When Will The US Learn From Australia? Stricter Gun Control Laws Save Lives

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By Rebecca Peters for The Guardian – The mass murder in Newtown Connecticut a year ago caused shock and sorrow all around the world. In Australia it also revived memories of our own horror on a similar scale, when dozens of people innocently going about their day were gunned down by a disturbed young man. Our tragedy occurred in 1996 at the Port Arthur historic site in Tasmania, one of Australia’s most popular tourist destinations. The dead numbered 35, with more than 20 others injured. The victims ranged in age from 3 to 72. They included children, teens, adults and seniors; tourists and local workers; several couples, a pair of brothers, a mother and her two little daughters, and members of a retirees’ club on an outing. This was not the first shooting massacre we had suffered, but it was the largest in living memory. The tragedy ignited an explosion of public outrage, soul-searching and demands for better regulation of guns. We changed our laws. As a result, gun deaths in Australia have dropped by two-thirds, and we have never had another mass shooting. Every country is unique, but Australia is more similar to the US than is, say, Japan or England. We have a frontier history and a strong gun culture. Each state and territory has its own gun laws, and in 1996 these varied widely between the jurisdictions.

The Pros And Cons Of A ConCon?

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By Peter Rugh for The Indypendent – On Nov. 7 voters in New York State will have an opportunity to gamble. Every two decades the option to call a statewide constitutional convention, or ConCon, appears on ballots. It is a chance to enshrine into law new progressive provisions lawmakers are unwilling or unable to enact — campaign finance reforms, term limits on the state legislature and enhanced worker rights and environmental protections. Lawmakers in Albany can enact constitutional changes that are subject to voter approval, but a ConCon is “the only mechanism in New York that bypasses the legislature’s gatekeeping power,” said J.H. Snider, who runs the New York State Constitutional Convention Clearinghouse. He sees this year’s vote on a potential ConCon as a much-needed opportunity to clean up the state’s foundational text. “The constitution needs to be modernized,” Snider said of the 43-page document. “It’s a cesspool. Nobody reads it. It’s way too long. It’s full of obsolete laws.” The ConCon “provides a unique democratic function in New York. People may decide they want to exercise that right or not, but they should understand that right.” If voters give the ConCon the go-ahead this November, the following year they will have the ability to elect delegates, three for each of New York’s 63 Senate districts and 15 statewide. On April 2, 2019 the ConCon would convene in Albany.

Stop The Border Surveillance Bill

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By Adam Schwartz for EFF – EFF opposes a new federal bill that would dramatically expand dragnet biometric and other surveillance of U.S. citizens and immigrants alike at and near the U.S. border. Sen. Cornyn (R-TX) introduced S. 1757, styled the Building America’s Trust Act, in August. EFF’s opposition letter objects to the following provisions of the bill: Biometric Border Screening. The bill would require the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to collect biometric information from all people who exit the U.S., including U.S. and foreign citizens. This would entrench and expand DHS’s existing program of facial recognition of all international travelers who take certain outgoing flights from U.S. airports. EFF opposes such biometric border screening, given the sensitivity of biometric information, the threat it will be stolen or misused, and the hazard of mission creep. Collection of Immigrants’ DNA. The bill would require DHS to collect DNA and other biometric information from “any individual filing an application, petition, or other request for immigration benefit or status.” EFF has long opposed dragnet biometric surveillance of immigrants. DNA surveillance raises special concerns, because DNA can expose sensitive information about familial history and health issues.

Trump’s Unpaid-For Tax Cuts May Total $5 Trillion In New Tax Plan

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By Staff of Americans For Tax Fairness – Failure to pay for tax cuts by closing tax loopholes may put Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and Education on the Chopping Block. An analysis by Americans for Tax Fairness of the tax framework released today by President Trump and Republican leaders in Congress shows that Trump’s tax cuts could total a massive $6.7 to $8.3 trillion, $3 to $5 trillion of which may not be paid for by closing other tax loopholes and/or by limiting tax deductions. The resulting jump in the deficit threatens funding of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, public education and other vital services. The framework is very similar to key features of the tax plans previously released by President Trump and House Speaker Ryan, which is the basis for ATF’s analysis. The table below summarizes the proposed tax cuts in the Trump-Republican leaders’ tax plan, along with estimates of their considerable costs.

Anti-Choice Lawmakers’ Attacks On Independent Abortion Clinics Are Working

Two marshals stand near EMW Clinic, the sole abortion clinic in Kentucky. 
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By Nicole Knight for Rewire – A fight is raging in Louisville, Kentucky, where the extremist anti-abortion group Operation Save America aims to shut down the state’s last remaining abortion clinic. A new report suggests the anti-choice assault in Kentucky isn’t an isolated event. In the past five years, almost one-third of independent abortion clinics have been forced to close, according to a new report out Thursday by Abortion Care Network, a national association of independent providers. The report suggests that while independent clinics provide the majority of U.S. abortion care, “anti-abortion politicians and extremists are forcing these clinics to close at an alarming rate,” said Nikki Madsen, executive director of the Abortion Care Network. Independent clinics are the chief providers of abortion care in the United States. Three in five people ending a pregnancy go to an independent clinic, according to the report. And independent clinics perform 60 percent of U.S. abortions—nearly double the share performed by Planned Parenthood, which has more fundraising might and greater name recognition. Due to their small size and sometimes isolated locations, independent providers, the report notes, “are also most vulnerable to anti-choice attacks (including anti-choice legislation, harassment, and violence), funding restrictions, and other attempts to close clinic doors and make abortion unavailable.”

North Carolina: The New Model For Conservative Rule – And Progressive Renewal

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By Tyler Norris for NC Policy Watch – My home state was once a model for progress. For half a century, North Carolina was a beacon of moderation in the South, an outlier dubbed the “Dixie Dynamo” as early as the 1960’s for its farsighted reforms and public investments. The state had its share of problems, especially around the pernicious legacy of Jim Crow, but many of its trend lines were positive and generated an infectious optimism. I remember that optimism. Even in Appalachia, my father could start a successful small business, and the public schools offered a quality education. In high school, I was given the opportunity to attend the North Carolina School of Science and Math, founded as the first public school of its kind in the early 1980’s and used as a model for 18 other schools nationally. Opportunities were expanding, barriers to mobility were dropping, and the state’s future looked bright. Today, North Carolina is different. The numbers speak for themselves: the share of workers living in poverty is up from one-in-four in 2000 to every one-in-three today, according to the NC Justice Center – the second highest share of any state. Middle-wage jobs have hollowed outand median income has plunged since 2007.

Arizona Unconstitutionally Banned Mexican-American Studies Classes

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By Roque Planas for The Huffington Post. PHOENIX ― A federal judge ruled Tuesday that the state of Arizona violated students’ rights by banning a Mexican-American studies program from Tucson public schools. The ruling issued by U.S. District Judge A. Wallace Tashima found that a law passed by Arizona’s Republican-dominated state legislature in 2010 violated both the First and 14th Amendments. It marks a major victory for educators and activists who viewed the ethnic studies law as a flatly discriminatory effort by Arizona Republicans to keep Hispanic students from learning about their history or studying writers of color that are often ignored in public schools. Curtis Acosta, one of the former teachers of the banned program, celebrated the ruling on Twitter.

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

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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.