Affirmative Action Needed And Good For Blacks And Whites

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By Jessicah Pierre for Inequality – There’s a saying: “When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.” I thought of that when I heard about the Trump administration’s recent moves against affirmative action. According to The New York Times, the Department of Justice, led by Attorney General Jeff Session, is looking for lawyers to work on “investigations and possible litigation related to intentional race-based discrimination in college and university admissions.” Well, that’s the point of affirmative action, right? When President John F. Kennedy signed an executive order on affirmative action in 1961, the intent was to counteract discrimination that minorities faced in the job hiring process. Since then, many colleges and universities have instituted similar standards to make sure women and students of color are given a fair shot at receiving a higher education. But the way Trump sees it, it’s white students who are discriminated against. There have already been a number of cases where white students have challenged universities that implement affirmative action.

“Free Speech” Bills Could Chill Campus Activism Nationwide

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By Brad Poling for Occupy – Universities across the country may be on the precipice of a new era in activism, politics and – in the most basic sense – expression. Motivated in part by recent high-profile protests against controversial speakers, at least 10 states are currently considering some variation of a bill proposed by the conservative Goldwater Institute that would implement punitive measures for students involved in protests on campuses. The bill also curtails public universities’ ability to take a stand on “controversial” issues – without providing a lot of guidance about what exactly these controversies may include. The states proposing the bill – California, Colorado, Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Wisconsin and North Carolina – have introduced slight variations of the original into their statehouses. But each bill is marked by gray areas and vague uncertainties that pose a serious threat to the very thing they seek to defend: free speech. For example, take Wisconsin’s bill, the Campus Free Speech Act. Considering how smoothly the legislation progressed through the state’s Republican-dominated Assembly, it has generated a fair amount of confusion as to how exactly the law would work.

The Nuclear Power Rip-Off Billions Lost More Bills Due

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By Seanna Adcox for AP News – This week, having spent more than $10 billion, executives with South Carolina Electric & Gas and Santee Cooper acknowledged that all their assumptions were wrong. Worse still: Consumers may have to pay billions more on the rusting remains of two partially-built reactors at the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station north of Columbia. “When we started, there was talk of a nuclear renaissance restarting a whole industry in the U.S.,” said Santee Cooper’s chief financial officer, Jeff Armfield. He was among several executives recommending the project be abandoned. The board of the state-owned utility unanimously agreed at a public meeting Monday. “When we started, there was talk of a nuclear renaissance restarting a whole industry in the U.S.,” said Santee Cooper’s chief financial officer, Jeff Armfield. Most of the 18 nuclear projects pending before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission a decade ago have been aborted or suspended indefinitely. None of the 7 projects the NRC licensed are operational. Only one is still being built, in Georgia, at a cost of $100 million a month. Southern Company financial documents filed Wednesday say the project, slated to cost $14 billion, could cost $25 billion or more if completed.

‘Disappointed’ AIPAC Targets Gillibrand For Removing Her Name From Boycott Bill

Palestinian fishermen hold banners in a protest to demand the boycott of the Israeli agricultural products, during the 10th annual Israeli Apartheid Week

By Robert Herbst for Mondoweiss – At two town halls late last month, New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand promised to reconsider her co-sponsorship of Senate Bill 720, the Anti-Israel Boycott Act, after a number of her constituents raised free speech concerns, to rousing applause, seemingly without dissent. At the time, Gillibrand was one of 45 co-sponsors in the Senate and 234 in the House. Since the bill was sponsored by the Israel lobby group AIPAC, it was not surprising that, despite its attack on First Amendment rights, it would receive huge support before it was widely publicized, based solely on its AIPAC pedigree. Gillibrand herself agreed with my characterization that AIPAC was a lobby with a “stranglehold” on Congress (when I approached her after a town hall). So despite her explicit commitment to take another look at the bill, and her expressed concerns about the government of Israel and its Prime Minister’s failure to have a vision for peace, it was reasonable to question whether the junior senator from New York would ultimately find the wherewithal to resist that stranglehold. Well, lo and behold, this past Monday, Gillibrand withdrew her co-sponsorship of the bill.

Will A Mega-Billionaire Rescue America From GOP’s Insurance Mayhem?

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By Staff of Nader Page – Before recommending a practical way to reverse the devastating impact of Congressional Republicans’ attempts to strip tens of millions of Americans of health insurance coverage, and the non-stop anxiety and dread that comes with such cruel and vicious legislation, note the impact of having gerrymandered (the politicians pick the voters) Washington rulers. The arrogant Republicans in Congress have good health insurance, life insurance, pensions, salaries and expense accounts paid by you the taxpayers. This perversely has led them to drop any empathy their residual consciences might have possessed before they came to Capitol Hill – many as millionaires. At the same time, in a country that spends well over $3 trillion a year on ‘healthcare’, the GOP’s various bills leave millions of families fearing loss of insurance, reduced coverage, larger deductibles, unaffordable co-pays and inscrutable insurance and billing fine-print trap doors. This is producing serious fear, anxiety, depression and in many cases absolute terror for sick children and ailing parents. We have the New York Times to thank for bringing this vast human toll, day after day, night after night, to their readers. In a recent article, reporter Jan Hoffman interviews people who are wondering “whether they would be able to continue screenings and treatment.”

Internet Censorship Bill Would Spell Disaster For Speech And Innovation

From eff.org

By Elliot Harmon for EFF – There’s a new bill in Congress that would threaten your right to free expression online. If that weren’t enough, it could also put small Internet businesses in danger of catastrophic litigation. Don’t let its name fool you: the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA, S. 1693) wouldn’t help punish sex traffickers. What the bill would do (PDF) is expose any person, organization, platform, or business that hosts third-party content on the Internet to the risk of overwhelming criminal and civil liability if sex traffickers use their services. For small Internet businesses, that could be fatal: with the possibility of devastating litigation costs hanging over their heads, we think that many entrepreneurs and investors will be deterred from building new businesses online. Make no mistake: sex trafficking is a real, horrible problem. This bill is not the way to address it. Lawmakers should think twice before passing a disastrous law and endangering free expression and innovation.

The Latest Sneaky Attempt To Increase Corporate Political Power

Mike Pence, Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), and Steve Scalise (R-LA) share a laugh with the media after a meeting of the House Republican Conference at the RNC on Sept. 13, 2016. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

By John Light for Moyers and Company – “If you want to do something evil, put it inside something boring,” John Oliver said in 2014 of the tireless efforts of telecomm monopolists to get rid of net neutrality. It’s a tried and true strategy of the wealthy and their legislative allies, and, while Donald Trump’s destructive antics continue to hold America’s attention with the same unyielding grip he uses on foreign dignitaries’ hands, there are a lot of boring things ambling through Congress with corporate favors crammed deep inside. While Donald Trump’s destructive antics continue to hold America’s attention with the same unyielding grip he uses on foreign dignitaries’ hands, there are a lot of boring things ambling through Congress with corporate favors crammed deep inside. And so it is with the House’s appropriations bill, which includes riders that would further pare back campaign finance rules that have already been decimated over the last decade, in large part through Supreme Court decisions such as Citizens United and McCutcheon v. FEC. These rulings and a Congress hell-bent on deregulating the campaign finance system has lead to increasingly expensive elections, with the money that helps candidates win often pouring in from anonymous interests. Watchdog groups and journalists call these billions from shadowy sources “dark money.”

Study: State That Restrict Abortion Have Laws That Hurt Women And Children

Pro-choice and anti-choice protesters demonstrate outside a Planned Parenthood clinic in California. (Photo: Steve Rhodes/Flickr/cc)

By Staff of Center for Reproductive RIghts – The report—titled Evaluating Priorities: Measuring Women and Children’s Health and Well-being against Abortion Restrictions in the States, Volume II—provides an update to the inaugural version of the report, originally published in 2014. As in 2014, the updated version challenges the claims of politicians who have passed abortion restrictions under the guise of protecting women’s health and safety. Indeed, the report finds that many of the states that have the highest number of restrictions included in the research—including Texas (11 restrictions), Louisiana (13 restrictions), and Arkansas (13 restrictions) —have dramatically fewer policies that would truly address the challenges women and their families face. Shareable infographics that illustrate the report’s findings are available on Ibis Reproductive Health’s website. The worst offenders—states that have passed ten or more of the restrictions included in analyses—account for a disproportionately large number of the nearly 400 abortion restrictions politicians have passed since 2010. And the trend continues; in the last three weeks the Texas legislature has introduced almost 20 new anti-abortion restrictions in a Special Legislative Session, convened after the end of the official session.

Massachusetts Governor Signs Bill To Allow Recreational Pot

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By Reid Wilson for The Hill – Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) has signed a new measure that sets in motion a nearly yearlong process to legalize marijuana for recreational use, after months of negotiations with the state legislature. The law comes nine months after voters in Massachusetts and three other states approved ballot measures to allow recreational marijuana. The first recreational pot shops are set to open in July 2018. “We appreciate the careful consideration the legislature took to balance input from lawmakers, educators, public safety officials and public health professionals, while honoring the will of the voters regarding the adult use of marijuana,” Baker said in a statement. The new legislation makes significant changes to the initiative Bay State voters passed last year, increasing sales taxes on legal marijuana from 12 percent to 20 percent. The state will levy a 17 percent tax, while municipalities will issue their own 3 percent tax. Massachusetts anticipates generating as much as $83 million in tax revenue from marijuana sales during the first year of legalization alone, the state Department of Revenue estimated earlier this year. Sales during the second year are expected to top out at more than $1 billion, generating tax revenue of up to $200 million.

Incredible Quinceañera Protest At Texas Capitol Against Vile Anti-Immigrant Law

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By Rafi Schwartz for Fusion – On Wednesday, a group of 15 teenage girls, dressed in brightly colored gowns, stood in front of the Texas State Capitol to participate in one of Latin American culture’s most cherished traditions: the quinceañera. But this quinceañera was more than simply a coming-of-age celebration. Instead, it was a public protest against one of the most viciously anti-immigrant pieces of legislation in Texas’ recent history: SB4, the so-called “sanctuary cities bill.” SB4—which essentially forces Texas cities to comply with federal immigration law enforcement actions—has been one of the state’s most hotly contested pieces of legislation all year, drawing comparisons to Arizona’s infamous “papers please” law, and prompting massive protests. Dubbed “Quinceañera at the Capitol,” the protest was organized by Latino advocacy group Jolt, which describes itself on Facebook as a “Texas-based multi-issue organization that builds the political power and influence of Latinos in our democracy.”

Lawmakers Seek To Make It A Crime To Support BDS Against Israel

Mark Apollo/Pacific Press/SIPA/AP

By Glenn Greenwald and Ryan Grim for The Intercept – THE CRIMINALIZATION OF political speech and activism against Israel has become one of the gravest threats to free speech in the West. In France, activists have been arrested and prosecuted for wearing T-shirts advocating a boycott of Israel. The U.K. has enacted a series of measures designed to outlaw such activism. In the U.S., governors compete with one another over who can implement the most extreme regulations to bar businesses from participating in any boycotts aimed even at Israeli settlements, which the world regards as illegal. On U.S. campuses, punishment of pro-Palestinian students for expressing criticisms of Israel is so commonplace that the Center for Constitutional Rights refers to it as “the Palestine Exception” to free speech. But now, a group of 43 senators — 29 Republicans and 14 Democrats — wants to implement a law that would make it a felony for Americans to support the international boycott against Israel, which was launched in protest of that country’s decades-old occupation of Palestine. The two primary sponsors of the bill are Democrat Ben Cardin of Maryland and Republican Rob Portman of Ohio.

Scott Walker Set To Sign Koch Anti-Regulations Bill In Wisconsin

Koch Industries puppet Credit: Ryan O'Hara, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

By Steve Horn for Desmog – A bill with the potential to hobble government agencies’ ability to propose regulations, known as the REINS (Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny) Act, has passed in both chambers of the Wisconsin Legislature and Republican Governor Scott Walker’s office has told DeSmog he intends to sign it into law. REINS has been pushed for years at the federal level by Americans for Prosperity (AFP), the conservative advocacy group funded and founded with money from Koch Industries, and a federal version of it currently awaits a U.S. Senate vote. The House bill, H.R. 26, passed on January 5 as one of the current Congress’s first actions. Wisconsin’s version mandates that if a proposed regulation causes “$10 million or more in implementation and compliance costs” over a two year period, that rule must either be rewritten or go by the wayside. Known as Senate Bill 15, the Wisconsin bill passed the state Senate on a party-line vote, 62-34 and would be the first state-level REINS bill on the books in the country. “Governor Walker has thanked the Legislature for sharing his commitment to bold regulatory reform and looks forward to signing the bill into law,” Jack Jablonski, a spokesperson for Governor Walker, said in a statement provided to DeSmog. Jablonski did not provide a timeline as to when Walker plans to sign the bill.

350+ Groups Oppose Dirty Senate Energy Bill That Will Hasten Climate Chaos

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By Staff of Food & Water Watch – As the Senate considers a broad energy policy package that would encourage increased fossil fuel extraction and consumption, more than 350 national, statewide and local groups sent a letter to Minority Leader Chuck Schumer today calling on him to lead opposition to the bill – S. 1460, the Energy and Natural Resources Act of 2017 – and ultimately prevent its passage. The letter, organized by the advocacy group Food & Water Watch, states in part: “No energy legislation is better than bad energy legislation that serves to increase our dependence on dirty fossil fuel production instead of building on successful policies to expand clean energy sources… We find it astounding that any energy bill could contain a ‘Renewables’ subtitle but not include provisions on solar and wind energy.” The letter is signed by notable national organizations including: Food & Water Watch, League of Women Voters, Our Revolution, CREDO, Working Families Party, Friends of the Earth and Center for Biological Diversity. “This energy bill is long-term commitment pledge between America and the fossil fuel industry, and it will hasten our reckless advance toward climate chaos,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch.

Nevada Governor Vetoes Bill Banning Private Prisons

Image by sobyrne99 via Wikimedia Commons and is licensed under CC BY 2.0
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By Beryl Lipton for Muckrock – After signing up for 200 private beds, the state leaves open the option of contracting even more. Nevada’s move to ban for-profit prisons was struck down at the finish line last week when Governor Brian Sandoval vetoed a bill that would have prohibited their use by the state law enforcement, citing the possibility that for-profit prisons have a larger role to play in managing the state’s incarcerated population. Assembly Bill 303 would have provided the Department of Corrections five years to renovate existing facilities, allowing for out-of-state and private prison use in the interim, before eliminating the state’s relationships with the for-profit operators. In his statement on the veto, Governor Sandoval pointed to an encroachment on the authority of the executive branch as well as the possibility that overcrowding in the state’s facilities may require the option of utilizing private prison beds out-of-state. Assemblywoman Daniele Monroe-Moreno, D-North Las Vegas, a former corrections officer, introduced AB 303 and reportedly worked with the Nevada Department of Corrections to deal with concerns that implementation would be too costly. The state is currently operating at over 183 percent capacity, well over emergency levels.

In Red Pairs: Handmaids Are Resisting

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By Abby Zimet for Common Dreams – Women occupying senators’ offices Friday aren’t alone in resisting the all-male “declaration of war on women” that would be repeal of Obamacare and enactment of a GOP health plan widely blasted as “catastrophic.” Getting creative, women from Texas to Ohio have increasingly been protesting assaults on women’s health care by dramatically donning red robes and white bonnets to channel Margaret Atwood’s dystopian-themed “The Handmaid’s Tale,” wherein women are forced to bear children in a totalitarian society. Their goal: To remind persistently-backwards-looking conservatives that Atwood’s vision of women defined purely by their reproductive capacity is not, in fact, “an instruction manual.” Atwood’s 1985 novel depicts women stripped of their rights in a theocratic, patriarchal, not-so-distant Gilead – aka America – rendered barren by environmental disaster, where fertile women, or handmaids, must bear the children of regime leaders and are controlled by them. Initially seen as a cautionary tale, the book has seen new life as a hit TV show on Hulu; it gained new resonance when Trump got “elected” in the middle of filming. Atwood has long argued its premise is based on old, real human themes: Historically, she notes, “There is no totalitarianism worth its salt that doesn’t try to control women.”