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Trump's Recent Mental Health Pledge Should Have Us All Worried

February 28, 2018 in Blogs

By Mehreen Kasana, AlterNet

The president has proven he doesn't care whether mentally ill people have access to guns—or health care.


Nearly every single time there is a mass shooting in the United States (an estimated 34 have already happened in 2018, according to the Gun Violence Archive), American politicians perform a mind-numbing script of condemnations, calls-to-action and rhetorical squabbles for and against gun control legislation. One of those points, from the pro-gun school of thought, blames mental health issues for mass shootings. The same contention emerged after the Parkland, Florida shooting when Donald Trump’s administration said it was “actively” considering the expansion of mental health care initiatives to curb similar violence. But Trump’s mental health care pledge against gun violence is riddled with hypocrisy.

On Monday, the president said he was looking at Medicaid funds to do the difficult job of addressing mental health needs in the country—yet his 2018 budget slashes funding to Medicaid. Our mental health treatment system is already poorly funded and systematically neglected, to say the least. According to the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission, Medicaid is the main (and struggling) provider of behavioral health programs, especially for poor people. With Trump’s consistent attacks on Medicaid, it’s hard to believe the president when he says he wants to address the “difficult” issue of mental health.

In his first year in office, Trump has already taken harmful measures that have made it easier for people with mental illnesses and criminal records to obtain guns. In February 2017, the president signed a bill rolling back a critical regulation stipulated under Barack Obama's presidency that restricted gun access for people with mental health issues. Not only that, Trump also lowered the bar for “fugitives” seeking access to firearms and cleared thousands of names from the federal background check database. Plus, Trump proposed the idea to deprive the National Criminal Records History Improvement Program of funding worth millions of dollars, which would help with background checks.

If Trump is so concerned about the well-being of people with mental health problems, the question has to be asked: …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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For Over 150 Years, U.S. Presidents Had No Term Limits

February 28, 2018 in History

By Becky Little

The Articles of Confederation. (Credit: AP Photo)

When China announced that it was abolishing presidential term limits, paving the way for Xi Jinping to stay in power indefinitely, U.S. media framed it as a dangerous decision. To many Americans, our two-term limit seems necessary and democratic. But for most of the United States’ history, there was no safeguard to keep presidents from serving for life.

Starting with George Washington and lasting through Harry S. Truman, presidents could serve as many terms as they could win. It wasn’t till after Franklin D. Roosevelt won four consecutive presidential elections, leaving office only because he died, that the government decided limits might be a good idea.

In the beginning, the U.S. had no presidential term limits because it had no president at all under the Articles of Confederation. Granted, there was a president of the Continental Congress in the 1780s, but it was not a chief executive position. The Articles’ framers in the Second Continental Congress purposely left out a head-of-state because they worried about creating another king, à la George III, with whom they’d just severed ties.

Yet in 1787, a new Constitutional Convention formed to scrap the Articles and draft a Constitution that was shockingly different. The result was much less democratic than the Articles or any state constitution at the time. Michael Klarman, a Harvard Law School professor and historian, has even gone so far as to call the Constitutional Convention a coup.

Some of the Constitutional framers still had fears about creating a chief executive who was too much like a king. But they danced pretty close to the edge with things like the presidential pardon, a power similar to the British King’s “royal prerogative of mercy.” And according to National Constitution Center (NCC), they also came pretty close to making the presidency a straightforward lifetime appointment.

The Articles of Confederation. (Credit: AP Photo)

“Surprisingly, many of the Framers—including [Alexander] Hamilton and [James] Madison—supported a lifetime appointment for presidents selected by Congress and not elected by the people,” the NCC writes. “That would have made the presidency what Virginia’s George Mason called an ‘elective monarchy,’ however, and when this was put to a vote it failed by only six votes to four.”

Instead, they devised a …read more

Source: HISTORY

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Hope Hicks Abruptly Resigns 24 Hours After Testifying About Russia

February 28, 2018 in Blogs

By Elizabeth Preza, Raw Story

She was one of Trump's longest-serving advisers.


White House Communications Director Hope Hicks is resigning, the New York Times reports.

The move comes one day after Hicks was interviewed by the House Intelligence Committee. During that meeting, Hicks reportedly told the intel committee she occasionally tells “white lies” for Donald Trump, but she insisted she’s never told substantial lies about anything materially related to the Russia investigations.

CNN reports Hicks will depart “in the next few weeks.”

Hicks told the Times there are “no words” to express her gratitude towards Trump.

“Hope is outstanding and has done great work for the last three years,” Trump told the Times. “She is as smart and thoughtful as they come, a truly great person. I will miss having her by my side but when she approached me about pursuing other opportunities, I totally understood. I am sure we will work together again in the future.”

Related Stories

…read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Nationalist Militias Plan Saturday Protest Near Charlottesville to Intimidate Pro-Immigrant Rights Lawyers

February 28, 2018 in Blogs

By Steven Rosenfeld, AlterNet

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A law firm that fights for human rights prepares to be targeted by anti-government protesters.


On Saturday, March 3, some of the same nationalist militia groups that took part in last year's Unite the Right rally-turned-riot in Charlottesville, Virginia, will converge on nearby Verona, a small town where the nationwide offices of a pro-immigrant and anti-white-supremacist law firm is located. AlterNet's Steven Rosenfeld spoke to Mike Donovan, the CEO of Nexus Caridades, about the nationalist militias targeting his civil rights firm, and his plans for a counter-protest.

Steven Rosenfeld: Your company provides services to immigrants, including those without visas. You’ve heard from state and local police that the same groups responsible for the Unite the Right riot in Charlottesville were planning to hold protests at your offices on Saturday. Tell me what you heard.

Mike Donovan: The first we heard from the state police and the local sheriff was that they wanted a meeting with me. I was out of town at the time. We have a law firm that does civil rights work. And that law firm has sued both the local sheriff’s office and the state police, so it was a little bit of a surprise to get a request for a meeting.

When we had the meeting, I couldn't attend because I was not in Virginia at the time. And they informed us that there was a protest planned on Saturday. They anticipated that as many as 500 people might appear at that rally, according to the state police—from what they heard or what they investigated. And they told us that the county had made certain decisions. They were going to close the road, which is the only road into and out of our complex. There’s just not enough room for 500 people to be …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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The New York Times Newsroom Is Openly Revolting Against Its Editorial Page Editor

February 28, 2018 in Blogs

By Jacob Sugarman, AlterNet

A series of leaks exposes a deep dissatisfaction with James Bennet's stewardship.


Since Donald Trump was elected president, the New York Times editorial page has waged a frontal assault on its readers' intelligence. Just this month, it has published pieces defending Woody Allen and Aziz Ansari against allegations of sexual abuse, and another scolding liberals for not being sufficiently respectful of gun owners in the wake of the latest mass shooting. In between, the paper hired and fired its leading commentator on technology after learning she counts a prominent neo-Nazi among her close friends.

Subscribers are taking notice, and they're not alone. According to a Vanity Fair report, Times reporters have grown increasingly frustrated with the paper's op-ed section and fear it may be undermining their work. As one anonymous senior staffer put it, “Until yesterday, people felt like [Opinion] was a shakeup. Now people are worried. The newsroom feels embarrassed.”

At the center of the controversy is editorial-page editor James Bennet, who earlier this month sent a 1,500-word memo to staff outlining how he interprets former Times publisher Adolph Ochs' original mission for the section. The memo was a response to an earlier HuffPost story containing internal chat transcripts of Times employees expressing their disgust with the op-ed section, specifically the contributions of recent addition Bari Weiss. 

“We’re not just letting a thousand flowers bloom,” Bennet writes. “We are picking our contributors with care, looking for people who share Times standards for fairness and intellectual honesty and originality, who believe in empiricism and the essential equality of all human beings. We are, as ever, editing and fact-checking our work.”

Discerning readers might disagree. Over the past year, the Times has not only published a Bret Stephens column questioning widely established climate science but found itself the subject of a defamation suit from Sarah Palin after suggesting that inflammatory remarks made by the former Alaska governor helped incite the shooting that nearly killed Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. (The lawsuit was ultimately dismissed after a judge determined the Times had not acted with malice.) Several weeks ago, the paper ran a column titled “Background Checks Are Not the …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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A Visual History of Iconic Black Hairstyles

February 28, 2018 in History

By Madison Horne

Queen Nefertiti. (Credit: Photo12/UIG/Getty Images)

For centuries black communities around the world have created hairstyles that are uniquely their own. These hairstyles span all the way back to the ancient world and continue to weave their way through the social, political and cultural conversations surrounding black identity today.

Queen Nefertiti. (Credit: Photo12/UIG/Getty Images)

Ancient Origins

From box braids to dreadlocks and afro shape-ups, many of the most iconic black hairstyles can be found in drawings, engravings and hieroglyphs from Ancient Egypt. When the painted sandstone bust of the Egyptian Queen Nefertiti was rediscovered in 1913, her regal beauty—accentuated by a towering hairstyle— was undeniable and she quickly became a global icon of feminine power.


Sarcophagus of Princess Kawit. (Credit: DeAgostini/Getty Images)

Often used in place of headdresses, wigs symbolized one’s rank and were essential to royal and wealthy Egyptians, male and female alike. The 2050 B.C. sarcophagus of princess Kawit portrays the princess having her hair done by a servant during breakfast. Wigs such as this were often styled with braided pieces of human hair, wool, palm fibers and other materials set on a thick skullcap. Egyptian law prohibited slaves and servants from wearing wigs.

(Credit: Aapthamithra/Getty Images)
(Credit: Aapthamithra/Getty Images)

Twisted Locks

Dreadlocks have often been perceived as a hairstyle associated with 20th century Jamaican and Rastafarian culture, but according to Dr. Bert Ashe’s book, Twisted: My Dreadlock Chronicles, one of the earliest known recordings of the style has been found in the Hindu Vedic scriptures. In its Indian origins, the “jaTaa”, which means “wearing twisted locks of hair,” was a hairstyle worn by many of the figures written about 2,500 years ago.

(Credit: De Agostini Picture Library/Getty Images)
(Credit: De Agostini Picture Library/Getty Images)

Intricate Braids

Braids were used to signify marital status, age, religion, wealth, and rank within West African communities. Nigerian housewives in polygamous relationships created the style known as kohin-sorogun, meaning “turn your back to the jealous rival wife,” that had a pattern that when seen from behind was meant to taunt their husbands’ other wives. If a young girl of Senegal’s Wolof people was not of marrying age, she would have to shave her head a …read more

Source: HISTORY

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Right-Wing Supreme Court Majority Decrees Refugee Asylum Seekers Can Be Jailed Indefinitely Without Bail Hearing

February 28, 2018 in Blogs

By Steven Rosenfeld, AlterNet

An authoritarian ruling enlarges federal police power and ignores centuries of judicial precedent and human rights.


The U.S. Supreme Court has issued what may become one of the most consequential anti-immigrant rulings in the Trump era, declaring that asylum seekers—non-citizens—are not entitled to bail hearings and can languish in jail for years.

The majority’s ruling in Jennings v. Rodriguez, written by Justice Samuel Alito, reverses and remands a ruling by the California-based Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which said a non-citizen could not be held for longer than six months without a bail hearing.

“The noncitizens at issue are asylum seekers, persons who have finished serving a sentence of confinement (for a crime), or individuals who, while lacking a clear entitlement to enter the United States, claim to meet the criteria for admission,” wrote Alito, summarizing the case. The court’s majority concluded that several immigration statutes “do not give detained aliens the right to periodic bond hearings during the course of their detention. The Ninth Circuit misapplied the canon of constitutional avoidance in holding otherwise.”

In late 2017, federal immigration authorities held approximately 40,000 asylum seekers in various detention centers around the country, Human Rights First reported. Asylum seekers are a subset of the estimated 11 million visa-less immigrants in the U.S. 

Alito's conclusion was slammed in a dissent from the court’s more liberal justices as turning a blind eye to American legal history, from its founding documents to previous Supreme Court rulings dating to the 19th century. As Justice Stephen Breyer noted, the majority’s conclusion was at odds with the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, the British Magna Carta—which influenced those founding documents—and centuries of subsequent American Supreme Court rulings.

“First, as I have said, the respondents in this case are members of three special classes of noncitizens, the most important of whom (1) arrive at our borders seeking asylum or (2) have committed crimes but have finished serving their sentences of imprisonment,” said Breyer, explaining those the ruling will affect. “We also consider those who (3) arrive at our borders believing they are entitled to enter the …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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As DC Families Go to Charter Schools, Maybe Government Funding Should, Too

February 28, 2018 in Economics

By Corey A. DeAngelis

Corey A. DeAngelis

Charter schools are on the rise in Washington, D.C. Enrollment
data show that nearly half of the children attending D.C. public
schools are enrolled in public charter schools. Meanwhile, figures
released earlier this month show that D.C. traditional public
school enrollment decreased this school year, while charter school
enrollment
increased by 4.5 percent
.

This trend looks like it’s going to continue. In fact, more than
10,000 students are currently on a waitlist to
get into a charter school in D.C. This shift towards public charter
schools is a smart move for D.C. parents, children, and even
taxpayers. Here’s why.

It turns out that D.C. charter schools are knocking it out of
the park. Research shows that D.C. charter schools often achieve
better outcomes than traditional public schools, and for less
money, too. It’s exciting to think about how successful these
schools would be if they received just as much funding as their
district counterparts.

.C. public charter
schools are 67 percent more cost-effective and produce an 85
percent higher return-on-investment than their neighboring district
schools.

As shown in a just-released study by my colleagues at the
University of Arkansas and me, D.C. public charter schools receive
around $14,000 less funding allocated on a per-child basis than
their district school counterparts each year, or more than $180,000
less throughout a full K-12 education. And we find that despite the
large funding disadvantage, D.C. public charter schools are 67
percent more cost-effective and produce an 85 percent higher
return-on-investment than their neighboring district schools.

Let’s make this a bit more concrete. The data shows that every
thousand dollars spent on education in D.C. district schools
translates to around a $4,510 increase in students’ lifetime
earnings. That is commendable. But that same thousand dollar
expenditure produces an estimated $8,340 in students’ lifetime
earnings if allocated to a public charter school in the city. And
that 85 percent advantage is huge considering that taxpayers spend
more than $458,000 for each child’s K-12 education in D.C. district
schools.

In other words, 13 years of equal funding in charter schools
could produce around an additional $1.7 million in lifetime
earnings for each charter school student in the nation’s
capital.

Of course, this isn’t the only study finding that charter
schools do more with less. In 2014, researchers at the University
of Arkansas also found that charter schools across the country were
40 percent more productive, as measured by
gains in student achievement, than neighboring district schools. In
addition, experimental studies by researchers at Harvard
University
and Princeton University found that male students who won
a …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Chasing the Myth of Confederate Gold

February 28, 2018 in History

By Sarah Pruitt

Jefferson Davis , the first and only President of the Confederate States of America, circa 1865. (Credit: Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

With Union troops closing in on the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia, in early April 1865, President Jefferson Davis and the rest of his government fled southward, allegedly carrying with them a considerable amount of gold, silver and other coins. But when Union officers caught up with Davis on May 10, near Irwinville, Georgia, he was reportedly carrying only a few dollars with him.

So what happened to that missing Confederate treasure? Its fate has remained a mystery for more than 150 years, fueling a wealth of local legends in the South and elsewhere, and even inspiring Hollywood movies like The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966) and Sahara (2005), based on the book by Clive Cussler.

“Every legend that has any long-term staying power has a modicum of truth in it, and certainly this one does,” says William Rawlings, an author of numerous nonfiction books and novels about Southern history. Rawlings included a chapter about the lost Confederate treasure in his 2017 book The Strange Journey of the Confederate Constitution, And Other Stories from Georgia’s Historical Past, and also mined the legends for his novel The Rutherford Cipher, originally published in 2004.

Jefferson Davis , the first and only President of the Confederate States of America, circa 1865. (Credit: Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

The story begins in Richmond on Sunday, April 2, 1865, when Confederate President Jefferson Davis received an urgent message from General Robert E. Lee while attending a church service. Lee warned Davis that his government should evacuate Richmond immediately, or risk being captured by Federal troops.

Late that night, two trains departed Richmond heading south. The first carried Davis and other Confederate officials, along with the government’s most important documents and other archived materials. Onto the second were loaded all the cash reserves of the Confederacy (including gold, silver and other coins), as well as the gold reserves owned by Richmond’s banks and a large amount of jewelry donated by Confederate women to the cause.

Among Confederate veterans’ organizations, rumors later swirled that their fleeing leaders were carrying millions of dollars when they evacuated Richmond. And such rumors weren’t confined to the South. Union officials also estimated the value of the Confederate fortune in the millions of dollars, hoping to spur along the Federal troops seeking the fugitive Davis and his government.

The true value of the treasure that left Richmond—held under the guard of Confederate Navy …read more

Source: HISTORY

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Trump Says He'd 'Run in' to Save People. It's a Fantasy That Should Worry Americans.

February 28, 2018 in Economics

By Erik Goepner

Erik Goepner

President Trump told governors this week that a police
officer’s failure to act during the recent school shooting
was “disgusting” and added, “I really believe
I’d run in there even if I didn’t
have a weapon.”

A lifetime of evidence, though, suggests he would not have. And
that distance between who Donald Trump is and who he thinks he is
casts renewed doubt on his ability to effectively serve as the
commander in chief.

Like every other military officer, I received instruction on
Sun Tzu more times than I can remember during my
23-year career. The teachers would throw out questions, derived
from Sun Tzu’s adage about knowing oneself and knowing the
enemy, to drive home the point. How can you lead effectively if you
don’t know your own strengths and weaknesses? How can you
lead in battle if you can’t reasonably estimate your
limits?

We have a commander in
chief who isn’t who he thinks he is. How can you lead effectively
if you don’t know your own strengths and weaknesses?

Then, in training, we’d have our assumptions tested. Turns
out cold breaks you down faster than hunger or fatigue. Enough
nights of three or fewer hours of sleep will make you hallucinate
now and again. It didn’t take long to realize that knowing
yourself had real value for those of us focused on defending
America and winning our wars.

In Afghanistan, I watched a young Army captain put the
“I’d run in there” concept into action.
Insurgents were burying an IED in the road 1,200 meters from our
base. We had no good options. They’d be gone before airpower
could arrive. The sound of our gun trucks would send them fleeing
before we could kill them. The base’s long-range weapons
would endanger nearby villagers. So the captain pitched a
tactically unsound plan: He suggested going in on foot with three
of his men.

It was pitch black outside. His team would have no time to
develop a plan or check their equipment. Wearing 65 pounds of gear,
they would have to run to intercept the insurgents in time. But
because I knew the captain’s abilities and he knew them, too, I
approved his request. The night ended with one captured insurgent,
one wounded insurgent, a safely detonated bomb, and no injuries to
Afghan civilians or Americans.

On at least six occasions, Trump has also had the opportunity to
demonstrate bravery and service before self. In
each instance, though, he actively took steps to make sure he did
neither. In 2008, he recounted an event at Mar-a-lago in which an
elderly man fell …read more

Source: OP-EDS