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|Jesse Benton, Mitch McConnell\'s Campaign Manager, To Resign Amid Bribery Scandal|
Jesse Benton, the campaign manager of U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnnell (R-Ky.), is to resign his position, the Kentucky Herald-Leader reported Friday. The announcement comes as the McConnell campaign wrestles with Benton's possible ties to a bribery scandal when he was then former Rep. Ron Paul's (R-Texas.) political director during the 2012 presidential election. Benton told the Herald-Leader that rumors of his involvment in the scandal "risk unfairly undermining and becoming a distraction to this re-election campaign," as means to account for leaving his role with McConnell.McConnell reluctantly accepted the announced departure, Benton told the Herald-Leader, adding "This decision breaks my heart, but I know it is the right thing for Mitch, for Kentucky and for the country." The resignation is to take effect Saturday.As Paul's political director in 2012, Benton has been tied to the scandal that saw thousands of dollars exchanged for political endorsements prior to the 2012 presidential caucuses. On Wednesday, former Iowa state Senator Kent Sorenson pleaded guilty to charges in connection to receiving under-the-table payments for switching his backing from U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) to Paul. Sorenson then lied to investigators about the payments, according to the Department of Justice. Sorenson's guilty plea was accompanied by two documents, which could potentially implicate Benton, the Herald-Leader notes.Earlier on Friday, the McConnell campaign said in a statement, "Sen. McConnell obviously has nothing to do with the Iowa Presidential Caucus or this investigation so it would be inappropriate for his campaign to comment on this situation," the Herald-Leader reports.Benton maintained his innocence, giving a statement to the Herald-Leader that said, "There have been inaccurate press accounts and unsubstantiated media rumors about me and my role in past campaigns that are politically motivated, unfair and, most importantly, untrue." "Working for Mitch McConnell is one of the great honors of my life," Benton said.Benton was hired in 2012 by McConnell to head his 2014 reelection campaign, seeking to boost his credibility with libertarian factions of the Republican party. It was seen as a surprising move, one that has caused other troubles for the McConnell campaign. In 2013, a phone recording surfaced in which Benton said that he was holding his nose while working for McConnell and thinking of the long-term best interests of Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.).
Democrats Are Doomed (Unless They Make the Minimum Wage the #1 November Election Issue)
If you were the Democrats and you were looking for a good vote-getting midterm election issue, what criteria would you use? How about an issue with 70-80 percent support in polls? How about one that is bipartisan -- supported by Republicans like Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, Rick Santorum and Bill O'Reilly? How about one that is national in scope, with plenty of local, grassroots energy? What about one that is simple and easy to understand, unlike Obamacare. What about one that offers tax savings and stimulates our economy understandably and is concrete -- a real pocketbook issue. What about one with a big constituency, specifically 30 million hard-pressed workers and their families, needing the necessities of life?If the Democrats want any chance of succeeding in defeating the cruelest, anti-worker, anti-consumer, corporatist Republican Party in history this November, they have to get into serious high visibility mode about raising the federal minimum wage. No more lip service or half measures! As corporate profits and CEO pay soar ever higher, 30 million hardworking Americans -- two-thirds women and two-thirds employed by large corporations like Walmart and McDonald's -- are making less today, adjusted for inflation, than they did in 1968! Raising the stagnant minimum wage, which has been stuck at a paltry $7.25 per hour since 2009 must be the front burner issue for the upcoming November elections. With polls predicting that the Republicans are likely to control the House and Senate next year, President Obama better barnstorm the country and meet with hard-pressed workers of all backgrounds for a $10.10 federal minimum wage. Just take a look at recent polling data which shows that over 70% of Americans are in favor of raising the minimum wage. That's nearly three out of every four Americans. With such overwhelming public support, where is the Democratic leadership in Congress? Why are they just talking about it but avoiding an all-out offensive on this decisively winning election issue? If they are not willing to vigorously act in the interest of these American people, then why don't they escalate the media buys and the grassroots organizing in the interest of the survival of the party? The minimum wage is buried as one of seven points in House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's (D-CA) so-called "Middle-Class Jumpstart" package.Last March, Democrats in the House of Representatives proposed an amendment to a bill that would raise the federal minimum wage. It was unanimously voted down by the clenched-teeth Republicans. Following in April, the Senate tried to bring legislation raising the federal minimum wage to a vote. Yet again, corporatist Republicans opposed raising the federal minimum wage by threatening to filibuster. The Senate leadership was short of the 60 votes necessary to defeat the emailed intention to filibuster. Speaker John Boehner once told The Weekly Standard that he'd "commit suicide" before voting on a clean minimum wage bill. And just this week, a leaked audio from a meeting of wealthy conservative funders revealed U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) vowing to block any vote on the minimum wage. "We're not going to be debating all of these gosh darn proposals," McConnell told the audience of millionaires and billionaires. "These people believe in all the wrong things." Shouldn't these cruel words be widely disseminated to beat McConnell in Kentucky and his party of plutocrats in November? The Democrats should be steamrolling these Wall Street Republicans. The Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013 (H.R. 1010), sponsored by Rep. George Miller (D-CA), seeks to partially rectify the dramatic decline in the purchasing power of the minimum wage by modestly raising it to $10.10 over three years. Most Congressional observers believe that if H.R. 1010 is brought to a roll call vote, it will pass. Thus, simply forcing a minimum wage raise vote past corporatists like House Speaker Boehner and McConnell is all that is standing between 30 million Americans and fairer wages. The benefits are many. The low wages offered by America's profitable corporations do not just affect workers; they affect all taxpayers as well. Workers making $7.25 an hour often cannot afford to buy food, pay rent, or get adequate healthcare. As a result, these employees must turn to taxpayer-funded government safety nets such as food stamps, Medicaid, the earned income tax credit, and housing-assistance programs. A $10.10 minimum wage would make life easier for these workers and their families. It would even strengthen the economy by increasing the consumer spending of millions of Americans. Therefore it's no surprise that some prominent out-of-office Republicans like Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Tim Pawlenty have expressed their support for raising the federal minimum wage. Earlier this year, Rep. Tim Bishop (D-NY) filed a discharge petition to force an up or down vote on H.R. 1010. To date, 195 House members have signed the petition. Only 23 more member signatures are needed to bring H.R. 1010 to a vote. There has been a stunningly insufficient effort by House Democrats, the few concerned Republicans, labor unions and poverty organizations to mount a serious effort find and persuade 23 more House members needed to activate the discharge petition to get the vote. Shockingly, few progressive leaders have raised the discharge petition to the press nor pressured non-signers publicly since March. The silence from Democratic leadership and the White House is shameful. What are they waiting for? (U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez is a notable exception -- he made a cross-country speaking tour this past week on the occasion of Labor Day discussing the benefits of raising the minimum wage, among other issues.) The Time for a Raise campaign just released a study identifying 55 Members of Congress who have yet to sign H.R. 1010's discharge petition to bring a federal minimum wage raise to a vote, but who could be susceptible to pressure on the issue. Visit Give1010AVote.org to see the report. Here's a fact that might jolt some apathetic citizens into action, as well as make some members of Congress sweat: While tens of millions of Americans live on a poverty-level $7.25 per hour, their hired hands in Congress, working a 40-hour work week, are making $83 per hour plus generous healthcare and pension benefits. How can these elected officials "represent" millions of Americans earning poverty-level wages? They can't when they are beholden to the Walmarts and the Wall Streeters. Labor Day weekend is an opportune time to press members of Congress to get serious about the necessities of 30 million long-suffering American workers. It only takes five minutes for you to call, write or email your member of Congress and ask them to sign Rep. Bishop's discharge petition, if they have yet to. Even better, rally around the local offices of your Senators and Representatives. It's time to get serious; it's time to give $10.10 a vote in September. Visit timeforaraise.org for more information on the campaign to raise the minimum wage.
Ferguson Police Chief, Now An International \'Bad Guy,\' Wants To Help His City Move Forward
FERGUSON, Mo. -- Nearly three weeks after 18-year-old Michael Brown was killed by one of his police officers, Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson is a man under a lot of pressure.In the immediate aftermath of the shooting, the chief's actions came under strong criticism. Against the recommendations of the Justice Department, he released a video allegedly showing Brown robbing a nearby convenience store shortly before his death -- even though Brown had been stopped for walking in the street, not because of the robbery. Jackson soon ceded much of his authority to police a large portion of Ferguson to other law enforcement agencies.His officers have recently begun responding to calls in that area again. And the criticism over Jackson?s decisions in the Brown case has shifted to critiques of the lack of diversity within and training of the Ferguson police force.Thursday night, inside a sweltering church just down the street from the Ferguson police station, there were calls for Jackson?s resignation during a forum hosted by NPR's Michel Martin.Early Friday afternoon, when The Huffington Post caught up with the chief at the entrance to the police station, Jackson was busy responding to text messages from his peers, preparing for an expected Saturday demonstration around Brown?s death and arranging for officers to be trained in the use of body cameras that two companies have donated. He also recently got around to reading a fake op-ed published under his name on the satirical website The Onion and wanted to make sure people knew it wasn't him.As he spoke with The Huffington Post, he occasionally paused to swing open the door for people entering the station: some there on business, another there to donate cases of drinks to the police dispatchers.During the conversation, Jackson clarified contradictory statements he had previously made about whether Officer Darren Wilson believed that Brown might have been a suspect in a robbery when he stopped the teen, with Jackson stating definitively that Wilson did not connect Brown with the robbery and stopped him simply because he was walking down the middle of the street. (Whether Brown believed he was being stopped because of the incident at the liquor store is a separate question.)Jackson also said that his officers still were not wearing name tags because protesters ?that don?t want to be peaceful? would read the tags and start ?taunting them? by name. ?It kind of reduces that personal taunt and allows us to be generic,? Jackson said. He added that they would be wearing the name tags again soon.Here?s what Jackson?s life is like these days, as told to The Huffington Post. His comments have been condensed and edited, and the order of some quotes has been rearranged:"Daily life now is doing things like trying to get the body camera, meeting with various local and national leaders to try to set up various types of training, not just for us but for the region."We do the racial profiling training and the cultural diversity stuff, but it?s not enough. Obviously, it?s not enough. "So what we want to do is get more of the training where officers, in the academy especially, can get a direct feel for what it?s like to be a young black male with the police behind them, you know, what it feels like. Try to get some of those firsthand stories."There?s a whole laundry list of training that?s really beneficial to get at this problem so that we can all live together peacefully. I?ve gotten reached out to people from Cincinnati, Sanford [the Florida town where Trayvon Martin was killed in 2012]. ... I?ve been texting back and forth. They had some really great programs. I don?t know if you remember in Cincinnati a young man was shot in the back, I guess, by a police officer, and they had sort of a similar -- well, nobody has really had anything like this, this bad. This is bad."A lot of what my life is right now is trying to move forward. Lots of meetings. I sat down with Akbar Muhammad [of the Nation of Islam] and some colleagues. Good conversations. I mean, they want me fired, but very friendly, open talk. They?re like, ?Yeah, you?re not who we thought you were,? you know, those kind of things."It was like a logistics meeting, really. We talked about, you know, where are we going to set up our tents, where are we going to put the trailer, can you feed us electricity, make sure you guys get water. They?re really committed to having this be peaceful."This week, we?re going back to normal. We?re going to wait and see how Saturday goes, and see if Sunday is calm. Our intent is to go back to normal operations on Monday with body cameras. At the end of the shift, all they have to do is -- everybody has a number, so they just put it in the docking station, and it goes into the server. We had two companies actually donate. "Everyone who is on duty will be able to have one. It keeps people in check, being monitored, and it counts because a lot of times people make complaints that are way exaggerated -- you know, the officer was rude to me ... -- so it helps both sides. And it also helps if an officer has a manner that?s perceived as confrontational ? we can train them. So it helps with training, it helps with internal affairs investigations, it helps with knowing what happens. If we?ve got a problem officer, and we get a complaint, and it just so happens that the camera is turned off during the complaint, there?s discipline there regardless. But it will help us. It will help us identify officers with problems or officers who are trending towards being problematic. It allows us to do some coaching, some training. It will take a lot of the guesswork out of what happens."When [outside officers] go in and show up for something like this [the unrest in Ferguson], the briefing needs to be more clear. Most of these people have a legitimate beef or a legitimate gripe; they?re asking legitimate questions. People with the weapons, those are the people we?re concerned about, not the people saying, ?Hands up, don?t shoot.? It?s a different agenda."What we?re doing now is we?re getting back in there. Understand that we?re been working with those neighborhood associations and trying to get them to take ownership of the city and be involved in activities. So when we?ve been back over there these past few days, people have been waving at us. People from the apartments have sent me goodies these past few days. Our history is better than this. So we?re back in there, we?re responding to calls -- as is the [Missouri State] Highway Patrol, they?re in that corridor. Sick case, stolen bicycle, the usual, just normal calls. "We had a call that came out that said some peaceful protesters were being harassed by some not-so-peaceful protesters. That?s how the call came out. But anyway, [St. Louis] County [Police] is still in there. So we?re just going to try to transition back to normalcy. There?s been a grant from the county for businesses to try to rebuild -- I think it?s like a million dollars for Ferguson businesses affected."That QuikTrip, this was a grocery store for those thousand apartments that were back there and another 200 across the way. People could walk there to get their groceries, and it wasn?t one of those places that was going to dig you and charge you too much -- that happens in a lot of poor neighborhoods, places that just gouge you. This is just a regular QuikTrip that charges regular prices for groceries. And they wanted to keep that there because they had a really particular customer base. I don?t think they?ve decided yet. I think they?re waiting to see how this plays out in the long run."Thirty-five years in the community being the good guy, now I'm internationally the bad guy, that hurts. But it is what it is."(Disclosure: Jackson also repeatedly apologized for actions of the officers who put a Huffington Post reporter and a Washington Post reporter under arrest inside a McDonald's on Aug. 13.)This article was made possible in part by HuffPost readers through their support of the Ferguson Fellowship. Here's how you can back more reporting like this from Ferguson and St. Louis over the next year.
Mitch McConnell\'s Campaign Manager Resigns After Iowa Bribery Scandal Deepens
Jesse Benton, the campaign manager for U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, will resign his post as a bribery scandal from the 2012 presidential campaign threatens to envelop Benton and become a major distraction for McConnell's campaign.
\'Black-ish\' Creator Kenya Barris Defines New Show And Responds To Critics
This fall, ABC will add more diversity to its slate of programming with the new family sitcom "black-ish." Starring Anthony Anderson, Tracee Ellis Ross and Laurence Fishburne, and executive produced by Larry Wilmore and "America's Next Top Model" co-creator Kenya Barris, the half-hour comedy series takes a look at one man's determination to establish a sense of cultural identity for his modern African-American family in suburban California.Some critics have questioned whether the show, which premieres Sept. 24, will resonate with ABC's viewers. But Barris hopes that "black-ish" will translate as an applicable lesson on race relations and cultural assimilation in today's America.During a recent interview with The Huffington Post, Barris opened up about the creation of "black-ish," and offered his thoughts on the importance of the show's airing amid passionate discussions about race in Ferguson, Missouri and elsewhere.How would you define "black-ish"?I would say it's an adjective, and I would even say it's a dynamic adjective. I think some of the controversy has been around the idea that some people think that we're trying to define what "black" is, and it couldn't be further from the truth. I think it's a really inclusive word much less than an exclusionary word, in terms of [how] it really speaks towards the homogenized society we're living in today ... If you look at the main character, Andre Johnson [played by Anderson], from his eyes, he's raising kids and a family in a time where he looks around at his kids and he feels like their idea of being "black," from what he remembers growing up, is different from what it was for him...And I say that in terms of how he looks at his kids, and his kids are at a Macklemore concert or skateboarding. And so the ideology of what he saw, growing up, to be black, there's a little bit of a filtered, subtracted, watered-down version of that. And so they're kind of "black-ish" in that version. But then at the same time, he looks around and sees that there's an additive version when he looks and sees a lot of the cultural impact that black culture has had on what America is today, [how it] has spread beyond our particular race. He sees, Kim Kardashian is "black-ish." Dirk Nowitzki has a "black-ish" style of playing basketball. And he looks and feels like culture, in general, is at a place where it reached this sort of convergence, where it's all become sort of this one thing, and we've all sort of merged into this big homogenized pot of where we're [borrowing] from each other. And everyone else, in his eyes, has become a little bit more "black-ish." So it works both ways.Did you experience any difficulties or hurdles while shopping the pilot to networks?We were really lucky. I've sold a bunch of pilots, and this time, when I did this pilot, I was like, I didn't care who bought it. I was kind of like, "This time I'm going to do it honestly. I'm going to try to say, 'I'll make the family white or I'll just make it about a family who just happens to be black.'" And for some reason, sometimes when you just have to go from a purer place, it hits harder. I went to a bunch of production companies and we decided to do it with Laurence Fishburne's company, because Laurence said he'd be in it. And based on his own life, he immediately got the story ... And we sold it everywhere we pitched. I'll be honest -- we got offers in the room almost everywhere we pitched. It was sort of a competitive situation. And we were actually going to go with FX, because we knew they would let us do what we wanted to do. But I'm so glad that we made the decision we did going with ABC, because they have really stepped up and [done] this show where every week we're like, "They're letting us do this?" [laughs] How important was it for you to highlight modern-day situations in which race relations take place -- for example, how African-Americans manage to navigate through the dynamics of office politics?It's the fundamental premise of the whole show for me. Dave Chappelle has this great joke of how he doesn't [like] this sort [of] racism in Hollywood where it's behind closed doors. He likes that old Southern, "fine-brewed to perfection" racism where it's just in your face. And it's something more dangerous when it's not as malicious or done on purpose, when it's more institutional. Because they don't get that they're doing it, and it's not being done on purpose. And I want to shed light on it, because it works both ways ... There's sort of a duality and a counterintuitiveness to the main character's problem, because he wants the promotion, but he's mad that they gave him the promotion of the "Urban Division." But like his wife says, "You're mad that they gave you the Urban Division because you think they gave it to you because you're black. But if they gave the Urban Division to someone white, you'd be mad that they didn't give it to someone black." There's a counterintuitive [aspect] and a duality to that type of thinking that we deal with every day [...] and I want to shed a light on that. I think that this show is a test study. We don't get a lot of opportunities like this. Unfortunately, if it works, it becomes [...] somewhat of an understood standard. But if it doesn't work, it becomes, "Oh well, that experiment failed. Back to the norm." And that's scary. What are your thoughts on the relevance of the show airing on network television in the midst of the Michael Brown shooting investigation and other race-related news items?It's weird. As the pilot had just gotten picked up for a series, the [Donald] Sterling thing came out. And we were like, "Yooo, this is crazy!" And then as that was happening you had the guy in New York [Eric Garner] get strangled [...] and it's like, this is still a part of the world that we're in. And people want to say, "Well, [President] Barack [Obama] is this..." I think in some aspects, Barack has shot us 25, 30 years into the future. But at the same time he has given people the ability to say, "Well now you don't have anything else to complain about ... We're no longer a country that has any type of biases. Because look, we have a black president." But that's not the case. Ninety-five percent of the biases against Barack, there's a lot of that that comes from a place that's saying, "I personally don't agree with him because he's black." It has nothing to do with his policies, but more of the policies coming from a black man. So I think it's a really important time for this show to air. I think that I am not trying to get on a pulpit and preach. This is comedy. At its heart, it's a family comedy. It's not a political show ... We wanted to make this show the same way for me, growing up, "The Cosby Show" was like, "Oh my God! I want that to be my family." We wanted to make this show aspirational and we wanted to build off of what Dr. Cosby did in a really positive way. "black-ish" premieres Sept. 24 at 9:30pm EST on ABC.WATCH:
9 Years After Hurricane Katrina: New Orleans\' Lower Ninth Ward and Recovery
The group of citizens gathered today alongside the levee which runs the length of the Industrial Canal, in the Lower Ninth Ward -- the hardest hit, the place where so many lost their lives. The names written on a banner reminded us of the lives lost, as local leaders in the community gathered, alongside preachers who had flown in -- educators, well-known folks in music and local radio -- to remember to never ever forget what happened on August 29th, 2005.As the Second Line began rolling down the streets of the Lower Ninth Ward, homeowners came out of their houses to watch and communicate their support, children walked with parents, organizations were represented and speeches and songs honored those from the souls departed to the Rooftop Riders, those who had found their way out of flooded houses onto rooftops to await those who had never come or came too late. The new homes, raised high, built post-Katrina by funds donated by Brad Pitt's foundation, stand next to near dilapidated houses, once homes, with the ever-present reminders of the disaster, those Katrina first-responders' X's painted onto front facades. This part of the city does not have the basic services and stores and schools that flourish elsewhere in the wealthier neighborhoods. The Ninth Ward was poor, and it is African-American, and that is why many people believe, especially those who live and once lived there, that they were forgotten. Righteous indignance was expressed today, for the most part by younger members of the community, for the fact that the city did not take this day off so that they could honor those who had died, that people had to work and go to school and so could not join the procession, the commemorations around the city, but especially this one in the Lower Ninth. Parallels were made to the pain of Ferguson, and rightly so. The sounds of Mardi Gras Indians, and the twirling of the parasol as the Second Line began its dance and rolled down the streets and across the St. Claude bridge towards the memorial where Senator Mary Landrieu spoke today nearby at the Katrina Memorial on Claiborne Avenue in the Lower Ninth War (known by locals as CTC, Cross the Canal), reminding us not only of that time nine years ago, but that the upcoming elections mean people in the Ninth Ward need to vote and have their voices heard. Today's commemorative march stands as yet another reminder that many, many people in the city -- the relatives and friends of those who died, and those who could not afford to come back because of financial, mental and emotional reasons -- need to be represented. One community leader asked if Democracy existed in this country after what had happened during and after Katrina. Another said that it had happened in the wealthiest country in the world, and that this was beyond unacceptable.But most of all, there was a shared sense of a greater community of a place which is New Orleans, which has soul unlike any other city in these United States and which reminds us exactly what it means to value history, culture and a deep human instinct for why life is worth living. Somehow one lives more deeply here in New Orleans. It is the city with the highest percentage of native-born residents of any U.S. city. People who are born and grow up here do not want to live without its sounds, tastes, rituals and front porches. As my great-grandmother from Louisiana wrote on the inside cover of a book of poetry I received 100 years after it was given to her, "New Orleans is the only exotic place in America."This is true, but I would add, in many ways, it is the best of America because it is a place where people still care deeply enough to know that you must return home in order to rebuild again and again. There is a lot of work to still do in New Orleans, and climate change was brought up as a harsh reality of part of what that work needs to be focused on, but there is also optimism and energy. There is still a lot of rebuilding to do, and one hopes even more displaced people will be able to return. But most of all, New Orleans shows us the truth about this country. If we lose New Orleans, we lose the best of ourselves as Americans.
Weekend Roundup: Where in Hell Did ISIS Come From?
What happens when the strategic fatigue of the West meets an energetic jihadist surge aimed at setting up a Syriaq caliphate? That is the question The WorldPost asked our contributors to address this week.Writing from Beirut, the legendary former MI6 agent and "middleman of the Middle East," Alastair Crooke, examines the link between ISIS ideology and the puritanical Wahhabi sect of Islam that dominates Saudi Arabia. Graham Fuller, who was CIA station chief in Kabul at the time of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 and later Vice-Chair of the CIA's National Intelligence Council, draws from his long experience to warn against a "tit for tat" response to the ISIS beheading of James Foley that would perpetuate instead of break the cycle of violence. Writing from Berlin, Joschka Fischer, who was Germany's foreign minister from 1998-2005, calls on Europe to help fill the vacuum in a brutal world as the U.S. tapers its power. Jane Harman, who for many years headed the House Intelligence Committee, laments a "feckless" U.S. Congress that has gone AWOL on American security policy.Rula Jebreal argues against the temptation in the West to join forces with Arab autocrats and dictators, who themselves lack democratic legitimacy, in any new campaign against militant jihadists.The dean of American scholars of Islam, John Esposito, notes the daunting challenge of defeating ISIS since the "drivers of radicalization include moral outrage, disaffection, peer pressure, the search for a new identity, and for a sense of meaning, purpose and belonging." Looking at this same phenomenon with the lighter weapon of humor, comedian Nadia P. Manzoor offers a whimsical insight into her upbringing as a Pakistani Muslim living in Great Britain.As the "stealth" Russian invasion becomes more visible, Alexander Motyl discusses Putin's vision of "federalizing" Ukraine and speculates about what the Russian president might have in store for his neighboring country in the near future. In a touching photo essay, this week's "The Other Hundred" blog focuses on the lives of now elderly Belarusian women who were considered heroes during World War II. Another photo essay by Garry Winogrand displays some iconic images of American life in the post-World War II decades.Writing from Beijing, Deng Xiaoping's long-time interpreter Zhang Weiwei gives us a behind-the-scenes look at Deng's conversations with world leaders, including Mikhail Gorbachev. Ted Carpenter advances the provocative concept of accepting China's dominance of East Asia as a way to create the kind of stability the U.S. has enjoyed historically as a result of the Monroe Doctrine. Writing from Managua, Carlos Chamorro adds a paradoxical twist to Carpenter's argument, questioning the wisdom of building a Chinese-financed substitute for the Panama Canal through Nicaragua.WorldPost Beijing Correspondent Matt Sheehan reports on yet another crackdown in China -- this one on drug use by celebrities and foreigners. Looking around at the routines of daily life in Beijing, Matt also shows how the elderly in China are more physically fit than their U.S. counterparts. As the extended cease-fire in Gaza holds, WorldPost Middle East Correspondent Sophia Jones documents how Gaza supporters are tweaking the popular ice bucket challenge to promote their own cause: the #RubbleBucketChallenge.Urban theorist Luis Bettencourt makes the case that, if organized properly, megacities of the future can eradicate many of today's scourges, from famine to disease.Finally, in a newly launched series, "Forgotten Fact," the WorldPost brings you one overlooked aspect of the stories that made news in recent days. This week's topic: How the ebola outbreak started way earlier than you thought.
MISSION STATEMENTThe WorldPost is a global media bridge that seeks to connect the world and connect the dots. Gathering together top editors and first person contributors from all corners of the planet, we aspire to be the one publication where the whole world meets.We not only deliver breaking news from the best sources with original reportage on the ground and user-generated content; we bring the best minds and most authoritative as well as fresh and new voices together to make sense of events from a global perspective looking around, not a national perspective looking out.
Harry Reid\'s College To Drop Name From Campus Building
WASHINGTON -- A University that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) attended is dropping the powerful senator?s name from a campus building after school officials said it caused branding issues.Officials at Southern Utah University in Cedar City, Utah, decided to attach Reid?s name to the school?s Outdoor Engagement Center in 2011, hoping that it would help raise money for the center.?The new naming caused some branding issues for the Outdoor Engagement Center, because people didn?t necessarily associate Harry Reid with outdoor engagement," Jennifer Burt, an SUU spokeswoman, told The Huffington Post. "It was impacting a center that had already been functioning and thriving. The name itself, it just caused some identity issues.?SUU was also facing pressure from some Cedar City residents, who raised at least $40,000 to have Reid?s name removed from the center, according to the St. George Daily Spectrum.?This is a conservative base in Southern Utah and many people in southern Nevada also feel the same way,? Cedar City Councilman Paul Cozzens told the paper. ?These people in Nevada do not espouse to Reid?s political philosophies, and they told me they would not support the university or send any more of their children there, and this was coming from people who had already sent children to SUU, so long as Harry Reid?s name remained.?University president Scott Wyatt said that the community opposition did not influence the decision to drop Reid?s name from the center.?The University did not condone this initiative nor did it accept any funds raised for that purpose. The implication that SUU removed Senator Reid?s name in response to a fundraising effort for that purpose is simply not accurate,? Wyatt said in a statement.Reid, who attended SUU but ultimately graduated from Utah State University, said that he agreed to lend his name to the center, but noted that he had never pledged any kind of financial support."I was approached and asked to use my name and I was happy to, but there was no such agreement to have me raise funds for it," he said in a statement. "I'm not going to raise money to have my name placed on anything."
Federal Judge Halts Key Part Of Texas Abortion Law
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) ? A federal judge Friday threw out new Texas abortion restrictions that would have effectively closed more than a dozen clinics statewide in a victory for opponents of tough new anti-abortion laws sweeping across the U.S.U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel sided with clinics that sued over one of the most disputed measures of a sweeping anti-abortion bill signed by Republican Gov. Rick Perry in 2013. The ruling stops new clinic requirements that would have left seven abortion facilities in Texas come Monday, when the law was set to take effect. Texas currently has 19 abortion providers ? already down from more than 40 just two years ago, according to groups that sued the state for the second time over the law known as HB2."The overall effect of the provisions is to create an impermissible obstacle as applied to all women seeking a previability abortion," Yeakel wrote in his 21-page ruling.The ruling blocks a portion of the that law would have required abortion facilities in Texas to meet hospital-level operating standards, which supporters say will protect women's health. But Yeakel concluded the intent was only to "close existing licensed abortion clinics."Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, a Republican who is the favorite to become governor next year, vowed to seek an immediate appeal to try to preserve the new clinic rules.Clinics called the measures a backdoor effort to outlaw abortions, which has been a constitutional right since the Roe v. Wade ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1973.Under the new restrictions, the only remaining abortion facilities in Texas would have been in major cities, and there would have been none in the entire western half of the nation's second-largest state. For women in El Paso, the closest abortion provider would be in New Mexico ? an option the state wanted Yeakel to take into consideration, even though New Mexico's rules for abortion clinics are far less rigorous."It's an undue burden for women in Texas ? and thankfully today the court agreed," said Amy Hagstrom Miller, CEO of Whole Woman's Health, which would have been among the clinic operators affected. "The evidence has been stacking up against the state and against the politicians who so cynically passed these laws in the name of safety."Miller said that she will now seek to re-open a clinic in the Rio Grande Valley ? where there hasn't been an abortion provider for months ? as soon as this weekend.The new Texas restrictions would have required clinics to have operating rooms, air filtration systems and other standards that are typically only mandated in surgical settings.Some clinics in Texas already stopped offering abortions after another part of the 2013 bill required doctors to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. That part of the law has been upheld by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court in New Orleans, where the state will now seek a second reversal."The State disagrees with the court's ruling and will seek immediate relief from the Fifth Circuit, which has already upheld HB2 once," Abbott spokeswoman Lauren Bean said.Similar rules on admitting privileges have been blocked by federal courts in Mississippi, Kansas and Wisconsin.Attorneys for the state denied that women would be burdened by fewer abortion facilities, saying nearly 9 in 10 women in Texas would still live within 150 miles of a provider. Critics say that still leaves nearly a million Texas women embarking on drives longer than three hours to get an abortion.Opposition to the Texas law was so visible that Democrat Wendy Davis launched her campaign for governor behind the celebrity she achieved through a nearly 13-hour filibuster last summer that temporarily blocked the bill in the state Senate.Her opponent in November is Abbott.___Follow Paul J. Weber on Twitter: www.twitter.com/pauljweber
Philippines at a Crossroads: End of Aquino\'s Popularity?
A key lesson in politics, especially among developing countries, is that everything is relative: It is difficult to develop a stable metric for assessing the performance of any particular administration without taking the context -- that is to say, the set of circumstances that enable and constrain political change and human agency -- into consideration. Each administration inherits a set of challenges and achievements from a previous administration, and, sometimes, popular views with respect to any particular leader will largely depend on PR strategy and media coverage. If one adopts an absolute, eternal set of standards to assess political leaders in troubled nations, particularly newly-democratizing nations in the developing world, there would be hardly any room for cautious optimism and political hope. The advent of "autocratic nostalgia" -- thanks to supporters of past dictatorships, who brazenly launch revisionist campaigns to extol (artificially-reconstructed) images of the past -- is an extreme, troubling reflection of the relativist nature of modern politics across the developing world. From Cairo to Jakarta and Manila, it isn't difficult to find people who would passionately recall the supposed "good old days" under, say, Mubarak, Suharto or Marcos. The virtues of the past, imaginary and real, tend to be seen through our frustrations with present circumstances. But the aspirational middle classes across many emerging markets, especially in post-autocratic regimes with free and vibrant media, have become disillusioned with naysayers and cynical pundits, who do little but to lambast any seating leader without much contextualization and appreciation of short- and medium-term gains. In the 21st century, a growing proportion of informed citizens have come to oppose not only crude state propaganda, but also irresponsible, sensationalist punditry -- divorced from shifting sands of the time and unappreciative of the importance of political hope for democratic mobilization. It is precisely for the above reasons that it is very difficult to provide a purely objective assessment of President Benigno Aquino III, who has been praised in the Philippines and around the world for his supposedly sincere commitment to good governance and democratic reform. One could argue, nevertheless, that whether you agree with the Aquino administration or not, it is undeniable that the Philippines has managed to achieve a semblance of success in recent years, especially when seen against the backdrop of political mayhem and sputtering growth under the two previous administrations. And unlike the Ramos administration (1992-1998), widely seen as one of the more respectable Filipino governments in recent memory, the Aquino administration, which came to power in 2010 on a vigorous anti-corruption agenda, has largely shunned mindless privatization schemes, which explain the exorbitant electricity and water costs in the Philippines today -- major impediment to large-scale inflow of Greenfield investments and the much-needed revival of our manufacturing sector.There are, however, also growing reasons to worry about the country, as President Aquino struggles to reconcile his moral crusade with the Machiavellian exigencies of Philippine politics. A Dose of Sobriety Obviously, the Southeast Asian country confronts daunting challenges, and the Philippines' (overrated) economic performance is far from resembling any genuine Tiger economy, as many analysts naively claim, especially when one looks at the dismal inelasticity of poverty and unemployment rates in recent years. The Aquino administration has, so far, also fallen short of fulfilling its initial promise of an infrastructure bonanza to fuel the Philippines' economic expansion. The economic picture is more hopeful, but growth has been far from inclusive. Budget cuts in the education sector, meanwhile, have led to the dramatic decline of the Philippines' leading universities' rankings in international surveys. This could seriously affect the country's ability to attract high-end foreign investments, which demand a large pool of qualified, skilled labor to handle sophisticated technology and takeover important mid-to-high level management levels in local subsidiaries of multi-national companies. For sure, many of Aquino's critics have been sometimes unfair by placing unreasonable expectations on a government that struggles to mobilize a creaking state apparatus, which has been enervated by a century of institutionalized corruption and patronage politics. Aquino managed to show enough sincerity and pull off sufficient accomplishments to retain extraordinarily high approval ratings halfway into his presidency. Under his leadership, the Philippines consistently improved its rankings across major development and competitiveness indices.Just like his predecessors in recent decades, Aquino has had to contend with the anti-Marcosian spirit of the 1987 Constitution -- a Hegelian antithesis to the 1973 Constitution that gave sweeping powers to the seating president -- which places tremendous limitations on the power of the president. For instance, an elected president can only stay for six years in office, with no room for re-election, which raises at least two problems: First of all, there is just so much that a Filipino president can do in six years; and, secondly, without the opportunity of re-election, there is less incentive for a seating president to do good once in office. However, Aquino's purported flirtation with a second term in office is startling for at least two reasons. First and foremost, there is the issue of timing. Any astute political strategist knows that it is best to push for major constitutional changes, especially controversial ones, when the ruling party relishes maximum political capital and wields enough time to build a coalition around any seismic political reform. Today, Aquino, who is inching closer to his lame duck years, is suffering from a dramatic decline in popularity. His political capital has been undermined by an ongoing political skirmish with the judiciary and growing concerns over the impartiality of his anti-corruption initiatives. Aquino should have contemplated any major constitutional maneuver back in 2012 and 2013, when he was riding high. Moreover, revising presidential term limits runs against his revered mother's, Cory Aquino, principled commitment to the curtailment of executive powers - a rejection of the Marcos dictatorship, whereby a predatory presidency eliminated all traces of constitutionality and rule of law. In 1997, in response to Fidel Ramos' bid for a second term, Cory Aquino declared: "The presidency is so great an honor, no one deserves to have it again... It imposes a duty so important... And if you did it well, you won't deserve to do it again."Now or Never It goes without saying that Aquino's ascent to power was built on a moral crusade against corruption and arbitrary governance. With no major legislative accomplishments, and relatively humble educational background, Aquino's popularity ahead of the 2010 presidential elections had much to do with the nation's outpouring of sympathy for his beloved mother. Above all, it is a question of legacy. It is about the coherence of Aquino's political philosophy and his long-held image -- at least among his legions of supporters -- as a relatively low-profile leader with sincere intentions. As Filipino Pundit Teddy Locsin succinctly put it, "Humility is the first virtue of government. Humility lets you see, not what you want to see, but what is really out there." Arguably, humility and sincerity were Aquino's strongest allies in his earlier years in office. But now he risks outliving his sell by date by bidding for a second term.Unlike any of his predecessors, with the glaring exception of the Ferdinand Marcos regime, Aquino has dared to openly confront the Supreme Court and the judiciary, threatening anti-corruption measures against leading magistrates and lamenting their supposed lack of support for his good governance agenda and vision of a democratic polity. In the meantime, he is facing several impeachment complaints for his supposed abuse of power and betrayal of public trust in relation to his approval of the establishment (and the manner by which) the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) -- a discretionary executive fund designed for counter-cyclical economic purposes amid continued uncertainties in the global economy -- has been spent. What the Philippines needs are not strong leaders per se, who see themselves as the only solution to the world's problems. The era of "strongmen" is over. The Arab uprisings of 2010-11 were precisely about getting rid of the monstrosity of self-centered, archaic leaders. Instead, the 21st century is about leaders who can efficiently delegate tasks to competent subordinates, build synergistic relationships among competing factions, and oversee a healthy competition among rival views and personalities within the government and beyond. More importantly, the Philippines need strong institutions, which attract competent leaders and are not dependent on the whims of any single mind. If Aquino wants his legacy to continue, he should first focus on building a robust, genuine political party beyond personalistic politics. He should vigorously support, whichever candidate, he thinks, will continue his good legacy and build on recent achievements and gains. He should use his remaining years in office to set an example for his successors. And beyond his term in office, he should utilize his political capital to pressure his successors to stay true to their duty -- and his widely-celebrated vision of a democratic, prosperous Philippines. (A short version of this piece was originally publish on Yahoo Philippines)
Guns, Guns, Guns
Having been an outspoken critic of uncontrolled handgun distribution over the past 40 years and the way the Constitution has been twisted to justify reckless sales of deadly weapons, I am pleased to say that the arms industry and the distributors of deadly handguns have taken positive steps to ensure the safety of most American citizens.However the horrible account this week of how a 9-year-old child handled a deadly Uzi at an Arizona gun range and accidentally killed a weapons instructor is a tragic reminder that ALL AMERICANS have to be careful beyond our imagination to avoid such tragedies again. Imagine what that child has to live with the rest of her life, having killed a man she didn't know, whom out of normal kindness was trying to help her. But what about the parents who recklessly took their young daughter to a gun range and allowed her to handle a weapon that was no toy and is used to murder or halt people in committing crimes everywhere? And what of the owners of gun ranges who allow children into the dangerously unsafe atmosphere of a shooting range?
HUFFPOLLSTER: Political Scientists Weigh In With Midterm Predictions
Political scientists gathered in DC to argue over just how good the midterms will be for the GOP. We weigh in with our own revamped Senate model. And that's it for us until next Tuesday, when we switch over to a morning newsletter. This is HuffPollster for Friday, August 29, 2014.POLITICAL SCIENTISTS PREDICT GOP GAINS, BUT HOW BIG? - At the annual conference of the American Political Science Association (APSA) in Washington D.C. on Friday, four political scientists predicted gains for the Republicans in both the U.S. House and Senate. In presenting results of their forecasting models on the outcome of 2014 congressional races, however, they disagreed on the magnitude of Republican gains in the House and the potential for a G.O.P. takeover of the Senate. -James Campbell of SUNY Buffalo predicted a "mini-wave" election, with the Republicans gaining 16 additional seats in the House for the largest U.S. House majority since 1931, and eight seats and majority status in the Senate. Campbell's model is based on a calculation of "seats in peril" for each party based on the late August assessments of the Cook Political Report-Alan Abramowitz of Emory University was less bullish on Republican prospects. His model, which depends in part on results from the generic congressional ballot question in national polls, predicts a Republican gain of five to seven seats in the House and four to eight seats in the Senate. Based on recent polls showing a 1 to 2 point Democratic lead on the generic congressional ballot, Abramowitz's model predicts a four-seat Republican gain in the House and a 5.5 seat gain in the Senate. -Robert Erikson of Columbia University presented a forecast of a 14-seat gain for Republicans in the House, based on a model and paper co-authored with Joe Bafumi of Dartmouth College and Chris Wlezien of the University of Texas. Their model also depends heavily on national polling on U.S. House vote preferences.-James King of University of Wyoming presented results from a different sort of statistical model that allows for the possibility, as he described it, that elections "are not necessarily a referendum on the president." Some are referenda, others may be dominated by "positive events" that might benefit the president's party. Unfortunately for Democrats, King's model sees 2014 as a referendum election and predicts a massive 39-seat gain for Republicans in the House. The two political scientists who attempted to predict the outcome of the Senate contests warned about the difficulty in such forecasts. Although Abramowitz noted that "the Senate is where action is this year...where party control very much in question," he warned that his Senate model is not as historically accurate as his U.S. House model, "but it does a reasonably good job.?It?s just more difficult to predict Senate elections because they?re lumpier," Campbell agreed. "They?re very competitive and they can move more quickly during the campaign season than House seats."Campbell -- who, it should be said, once worked briefly as a Republican staffer on Capitol Hill -- concluded with a friendly jibe at Abramowitz -- who, it should be said, was a donor to President Obama's reelection campaign in 2012. "The best indicator of just how bad 2014 is likely to be for the Democrats," Campbell joked, "is that I?ve received no annoyingly gloating emails [this year] from Alan." WE'VE UPDATED OUR POLLING MODEL - HuffPollster, with Natalie Jackson: "Until our latest changes, the HuffPost Pollster charts also noted the probability that the leading candidate is really ahead -- a number that describes the model's statistical confidence that the colored bands around each trend line do not overlap. Unfortunately, that statistic has proved to be misleading. Given the way the model combines the samples from multiple polls, relatively small margins can quickly produce a very high level of confidence in a statistically significant lead. However, a small lead in the polling averages today may be fleeting. Voter preferences can change over the course of a campaign and, of course, polls themselves can be wrong. So beginning on Aug. 29, the HuffPost Pollster [Senate] charts instead provide a 'win probability' statistic that aims to take into account the potential for shifts in candidate support and the potential for error or statistical bias in polling estimates of candidate support?We compute the win probability not because we believe polls can provide perfect predictions of the future. They cannot (although on the eve of an election, they should come very close). Rather, since so many political observers treat poll results as a forecast, our aim is to quantify the polls? lack of precision in foretelling election outcomes, to put a real-world "margin of error" around the current polling snapshot. [HuffPost]And we've added a new house effect correction - The house effect correction that is an integral part of our polling model already pulled results toward the industry average for all pollsters. But the growth of partisan polls and surveys using nontraditional methodologies has created a far greater potential for bias in that average. We have therefore added an additional house effect adjustment. The goal here is simple: to minimize the effects of partisan polls and pollsters with questionable reliability. So we calibrate the model's trend lines to better match estimates from the group of nonpartisan pollsters who were on average within plus-or-minus one percentage point of the trend lines generated by the HuffPost 2012 model after adjusting the model to the actual election results. The average of the polls conducted by these pollsters is calculated, and then the rest of the model is adjusted as if this average were the true average of all the polls." [HuffPost]SUPPORT FOR AIR STRIKES IN SYRIA - Emily Swanson: "A majority of Americans think the United States should expand its military campaign against insurgents in Iraq into Syria as well, a new HuffPost/YouGov poll shows. According to the poll, 60 percent of Americans now support airstrikes against insurgents in Syria, while 20 percent are opposed. That level of support approached the 64 percent of Americans in the survey who said they support the current airstrike campaign against Iraq. Fifty-six percent of Democrats, 54 percent of independents and 79 percent of Republicans said they support airstrikes in Syria. Support for intervening in Syria has grown dramatically in the past year. A HuffPost/YouGov poll conducted last September found that only 13 percent of Americans thought the U.S. should use airstrikes, while 62 percent said it should not. " [HuffPost]MOST AMERICANS BELIEVE EMPLOYERS SHOULD GIVE PAID VACATIONS - Dave Jamison and Emily Swanson: "Americans overwhelmingly support the idea of requiring large U.S. employers to provide their workers with at least some paid vacation time, according to a new HuffPost/YouGov poll. In a poll conducted ahead of Labor Day, 75 percent of respondents said they believe in placing such a mandate upon the business community. A mere 17 percent said they oppose it. The support crossed party lines to include 87 percent of self-identified Democrats and 65 percent of Republicans." [HuffPost]SURVEYS HIGHLIGHT HISTORICAL OPINIONS OF UNIONS - Kathleen Weldon: "On May 14, 1882, unionized workers in New York City held a parade and picnic, and the seeds of the Labor Day holiday were planted. About 50 years later, pollsters began asking Americans to share their opinions on unions. The results highlight how views of the labor movement have -- and haven't -- changed since the 1930s. Some insights from the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research archives: Gallup has been asking the public about their approval of labor unions since 1936. Support for unions has drifted slowly downward since its early peaks. However majorities (54%) still express approval [for labor unions] in the most recent poll?.Over 1950s, 1990s, and early 2000s, the public was asked by Gallup where their sympathies generally fell when they heard about a strike. Over this broad time span, the number inclined to side with the union has stayed fairly consistent, ranging from 40% to 52%. Those who tend to side with the company has ranged between 29% and 37%, while the remainder say neither or both?.In 1937, 11% of all adults reported belonging to one. By the early fifties, when the proportion of the employed in unions was reaching its peak, membership was at 18%. Labor membership suffered a long decline over the late 20th century, and by 2014, again one in ten said they were union members." [HuffPost]HUFFPOLLSTER VIA EMAIL! - You can receive this daily update every weekday via email! Just click here, enter your email address, and and click "sign up." That's all there is to it (and you can unsubscribe anytime).FRIDAY'S 'OUTLIERS' - Links to the best of news at the intersection of polling, politics and political data:-Harry Enten and Nate Silver argue that migration isn't turning red states blue. -Gallup finds the average American employed full time works more than 40 hours each week. [Gallup]-Robert Morris University finds Americans split on the importance of unions. [RMU]-A Russian pollster finds little opposition to Putin on the situation in Ukraine. [Pew]-Political scientist Maurice Cunningham takes a look at whether Martha Coakley's well publicized campaign gaffes really hurt her in the 2009 special election loss to Scott Brown in Massachusetts. [MassPoliticsProfs]-Americans are Team Reclining On Airplanes. [HuffPost]
Congress Needs to Rein in the Security State the Way We Have in Maine
When I became executive director of the ACLU of Maine in 2005, national security hawks controlled Washington, D.C., and the 9/11 attacks were still a very fresh memory around the country. The Patriot Act and the recently created Department of Homeland Security (DHS) defined the public safety conversation. Pushing stricter oversight of law enforcement agencies was, in many circles, a non-starter.Today, just nine years later, public opinion is further from that point than the most dedicated civil libertarian could have predicted. The Edward Snowden revelations and growing public opposition to law enforcement overreach - fueled by incidents like the ongoing situation in Ferguson, Mo. - have created an important moment for Congress to reconsider its hands-off, no-questions-asked approach to policing and security strategies around the country.Some communities have already started taking their own measures to rein in excessive law enforcement practices. Maine is ahead of the country thanks to effective coalition-building between progressives, conservatives and libertarians - a model other states should follow. Because of the hard work of the ACLU and its allies, law enforcement officers in our state need a warrant to access individual cell phone records, monitor emails or track a cell phone. Police need a homeowner's permission before placing cameras on his or her property, and every police department in the state has a mandatory policy against racial profiling.Unfortunately, you couldn't even get those common sense limits through today's Congress. Despite some chatter in Washington about the rise of libertarian politics, too many lawmakers in both parties still resist scrutinizing police or security agency conduct. When it comes to weighing the importance of civil liberties against fear of a terrorist attack (or everyday criminal activity), the Beltway is trapped in 2005.Staying in that trap has had very costly and disturbing consequences, and they're playing out right now in Ferguson. We're not used to seeing police in military uniforms point rifles at pedestrians and non-violent protesters. To put it bluntly, Congress made that scenario possible, and it's asleep at the switch when oversight is most needed. No amount of state-level advocacy will end that. The Washington consensus is overdue for a shakeup, and change needs to come from within.Any senator or representative looking for solutions doesn't need to search far. The Pentagon directly transfers armored vehicles to small towns and puts heavy weapons in the hands of neighborhood beat cops, but it's not alone. According to the Center for Investigative Reporting, DHS has handed out more than $34 billion since 2001 in grants that local police have used to buy, among other items, surveillance drones and an Army tank. Those purchases don't just speak to a lack of respect for taxpayer money. They speak to how profoundly the War on Terror and the Bush years changed the culture and mentality of law enforcement, and how drastically we need to reverse course. When the Pentagon hands a free Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected tank to the police department in Sanford, Maine, on the theory that it's better to have one than not, we've gone past protecting the public into militarizing small-town America.Fixing this won't be easy. Even some of our reasonable restrictions in Maine only became law because the Legislature overrode Republican Gov. Paul LePage's vetoes. The campaign for better policing guidelines took a long time to build and depended on a lot of strong-willed people putting aside partisan differences that, in many cases, could have been fatal to the coalition. The important lesson to learn is that voters backed us up. None of our improvements have been repealed. There is no public clamor to return to the bad old days.The same is true around the country. Voters don't want tanks on their streets or camouflage on their police officers. It's time for Congress to put the stale consensus aside, take a page from the Maine playbook and work together on an issue that doesn't present the political dangers it did in the 2000s.The bottom line is that reasonable limits on police behavior are popular and make us all safer. If you disagree, ask a resident of Ferguson how safe he or she feels today.Shenna Bellows is the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in Maine. She was the executive director of the ACLU of Maine from 2005 to 2013.
Wendy Davis\' Opponent Is Afraid of Something. Very Afraid.
What's got the opponent of Wendy Davis so nervous?The Texas candidates for governor, Davis and Greg Abbott, had agreed to participate in a debate in Dallas next month, broadcast on the ABC affiliate. It was set to air statewide, reaching 83 percent of all Texans, in markets major and small. Abbott has suddenly backed out.This is odd, because both had agreed to the format and rules. Indeed, on May 28, Abbott's campaign manager sent a letter to WFAA graciously thanking them for the opportunity. The letter is posted in full on the TV station's website, and it laid out Abbott's terms. It reads in part:
As we have discussed, we have a few simple terms for this debate...first, candidates must be seated at a table for the duration of the debate. Second, the debate must be in a studio setting with no live audience. We also ask that there be no gimmicks like requiring candidates to raise their hands as a 'yes' or 'no' response. Finally, we ask that the debate last no more than one hour.The TV station and the Davis campaign accepted Abbott's terms. Besides, everyone already knew it would be a roundtable debate because he's in a wheelchair. So we were good to go.Then why has he backed out now, at the end of August? Vague. "Due to our inability to agree on specific details of the format, Attorney General Greg Abbott will regretfully not be participating in the WFAA debate," said a senior campaign adviser. He offered no further explanation. It's common to have a debate about the debate. It's not common to back out once that is finalized.The two are still set to debate down in McAllen Sept. 19 in a televised event hosted by -- wait for it -- The McAllen Monitor!!!, KGBT-TV Action 4 News!!! and KLTM Telemundo 40!!! That debate, of course, is not planned for statewide broadcast. Its questioners and moderator will decidedly not be big time, big city media types from WFAA and the Dallas Morning News, the state's leading daily newspaper. This is reminiscent of George W. Bush's gubernatorial re-election in '98. He was privately already running for the 2000 presidency. To be safe, W's campaign agreed to just one debate, and insisted it be at a UHF TV station way out in El Paso. It got zero statewide coverage. The lighting and sound in the studio were so pathetic that it looked like local access TV circa 1979... in your high school! The low production values basically insured that clips from it were hardly used on the major TV newscasts around the state. This was precisely the goal. W's reelection was considered a shoe-in, but his guru Karl Rove had a more compelling objective with that debate: minimize any risk from an unexpected flub in a high profile setting. Ergo, El Paso!Obviously, Abbott's team purposely held off on revealing this bombshell of chickening out until the Friday before the long Labor Day weekend, when the public's interest in news is nil."Due to our inability to agree on specific details of the format..." is a lot of nothing. In May, they agreed. They got their "simple terms." By late August, they've decided that wasn't a wise calculation and they back out. What has changed? Polling doesn't suggest that the race is neck and neck. It has tightened some, but Abbott still leads by 10 points and has a huge cash advantage for paid media down the stretch. Something has spooked his campaign.Is it simply that they've decided there is more upside for Davis in a polished, big city debate that reaches 83 percent of all Texans? They knew that four months ago. The Abbott campaign manager even wrote in his May letter, "Thank you for your invitation to participate in a debate... with live broadcasts to all Gannett stations statewide, as well as an online stream." There has been no hoodwinking here, no 11th hour surprise. Maybe Wendy Davis was planning to wear a bikini, in a bid for the southern white male vote. I kid, but something has clearly spooked her opponent.
The Emotional Toll of Growing Up Black in America
Dr. Terrell Strayhorn, a brilliant, Black Ohio State University professor, recently opened the Educational Testing Service and Children’s Defense Fund co-sponsored symposium on Advancing Success for Black Men in College by sharing a question his 14-year-old son asked him: Why did he get in trouble for speaking out of turn when he jumped in to answer his teacher’s question, but when his White friend did the same thing she was praised for being excited about learning? Dr. Strayhorn noted that many parents and grandparents and educators and policy experts are concerned about the same question: “There are lots of Black and Brown boys who are often penalized for committing the same exact act that non-Black and non-Brown, usually White kids, commit in school -- and some students are praised for certain behaviors that other kids are penalized for. It sends a very mixed message, because my son is confused: ‘So what should I do? Not be excited about learning? What if you just can’t wait for the question? How do I signal to the teacher I’m not a rule-breaker?’” Dr. Strayhorn said these questions are something we’ve got to think about. Dr. Strayhorn highlighted a number of other roadblocks we must all be sensitive to and overcome to get all our children on a path of healthy development, confidence and success. The disparate treatment of Black children in the classroom from the earliest years, especially Black boys, often discourages and knocks many off the path to high school graduation and college. The cumulative and convergent toll of subtle, but discouraging, adult actions in schools and other child-serving systems they come into contact with too often impedes the success of children of color, especially those who are poor, and burdens them with an emotional toll they don’t deserve. I used to sing Sesame Street's Kermit the Frog's "It's Not Easy Being Green" loudly with my children, and I can only imagine the number of Black children and adults who sing inside daily “It’s Not Easy Being Black.” I’m sure that Black youths seeing what happened to Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown and others who lost their lives for walking while Black and those who are stopped and frisked and arrested and victimized by excessive police force carry these burdens inside every day. Even the youngest Black boys, ages 4 and 5, who are put out of school and even preschool for nonviolent disciplinary charges for which White children would never be suspended or expelled must be confused and feel this way too.