Paul Krugman: China's Leaders Have No Idea What They Are Doing

AlterNet.org - July 31, 2015 - 10:09am
Another thing Donald Trump is totally wrong about.

Paul Krugman turns his attention to China in Friday's column, and determines that despite Donald Trump's assertion that China is "eating our lunch," the country's leaders have no idea what they are doing. Politicians who happen to preside over booms (Jeb Bush) tend to take credit for those booms, Krugman points out. China is no exception.

"This is the context in which you need to understand the strange goings-on in China’s stock market," he writes. "In and of itself, the price of Chinese equities shouldn’t matter all that much. But the authorities have chosen to put their credibility on the line by trying to control that market — and are in the process of demonstrating that, China’s remarkable success over the past 25 years notwithstanding, the nation’s rulers have no idea what they’re doing."

What China is wrestling with is managing a period when growth must necessarily slow. Not easy, of course, because, per Krugman:

China’s economic structure is built around the presumption of very rapid growth. Enterprises, many of them state-owned, hoard their earnings rather than return them to the public, which has stunted family incomes; at the same time, individual savings are high, in part because the social safety net is weak, so families accumulate cash just in case. As a result, Chinese spending is lopsided, with very high rates of investment but a very low share of consumer demand in gross domestic product.

This structure was workable as long as torrid economic growth offered sufficient investment opportunities. But now investment is running into rapidly decreasing returns. The result is a nasty transition problem: What happens if investment drops off but consumption doesn’t rise fast enough to fill the gap?

What China needs are reforms that spread the purchasing power — and it has, to be fair, been making efforts in that direction. But by all accounts these efforts have fallen short. For example, it has introduced what is supposed to be a national health care system, but in practice many workers fall through the cracks.

Meanwhile, China’s leaders appear to be terrified — probably for political reasons — by the prospect of even a brief recession. So they’ve been pumping up demand by, in effect, force-feeding the system with credit, including fostering a stock market boom. Such measures can work for a while, and all might have been well if the big reforms were moving fast enough. But they aren’t, and the result is a bubble that wants to burst.

The response has been an "an all-out effort to prop up stock prices," Krugman continues, which might be a good strategy for a couple of days, but not something to be sustained. Here is the irony: "It also looks as if the Chinese government, having encouraged citizens to buy stocks, now feels that it must defend stock prices to preserve its reputation. And what it’s ending up doing, of course, is shredding that reputation at record speed."

Leadership is something that seems in short supply. And it is always ordinary people who pay the price.

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Larry Wilmore on Cop Who Killed Sam Dubose: 'Basically Motherf*cker, You Just Lied'

AlterNet.org - July 31, 2015 - 9:55am
Tensing would have gotten away with it had it not been for video footage.

Larry Wilmore, once again, was forced by circumstance to discuss yet another police shooting of an unarmed black man, this time Sam Dubose who was shot in the head by University of Cinncinatti police officer Ray Tensing over a minor traffic violation.

"Now, guys, I know we've reported on these cases a lot," Wilmore confessed, "and if it feels like the Nightly Show is getting repetitive, I totally agree. At this point, my writing staff just has to fill in the names". The Nightly Show host proceeded to show a mad-lib type paragraph where one enters the name, city, and gender of the latest victim of police violence.

Even the man who forcefully indicted Officer Tensing, Prosecutor Joe Deters, is a far from perfect hero, having said fairly racist comments just last month. According to Buzzfeed:

“They will hurt you. They will hurt your grandma,” he said, calling the defendants soulless and unsalvageable. “The root cause of this is there’s no discipline in the homes, they don’t go to school, you know, they live off the government, no personal accountability, and they just beat people up for no reason, and it’s disgusting.”

Wilmore would lament, "If you treat an entire community this way. Referring to them as 'they' and less than human, are you surprised [the cop] acted his way?"

Watch the clip below:

 

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Nevada’s New Voucher Plan Is Designed to Bankrupt Public Schools

AlterNet.org - July 31, 2015 - 8:00am
Now they're pushing vouchers for upper-income families.

Nevada is one of our nation’s 24 one-party, all Republican statesWriting for the Washington Post, Lyndsey Layton and Emma Brown note that, “In January, Republicans took control of the Nevada legislature and the governor’s mansion for the first time since 1929, generating the political momentum to enact the country’s most expansive voucher plan. ...Starting next school year, any parent in Nevada can pull a child from the state’s public schools and take tax dollars with them, giving families the option to use public money to pay for private or parochial school or even for home schooling… Nevada’s law is singular because all of the state’s 450,000 K-12 public school children—regardless of income—are eligible to take the money to whatever school they choose.” A child must be enrolled in a public school for at least 100 days in order to qualify.

Layton and Brown report that the new Nevada voucher bill was developed with the assistance of the Foundation for Excellence in Education, the foundation Jeb Bush launched in 2008, but from which he resigned at the end of 2014 to prepare for his presidential run. The Foundation’s chief executive Patricia Levesque describes Nevada’s new voucher bill: “This is the wave of the future.  In all aspects of our life, we look for ways to customize and give individuals more control over their path and destiny…. This is a fundamental shift in how we make decisions about education.”

The Education Law Center recently circulated an analysis of Nevada’s new school vouchers from Educate Nevada Now, a statewide organization that promotes public education:

“The ESA (Education Savings Account) law requires the ‘statewide average basic support per pupil’—$5,100 per student and $5,710 for low-income and students with disabilities—be deposited into each ESA (Education Savings Account) from local district budgets, a process that will divert, over time, substantial resources from the public schools.  Studies have shown that Nevada substantially underfunds K-12 public education… ESAs will trigger an outflow of funds from already inadequate school district budgets, beginning in the 2015-16 school year… As children leave public schools with ESA funds, some of the costs to educate those students will leave with them.  But ESAs will cause a deficit for the local district, given the fixed costs of operating the school system for all children… ESAs also create instability in district and school budgets.  Districts will not know how many students will exit and how much money will be taken out of the budget during the school year.  This unpredictability will make it difficult to manage public school budgets, as local administrators won’t know how many teachers and staff to hire… or how to allocate funds to provide sufficient resources to schools throughout the school year.”

Nevada is making the vouchers for over $5,000 available to any family, while most other states with voucher programs reserve the vouchers for students living in poverty. The worry is that beneficiaries of this new program may well be upper income families who will use the vouchers as partial scholarships for expensive private schools. Educate Nevada Now explains:

“The ESA law has no limit on the income of households that can obtain ESA funds. There is only a handful of private schools in Nevada with tuition low enough to be covered by $5,100 or $5,710, the annual ESA amount. ESAs are designed to be a ‘subsidy’ by more affluent families who can already afford to send their children to selective private and religious schools. Conversely, ESAs are insufficient for students from low-income families, and those who need more costly English language instruction or special education services. At-risk students will stay in the public schools, therefore, increasing the segregation of students based on race, socioeconomic status, disability, English language proficiency, and other factors in those schools.” 

Expansion of school choice very often operates by providing escapes for able children and leaving the students with greatest needs in what become public school districts of last resort.

The law was passed without attention to racial or economic discrimination and without any protection for equity:

“Unlike Nevada public schools, the private and religious schools accepting ESA funds are not prohibited from discriminating based on race, gender or disability…. (T)he private institutions… that participate in the ESA program are exempt from the most basic protections that prevent discrimination of disadvantaged and vulnerable student populations. Finally, the private for-profit or non-profit education providers that accept ESA funds can use their admissions rules, including competitive pretesting, transcript evaluation and letters of recommendation. These schools and entities are free to select students based on who they decide fits their religious or secular mission, culture and programs.”

The Education Law Center’s national 2015 school funding analysis,"Is School Funding Fair? A National Report Card,"ranks Nevada’s public school funding level 40th of the 50 states, and awards Nevada an “F” grade for its highly inequitable funding distribution. In a recent post, Jennifer Berkshire, who blogs as EduShyster, commented on the likely impact of Nevada’s voucher plan on Nevada’s already poorly funded public schools: “Speaking of overcrowding and deterioration (note that I’m bolding these for emphasis), it seems like building new off-ramps for kids who are fortunate enough to have more than $5,700 in their backpacks won’t only leave problems like overcrowding and deterioration unaddressed, but will actually leave the majority of kids in Nevada’s schools worse off.”

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Cecil Lives On: Connecting the Dots Between One Lion and Billions of Suffering Animals

AlterNet.org - July 31, 2015 - 6:30am
Can the widespread outrage about the killing of Cecil the lion help raise consciousness about the suffering of other animals?

In the past couple of days, millions of people on social media, who don’t normally address animal cruelty, have expressed sorrow and outrage about the murder of Cecil, the beloved lion in Zimbabwe.

While we have people’s attention, how can we tap into these powerful emotions to awaken them to the plight of other animals who are equally deserving of a life free from harm?

How can we help people connect the dots between Cecil, who endured 40 hours of agony, and the billions of farm animals whose entire lives are consumed by suffering?

Please use this rare moment in time when the world is paying attention to ensure that Cecil did not die in vain and that his murder is wake-up call to the millions of people who have not made the connection between the animals we love – like lions, whales and dogs – and the animals we consume. They are all the same.

One easy way to help people make the connection is to share these images on Facebook and convey your thoughts about why farm animals deserve to live in peace just as much as Cecil.

 

Please RT @TheVeganSociety's photo to raise awareness of all animal suffering #IamCecil pic.twitter.com/hpu3ifODZ7

— Animal Aid (@AnimalAid) July 31, 2015

#IamCecil Because all animals want to live. pic.twitter.com/8VA96QGHD9

— Animal Equality (@AnimalEquality) July 31, 2015

#iamcecil #cecilthelion #takeapicturenotatrophy // credits Seth Matson https://t.co/cQEMS4S2fs pic.twitter.com/gN828M4GT7

— vegan.ch News (@vegan_ch) July 30, 2015

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India’s forgotten cotton-picking children

New Internationalist - July 31, 2015 - 5:57am
Mari Marcel Thekaekara shines a spotlight on the underreported problem of child labour.
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Jon Stewart: 'Trump Is Supposed to Buy Candidates, Not Become One' (VIDEO)

AlterNet.org - July 31, 2015 - 2:02am
Billionaire donors are getting nervous one of their own is rising to the top.

Jon Stewart, still feeding his Donald Trump addiction, took notice of a strange plot twist in the Trump soap opera: billionaire funders were leaving Camp Donald in favor of the "safer" candidates like Bush and Rubio.

The irony for Stewart was too great to go unnoticed: After four years of the GOP trying to rebrand itself as anything but the party of rich, racist white men, along comes the king of rich, racist white men, Donald Trump.

"The living embodiment of everything the Republicans were trying to exorcise from their party, just escalated down on their parade", the Daily Show host smugly said before playing a series of clips of Trump being a wealthy, racist buffoon. 

"This Trump guy", Stewart said impersonating an outraged establishment Republican, "is a rich, crazy, egotistical monster. People like him are supposed to buy the candidates -- not be them!" 

The latest polls show Trump has a seven point lead nationally over his closest competitor, Jeb Bush. 

Watch the clip below:

 

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What's New: Public sector employment in Ontario is far below the rest of Canada

Socialist Project - July 31, 2015 - 2:00am
The suggestion that Ontario has a deficit because its public sector is too large does not bear scrutiny. Consider the following. Public sector employment has fallen in the last three quarters in Ontario. Since 2011, public sector employment has been pretty flat, with employment up less than 4 tenths of one percent in the first half of 2015 compared with the first half of 2011.
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Black Love Matters: Inside the Rapidly Growing, Hyper-Local Movement For Black Lives

AlterNet.org - July 30, 2015 - 4:28pm
The gathering was less about creating an agenda than it was about grounding the movement in black-on-black love.

His nickname was Mike-Mike and his favorite color was blue.

The morning workshop portion on the first day of the gathering was over, and the afternoon plenary was the first time that many of the attendees had come together in the same room. Some were weary from driving halfway across the country to get to Cleveland. Some were distracted by the scarcity of conference housing. The workshop offerings, totaling almost 100, left others unclear about how to navigate this overwhelming weekend.

But as a procession of relatives of black people killed by state-sanctioned violence walked across the Cleveland State University stage, there was no doubt what this weekend was about: the defense of black bodies, the celebration of black collective resiliency, and the building of a movement the likes of which has never been seen. One by one, starting with the relatives of Emmett Till, each family member shared poignant memories of their murdered loved ones. We learned their favorite colors, their favorite sports teams, their nickames. Mike Brown Sr. told the audience that his son’s nickname was Mike-Mike and his favorite color was blue. Each family member concluded with the refrain, “This is why we fight.”

It was a devastatingly effective orchestration of humanity and loss, but not the day’s final word. As the session ended, audience members in the packed auditorium leapt out of their seats in delirium as Kendrick Lamar’s voice erupted through the sound system:

When you know, we been hurt, been down before, nigga
When our pride was low, lookin’ at the world like, “where do we go, nigga?”
And we hate Popo, wanna kill us dead in the street for sure, nigga
I’m at the preacher’s door
My knees gettin’ weak and my gun might blow but we gon’ be alright

The Movement for Black Lives had a soundtrack. Some of the songs may have been chosen from the playlists of the conference organizers and played during the plenaries, but most were improvised by the activists in attendance from all across the country. At any given moment during this three-day weekend, a dance, chant, protest song, or drumming session would spontaneously break out, with people asserting and luxuriating in their blackness.

Ever since Trayvon Martin’s slaying in 2012 and the subsequent acquittal of his neighborhood-watch killer, George Zimmerman, America has been reawakened to the daily terror faced by black people at the hands of law enforcement, vigilantism, and the justice system.

Through the crucibles of New York, Cleveland, Ferguson, and dozens of other less notorious battlegrounds, a new generation of black change agents has emerged—people who are organizing youth, queer, and transgender folks, women, immigrants, the differently abled, and other black communities. #BlackLivesMatter has been the rallying cry. The Movement for Black Lives gathering, held on the campus of Cleveland State University from July 24 to 26, was the first significant attempt to bring these organizers under one roof.

It was clear that the conference organizers had been overwhelmed by the response to their invitation. The original projections declared that “Hundreds of Black Freedom Fighters” would attend, but final estimates put the gathering at well above a thousand people. Chaotic scheduling updates were transmitted by text and mobile app, but humanity reigned even in logistics. Outside of one workshop door, a handwritten note announced that the session had been canceled “on account of the facilitator being tired as fuck!”

The selflessness demonstrated by the conference organizers was more than enough to ease whatever headaches these hiccups caused. Registrants had been instructed to determine themselves how much to pay in registration and housing fees based on their financial capacity. Legions of volunteers arrived almost a week in advance, on their own dime. The planning and organizing team, which included the three co-founders of #BlackLivesMatter, barely introduced themselves to the attendees, and there were no pictures or bios of them to be found in the program or on the official website.

The gathering was less about creating an agenda than it was about grounding the movement in black-on-black love.

This horizontal form of leadership and relinquishing of ego has emerged as one of several generational markers in this movement. There were plenty of elders, old-school black nationalists, and middle-aged nonprofit professionals in effect, but the weekend and its dominant sensibility belonged to radicalized, under-35-year-old social-justice organizers.

The Cleveland gathering was not only conspicuously devoid of white people but, unlike more traditional political and cultural events, there were neither headliners nor lionized personalities. Al Sharpton and the heads of the traditional civil-rights organizations were nowhere to be found—perhaps not only because of the skepticism with which they are regarded by young organizers but because they would have had to endure a conference in which they would have had no featured speaking role.

The workshops were conceived and provided by the participants themselves. Several hundred were proposed, and the final line up was decided by on-line voting. Sessions on political prisoners, the legacy of the Black Panther Party, queer and transgender leadership, reparations, and the intersection between nationalism, gender, and sexuality, stood side-by-side with sessions on healing and self-care, organizing for resilience, urban farming, and intra-community conflict resolution.

But what signaled the most significant break from the black political status quo was the space claimed by queer, transgender, and gender-nonconforming attendees.

On Friday night, a conference after-party was turned into a protest site after police removed a transgender conference participant from the men’s room of the Vault, a nightclub in Cleveland. The next morning, a contingent of transgender and gender-nonconforming folks lovingly but forcefully came on stage during a plenary session and took the conference organizers and the cisgendered attendees to task for not creating a safe and respectful environment for them at the gathering. They cited a litany of issues, including failing to establish gender-neutral bathrooms at the conference hall and not including preferred gender pronouns on name tags; not doing enough to train volunteers on how to appropriately engage transgender attendees; and not predetermining that the site of the after-party was a safe space for queer and trans revelers. The next day, the contingent administered a primer on how future gatherings—and the broader movement—could be more supportive of trans participation.

For a gathering that, up to that point, had set its sights mostly on external forms of oppression, it was a revolutionary moment of inwardly focused accountability, community building, and course correction. Queer and trans folks were not working at the margins of the movement for black liberation but had moved, quite literally, to center stage, where I suspect they will remain.

The obvious question is, what’s next? To the credit of the conference organizers, the gathering was less about creating a definitive agenda or a centralized leadership and coordination structure than it was about framing the moment in a legacy of resistance and grounding it in black-on-black love.

Of course, a set of guiding principles were included in the program; there were the perfunctory “next steps” strategy sessions at the end of the conference; and everyone in attendance demanded future gatherings. But the conference organizers astutely recognized that the gathering was really a networking hub and fueling station for a thousand self-powered movement engines.

Poetically, in the waning hours of the conference, as some participants were leaving to catch flights home, we received tweets and texts about folks from the gathering who had come to the defense of a black youth who was reportedly arrested by Cleveland police. Mobile video chronicled how they confronted the police officers and were attacked with pepper spray. These images were interspersed with texts from the conference network providing a jail support number.

For those of us waiting in the airport, glued to our phones, it was a frightening and anxious moment, and a confirmation of the seeming inevitability of physical confrontation with law enforcement that hung over the gathering. But even before the news came that the young person in question had been released by the police, I sensed that a certain peace had come to those of us waiting in the airport for further news. We had been at the gathering. We reveled in the passion, we witnessed the collective brilliance, and we were one with the mobilization of powerful black bodies. Yep, we know more shit is going to rain down on us, but we gon’ be alright.

 

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Bernie Sanders Draws Army of 100,000 Volunteers to First Nationwide Organizing Event

AlterNet.org - July 30, 2015 - 4:15pm
And this is from a man who is not taking corporate PAC money and is relying on small donors.

Over 100,000 people came together for Bernie Sanders' first nationwide organizing event on Wednesday. Sanders spoke to this army of volunteers via a video livestream, telling them they are needed if he is to overcome the power of what he calls the “billionaire class” – the tight group of the wealthy and corporations that own both the economy and political system.

Sanders, unlike his opponents, is not cultivating a super PAC. He's not taking corporate PAC money, and he is relying on small donors; 81 percent of his donations in the first quarter were from people giving less than $200.

This puts him at a huge monetary disadvantage. Two billionaire brothers in Texas gave a pro-Ted Cruz super PAC $15 million, as much money as Sanders has raised in his whole campaign. But Sanders has a plan to make up the difference: people power.

At an event I attended in East Cobb County – the backyard of some of the nation's GOP power elite, such as Newt Gingrich, Tom Price, and Bob Barr – scores of people crowded into a tavern called Varner's.

“I've been a lifelong Republican, worked in Republican government 35 years,” explained one attendee who said Bernie Sanders has won her over. A common refrain at the meeting was shock and surprise that there were so many progressives in this supposedly conservative part of Georgia. But there were dozens of events across the state. One attendee at a nearby meeting in Acworth, Georgia, reported 80 attendees. Closer to Atlanta, 150 packed into a local Teamsters hall to watch the Bernie Sanders address.

There were numerous meetings just like this all over America, ranging from left-wing hotbeds like Brooklyn, New York to “a town in the Alaskan wilderness of about 1,000 residents.”

The Sanders campaign has organized itself around the principle that organizing people is the only way to take on organized money. With the massive crowds the candidate is drawing at every stop and the enormous volunteer base the campaign has gathered, it looks like they will get a chance to test their theory.

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Racist Georgia Policies Are Segregating Kids into Old Trashed Schools

AlterNet.org - July 30, 2015 - 3:56pm
DOJ found that Georgia is giving kids with behavioral issues a subpar education and putting them in run-down buildings.

Georgia has been illegally and unnecessarily segregating thousands of students with behavioral issues and disabilities, isolating them in run-down facilities and providing them with subpar education, according to an investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Some of the students in the program were schooled in the same inferior buildings that served black children in the days of Jim Crow. The investigation found that many of the buildings lack gyms, cafeterias, libraries, labs, playgrounds and other amenities.

"It's a warehouse for kids the school system doesn't want or know how to deal with," a parent told the Justice Department of the program. The Justice Department detailed its findings in a letter earlier this month to Georgia's governor and attorney general.

Federal law mandates that schools educate students with disabilities in the "least restrictive environment" in which they can learn and thrive. More broadly, public entities must serve people with disabilities in the "most integrated setting."

But what the Justice Department found in Georgia is something that persists across the country: Schools continue to inappropriately segregate students with a range of behavioral needs and disabilities.

Children are often placed in more restrictive settings because traditional public schools show little flexibility in working with students who may need more support.

In Georgia, schools were quick to move children out of mainstream classrooms, the Justice Department noted. In some cases, students were recommended for placement after a single incident or a string of minor incidents, such as using inappropriate language with a teacher. Parents reported feeling pressured into agreeing to the placements.

In fact, many students who were placed in what's called the Georgia Network for Educational and Therapeutic Support, or GNETS, didn't actually need to be there, the Justice Department said. Most could have stayed in their neighborhood schools if they'd been given more behavioral or mental-health support. "Nearly all students in the GNETS Program could receive services in more integrated settings, but do not have the opportunity to do so," the letter said.

What's more, because the state has set up a system that tilts toward providing services in segregated settings, the letter said, Georgia "undermines the availability of these services in more integrated settings."

A spokeswoman for Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal referred questions to the Georgia Department of Education, whose spokesman referred questions to the Attorney General's Office. Daryl Robinson, counsel to the Georgia Attorney General, told ProPublica, "We don't have any comment at this time."

This isn't the first time that the GNETS has drawn scrutiny. In 2010, a state audit found that the programs "are not held accountable for student performance" and questioned their cost effectiveness. Earlier, in 2004, a 13-year-old boy in the program hanged himself while held for hours isolated in a room.

Advocates have long been critical of the quality of services offered by the network.

"We have seen many, many clients whose behavior gets significantly worse in GNETS," said Leslie Lipson, an attorney with the Georgia Advocacy Office. "We've seen kids who are significantly behind their peers for no other reason than lack of instruction. We've seen students who are great football players or involved in student government or band who are sent to GNETS and have no opportunities to be part of their community."

The Justice Department threatened the state with a lawsuit if the problems are not corrected. It called on the state to redirect services, training and resources to move students with behavioral challenges back into general-education schools.

In particular, it suggested increasing access to mental health services by locating mental health clinics "at or near schools" to provide services to students who would otherwise be at risk of being referred to more restrictive, segregated settings.

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Jon Stewart Makes Surprise Return to Standup After Unannounced Set By Louis CK

AlterNet.org - July 30, 2015 - 3:43pm
Stewart accepted an invitation to go onstage at New York City’s Comedy Cellar, reports Gawker.

One lucky comedy crowd was treated to an incredible twin-billing when “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart made a surprise return to standup Wednesday night following an unannounced set by Louis CK.

Stewart accepted an invitation to go onstage at New York City’s Comedy Cellar as Louis CK tried out some new material, reported Gawker.

“Would Stewart like to go up next?” said Sean L. McCarthy, who attended the show. “Yes, it turned out. Very much so. Even if he just talked for 10 minutes, the prospect looked too juicy to pass up. Even if he was following CK. Perhaps because he was following CK. It’s fascinating to see and to know that a star goes through the same emotions before, during and after shaking off the proverbial rust of not having gone onstage as a stand-up in far too long.”

McCarthy, who writes for the Comic’s Comic website said Stewart opened by pointing it had been 20 years since he last tried standup comedy, and he closed by shouting, “I’m alive.”

Stewart, who’s stepping down next week after 17 years as host of the “Daily Show,” recently told his talk show audience that he could see himself returning to standup comedy.

“That’s how I started and that’s — I’m sure that’s how I will end,” he said. “Eighty years old, standing on stage, going ‘ah, come on!’”

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Bernie Sanders: We Need Medicare for All, Not Cutbacks That Will Kill Our Seniors

AlterNet.org - July 30, 2015 - 3:21pm
The 50th anniversary of Medicare is a reminder that this program needs to be stronger to meet today's challenges.

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and Maryland Representative Donna Edwards joined the rally celebrating the 50th anniversary of Medicare in Washington, D.C. this Thursday with several hundred nurses, health care workers, and labor allies.

Senator Sanders touted the success of the Medicare program and the millions of seniors and disabled patients it has helped. "Before Medicare, If you were poor and old or sick, you had no options, you died or you suffered," he said.

The familiar Sanders crusade to fix financial inequalities is a key reason Sanders says he supports a single-payer system and promised to announce legislation within the next year. "We need to expand Medicare to cover every man, woman, and child," he told the cheering crowd. "Every year, thousands die just because they can't afford to go to the doctor. No one should go into the hospital and have to file for bankruptcy when they come out." The Sanders plan, he said, will provide healthcare through the most "cost effective way, and that is a Medicare for all."

Recent suggestions from Republican Party presidential candidate Jeb Bush that Medicare should be phased out has lead to linguistic punches from many progressive thinkers including economist Paul Krugman, who wrote this week "It’s the very idea of the government providing a universal safety net that they hate, and they hate it even more when such programs are successful."

Senator Sanders told The Hill Bush's comments are an example of how far right the Republican Party has become when their so-called moderate candidate is advocating "phasing out" Medicare.  

"As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Medicare, it is important that we defend this enormously important program rather than talk about ending it," Sanders continued. "Medicare provides health care to 51 million American seniors and people with disabilities and has saved the lives of countless Americans. Further, as a result of the Affordable Care Act, the finances of Medicare have been significantly improved and it is now fully funded for the next 15 years through 2030. Our goal as a nation should be to join the rest of the industrialized world and guarantee health care to all Americans, not end a highly-successful program which protects seniors and the disabled."

Representative Donna Edwards (D-MD) followed Senator Sanders speech with a powerful story about her grandfather who died at an early age forcing her grandmother to scrape together money to cover her healthcare costs. 

“My grandmother lived much of her life before Medicare," Edwards told AlterNet in a statement "I know how much she and our family struggled to pay medical bills. Thanks to Medicare, Americans like my grandmother can see their doctor and not go broke paying medical bills. This is why I continue to fight to protect Medicare and ensure that all Americans can lead healthy and productive lives."

"After 50 years, we have a lot of experience with Medicare," National Nurses United co-President Jean Ross, RN, said in a statement. "Enough time to see that it works, has kept tens of millions of Americans out of poverty, and remains enormously popular."

The coalition of nurses and other health care professionals have organized a day of actions including lobbying legislators in Washington to encourage expanding Medicare for all. Other cities including Boston, Detroit, El Paso, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Oakland, Portland, Maine, St. Paul, and Lakewood, Ohio will be holding rallies, town hall meetings, parties, picnics and barbecues where nurses and other health care workers can celebrate the success of Medicare and talk about ways to expand the program to cover more people.

 

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How Donald Trump Is Causing the 5 Stages of Republican Grief

AlterNet.org - July 30, 2015 - 3:16pm
Republicans hoping to take back the White House have found a badly coiffed billionaire standing in their way.

It’s been more than a month since Donald Trump announced his candidacy for presidency. And rather than quickly self-combust, as many expected, the Donald has actually enjoyed a cresting wave of support, taking him straight to the top of the GOP field. Not even a string of high-profile flaps seem to have any impact on the man’s surging popularity.

While once thought of as a flash in the pan, Trump’s candidacy has proven to be a far bigger problem for the Republican Party than establishment figures ever expected. In coping with such a colossal headache, the Party seems to be following the Kübler-Ross model of grief – the model frequently used to describe how people come to grips with the death of a loved one.

Let’s observe:

Step 1: Denial

Most institutional Republicans still appear to still be in the denial stage: “He doesn’t really want to be President, he just wants to run and get lots of attention doing so.” “Primary polling that show him leading the GOP field, by a good margin, is just a mirage.” “His candidacy will fade like those of other novelty GOP candidates in the past, even if he started with far more name recognition and money than any of those predecessors.” “He’s not really worth $9 billion and maybe not even $3 billion.”"As soon as yet another imagined dream candidate gets in the race he’ll start eating into Trump’s lead.” ”He — or an staffer – said something so offensive it will make him toxic.” Curiously, this latter form of denial always seems to focus on what Trump said, not what he did.

Step 2: Anger

It’s that series of things that Trump has said, starting with the claim that immigrants are rapists,, which Republicans (fairly) worry might damage the party brand, that has led them to start lashing out — although the response was muted, as anything short of full-blown nativism risks damaging the national prospects of GOP candidates these days.

Trump’s attack on John McCain’s service in Vietnam earlier this month finally gave Republicans the opportunity to get mad without losing political points with the paleoconservative crowd. So, in spite of the Republican Party’s own serial use of slurs against war heroes for political gain, just about every top figure in the party (save Ted Cruz) pounced on Trump’s statement and declared he had gone too far. Many believed Trump’s indelicacy would end his campaign.

Except – as just a few predicted – it didn’t work out that way. Indeed, his standing in the polls actually improved, perhaps bolstered by the many base voters who aren’t as fond of John McCain as the beltway media.

While Republicans may try to attack Trump on issue after issue as a way to try to damage the blustery billionaire, it’s not clear that will do anything but bolster his outsider cred among voters who actually share some of the same values — even if mainstream Republicans would like to disown the most inflammatory versions thereof.

Step 3: Bargaining

As Trump’s continued strength — and decisive pull in any third-party bid has become clear — the focus has shifted to securing assurances that he won’t withdraw his considerable fortune from the GOP and run on the Donald Trump Party ticket.

Similarly, the Republicans are slightly changing the rules of the game to boost more palatable candidates, like the also-ran Lindsey Graham (whose candidacy got its most attention ever when Trump handed out Graham’s personal cell phone number earlier this month). If Trump continues to dominate in the polls, operatives will almost certainly approach Trump about maybe accepting a handler who could prepare him for the more traditional parts of campaigning — and temper his most outrageous statements.

But because of Trump’s fortune, he cannot possibly be controlled with the monetary promises of the Kochs or Sheldon Adelson. The GOP may start bargaining with Trump, but he still holds most of the cards. That means he’ll probably continue to violate Reagan’s 11th commandment, “Thou shalt not speak ill of any Republican,” as he did in response to being called a dumb-dumb by a Scott Walker funder the other day.

Depression

All of which means that — so long as the base continues to eat up Trump’s schtick –the Republicans are going to be stuck with him, because they have few means of controlling him and even fewer to limit any damage he might do if provoked. I don’t wish depression on those faced with the prospect of Donald Trump leading their party. But I understand why they might feel that way.

Acceptance

If all proceeds as things appear to be proceeding — although, yes, it is far too early to say for certain that it will — Republicans will ultimately be applauding the prospect of President Trump. complete with the possibility he’ll appoint Dennis Rodman (drawing on his diplomatic trip to North Korea) as Ambassador to China. If and when Trump becomes the only viable opponent for Hillary Clinton, Republicans will be forced to accept their fate and hope for the best.

And with it, they may well recognize that their ideological celebration of the rich and of demagoguery have delivered them precisely the candidate they’ve asked for.

Marcy Wheeler writes at EmptyWheel.net and is the author of "Anatomy of Deceit."

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The FBI Built a Database That Can Catch Rapists — Almost Nobody Uses It

AlterNet.org - July 30, 2015 - 2:22pm
The agency has virtually ignored a system meant to help cops track the behavioral patterns of violent criminals.

This story was co-published with The Atlantic.

QUANTICO, Va. — More than 30 years ago, the Federal Bureau of Investigation launched a revolutionary computer system in a bomb shelter two floors beneath the cafeteria of its national academy. Dubbed the Violent Criminal Apprehension Program, or ViCAP, it was a database designed to help catch the nation’s most violent offenders by linking together unsolved crimes. A serial rapist wielding a favorite knife in one attack might be identified when he used the same knife elsewhere. The system was rooted in the belief that some criminals’ methods were unique enough to serve as a kind of behavioral DNA — allowing identification based on how a person acted, rather than their genetic make-up.

Equally as important was the idea that local law enforcement agencies needed a way to better communicate with each other. Savvy killers had attacked in different jurisdictions to exploit gaping holes in police cooperation. ViCAP’s “implementation could mean the prevention of countless murders and the prompt apprehension of violent criminals,” the late Sen. Arlen Specter wrote in a letter to the Justice Department endorsing the program’s creation.

In the years since ViCAP was first conceived, data-mining has grown vastly more sophisticated, and computing power has become cheaper and more readily available. Corporations can link the food you purchase, the clothes you buy, and the websites you browse. The FBI can parse your emails, cellphone records and airline itineraries. In a world where everything is measured, data is ubiquitous — from the number of pieces of candy that a Marine hands out on patrol in Kandahar, to your heart rate as you walk up the stairs at work.

That’s what’s striking about ViCAP today: the paucity of information it contains. Only about 1,400 police agencies in the U.S., out of roughly 18,000, participate in the system. The database receives reports from far less than 1 percent of the violent crimes committed annually. It’s not even clear how many crimes the database has helped solve. The FBI does not release any figures. A review in the 1990s found it had linked only 33 crimes in 12 years.

Canadian authorities built on the original ViCAP framework to develop a modern and sophisticated system capable of identifying patterns and linking crimes. It has proven particularly successful at analyzing sexual-assault cases. But three decades and an estimated $30 million later, the FBI’s system remains stuck in the past, the John Henry of data mining. ViCAP was supposed to revolutionize American law enforcement. That revolution never came.

Few law enforcement officials dispute the potential of a system like ViCAP to help solve crimes. But the FBI has never delivered on its promise. In an agency with an $8.2 billion yearly budget, ViCAP receives around $800,000 a year to keep the system going. The ViCAP program has a staff of 12. Travel and training have been cut back in recent years. Last year, the program provided analytical assistance to local cops just 220 times. As a result, the program has done little to close the gap that prompted Congress to create it. Police agencies still don’t talk to each other on many occasions. Killers and rapists continue to escape arrest by exploiting that weakness. “The need is vital,” said Ritchie Martinez, the former president of the International Association of Law Enforcement Intelligence Analysts. “But ViCAP is not filling it.”

Local cops say the system is confusing and cumbersome. Entering a single case into the database can take an hour and hits — where an unsolved crime is connected to a prior incident — are rare. False positives are common. Many also said the FBI does little to teach cops how to use the system. Training has dropped from a high of about 5,500 officers in 2012 to 1,200 last year.

“We don’t really use ViCAP,” said Jeff Jensen, a criminal analyst for the Phoenix Police Department with 15 years of experience. “It really is quite a chore.”

The FBI has contributed to the confusion by misrepresenting the system. On its website, the FBI says cases in its database are “continually compared” for matches as new cases are entered. But in an interview, program officials said that does not happen. “We have plans for that in the future,” said Nathan Graham, a crime analyst for the program. The agency said it would update the information on its website.

The agency’s indifference to the database is particularly noteworthy at a time when emerging research suggests that such a tool could be especially useful in rape investigations.

For years, politicians and women’s advocates have focused on testing the DNA evidence in rape kits, which are administered to sexual assault victims after an attack. Such evidence can be compared against a nationwide database of DNA samples to find possible suspects. Backlogs at police departments across the country have left tens of thousands of kits untested.

But DNA is collected in only about half of rape cases, according to recent studies. A nationwide clearinghouse of the unique behaviors, methods, or marks of rapists could help solve those cases lacking genetic evidence, criminal experts said. Other research has shown that rapists are far more likely than killers to be serial offenders. Different studies have found that between one-fourth to two-thirds of rapists have committed multiple sexual assaults. Only about 1 percent of murderers are considered serial killers.

Studies have questioned the assumptions behind behavioral analysis tools like ViCAP. Violent criminals don’t always commit attacks the same way and different analysts can have remarkably different interpretations on whether crimes are linked. And a system that looks for criminal suspects on the basis of how a person acts is bound to raise alarms about Orwellian overreach. But many cops say any help is welcome in the difficult task of solving crimes like rape. A recent investigation by ProPublica and The New Orleans Advocate found that police in four states repeatedly missed chances to arrest the former NFL football star and convicted serial rapist Darren Sharper after failing to contact each other. “We’re always looking for tools,” said Joanne Archambault, the director of End Violence Against Women International, one of the leading police training organizations for the investigation of sexual assaults. “I just don’t think ViCAP was ever promoted enough as being one of them.”

The U.S. need only look north for an example of how such a system can play an important role in solving crimes. Not long after ViCAP was developed in the United States, Canadian law enforcement officials used it as a model to build their own tool, known as the Violent Criminal Linkage Analysis System, or ViCLAS. Today, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police maintains a database containing more than 500,000 criminal case profiles. The agency credits it with linking together some 7,000 unsolved crimes since 1995 – though not all of those linkages resulted in an arrest. If the FBI collected information as consistently as the Mounties, its database would contain more than 4.4 million cases, based on the greater U.S. population.

Instead, the FBI has about 89,000 cases on file.

Over the years, Canada has poured funding and staff into its program, resulting in a powerful analytical tool, said Sgt. Tony Lawlor, a senior ViCLAS analyst. One critical difference: in the U.S., reporting to the system is largely voluntary. In Canada, legislators have made it mandatory. Cops on the street still grumble about the system, which resembles the American version in the time and effort to complete. But “it has information which assists police officers, which is catching bad guys,” Lawlor said. “When police realize there’s a value associated with it, they use it.”

The ViCAP program eventually emerged from the fallout shelter where it began. It set up shop in an unmarked two-story brick office building in a Virginia business park surrounded by a printer’s shop, a dental practice and a Baptist church.

In a lengthy interview there, program officials offered a PowerPoint presentation with case studies of three serial killers who were captured in the past eight years with the help of the ViCAP program. They called the system “successful.”

“We do as good a job as we possibly can given our resources and limitations,” said Timothy Burke, a white-haired, 29-year agency veteran who is the program manager for ViCAP. “As with anything, we could always do better.”

***

Pierce Brooks was the father of the system.

A legendary cop, he had a square jaw, high forehead and dead serious eyes. During 20 years with the Los Angeles Police Department, he helped send 10 men to death row. He inspired the fictional Sgt. Joe Friday character in Dragnet. And he became famous for tracking down a pair of cop killers, a hunt chronicled in Joseph Wambaugh’s 1973 non-fiction bestseller, “The Onion Field.” “Brooks’ imagination was admired, but his thoroughness was legend,” Wambaugh wrote.

In the late 1950s, Brooks was investigating two murder cases. In each, a female model had been raped, slain and then trussed in rope in a manner that suggested skill with binding. Brooks intuited that the killer might commit other murders. For the next year, he leafed through out-of-town newspapers at a local library. When he read a story about a man arrested while trying to use rope to kidnap a woman, Brooks put the cases together. The man, Harvey Glatman, was sentenced to death, and executed a year later.

The experience convinced Brooks that serial killers often had “signatures” — distinct ways of acting that could help identify them much like a fingerprint. An early adopter of data-driven policing, Brooks realized that a computer database could be populated with details of unsolved murder cases from across the country, then searched for behavioral matches.

After Brooks spent years lobbying for such a system, Congress took interest. In July 1983, Brooks told a rapt Senate Judiciary Committee audience about serial killer Ted Bundy, who confessed to killing 30 women in seven states. The ViCAP system could have prevented many of those deaths, he said. “ViCAP, when implemented, would preclude the age-old, but still continuing problem of critically important information being missed, overlooked, or delayed when several police agencies, hundreds or even thousands of miles apart, are involved,” Brooks said in a written statement.

By the end of the hearing, Brooks had a letter from the committee requesting $1 million for the program. Although the program was endorsed by then-FBI director William Webster, agency managers weren’t particularly thrilled with the new idea.

***

The FBI grafted ViCAP into a new operation — the Behavioral Analysis Unit. The profilers, as they were known, were later made famous by Thomas Harris’ “The Silence of the Lambs” as brainy crime fighters who combined street smarts and psychology to nab the worst criminals. But at the time, the unproven unit was seen as a kind of skunk works. The FBI housed it in the former fallout shelter — “ten times deeper than dead people” as one agent later recalled. It was a warren of rooms, dark and dank. Others referred to the oddball collection of psychologists, cops and administrators as “rejects of the FBI” or the “leper colony,” according to “Into the Minds of Madmen,” a nonfiction account of the unit. Still, the new program captured the imagination of some. Murder mystery author Michael Newton penned a series of novels which, while not quite bestsellers, featured the heroic exploits of two ViCAP agents “accustomed to the grisly face of death and grueling hours on a job that has no end.”

Brooks was the first manager for the ViCAP program. The agency purchased what was then the “Cadillac” of computers — a VAX 11/785 nicknamed the “Superstar.” It filled up much of the room in the basement headquarters and had 512KB of memory. (An average household computer today has about 4,000 times more memory.) Brooks was “ecstatic” when the system finally came online on May 29, 1985, according to the account. His enthusiasm was not to last.

To get information into the database, local cops and deputies had to fill out by hand a form with 189 questions. The booklet was then sent to Quantico, where analysts hand-coded the information into the computer. It was a laborious process that flummoxed even Brooks. He had a hard time filling out the booklet, according to one account — as did officers in the field. Only a few hundred cases a year were being entered.

Enter Patricia Cornwell, the bestselling crime author, famous for her novels featuring Dr. Kay Scarpetta, medical examiner. In the early 1990s, she visited the subterranean unit during a tour of the academy. She recalled being distinctly unimpressed. An analyst told her that ViCAP didn’t contain much information. The police weren’t sending in many cases.

“I remember walking into a room at the FBI and there was one PC on a desk,” said Cornwell, who had once worked as a computer analyst. “That was ViCAP.” A senior FBI official had told Cornwell that the academy, of which ViCAP was a small part, was in a financial crunch. She contacted Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, a friend, and told him of the academy’s troubles. In 1993, Hatch shepherded a measure through Congress to put more money into the academy — and ViCAP.

As the money made its way to the bomb shelter, the FBI conducted a “business review.” It found that local cops were sending the agency only 3 to 7 percent of homicides nationwide. The miniscule staff — about 10 people — could not even handle that load, and was not entering the cases on a timely basis. Cops on the street saw the system as a “black hole,” according to “Cold Case Homicide,” a criminal investigation handbook.

The FBI decided to kill the program. They picked Art Meister to be the hit man.

***

Meister spent much of his career at the FBI busting organized crime, beginning at the New Jersey field office. He rose through the ranks to supervise a national squad of more than 30 agents, investigating mob activities at home and overseas. He had no real experience with behavioral analysis or databases. But he did have an analytical approach that his superiors admired. They gave him instructions: “If it doesn’t work, do away with it. Kill it,” recalled Meister, now a security consultant with the Halle Barry Group.

Meister heard plenty of complaints. At one conference of police officers from across the country, a cop pulled Meister aside to talk about the program. “I’ve used it and all it gives me is bullshit leads,” the officer told him. “The general perception was by and large that the program didn’t work,” Meister said.

But instead of killing ViCAP, Meister became the system’s unlikely champion. Even with its small staff, the program was connecting far-flung law-enforcement agencies. The 189 questions had been slimmed to 95 — making it easier to fill out the form. Meister used the new funding from Hatch’s bill to reach out to 10 large jurisdictions to persuade them to install terminals that could connect with the database. By 1997, the system was receiving 1,500 or so cases per year — a record, though still a fraction of the violent crimes committed.

Meister saw the potential for the database to help solve sexual-assault crimes. He pushed the development of new questions specifically for sexual-assault cases. They weren’t added to the system until after his departure in 2001. “I felt it would really pay off dividends,” Meister said. “There are a lot more serial rapists than serial killers.”

But he found it difficult to make headway. Top officials showed no real interest in the program. After all, it was designed to help local law enforcement, not the agency. Meister called ViCAP “the furthest planet from the sun” — the last in line to get funds from the FBI. His efforts to improve it “were met with skepticism and bureaucratic politics. That’s what drove me nuts,” he said.

By the time he left, the program was muddling along. “ViCAP never got the support that it needs and deserves.” Meister said. “It’s unfortunate.”

***

On July 13, 2007, at 4 in the morning, a 15-year-old girl was sleeping in her bedroom in Chelmsford, a former factory town in northeastern Massachusetts bisected by Interstate 495.

She was startled awake when a man dressed in black with a ninja mask pressed his hand against her face. He placed a knife to her throat and told her “If you make any noise, I’ll fucking kill you.”

The girl screamed, rousing her mother and father. The parents rushed in, fighting with the man until they subdued him. Adam Leroy Lane, a truck driver from North Carolina, was arrested. In his truck, Massachusetts police found knives, cord and a DVD of “Hunting Humans,” a 2002 horror film.

Analysts for ViCAP, which has a special initiative to track killings along the nation’s highways, determined that the Massachusetts attack was similar to an earlier murder that had been committed in New Jersey. Acting on the tip, New Jersey state police detectives interviewed Lane in his jail cell. Lane confessed to killing Monica Massaro, a 38-year-old woman, in her home in the town of Bloomsbury — just a few blocks off Interstate 78. Lane, dubbed the Highway Killer, was connected via DNA samples to a killing and a violent attack in Pennsylvania; both women lived near interstates. Lane is now serving a life sentence in Pennsylvania.

New Jersey State Police Detective Geoff Noble said his case had been stalled. But once ViCAP connected Noble to Massachusetts police officers, they provided him a receipt that placed Lane at the truck stop in the small town where Massaro was killed. And when Noble confronted Lane, the killer started talking. Under a state attorney general’s directive, all New Jersey law enforcement agencies are supposed to report serial crimes to ViCAP. “The information provided by ViCAP was absolutely critical,” Noble said. “Without ViCAP, that case may have not ever been solved.”

FBI officials said the case, one of three success stories provided to ProPublica, showed the critical role of the database. (The other two: The case of Israel Keyes, a murderer who committed suicide after his arrest in Alaska in 2012 and has been linked to 11 killings; and that of Bruce Mendenhall, a trucker now serving a life sentence in Tennessee who was linked to the murder of four women in 2007.) “Given what we have, it’s a very successful program,” Burke said.

But in a dozen interviews with current and former police investigators and analysts across the country, most said they had not heard of ViCAP, or had seen little benefit from using it. Among sex-crimes detectives, none reported having been rewarded with a result from the system. “I’m not sending stuff off to ViCAP because I don’t even know what that is,” said Sgt. Peter Mahuna of the Portland, Oregon, Police Department. “I have never used ViCAP,” said Sgt. Elizabeth Donegan of Austin, Texas. “We’re not trained on it. I don’t know what it entails of whether it would be useful for us.”

Even Joanne Archambault, the director of the police training organization who sees the potential of ViCAP, didn’t use it when she ran the sex-crimes unit at the San Diego Police Department: “In all the years I worked these crimes, we never submitted information to ViCAP,” she said. “As a sex-crime supervisor, we invested time in effort that had a payout.”

Local authorities’ skepticism is reflected in the FBI’s statistics. In 2013, police submitted 240 cases involving sexual assault to the system. The FBI recorded 79,770 forcible rapes that year. Local agencies entered information on 232 homicides. The FBI recorded 14,196 murders.

“It's disappointing and embarrassing,” said Greg Cooper, a retired FBI agent who directed the ViCAP unit before becoming the police chief in Provo, Utah. “The FBI has not adequately marketed the program and its services. And local law enforcement has not been committed to participating.”

Not all rapes or murders involved serial offenders, of course. But with ViCAP receiving information on only about 0.5 percent of such violent crimes, it struggles to identify those that do.

“Cops don’t want to do more paperwork,” said Jim Markey, a former Phoenix police detective and now a security consultant. “Anytime you ask for voluntary compliance, it won’t be a priority. It’s not going to happen.”

But at some agencies where ViCAP has been incorporated into policing, commanders have become staunch defenders of its utility. Major J.R. Burton, the commander of special investigations for the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office in Tampa, Florida, said detectives at his agency are mandated to enter information on violent crimes into the database. “I love ViCAP,” said Burton, who served on a board of local law enforcement officials that advises the FBI on the system. “There’s many cases where you don’t have DNA. How do you link them together?”

Burton said he understood the frustration that other police experience when they get no results back from the system. When pressed, Burton could not cite any investigations in his jurisdiction that had benefitted from the database. But he said the time and effort to use the system was worth it. “It allows you to communicate across the nation, whether serial homicide or serial rapist,” Burton said. “That’s awesome in my book.”

FBI officials said they had taken steps to address complaints. In July 2008, the program made the database accessible via the Web. Police can now enter their own searches, without having to rely on an FBI analyst, through any computer with an Internet connection. The program has also whittled down the number of questions. Graham says he tells police that it should take only about 30 minutes to enter the details of a case. “I tell them if they can fill out their taxes, they can fill out the ViCAP form,” Graham said.

In November 1980, children began vanishing across Canada.

Christine Weller, 12, was found dead by a river in British Columbia. A year later, Daryn Johnsrude, 16, was found bludgeoned to death. In July 1981, six children were killed in a month, ages six to 18. They were found strangled and beaten to death.

The killer: Clifford Olson, a career criminal, who eluded capture in part because the different jurisdictions where he committed his crimes had never communicated.

The murders prompted Canadian police officials to create a system to track and identify serial killers. After an initial effort failed, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police sent investigators to study the ViCAP program. They returned troubled by some aspects. The FBI system was not being used by many police agencies. Nor did it track sexual assaults. The Mounties decided to improve on the U.S. system by developing their own behavioral crime analysis tool — ViCLAS.

The ViCLAS system has three advantages over its American cousin: people, money and a legal mandate. More than a hundred officers and analysts work for the system, spread across the country. It’s funded at a reported cost of $14 million to $15 million per year. The most important development was that over the years, local legislative bodies passed laws making entry mandatory. All Canadian law enforcement agencies now file reports to the system.

The agency also greatly expanded the list of crimes that can be entered. Any crime that is “behaviorally rich” — usually an incident involving a criminal and a victim — can be entered into the database. It also created stringent quality control. A Canadian analyst who uncovers a link between crimes must submit the findings to a panel for review. Only then can the case be released to local agencies — reducing the chances for bad leads.

Today, Canada’s system has been repeatedly endorsed by senior police officials as an important tool in tracking down killers and rapists. The agency routinely publishes newsletters filled with stories about crimes that the system helped to solve. One study called ViCLAS the “gold standard” of such systems worldwide. The Mounties now license ViCLAS for an annual fee to police forces in Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

The volume of information submitted has made the all the difference, Lawlor said. The system works when enough agencies enter cases to generate results. But agencies are reluctant to enter cases until they see results. “It’s a catch–22 situation,” Lawlor said. “If nothing goes in, then nothing can go out.”

When Burke, ViCAP’s program manager, speaks at national law enforcement conferences, he asks how many people in the audience have heard of his program. Typically only about one-half to two-thirds of the hands go up. A smaller percentage say they actually use it.

“We don’t have a club to force them to sign up with us,” Burke said.

The program’s main goal now is to ensure that the 100 largest police agencies in the country are enrolled. About 80 are. The agency continues to slowly develop its software. Training occurs monthly to encourage more participation.

The FBI doesn’t see the need for major changes to ViCAP, Burke explained. “It’s still supportive,” Burke said. “It’s still viable.”

Ryan Gabrielson contributed to this report.

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11 Favorite Sayings of Terrible People

AlterNet.org - July 30, 2015 - 2:07pm
Number 10: 'They’re just jealous of me!'

I don’t know about you, but there are certain things that people say that, to me, signal right off that the person saying them is probably kind of an asshole, or generally kind of terrible in some other way. These are 11 of them off the top of my head, but I’m sure there are more, so feel free to leave your own “favorites” in the comments.

1. “The customer is always right.”

Okay, sure, it’s always a great idea to treat customers well. But there are a lot of people out there who have let this imaginary power go right to their heads, believing that it can make items that are not on the menu at a restaurant or not stocked “in the back” in a retail store appear as if by magic, simply by being incredibly rude to the person waiting on them.

Said people believe, quite firmly, that they are not subject to return polices. That they can go sit at the largest table in a crowded restaurant, with a party of two, without checking in with the hostess and then get furious when no one comes to take care of them because they’re not in the system. Alas, they are incorrect.

I have always felt that although these people likely imagine that acting this way makes everyone else think that they must be fabulously important, that they are generally small people with small lives whose only sense of power in the world is the thrill they get from being “always right” in situations where they are the customer. I would feel sorry for them if they were not such assholes.

2. “If you can’t handle me at my worst, you don’t deserve me at my best.”

FIRST OF ALL! Sorry, but Marilyn Monroe never actually said this. There is no record of her ever saying it. It did not happen. Much like almost every Marilyn Monroe-related Pinterest quote out there. To boot, even if you think it’s real, I’m not sure you want Marilyn Monroe to be your healthy relationship icon. Yes, she was very pretty and she had a hard life, but I am not so sure she made a lot of great relationship choices in her life.

Second–this sounds like an awfully unhealthy and potentially abusive/manipulative relationship to me. I mean, if that is the thing you’re going to open with? You’re basically saying, “I am a really horrible person some of the time, but you should put up with that because of how super great I am some of the time.” To me, that honestly sounds a more than a little exhausting. I also don’t subscribe to the whole narrative that really great people are super difficult and tempestuous always. I tend to prefer people who, when they are at their worst, leave other people alone.

3. Fat shaming is a public service.

In the comments section of every article about body acceptance, there are always a few people who will INSIST that they are performing a public service by being shitty to fat people, because if they don’t feel shamed for their bodies, how will they ever get healthy?

Even aside from the fact that it is absolute bullshit that all skinny people are healthier than all people who are overweight. I want to know what world these people are living in where they think people are not made to feel badly enough about being overweight? In what world do they live in where they imagine there is such a thing as constructive bullying? That is not a thing!

If it is desperately important to you to be shitty to people, at the very least do not try to frame this as any kind of favor you are doing them. At least have the decency to cop to being a giant asshole. Because trust me, exactly no one is buying any of that.

4. “I’m just so much more sensitive/emotional than other people are!”

Are you psychic? Do you have the ability to go into other people’s brains and determine how they feel about things compared to how you feel about things? Probably not!

People handle their emotions differently. Sure, maybe you’re the person who bursts into hysterical tears in the middle of a bar, and someone else is the person who cracks a joke. Maybe you like talking about your problems with other people, and maybe someone else prefers to work things out on their own. As shocking as it may seem, it is totally possible that other person feels just as deeply about things as you do, but that they simply don’t choose to express that the same way as you do.

It is pretty darned insensitive to assume that anyone who doesn’t handle their feelings and emotions the way you do just doesn’t have them, or doesn’t feel things as deeply as you do. It’s also, believe it or not, a pretty mean thing to say, which doesn’t make you sound more “sensitive” but does make you sound significantly less empathetic. Which, in my estimation, is a lot more important.

5. “This is biased! You’re supposed to just report the facts and let me draw my own conclusions!’

I mean this, of course, in reference not to reportage, but to opinion articles. I would be being dishonest if I wasn’t saying that this is a specific pet peeve of mine, as a person who writes her opinion for a living. It drives me right up the fucking wall.

This is a reasonable opinion to have if you are talking about straight news, from a newspaper, op-ed sections not included. It is not a reasonable thing to say about a blog post or an op-ed. It is not, in fact, my job to report the facts and let you draw your own conclusions (I always imagine this in the whiniest voice humanly possible). It is my job to read the facts, draw my own conclusions, and then write about them.

If you don’t understand the difference between straight news and opinion, that is not my fault or the fault of any other blogger or opinion columnist. It is your fault for not having paid attention in your 4th grade English class when you were taught about the different kinds of journalism. Also, if you cannot read an opinion article and “draw your own conclusions” you are an idiot and should probably wait on forming any conclusions until you fix that.

6. “IT’S SUPPOSED TO BE MY SPECIAL DAY!”

I’m not actually sure if this is a thing people say outside of reality television, but I firmly hope it is not. I feel like there is no way to refer to your wedding or your birthday, in all seriousness, as your “special day” without sounding like the most horrendous person on earth. It cannot be done. Never, ever refer to anything as your special day.

7. “I don’t tip because…(insert anything here, it literally doesn’t matter).”

Any reason you have for not tipping is an asshole reason. This is simply not a hole you want to dig yourself into. You cannot spin it in a way that makes you come out looking not terrible. Can you think that restaurants should just pay waiters and waitresses more? Sure! That is a reasonable opinion to have. But you know whose fault it isn’t that they don’t? The person waiting on you! Also, trust, you withholding your tip isn’t going to make that happen.

If you have this opinion, really, you are just best off keeping it to yourself. Certainly, do not, under any circumstances, bring this up on a date.

If there were any possible way to voice one’s opposition to tipping without sounding like the biggest ass on the face of the earth, it is likely that someone far more clever than you are would have come up with it by now. You are probably not going to be the first person in the history of the world to do this, so don’t even try.

8. “You can’t criticize me! I have a right to free speech!”

Here is what the first amendment means–outside of say, shouting “Fire” in a crowded building and conspiring to commit a crime–you are, indeed, free to say whatever you want, express whatever opinions you want, without going to jail.

However–and this may surprise some people–individual citizens who are not empowered by the state, cannot actually infringe upon your first amendment rights. Criticizing your opinions, like it or not, is also free speech. Freedom of speech does not mean that no one can criticize you or your stupid opinions on things, or think you are an asshole as a result of them. Freedom of speech does not mean the right to no consequences whatsoever for your speech. It means, again, that you cannot be thrown in jail for it.

Even “political correctness” doesn’t actually infringe upon your right to free speech. Because someone criticizing you for using a racial slur is also expressing their right to free speech. Besides, if you can’t back up your opinion with anything other than “Well, it’s my right to say/think that because FREEDOM OF SPEECH,” you might want to rethink that opinion. Just as a tip.

9. “Heckling comics is a positive thing because (insert dumb reason here).”

One of the saddest things in the world are people who believe they are somehow contributing to a stand-up show by heckling. That they are “keeping the comics on their toes” and alerting them to things they think are not funny. How self-important can someone possibly be? It’s weird.

I mean, kudos to comics who handle heckling well, but that doesn’t mean the person doing it isn’t a giant asshole. It’s certainly not a thing worth defending as some kind of art form, as I’ve heard some do before. At the very least, if you are going to pull shit like that, do not act as though it is somehow a kind thing to do. Admit you’re an asshole.

10. “They’re just jealous of me!”

Okay. Sure! This can happen sometimes. I’m not saying it doesn’t. But unless you are incredibly impressive, it is unlikely that this is always the case when you have problems with people. Even if it really is the case, you might want to refrain from saying it too often, as people may mistake you for a Real Housewife of Somewhere.

11. “I just say what everyone else is thinking!”

It is very rare that someone who says this proudly has not just said something incredibly insulting to another person for pretty much no reason. This is not necessarily something you want to be proud of.

Sometimes people don’t say everything they’re thinking out loud, because they don’t actually want to hurt other people’s feelings for no good reason. Also, it is weird to assume that everyone else is just as big of an asshole as you are, but that you are the only person with the courage to express your inner asshole nature. Maybe it’s you. Maybe you are just a jerk.

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Even Feminist Amy Schumer Plays Stereotype in 'Trainwreck'—the Female Journalist Who Jumps Into Bed

AlterNet.org - July 30, 2015 - 1:56pm
In the movies, we jump sleep with practically every interviewee. Strange how the men don’t get that treatment.

A couple of years ago, my editor told me to interview a well-known actor. I mentioned this to a friend, and he smirked knowingly. “Better cancel your evening plans. I know at least three female journalists who slept with him after interviewing him,” he said. “Well, I don’t know them, but I’ve heard the stories.”

I rolled my eyes. “Oh the stories. Well, that sounds totally credible. Anyway, it’s never even occurred to me to sleep with an interviewee,” I said.

“Really?” he said, amazed.

I was now more intrigued by his amazement at my failure to shag on the job than the prospect of a celebrity trying to seduce me. Was this yet another part of journalism I’d somehow missed out on, like learning shorthand? No, of course not. (Seriously, have you seen most journalists? No one’s trying to sleep with us – as a demographic, we’re a riposte to Darwinism.) But I eventually understood my friend’s amazement: among all the lessons to be gleaned from Hollywood movies, there are few that have become as established as the idea that female journalists have sex with the people they’re writing about.

Judd Apatow’s comedy Trainwreck, which stars and is written by Amy Schumer, will come to the UK next month. Despite its pretence to edginess, it is utterly conventional, not least in its depiction of – can you guess? – female journalists. The movie tells the story of Amy, a journalist who is assigned by her editor to write a profile of a sexy sports doctor. (All sports doctors are sexy – this, too, is an ironclad truth in pop culture.) So off she goes and promptly gets drunk with the doctor – and has sex with him – because how else do female journalists get to know their subjects?

In 1940’s His Girl Friday, Hildy Johnson was so engrossed in her work, she didn’t even notice the romantic machinations around her masterminded by her ex-husband – and he was played by Cary Grant, for heaven’s sake. Now, the idea that female journalists work by spreading their legs has become so established, it is damn near a trope.

Whereas male journalists in movies work by using their malicious minds (Kirk Douglas in Ace in the Hole, Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler) or unimpeachable morality (Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman in All the President’s Men, George Clooney and David Strathairn in Good Night and Good Luck), their female counterparts use a part of their anatomy that has nothing to do with their brain. Sometimes they do it to get a story, sometimes it just happens because, well, that’s what it’s like being a female journalist: you go to the office and, next thing you know, your knickers are around your ankles.

Just off the top of my head, here is a selection of fictional female journalists who sleep their way through their jobs: Chelsea (Rosario Dawson) has sex in a club bathroom with the celebrity actor (Chris Rock) she’s profiling in Top Five; in Crazy Heart, Jean (Maggie Gyllenhaal) rescues an alcoholic country singer (Jeff Bridges) she’s interviewing through the redemptive power of her magical vagina (an essential tool for female journalists, along with serious spectacles and an ugly jacket); in Three Kings, Cathy (Judy Greer) trades sex for stories with Clooney – which, to be fair, is an experience all female journalists have had; in the excellent Nightcrawler, TV news editor Nina (Rene Russo) sleeps with a creepy journalist (Jake Gyllenhaal) in order to maintain his loyalty; Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) swiftly ends up in bed with Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) in Anchorman; Susan Orlean (Meryl Streep) ends up having sex with, if memory serves, just about everyone in Adaptation, which must have come as a surprise to the real-life Orlean, a respected journalist; poor TV producer Jane (Holly Hunter) tries her best to sleep with airheaded anchor Tom (William Hurt) in Broadcast News, but life keeps thwarting them. Even Lois Lane fell for Superman, after all.

Then there are the female journalists who are specifically assigned to manipulate or sleep with men, in such films as How To Lose a Guy in 10 Days and the TV adaptation of Sex and the City, in which Carrie Bradshaw’s entire beat is her bedroom, even though that was certainly not the case in the original columns by Candace Bushnell.

Occasionally, the depiction of the women journalists in movies is tied to their source material, which proves just how deep-rooted this cliche is, beloved beyond Hollywood studios. In Thank You for Smoking, Washington journalist Heather (Katie Holmes) maliciously seduces the poor tobacco lobbyist for the sake of a story. Bridget Jones’s only news scoop comes thanks to help from Mark Darcy, who she ends up snogging on a street corner. In the utterly tedious The Devil Wears Prada, fashion journalist Andy (Anne Hathaway) ends up in bed with a photographer during fashion week, even though I can speak from personal experience that fashion week is so sexless it is essentially a nunnery with more expensive clothes.

And of course, there’s House of Cards, both UK and US versions, in which a young female journalist engages in kinky sex with a creepy politician for a story. Presumably Lord Sewel had been watching House of Cards a little too keenly when he was caught this week boasting that he had slept with a female BBC journalist. “She was very young and it was very pleasant,” he said, like a cut-price Francis Urquhart. The journalist swiftly denied this nonsense.

To a certain extent, the depiction of female journalists in films reflects how movies in general belittle women who work these days. Women’s jobs, today’s Hollywood movies imply, are a mere hurdle they need to scale before discovering the meaning of life (marriage). But the Hollywood obsession with female journalists’ sex lives feels especially ridiculous as there are few professionals who film folk encounter more than journalists. So this idea that female journalists are all just dying to jump into bed with them is a fascinating insight into certain film-makers’ tragic sexual fantasies.

Incidentally, I didn’t sleep with the actor – he didn’t even make a move on me, thank God. In fact, the only personal interaction we had afterwards was when he called the next week to berate me for misspelling his ex-girlfriend’s surname in the paper. Honestly, you could have cut the sexual tension with a knife.

 

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You'll Never Believe What Drug a Major Federal Health Official Called 'Safe' with 'No Addictive Effects'

AlterNet.org - July 30, 2015 - 1:50pm
Shocking statement by the director of the US National Institute on Drug Abuse.

The director of the US National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), Nora Volkow, believes that cannabidiol (CBD) – a nonpsychotropic cannabinoid – is “a safe drug with no addictive effects.” Volkow made the comments in an op-ed published by The Huffington Post.

Volkow further acknowledged, “[P]reliminary data suggest that it may have therapeutic value for a number of medical conditions.”

Preclinical studies have documented CBD to possess a variety of therapeutic activities, including anti-cancer properties, anti-diabetic properties, and bone-stimulating activity. Clinical and observational trials have documented the substance to possess anxiolyticanti-psychotic, and anti-seizure activity in humans. Safety trials have further concluded the substance to be “safe and well tolerated” when administered to healthy subjects.

To date, 15 states have enacted laws specifically permitting the possession of high-CBD formulated extracts for therapeutic purposes, primarily for the treatment of pediatric epilepsy.

In a recent Time Magazine op-ed, Democrat Sen. Diane Feinstein (CA) and Republican Sen. Charles Grassley (IA) encouraged the Obama administration to “definitively determine if CBD has scientific and medical benefits,” and to “look at expanding compassionate access programs where possible, to benefit as many children as possible.”

Under federal law, CBD — like cannabis — is defined as a Schedule I  controlled substance with “a high potential for abuse … no currently accepted medical use, … [and] a lack of accepted safety for the use of the drug … under medical supervision.”

 

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Why Medicare-For-All Makes More Sense Now Than Ever

AlterNet.org - July 30, 2015 - 1:00pm
Private health insurance drives up costs for everyone.

Medicare -- signed into law fifty years ago, on July 30, 1965 -- was supposed to be just the first step.

For the fifty years before Medicare's enactment, progressives had fought unsuccessfully for universal, government-provided health insurance. In 1912, President Theodore Roosevelt's Progressive Party platform advocated universal, government-sponsored, health insurance, but he was defeated in his quest for another term as president. In 1917, the California legislature approved universal health insurance, and the governor supported it, but a 1918 ballot resolution defeated the measure after a massive, well-financed business and physician-fueled campaign against it. President Franklin Roosevelt seriously considered including national health insurance in his 1935 Social Security legislation, but decided against it out of fear that it would bring down the entire legislative package. President Harry Truman made universal health insurance a top priority, but got nowhere.

The five-decade long history of defeat convinced activists to shift to an incremental approach. They decided to start with a sympathetic group and debated which one that should be. The top candidates were seniors and children. On the one hand, covering children was relatively inexpensive and could lead to a lifetime of better health. On the other hand, seniors were most in need of health insurance and were already used to and supportive of Social Security's government-sponsored wage insurance. And they voted.

So the decision was made to start with them. The expectation was that, after Medicare was enacted, children and others would be quickly added. And, indeed, just seven years later, in 1972, President Richard Nixon signed into law legislation which extended Medicare to people with serious and permanent disabilities.

But then came Watergate, distrust of government, and President Ronald Reagan's famous declaration, "Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem." Expansion of Medicare to children or other demographic groups disappeared from the public agenda. But the need for universal high-quality health care, efficiently provided, did not.

Conservatives and centrist Democrats, increasingly in control, looked for alternative approaches. Inclined toward private sector solutions but recognizing that some limited government role was essential, they favored private sector health insurance and savings supported by favorable tax treatment. For those who fell through the cracks and who were deemed worthy, they favored means-tested health insurance provided at the state level, with federal support.

Those are the solutions that have dominated since 1972, despite the obvious advantages of simply expanding Medicare. Means-tested Medicaid, included in the same 1965 legislation that enacted Medicare, was expanded every few years, most recently as part of the Affordable Care Act in 2010. The means-tested State Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) was enacted in 1997. And, the Affordable Care Act authorized state exchanges offering private health insurance subsidized with income-tested, government subsidies. During these decades, the tax expenditure on health care insurance grew from the fourth largest tax expenditure in 1986 to the largest today -- at a loss of revenue of over $200 billion a year. And during this same period, conservatives amended Medicare to include private health insurance and means-tested elements.

But these methods of providing health insurance are vastly inferior to universal, government-sponsored health insurance -- essentially, Medicare for All. Universal, government-sponsored insurance is the most effective and efficient way to cover everyone. Insurance is least expensive when it covers the most people; the large size of government-sponsored health insurance provides economies of scale and the greatest ability to negotiate over prices and control costs. Moreover, unlike private health insurance, a government plan has no marketing costs and no high CEO salaries. It can provide health care less expensively and more efficiently for everyone. For these reasons, every other industrialized country provides universal coverage, spends less as a percentage of GDP, and produces better health outcomes.

But we don't have to look to other countries to see the advantages. Medicare covers seniors and people with disabilities, people who, on average, have the worst health and the most expensive medical conditions, requiring the largest numbers of doctor and hospital visits with the concomitant largest number of health care claims. Yet, Medicare's administrative costs are the lowest around. Medicaid, whose administrative costs vary from state to state, is less efficient than Medicare, because its coverage is statewide, not national, and it must impose complicated and expensive means testing, Even with that, both Medicare and Medicaid are significantly more efficient than private health insurance. Compared to Medicare's administrative costs of just 1.4 percent, the administrative costs of private health insurance sponsored by very small firms or purchased by individuals can run as high as 30 percent. Even the administrative costs of health insurance sponsored by large companies typically run around 7 percent.

As a stark illustration of the greater efficiency and effectiveness of Medicare, a proposal floated a few years ago to raise Medicare's initial age of eligibility from 65 to 67 -- requiring people to wait two additional years before they could enroll in Medicare -- would have resulted in increased health care costs for the nation as a whole of $5.7 billion a year and increased premium costs for both Medicare and all other health insurance of about 3 percent. Just as shrinking Medicare's coverage increases costs, expanding coverage would reduce overall health care costs

Imagine if President Bill Clinton in 1993 and President Barack Obama in 2009 had followed the direction of the architects of Medicare, a half century ago. Imagine if they had proposed incremental expansions of Medicare, including lowering the Medicare age to 62 or 55, creating a counterpart universal, government-sponsored Medikidsprogram, covering under Medicare people with pre-existing conditions, and providing all Americans the option of buying into Medicare. We likely would be on our way to Medicare for All, with all of its advantages. We likely would be forecasting long-termsurpluses in our federal budget, with all that would mean for greater spending on other pressing needs. Our businesses would be much more competitive. And we would join other nations in recognizing health care as a human right.

But it is not too late.

This upcoming presidential election could be a powerful defining moment. It could get us back on track to realizing the vision of the architects of Medicare a half century ago. Presidential candidate and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) believes in Medicare for All, as well as expansion of Social Security. In contrast, Governor Jeb Bush is calling for the phasing out of Medicare and wants to cut Social Security. If each Party's platform reflects these views, the American people will have a clear choice.

I see no better way to celebrate Medicare reaching its fiftieth anniversary than to expand Medicare. If we follow the lead of those visionary architects fifty years ago, those who come after us will inherit a nation where affordable, first class health insurance -- Medicare for All -- is a birthright.

 

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What's New: Save door-to-door, Stop Harper!

Socialist Project - July 30, 2015 - 1:00pm
On December 11, 2013 Canada Post, with Harper's blessing, announced their 5 point plan which included the elimination of door to door, greater privatization of postal outlets, increase in postage, introduction of new work methods and reductions in employee compensation. The NDP and Green Party have come out for the restoration of home mail delivery to people who have lost it.
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The Murders Don't Stop: How the War on Drugs Is Responsible For Mexico's Outrageous Death Toll

AlterNet.org - July 30, 2015 - 12:29pm
The war on drugs is a war on people, where the majority of casualties are black and brown bodies.

When I first shook hands with Felipe de la Cruz Sandoval this winter outside of the Mexican Consulate in NYC, images of my one of my favorite tios sprung to mind, creating an immediate sense of kinship towards the short, mustachioed Mexican professor.  De La Cruz Sandoval, thousands of miles from his home in Ayotzinapa, Mexico where 43 of his students were forcibly disappeared by cartel gunmen and corrupt municipal officers, was doing exactly what my tio would do- travel the world in search of justice.

Sadly, his search for his missing students has uncovered more tragedy - 129 bodies unrelated to the case were recently uncovered in 60 unmarked graves across Guerrero,  the same state where the students disappeared.

Omar Garcia, one of the survivors of the attack against the Ayotzinapa students, recently told the UK Guardian that:  “[Mexicans are] living in a very serious situation where anyone can be disappeared and murdered, buried in a secret grave and be forgotten, unless their families look for them.”

Mr. Garcia’s prognosis is disturbingly accurate. A recently released report by the Mexican government showed that there were 165,000 documented cases of homicide between 2007 and 2014 in Mexico — “a period that accounts for some of the bloodiest years of the nation’s war against the drug cartels.” Compare this to the more than 26,000 civilianswho are said to have been killed in Afghanistan since the beginning of the war in 2001 and the 160,500 who died in Iraq since the U.S. invasion in 2003. The war on drugs is a war on people, on par with officially recognized military operations, where the majority of casualties are black and brown bodies.

While not all of the killings can be directly linked to the war on drugs, some counts have attributed over 55 percent to the failed drug war. Regardless, U.S. drug prohibition and American funding of the Merida Initiative, both abject failures, have only served to exacerbate, if not outright perpetuate, the violence in Latin America.

Most recently, cartel leader El Chapo Guzman’s recent escape from prison, and the international media attention that followed, only served to reinforce the silence that surrounds the destruction of brown bodies, something known far too well by Professor De La Cruz and Sister Consuelo Morales, a Mexican nun taking on the drug war by crusading against Mexican cartels and corrupt police.

While Latinos have the power to end the failed war on drugs in the ballot box, we have an obligation to speak out now against the violence enacted on our bodies by bad laws and misguided policies. As an incredibly diverse gente, I hope that you see how the drug war is a Latino issue permeating the core of our community and join the chorus of voices shouting No More Drug War.

This piece first appeared on the Drug Policy Alliance Blog: http://www.drugpolicy.org/blog/murders-dont-stop-war-drugs-responsible-outrageous-death-toll-mexico

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