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Huffington Post News - 14 min 33 sec ago
Bill O'Reilly was almost a model. Yes. A model.
The Fox News host said Wednesday night that during the 1970s, while he was working for KMGH-TV in Denver, he was approached by a modeling agency to be the Marlboro man-- the iconic face of the cigarette advertising campaign in America.
O'Reilly said they wanted him "dressed as a cowboy" for the modeling job.
O'Reilly brushed past that disturbing image, going on to discuss his strong anti-marijuana stance and renaming the nation "The United States of Intoxication."
He said the high rate of marijuana use in America "raises public safety concerns" because pot-smoking has been linked to "brain abnormalities" -- an issue raised by this new study -- and increased selfishness in people.
"There should be a campaign against pot just like there is against tobacco, should there not?" he asked.
Hmm...we wonder who he thinks should be the model for that campaign.
We now leave you with the 1970's Marlboro commercial so you can imagine Bill O'Reilly as the star cowboy:
Categories: Political News and Opinion
Huffington Post News - 19 min 45 sec ago
Tuscaloosa’s schools today are not as starkly segregated as they were in 1954, the year the Supreme Court declared an end to separate and unequal education in America. No all-white schools exist anymore—the city’s white students generally attend schools with significant numbers of black students. But while segregation as it is practiced today may be different than it was 60 years ago, it is no less pernicious: in Tuscaloosa and elsewhere, it involves the removal and isolation of poor black and Latino students, in particular, from everyone else. In Tuscaloosa today, nearly one in three black students attends a school that looks as if Brown v. Board of Education never happened.
Categories: Political News and Opinion
Huffington Post News - 22 min 59 sec ago
Russian President Vladimir Putin quashed the possibility that Russia would annex Alaska while on a question-and-answer call-in show Thursday, adding that the former Russian colony is cold, too.
Amid rising Russian nationalism after the president’s annexation of Crimea, Putin responded to an audience member’s suggestion of annexing Alaska during the televised national phone-in, asking, “Faina Ivanovna, my dear, why do you want Alaska?"
Russia is a "northern country" and 70 percent of its territory lies in "Northern and extreme Northern regions," Putin said, according to Russian news agency RIA Novosti. "Is Alaska really in the Southern Hemisphere? It’s cold there, too. Let's not get hot-headed,” he added. Russia sold Alaska to the U.S. in 1867 for $7.2 million.
“Who needs Alaska?” Putin added.
A White House petition calling for Alaska to secede from the U.S. and rejoin Russia has garnered more than 42,000 signatures since the initiative launched in March.
Despite rising tensions between the two nations, Putin assured his audience Thursday that “growing relations with the United States” remains in Russia's best interest.
“I want to emphasize once again, Russia is interested in growing relations with the United States and will do everything to ensure that this confidence is restored," Putin said.
The U.S. levied sanctions against Russia and select government officials in response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March, and has warned that additional sanctions will be imposed if Russia further intervenes to destabilize Ukraine.
Categories: Political News and Opinion
Huffington Post News - 24 min 47 sec ago
BOSTON (AP) — A year after homemade bombs ripped through the Boston Marathon, state and federal officials have enacted virtually no policy changes in response to the attack, a dramatic departure from previous acts of terrorism that prompted waves of government action.
"There was a great deal of concern right after this happened," said Rep. William Keating, a Massachusetts Democrat. "Now, people are focused on so many different issues." Washington's formal response to the attack has been limited to a series of investigations and reports that call for improved cooperation between the federal government and local law enforcement. In the Massachusetts Statehouse, legislators have created a license plate to honor the victims, while considering modest proposals to reimburse local police departments involved in the frantic search for those behind the attack.
Despite symbolic pledges of support from elected officials across the nation on this week's anniversary, there is little evidence of any significant impact on policy. Instead of allocating new federal resources, funding that helps cities prepare for terrorism may be reduced. And it's unclear if Congress will adopt any legislative remedies to address perceived intelligence failures that leave cities vulnerable to so-called lone wolf strikes.
"This is still an ongoing threat. I don't think there's anybody in law enforcement that would say what happened in Boston couldn't happen anywhere," said former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who testified before a congressional panel last year, calling for action.
But the politics of terrorism have changed significantly since Giuliani led his city's response to the 9/11 attacks more than a decade ago.
Polling suggests that terrorism barely registers among voter priorities — even in the months immediately after the April 15, 2013, attack that killed three and wounded more than 260 others gathered around the marathon finish line.
Experts also report that the limited response is due, in part, to the low number of deaths relative to previous terrorist attacks on American soil.
Al-Qaida operatives killed nearly 3,000 people on Sept. 11, 2001, and 168 died in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. Policymakers enacted an overwhelming legislative response to 9/11, creating a new federal agency, the Homeland Security Department, and sending a flood of money to help local officials across the country improve their ability to prevent and respond to a mass-casualty terrorist attack.
The changes improved anti-terrorism efforts at the state and federal level, which has already been credited with preventing some attacks in recent years and minimizing the loss of life in last spring's Boston bombing. But the U.S. government has long feared a Boston Marathon-type attack that's carried out by people motivated by ideology but not tied to any designated terrorist group.
"We see the horror of the Boston Marathon bombings, and you say to yourself, 'We still have a long way to go,'" said Tom Ridge, the first secretary of the Homeland Security Department and now a homeland security consultant. "I'm not convinced that this could not have been avoided."
Several months before the bombing, Russian officials warned U.S. security officials that the accused bombers might be religious extremists. Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed in a shootout with police three days after the bombing, while his brother, Dzhokhar, is awaiting trial on 30 charges in federal court.
A yearlong review of U.S. intelligence released this month found that the investigation prior to the bombing could have been more thorough, but the intelligence agencies' inspectors general said it is impossible to know whether anything could have been done differently to prevent the attack. A report released late last month by the House Homeland Security Committee raised concerns about the lack of information sharing between local officials and federal authorities.
Giuliani said that local law enforcement officers "have to become our front-line of defense" as the nation prepares for more "homegrown terrorist activity."
"There just has to be more sharing with local police," Giuliani told The Associated Press.
Voters appear to have little appetite for a renewed focus on national security after a decade in which anti-terrorism efforts — in addition to wars in Afghanistan and Iraq — have consumed tremendous public resources and attention. Changes in law and policy that could address preventing domestic "lone wolf" attackers would likely involve more surveillance of Americans, an issue that elected officials are reluctant to embrace following revelations that the National Security Agency collected phone records and emails of millions of U.S. citizens as part of ongoing anti-terrorism efforts.
That leaves Keating largely alone as he crafts legislation he hopes will help avert future attacks. The second-term congressman plans to introduce a bill this year that would incorporate much of the Homeland Security Committee's recent recommendations, which include expanded cooperation between federal and local law enforcement and improved screening of international travelers. He said he may introduce the legislation in parts, depending on the level of support from other lawmakers.
At the same time, Keating says, there are signs that the federal government may cut some of the grant programs that help cities like Boston prepare for terrorist attacks. He said he is working to avoid that, but as a relatively junior Democratic congressman in the Republican-led House, that task is not an easy one.
"Unfortunately, the interest level on a tragedy like this peaks when it occurs," he said.
Associated Press writers Eileen Sullivan in Washington and Bob Salsberg in Boston contributed to this report.
Categories: Political News and Opinion
Huffington Post News - 30 min 57 sec ago
LAS VEGAS (AP) — Three Clark County School District employees are on leave after a state investigation concluded adults altered the answer sheets on standardized tests at a Las Vegas elementary school, leading to skyrocketing scores from one year to the next.
The Nevada Department of Education issued a statement Wednesday saying the 2011-2012 test scores at Kelly Elementary School will be invalidated. A district spokeswoman said Principal Patricia Harris, Assistant Principal Steven Niemeier and Associate Superintendent Andre Denson have been placed on leave and could face disciplinary measures, such as losing their licenses. "I have no doubt that a testing irregularity occurred at this school and that student answer sheets were altered by one or more adults in the system," state Superintendent Dale Erquiaga said. "Testing-security procedures were also breached. However, the investigation has not yielded the identity of the individual or group of individuals who changed the answers in 2012."
The three administrators could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday afternoon.
The investigation into Kelly Elementary's suspicious scores began after a tipster submitted an anonymous report in April 2012 alleging that the school's principal coached students to change the answers on a statewide Criterion Referenced Test administered in the spring of 2012. An associate superintendent interviewed the principal in May, asked her whether she had coached the students, and then concluded the investigation when the principal said she hadn't, the state report said.
But scores released in June 2012 showed eyebrow-raising improvement at the low-performing school. State data show that from 2008 to 2011, the number of Kelly Elementary fifth-graders considered proficient in reading never reached 25 percent. That figure leaped to nearly 78 percent for the 2011-2012 school year, and it hovered at 72 percent in 2012-2013.
The results fit neatly into the narrative of reforms transforming a struggling school, the report said: a low-achieving school implemented major changes, test scores turned around and student success was celebrated. When the scores were released, school officials provided no explanation for the dramatic improvement aside from saying students tried hard and reforms were in place, the report continued.
The high scores landed the school a coveted five-star ranking during the first year Nevada started using such a measurement. While the star rankings can boost a school's reputation, a good score doesn't come with a financial award, and no employees have been fired on the basis of their ranking, district spokeswoman Kirsten Searer said.
During the investigation, which also included the Nevada Attorney General's office, an erasure-detection analysis found a disproportionate number of answers were changed from wrong to right.
When the district supervised the test in 2013, scores declined significantly, education officials said. The school's ranking also plummeted to two stars.
The education department deposed or interviewed fifteen witnesses, including teachers who gave the test, the school's office manager and administrators. Investigators also reviewed more than 2,000 pages of documents obtained through subpoenas, officials said.
Clark County School District Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky said he's grateful for the investigation and will review the findings to determine the next steps.
"It is important that our community have faith in the validity of our standardized testing," he said in a statement. "Once I have had a chance to review the department's full report and recommendations, I will take appropriate action so our students, parents and community can move forward."
Categories: Political News and Opinion
Huffington Post News - 32 min 6 sec ago
Inequality has been on everyone's lips from President Obama to Mayor DeBlasio from the Wall Street Journal and NY Times to The Indypendent.
Which inequality? There are plenty to choose from including gender, racial, income, and wealth though the one that resonates across the political spectrum is the inequality of opportunity.
Americans are more generally accepting of these higher degrees of income and wealth inequality because of their staunch faith that American society is more of a meritocracy than other countries.
This faith is woefully undermined by the data, which show that in America, who your parents were is far more important to your success than it is in other countries. Americans' acceptance of inequality is based on this misconception of American meritocracy--on the false belief that America rewards those of sufficient ability and diligence more readily than other nations.
Most Americans want to believe that we live in a society in which an individual's success is mostly determined by his or her talent and effort and not by winning a birth lottery of inherited wealth and connections. In a true meritocracy, everyone, regardless of race, creed, economic background, or parents' education, has an equally fair shot at achieving his or her own greatness. America proudly points to example after example of this American dream--from presidents who rose from humble beginnings to the self-made techno-billionaires who started their businesses in the garage.
This belief in American meritocracy has created the long-held perception of the United States as a "land of opportunity," the desired destination of countless immigrants over hundreds of years, many with dreams of political freedom, religious freedom, and economic opportunity. While it didn't take long for these immigrants to discover that the streets were not paved with gold, their children and grandchildren and the many who continue to come here still tend to believe that the U S meritocracy offers a greater opportunity to fulfill aspirations than other countries.
The reality falls far short. Extreme inequality--of income, wealth, or anything else, for that matter--undermines democracy. The concentration of a large portion of assets into the hands of a few has historically been associated with oppression. When wealth is thus aggregated, the wealthy tend to have overwhelming influence on the design of laws that then tilt the balance more and more in their favor. Thus favored, the moneyed classes are even more advantaged when it comes to amassing still more wealth and power, while opportunities for mobility become rarer
Democracy shaped by high income and wealth inequality becomes transformed into governments that seem more like aristocracies. In that scenario, the rich, empowered to direct policy from their gated communities, and the poor, struggling to pay the rent with their minimum wage service-sector McJobs, never meet across the vast disparity of wealth, power, and opportunity.
Inequality breeds instability. Two thousand years ago, Plutarch wrote that "an imbalance between rich and poor is the oldest and most fatal ailment of all republics," a statement proven time and again in history. If a highly unequal society is to be stable, the deprived majority needs to accept that the distribution of income, wealth, rights, and status is fair--or that it is unchangeable. (Physical intimidation has often been used to "encourage" such acceptance and enforce stability.) If the deprived majority does not accept this, then political change is likely to ensue--maybe through a democratic process, maybe through violence. That is why nearly all political experts agree that the existence of extremely large centers of private power and wealth is a threat to the long-term viability of a democracy. The intermittent influence of America's own populist movements has shown how organized people can become an effective counterforce to organized wealth, shaking up the democracy and restoring it to a new level of stability.
Economic inequality could not have been more prominently displayed than in this disparity between the plight of most American taxpayers and the further enrichment, at the taxpayer's expense, of the elites who had helped create the 2007-8 financial crisis. Populist anger raged; politicians grandstanded in response. But nothing happened. Soon the populist anger dissipated, and the public focused on other issues.
One wonders if our nation must be pushed to the brink of self-destruction before it will implement change.
The existence of extremely large centers of private power and wealth is a threat to the long-term viability of American democracy, and the main effective counterforce to organized money is organized people.
The tools to address inequality are well known.
The barriers to using these tools, such as powerful entrenched self-interests, state repression, voter apathy, poor organization, and insufficient sustained action are also well known.
For America to change its course, Americans need to put down the remote, stop checking how many retweets and likes their latest quip received and get out in the streets.
Quotes from this article were taken from Howard Steven Friedman's Measure of a Nation
Follow Howard Steven Friedman's Facebook Fan page
Categories: Political News and Opinion
Huffington Post News - 33 min 1 sec ago
I have been a fan of Hillary since I was eight-years-old. When I was in the second grade, I wrote a letter to then-First Lady Hillary Clinton, and, the moment that I received a response in the mail, I became a supporter through and through. I view Hillary as a strong role model, as do so many other young women today.
I am now in my last semester of law school, and the future is on my mind. Like all third-year law students, I find myself constantly thinking about my career, and, as I face the legal job market, I cannot help but also think about the future decisionmakers of our country who so deeply affect and shape the U.S.'s professional climate. Moreover, due in part to one of my classes this semester, I have been thinking a lot about the structure of our government generally and what is needed to forge progress notwithstanding the sharply divided ideologies of our political parties. All of these thoughts have led me to conclude that we need Hillary in office now more than ever. If elected President in 2016, Hillary's significant experience with virtually all branches and levels of government will give her unique insight in managing future political conflicts that will likely arise within our partisan system.
First, Hillary has substantial experience within both state and federal executive offices. She was the First Lady of Arkansas for over 10 years and the First Lady of the United States for eight years, where she was extensively involved in President Bill Clinton's administration. Moreover, she was a member of President Obama's Cabinet and served as Secretary of State last term. In holding these major executive positions, one can only imagine the amount of comprehensive understanding that Hillary gained in terms of gubernatorial, presidential, and foreign policy and in terms of executive organization and operation.
Next, Hillary has considerable experience within the legislative branch. Early in her career, she assisted in the work of various House and Senate Committees and was herself a U.S. Senator from 2001 to 2009. There is no doubt that this inside knowledge of the federal legislative process would be essential to any President, especially one interested in moving legislation within the divided posture of at least the current Congress.
Finally, in terms of the judicial branch, Hillary is a lawyer and has experience in practice, including making partner at a firm in Arkansas. Moreover, she has experience as a law professor and has also been involved in the work of the American Bar Association. The President's duty is to enforce the law, and knowing and understanding the nuances of our law and legal system is essential to that role.
Growing up, we have all learned about the principles of separation of powers and federalism in our school civics classes. I can think of no one other than Hillary that could better understand these fundamental principles firsthand. Presidential candidates with Hillary's governmental experience do not come around everyday, and we need her profound insight to work towards breaking though the partisan standoffs that seem to characterize current U.S. politics.
Categories: Political News and Opinion
Huffington Post News - 37 min 48 sec ago
As a candidate, he touted a proposal to curb the influence of lobbyists and donors. As a senator, he shelved that plan—and accepted contributions from influence peddlers.
Categories: Political News and Opinion
Huffington Post News - 39 min 39 sec ago
Congressman Walter Jones, a Republican who represents a wide swath of eastern North Carolina, might not strike you as a populist. But as a lawmaker, the veteran politician with a slow Southern drawl has become a gadfly in his own party for thumbing his nose at powerful political interests. He is the only GOP co-sponsor of the DISCLOSE Act, a measure to reveal the donors of dark money campaign advertisements. He is among the loudest critics of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, telling an audience once that, “Lyndon Johnson’s probably rotting in hell right now because of the Vietnam War, and he probably needs to move over for Dick Cheney.” And Speaker John Boehner removed Jones from the House Financial Services Committee, which oversees Wall Street. His sin? Bucking leadership and supporting many bills to further regulate the financial sector, along with serving as the last remaining House Republican to have voted for the Dodd-Frank reform package.
The Republican establishment has attempted to remove Jones from office by dispatching a number of primary challengers over the years. For this cycle, a former Bush administration aide named Taylor Griffin is the party favorite to finally wipe out Jones.
Several outlets, such as Bloomberg News, have reported that Griffin’s candidacy is being heavily promoted by the financial industry. JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo and other banks helped fuel the $114,000 fundraising haul Griffin reported in his first campaign disclosure report. Earlier this week, a Super PAC financed in part by hedge fund titan Paul Singer went on air with a negative ad against Jones.
What hasn’t been reported, however, is that Griffin himself is a longtime political consultant for the biggest predators of Wall Street.
Republic Report has obtained a disclosure report that shows that Griffin’s client list reads like a who’s who of financial interests that have preyed upon North Carolina families for short term gain.
Griffin, whose career includes a stint on the the Bush election campaign team and Treasury Department, is a co-founder of Hamilton Place Strategies, a “policy and public affairs” firm that boasts of its team of former government officials. Like many companies that work to influence policy within the Beltway on behalf of corporate interests, Hamilton Place Strategies does not register under the Lobbying Disclosure Act, though it advertises its ability to shape the regulatory environment. The company, which specializes in public relations, is located a stone’s throw from K Street and the White House in a corridor of Washington favored by many influence peddlers.
Griffin touts himself as a conservative small businessman. His campaign website “About” section only makes a passing reference to his prior position with Hamilton Place Strategies, noting obliquely that he founded a “leading public policy consulting firm, quickly growing it to a business that included over 20 employees on its payroll.” Before launching his campaign in October, Griffin sold his share of the firm and moved to New Bern, a city within North Carolina’s third congressional district.
Griffin’s client list has never before been reported. But a mandatory candidate filing, disclosed by the House Clerk last week, opens a window into his business operation.
Griffin worked for Lender Processing Services Inc. (LPS), the infamous company that forged foreclosure documents on behalf of the big banks. In a practice that became known as “robo-signing,” LPS created over “1 million fraudulently signed and notarized mortgage-related documents with property recorders’ offices throughout the United States.” Citigroup, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase and Ally Financial allegedly used robo-signing to engage in unlawful foreclosures. The robo-signing tactics were reportedly used extensively in North Carolina.
Though Griffin revealed his LPS work on his disclosure form, he also refused to list other clients, noting that “certain confidential clients are not reported due to terms of agreement into at the time services were retained.” But public statements from his company, including from Tony Fratto, another co-founder of Hamilton Place Strategies, shows the firm has been working for Magnetar Capital, a hedge fund famous for helping helping inflate the housing bubble that led to the 2008 financial crisis.
In a Pulitzer-prize winning article for ProPublica, reporter Jesse Eisinger revealed that Magnetar helped create “arcane mortgage-based instruments, pushed for risky things to go inside them and then bet against the investments,” a scheme that earned them hundreds of millions of dollars. Now, according to reports, Magnetar is back in the housing business, taking advantage of low prices to buy up homes and rent them out.
As part of their strategy to dupe investors, Magnetar allegedly enlisted the rating agency Standard & Poor’s to provide a high-level A-grade listing for Magnetar’s synthetic financial products. Though it’s not clear what he did for the firm, Griffin lists McGraw Hill Financial, the parent company of Standard & Poor’s, as one of his clients (the firm has been accused of engaging in other fraudulent rating schemes that led to the financial collapse).
Another Griffin client, according to his ethics form, is an interest group that is actively lobbying to hike property insurance rates on North Carolina families, including those in the Outer Bankers region Griffin hopes to represent.
Griffin works for the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, a trade association for property insurers. This year, the PCIAA promoted a state property insurance hike as high as 35 percent on homeowners in North Carolina beach communities. In Washington, the PCIAA’s team of ten registered lobbyists worked to oppose the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act, recently passed legislation designed to “freeze premium increases on most homes governed by flood-insurance rate maps.”
As the Charlotte Observer reported, without this legislation, some coastal families faced flood insurance rate hikes from $850 a year now to as high as $21,000.
Griffin’s campaign did not respond to Republic Report’s request for comment about his personal finance. The forms, however, have other revelations.
Griffin has told reporters that he sold his shares in Hamilton Place Strategies, suggesting that he is no longer affiliated with the firm or in public policy consulting. However, the disclosure reports show that he has continued to earn a living from Hamilton Place Strategies — at least in excess of $5,000 — and this year earned income (likely through his other consulting firm, Sulgrave Partners) from PCIAA, McGrawHill Financial, Huron Healthcare, Motorola Mobility, and other clients.
In his first television advertisement that began airing this month before the May 5th primary, Griffin says that he is the “clear conservative choice for Congress.” In a spot that is clearly biographical in natural, Griffin references his consulting work for the financial sector interests thusly: “I’ve also owned my own business, so I know what it means to make a budget and stick to it.” Left unsaid, the $406,000 a year he earned promoting the very worst of Wall Street.
Categories: Political News and Opinion
Huffington Post News - 42 min 41 sec ago
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — As the first state to drop the national Common Core learning standards, Indiana is rushing to approve new state-crafted benchmarks in time for teachers to use them this fall, and education leaders from across the nation are closely watching.
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence in March signed legislation requiring new standards to replace the Common Core, even though the state was among 45 states that in recent years adopted the national standards spelling out what students should be learning in math and reading at each grade level. Some conservatives have criticized the initiative as a top-down takeover of local schools, and about 100 state bills were introduced this year to pause or repeal the standards, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
"Since Indiana is the very first state that has actually gone in this direction, I view this situation as incredibly important to get it as right as they possibly can," said James Milgram, an emeritus professor of mathematics at Stanford University and former Indiana resident who reviewed earlier versions of the standards.
Although officials are scurrying to finish the guidelines by the end of June to meet a demand from the Legislature, some have warned the stakes are too high to rush. The approved standards will determine what Indiana public students will be learning for the next six years.
The Indiana Education Roundtable is scheduled to vote on the standards Monday before sending them to the State Board of Education, which has final approval. Monday's meeting is the last chance to request changes to the proposed standards before the state board meets April 28 to either approve or reject the plan.
If either the roundtable or Board of Education rejects the standards, the process of crafting the standards would start again. That could delay getting them to teachers, who typically use their summers to prepare for the opening of the school year in the fall.
And getting higher institution leaders' approval of those standards is vital for Indiana to keep a waiver exempting the state from strict accountability measures in the federal No Child Left Behind Act. The current draft already has the thumbs up.
The tight timeline has frustrated some education officials, who note that the process already has been delayed.
The public had four weeks to digest the first draft and give input, which ultimately delayed the final board meeting about three weeks as drafters sifted through nearly 2,000 online comments. Milgram said he took 10 days to do a complete review of part of the math standards. Three weeks were devoted to finalizing the latest draft.
Some experts and board members say they're still trying to assess what they'll be voting on.
The governor's special assistant for education innovation and reform, Claire Fiddian-Green, said the more than 6,000 hours spent revising the standards and including expert advice mean the latest version is a "substantially different document" compared with what one expert called "half-baked" standards that were included in the last draft.
Fiddian-Green said no analysis is planned to compare this version with the previous draft and with Common Core.
Board member David Freitas said he anticipates he'll have enough time to review the standards but said more questions could come up during the Education Roundtable and final board meeting that could push things off course.
"There may be some philosophical or conceptual disagreements on some particular components of it," Freitas said during a recent board meeting. "We have a responsibility not to accept it carte blanche and just say, 'People worked on it and therefore we're going to approve it.'"
Board member Andrea Neal said she sent copies of the draft Tuesday night for a final expert evaluation to guide any insight she might give the Education Roundtable.
"We're doing way too much, too rushed at the last minute," Neal said. "I don't think that's the appropriate (process) for developing world-class standards."
The shift away from Common Core has left many teachers confused and frustrated as they prepare to work with their third set of standards since 2009, School City of Hammond Superintendent Walter Watkins said. Though teachers will adjust, educators say further delay would likely compound that frustration.
"Any delay past that time really then puts the professionals in a compromised position," Indiana State Teachers Association Vice President Keith Gambill said. "At some point in time, there has to be: This is it."
Categories: Political News and Opinion
Huffington Post News - 47 min 23 sec ago
Trigger warning: This post contains description of sexual violence.
My name is Marcel and I am a survivor of military sexual trauma. I entered the Air Force on Nov. 30, 1981 when I was 21 years-old. I was stationed at Pope Air Force Base, in Fayetteville, N.C. Recently separated from my abusive husband, I was a single mother of two daughters, aged 2 and 5.
The rape happened on an ordinary evening in 1989. Bath time was finished and my daughters were tucked into bed -- fast asleep in the bedroom the three of us always shared.
I received a phone call from a male acquaintance. He outranked me and was known for being a gossip on base. He told me he had something important to tell me, and even though I said it was late, and asked if it could wait, he insisted he needed to tell me in person, that night. I remember that I was wearing a light blue cotton sweat suit.
It was about 10:30 p.m. when he arrived. I could smell greasy food and alcohol on his clothes. His eyes were bloodshot and he seemed agitated and nervous. I tried to get him to tell me what he'd come to say, but he skated around the topic and invited himself inside. He started asking me questions -- things I didn't want to answer -- about my personal life and my relationship with my husband.
He then proceeded to sit down beside me on the couch and started touching me. I told him to stop. He tried to kiss me. I could smell the greasy food and alcohol even more. I tried to push him off of me. He got forceful, pulling at my sweat pants. He pinned my head down at the top of the couch.
I was so afraid. All I could think about was my precious daughters sleeping in the bedroom with the door open, less than three feet away.
What if my daughters woke up and came out of the room? Would he hurt them? I was so frightened. I didn't want to make any noise. My body went limp.
When he was finished, he said, "I'll see you tomorrow." I was numb and in a daze. I wanted him out of my apartment. I felt dirty, filthy and worthless.
Like many military members who survive a sexual assault, the process of reporting the rape and seeking some justice was a long, despairing and ultimately fruitless effort.
I contacted the Fayetteville Police who collaborated with the Air Force Office of Special Investigation on my case. They interrogated me about the incident on a weekly basis. I was accused on numerous occasions of lying about what happened to me, and of being in a relationship with my rapist. The case eventually made it to the Cumberland County District Attorney's office but the charges were after some time, reduced to "misdemeanor assault on a female."
From my experience with the military and in my present job as a social worker, I've realized that many people don't fully understand or care to acknowledge the severe toll sexual assault has on victims. It is a crime that people would prefer to belittle or ignore, where the victim is often blamed and the trauma and shame are ongoing and unrelenting.
Every person in this country has a role to play in ending sexual assault. By simply learning how to start a conversation about it, and raising awareness, we can begin to cultivate a culture where sexual assault is seen as it should be: as unacceptable and inexcusable.
A new movement is bringing people, non-profits, corporations, survivors and bystanders together to do just that. It's called NO MORE, and it's a new symbol, like the pink breast cancer ribbon, that is helping break the silence around domestic violence and sexual assault once and for all.
This April, Sexual Assault Awareness Month, I want to give courage and hope to others who have survived sexual assault, especially members of the military. I want survivors to know they are not alone and that what happened to them was not their fault.
I also want to ask more people to join the NO MORE movement. By getting this symbol and sharing it with your friends, family members and coworkers, you can be part of the solution. The people behind NO MORE are working toward a day when no one has to go through the pain that I and millions of other mothers, sisters, sons and daughters, have suffered as a result of sexual assault.
Decide this month to make ending sexual assault part of your mission. It is an issue that impacts all of us, and we all have a stake in ending it.
For so many years I kept what happened to me hidden. I couldn't talk about it. I felt powerless and alone, like I couldn't make a difference. Today, I'm humbled to be part of something much larger than myself. Together we can make a difference. We can show survivors that we won't stop fighting for them until there is NO MORE sexual assault. I hope that you will join me.
This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post in conjunction with Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Read all posts in the series here.
Need help? In the U.S., visit the National Sexual Assault Online Hotline operated by RAINN. For more resources, visit the National Sexual Violence Resource Center's website.
Categories: Political News and Opinion
Huffington Post News - 50 min 19 sec ago
This week marks the one-year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing. The bombing was a stunning display of domestic terror that blew apart an April day that should have been full of celebration and accomplishment. Three people, including an eight-year-old boy, were killed and two-hundred people were injured, some severely, in the explosion. A fourth man was killed during the police investigation.
The crime, indeed, was heinous, and the suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was not particularly sympathetic. It perhaps comes as no surprise that this past January, U.S. Attorney Eric Holder announced the federal government would seek the death penalty against Tsarnaev. But the death penalty, even in this horrible case, is unlikely to serve the interests of the people of Massachusetts and the taxpayers of America. Instead, it only likely extends the suffering of all involved, and hurts the credibility of the United States in the international human rights arena.
The people of Massachusetts and the residents of Boston specifically, are not clamoring for the death penalty. Indeed, a 2013 survey of Boston residents, conducted several months after the bombing, found that 57 percent favored life without parole over the death penalty for the suspect. In other words, a majority of residents believed that the death penalty was not the answer in this case.
Boston's ambivalence toward capital punishment is consistent with the State of Massachusetts at large. The last execution in Massachusetts took place in 1947. In 1984, the Supreme Court of Massachusetts declared capital punishment to be unconstitutional. Attempts by then-Governor Romney, among others, to reinstate the death penalty gained no traction.
But this is not a Massachusetts prosecution. It is a federal prosecution, spearheaded by Holder, who is personally opposed to capital punishment. The Tsarnaev prosecution will be the most high profile death penalty case since Timothy McVeigh was charged in the Oklahoma City bombing that left 168 people dead and over 600 wounded.
The McVeigh prosecution cost taxpayers over $13.8 million dollars. And that trial took place in 1997. Federal capital prosecutions are expensive. The average cost to the taxpayer of defending a trial in a federal death case is $620,932. This is roughly eight times more expensive than a non-capital murder case. Capital cases, by definition are bound to cost more -- a lot more -- because as the Supreme Court has said, "death is different." In capital cases, for example, pre-trial motion practice and jury selection are far more complicated and extensive than non-capital cases. Defendants have a bifurcated trial in which the jury first decides guilt and second determines the penalty. And then there are years of protracted appeals. All of this takes more time and resources than non-death penalty cases, and comes with a much higher price tag.
Yet, for all that expense, the federal death penalty rarely results in an execution. Since the reinstatement of the federal death penalty in 1988, over 70 defendants have been sentenced to death, but only three have been executed. One of those three was Timothy McVeigh, who was executed in 2001 only after voluntarily dropping his appeals. The vast majority of federal death row inmates, however, will languish on death row, serving a sentence that is rarely implemented and often only after lengthy years of litigation. This draws out the pain and uncertainty for victims, defendants, and their families alike.
If cost and uncertainty were not enough, the federal government also could have declined to bring capital charges simply because the use of capital punishment is hurting our moral legitimacy in the international arena. The United States is an international outlier in the developed world for its support of the death penalty, ranking only behind China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Iraq in its use of death penalty as a lawful sentence. Since many nations consider the death penalty to violate human rights, the United States' continued support of capital punishment makes it hard for us to have legitimacy when we seek to police human rights abuses.
The federal government also risks enabling Tsarnaev to martyr himself in front of the entire world. Tsarnaev could use the capital trial as an opportunity to broadcast his radical views and to accept the punishment of death as a moment of extremist jihad. A non-capital trial would have diluted that argument, and allowed Tsarnaev to fade into obscurity, inside an anonymous prison cell, for the rest of his natural life; a punishment that is as slow and tedious as it is severe.
Perhaps, as some have suggested, the federal government brought these capital charges to push Tsarnaev into a plea agreement for a life without parole sentence. The irony, of course, is that a state prosecution could have resulted in exactly the same outcome and just as effectively would have spoken for a majority of the people of Massachusetts.
Tsarnaev, if found guilty of these charges, committed a terrible crime. Proponents of capital punishment argue that if ever a case deserved a death sentence, it is this one. But perhaps it is time to rethink whether any case should be punished by death. Tsarnaev can be appropriately punished without an execution, with less expense, more certainty, and no loss to the United States of international standing.
Categories: Political News and Opinion
Huffington Post News - 1 hour 3 min ago
The media just love anniversaries. But I'm wondering how many mass media outlets will pick up on a confluence of two such commemorations this coming week -- a 50th and a 20th -- which mark separate major events in the long life of a recently departed global giant.
Nelson Mandela, who died late last year at age 95, was nearly 46 when exactly 50 years ago this Sunday he stood in a courtroom to defend himself against terrorism charges, using powerful words that have resounded throughout the world for decades.
Those words did not prevent him from being sentenced to life in prison, but they may possibly have spared him the expected death penalty. Fast forward three decades and we see Mandela finally freed, and triumphantly elected, on April 27, 1994, as the first black leader of South Africa.
There seems much less to celebrate now as that country approaches another presidential election next month, when the current incumbent Jacob Zuma, like his predecessor Thabo Mbeki, will (undoubtedly) gain a second term in office. Mandela, by significant contrast with both his successors, made it clear from very early on -- and kept his promise -- that he would be stepping down after just one term. Unhappy comparisons are obviously made, as his successors have presided over black rule characterized by increasing corruption and the abandonment of high principle.
It's worth recalling attentively those reverberating Mandela words from the 1960s. They do spell out so clearly the principles of democracy, including the sometimes vexing question of majority rule versus minority rights, to which Mandela adhered throughout his time in prison, and to which his African National Congress has always professed allegiance (sometime unpopularly so, at times in its long history).
Mandela said the following from the prisoner's dock in 1964 -- much later to dramatically repeated it word for word in the first speech he made after being released from prison:
I have fought against white domination and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons will live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal for which I hope to live and to see realized. But, my lord, if it needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.
["My Lord" was of, course, an honorific reference to the presiding judge -- a quaint inheritance from ancient British legal procedure. Some things don't change much; overseas viewers and listeners to extracts from the current Oscar Pistorius murder trial might be baffled by the occasional "My Lady", dropped in for the benefit of Judge Thokozile Masipa. She's a former journalist who became the second female black judge in the Johannesburg region's High Court.]
There is some remarkable audio, complete with creaking courtroom furniture, of Mandela's original courtroom statement, thanks to smart new technology and assiduous work at the British Museum, whose staff managed to reconstruct his words from a dilapidated "Dictaphone" tape made of thick plastic that 1960s South African courts customarily used.
Fifty years after they were first expressed, it's also worth revisiting some other crucial ideas contained in that defendant's speech -- especially those addressing the perennial dilemma for fighters against injustice. The question of violence or non-violence as the means to achieve the final aim of justice took up a substantial amount of Mandela's lengthy address from the prisoner's dock -- but the media have never quoted it as frequently as his peroration about being prepared to face execution.
Media commentators have signally avoided it in the months following his death. Far too many writers seem to have forgotten -- if they ever knew, or had bothered to look it up -- that Mandela's actual position in the ANC was as the militarily-trained chief of its armed wing, Umkhonto We Sizwe (literally, "Spear of the Nation"). Almost in lock-step they have preferred to hail Mandela -- to mention just one especially simple-minded sobriquet -- as the "Icon of Peaceful Resistance".
On that vexed question of peaceful action versus violence against an unjust authority, Mandela said in court that non-violent approaches had only resulted in bloody suppression by the apartheid authorities, and that a switch by the ANC to armed struggle had become an inescapable necessity:
Because the soil of South Africa is already drenched with the blood of innocent Africans ... we felt it our duty to make preparations as a long-term undertaking to use force in order to defend ourselves against force ... The fight which held out prospects best for us and the least risk of life to both sides was guerrilla warfare.
I happened to have lunch late last week sitting next to Rick Stengel the ghostwriter, (though that's an inadequate label for his very substantive labors) of Mandela's autobiography Long Walk to Freedom. Stengel has nowadays moved on from his longtime regular job of editing TIME magazine to being a diplomat at the U.S. State Department. We didn't discuss how he is enjoying government service -- but he did speak incisively about Mandela the freedom-fighter.
Citing Mandela himself, he stressed the difference for leaders between applying principles and adopting tactics. Mandela was huge admirer of Mahatma Ghandi, who, of course, battled oppression in South Africa even before his did so in his homeland of India. But Mandela spelled out an critical difference between himself and his partial role-model.
"For Ghandi," the careful editor Stengel recalled Mandela as saying, "non-violence was a principle. For me it was a tactic."
Read more of David Tereshchuk's media industry insights at his regular column, The Media Beat, with accompanying video and audio. Listen also to The Media Beat podcasts on demand from Connecticut's NPR station WHDD, and at iTunes.
Categories: Political News and Opinion
Huffington Post News - 1 hour 24 min ago
Glenn Beck worked the crowd like a preacher at a rally this month in Louisville, Ky., declaring that God had responded to conservatives’ prayers by sending a slate of tea party candidates to wrest control of the Republican Party from Mitch McConnell.
Categories: Political News and Opinion
Huffington Post News - 1 hour 26 min ago
In 2007, a new phenomenon reared its ugly head in Afghanistan. With two attacks that year and two more the next, it was first dubbed "green-on-blue violence," and later the simpler, blunter "insider attack." At one level, it couldn't have been more straightforward. Afghan soldiers or policemen (or in a small number of cases Taliban infiltrators) would suddenly turn their weapons on their American or NATO mentors or allies and gun them down. Think of these "incidents" as early votes in the Afghan elections -- not, as Lenin might once have had it, with their feet, but with their guns after spending time up close and personal with Americans or other Westerners. It was a phenomenon that only intensified, reaching its height in 2012 with 46 attacks that killed 60 allied soldiers before slowly dying down as American combat troops began to leave the country and far stricter controls were put in place on relations between Afghan, U.S., and allied forces in the field.
It has not, however, died out. Not quite. Not yet. In a uniquely grim version of an insider attack just two weeks ago, an Afghan police commander turned his gun on two western journalists, killing Pulitzer Prize-winning news photographer Anja Niedringhaus and wounding AP reporter Kathy Gannon. And even more recently, just after it was reported that a month had passed without an American death in a war zone for the first time since 2002, Army Specialist Ivan Lopez killed three fellow soldiers in an insider attack at Fort Hood, Texas.
With its hint of blowback, this is not, of course, a comparison anyone in the mainstream American media is likely to make. On the whole, we prefer not to think of our wars coming home. In reality, however, Lopez's eight-minute shooting rampage with a pistol purchased at a local gun shop fits the definition of an "insider attack" quite well, as did the earlier Fort Hood massacre by an Army psychiatrist. Think of it as an unhinged form of American war coming home, and as a kind of blowback unique to our moment.
After all, name me another wartime period when, for whatever reason, two U.S. soldiers shot up the same base at different times, killing and wounding dozens of their fellow troops. There was, of course, the "fragging" of officers in Vietnam, but this is a new phenomenon, undoubtedly reflective of the disturbing path the U.S. has cut in the world, post-9/11. Thrown into the mix is a homegrown American culture of massacre and the lifting of barriers to the easy purchase of ever more effective weaponry. (If, in fact, you think about it for a moment, most of the mass killings in this country, generally by young men, whether in schools, movie theaters, shipyards, or elsewhere, are themselves a civilian version of "insider attacks.")
Ironically, in 2011, the Obama administration launched a massive Insider Threat Program to train millions of government employees and contractors to look for signs in fellow workers of the urge to launch insider attacks. Unfortunately, the only kind of insider attacks administration officials could imagine were those attributed to whistleblowers and leakers. (Think: Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden.) So, despite much official talk about dealing with the mental health of military men, women, and veterans, the military itself remains open to yet more insider attacks. After almost 13 years of failed wars in distant lands, think of us as living in Ameraqafghanica.
Today, in "How America's Wars Came Home With the Troops," Ann Jones, whose odyssey of a book, They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return From America's Wars -- The Untold Story, captures the truly painful cost of these wars for America's soldiers like no other, points out just what commentators in this country have avoided writing about and every government and military official up to the president has avoided talking about, despite the massive coverage of the Fort Hood killings: There has been next to no mention of the trail of blood and death that has led, in these last years, from our distant battlefields across this country to Fort Hood, "insider attacks" of every sort by returning vets.
Categories: Political News and Opinion
Huffington Post News - 1 hour 33 min ago
A one-time New York City mayoral candidate who claimed to have close ties with former Mayor Michael Bloomberg was arrested after being caught acting suspiciously outside his corporate offices.
The Daily News reports Ceceilia Berkowitz, 35, was spotted by Bloomberg's security detail on Wednesday at Bloomberg LP's offices on Lexington Avenue.
Security officers had apparently been anticipating a visit from Berkowitz after she posted three separate tweets expressing her excitement to see her "close friend" Michael Bloomberg.
Earlier this week, she even attempted to contact Dan Doctoroff, CEO of Bloomberg LP, in hopes to connect with Bloomberg.
April 14, 2014
No charges have been filed against Berkowitz, but she was reportedly taken to Bellevue Hospital and placed under psychiatric evaluation. According to her LinkedIn account -- which features a photo of her posing with Bloomberg and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker -- she is University of Pennsylvania Wharton alumni and has worked as an adjunct professor at CUNY Hunter College.
In early 2013, Berkowitz reached out to members of the media to promote her run long-shot run for mayor, which resulted in a bizarre sit down interview with Capital New York where it became clear her "friendship" with Bloomberg largely stemmed from a brief meeting during a fundraiser hosted at his home.
Categories: Political News and Opinion
Huffington Post News - 1 hour 40 min ago
It's just as much a rape to take advantage of a classmate who's incapacitated in a dorm room as it is to assault a stranger at gunpoint.
I fear that too many students at our colleges and universities think there's a difference -- that if they had too much to drink, or hung out with the wrong people at the wrong place, that somehow it's their fault that they were sexually assaulted.
It's not. You don't need to have perfect judgment to be the victim of a sexual assault.
And after the past year saw a focused effort in Congress to address sexual assaults in the U.S. military -- resulting in a host of sweeping reforms to protect and empower victims and hold perpetrators and commanders accountable -- it's becoming clear to me that we may face similar systemic challenges on our college campuses. Challenges such as severe underreporting of assaults, and confusion over where to go for help.
That's why, this week, I launched a survey of hundreds of colleges and universities across the country. This survey is the first congressional inquiry of its kind, and I'm asking for detailed answers on how sexual assaults on campuses are reported, how they're investigated, what resources are available to victims, how students are notified of those services, what kinds of data the schools collect, what security procedures are used, and what relationships the schools have with local law enforcement.
Our survey -- being conducted through my Subcommittee on Financial & Contracting Oversight -- is also aimed at helping us gauge the effectiveness of federal oversight and enforcement under federal civil rights law, Title IX of the Education Amendments Act, and the Crime Awareness and Campus Security Act, commonly known as the Clery Act. Title IX prohibits schools that receive federal funds from discrimination on the basis of sex -- including sexual harassment and violence.
These federal laws already require schools to report certain data on these crimes, but there's near-universal agreement that these data are insufficient to truly understand the scope of the problem, and that -- as in all jurisdictions -- the crime of sexual assault is vastly underreported.
The colleges and universities participating in our survey will represent different types of institutions (public, private nonprofit, and private for-profit) and vary in size.
My hope is that it will give us a window into exactly how our colleges and universities today act -- or sometimes, fail to act -- to protect students and bring perpetrators to justice. Just like the challenges we grappled with in confronting sexual assaults in our military, we need to ensure we have a firm grasp on the policies in place, and the reality on the ground, to inform any specific solutions.
We especially need these data, because the scope of the challenge could be staggering:
- According to the available statistics, 19 percent of undergraduate women have been the victims of sexual assault. Because many crimes aren't reported, though, that number is probably higher.
- A 2000 Justice Department report estimated that less than 5 percent of victims of rape attending college report their attack.
- An investigative series from the Center for Public Integrity in 2010 found that in many cases, victims wishing to report sexual assault faced confusion over how to do so, confusion over acceptable standards of conduct and definitions of sexual assault, and a fear of punishment for activities preceding some assaults, such as underage drinking.
The challenges we face in confronting sex crimes on our campuses are likely as varied as the campuses on which they happen. But it's already clear we have a lot of work ahead to tackle the systemic issues at play.
None of our children should be left on their own after being victimized, and our schools must provide the highest level of responsiveness to ensure victims are empowered, and perpetrators are held accountable.
As a former prosecutor, and as a mother of college-age daughters, I'm determined to give a voice to those victims.
U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill is a former courtroom prosecutor of sex crimes, and former Jackson County, Mo. Prosecutor -- where she established the Kansas City region's first unit devoted to combatting domestic and sexual violence
Categories: Political News and Opinion
Huffington Post News - 1 hour 46 min ago
The words and phrases that resist translation are often the difficult ones, visibly sedimented with history and shifting meanings. But one of the many pleasures of working on this book was thinking about the strange international life of apparently simple words. A word like justice, for example, which has or ought to have its counterpart in almost any language we can imagine, and which might seem to translate easily. A basic assumption could be that putting justice into practice is about as difficult as anything can be, but there will be a reasonable range of agreement about the theory. This assumption is not false, but it is incomplete, and we can learn from what it misses.
Here are three literary examples: a translation using the English word justice for a corresponding (or not) Russian word; the possibly different meanings of the French and English words justice, spelt exactly the same; and the question of translating an English word into English. I want to recall here, because it is so useful, Barbara Cassin's brilliant definition of the untranslatable: not what we can't translate or don't translate but what we can't stop translating and retranslating.
What does Ivan Karamazov mean when he speaks, at least in Constance Garnett's translation, of justice? He has evoked a horrific set of narratives about cruelty to children and is about to tell his tale of the Grand Inquisitor. Ivan insists that he wants justice--the word is vozmezdie, which means all kinds of things, as words do: requital, retaliation, payment, recompense, even nemesis. Pevear and Volokhonsky decide on retribution. In context it suggests something like closure, or satisfaction (in the sense of a man demanding satisfaction in a duel, for example). Ivan goes on to talk of harmony, which is clearly a related idea, but he doesn't want it if the tortured children have to pay for it:
I need justice/retribution/satisfaction... and justice/retribution/satisfaction not somewhere and sometime in infinity, but here and now, on earth... I want to see with my own eyes the hind lie down with the lion, and the murdered man rise up and embrace his murderer. I want to be there when everyone suddenly finds out what it was all for.
The universe will cry out, Ivan says, in his personal version of Psalm 119, "Just art thou, O Lord, for thy ways are revealed." The question is not whether we can broadly understand or roughly translate this argument but whether we can get our heads around the range of ideas in play. That act of comprehension, according to its range or tilt, is going to alter the argument itself.
My second example involves asking whether the French word justice means the same thing as the English word justice. For Marcel Proust the chief meaning of justice is vengeance or punishment, and he doesn't like it. We may ask how a man can be against injustice, as Proust undoubtedly was and against justice as well. His novel is one sort of reply.
Almost buried in one of the later volumes of In Search of Lost Time is a sentence that won't leave your mind once you've paused over it. It ends in this way, evoking that relation which almost always exists in human punishments. and which means that there is almost never either a just verdict or a judicial error but a sort of harmony between the mistaken idea the judge has of an innocent act and the guilty facts of which he is unaware.
Scepticism about justice was a reasonable stance in the time of Dreyfus and has been a reasonable stance in countries and times much closer to us--as Louis Begley's recent book about Dreyfus suggests. And a fantasy of displaced but unerring justice ("there is almost never a judicial error") may represent not the sinister view that evil is everywhere but the charmed, haunted view that a non-existent God knows all my secrets. Is this a little paranoid? Yes. But we might like to recall Adorno's version of the truism that even paranoids have enemies. What he says is that even reality traffics in the suggestions of paranoia:
Psychology knows that he who imagines disasters in some way desires them. But why do they come so eagerly to meet him?
I don't know how close the English word justice can get us to any of this.
My last example involves the ways in which we may take a single word in one language to mean quite different things. Here's a famous use of the word justice in English which moves us powerfully by its directness and simplicity--and leaves us wondering where we have been moved to. In his introduction to A Vision (1928), his extraordinary account of what the spirits taught him about cycles of history and sidereal time, Yeats reports that he has often been asked whether he believes in the "actual existence of (his) circuits of sun and moon." His answer is rather complicated, but ends plainly. They have, he says, "helped me to hold in a single thought reality and justice."
I've returned to this phrase a lot over the forty years or so since I first read it, and I've always thought I knew what it meant. I still think I know what it means, but I'm now shocked that I haven't been more shocked at the meaning. Yeats is saying, isn't he, that reality and justice are ordinarily so far apart that only a vast otherworldly metaphysical system will allow him to think of them together. Outside of such a dispensation, reality is not just, and justice is not a reality. Is this what we think, is this something we can almost casually accept?
The concept of the untranslatable does not mark the failure of translation but the place where it begins.
Michael Wood is the co-editor of Dictionary of Untranslatables: A Philosophical Lexicon [Princeton University Press, $65.00].
Categories: Political News and Opinion
Huffington Post News - 1 hour 48 min ago
Up Close, Personal, and Bloody
Cross-posted with TomDispatch.com
After an argument about a leave denied, Specialist Ivan Lopez pulled out a .45-caliber Smith & Wesson handgun and began a shooting spree at Fort Hood, America’s biggest stateside base, that left three soldiers dead and 16 wounded. When he did so, he also pulled America’s fading wars out of the closet. This time, a Fort Hood mass killing, the second in four and a half years, was committed by a man who was neither a religious nor a political “extremist.” He seems to have been merely one of America’s injured and troubled veterans who now number in the hundreds of thousands.
Some 2.6 million men and women have been dispatched, often repeatedly, to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and according to a recent survey of veterans of those wars conducted by the Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation, nearly one-third say that their mental health is worse than it was before they left, and nearly half say the same of their physical condition. Almost half say they give way to sudden outbursts of anger. Only 12% of the surveyed veterans claim they are now “better” mentally or physically than they were before they went to war.
The media coverage that followed Lopez’s rampage was, of course, 24/7 and there was much discussion of PTSD, the all-purpose (if little understood) label now used to explain just about anything unpleasant that happens to or is caused by current or former military men and women. Amid the barrage of coverage, however, something was missing: evidence that has been in plain sight for years of how the violence of America’s distant wars comes back to haunt the "homeland” as the troops return. In that context, Lopez’s killings, while on a scale not often matched, are one more marker on a bloody trail of death that leads from Iraq and Afghanistan into the American heartland, to bases and backyards nationwide. It’s a story with a body count that should not be ignored.
War Comes Home
During the last 12 years, many veterans who had grown “worse” while at war could be found on and around bases here at home, waiting to be deployed again, and sometimes doing serious damage to themselves and others. The organization Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) has campaigned for years for a soldier’s “right to heal” between deployments. Next month it will release its own report on a common practice at Fort Hood of sending damaged and heavily medicated soldiers back to combat zones against both doctors’ orders and official base regulations. Such soldiers can’t be expected to survive in great shape.
Immediately after the Lopez rampage, President Obama spoke of those soldiers who have served multiple tours in the wars and “need to feel safe” on their home base. But what the president called “that sense of safety... broken once again” at Fort Hood has, in fact, already been shattered again and again on bases and in towns across post-9/11 America -- ever since misused, misled, and mistreated soldiers began bringing war home with them.
Since 2002, soldiers and veterans have been committing murder individually and in groups, killing wives, girlfriends, children, fellow soldiers, friends, acquaintances, complete strangers, and -- in appalling numbers -- themselves. Most of these killings haven’t been on a mass scale, but they add up, even if no one is doing the math. To date, they have never been fully counted.
The first veterans of the war in Afghanistan returned to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, in 2002. In quick succession, four of them murdered their wives, after which three of the killers took their own lives. When a New York Times reporter asked a Special Forces officer to comment on these events, he replied: “S.F.’s don’t like to talk about emotional stuff. We are Type A people who just blow things like that off, like yesterday’s news.”
Indeed, much of the media and much of the country has done just that. While individual murders committed by “our nation’s heroes” on the “home front” have been reported by media close to the scene, most such killings never make the national news, and many become invisible even locally when reported only as routine murders with no mention of the apparently insignificant fact that the killer was a veteran. Only when these crimes cluster around a military base do diligent local reporters seem to put the pieces of the bigger picture together.
By 2005, Fort Bragg had already counted its tenth such “domestic violence” fatality, while on the West coast, the Seattle Weekly had tallied the death toll among active-duty troops and veterans in western Washington state at seven homicides and three suicides. “Five wives, a girlfriend, and one child were slain; four other children lost one or both parents to death or imprisonment. Three servicemen committed suicide -- two of them after killing their wife or girlfriend. Four soldiers were sent to prison. One awaited trial.”
In January 2008, the New York Times tried for the first time to tally a nationwide count of such crimes. It found “121 cases in which veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan committed a killing in this country, or were charged with one, after their return from war.” It listed headlines drawn from smaller local newspapers: Lakewood, Washington, “Family Blames Iraq After Son Kills Wife”; Pierre, South Dakota, “Soldier Charged With Murder Testifies About Postwar Stress”; Colorado Springs, Colorado, “Iraq War Vets Suspected in Two Slayings, Crime Ring.”
The Times found that about a third of the murder victims were wives, girlfriends, children, or other relatives of the killer, but significantly, a quarter of the victims were fellow soldiers. The rest were acquaintances or strangers. At that time, three quarters of the homicidal soldiers were still in the military. The number of killings then represented a nearly 90% increase in homicides committed by active duty personnel and veterans in the six years since the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. Yet after tracing this “cross-country trail of death and heartbreak,” the Times noted that its research had probably uncovered only “the minimum number of such cases.” One month later, it found “more than 150 cases of fatal domestic violence or [fatal] child abuse in the United States involving service members and new veterans.”
More cases were already on the way. After the Fourth Brigade Combat team of Fort Carson, Colorado, returned from Iraq later in 2008, nine of its members were charged with homicide, while “charges of domestic violence, rape, and sexual assault” at the base rose sharply. Three of the murder victims were wives or girlfriends; four were fellow soldiers (all men); and two were strangers, chosen at random.
Back at Fort Bragg and the nearby Marine base at Camp Lejeune, military men murdered four military women in a nine-month span between December 2007 and September 2008. By that time, retired Army Colonel Ann Wright had identified at least 15 highly suspicious deaths of women soldiers in the war zones that had been officially termed “non-combat related” or “suicide.” She raised a question that has never been answered: “Is there an Army cover-up of rape and murder of women soldiers?” The murders that took place near (but not on) Fort Bragg and Camp Lejeune, all investigated and prosecuted by civilian authorities, raised another question: Were some soldiers bringing home not only the generic violence of war, but also specific crimes they had rehearsed abroad?
Stuck in Combat Mode
While this sort of post-combat-zone combat at home has rarely made it into the national news, the killings haven’t stopped. They have, in fact, continued, month by month, year after year, generally reported only by local media. Many of the murders suggest that the killers still felt as if they were on some kind of private mission in “enemy territory,” and that they themselves were men who had, in distant combat zones, gotten the hang of killing -- and the habit. For example, Benjamin Colton Barnes, a 24-year-old Army veteran, went to a party in Seattle in 2012 and got into a gunfight that left four people wounded. He then fled to Mount Rainier National Park where he shot and killed a park ranger (the mother of two small children) and fired on others before escaping into snow-covered mountains where he drowned in a stream.
Barnes, an Iraq veteran, had reportedly experienced a rough transition to stateside life, having been discharged from the Army in 2009 for misconduct after being arrested for drunk driving and carrying a weapon. (He also threatened his wife with a knife.) He was one of more than 20,000 troubled Army and Marine veterans the military discarded between 2008 and 2012 with “other-than-honorable” discharges and no benefits, health care, or help.
Faced with the expensive prospect of providing long-term care for these most fragile of veterans, the military chose instead to dump them. Barnes was booted out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma, Washington, which by 2010 had surpassed Fort Hood, Fort Bragg, and Fort Carson in violence and suicide to become the military’s “most troubled” home base.
Some homicidal soldiers work together, perhaps recreating at home that famous fraternal feeling of the military “band of brothers.” In 2012, in Laredo, Texas, federal agents posing as leaders of a Mexican drug cartel arrested Lieutenant Kevin Corley and Sergeant Samuel Walker -- both from Fort Carson’s notorious Fourth Brigade Combat team -- and two other soldiers in their private hit squad who had offered their services to kill members of rival cartels. “Wet work,” soldiers call it, and they’re trained to do it so well that real Mexican drug cartels have indeed been hiring ambitious vets from Fort Bliss, Texas, and probably other bases in the borderlands, to take out selected Mexican and American targets at $5,000 a pop.
Such soldiers seem never to get out of combat mode. Boston psychiatrist Jonathan Shay, well known for his work with troubled veterans of the Vietnam War, points out that the skills drilled into the combat soldier -- cunning, deceit, strength, quickness, stealth, a repertoire of killing techniques, and the suppression of compassion and guilt -- equip him perfectly for a life of crime. “I’ll put it as bluntly as I can,” Shay writes in Odysseus in America: Combat Trauma and the Trials of Homecoming, “Combat service per se smooths the way into criminal careers afterward in civilian life.” During the last decade, when the Pentagon relaxed standards to fill the ranks, some enterprising members of at least 53 different American gangs jumpstarted their criminal careers by enlisting, training, and serving in war zones to perfect their specialized skill sets.
Some veterans have gone on to become domestic terrorists, like Desert Storm veteran Timothy McVeigh, who killed 168 people in the Oklahoma federal building in 1995, or mass murderers like Wade Michael Page, the Army veteran and uber-racist who killed six worshippers at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, in August 2012. Page had first been introduced to the ideology of white supremacy at age 20, three years after he joined the Army, when he fell in with a neo-Nazi hate group at Fort Bragg. That was in 1995, the year three paratroopers from Fort Bragg murdered two black local residents, a man and a woman, to earn their neo-Nazi spider-web tattoos.
An unknown number of such killers just walk away, like Army Private (and former West Point cadet) Isaac Aguigui, who was finally convicted last month in a Georgia criminal court of murdering his pregnant wife, Sergeant Deirdre Wetzker Aguigui, an Army linguist, three years ago. Although Deirdre Aguigui’s handcuffed body had revealed multiple blows and signs of struggle, the military medical examiner failed to “detect an anatomic cause of death” -- a failure convenient for both the Army, which didn’t have to investigate further, and Isaac Aguigui, who collected a half-million dollars in military death benefits and life insurance to finance a war of his own.
In 2012, Georgia authorities charged Aguigui and three combat veterans from Fort Stewart with the execution-style murders of former Private Michael Roark, 19, and his girlfriend Tiffany York, 17. The trial in a civilian criminal court revealed that Aguigui (who was never deployed) had assembled his own private militia of troubled combat vets called FEAR (Forever Enduring, Always Ready), and was plotting to take over Fort Stewart by seizing the munitions control point. Among his other plans for his force were killing unnamed officials with car bombs, blowing up a fountain in Savannah, poisoning the apple crop in Aguigui’s home state of Washington, and joining other unspecified private militia groups around the country in a plot to assassinate President Obama and take control of the United States government. Last year, the Georgia court convicted Aguigui in the case of the FEAR executions and sentenced him to life. Only then did a civilian medical examiner determine that he had first murdered his wife.
The Rule of Law
The routine drills of basic training and the catastrophic events of war damage many soldiers in ways that appear darkly ironic when they return home to traumatize or kill their partners, their children, their fellow soldiers, or random strangers in a town or on a base. But again to get the stories we must rely upon scrupulous local journalists. The Austin American-Statesman, for example, reports that, since 2003, in the area around Fort Hood in central Texas, nearly 10% of those involved in shooting incidents with the police were military veterans or active-duty service members. In four separate confrontations since last December, the police shot and killed two recently returned veterans and wounded a third, while one police officer was killed. A fourth veteran survived a shootout unscathed.
Such tragic encounters prompted state and city officials in Texas to develop a special Veterans Tactical Response Program to train police in handling troubled military types. Some of the standard techniques Texas police use to intimidate and overcome suspects -- shouting, throwing “flashbangs” (grenades), or even firing warning shots -- backfire when the suspect is a veteran in crisis, armed, and highly trained in reflexive fire. The average civilian lawman is no match for an angry combat grunt from, as the president put it at Fort Hood, “the greatest Army that the world has ever known.” On the other hand, a brain-injured vet who needs time to respond to orders or reply to questions may get manhandled, flattened, tasered, bludgeoned, or worse by overly aggressive police officers before he has time to say a word.
Here’s another ironic twist. For the past decade, military recruiters have made a big selling point of the “veterans preference” policy in the hiring practices of civilian police departments. The prospect of a lifetime career in law enforcement after a single tour of military duty tempts many wavering teenagers to sign on the line. But the vets who are finally discharged from service and don the uniform of a civilian police department are no longer the boys who went away.
In Texas today, 37% of the police in Austin, the state capitol, are ex-military, and in smaller cities and towns in the vicinity of Fort Hood, that figure rises above the 50% mark. Everybody knows that veterans need jobs, and in theory they might be very good at handling troubled soldiers in crisis, but they come to the job already trained for and very good at war. When they meet the next Ivan Lopez, they make a potentially combustible combo.
Most of America’s military men and women don’t want to be “stigmatized” by association with the violent soldiers mentioned here. Neither do the ex-military personnel who now, as members of civilian police forces, do periodic battle with violent vets in Texas and across the country. The new Washington Post-Kaiser survey reveals that most veterans are proud of their military service, if not altogether happy with their homecoming. Almost half of them think that American civilians, like the citizens of Iraq and Afghanistan, don’t genuinely “respect” them, and more than half feel disconnected from American life. They believe they have better moral and ethical values than their fellow citizens, a virtue trumpeted by the Pentagon and presidents alike. Sixty percent say they are more patriotic than civilians. Seventy percent say that civilians fail absolutely to understand them. And almost 90% of veterans say that in a heartbeat they would re-up to fight again.
Americans on the “home front” were never mobilized by their leaders and they have generally not come to grips with the wars fought in their name. Here, however, is another irony: neither, it turns out, have most of America’s military men and women. Like their civilian counterparts, many of whom are all too ready to deploy those soldiers again to intervene in countries they can’t even find on a map, a significant number of veterans evidently have yet to unpack and examine the wars they brought home in their baggage -- and in too many grim cases, they, their loved ones, their fellow soldiers, and sometimes random strangers are paying the price.
Ann Jones, a TomDispatch regular, is the author of Kabul in Winter, among other books, and most recently They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return From America’s Wars -- The Untold Story, a Dispatch Books project (Haymarket, 2013).
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Categories: Political News and Opinion
Huffington Post News - 1 hour 48 min ago
Here's a look at the hate groups in North Carolina, where I live:
Categories: Political News and Opinion