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ECONOMY

5 Ways It's Become a Crime to Be Poor in America, Punishable by Further Impoverishment


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The criminalization of America’s poor has been quietly gaining steam for years, but a recent study, “The Poor Get Prison,” co-authored by Karen Dolan and Jodi L. Carr, reveals the startling extent to which American municipalities are fining and jailing the country’s most vulnerable people, not just punishing them for being poor, but driving them deeper into poverty.

“In the last ten years,” Barbara Ehrenreich writes in the introduction, “it has become apparent that being poor is in itself a crime in many cities and counties, and that it is a crime punished by further impoverishment.”

A few months ago, the Department of Justice’s Ferguson report revealed how that city has disproportionately targeted its majority minority population with traffic and other minor infractions that heavily support the municipality's coffers. But Ferguson is far from alone. Municipalities like New York City have greatly increased the number of minor offenses that are considered criminal (like putting your feet up in the subway) or sitting on the sidewalk. Wealthy white people in business attire are rarely targeted for such summonses, and if they are, they can quickly pay the fine or hire counsel to get out of it. The over-punishment of minor offenses is just another way the rich get richer, and as the report says, the “poor get prison.” They also get poorer and more numerous. In one striking statistic, the Southern Educational Foundation reports that 51 percent of America’s public schoolchildren are living in poverty.

Read More at:http://www.alternet.org/economy/5-ways-its-become-crime-be-poor-america-punishable-further-impoverishment?utm_content=buffer5e677&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

                                               Another Black Teen Dies: Shot By Police

                            It Happens Again ! Police Officer Kills Unarmed Black Youth


             Jessica Desvarieux narates  report on The Legacy of the Iraq War

               The Report reveals sources of conflict both in Iraq and the USA

              

Unfortunately race continues to be a major source of conflict in the United States and the "Stand Your Ground " law is at the centre of the debate. As  young lives are lost in the midst of fracas and gunfire, before the smoke can settle in one case the next case occurs. 

Jessica Desvarieux leads the discussion on the Real Network.

                                                      Celebrating Pete Seeger

                                                               Dr Martin Luther King's Legacy

                                           NSA Reforms Don't Go Far  Enough Say Whistle Blowers 

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                         Worst Long-Term Unemployment Crisis Since the Great Depression

 Officially, the Great Recession of 2007 ended in June 2009. Yet the economic downturn remains in full effect for millions of Americans, particularly the nearly 40 percent of the unemployed who have been looking for work for six months or more.

In less than a week, emergency federal unemployment benefits for 1.3 million of these jobless Americans are set to run out. Proponents of ending the benefits argue that the economy is expanding and that the benefits prevent people from finding work. "You get out of a recession by encouraging employment not encouraging unemployment," according to Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who opposes extending benefits. However, the data shows that while corporate America has bounced back, it is not restoring all the jobs it shed when the economy tanked five years ago.

Currently, nearly 11 million Americans are unemployed. The unemployment rate stands at 7 percent. Both of those stats are improvements from a little more than four years ago, when the post-recession jobless rate peaked at 10 percent and more than 15 million people were out of work.

Read more at: http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2013/12/longterm-unemployment-recession-charts

                                                The Psychology of the Super Rich 

                                       McDonald's Employee Fights for Minimum Wage 

                                                   America's Most Unpopular Conflict

A CNN/ Opinion Research poll released Monday showed 82 percent of Americans oppose the war in Afghanistan, the greatest rate of opposition to a conflict in recent American history.

Opposition during the Iraq and Vietnam wars never rose above seven in 10 Americans, according to CNN.

Even with a vast majority of troops set to leave Afghanistan by 2014, most Americans want to see a faster withdrawal. And just one-third perceive the United States as winning the conflict.

"Those numbers show the war in Afghanistan with far less support than other conflicts," CNN Polling Director Keating Holland said. "Opposition to the Iraq war never got higher than 69 (percent) in CNN polling while U.S. troops were in that country, and while the Vietnam War was in progress, no more than six in 10 ever told Gallup's interviewers that war was a mistake."

 Read more at: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/2013/12/more-americans-oppose-the-war-in-afghanistan-than-any-other-recent-american-conflict.html

                           Analysis of Court's Ruling on NASA Mass Surveillance 

By NY Time Editorial Board

Judge Leon’s opinion took issue with the government’s reliance on a 1979 Supreme Court case, Smith v. Maryland, which upheld the police’s warrantless capture of phone numbers dialed from the home of a robbery suspect on grounds that the suspect had no reasonable expectation of privacy in the numbers he dialed.

But the N.S.A.’s phone-surveillance program is “a far cry” from what the court considered in 1979, Judge Leon wrote. While the circumstances in the Smith case involved a “one-time, targeted request for data regarding an individual suspect in a criminal investigation,” the phone-surveillance program is a “daily, all-encompassing, indiscriminate dump” of data from the phones of people who are not suspected of any wrongdoing.

Further, he reasoned, the Supreme Court in 1979 could not “have ever imagined how the citizens of 2013 would interact with their phones.”

“Thirty-four years ago, when people wanted to send ‘text messages,’ they wrote letters and attached postage stamps,” Judge Leon wrote. In other words, as technology changes, so does an average person’s expectation of privacy — the standard by which a court determines whether a search is reasonable.

Judge Leon recognized the government’s compelling interest in preventing terrorism, but he pointed out that it “does not cite a single instance” in which the data collection “actually stopped an imminent attack.”

In order to reach these issues at all, Judge Leon first ruled that the plaintiffs had standing — that is, they have the legal capacity to challenge both the collection of the phone data itself and the subsequent searches of that data by the government. That is significant, because prior to the revelation of the phone-data sweep this summer, the Supreme Court had rejected a similar challenge because the plaintiffs could not prove that the government had ever collected their personal data. As Verizon customers, Mr. Klayman and the other plaintiffs are now able to show “strong evidence” of that collection, the judge ruled.

The judge, in granting the plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary injunction, ordered the government to stop collecting the plaintiffs’ phone data and to destroy any data it had already collected, but because of the “significant national security interests at stake,” he stayed his own ruling to allow the government to appeal. The decision applies only to the plaintiffs in this case, and not to the American public at large.

Though the ruling is limited in those respects, it is an enormous symbolic victory for opponents of the bulk-collection program, and a reminder of the importance of the adversarial process. For seven years, these constitutional issues have been adjudicated under “a cloak of secrecy,” as Judge Leon put it. Now, that cloak has finally been lifted in a true court of law.

Read more at:http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/17/opinion/a-powerful-rebuke-of-mass-surveillance.html?smid=tw-share&_r=0

                                         Unionized Labor and Fast Food and Retail Workers Protests 

                                                         Majority Of Americans Support Deal With Iran

By Ben Armbruster: 30th November , 2013

A new Washington Post/ABC Newspollreleased on Wednesday found that a large majority of Americans would support an agreement between the United States, its international partners and Iran that would allow some easing of sanctions on the Islamic Republic in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program.

When asked, “would you support or oppose an agreement in which the United States and other countries would lift some of their economic sanctions against Iran, in exchange for Iran restricting its nuclear program in a way that makes it harder for it to produce nuclear weapons,” 64 percent of respondents said they would support such an agreement while just 30 percent opposed. The same poll also found that Americans are skeptical whether a first step agreement will ultimately prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

Negotiations areset to resumeon Wednesday in Geneva where the six world powers — the U.S., U.K., France, China, Russia and Germany — and Iran will try to work out the contours of a first step agreement on Iran’s nuclear program. The two sides were close to a deal earlier this month and agreed to meet again this week to iron out key differences.

The details of the first step, six month, agreement have yet to be publicized, but some expertssay it will most likely involveIran suspending its enrichment of uranium to 20 percent purity — which is close to weapons grade levels — and curbing other aspects of its program in exchange for around $7 billion in sanctions relief. Obama administration officials have said that any easing of sanctions could be easily reversed if Iran does not adhere to the terms of the deal.

Read more at: http://thinkprogress.org/security/2013/11/20/2972431/post-poll-iran/


 

         Can we save privacy with transparency?

By Kevin Drum

I call this the "David Brin question," after the science fiction writer who argued in 1996 that the issue isn't whether surveillance will become ubiquitous—given technological advances, it will—but how we choose to live with it. Sure, he argued, we may pass laws to protect our privacy, but they'll do little except ensure that surveillance is hidden ever more deeply and is available only to governments and powerful corporations. Instead, Brin suggests, we should all tolerate less privacy, but insist on less of it for everyone. With the exception of a small sphere within our homes, we should accept that our neighbors will know pretty much everything about us and vice versa. And we should demand that all surveillance data be public, with none restricted to governments or data brokers. Give everyone access to the NSA's records. Give everyone access to all the video cameras that dot our cities. Give everyone access to corporate databases.

This is, needless to say, easier said than done, and Brin acknowledges plenty of problems. Nonetheless, his provocation is worth thinking about. If privacy in the traditional sense is impossible in a modern society, our best bet might be to make the inevitable surveillance more available, not less. It might, in the end, be the only way to keep governments honest.

Read more at:http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2013/10/future-of-privacy-nsa-snowden

                                                                 Protest Against Surveillance 
 

                                                                    BEHIND THE NSA SPYING 

 

Give up defining yourself- to yourself or to others. You won't die . You will come to life. And don't be concerned with how others define you. When they define you, they are limiting themselves, so its their problem. Whenever you interact with people, don't be there primarily as a function  or a role, but as a field of conscious Presence.

Eckhart Tolle , (2005) A New Earth, Awakening to your Life's Purpose.

 

                                                           Time To March On Washington Again

Says Ari Berman

When it comes to voting rights, seven Southern states have passed or implemented new restrictions that disproportionately target people of color since the Court’s Voting Rights Act ruling. This follows a presidential election in which voter-suppression efforts took center stage and blacks waited twice as long as whites to vote, on average. On a more structural level, one out of thirteen African-Americans (2.2 million people) cannot vote because of felon disenfranchisement laws—four times higher than the rest of the population.

When it comes to the criminal justice system, there are more black men in prison today than were enslaved in 1850, according to Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow. African-Americans comprise 13 percent of the population but made up 55 percent of shooting deaths in 2010. Under Florida’s “stand your ground” law, “people who killed a black person walked free 73 percent of the time, while those who killed a white person went free 59 percent of the time,” according to theTampa Bay Times.

When it comes to the economy, the black unemployment rate (12.6 percent) is nearly double that of whites (6.6 percent), almost the same ratio as in 1963. The average household income for African-Americans ($32,068) lags well below that of white families ($54,620) and declined by 15 percent from 2000 to 2010.

These jarring statistics show a clear need for a twenty-first-century civil rights movement. “After the march, my hope is we will see more people going home being committed to doing work in their communities,” says Judith Browne Dianis, co- director of the Advancement Project, a civil rights organization in Washington co-sponsoring the march. The Moral Mondays protests in North Carolina, the sit-ins by the Dream Defenders in Florida and the spontaneous rallies in 100 cities following the George Zimmerman verdict are evidence of a new wave of civil rights activism. “We’re seeing the civil rights movement rise again,” says Browne Dianis. “People understand that we have to get back to organizing and movement-building.”

Read more at: http://www.thenation.com/article/175757/time-march-washington-again#

                                                      Stop and Frisk Unconstitutional 

                        

                          Stand Your Ground Laws Discussed AT ABA Sponsored Meeting


 By James Podgers: August 9th, 2013

A dozen witnesses–most of them black–who testified before the ABA task force said the Zimmerman verdict helps to illustrate the racial overtones of the debate over stand-your-ground laws. "I'm not an expert in this, but I am an expert in being black," said Eva Paterson, president of the Equal Justice Society and co-chair of the California Civil Rights Coalition. "All of us were riveted on the Trayvon Martin case," she said, "and there was widespread dismay over the verdict. We felt the Zimmerman verdict created a license to kill young black men."

The unequal application of the law to various racial groups "really is the 500-pound gorilla in the room," saidGeorge Gascón, who is district attorney for the city and county of San Francisco.

The hearing was held during the ABA's 2013 Annual Meeting in San Francisco. It is the fourth and final regional hearing scheduled by the task force, which is scheduled to submit a report and recommendations to the association's policy-making House of Delegates for consideration at the 2014 Annual Meeting in Boston.

Some speakers found other alleged villains to blame for the proliferation of stand-your-ground laws. "We need sensible gun safety legislation," said David Muhammad, CEO of Solutions, Inc., a consulting firm in California that provides technical assistance to private foundations and government entities on juvenile and criminal justice issues. Stand-your-ground laws, he said, reflect an effort to sell more guns in the United States. "It's simply concerns about policy and profits of the gun lobby," he said.

But other speakers emphasized that concerns about stand-your-ground laws should not be confined to any one community. "The civil rights of all people are compromised by these laws," said Patricia Rosier, the general counsel for American General Securities and the current president of the National Bar Association, the largest organization for lawyers of color in the United States. "Black people have been singled out by these laws," she said, "but we're just the first ones."

Read more at:http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/intensity_of_feelings_over_zimmerman_acquittal_on_full_display/?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=daily_rss

 

                                           George Zimmerman's Acquittal 

Andrew Cohen , July 13th, writes:

What the verdict says, to the astonishment of tens of millions of us, is that you can go looking for trouble in Florida, with a gun and a great deal of racial bias, and you can find that trouble, and you can act upon that trouble in a way that leaves a young man dead, and none of it guarantees that you will be convicted of a crime. But this curious result says as much about Florida's judicial and legislative sensibilities as it does about Zimmerman's conduct that night. This verdict would not have occurred in every state. It might not even have occurred in any other state. But it occurred here, a tragic confluence that leaves a young man's untimely death unrequited under state law. Don't like it? Lobby to change Florida's laws.

If we understand and accept these legal limitations -- and perhaps only if we do -- the result here makes sense. Purely as a matter of law, you could say, it makes perfect sense. Florida's material, admissible, relevant proof against Zimmerman was not strong enough to overcome the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. The eye-witnesses (and ear-witnesses) did not present a uniformly compelling case against the defendant. The police witnesses, normally chalk for prosecutors, did not help as much as they typically do. Nor was there compelling physical evidence establishing that Zimmerman had murderous intent and was not acting in self-defense.

The case was "not about standing your ground; it was about staying in your car," the prosecutor cogently said during closing argument. But in the end, under state law favorable to men like the defendant -- that is, favorable to zealots willing to take the law into their own hands -- Zimmerman's series of deplorable choices that night did not amount to murderous intent or even the much more timid manslaughter. The defense here wisely understood that and was able consistently, methodically, to remind jurors that prosecutors had not adequately explained (or proved) how exactly the altercation started and how precisely it progressed.

Read more at: http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2013/07/law-and-justice-and-george-zimmerman/277772/

                                                                                NASA Whistle Blower 

 

                          Black Children and Education in the USA

Mychal Denzel Smith writes;

Let’s not pretend the school-to-prison pipeline isn’t real. Black children’s very existence has been criminalized inside the same institutions responsible for educating them. They find their hallways policed, their behavior over-disciplined; they are over-suspended, and eventually shipped off to juvenile detention facilities at alarming rates. They are chastised by community and thought leaders for not wanting an education, but when they show up for one they’re met with all the hostility and contempt one reserves for their greatest enemies.

There are black children who don’t value education. Not because they are black, but because they are children and that’s what children do. The more tragic and infuriating thing is that they grow up in a society that doesn’t value educating black children and is hellbent on doing everything it can to stop them from learning.

Read more: http://www.thenation.com/blog/174536/when-black-kids-want-learn-and-world-tells-them-no#ixzz2UcZt13Sq

       Lyrics speak to a troubled society !

                                                        THE DIFFICULT CONVERSATION: RACISM IN AMERICA

                       THE STRUGGLES OF WORKING WOMEN DISCUSSED 

 This article was originally published by The Southern Poverty Law Center.

The Southern Poverty Law Center A sixth man has pleaded guilty to federal hate crime charges related to the June 2011 racially motivated killing in Jackson, Miss., of a black man assaulted and run over with a pickup truck by a gang of white youths. That brutal murder was captured on surveillance video and broadcast nationally.

Joseph Paul Dominick, 21, of Brandon, Miss., faces a maximum of five years in prison after pleading guilty yesterday to conspiracy to commit federal hate crimes. He pleaded guilty to a criminal information, waiving grand jury indictment and striking a plea deal with federal prosecutors, just a month after The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson published an editorial blasting the Justice Department for a “thick cloud of secrecy” surrounding the protracted investigation.

Dominick was part of a gang of white youths, federal authorities now say, who armed themselves with assorted dangerous weapons — beer bottles, slingshots and handguns — and, essentially, made a sport of looking for disabled, homeless or intoxicated African Americans to verbally harass and physically assault. This week’s plea was related to Dominick’s participation in a variety of assaults; he was not involved in the murder that brought the gang national attention.

The case is highly reminiscent of the racially charged 2008 killing of Marcelo Lucero, an Ecuadorian immigrant slain by a gang of seven Long Island teenagers, most of them white, in Patchogue, N.Y. The youths, who were eventually sentenced to terms of five to 25 years in prison, had been regularly beating Latino immigrants as part of a blood sport they dubbed “beaner-hopping.”

In the Mississippi case, members of the gang of young white men and women for about a year before the murder “would drive around Jackson during the night and early morning hours looking for African American persons to verbally harass and physically assault,” a charging document says. Dominick frequently joined these human hunting expeditions.

On the night of June 25, 2011, however, Dominick stayed behind at a bonfire birthday party for him in Puckett, Miss., while fellow gang members Deryl Paul Dedmon, John Aaron Rice, William Kirk Montgomery, Dylan Wade Butler and three others not publicly identified by investigators drove to Jackson looking for black victims, the document says.

While in Jackson, several of Dominick’s friends, including Rice and Butler, “hurled glass beer bottles at African American pedestrians before they identified as J.A. as a vulnerable target for assault,” the document says. That victim, spotted shortly before dawn in a motel parking lot, was publicly identified as James Craig Anderson, a 49-year-old auto plant worker.

Yelling racial slurs and “white power,” the attackers brutally beat Anderson, and left him lying in the parking lot as one group of the young adults left in an SUV. A second group got into a Ford pickup driven by Dedmon, who ran over Anderson. Prosecutors said that later, in a cell phone call, Dedmon laughed and said, “I ran that nigger over.” Deryl Dedmon’s uncle, Ray Dedmon, later described his slight, blond nephew to The New York Times as “a good boy” from a “happy-go-lucky” family.

CNN obtained and repeatedly broadcast motel surveillance video that showed the truck driving over James Anderson, once again drawing national attention to the problem of serious hate crimes in the Deep South and elsewhere.

Ironically, although the local district attorney clearly described the killing as a hate crime, Mississippi authorities apparently never listed it that way. In the FBI’s recently released hate crime report for 2011, Mississippi is said to have reported no racially motivated hate crimes at all, a virtual impossibility, given the 200,000 or so hate crimes that are estimated to occur nationally every year.

Last month, Jonathan Kyle Gaskamp, 20, of Brandon; and Montgomery, 23, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Jackson to one count of conspiracy to commit a hate crime and one count of committing a hate crime. Their pleas came nine months after Dedmon, Butler and Rice pleaded guilty to federal hate crime charges.

While Dominick and Gaskamp weren’t part of the group that came to Jackson the day Anderson was killed, they had been on previous trips to harass African Americans and continued making such forays following Anderson’s death, the Jackson newspaper reported in Thursday’s edition.

The case has sparked some local criticism of officials. In an editorial published on Dec. 6, The Clarion-Ledger said at least two of those involved in the attack on Anderson were believed to be young women but were still not identified. “[T]his is a long time for Anderson’s family and loved ones to wait for justice, especially when you consider that the first suspect, Deryl Dedmon, was arrested just hours after the incident occurred. A second suspect, John Rice, was arrested three days later. The FBI has said that law enforcement has conducted more than 200 interviews regarding this case,” the editorial said.

“What is most confounding is the thick cloud of secrecy behind which this entire investigation and prosecution has taken place,” it added. “We understand the need for sensitive investigations to remain under wraps, but this is one of the oddest we have ever seen. Too, it seems the family is being kept in the dark as well, as every time we talk to them they express their dissatisfaction with the amount of information they are being given,” the editorial said.

It is not clear if other defendants will be charged in federal or state courts.

Sentencing dates are expected later this year for Dominick and the five other defendants. The charge of conspiracy to commit a hate crime carries a maximum penalty of five years. The commission of a hate crime carries a maximum of 10 years unless a death occurred, when the maximum can be life in prison.

Close


                         OCCUPY WALL  STREET ASSASSINATION PLOT 

 

 

Longshoremen strike threatens to shut down East Coast

Published: 28 December, 2012, 22:53
Edited: 28 December, 2012, 22:53

More than 14,000 longshoremen threatened to go on strike Sunday, thereby bringing commerce to a standstill at ports across the US. But the union representing the workers agreed to avert its strike for 30 days while it negotiates with port operators.

The union representing more than 14,000 longshoremen originally planned to begin a strike on Sunday, which would close cargo ports on the East Coast and the Gulf of Mexico. Container ships that contain products such as flat-screen TVs, sneakers, snow shovels and other types of products would all be rerouted or forced to float idle at sea. The 15 US ports that would have been affected by the strike are responsible for moving more than 100 million tons of goods each year, which is 40 percent of US cargo traffic, the Associated Press reports.

Port Authority in New York and New Jersey would have been hit hardest on the East Coast, since 3,250 longshoremen handled 32.3 million tons of cargo in 2010 and continue to bring in billions of dollars worth of goods.

Had the longshoremen gone through with the strike, the US economy would have taken a massive toll and instantly lost billions of dollars.

“If the port shuts down, nothing moves in or out,” Jonathan Gold, vice president of supply chain and customs policy at the National Retail Federation told AP. And even when the employees return to their jobs, “it’s going to take time to clear out that backlog, and we don’t know how long that it’s going to take.”

Most of the products that the US imports are transported via ship, since air transport is expensive.

“The global economy moves by water, and shutting down container ports along the East and Gulf coasts while the national economy remains fragile benefits no one,” Deborah Hadden, acting port director at Massport, told AP.

The longshoremen initially decided on the strike after port operators and shipping lines tried to restrict newer workers from receiving royalty payments based on the weight of the containers they handle, as well as put a cap on the payments delivered to current employees. The royalty payments have been made since the 1960s to compensate 14,640 employees at ports across the US. Each worker makes an average $15,500 a year from royalty payments, which would be reduced or deducted from their salaries if the port operators had their way.

The union claims the payments are essential for many of the employees whose jobs are being reduced by automatons that take over the labor.

The pay is “more important today for ILA members than it has ever been to keep America’s commerce moving with skilled, trained longshore workers,” the International Longshoremen’s Association said. In talks that have lasted for months, the union refused to agree to negotiate away their royalty payments, which has brought the talks to a standstill.

The Maritime Alliance claims that the longshoremen make a high enough salary without the royalty payments. Each worker makes an average $124,138 each year in wages and benefits. Between 1997 and Sept. 30, 2011, royalty payments cost employers $1.8 billion. And the costs have been on the rise each year, costing tens of millions of dollars that the Maritime Alliance believes is too much.

The president of the longshoremen, Harold Daggett, predicted a strike as early as Dec. 19, claiming that the talks were not going well. But after the union threatened to shut down commerce and cost the US economy billions of dollars at a time when a looming fiscal cliff is already threatening the economy, dockworkers struck a deal that would avert the strike for 30 days while negotiations continue.

The conditions of the deal have not been announced, but the head of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, George Cohen, says it involves royalty payments. Union members previously said they would only agree to an extension of negotiations if the Maritime Alliance dropped its proposal to freeze royalties.

“We remain optimistic and hopeful that an amicable resolution to negotiations between the ILA and management can be reached,” Garry LaGrange, president and CEO of the Port of New Orleans, told CNN.

 

Janell.Ross@huffingtonpost.com.

 Child Gun Deaths Nationwide Number Nearly 6 Newtown Massacres

Posted: 12/21/2012 6:41 pm EST  |  Updated: 12/23/2012 12:11 pm EST

US Gun Deaths, Child Gun Deaths Equal More Than Six Newtown Mass Killings, U.s Child Gun Deaths, U.s Child Gun Homicides, Us Child Gun Deaths 2011, Us Child Gun Deaths Outpace Developed Countries, Latino Voices News

Police reports about the final moments of Demetrius Cruz’s life include the kind of information that is at once difficult to fathom and yet somehow part of the ordinary but tragic tapestry of life in the U.S.

Cruz was riding in a car with his cousin on a Denver street Saturday when the driver of a white car started bumping, following and then chasing the teens' car. Cruz called his aunt. He was scared. Someone in the white car fired several shots, striking and killing Cruz. He was just 15 years old. That same night in Kansas City, Mo., a bullet sliced through the body of 4-year-old Aydan Perea while he was sitting in a car with his dad. Police say Perea was the innocent and unsuspecting victim of a gang drive by. Days later, on Tuesday, Dalton Williams, 16, was killed in Pierre, S.D. with a shotgun wielded by a friend after a dispute over a paintball game.

In each case, local newspapers and television stations captured the shocking and sad details. But no national media camped outside the boys' homes, schools or places of worship. No satellite trucks were driven in to beam the faces of these human sacrifices to America’s gun violence problem abroad. The president did not call to offer his condolences. Nor did he come to town to give a speech. And no professional athletes sent their jerseys or spoke publicly about the boys' deaths.

Beyond their families and friends, the deaths of Cruz, Perea and Williams and the hundreds of others like them across the country this year went largely unnoticed. The mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. a week ago left 20 children and six adults dead, and millions of Americans distraught and, in some cases, interested anew in a conversation about gun control.

Cruz, Perea and Williams are just another string of child shooting victims whose deaths somehow seem not uncommon because they happened one at a time. Together though, child shooting fatalities in the U.S. last year alone amounted to more than two dozen Sandy Hook massacres -- and the country has scarcely reacted.

In 2011, guns were used to murder 8,583 people living in the U.S., according to the most recent FBI data available. Among those murdered by guns, there were 565 young people under the age of 18, and 119 children ages 12 or younger -- the latter number nearly equivalent to six Newtown mass shootings. And these figures include only homicides.

“It’s staggering,” said Lindsay Nichols, an attorney with the California-based public interest law firm and gun-control advocacy organization the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. “We are all shocked by the news in Newtown, Conn., but when you think about it, it is equally tragic and equally horrific every day so many families suffer this loss and that every year there are so many funerals of children that family members have to attend."

Just Tuesday, Paul Sampleton Sr. found the body of his 14-year-old son, Paul Sampleton Jr., bound and shot dead in the family’s Grayson, Ga. home. Police suspect the boy may have interrupted a robbery. The Sampleton family will mark a very different kind of Christmas this year, then bury their son next Friday.

Then there are the stories of children killed in gun accidents and suicides. In 2010, the most recent year for which detailed Centers for Disease Control data is available, 129 people between the ages of 1 and 19 died in gun accidents. Another 749 took their own lives using a firearm, most of which were owned by a parent.

This year, in the days leading up to the mass shooting in Newtown, 12-year-old Demetri Phillips was shot and killed by a friend while playing with a gun in their shared home on Dec. 6. Two days later, Craig Allen Loughrey, 7, died in a gun store parking lot. His father’s gun went off inside the family truck and struck the boy, strapped into a booster seat, in the chest.

The problem isn’t exactly new. In 1997, the Centers for Disease Control found that in the U.S. the rate of death among children 15 and under due to gunshot wounds was nearly 12 times higher than those in 15 other developed countries. Child deaths caused by guns have dropped since that time, along with other types of crime.

But the number of children and teens killed in 2008 and 2009 in the U.S. alone could fill 229 classroom with 25 students, according to a report released by the Children’s Defense Fund this year. In 2009, of all the people 18 and under that died due to a firearm injury of any kind, 43 percent were black and 20 percent were Latino, making gun violence a disproportionately common event among teens of color, according to the Children's Defense Fund report.

On Friday, National Rifle Association vice president Wayne LaPierre proposed a program that would put armed guards and perhaps other adults with guns in every school, saying “good guys” with firearms were the surest way to protect the nation’s children.

Nichols, of the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, described the NRA’s proposal as preposterous.

“I think it’s an absurd and dangerous idea,” Nichols said. “But as with so many of their proposals I think its real aim is to encourage the sale of more firearms. The biggest donors to the NRA are firearms manufacturers. Besides, arming and equipping all these people he wants to put in schools, having guns where kids see them daily is a tool to market weapons to the next generation.” 

 Deportation: More Than 200,000 Parents Removed Who Say They Have A U.S. Citizen Child Since 2010

The Huffington Post | By Posted:

Deportation Parents

Since 2010, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) removed more than 200,000 immigrants from the country who say they are parents of a child who is a U.S. citizen.

The figures, obtained by Colorlines through a Freedom of Information Act request and published Monday, put the problem of family separation into sharper focus as politicians on both sides of the aisle are calling for renewed attention to immigration reform.

Deportations of people who say they are parents of a child who is a U.S. citizen account for 23 percent of total removals in the period covered by the data, according to reporter Seth Freed Wessler of Colorlines.

A heart-wrenching, one-paragraph letter from 12-year-old Anthony Hoz published last month by The Huffington Post highlights the pain of family separation that has become a common by-product of the current U.S. immigration system.

“Dear Rex Ford, please I beg you with all my heart to leave my dad with us,” Hoz wrote in the letter to immigration judge Rex Ford. “Because we need him so he can pay the bills of the house, and we love him so much. Me and my brothers are so sad because we don’t have my dad with us.”

Hoz’s father Maximino Hoz faces an uphill battle to escape deportation. A hardworking contractor who volunteered hundreds of hours at a community food distribution service, according to friends and colleagues who submitted letters to his case file, Hoz also has two DUI’s on his record.

The Hoz family took part in the “Wish for the Holidays” campaign, which delivered some 10,000 letters to members of Congress and President Barack Obama asking to stop separating families through deportation.

An ICE spokesperson sent a statement to The Huffington Post saying most of the undocumented immigrants cited in the new data had criminal records, though the agency has yet to compile official figures.

“ICE is sensitive to the fact that encountering those who violate our immigration laws may impact families,” the statement says. “ICE uses prosecutorial discretion to release individuals in ICE custody for humanitarian reasons such as being the sole caregiver of minors and when we are aware that the detention of a non-criminal alien would result in any child (U.S. citizen or not) being left without a[n] appropriate parental caregiver.”

The numbers provided by ICE, available on Colorlines' website, run from the last quarter of fiscal year 2010 until the last quarter of fiscal year 2012.

 

Poll: Americans Warm to Gun Control, Still Not Sure If We Need It

 

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NEWTOWN, CT - DECEMBER 16: Teddy bears, flowers and candles in memory of those killed, are left at a memorial down the street from the Sandy Hook School December 16, 2012 in Newtown, Connecticut. Twenty-six people were shot dead, including twenty children, after a gunman identified as Adam Lanza opened fire at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Lanza also reportedly had committed suicide at the scene. A 28th person, believed to be Nancy Lanza, found dead in a house in town, was also believed to have been shot by Adam Lanza. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images) Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

 News/Washington Post poll has the first somewhat-positive news for gun control advocates in a very, very long time. That's what happens to an issue when both parties basically back away from it.

Here's the number that moved: 54 percent of people say they favor "stricter gun control laws." There aren't many polls that ask such a generic question, but the 2011 Gallup Poll on guns found only 43 percent of Americans backing a ban on automatic weapons or stricter laws governing sales.

Here's the number that might matter legislatively: 59 percent of people say they favor a ban on high-capacity magazines. That dial started to move after Jared Lee Loughner shot Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, and was stopped only when he had to reload, and a near-victim took the moment to hit him with a folding chair.

And here's the solace-providing number for the NRA and Republicans: A plurality of voters, 49 percent, say that we need to enforce "current laws" and call it a day. That's exactly what John Boehner says when this issue comes up.

 


                                           Time to Jump Start the Anti-Poverty Debate

November 19, 2012; Source: OregonCatalyst

There is a burgeoning debate happening about how to eradicate poverty in the U.S., with perspectives from the left and right. At OregonCatalyst, a politically conservative website, Steve Buckstein from the free market-oriented Cascade Policy Institute recommends a distinctive approach for helping the 46 million people below the poverty level. He says that the Cato Institute estimates that the federal government spends $668 billion on 126 anti-poverty programs and state and local governments spend an additional $284 billion. Buckstein contends that you could simply take that money and “just cut checks to the poor and be done with it.” By his calculation, governmental anti-poverty spending is $20,610 for every poor person or $82,440 for a family of four. Replacing the anti-poverty programs with these one-time checks “could raise every poor person out of poverty and still return hundreds of billions of dollars back to the taxpayers. And if we hurry, it could all be done by Thanksgiving.”

At Right Side News, another conservative outlet, Tom DeWeese joins Buckstein in his criticism of the anti-poverty programs, suggesting that they actually “make the situation worse”, even though he admits that programs to provide anti-poverty relief are “perhaps necessary in the short run, to assure the poor are at least kept alive.” He argues that, “poverty can never be eradicated – and will actually increase – until government gets out of the way and everyone has the equal opportunity to own and benefit from the wealth associated with private property ownership.”

Taking a diametrically opposed view of poverty reduction, Erik R. Stegman and Melissa Boteach argue in the summary of their report for Half in Ten (PDF) that unemployment insurance, earned income tax credits, child care tax credits, food stamps, and full implementation of the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act are crucial elements of a national anti-poverty strategy. Andrew Wainer of the Bread for the World Institute argues that legalizing immigration would end the “wage penalty” that employers place on undocumented workers, which might help raise incomes for people who because of their status are kept in an underpaid and underassisted legal status.

One might guess that some of us at Nonprofit Quarterly don’t quite buy simplistic solutions to complex, multi-faceted problems like poverty. Nonetheless, the emergence of a national debate on poverty is much needed in the aftermath of the radio silence given poverty during the presidential election. In Kansas, for example, Republican governor Sam Brownback has convened a task force on child poverty that is holding public hearings on the problem and potential solutions. Being ready to acknowledge, talk about, and confront poverty is a crucial step that has been missing in public policy debates this past year. We want to see more talk and more analysis, but it has to lead to action. —Rick Cohen

 New Poverty Numbers Call for a New Poverty Agenda

November 15, 2012; Source: CBS Radio

The Census Bureau just released new numbers on poverty conditions in the U.S. and the conditions aren’t good. The 2011 Supplemental Poverty Measure puts the number of Americans living below the federal poverty level in 2011 at 49.7 million. To put that in context, that’s roughly equivalent to the entire population of South Africa or South Korea and substantially more than the populations of Spain or Poland. We have an entire nation’s worth of people within the U.S. living on incomes of less than $23,050 for a family of four. And one out of every four black people in the U.S. is living below the poverty level. Writing for the Washington Post, Dylan Matthews pronounced the supplemental poverty figures “grim.”

With programs such as the earned income tax credit, child tax credits, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps) on the chopping block for budget cuts due to sequestration, the nation of America’s poor may be in danger of growing substantially. Matthews suggests that the programs that have the biggest effect on reducing poverty are Social Security followed by refundable tax credits such as the Earned Income Tax Credit and child care tax credits, then food stamps, unemployment insurance, and housing subsidies.

In other words, without these programs, the numbers of poor people would be millions higher. The Republican-controlled House of Representatives has passed legislation that would end some of these tax credits and other programs that typically benefit poor people. According to Timothy Smeeding, a University of Wisconsin-Madison poverty economist, “We’re seeing a very slow recovery, with increases in poverty among workers due to more new jobs which are low-wage…As a whole, the safety net is holding many people up.”

Writing for the Center for American Progress, Melissa Boteach covered roughly the same information as CBS, the Associated Press, and the Washington Post but suggested that the potential congressional failure to act before the nation plunges off the fiscal cliff “would only exacerbate the number of families in poverty and make it harder for a family to transition into the middle class.” Earlier in her article, Boteach referred to these programs as “policies providing pathways into the middle class, which is America’s engine of economic growth.” In her conclusion, she explains that these policies “work in keeping families out of poverty and giving low-income families and their children the opportunity to enter the middle class and pursue the American Dream.”

We don’t mean to disparage Boteach’s otherwise fine work, but we are surprised that even anti-poverty advocates have to bring such middle class/American Dream language into their arguments, as though they have to lug the precepts of American exceptionalism wherever they go just like politicians. As Smeeding notes, the safety net programs Boteach describes are geared to prevent poor people from sinking even deeper into the distress of poverty. Though they often fall short, these programs are meant to prevent people from going hungry and homeless.

Boteach is right that the nation desperately needs safety net programs. But it needs anti-poverty programs involving public employment jobs, new housing construction, health care reform, and comprehensive community development to propel poor communities into conditions in which a middle class status is achievable. The nation desperately needs to protect safety net programs against the fiscal cliff, but it also needs to put resources and efforts into programs that provide more than a net. This is the anti-poverty agenda that we failed to hear from many candidates during the election campaign. It is the agenda that much of the nonprofit sector hopes the president will initiate following his second inauguration—once he protects the safety net from sequestration.—Rick Cohen

 

Bonnie Kavoussi

bonnie.kavoussi@huffingtonpost.com

Cornel West: America's Wealth Inequality Will Create 'Crypto-Fascist' State

Posted: 11/08/2012 4:07 pm EST Updated: 11/08/2012 7:20 pm ES

U.S. income inequality recently reached levels not seen since the 1920s, which could put the country on the road to becoming an authoritarian state, according to one activist.

"U.S. democracy will not survive with that kind of wealth inequality," said Cornel West, a social activist and philosophy professor at Union Theological Seminary, in an interview with The Huffington Post Wednesday. 

If wealth inequality persists at current levels, he said, that creates the risk of "an autocratic, authoritarian takeover of America, no doubt, a crypto-fascist America." "The social fabric would just break."

The bottom half of American households hold just 1 percent of total wealth in the U.S., down from 3 percent in 1989, according to a recent report, while the top 10 percent owns nearly 75 percent of total wealth, up from 67 percent in 1989. The average net worth of a family in the top 10 percent is 15 times higher than the average net worth of a family in the middle quintile, according to the report.

It is more difficult to rise to a higher income level in the U.S. than it is in Canada and much of Western Europe, according to recent research.

Though the government would stay the same in form, West said, it would suppress debate and govern through "threats." “It would be the outright criminalization of dissent," he said. "You might have a suspension of the rule of law in the name of the law."

West said that the government's response to the financial crisis highlights that the rule of law has become "arbitrary:" "Wall Street bankers that engaged in criminal activity don't go to jail, but the ordinary Americans that get caught committing a crime go straight to jail."

The Obama administration did not prosecute any Wall Street executives for contributing to the financial crisis. Meanwhile, 750,000 people were arrested for marijuana possession last year, according to FBI data.

Not everyone agrees that inequality creates political risks though.

"Inequality is very important ... it's not just a political issue," said Martin Feldstein, a Harvard economist and former top economic adviser to President Ronald Reagan, at the Economist's Buttonwood Gathering in October. "High incomes fairly earned, I see no problem with."

He said it's still possible to become rich, noting that the CEOs of the 500 largest companies in the U.S. "didn't [all] come from wealthy families, they didn't all go to Harvard and Columbia and Yale."

Feldstein agrees that poor households need to accumulate more wealth, though. He said at Buttonwood that the government needs to encourage saving, improve its education system to prepare people for higher-paying jobs, and fix Social Security to prevent poverty among the elderly

"You have to choose between dealing with the high-income group ... or dealing with the poverty problem, which is where I think the emphasis ought to be," Feldstein said.

 

  November 5, 2012; Source: Robert Reich

Former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich raises the pertinent post-election question of how this nation can govern itself and how we can work together to solve the huge problems this nation faces given the political vitriol of this campaign, which Reich says is the worst that he can recall. According to Reich, with a touch of hyperbole, “it’s almost a civil war.”

It may be that the divisions are worse because so little of the nation is really a jump ball. The red states are red, the blue states are blue, and only a handful are really up for grabs due to their split electorates. It may be that this year, perhaps even more so than when former Vice President Al Gore sighed audibly during his debates with George W. Bush, the two major parties’ presidential candidates appeared to clearly dislike each other. Jill Stein for the Greens and Gary Johnson for the Libertarians might have had more congenial debates.

Reich traces the venom of today’s politics to racial, gender, and economic divides:

“The nation is becoming browner and blacker. Most children born in California are now minorities. In a few years America as a whole will be a majority of minorities. Meanwhile, women have been gaining economic power. Their median wage hasn’t yet caught up with men, but it’s getting close. And with more women getting college degrees than men, their pay will surely exceed male pay in a few years. At the same time, men without college degrees continue to lose economic ground. Adjusted for inflation, their median wage is lower than it was three decades ago.”

These trends, he suggests, put “white working-class men…on the losing end of a huge demographic and economic shift.” Reich argues that past events in our history united the nation, and while we disagree with his contention that the Great Depression did so, he suggests that these events, “reminded us we were all in it together…We had to depend on each other in order to survive….[that there was a] sense of mutual dependence [that] transcended our disagreements.” Reich believes that the big issues of today—Iraq and Afghanistan compared to World War II, the Great Recession compared to the Great Recession—have “split us rather than connected us.”

Reich concludes that the post-electoral challenge is for the nation to “rediscover the public good.” Is the task of building bridges for communications, dialogue, and cooperation a deTocquevillian task that the nonprofit sector should be prepared to take on? Without masking the challenges of class and race in this nation, without falling prey to some unrealistic communitarian kumbaya ideal, we can see nonprofits—and foundations—as the venues for cooperation and dialogue. We can see nonprofits as the intermediaries for trying to construct an ethic that allows for governance despite partisan and ideological differences, an ethic built on respect and civility.

Perhaps some of the collaborative efforts of nonprofits, such as the social service agencies in Muncie, Ind. that have come together in their “Hearts and Hands United” project, offer a model. Maybe the model is found in the continuing and increasing networking of nonprofits, such as the Napa Valley Coalition of Nonprofit Agencies, which bills itself as a chamber of commerce for nonprofits dedicated to sharing ideas, resources, and strategies.

“We’re all in this together,” President Barack Obama said. “We rise or fall as one nation and as one people.” Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney wasn’t quite as sharp with a communitarian message, given his off-handed dismissal of 47 percent of the population who are “dependent on government” who don’t merit his concern. President Obama made his “together” statement in the wake of Superstorm Sandy. Like other disasters described in Rebecca Solnit’s book, A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster, Sandy could generate “a leveling moment” and a greater feeling that “we are all in it together.” Solnit writes that the “rupture” caused by disasters bring people together by geography rather than driving them apart by class or race and that such moments create, in the paraphrasing of the New York Times, “solidarity…that can forever transform individual human lives and, sometimes, entire societies.”

Do we need a disaster of Sandy’s proportions to remind Americans, exemplified by the response of nonprofits, that we are all in this together? Or in the wake of this ugly, nasty election, can nonprofits help the nation find a path to Reich’s goal of the public good?—Rick Cohen

 

 Occupy Wall Street, Gun Control, Longshoremen Strike, Immigration Reform, Poverty, Political Divide.