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One No-Brainer Way to Bring Gun Deaths Down

March 29, 2018 in Blogs

By Aniqa Raihan, OtherWords

Closing the “boyfriend loophole” would save lives without putting guns in classrooms or taking them off store shelves.

It’s now been over a month since 17 teenagers were gunned down at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, culminating in a march that brought 

And though the story of the battered wife is not an unfamiliar one, a recent study at the University of Pennsylvania found that over 80 percent of intimate partner violence incidents reported in 2013 involved current or past dating partners, while current and past spouses accounted for less than 20 percent of incidents.

As Americans continue to get married later and less frequently, the nationwide population of unmarried adults will grow, which is why closing the boyfriend loophole should be a top priority for lawmakers across the country.

Oregon’s new law makes it the 24th state to officially close the loophole, but there’s still much work to be done. The federal law prohibiting gun ownership for abusers doesn’t actually outline a mechanism for them to hand over weapons they already own.

Twenty-seven states require convicted abusers and those subject to protective orders to relinquish their firearms, but only half of those specify whom the weapons should be given to. And just four require law enforcement to proactively remove guns from offenders rather than wait for them to be turned in.

Meanwhile, 13 states have no laws at all to prevent domestic abusers from owning or buying new guns. Six of those states are in the top 10 with the highest rates of gun deaths.

Representatives Debbie Dingell (D-MI) and Dan Donovan (R-NY), along with Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), have introduced legislation to close the boyfriend loophole on the federal level. But that alone won’t be enough to ensure that abusers don’t have access to deadly firearms.

We need thoroughness and uniformity across state lines. We need specific systems to remove weapons from dangerous people, including laws allowing law enforcement to seize weapons found while responding to reports of intimate partner violence.

We need legislation requiring law enforcement agencies to report offenders for inclusion in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).

And, of course, we need universal background checks on all gun sales, …read more


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John Bolton: Warmonger… and Now, Kingmaker?

March 29, 2018 in Blogs

By Jefferson Morley, AlterNet

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The new national security adviser has doled out $14 million to Republican candidates in the last five years.

For John Bolton, warmongering abroad and partisan politics at home go hand in hand. As Bolton has advocated waging war on Iran and North Korea in recent years, he has built an empire of political influence with two political action committees that spread his hawkish views and support like-minded Republican candidates.

Since 2013 the Bolton PAC and Super PAC have raised more than $23 million and spent more than $14.1 million on Republican candidates and causes, according to FEC records. While previous national security advisers such as Condoleezza Rice and Henry Kissinger have become political stars in the Republican Party, none has played the role of kingmaker that Bolton aspires to.

Such partisanship breaks with the tradition of the national security adviser as an honest broker of policy proposals coming from the military, the foreign service and the intelligence agencies. The job requires reconciling conflicting views before issues require the president to intervene.

“The obvious question is whether John Bolton has the temperament and the judgment for the job,” tweeted Richard Haass, former NSC official and head of the Council on Foreign Relations. Former president Jimmy Carter says Bolton’s appointment is a “disaster for our country.”

Another question is whether his donors will have outsized influence over U.S. policy. Bolton’s biggest backer is Robert Mercer, the New York financier and Trump supporter. Mercer has given Bolton $5 million, including $1 million in two $500,000 payments in late 2017.

Another big Bolton booster is the Falic family of Florida, which donated $175,000 since 2013. The Falics, who own a chain of duty-free shops in airports around the world, are also one of the biggest funders of …read more


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Mitt Romney Is a Monster

March 29, 2018 in Blogs

By Heather Digby Parton, Salon

So much for the #NeverTrumpers: Weeks after denouncing intolerance, Romney says he’s more Trumpy than anyone.

I am probably more tolerant of #NeverTrump conservative pundits than a lot of liberals, simply because I think many of them are ruthlessly effective at taking apart their political opponents. In the Trump era, I figure we need all the rhetorical firepower we can get. While I'm not going to forget their role in bringing us to this moment or write paeans to their great moral awakening, if they are willing to put their dark talents to work to help in this national emergency I'm not going to stand in their way.

Likewise, I'd be willing to cut GOP elected officials who criticize the president some slack — if they ever backed up their words with action. It's not as if they don't have any power. All it would take right now is three senators switching parties, even unofficially, to put the Senate in Democratic hands and at least apply the brakes to this slow-motion train wreck. (Why not lame ducks John McCain and Jeff Flake, both of Arizona, and Bob Corker of Tennessee, for example? They literally have nothing to lose.) I'll give McCain, Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, plaudits for refusing to sign on to the Obamacare repeal. I welcome McCain's curmudgeonly complaints in other matters. But they've all voted in lockstep with the president on everything else, despite their harsh criticisms of him, so their protestations of independence are pretty weak tea.

Even Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who is obviously angling for the permanent McCain Sunday-show slot, is mealy-mouthed in his criticism. And there are effectively no GOP House members who aren't marching over the cliff behind the president.

According to Bob Corker, this is because the voters just love Trump so darned much:

The president is, as you know — you’ve seen his numbers among the Republican base — it’s very strong. It’s more than strong, it’s tribal in nature. People who tell me, who are out on [the] trail, say, look, people don’t ask about issues anymore. They don’t …read more


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Killed in Cold Blood: Alton Sterling’s Family Decries Decision Not to Charge Officers for Murder

March 29, 2018 in Blogs

By Amy Goodman, Democracy Now!

If he was white, this would never happen.

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry has announced the state will not bring charges against two white police officers from Baton Rouge for the 2016 killing of Alton Sterling, an African-American father of five. Bystander video shows Sterling was pinned to the ground by the two police officers when they shot him. Alton Sterling’s killing sparked nationwide protests. It’s the latest case in which authorities have refused to bring charges against officers for killing civilians, despite video evidence of the killings and mass protests demanding accountability for the death. We speak to Chris Stewart, an attorney for Alton Sterling’s children.


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: I’m Amy Goodman. This is Democracy Now! Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry has announced the state will not bring charges against two white police officers from Baton Rouge for the 2016 killing of Alton Sterling, an African-American father of five. Bystander video shows Sterling was pinned to the ground by the two police officers when they shot him at point-blank range. A warning to our television audience, this video is graphic.

ALTON STERLING: Please, come on! [bleep]

POLICE OFFICER: He’s got a gun! Gun! Hey bro, you [bleep] move, I swear to God. [gunshots] Get on the ground! [gunshots]

WITNESS: What was that for, man?

POLICE OFFICER: [inaudible] Shots fired. Shots fired. [bleep]

AMY GOODMAN: Alton Sterling’s killing sparked nationwide protests. It’s the latest case in which authorities have refused to bring charges against officers for killing civilians, despite video evidence of the killings and mass protests demanding accountability for the death. Quinyetta McMillon, mother of Alton Sterling’s eldest son Cameron, condemned the decision not to bring charges.

QUINYETTA McMILLON: I would not allow Cameron to be here today, for his reasons. And like his aunt said, we’re all out of tears. We have nothing else in us to cry about now, because, guess what, we all knew what it was, just like y’all knew what it was going to be. … Alton can’t tell his story, to you nor to me. He’s gone. There’s no more coming back. So there is not no amount of money on this …read more


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San Antonio charter schools get more bang for buck

March 29, 2018 in Economics

By Corey A. DeAngelis

Corey A. DeAngelis

The evidence is in. Not only do San Antonio charter schools
improve students’ outcomes; they do so at a lower cost to the

Last May, my colleagues and I at the University of Arkansas
found that students in San Antonio charter schools received 20
percent less educational funding than their peers in district
schools. But a just-released study by our team finds that despite
the funding disadvantage, students in San Antonio charter schools
outperform their district school counterparts on math and reading
achievement exams.

In fact, we find that San Antonio charter schools are 35 percent
more cost-effective and produce a 36 percent higher return on
taxpayer investment than district schools.

Let’s make this a bit more concrete. The data show that every
thousand dollars spent on education at district schools translates
to around a $7,500 increase in students’ lifetime earnings. That is
great. But that same thousand-dollar-expenditure produces an
estimated $9,750 in students’ lifetime earnings if allocated to a
public charter school in the city. And that 30 percent advantage is
extremely important considering San Antonio taxpayers spend over
$157,000 for each child’s K-12 education in district schools.

In other words, 13 years of equal funding in charter schools
could produce around an additional $350,000 in lifetime earnings
for San Antonio students.

Let’s magnify the
positive impacts by giving children the same amount of educational
resources, no matter what public school works best for

Of course, this isn’t the only study finding that charter
schools do more with less. In 2014, researchers at the University
of Arkansas 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 that won a public
charter school lottery were less than half as likely to a commit
crime later on in life.

Overall, the scientific evidence suggests that charter schools
improve academic outcomes for students. Researchers from the
University of California San Diego recently completed the most
comprehensive review of the evidence on charter schools to date.
The review concluded that, on average, charter schools helped
students achieve the equivalent of over a month of additional
learning in math, relative to their peers in district schools.
Three experimental evaluations also found that winning a random
lottery to go to a charter school increases students’ chances of
attending college. For example, an experiment published in the
Journal of Labor Economics found that children that won a charter
school lottery in Boston were 13 percent more likely to enroll in a
four-year college.

But the data aren’t the …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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The Most Controversial Census Changes in American History

March 29, 2018 in History

By Becky Little

In March 2018, the Commerce Department controversially announced that it would include a question on citizenship in the 2020 census—the first such question since 1950, and one that at least 12 states say they would sue over.

The census, a Constitutionally-mandated survey of the U.S. population taken every decade since 1790, has a long history of being used as a political tool. Critics of the latest move fear the new citizenship question will be used to identify and deport Latino immigrants or reapportion funding and representation in areas where they live. In the past, census information has been used to reinforce “pure” white ancestry as the standard for full citizenship.

Many of the changes the census has gone through have to do with race and power in America. This is particularly evident when looking at the censuses taken between 1850 and 1930, a period of rapid change that saw the end of slavery and the beginning of Jim Crow. During this time, the census sought to classify how much African ancestry a person had, thereby reinforcing a social structure that denied full citizenship to people with any amount of African heritage.

Early South Carolina census that required one to fill out the following columns reflecting their household, “Free white males of 16 years and upward including heads of families, Free white males under 16 years, Free white females including heads of families, All other free persons, and Slaves.” (Credit: Fotosearch/Getty Images)

The very first census sorted the population into three racialized citizenship categories: “Free white males [and] females”; “All other free persons”; and “Slaves.” In 1820, “All other free persons” was later altered to “Free colored males and females.” However, the biggest change was the division between “black” and “mulatto” a few decades later.

“The ‘mulatto’ category was added in 1850 at the request of a ‘racial scientist,’ Josiah Nott,” says Melissa Nobles, a political science professor at MIT and author of Shades of Citizenship: Race and the Census in Modern Politics. Nott was a white slave owner in Alabama who “thought that blacks and whites may have been different species,” she says. He persuaded Joseph Underwood, a senator from Kentucky, to include “mulatto,” on the census so that he could study mixed-race people with some African …read more


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These Women Taught Depression-Era Americans to Use Electricity

March 29, 2018 in History

By Erin Blakemore

Women using a Belling electric cooker on a farm which has been completely converted to electricity. (Credit: Fox Photos/Getty Images)

Farming families in Buckingham County, Virginia crowded into the tent, peering eagerly at the spectacle in front of them. It wasn’t a political meeting, or a church revival—it was a turkey-cooking contest, and it riveted the crowd.

The turkeys weren’t the center of attention at the event—but the stove was. Powered by electricity, it must have fascinated attendees during the 1940 event. The wood-fired stoves they used in their kitchens depended on backbreaking physical labor and presented a real fire danger. In contrast, this stove could be turned on and off at will, required little pre-heating, and didn’t need a stick of wood. It cooked food more quickly and consistently, too.

The attendees were soon to get electricity of their own as part of the Rural Electrification Administration (REA), a sweeping New Deal program designed to plug farmers in to the American economy. In 1935, ninety percent of rural homes in the United States didn’t have electricity, and the REA intended to change that.

Women using a Belling electric cooker on a farm which has been completely converted to electricity. (Credit: Fox Photos/Getty Images)

To do so, it needed to help rural people understand electricity. The REA recruited a group of mostly female workers who crisscrossed the nation in what they called an “electric circus”—a series of traveling events designed to orient Americans to the life-changing possibilities of electrification. Workers included women like Louisan Mamer, an electrification agent who spent hours trying to convince wary farmers’ wives that they needed electric power in their kitchens and barns.

To do so, Mamer hosted cooking contests, showed off the labor-saving power of refrigerators, toasters and vacuums, and read the testimony of farm women who had already gone electric. “[Electricity] saves my food, my time, my energy, my money, and most of all my disposition,” read one of Mamer’s favorite testimonials.

For rural people who didn’t have electricity in their homes, electrification wasn’t just power lines or outlets. It meant the strange, often jaw-dropping experience of going from a home with outdated, hand-powered technology to one that seemed to do its own chores, light its own rooms, and allow for modern miracles like washing machines and radio.

Many people remembered the day the lights turned on for the rest of their lives, including Pearl Yates, a North Carolina farmer’s wife who first got electricity in 1939. She was so amazed …read more


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Inside the Conversion Tactics of the Early Christian Church

March 29, 2018 in History

By Bart D. Ehrman

The Last Judgment,' showing heaven on the left and hell on the right, illustrates Christianity's unique promise of eternal salvation, something no pagan religions offered. Painted by Fra Angelico (1400-1455). (Credit: Universal History Archive/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 triumph of Christianity over the pagan religions of ancient Rome led to the greatest historical transformation the West has ever seen: a transformation that was not only religious, but also social, political and cultural. Just in terms of “high culture,” Western art, music, literature and philosophy would have been incalculably different had the masses continued to worship the gods of the Roman pantheon instead of the one God of Jesus—if paganism, rather than Christianity, had inspired their imaginations and guided their thoughts. The Middle Ages, the Renaissance and modernity as we know them would also have been unimaginably different.

But how did it happen? According to our earliest records, the first “Christians” to believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus were 11 male disciples and a handful of women—say 20 people altogether. These were lower-class, uneducated day laborers from a remote corner of the Roman Empire. And yet, within three centuries, the Christian church could count some 3 million adherents. By the end of the 4th century, it was the official religion of Rome, numbering 30 million followers—or half the Empire.

A century after that, there were very few pagans left.

Christians today might claim that their faith triumphed over the other Roman religions because it was (and is) true, right and good. That may be so. But one still needs to consider the historical contingencies that led to the Christian conquest, and in particular the brilliant strategy the Christian evangelistic campaign used in winning converts. These are five aspects of that strategy:

The Last Judgment,’ showing heaven on the left and hell on the right, illustrates Christianity’s unique promise of eternal salvation, something no pagan religions offered. Painted by Fra Angelico (1400-1455). (Credit: Universal History Archive/Getty Images)

The Christian Church Created a Need

Strangely enough, Christianity did not succeed in taking over the ancient world simply by addressing deeply sensed needs of its target audience, the pagan adherents of traditional polytheistic religions. On the contrary, it actually created a need that almost no one knew they had.

Everyone in the ancient world, except for Jews, was “pagan”—that is, they believed in many gods. These gods—whether the state gods of Rome, the local municipal gods, the family gods, the gods of forests, mountains, streams and meadows—were active in …read more


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Make Cops Carry Liability Insurance: The Private Sector Knows How to Spread Risks, and Costs

March 29, 2018 in Economics

By Clark Neily

Clark Neily

Earlier this month, Brooklyn resident Oliver Wiggins received a
$1 million settlement after NYPD officers crashed into his car and
then tried to blame him for the accident by falsely accusing him of
driving while intoxicated.

In 2015, the family of Eric Garner reached a settlement for $5.9
million after police applied a banned chokehold while arresting him
for selling loose cigarettes outside a convenience store on Staten
Island. That same year, families of victims of murders committed
long ago by “Mafia Cops” Louis Eppolito and Stephen
Caracappa settled their cases, bringing the total paid out to more
than $18 million.

Those sums might be anomalies, but the trend is clear. The total
payout for injuries caused by NYPD officers in 2017 was an
unprecedented $308.2 million (up from a “mere” $92.4
million in 2007, and $152 million in 2012). That money didn’t
come out of the pockets of the officers responsible for the
misconduct; the bills were covered by you, the taxpayer.

That’s because police departments nearly always pick up
the tab for damages caused by the officers they employ. Indeed, a
2014 study found that 99.98% of all dollars received by plaintiffs
in civil rights cases against police officers were paid not by the
officers themselves, but by their departments.

Fortunately, there is a better policy that is more fair to
taxpayers — and has the substantial side benefit of creating
strong incentives for police to avoid hurting innocent people.

Like police, doctors have a difficult and stressful job that
sometimes involves making life-or-death decisions under conditions
of uncertainty. But unlike police, doctors don’t expect the
rest of us to pay for their mistakes. Instead, doctors carry
professional liability insurance, which pays to defend them against
malpractice claims and protects them from financial ruin by paying
out damage awards to successful plaintiffs.

If cops had to carry
insurance, the worst offenders would quickly be identified and
charged higher rates. If they failed to clean up their act, they
would eventually become uninsurable and thus

Insurance companies are exceptionally good at identifying risk.
Think about car insurance. The more accidents or speeding tickets a
driver has had, the higher their premiums will be. The same is true
for teenagers, who tend to get in more wrecks than adults and
therefore represent a greater risk to the insurance company.

Instead of spreading those risks among all of their
policyholders, insurance companies charge risky drivers more while
giving a break to their safest drivers, who pay less.

Consider how that could work with police. Most misconduct is
committed by a relatively small fraction of cops. Former NYPD
Commissioner Bill Bratton defended “the …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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When It Comes to Preventing Gun Violence, Good Intentions Aren’t Enough

March 29, 2018 in Economics

By Jonathan Blanks

Jonathan Blanks

Too many people are injured or killed as a result of gun
violence in this country. Although the number of gun deaths
has generally declined in recent decades, the
recent spate of spree shootings in schools and concentrated
violence in certain American cities reinforce the necessity that
more can and should be done.

Unfortunately, many of the policies aimed at reducing gun
violence have little or no measurable impact on safety. Some, in
fact, may even inflict other harms while doing so. The unintended
consequences of these proposals serve as a reminder that when it
comes to reducing gun deaths, good intentions aren’t enough.

School shootings, for example, have resulted in wall-to-wall
media coverage. And that, in turn, has led schools to over-react to
perceived threats because parents and their kids feel threatened by
what should be an unthinkable menace. “Active shooter drills,” in
which kids and teachers simulate a response to a school gunman,
have become common in schools around the country.

Too often, the methods
employed to stop gun violence harm far more innocent people than
the underlying threat presents.

These drills are intended to prepare students for the
unthinkable. But the main effect is to repeatedly terrify

A Washington Post reporter recently said in an
that “kids don’t feel safe” in schools because school
shootings “keep happening over and over.” He recounted stories of
children who were writing out wills during school lockdowns despite
no active shooter in their schools. In Alaska, one school even had
a police officer walk the halls firing blanks, using on the
sound of gunfire to simulate the horrifying stress these situations
create. No wonder kids are scared!

In fact, a student is far more likely to die in a motor vehicle accident
on the way to or from school
than from a school shooting.
Disease and severe sports injuries are also rare, yet are much
greater statistical threats to children’s lives than school
shootings. One risk assessment published in the Post
estimated the odds of a public school student being fatally shot
at school on any given day since 1999 at 1 in 614,000,000.
still reasonable to want to make schools safer from shootings, but
schools and parents are traumatizing children in their attempts to
do so.

Meanwhile, most gun violence happens outside of
schools—particularly in cities plagued by violent crime and
gang activity. Yet many of the policies designed to combat urban
street crime are questionably effective, and in some cases they can
even make the public less safe.

Several large metropolitan police departments, for example, have
developed gang …read more

Source: OP-EDS