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'I Find That Offensive': DHS Head Flails As Reporters Grill Her About Family Separation Policy

June 18, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

She tried defending the indefensible.


Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen on Monday tried defending the administration's policy of breaking up immigrant families at the border. 

It did not go well.

Stepping up at the White House press briefing in Sarah Sanders' place, apparently because the press secretary didn't want to face questions on the administration's catastrophic policy, Nielsen lied, twisted the truth and deflected to avoid taking any responsibility, on her own behalf or on behalf of the administration, for the policy being implemented.

“Are you intending for this to play out as it's playing out?” one reporter asked. “Are you intending for parents to be separated from their children? Are you intending to send a message?” 

“I find that offensive. No.” Nielsen said. “Why would I ever create a policy that purposely does that?”

As reporters in the room pointed out, though, this answer makes no sense. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has framed the zero-tolerance policy that leads to the high rate of family separations as a method to deter immigrants. And shortly after President Donald Trump's inauguration, Nielsen's predecessor, John Kelly, raised the idea of separating families specifically as a deterrent.

She also refused to comment on the lack of images of young girls and toddlers who are known to be in the federal government's custody. While the administration has released images of boys being kept in large cages, it hasn't shown similar images of the younger children or the girls — prompting many reporters to wonder if the government is trying to hide something.

When she said she hasn't heard the audio recording of children wailing and crying in one of the government's facilities, one reporter in the room began playing it aloud — though Nielsen didn't respond.

Nielsen also insisted that it wasn't true, as many have reported, that asylum-seekers are being turned away from ports of entry, forcing them to cross at unauthorized entry points. But then she went on to say, in fact, that families often are turned away when border agents don't have the resources to process them, though they are told to come back.

Watch the clip …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Sarah Sanders Refused to Lead Monday's Press Briefing to Avoid Questions on Family Separation Policy: Report

June 18, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

Instead, Sec. Kirstjen Nielsen agreed to take questions from the White House briefing room.


After the White House press briefing was delayed multiple times for several hours on Monday, it was eventually announced that press secretary Sarah Sanders would not be leading the briefing as she typically does.

The reason? According to CNN reporter Oliver Darcy, she didn't want to face questions about the administration's policy of separating immigrants families and detaining children.

“A White House official tells [CNN reporter Jeff Zeleny] that [Sanders] didn't want to do the briefing today amid questions on child separation policy, so [Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen] is being flown in from New Orleans to take questions,” he wrote on Twitter.

As many people observed, New Orleans is quite a distance away from Washington, D.C.

Last Thursday, Sander appeared rattled as reporters grilled her about the cruel and abusive policy, about which the administration's policy has been wildly inconsistent.

“You’re a parent, don’t you have any empathy?” one reporter asked her last week. “Come on, Sarah, you're a parent. Don’t you have any empathy for what these people are going through?”

She ignored the question.

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Source: ALTERNET

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Gut-Wrenching Audio of Toddlers Ripped from Their Parents' Arms Includes Border Agents Mocking Them

June 18, 2018 in Blogs

By Ginger Thompson, ProPublica

The desperate sobbing of 10 Central American children separated from their parents makes for excruciating listening.


Este articulo pronto estará disponible en español.

The desperate sobbing of 10 Central American children, separated from their parents one day last week by immigration authorities at the border, makes for excruciating listening. Many of them sound like they’re crying so hard, they can barely breathe. They scream “Mami” and “Papá” over and over again, as if those are the only words they know.

The baritone voice of a Border Patrol agent booms above the crying. “Well, we have an orchestra here,” he jokes. “What’s missing is a conductor.”

Then a distraught but determined 6-year-old Salvadoran girl pleads repeatedly for someone to call her aunt. Just one call, she begs anyone who will listen. She says she’s memorized the phone number, and at one point, rattles it off to a consular representative. “My mommy says that I’ll go with my aunt,” she whimpers, “and that she’ll come to pick me up there as quickly as possible.”

An audio recording obtained by ProPublica adds real-life sounds of suffering to a contentious policy debate that has so far been short on input from those with the most at stake: immigrant children. More than 2,300 of them have been separated from their parents since April, when the Trump administration launched its “zero tolerance” immigration policy, which calls for prosecuting all people who attempt to illegally enter the country and taking away the children they brought with them. More than 100 of those children are under the age of 4. The children are initially held in warehouses, tents or big box stores that have been converted into Border Patrol detention facilities.

Condemnations of the policy have been swift and sharp, including from some of the administration’s most reliable supporters. It has united religious conservatives and immigrant rights activists, who have said that “zero tolerance” amounts to “zero humanity.” Democratic and Republican members of Congress spoke out against the administration’s enforcement efforts over the weekend. Former first lady Laura Bush called the administration’s practices “cruel” and “immoral,” and likened images of immigrant children …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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How the War Industry Corrupts the U.S. Congress

June 18, 2018 in Blogs

By Medea Benjamin , Nicolas J. S. Davies, Independent Media Institute

Critical congressional votes, including the confirmation of Gina Haspel as CIA director, can be traced back to campaign donations by U.S. weapons-makers.


Former President Jimmy Carter has called U.S. politics a system of “legalized bribery” in which powerful interests spend billions of dollars on lobbying and campaign funding to ensure that members of Congress pay more attention to them than to the general public. With the upcoming midterm elections, we will see the full force of this tsunami of cash washing over our electoral system.

The human cost of this corrupt system has been searingly rammed home since the Parkland school shooting, as grieving high school students determined to curb America’s gun violence have found themselves in a pitched battle with the “gun lobby,” led by the National Rifle Association (NRA), one of the most entrenched and powerful interest groups in the country.

The gun lobby has already spent over $12 million on lobbying and given at least $1.1 million to members of Congress in this election cycle, 98 percent of it to Republicans. The gun lobby also wields power over Democrats through lobbying and public relations, and the threat of targeting individual Democrats who take a public stand for gun control.

But what about the even greater violence of America’s wars and the record military budget that makes them possible? U.S. weapons makers spend far more money on lobbying and campaign contributions than the domestic gun lobby: $162 million on lobbying and tens of millions in direct funding for members of Congress so far in the 2017-18 election cycle.

There is a strong correlation between campaign contributions from the companies that build America’s warships, tanks and warplanes, and critical votes in Congress to keep the guns firing, the missiles flying, the bombs falling and the cash flowing to the military-industrial complex.

When an evenly divided Senate voted to confirm Gina Haspel as CIA director, six Democrats joined 48 Republicans to vote for her confirmation. But it was not just any six Democrats. In the 2018 election cycle, those six—Senators Nelson (FL)Donnelly (IN)Manchin (WV)Heitkamp …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Ivanka Greeted By 'Trump is Nixon' Sign During Fresno Fundraising Event with GOPer Kevin McCarthy

June 18, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

The president's daughter and adviser went to Fresno, California, to support her father's congressional allies.


President Donald Trump's daughter and senior adviser Ivanka Trump was greeted by protesters in Fresno, California, on Monday as she arrived for a Republican fundraising event.

The Fresno Bee reported that one protester held two signs: One said 'Trump is Nixon,” the other said “Trump-Nunes: It's Mueller Time.”

The second sign refers to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), a Fresno-area lawmaker who is reportedly one of the reasons the first daughter has chosen to make the trip for the fundraiser.

“I don't think it's really a surprise, particularly for Nunes, given that he's been so loyal to the president,” Michael Evans, chairman of the Fresno County Democratic Party, told The Hill of her visit. “I think they would be viewing this as some sort of payback, but it does raise the question are they concerned about Devin Nunes election prospects this year.”

She will be appearing alongside House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) at Harris Construction for the fundraiser.

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Source: ALTERNET

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Rethinking Standardised Test Scores

June 18, 2018 in Economics

By Corey A. DeAngelis

Corey A. DeAngelis

Standardised test scores have long been treated as the
end-all-be-all of education. Researchers and the public at large
generally use math and reading test scores to gauge education quality across countries,
schools, and interventions. But a growing body of empirical
evidence suggests that we have probably gotten it all wrong. Here’s
why.

A study recently released by the American Enterprise
Institute found that standardised test scores are weak predictors
of long-term success. Specifically, the authors collected 34
studies that evaluated the effects of school choice programs on
both test scores and high school graduation. The study found that
61 percent of the effects on math test scores — and 50
percent of the effects on reading test scores — did not
successfully predict effects on high school graduation. Similarly
large divergences were found between choice programs’ effects on
student test scores and their effects on college enrollment.

But that’s not all. Standardised test scores do not appear to be
strong predictors of other long-term outcomes either. I have
compiled more evidence of these divergences that exist
in the most-rigorous private school choice literature. My search
revealed 11 disconnects between private schools’ effects on test
scores and their effects on other arguably more important
educational outcomes.

Focusing too much on test
scores could compromise the character development necessary for
true lifelong success.

For example, an experimental evaluation of a private school
voucher program in Washington, D.C. found that winning the lottery
to attend a private school had mixed effects on test scores, but
over a 50 percent increase on students’ tolerance
of others
. Another rigorous evaluation of a voucher program in
Milwaukee found no effects on reading test scores after four years.
On the other side of the equation, my coauthor and I followed the
same sample of students until they were around 22 to 25 years old
and found that the Milwaukee program reduced the likelihood that they committed crimes
as adults by over 50 percent
. Other studies found significant
divergences between test scores and outcomes such as charitable giving, political participation, effort, and happiness in school.

And divergences exist outside of the school choice literature as
well. At least five studies that I know of using rigorous
value-added methodology find disconnects between teachers’ effects
on student test scores and their effects on student character
skills such as behavior and effort. For example, Northwestern
University professor Kirabo Jackson finds that teachers’
effects on student behavior are much stronger predictors of high
school graduation than their effects on
…read more

Source: OP-EDS

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How Trump Can End the Family-Separation Mess and Still Win

June 18, 2018 in Economics

By Alex Nowrasteh

Alex Nowrasteh

The separation of families on the border is a
punishment grossly disproportionate to the offense. The Border
Patrol keeps children in cages while their parents, charged with
immigration offenses, are held elsewhere. The pictures have drawn
outrage, and appropriately so.

The good news is, the Trump administration can stop separating the families of asylum seekers today
without backpedaling on its commitment to border security.

Two recent Trump administration priorities prompted this crisis.
The first comes from Border Patrol agents either rejecting asylum
claims outright or telling many would-be asylum-seekers to wait for
weeks in Mexico before being allowed to apply.

In the meantime, Attorney General Jeff Sessions ruled that
immigration judges should not consider gang violence or domestic abuse
in asylum claims
– undercutting many of their cases. Asylum
seekers and those waiting in Mexico understandably believe they
have to enter the United States now before Sessions removes any
other grounds for claiming asylum.

The Trump administration
can stop separating the families of asylum seekers today without
backpedaling on its commitment to border security.

The second was ending the policy of catch-and-release, whereby
asylum seekers are released with court dates but some fail to show
up. The Departments of Justice and Homeland Security recently
ordered zero-tolerance prosecution of all illegal border crossers,
which guarantees that they’ll be detained, and to start
separating families if they entered illegally. Separating families
is a choice; it is not required by law.

Turning asylum seekers back at the border and limiting their
application options has incentivized some of them to cross into the
United States unlawfully to ask for asylum. The government’s
response is to prosecute asylum seekers who entered unlawfully for
violating immigration law and, in many cases, ignoring their asylum
claims. No previous administration has prioritized criminal
immigration prosecutions over asylum claims.

These actions are supposed to deter illegal entry, but —
while it’s admittedly early — haven’t. According
to Border Patrol, border crossings have jumped 5 percent since the
policy was put into effect in April.

CNN reports that, according to internal Homeland Security
documents, officials expected the deterrence to work: “The
full impact of policy initiatives are not fully realized for 2-3
weeks following public messaging — however, some migrants
already underway may temporarily halt to determine the effects of
the new policy,” one document reads.

But deterrence can only work if the cost imposed on asylum
seekers is great enough to make them stay in their home countries
or settle in another one. Economist Michael Clemens found that the
high murder rate and gang violence in Central America is driving
the exodus. No matter how painful …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Is Romney a Free Trader? or Trump’s Rubber Stamp?

June 18, 2018 in Economics

By Colin Grabow

Colin Grabow

In recent weeks President Trump has invoked his power to impose
tariffs on national security grounds to launch a trade war with
several U.S. allies. In response to the reckless abuse of this
authority, a number of senators are attempting to apply a
much-needed course correction by demanding that such tariffs be
subject to congressional authority. The effort to pass such a bill,
however, appears to face an uphill climb, underscoring the need for
senators who grasp the importance of free trade.

While Mitt Romney has not weighed in on this dispute between
Congress and the executive branch, previous rhetoric from the
candidate suggests an unsettling alignment with the White
House’s overall trade stance.

During the launch of his campaign Romney
stated
that Utah had a lot to teach the politicians in
Washington, with the former Massachusetts governor and 2012
Republican presidential nominee crowing that the Beehive State
“exports more abroad than it imports” — something
he said that those in the nation’s capital had
“backwards.”

The last thing Washington
needs is another politician who subscribes to discredited theories
about trade.

This message is mistaken in several respects, not least of which
is the implication that his mercantilist views constitute a fresh
approach in Washington. Such thinking certainly mirrors that of
Trump, who regularly blasts bilateral U.S. trade deficits
with various countries and claims that the overall trade imbalance
“hurt[s] the economy very badly.”

Regrettably, too many U.S. political leaders misinterpret the
trade account as an income statement, mistaking exports for
earnings and imports for spending. The story of international
trade, however, is much more complex.

Rather than driving Americans into debt, dollars sent abroad to
purchase imports and foreign assets return to the United States as
purchases of U.S. goods, services, and assets. China, blasted by
Romney during the 2012 presidential campaign as a trade bogeyman,
serves as a useful example.

The third-largest market for U.S. exports, China
uses the dollars received from American imports to purchase vast
amounts of goods, from Boeing airplanes to soybeans to over $54 billion worth of services in 2016
alone. Dollars also find their way back from China through a
variety of other means including foreign direct investment .

This dynamic is repeated across the range of U.S. trading
partners, with foreigners consuming over $2.2 trillion of U.S. goods and services
and injecting over $373 billion worth of FDI into the United
States in 2016 alone. Beyond the jobs provided by exports, such
investment is estimated to provide employment for 6.8 million U.S.
workers including …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Contra University of California, Higher Ed Needs Less Federal Money

June 18, 2018 in Economics

By Neal McCluskey

Neal McCluskey

“Millions of American college students will walk across
the graduation stage this spring cheered on by family and
friends,” wrote University of California President Janet
Napolitano in an
op-ed yesterday
. “But seemingly oblivious to the joy and
promise of graduation season, members of Congress are pushing a
bill that would undermine college access and affordability and
increase college costs for students and their families.”

Napolitano was referring to the PROSPER
Act
, currently sitting in the U.S. House of Representatives,
which she fears would cut federal student aid such as Pell Grants
and student loans, rendering college less affordable. Setting aside
disagreement about what PROSPER would actually
do
, it was a pretty rich statement, because the University of
California has been a bit of a poster child for questionable
financial management.

It was little more than a year ago that the state’s
auditor released a
report cataloguing significant, dubious financial practices
by
the university president’s office, including:

  • Failing to disclose more than $175 million in discretionary and
    restricted reserves
  • Getting $32 million of that reserve from campus allocations
    that could have been used for student services
  • Not disclosing plans to spend some of those funds ranging from
    $77 million to $114 million
  • Compensating employees with “generous salaries and atypical
    benefits”
  • Poor tracking of university administrative expenses

To top it off, State Auditor Elaine Howle reported that the
Office of the President “intentionally interfered” with
her office’s “efforts to assess the types and quality
of services [the office of the president] provides to
campuses.” And this is not the first financial black eye for
the system. The flagship Berkeley campus has run massive athletics
debts for years, and paid for them with tens-of-millions of dollars
in
campus subsidies and debt forgiveness
.

In light of this, it seems a bit brash to decry the potential
curbing of subsidies that are forced from federal taxpayers, which
tallied
almost $154 billion
in the 2016-17 academic year. Why should
people from, say, New York or Nevada be forced to help make up for
poor financial practices and decisions in another state?

Do you want
states—not to mention students and schools—to think
hard and be efficient about higher education spending? Stop looking
to Washington to provide so much of the money.

Of course, this is likely not a problem restricted to the Golden
State. Whenever involuntary third-parties—people required to
provide money who are neither the consumers nor providers of the
good or service—are involved in a transaction, the incentive
is to waste. Consumers will tend to think less intensely about
prices and what they get for them, and providers …read more

Source: OP-EDS