidates To Present Big Bold Ideas WASHINGTON, DC — The results of MoveOn’s first membership-wide straw poll and survey for the 2020 presidential elections found that support from its membership is up for grabs among a wide and diverse field The post MoveOn 2020 Straw Poll: Field Wide Open; Members Want Strong Progressive Voice To Challenge Trump appeared first on MoveOn.Org | Democracy In Action.

  • MoveOn 2020 Straw Poll Results
    by Brian Stewart on December 11, 2018 at 15:06

    Someone Else / Don’t Know 17.89% Beto O’Rourke 15.60% Joe Biden 14.95% Bernie Sanders 13.15% Kamala Harris 10.02% Elizabeth Warren 6.42% Sherrod Brown 2.92% Amy Klobuchar 2.75% Michael Bloomberg 2.71% Cory Booker 2.63% Joseph Kennedy III 1.90% Stacey Abrams 1.16% Kirsten Gillibrand 1.09% Tulsi Gabbard 0.78% John Hickenlooper 0.71% Eric Holder 0.59% Eric Swalwell 0.54% The post MoveOn 2020 Straw Poll Results appeared first on MoveOn.Org | Democracy In Action.

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