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Citizenship Question on 2020 Census Is Trump's Latest Declaration of Domestic War on Immigrants

March 28, 2018 in Blogs

By Steven Rosenfeld, AlterNet

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“A naked attempt to politicize the census, with the goal of suppressing minority participation.”


The Trump administration’s decision to add a controversial question on citizenship status to the 2020 Census questionnaire is its latest attack on immigrant communities—a far-reaching power grab disguised as a technicality.

Legal advocates for Latinos and communities of color are seeing it as a declaration of domestic political war.

“MALDEF calls for the immediate resignation of [Commerce Secretary] Wilbur Ross,” said Thomas A. Saenz, Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund president and general counsel. “His acquiescence in this political maneuver demonstrates his thorough incompetence to serve as Commerce Secretary. His apparent lack of even basic integrity has created a constitutional violation of unprecedented potential impact.”

“President Trump’s latest attempt to suppress the political influence of people of color under the guise of voter protection is beyond the pale,” said Cristóbal J. Alex, president of Latino Victory Project. “The inclusion of a citizenship question in the census is meant to instill fear and discourage undocumented taxpayers and mixed-status families from participating, ensuring that these communities receive fewer resources and that congressional districts are redrawn in favor of Republicans.”

“Secretary Ross is wrong,” said Marc H. Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League. “If this were any other administration, the inclusion of a citizenship status question would likely seem benign. However, the Trump administration has repeatedly proposed xenophobic and racist policies—and its handling of the Census appears to be no different. It is intentionally politicizing the decennial Census by using it as a tool to intimidate undocumented immigrants from completing the questionnaire, siphon government resources from communities of color, and undermine the assurance of congressional representation.”

These statements from leading civil rights advocates are the tip of a larger storm surrounding the 2020 Census, the next once-a-decade detailed survey of …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Red and Blue Voters Alike Could Rally Around This Radical Job Growth Idea

March 28, 2018 in Blogs

By Liz Posner, AlterNet

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Pushing to expand Americorps or supporting a federal jobs guarantee has benefits for everyone.


Economists warn we are on the brink of another economic bust. Considering the Great Recession doubled the American unemployment rate from 5 percent to 10 percent in two years, now is the time to prepare for this looming employment crisis with meaningful policy.

Some on the left fiddle with the idea of a universal basic income, or free college tuition that could prepare more Americans for high-skill labor jobs, while the right desperately calls for restoring the good old days of U.S. manufacturing and coal jobs. But there's a simpler solution that could cast a security blanket over the most vulnerable Americans whose employment prospects will be even bleaker in a time of economic crisis.  

Eric Levitz, writing for New York Magazine, surfaced an old idea with the potential to bring together progressives, centrist Dems and even some conservatives: a federal jobs guarantee bill that would give government-funded work to the unemployed. As Levitz explains, the federal jobs guarantee has a history of support from liberals throughout the past century, from Huey Long to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and most recently, Kirsten Gillibrand. There are various ideas of what this legislation could offer; the Center on Budget Policies and Priorities has proposed a version that would guarantee its participants a minimum annual wage of $24,600 plus benefits, and an average expected wage of $32,500—a figure at least three times the highest proposed universal basic income.

The authors of the paper told the Nation their plan, “would especially benefit marginalized and stigmatized workers that face structural barriers in the private sector.” Several other countries have already implemented jobs guarantee policies. Argentina reduced its unemployment rate by two-thirds …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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The Gun Industry's Favorite Trick

March 28, 2018 in Blogs

By Kali Holloway, AlterNet

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A major gun maker may have declared bankruptcy in order to avoid real change.


Remington, the weapons giant that produced the semi-automatic rifle used in the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre, declared bankruptcy in a Delaware court filing Sunday. Across social media, people applauded the company’s demise following a very good run, if more than 200 years of profiteering off products with no explicit purpose other than murder can be summed up as good. Like so many gun manufacturers, Remington seems to have succumbed to a sales drop brought on by the election of the gun industry's self-declared “true friend in the White House,” thus ending the panic-driven gun rush of the Obama era. Just days after the March for Our lives, Remington’s fall appeared as a hopeful sign that the gun industry has real weak spots. That, or an industry titan is just putting on a different shell game this time around.

On Twitter, Georgetown University law professor Heidi Li Feldman pointed out an issue largely uncommented on in other reports about Remington’s Chapter 11 filing. In 2015, one living survivor and the families of nine Sandy Hook victims filed suit against Remington, accusing the gun maker of marketing a war weapon to civilians. A Connecticut court dismissed the case in 2016, but the state’s Supreme Court is currently weighing whether to reverse that decision and allow the case to proceed. The Remington bankruptcy filing stalls the process, halting the case for a period.

“The people who own gun companies really, really do not want to see a precedent established which permits the sort of suit the Sandy Hook plaintiffs are bringing to go forward on the merits,” Feldman told me. “When you file for Chapter 11, you stay any pending litigation. That means the Connecticut Supreme Court isn’t …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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After Syria, the Next Refugee Crisis Is in Venezuela

March 28, 2018 in Economics

By Alex Nowrasteh

Alex Nowrasteh

Colombia recently deployed 3,000 troops along its border with Venezuela to
control the influx of more than 250,000 refugees fleeing that
failing socialist country. Brazil declared a state of social
emergency, deployed 100 more troops to the border, established new
checkpoints, and a field hospital to deal with the more than
60,000 Venezuelan refugees who have crossed
over into the northern part of the country. That is likely the
first of many actions by Colombia, Brazil, and other neighboring
governments to deal with this mess.

Since the rise of Hugo Chavez’s Bolivarian socialism two decades
ago, 4 million Venezuelans have fled the country – including 1.2
million just in the last two years. The scale of Venezuela’s
emigration is quickly approaching the 5.5 million Syrians who fled
Syria during its civil war. A poll conducted by the Venezuelan firm
Consultores21 found that 40 percent of respondents wanted to flee
the country last December. If realized, that would mean almost 13
million emigrants, dwarfing the number who have fled Syria so far
during its civil war.

The world’s handling of the Syrian refugees was hit-or-miss,
providing lessons for those attempting to tackle the Venezuelan
crisis – beyond declaring states of emergency and deploying troops.
Venezuelan refugees can be integrated at a minimal cost to
taxpayers, international aid organizations, and charities, but only
if governments follow a few simple rules of thumb.

The first is to grant Venezuelans work permits as fast as
possible. Peru created a one-year renewable work and residency
permit for 11,000 Venezuelans, although more than 30,000 have applied. Just last year, 149,000 entered Peru. Brazil also created a
temporary residence permit for the rising number of
Venezuelans.

Venezuelan refugees can
be integrated at a minimal cost to taxpayers, international aid
organizations, and charities, but only if governments follow a few
simple rules of thumb.

These permits are great starts, but need to be available to all
Venezuelans who are fleeing the collapse of the Bolivarian
socialist state. The sooner that Venezuelans can work and support
themselves, the sooner the burden on local government services will
lessen. Otherwise, Venezuelans will continue to be charity cases or
work in the informal sector. This problem happened in many European countries, which invited Syrian asylum
seekers but then made it impossible for them to work legally or
start businesses. Jordan and Turkey reduced both problems by eventually
granting work permits to Syrians, with generally positive effects
on the local economy.

Colombia initially created a special work and residency permit
for Venezuelans called the PEP, with …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Alton Sterling's Death Proves Once Again That Body Cameras Won't Stop Police Brutality

March 28, 2018 in Blogs

By Mehreen Kasana, AlterNet

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It’s going to take more than videos to promote police accountability.


On Tuesday morning, Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry declared that no state charges would be filed against the two Baton Rouge police officers who killed Alton Sterling in July 2016. After months of deliberating over visual evidence such as body cameras, Landry said officers Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake II were acting in a “reasonable and justifiable manner” when they shot and killed Sterling two years ago in front of a store where he used to sell CDs. As the slain man’s relatives decry Landry's decision, it’s become distressingly clear once again that body cameras won't fix police brutality.

Although there are two publicly recorded videos of Sterling's death, there are another four videos compiled as evidence from the 2016 shooting. Out of those four, two are body camera recordings, according to CNN. Another video recording is from the store surveillance lens and the fourth is a dashboard video from the officers' police mobile.

The Baton Rouge Police Department has not released any of the body camera videos or the dashboard video for public viewing. But the two public videos, taken by passersby, show Salamoni and Lake tackling Sterling to the ground shortly after Lake tased the 37-year-old man. The officers said that Sterling was armed (which is legal in Louisiana given open-carry laws) and claimed that they acted in self-defense. But witnesses, such as store owner Abdullah Muflahi, told WBRC reporter Kelsey Davis that Sterling was “confused” about the officers’ aggression, not hostile.

There's a school of thought in the United States that says police body cameras will promote police accountability. The idea is that if officers have body cameras enabled, they are less likely to hurt civilians because they’re …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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The Cruel Ineffectiveness of Sentencing Drug Dealers to Death

March 28, 2018 in Economics

By Trevor Burrus

Trevor Burrus

Will the death penalty deter drug traffickers? Last week
President Trump announced in New Hampshire a plan to combat the
American opioid epidemic, which includes seeking the death penalty
for drug traffickers “when
appropriate under current law
.” In line with his friend
Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte, who has overseen and encouraged
a
veritable bloodbath
of murdered drug dealers and users in his
country, Trump has come to the mistaken conclusion that the problem
with the drug war is that it hasn’t been fought hard enough.

Not only will the death penalty not deter drug traffickers, it
could have unintended consequences as more innocent people are
coerced into smuggling drugs.

That’s what seemingly happened to Lindsay Sandiford, a
61-year-old grandma from North Yorkshire, England. Sandiford is
currently in prison in Indonesia, awaiting death by firing squad,
because she was caught with 10 pounds of cocaine in her luggage.
Sandiford, who suffers from mental health problems, has
consistently claimed that traffickers threatened to harm her family
if she did not agree to smuggle the drugs. After her arrest, she
helped Indonesian police set up a sting to capture her contacts,
but she remains on death row.

Then there’s
Mary Jane Veloso
, a Filipino woman caught smuggling nearly six
pounds of heroin into Indonesia. She has consistently maintained
that the suitcase was given to her by her god-sister and that she
had no idea there were drugs in it.

Whether or not these women are guilty, there are clear perverse
incentives created by the harsh drug laws that have been wielded
against them. Drug traffickers, particularly those at the higher
levels of the cartels, have already chosen lives of murder and
violence. Given that choice, they’re not going to have a problem
coercing or extorting innocent people, especially young women, into
trafficking drugs.

President Trump wants to
get tough like the Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte, but in this case
tough won’t work.

Ultimately, it’s the combination of risk-seeking behavior and
the money that can be made from drug trafficking that makes the
death penalty for traffickers a particularly ineffective deterrent.
It’s unlikely that a seasoned drug dealer expects to live past 40,
so he probably thinks he might as well enjoy trafficking’s immense
profits. Most of those profits come from bringing the drug into the
United States. In the 1980s, when Pablo Escobar’s Medellín cartel
controlled 80
percent
of the cocaine sold in the U.S., a kilo that cost
$5,000 to produce and smuggle into the country could be sold for up
to $70,000 on the streets.

That “place premium” means so long as traffickers get their
drugs into the U.S., …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Are Cities in Decline the New American Frontier?

March 28, 2018 in History

By Jon T. Coleman

An aerial view of a Detroit neighborhood with numerous empty lots. (Credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

History Reads is a weekly series featuring work from Team History, a group of experts and influencers, exploring history’s most fascinating questions.

The skeletal remains of an industrial city scroll across the windshield of a cruising automobile. Empty highway off-ramps loop overhead while roadside factories spew filth into pallid skies. A guitar strums the opening chords of Eminem’s “Lose Yourself,” and day blinks to night. A tough voice hails Chrysler’s 200, a ridiculously high-end four-door sedan that somehow captures the spirit of hideously lowdown Detroit, the Motown moldering on the fringes of the United States.

The advertising professionals who chose the Motor City and Eminem to star in their 2011 Super Bowl commercial for the Chrysler 200 did so for their exquisite down-and-out-there-ness. Both were damaged icons. The city was kneecapped by the auto industry’s overreliance on truck and SUV sales, hollowed out by thousands of laid-off workers escaping for sunnier climes and set aflame by the 2008–09 financial meltdown. The rapper, an addict with a taste for pills, knew hard times as well: He spent the 2000s coming to terms with the success he achieved the previous decade. The titles of his last three albums—Encore, Relapse and Recovery—hinted at his troubles.

But Detroit’s status as a car-wrecked municipality and Eminem’s reputation as a flawed human being also make them the ideal prisms through which to reconsider the history of the American West. When placed in the continuum of Americans’ relationship with their frontiers, the Chrysler 200 commercial suggested a break with the past as well as a hold in pattern. The commercial indulged in the American cultural habit of looking to the margins for inspiration, renewal and authenticity. While Americans might abhor and denigrate blighted places and broken people, they often staged their comebacks from the fringes. Thus, Eminem and Detroit belonged to a string of down-and-outs or far-and-aways that rebooted the nation. Think a humble cabin on the Kentucky frontier or a rough inner-city neighborhood slated for redevelopment. Detroit evolved from a fur-trade outpost to an industrial powerhouse, almost single-handedly pulling America from the depths of the Great Depression, to an urban cautionary tale.

An aerial view of a Detroit neighborhood with numerous empty lots. (Credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Western historians of 20 to 30 years ago organized debates around a set of either/ors. Was the West a distinctive locale, defined by its aridity, its mountainous …read more

Source: HISTORY

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Popular Beer and Wine Brands Contaminated With Monsanto's Weedkiller, Tests Reveal

March 28, 2018 in Blogs

By Zen Honeycutt, AlterNet

Some brewers and vintners are taking steps to avoid contamination from glyphosate.


The past few years have revealed some disturbing news for the alcohol industry. In 2015, CBS news broke the announcement of a lawsuit against 31 brands of wines for high levels of inorganic arsenic. In 2016, beer testing in Germany also revealed residues of glyphosate in every single sample tested, even independent beers. Moms Across America released test results of 12 California wines that were all found to be positive for glyphosate in 2016. We tested further and released new findings last week of glyphosate in all of the most popular brands of wines in the world, the majority of which are from the U.S., and in batch test results in American beer.

What do these events all have in common? Monsanto's Roundup.

French molecular biologist Gilles-Éric Séralini released shocking findings in January of 2018 that of all the Roundup products they tested, over a dozen had high levels of arsenic—over five times the allowable limit along with dangerous levels of heavy metals.

Roundup is commonly sprayed in vineyards to keep the rows looking tidy and free of so-called weeds and on grain crops (used in beer) as a drying agent just before harvest. Glyphosate herbicides do not dry, wash or cook off, and they have been proven to be neurotoxic, carcinogenic, endocrine disruptors, and a cause of liver disease at very low levels.

The wine brands tested included Gallo, Beringer, Mondavi, Barefoot and Sutter Home. Beer brands tested included Budweiser, Busch, Coors, Michelob, Miller Lite, Sam Adams, Samuel Smith, Peak Organic and Sierra Nevada.

Some of the test results were at first confusing. One would expect the organic wines and beers, and the carefully crafted independent beer brands to be free of glyphosate, as the herbicides are not allowed or used in organic farming. Instead, it appears that they are contaminated. Previous testing did show that some organic wines were contaminated, and in this round, one of the …read more

Source: ALTERNET