AlterNet.org: Tana Ganeva https://www.alternet.org/authors/tana-ganeva en There's a Man Serving Life in Prison for $5 Worth of Marijuana in the Same Country Where Millions Can Smoke It Legally https://www.alternet.org/drugs/man-serving-life-prison-5-worth-pot <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '1084400'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1084400" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The madness of the drug war is far from over.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_125017376_0.jpg?itok=dXHxywiu" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p dir="ltr">Deedee Kirkwood is a hippie housewife in Camarillo, a scenic beach town in California outside of Los Angeles. When she was younger, she followed the Grateful Dead on tour and says she smoked copious amounts of pot “before and after." But her youthful indiscretions had no legal consequences. “I did a lot of stupid stuff, but as a white lady I got lucky,” she tells me over the phone.</p><p dir="ltr">Kirkwood often writes letters to Fate Vincent Winslow, an inmate in the Louisiana State Penitentiary. He’s not as lucky as she was. In 2008, Winslow was homeless on the streets of Shreveport, Louisiana. One night, an undercover cop <a data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?hl=en&amp;q=https://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case%3D16386384537685210068%26hl%3Den%26as_sdt%3D6%26as_vis%3D1%26oi%3Dscholarr&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1509140081078000&amp;usg=AFQjCNG1J6KVfKCNtY9Vgf2RDTdnXVHnFw" href="https://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=16386384537685210068&amp;hl=en&amp;as_sdt=6&amp;as_vis=1&amp;oi=scholarr" target="_blank">approached</a> and asked him for “a girl” and some pot. Winslow got two dime bags of weed from a white dealer he knew and sold them to the officer. In all, he made five bucks from the sale, money he needed to buy food, he says.</p><p dir="ltr">Police arrested Winslow, but not the dealer, even though he’d profited more handsomely from the sale; the marked $20 bill was found on him.</p><p dir="ltr">During Winslow's trial, prosecutors pointed to his long criminal history as a reason to put him away. But court records show he was far from a criminal mastermind. He had two nonviolent priors and a drug charge, which is not uncommon for poor people living on and off the streets. Still, after the predominantly white jury <a data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?hl=en&amp;q=https://www.aclu.org/files/assets/111213a-lwop-complete-report.pdf&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1509140081078000&amp;usg=AFQjCNHKCNcUAXbl_mWOcfr13ncSjzMMug" href="https://www.aclu.org/files/assets/111213a-lwop-complete-report.pdf" target="_blank">voted</a> guilty, he was deemed a habitual offender. Under Louisiana law, that meant an automatic sentence of hard labor without benefit of parole, probation or suspension of sentence.</p><p>“I just keep praying I know everything will be all right,” Winslow writes in a letter.  </p><p dir="ltr">“There are <a href="http://www.rollingstone.com/culture/features/pot-prisoners-meet-five-victims-of-the-war-on-drugs-w502337/fate-vincent-winslow-w502338">people serving life for marijuana</a>,” Deedee Kirkwood says. “When I tell people about this, they don’t believe me.”</p><p dir="ltr">It does defy plausibility, even in the context of the American criminal justice system, which is hardly famous for being rational or sane. According to the ACLU’s “<a data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?hl=en&amp;q=https://www.aclu.org/files/assets/111213a-lwop-complete-report.pdf&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1509140081078000&amp;usg=AFQjCNHKCNcUAXbl_mWOcfr13ncSjzMMug" href="https://www.aclu.org/files/assets/111213a-lwop-complete-report.pdf" target="_blank">A Living Death</a>” report, as of 2012, 3,278 people were serving life without parole for nonviolent crimes—and that’s just federally and in nine states. The states that have locked away the most people per capita are Louisiana, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Oklahoma.</p><p dir="ltr">Even at a time when more Americans support pot legalization—a Gallup poll <a data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?hl=en&amp;q=http://news.gallup.com/poll/221018/record-high-support-legalizing-marijuana.aspx&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1509140081078000&amp;usg=AFQjCNHfrauysHZxtWbgxmiMlEcohIm2qg" href="http://news.gallup.com/poll/221018/record-high-support-legalizing-marijuana.aspx" target="_blank">released</a> Wednesday found that 64 percent of Americans want legal weed—Fate Winslow is not the only person serving an absurdly long sentence for marijuana.</p><p>“Most people are shocked to hear that there are people serving a life sentence for pot, but there are many,” says Amy Povah, a former prisoner who now runs <a data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?hl=en&amp;q=http://www.candoclemency.com&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1509140081078000&amp;usg=AFQjCNFuZhvmL_RKXpNKuOTKkYOQ45Fo3g" href="http://www.candoclemency.com/" target="_blank">CAN-DO</a>, an advocacy group for nonviolent drug offenders. Povah recalls doing a vigil outside of the White House for drug offenders serving long sentences. A passerby asked which country’s brutally oppressive regime she was protesting. He was surprised to learn she was there to draw attention to America’s prisons. </p><p dir="ltr">A slew of factors contributed to long sentences for drug crimes, but it mostly comes down to aggressive prosecutors and the legal tools lawmakers have given them in the past few decades. There are the mandatory minimum and habitual offender laws <a data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?hl=en&amp;q=http://www.rollingstone.com/culture/features/pot-prisoners-meet-five-victims-of-the-war-on-drugs-w502337/fate-vincent-winslow-w502338&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1509140081078000&amp;usg=AFQjCNGYHWjTPpTKN1DdC8jV_Ybojathvg" href="http://www.rollingstone.com/culture/features/pot-prisoners-meet-five-victims-of-the-war-on-drugs-w502337/fate-vincent-winslow-w502338" target="_blank">passed</a> at the height of the crack panic in the 1980s and 1990s. Because of mandatory minimums, often well-meaning reforms end up empowering police and prosecutors in ways that target people of color and poor people at disproportionate rates. Take gun charges; aggressive prosecutors can stack up gun charges to inflate sentences for nonviolent drug crimes.</p><p dir="ltr">Michael Thompson got 40-60 years after selling a few pounds of weed to a police informant in a sting in 1994, in part because some guns were found in his house (two were antiques and one allegedly belonged to his wife). He’s still in prison in Michigan, despite lobbying on his behalf by his nephew Sheldon Neeley, a Democratic congressman in the Michigan house. “I've been here over 22 years over marijuana,” Thompson told me over the phone in disbelief. “Twenty. Two. Calendar. Years.”</p><p dir="ltr">During that time his mom died; he attended her funeral in chains. Her last wish was for her nephew the congressman to make sure her son didn't die in prison.</p><p dir="ltr">Another reason someone might get a long sentence for marijuana crimes is through the use of conspiracy charges. That’s what happened to <a data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?hl=en&amp;q=https://www.cbsnews.com/news/life-in-prison-for-pot-as-laws-ease-some-remain-behind-bars/&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1509140081078000&amp;usg=AFQjCNHV48G5yrwT84hbOAWk_oSeAhcdWw" href="https://www.cbsnews.com/news/life-in-prison-for-pot-as-laws-ease-some-remain-behind-bars/" target="_blank">John Knock</a>, a 70-year-old federal prisoner serving life without parole in <a data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?hl=en&amp;q=https://www.bop.gov/inmateloc/&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1509140081079000&amp;usg=AFQjCNE4lSlXbl7ksd1J47NGmwZifi56cQ" href="https://www.bop.gov/inmateloc/" target="_blank">New Jersey</a>. His sister, Beth Curtis, who advocates on his behalf, explains how conspiracy charges can trigger an automatic LWOP sentence. “If you know anything about the 1960s…people didn’t go to prison for doing lots of things that they get buried for now,” she says. Her brother did take part in a marijuana smuggling operation, but by the time he was indicted, he was no longer involved in selling drugs. Yet, because of how conspiracy charges work, he was on the hook for all the drugs sold over the years by others involved in the operation. “Everything that was done by anybody during that time was attributed to him when he was indicted,” she says.</p><p><strong>What Can Be Done?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Families Against Mandatory Minimums, CAN-DO Clemency and the Drug Policy Alliance are just a few of the groups and activists advocating for the release of prisoners serving long sentences. Civil liberties groups like the ACLU and Human Rights Watch have documented their plight for decades. Individual activists like Deedee Kirkwood write to prisoners like Fate Winslow because they can’t stand the injustice of people serving prison sentences for what she calls “a harmless plant.” Anything from dropping a few dollars into a prisoner’s commissary to writing letters to setting up with legal aid can help, as well as lobbying state governors to commute individual sentences while promoting more systemic reforms.</p><p dir="ltr">In the last year of the Obama administration, criminal justice reformers mobilized to lobby the Justice Department to grant as many commutations for nonviolent crimes as possible. Critics pointed out at the time that with the “law-and-order” Donald Trump about to get in the White House, the administration should have released more prisoners. At this point, their only chance is presidential clemency for federal prisoners, while people serving long sentences in state prisons can hope for a commutation from their governor.</p><p dir="ltr">Because both Republican and Democratic governors have to balance budgets, the call for criminal justice reform tends to be more bipartisan than most issues at the state level. But many states are starting from such an extreme point that even commutations or broader reforms end up relatively conservative. In one striking example, in 2017 Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin <a data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?hl=en&amp;q=http://newsok.com/article/5547192&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1509140081079000&amp;usg=AFQjCNHjbvHXnkdjPSYUUVhLskcR5Ku0oQ" href="http://newsok.com/article/5547192" target="_blank">changed</a> the sentences of several drug offenders from life without parole to life with parole. One of them was William Dufries, who got caught with 67 pounds of marijuana in his RV after being pulled over because of a broken tail-light.</p><p>Most people who end up in jail over marijuana don’t get life. But even a short stint in jail that results in a record can mean years of financial and personal hardship.  A 2016 report by the ACLU and Human Rights Watch <a data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?hl=en&amp;q=https://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/13/us/marijuana-arrests.html?_r%3D0&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1509140081079000&amp;usg=AFQjCNFTjFRD4S-OxqMxhQes4RmEZSkGQg" href="https://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/13/us/marijuana-arrests.html?_r=0" target="_blank">found</a> that marijuana arrests still outnumber arrests for violent crimes, entangling people in the criminal justice even for simple possession. In 2015, almost half of drug possession arrests were for weed (over 574,000), the study found. Even states with a thriving legal industry have failed to erase racial disparity in pot arrests; a 2016 NPR <a data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?hl=en&amp;q=http://www.npr.org/2016/06/29/483954157/as-adults-legally-smoke-pot-in-colorado-more-minority-kids-arrested-for-it&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1509140081079000&amp;usg=AFQjCNEHWqoppPGDVyAWlReMjQq3gfw78w" href="http://www.npr.org/2016/06/29/483954157/as-adults-legally-smoke-pot-in-colorado-more-minority-kids-arrested-for-it" target="_blank">report</a> found that minority teens were getting busted at even higher rates than before.</p><p dir="ltr">As support for legal weed continues to grow, what does the industry owe people serving time for marijuana? Tom Angell, a journalist and legalization advocate, points out that there’s a lot more drug advocates could be doing. “Even when we succeed in ending prohibition, our work isn’t done,” he writes in an email. He points out that the industry must look beyond legalization. "In addition to remaining forms of discrimination against cannabis consumers in the areas of employment, housing and child custody, there are still people serving time behind bars for things that are now legal.”  </p><p dir="ltr">A few leaders in the weed community have advocated for criminal justice reform. Terra Tech CEO Derek Peterson has <a data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?hl=en&amp;q=https://www.forbes.com/sites/monazhang/2017/10/04/cannabis-industry-hiring-people-past-pot-convictions/%23898735cd4a29&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1509140081079000&amp;usg=AFQjCNGP9Fj-fPt0W6NWIhSMHYglHeF5wg" href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/monazhang/2017/10/04/cannabis-industry-hiring-people-past-pot-convictions/#898735cd4a29" target="_blank">worked</a> to get criminal justice reform language in legalization bills in New Jersey. San Francisco’s Nina Parks, who runs Mirage Medicinal, has spoken out about the need for reform; her own brother spent a year in Rikers after getting busted with weed in New York.</p><p>“We have to do our best to encourage policy that helps to heal the effects of targeting poor ethnic communities had on our culture,” she <a data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?hl=en&amp;q=http://www.womenofcannabiz.com/cannabis-entrepreneurs/nina-parks&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1509140081079000&amp;usg=AFQjCNHfZG2tFHuk0d7fz2kEYvqte4Rd9w" href="http://www.womenofcannabiz.com/cannabis-entrepreneurs/nina-parks" target="_blank">told</a> WomenofCannabiz.com. "While ensuring that there is a diverse and equitable industry and regulatory structure that really cares about public health and safety vs feeding a prison industrial complex.”</p><p dir="ltr">Despite Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ cranky antipathy against marijuana, a federal crackdown on the weed industry in states where it’s legal doesn’t seem imminent. Analysts who study pot markets have <a data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?hl=en&amp;q=https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-watch/wp/2016/11/21/jeff-sessionss-ridiculous-anti-drug-crusade/&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1509140081079000&amp;usg=AFQjCNEpHJ8cYMMrKoRPXSjKGOA5bt5bFw" href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-watch/wp/2016/11/21/jeff-sessionss-ridiculous-anti-drug-crusade/" target="_blank">voiced concern</a> that the threat of federal flexing on the issue might chill growth, if, for example, the prospect of more civic asset forfeiture actions spook business people or investors.</p><p dir="ltr">But overall, there’s not much evidence that a Sessions Justice Department has dampened enthusiasm for legalization. The Gallup survey released this <a data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?hl=en&amp;q=http://news.gallup.com/poll/221018/record-high-support-legalizing-marijuana.aspx&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1509140081079000&amp;usg=AFQjCNHrUKxFrDKPNRFEopn2RvLJQAUjLw" href="http://news.gallup.com/poll/221018/record-high-support-legalizing-marijuana.aspx" target="_blank">week</a> (referenced above) found that for the first time, even a majority of Republicans support marijuana legalization.</p><p dir="ltr">Even if the Sessions DoJ did shake up markets for a bit, that’s a far cry from dying in prison for a drug most college kids can get any night of the week by texting their weed delivery guy.</p><p>When I asked Fate Winslow in a letter how he felt about the fact that a drug that landed him in prison for life without the possibility of parole is now the basis of a million-dollar industry, he pointed to one obvious difference between legal pot entrepreneurs and himself.</p><p dir="ltr">“Those people have money,” he wrote.</p><p dir="ltr">Still, he’s surprisingly gracious that America seems to be evolving on marijuana, adding in his letter, “I don’t want no one else to have to go through this. I been locked up nine years for two $5 bags of weed that I didn’t even sell. I have life left to go.”</p><p dir="ltr">One of the biggest criticisms of life sentences is that they kill hope. If nothing you do can atone for your crimes, what’s the point of bettering yourself? Fate Winslow hasn’t given up yet. He’s taking classes. But it’s not easy for him to stay positive. He says he just keeps praying and tries to trust in god, even though he feels like god doesn't care much about him.</p><p dir="ltr">When he writes Deedee Kirkwood, he asks about her grandchildren and compliments her family. He thanks her profusely for the card she sent, because it made him feel he wasn’t completely alone on his 51st birthday. He loves peanut butter, and the money she sent to his commissary allowed him to indulge in that rare treat for his birthday.  </p><p dir="ltr">“I am still doing everything I can to get out of here,” he writes. “So keep praying for me.”</p> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2017 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '1084400'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1084400" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Fri, 27 Oct 2017 14:35:00 -0700 Tana Ganeva, AlterNet 1084400 at https://www.alternet.org Drugs Drugs drugs pot legalization drug policy criminal justice FBI's Vast Facial Recognition Database More Likely to Misidentify Innocent Blacks as Suspects https://www.alternet.org/human-rights/facial-recognition-database-more-likely-misidentify-innocent-blacks-suspects <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The FBI uses facial recognition without complying with privacy laws.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_331420124.jpg?itok=KRvlFxQT" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>In 2010, the FBI launched <a href="https://www.fbi.gov/services/cjis/fingerprints-and-other-biometrics/ngi">Next Generation Identification</a>, a sprawling, complex program designed to use biometric tools like facial recognition, finger and palm prints, and iris scans in criminal investigations. At the time, privacy advocates worried that the FBI would collect and use the data without adequate oversight or privacy protections, especially given the rapid advances in facial recognition technology.</p><p>Last week, a House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform <a href="https://oversight.house.gov/hearing/law-enforcements-use-facial-recognition-technology/">found</a> that privacy experts were right to be concerned: the FBI uses facial recognition without complying with privacy laws; 1 out of every 2 Americans’ photo is in some kind of FRT database; and facial recognition technology can reproduce race and gender bias, “misidentifying female and African American individuals at a higher rate.”</p><p>Jennifer Lynch, staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, testified about all the ways that police can use—and misuse—facial recognition.</p><p>“Law enforcement officers can use mobile devices to capture face recognition-ready photographs of people they stop on the street; surveillance cameras boast real-time face scanning and identification capabilities; and the FBI has access to hundreds of millions of face recognition images of law-abiding Americans,” Lynch testified. “This has led to the development of unproven, inaccurate systems that will impinge on constitutional rights and disproportionately impact people of color.”</p><p>“This has real-world impact; an inaccurate system will implicate people for crimes they didn’t commit, forcing them to try to prove their innocence and shifting the traditional burden of proof away from the government,” Lynch testified. “Face recognition misidentifies African Americans and ethnic minorities, young people, and women at higher rates than whites, older people, and men, respectively.”</p><p>Research suggests that several algorithms used in FRT searches are more likely to give the wrong result when the suspect is black.</p><p>“If the suspect is African American rather than Caucasian, the system is more likely to erroneously fail to identify the right person, potentially causing innocent people to be bumped up the list—and possibly even investigated,” according to a statement by Alvaro Bedoya, head of Privacy &amp; Technology at Georgetown Law.</p><p>“Perversely, due to disproportionately higher arrest rates among African Americans, face recognition may be least accurate for those it is most likely to affect: African Americans,” Bedoya said.</p> Mon, 27 Mar 2017 09:38:00 -0700 Tana Ganeva, Raw Story 1074509 at https://www.alternet.org Human Rights Human Rights Next Generation Identification privacy surveillance racism racism in policing Sanders Slams Big Pharma for Pumping 780 Million Opioid Pills Into West Virginia 'Trump Country' https://www.alternet.org/drugs/bernie-sanders-west-virginia-visit <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">His progressive message struck a chord with West Virginians grappling with addiction and poverty. </div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_511064194.jpg?itok=eGmDRd3J" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>In a <a href="http://www.bdtonline.com/news/bernie-returns-to-mcdowell-sen-sanders-addresses-crucial-issues-during/article_271c1226-079e-11e7-bb13-c74c4e951917.html">town hall</a> televised by MSNBC Monday night, Sen. Bernie Sanders called out the pharmaceutical industry for pumping addictive opioids into small, rural towns—parts of the country already devastated by disappearing jobs and crumbling infrastructure.</p><p>“I’ve got to tell you, I’m not a great fan of the pharmaceutical industry in general,” Sanders <a href="http://www.bdtonline.com/news/bernie-returns-to-mcdowell-sen-sanders-addresses-crucial-issues-during/article_271c1226-079e-11e7-bb13-c74c4e951917.html">said</a>, according to the <em>Bluefield Daily Telegraph</em>. “For them to make to make billions in profits by getting young people addicted and ruining their lives … we have to start holding them accountable.”</p><p>The event was held in McDowell County, West Virginia, which has one of the highest per capita fatal drug overdose rates in the country. Not by coincidence, West Virginia coal country was the target of a concerted push by the pharmaceutical industry to bring addictive painkillers to poor, rural regions.</p><p>In December, the <em>Charleston Gazette-Mail</em> <a href="http://www.wvgazettemail.com/news-health/20161217/drug-firms-poured-780m-painkillers-into-wv-amid-rise-of-overdoses">reported</a> that out-of-state pharmaceutical companies went to extreme lengths to sell drugs in West Virginia, including McDowell County. In one case, just one pharmacy in a town of 392 received 9 million hydrocodone pills over the course of two years.</p><p>“In six years, drug wholesalers showered the state with 780 million hydrocodone and oxycodone pills, while 1,728 West Virginians fatally overdosed on those two painkillers,” the investigation <a href="http://www.wvgazettemail.com/news-health/20161217/drug-firms-poured-780m-painkillers-into-wv-amid-rise-of-overdoses">found</a>. “The unfettered shipments amount to 433 pain pills for every man, woman and child in West Virginia.”</p><p>Sanders also stressed that people suffering from addiction should not be jailed, but offered treatment.</p><p>The event was part of a series of town halls called “Bernie Sanders in Trump country,” in which the Vermont senator travels to areas that skewed heavily for Trump and hears out the concerns of residents. Chief among them is the rise in addiction and fatal overdoses.</p><p>As Chris Hayes pointed out in a Friday <a href="http://www.msnbc.com/all-in/watch/9-million-painkillers-shipped-to-tiny-west-virginia-town-895420995808">segment</a> preceding the event, Donald Trump’s solution to the opioid crisis is to build a wall, but in fact, many people got hooked on addictive painkillers thanks to the profit motive of America’s legal pharmaceutical industry.</p><p>Meanwhile, Attorney General Jeff Sessions continues to promote the (debunked) idea that a rise in opioid deaths is linked to the legalization of marijuana. Sessions has also indicated that he favors rolling back criminal justice reform, a position that’s also out of line with the root causes of addictive behavior. In fact, many addiction researchers note that the best weapon against <a href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/addiction-in-society/201103/addiction-wars-meaning-and-purpose-v-disease">addiction</a> is to give people a sense of purpose, which fits with Sanders’ economic agenda.</p><p> </p> Tue, 14 Mar 2017 11:49:00 -0700 Tana Ganeva, Raw Story 1073835 at https://www.alternet.org Drugs Drugs bernie sanders opioid addiction west virginia rural drug addiction 'Everything's on the Table': Kellyanne Conway Floats Mass Recess Appointments of Trump Nominees https://www.alternet.org/right-wing/kellyanne-conway-floats-mass-recess-appointments-trump-nominees <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">She called the remaining Obama-era staff &quot;sleeper cells.&quot;</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/32274301152_1f5795dd41_b.jpg?itok=Et5Ohfe9" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>On Tuesday, counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway—who’s recently had some trouble getting <a href="http://flavorwire.com/599074/is-cable-news-finally-refusing-to-book-fabulist-kellyanne-conway">booked</a> on cable news shows —<a href="http://www.hughhewitt.com/counselor-president-kellyanne-conway-stand-administration/">appeared</a> on conservative talk host Hugh Hewitt’s radio show. Hewitt asked Conway why the president has not fired Obama-appointed U.S. attorneys and praised Donald Trump’s controversial decision to dismiss acting Attorney General Sally Yates.</p><p>“Hey, I just want him to do, there are sleeper cells of Obama appointees throughout this government who are in political jobs. They’re not civil servants, and I want them, I really want them gone yesterday,” Hewitt said.</p><p>Hewitt asked Conway if the administration is willing to consider recess appointments, which occur when the Senate is not in session, in order to bypass congressional oversight: “Would you push that, because we’ve got to stand up to this government, and Senate Democrats are not going to do anything to assist us in getting going,” he said.</p><p>Conway assured Hewitt that the controversial measure was a possibility.</p><p>“Everything’s on the table. All of that is being discussed, Hugh. And you make some excellent points. You’re right about the Democrats,” she asserted. “I mean, to see sort of congenital, presumptive obstruction and negativity is very concerning, because it just means that the government can’t function fully, and that they’re obstructing regardless of who the individual is that’s being considered, regardless of the post that needs to be filled. And it’s very frustrating.”</p> Tue, 21 Feb 2017 11:51:00 -0800 Tana Ganeva, Raw Story 1072657 at https://www.alternet.org The Right Wing The Right Wing Hugh Hewitt Kellyanne Conway sally yates recess appointments trump administration Obama's Non-Violent Drug Clemency Roulette: Some Are Out for Christmas, While Others, Sadly, Are Not Going to Make it Before Trump Takes Over https://www.alternet.org/drugs/obamas-non-violent-drug-clemency-roulette-some-are-out-christmas-while-others-sadly-are-not <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '1069429'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1069429" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Meanwhile many other nonviolent prisoners, like 64-year-old Nancy Ferneau, were denied clemency this year.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/prisoner_7.jpg?itok=XX6h2TD-" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p dir="ltr">Danielle Metz was practically a kid when she was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole—all of 23 years old. She’d never been in <a href="http://www.candoclemency.com/danielle-metz/">trouble</a> with the law before, but her much-older husband, who she says was <a href="http://wgno.com/2016/08/31/obama-commutes-prison-sentence-for-new-orleans-native-serving-life/">abusive</a>, sold cocaine. The feds charged Danielle with conspiracy for her alleged role and she was <a href="http://wgno.com/2016/08/31/obama-commutes-prison-sentence-for-new-orleans-native-serving-life/">sent away</a> for life.</p><p>Thanks to the president’s clemency initiative, she got her sentence commuted in August, so she’ll be spending her first Christmas home in 23 years.</p><p dir="ltr">While the timing can’t exactly be called perfect—Danielle spent more than two decades locked up for a nonviolent drug crime—it was still lucky. Her mom had a stroke when she was incarcerated, and Danielle was petrified her mom would die while she was on the inside. When her mom had another stroke, Danielle was in the room with her, cooking some food. She noticed her mom slurring her speech and doing “everything in slow motion.” She pounded on her brother’s door and the two were able to get her mom to the hospital in time.</p><p dir="ltr">Dani was looking forward to her first Christmas at home in more than two decades. Instead, she’ll be spending the holidays with her mom as she recovers from her stroke in rehab. But that’s only fair, since her mom spent her last 23 Christmases visiting Danielle in prison.</p><p dir="ltr">“Every Christmas I’ve been in prison, she’s been visiting me in prison," Danielle said on the phone. "She hasn’t been home for one Christmas since I went away. It’s my wish that we celebrate at home, but if not, I’ll cook food and bring it here and celebrate Christmas here with her, because this is what I’ve been looking forward to for 23 years."</p><p dir="ltr">“It’s happy and sad,” Danielle continued. “I’m thinking I’m coming home, I get to spend a lot of time with her, and now she’s sick.”</p><p dir="ltr">Danielle wishes she could personally thank the president for freeing her. Her mother is also grateful.</p><p dir="ltr">“My mom would always say, 'He’s a good man, a good man. I wish he got you out sooner.' But she’s happy,” Danielle says. “Some people can't be without their kids for 23 days, much less 23 years.”</p><p dir="ltr">Danielle's own kids, who were 3 and 7 when she went away, are 31 and 27 now. Her son is having trouble processing everything. First, his mom came home, after he thought she’d die in prison. Then his grandma got sick. </p><p>Still, Danielle says she pinches herself every day because she can’t believe she’s out. And, she said she knows what it’s like to look at the list of presidential clemencies and not see your name.</p><p>“My face was, like, sunburnt from tears,” she said. </p><p>Now, whenever a new list comes out, she scours it for women she met on the inside that she wishes would get a second chance.</p><p dir="ltr">On Monday, the president granted 78 pardons and 153 commutations. There are indications there’ll be more, as time runs out. <a href="http://www.businessinsider.com/where-donald-trump-stands-on-criminal-justice-2016-10">Donald Trump</a> and <a href="https://theintercept.com/2016/11/18/clemency-applicants-urge-obama-to-act-before-trump-presidency-crushes-hope/">Jeff Sessions</a> have made it clear they’re not particularly sympathetic to the plight of nonviolent drug offenders serving long sentences, so the next few weeks are critical.</p><p dir="ltr"><a href="http://psruckman.com">P.S. Ruckman</a>, professor of political science at Rock Valley College, says President Obama deserves credit for granting as many pardons and clemencies as he has, but he can do more.</p><p dir="ltr">In December, Attorney General Loretta Lynch <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2016/12/15/politics/lynch-no-blanket-pardons/">said</a> the president can’t do a blanket pardon, but Ruckman says that’s not true.</p><p dir="ltr">“That's patently ridiculous. It's a great American tradition. Even though he's granted so many clemencies, it's just a drop in the bucket compared to number of applications.”</p><p>Ruckman says the president should grant, “amnesty to all first time nonviolent drug offenders in prison who have good records and would not even be in prison now if they were convicted under current law.”  </p><p dir="ltr">Looking past the Obama administration, Ruckman argues that pardon and clemency power should be taken out of the Department of Justice (DOJ)—which is, after all, run by prosecutors.</p><p dir="ltr">“People in DOJ are career prosecutors. They're good at saying no, it’s what they do.“</p><p dir="ltr">He suggests the clemency process be moved closer to the executive office, not sit “in the basement of DOJ. There's no trace of evidence they have a professional interest in mercy. And that's shameful. We could do better.”</p><p dir="ltr">For the prisoners either waiting for their names to appear on one of Obama’s lists, or who have already had their name appear on a list of denials, Christmas is tough.</p><p dir="ltr">64-year-old Nancy Ferneau, whose clemency petition was denied this year, writes that inmates at the Carswell Correctional Facility are preparing Christmas skits. Her unit is putting on Nightmare Before Christmas. If their unit wins, they get “to go first for chow and pill line for two weeks.”</p><p dir="ltr">“This unit has some pretty talented women in it. [They’re] painting, sewing outfits from scrap, everything has to be made out of materials that are here, paper, cloth, paint.”</p><p dir="ltr">Despite the apparent resourcefulness, it’s extra tough around the holidays, Nancy wrote in a letter.</p><p dir="ltr">“It is just hard on all the women being away from their families, it's the time of year that most fights, arguing, crying, stuff like that goes on,” she noted. “They feed us a good meal for the day, then a box supper so the staff can go home to their families. It's tough but we survive.”</p><p dir="ltr">For Nancy, the blow of having her clemency petition denied—she was sure she would get it, and she was eligible—is compounded by forced separation from her daughter, Alicia, who’s also a federal prisoner. Alicia served time at the Carswell Medical Center, but she was moved to the <a href="https://www.bop.gov/locations/institutions/tal/">Federal Correctional Institution</a> in Tallahassee a few years ago.</p><p dir="ltr">“She is so sad and that hurts me most,” Nancy wrote. Her daughter has severe physical and mental health problems.  </p><p>Alicia, for her part, is working hard to get her mom out of prison before Nancy succumbs to <em>her</em> many health problems, including several cancers and multiple surgeries.</p><p dir="ltr">“All I ever wanted in my life was my mom and now my biggest fear is losing her,” she wrote. “The feeling of helplessness to save her is so overwhelming most of the time that it feels like I can’t breathe.”</p> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2016 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '1069429'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1069429" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Sat, 24 Dec 2016 14:03:00 -0800 Tana Ganeva, AlterNet 1069429 at https://www.alternet.org Drugs Drugs cocaine obama clemency drugs christmas war on drugs TSA Rule: You Won’t Be Able to Board an Airplane with Driver’s Licenses from these 9 States https://www.alternet.org/right-wing/tsa-rule-you-wont-be-able-board-airplane-drivers-licenses-these-9-states <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Why institute a policy that might make flying more stressful?</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/airplane.jpg?itok=X8IBlUb9" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>With 2017 around the corner, it’s a good time for a reminder that starting in 2018, the Transportation Security Administration will no longer <a href="http://www.attn.com/stories/13813/here-are-nine-states-whose-licenses-arent-good-enough-get-you-plane">accept</a> state ID cards or driver’s licenses from nine states as proof of identification.</p><p>Flyers with driver’s licenses from Kentucky, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Washington will need an alternative form of ID, like a passport or military ID.</p><p>In December, the Department of Homeland Security <a href="https://www.dhs.gov/news/2016/12/12/tsa-notify-travelers-upcoming-2018-real-id-airport-enforcement">announced</a> they would start posting signs at airports alerting travelers to the change in TSA procedure that might disrupt more than a few travel plans.</p><p></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="345" width="269"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="345" width="269" typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/large/public/id_tsa.png?itok=7sYDkK0k" /></div><p></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="345" width="276"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="345" width="276" typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/large/public/tsa_2.png?itok=Ab5IpHS1" /></div><p>Why institute a policy that might make flying more stressful? In a statement, DHS explained that the change is an outcome of the REAL ID law passed by Congress in 2005. It created minimum criteria for state-issued licenses used as proof of ID.</p><p>“States have made considerable progress in meeting this key recommendation of the 9/11 Commission and every state has a more secure driver’s license today than before the passage of the Act,” DHS writes on the website. So far, the nine states listed above have failed to achieve compliance with the REAL ID standards, according to DHS.</p> Sat, 24 Dec 2016 10:16:00 -0800 Tana Ganeva, Raw Story 1069423 at https://www.alternet.org The Right Wing Human Rights The Right Wing tsa id These 6 Celebrities Are Refusing to Play Trump's Inauguration as Team Scrambles to Secure Talent https://www.alternet.org/these-6-celebrities-are-refusing-play-trumps-inauguration-team-scrambles-secure-talent <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">It&#039;s a star-studded list... of who turned Trump down.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_56750725.jpg?itok=i81tfaaT" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>As Inauguration Day approaches, Donald Trump’s team is reportedly having such a hard time attracting celebrity performers that the president-elect has ordered a “Hail Mary” shakeup, according to the <a href="http://www.thewrap.com/trump-inauguration-panic-mark-burnett-irving-azoff-garth-brooks-celine-dion/">Wrap</a>. Susan Bender, formerly a booker for "Dancing with the Stars," will now have her talents tested in the task of securing A-list talent. So far, the only confirmed performers are a 16-year-old "America’s Got Talent" contestant and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.</p><p>Which celebrities have reportedly turned down the chance to celebrate the new president-elect? Here’s a list so far.</p><p><strong>Elton John </strong></p><p>When the <a href="http://nypost.com/2016/11/23/key-adviser-claims-elton-john-will-play-at-trumps-inauguration/" target="_blank">New York Post</a> claimed that a "key adviser" to Trump announced that Elton John would be performing at the inauguration, the singer’s representatives swiftly <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/23/arts/music/no-elton-john-will-not-perform-at-the-trump-inauguration.html">shut down</a> his claim.</p><p>“This will be the first American president in U.S. history that enters the White House with a pro-gay-rights stance,” Anthony Scaramucci said on the BBC, according to the <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/23/arts/music/no-elton-john-will-not-perform-at-the-trump-inauguration.html">New York Times</a>. Scaramucci, an investment banker as well as a member of the presidential transition team, said, “Elton John is going to be doing our concert on the mall for the inauguration.”</p><p>But according to the New York Times, Elton John's publicist said via email that this was untrue: “Incorrect. He will NOT be performing.”</p><p><strong>Garth Brooks</strong></p><p>Asked if he would perform at the inauguration, the country star replied with the vaguely patriotic, “It’s always about serving. It’s what you do.” But after weeks of speculation, the Wrap <a href="http://www.sfgate.com/entertainment/the-wrap/article/Garth-Brooks-Will-Not-Perform-at-Trump-10794551.php">reports</a> that Brooks will not be performing.</p><p><strong>Celine Dion </strong></p><p>Steve Wynn, Donald Trump’s hotelier buddy, reportedly pledged to deliver up Celine Dion. He failed. Dion is <a href="http://www.usmagazine.com/celebrity-news/news/celine-dion-declines-trumps-invite-to-perform-at-inauguration-report-w457438">refusing</a> to take part.</p><p><strong>Andrea Bocelli</strong></p><p>The Trump team claimed that they had turned down Andrea Bocelli, but other <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/20/arts/andrea-bocelli-wont-be-singing-at-the-trump-inauguration.html?smid=tw-nytimesarts&amp;smtyp=cur&amp;mtrref=t.co&amp;_r=1&amp;mtrref=www.rollingstone.com&amp;gwh=9678E3C318959047A09A4A30DFD897EA&amp;gwt=pay">reports </a>suggest the singer decided against performing on January 20 because of potential backlash and bad press.</p><p><strong>John Legend</strong></p><p>We don’t know if John Legend has been asked, but the singer made his position pretty clear nevertheless.</p><p>“Creative people tend to reject bigotry and hate,” Legend <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-38298215">told</a> the BBC. “We tend to be more liberal-minded. When we see somebody that’s preaching division and hate and bigotry, it’s unlikely he’ll get a lot of creative people that want to be associated with him.”</p><p><strong>KISS</strong></p><p>When TMZ <a href="http://www.tmz.com/2016/12/22/gene-simmons-kiss-trump-inauguration/">asked</a> Gene Simmons if KISS would play the inauguration, Simmons tried to answer only to be shouted down by his wife and daughter, who yelled loudly, "No!" Once Simmons was able to speak, he diplomatically offered that the band would be touring Europe then, but his family continued making it quite clear that was not the reason.</p><p><a href="http://www.thewrap.com/trump-team-scrambles-list-inaugural-performers-willing-pay-anything-exclusive/" target="_blank">The Wrap</a> reports that the Trump team is offering to pay A-listers “anything” to get them on board.</p><p>Given his successful run on "Dancing with the Stars," perhaps Rick Perry can pull double duty as inauguration performer and <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/13/us/politics/rick-perry-energy-secretary-trump.html">incoming</a> Energy Secretary.</p><p> </p> Thu, 22 Dec 2016 12:54:00 -0800 Tana Ganeva, Raw Story 1069305 at https://www.alternet.org inauguration day Did the Drug War Give Us President Donald Trump? https://www.alternet.org/drugs/the <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '1068209'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1068209" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Like the opioid crisis, reckless over-policing has taken its toll on the working class.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_526010896.jpg?itok=Y5Z5207T" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>As the media and the political establishment struggle to make sense of the election of Donald Trump, some themes have emerged. In one common thread, writers sympathetic to the plight of economically distressed rural voters identify a series of factors that have led to their misery.</p><p>Writing at Jacobin, Dan O'Sullivan <a href="https://www.jacobinmag.com/2016/11/donald-trump-election-hillary-clinton-election-night-inequality-republicans-trumpism/">noted</a> that when Democrats and the media sneer at Rust Belt Americans, they’re “either ignoring or laughing at the evisceration of people by drug addiction, <a href="https://www.jacobinmag.com/2015/11/case-deaton-study-death-rate-health-care/">treatable health problems</a>, overwork, malnutrition, foreclosure, infant mortality, slum housing, usurious loans — the sundry complications of poverty. The list is endless, and each bullet signifies another humiliation, another compromise, another deadening.”</p><p>With the heroin epidemic eating up so much media time, it makes sense that addiction is highlighted as yet another stressor on these communities. But what about the policing of drugs? On the Washington Post’s <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-watch/wp/2016/11/29/she-got-24-years-for-her-boyfriends-meth-even-her-sentencing-judge-supports-clemency/?utm_term=.9680b1fca076">Watch blog</a>, I point out that panic over meth in the 1990s and early aughts led to a law enforcement crackdown with some parallels to the policing of crack in the '80s, when users and dealers were aggressively prosecuted and child protective agencies ripped families apart. There are important differences, of course, including race—meth is a drug that has traditionally been associated with white and Hispanic people, while crack in the '80s was primarily seen as a drug used by black people in cities.</p><p>The Post piece focuses on the story of a woman named <a href="http://www.candoclemency.com/clemency-lori-kavitz/">Lori Kavitz</a>, who is still in prison, hoping to get her sentences commuted before Donald Trump enters office. After a series of traumatic events, Kavitz started living with a man who sold meth. The Iowa department of human services took her two young sons while she and her boyfriend were under investigation, putting the kids in foster homes the boys say were abusive. (Iowa is one of a handful of states that deems <a href="https://www.childwelfare.gov/topics/systemwide/laws-policies/statutes/drugexposed/">parental drug use</a> child abuse.)</p><p>Then, when Kavitz was arrested, automatic sentencing enhancements led to her being sentenced to 24 years, though she’d never been in trouble with the law before. To this day, she has yet to meet her grandchildren because her family can’t afford to travel to the state where she is incarcerated.</p><p>In lobbying for her clemency, sentencing judge Mark Bennett has written, “her sentence was a gross miscarriage of justice, and I was on that day, in that courtroom, in that hour embarrassed and ashamed to be a U.S. District Judge imposing such an unfair sentence. At that time I said on the record that her sentence was 'idiotic, arbitrary, unduly harsh and grossly unfair.' I <a href="https://www.change.org/p/president-obama-clemency-to-lori-kavitz-serving-24-years">called</a> it one of the most 'unjust sentences I have been forced to impose.'"</p><p>Lori Kavitz's family is hoping President Obama will commute her sentence as part of his historic clemency initiative, which has led to more than 1,000 reductions in sentencing through presidential clemency. Her son is worried that with Obama leaving office, his mom will lose her chance to come home.</p><p>Read the <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-watch/wp/2016/11/29/she-got-24-years-for-her-boyfriends-meth-even-her-sentencing-judge-supports-clemency/?utm_term=.f8aad69b5e9a">entire story</a> at the Washington Post.</p> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2016 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '1068209'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1068209" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Fri, 02 Dec 2016 10:34:00 -0800 Tana Ganeva, AlterNet 1068209 at https://www.alternet.org Drugs Drugs marijuana drugs cocaine drug war "Let Me Not Die Here"—For Drug-War Prisoners Like Nancy, Time Is Running Out to Receive Clemency From Obama https://www.alternet.org/drugs/let-me-not-die-here-drug-war-prisoners-nancy-clemency-obama <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">It&#039;s very unlikely that Trump is going to continue Obama&#039;s policy of commuting sentences to redress draconian drug war punishments. </div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/nancy-ferneau.jpg?itok=t5xFY_Kw" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p><em>Editor’s note: President Obama has extended clemency to an unparalleled number of people convicted of nonviolent drug-law violations—a program unlikely to be prioritized by President-elect Trump.  </em>The Influence<em> and </em>AlterNet<em> have partnered on a series profiling people impacted by the program, as time runs out for inmates hoping to get their sentences commuted.</em></p><p>Nancy Ferneau was so sure she was going home this year that she told her sister not to bother coming down from Seattle, where they grew up, to the Carswell Correctional Facility in Fort Worth, Texas for her annual visit.</p><p>She was mistaken. Nancy’s plea for clemency was denied, and she was told she has to wait another year before she’s eligible to apply again.</p><p>Nancy (above, second from left, with her sisters) is 65. She has suffered from a staggering array of illnesses. She’s had two types of cancer, so she’s had a lumpectomy and a kidney removed. She’s had more than 12 surgeries on her back, neck, knees, wrists. She’s had a stroke, has very painful arthritis and needs surgery on her feet. She has been incarcerated since 2003, and she wants to go home before she dies.</p><p>She’s not sure why the Office of the Pardon Attorney thinks she should serve out her full sentence, but suspects that a series of minor infractions from early on in her time behind bars—before she learned that you don’t talk back to guards, even when you think you’re right—was the reason her petition was denied.</p><p>The criteria for clemency requires nearly <a href="http://theinfluence.org/if-obama-can-forgive-me-why-cant-she-woman-whose-sentence-was-commuted-after-13-years-still-stuck-in-jail-thanks-to-florida-prosecutor/">spotless records</a>, a virtually impossible feat in many prisons. “You can be written up for all sorts of crazy stuff,” Amy Povah, a former prisoner and<em> Influence</em> <a href="http://theinfluence.org/author/amy-povah/">contributor</a>, explains. She herself almost ended up in solitary twice—once for feeding the birds, which she didn’t know was against the rules, and once for trying to bring some canned tuna to a cat that lived in the education building.</p><p>In her appeal against the decision, Nancy wrote, “I ruined my life, my children’s lives and my family’s lives, but they have forgiven me. I changed. I don’t want to die in prison and that’s what I’m looking at if I’m not given a second chance. Please, I need to go home to my family, give me this chance to prove I’m worth your trust in this, let me go home, not die here!”</p><p> </p><p dir="ltr">                                                                                                  Perverse Policies</p><p>It’s gotten lost in the election din, but as the White House <a href="https://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2016/10/27/president-obama-grants-another-98-commutations-month-october">press office</a> proudly proclaims every new batch of prisoners granted clemency, Obama has commuted the sentences of more people in the past year than the previous 11 presidents combined.</p><p>It should be a proud legacy. These are people who were sent away for decades—even life—for <a href="http://theinfluence.org/this-man-sold-meth-to-pay-for-his-sons-lifesaving-transplant-obama-gave-him-clemency-but-his-ordeal-continues-in-a-halfway-house/">doing or selling drugs</a>, or <a href="http://theinfluence.org/i-got-a-24-year-prison-sentence-for-mdma-my-husband-made-its-time-for-obama-to-step-up-clemencies/">having a relative or boyfriend</a> who did or sold drugs. Perversely, in many cases the <em>less</em> involved someone was in the drug trade, the more likely they were to receive a long sentence.</p><p>That’s because less involved people have less information to trade for better plea deals. They’re also more likely to object to pleading guilty and take a chance to go to trial.</p><p>That’s what happened to Nancy. She was offered eight years. But didn’t think she’d done anything wrong, so she went to trial.</p><p>Her court-appointed attorney was inexperienced, according to Nancy. She got 25 years.</p><p>Although the President’s record of 944 <a href="http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Justice/2016/1105/President-Obama-s-944-commutations-Why-he-s-releasing-prisoners">commutations</a> is impressive, as a policy with little political gain and lots of potential fallout, the number of people with hopes riding on clemency is overwhelming: The US pardon attorney’s office got 7,941 petitions for clemency in 2016 alone.</p><p>Close to 50 percent of federal prisoners are serving time for drug crimes, according to the <a href="http://www.ussc.gov/sites/default/files/pdf/research-and-publications/quick-facts/Quick-Facts_BOP_March2016.pdf">US Sentencing Commision</a>: Approximately 75,000 federal prisoners are serving mandatory minimum sentences.</p><p>Last Friday, another 72 were <a href="http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Justice/2016/1105/President-Obama-s-944-commutations-Why-he-s-releasing-prisoners">informed</a> their sentences would be cut short, but Nancy wasn’t one of them—and the election of Donald Trump doesn’t improve her chances. “Some of these people are bad dudes,” the President-elect said in August of people released under the clemency initiative. “And these are people who are out, they’re walking the streets. Sleep tight, folks.”</p><p dir="ltr">                                                                 A Tough Life, Then an Even Tougher Break</p><p>Long before Nancy spun into addiction—crack, pills, meth—her life was filled with the kind of stressors that would override many people’s intentions to stay away from drugs.</p><p>Her mom left her dad when she was seven because he drank too much and beat her. She took care of the family by getting a job as a cashier in a grocery store and married the owner, a strict, religious man who wouldn’t let Nancy or his daughters wear makeup or even sleeveless tops.</p><p>At 16, Nancy ran away and got married to a man named Ronald. Before she was 19, they had two daughters.</p><p>The young family teetered on the edge of poverty, especially once her husband got fired from a steel mill for not showing up to work. He also drank too much. “We fought a lot, he drank a lot and ran with other women,” Nancy writes.</p><p>After she left him, she had a series of jobs: grocery store clerk, bartender, at a shipyard. She met a new man named Jack.</p><p>One day, she and Jack were at a picnic, while her daughters were at their dad’s, who’d remarried.</p><p>“On arriving home from the picnic, I got a phone call that my kids and their step-mom were at the neighbors, their dad was knocking on the door and after them. My boyfriend and I went to pick up my girls, him and my ex-husband got in a fight and my boyfriend accidentally shot and killed my ex-husband.” Jack was acquitted, but the shooting death of her ex did not make for a smooth start to their marriage.</p><p>“Even though my husband was found not guilty, it was like he couldn’t accept the fact that he had killed someone, and he started drinking and beating me,” she writes. So she left him, and “started hanging around with the wrong people.” She began to do drugs, and to overdo it with the partying.</p><p>She met another man at the shipyards and he moved in, while Nancy started doing even more drugs. “We were working during the week and doing drugs on the weekends.” The state stepped in and put her daughter in a group home. Her other daughter left as well, moving in with a friend’s family in a nicer part of town.</p><p>“Hi-class, better than me,” Nancy writes. The loss of her daughters traumatized her. “Without my girls I lost control, I started shooting cocaine and getting high during the week as well as the weekends.” She lost the boyfriend, she lost her job, “and proceeded to run amok for the next 20 years,” shoplifting to support her drug use.</p><p>A stint in jail too many convinced Nancy to stop and get her life together. She moved, bought a trailer.</p><p>But then she met another man and started shooting and smoking crack—<a href="http://theinfluence.org/the-anatomy-of-a-heroin-relapse/">relapse</a>, of course, is a common part of addiction. That led to another six-month spell in jail, after police found drug paraphernalia. Nancy says it was the man’s, but she took the blame.</p><p>“When I came out of prison, I moved in with a friend of mine (female) and tried to straighten out my life,” she writes. “I stayed away from all the people doing drugs and cleaned up my life.”</p><p>And that’s when Nancy’s real trouble began.</p><p>Nancy met a guy and started driving cars for him from North Dakota up to Washington State, where he sold them for more money. She introduced him to a friend. But “when I found out what kind of business, I quit seeing them both.”</p><p>That business, as it turned out, was moving and selling meth, first from Iowa, then from Washington, to North Dakota. The operation lasted <a href="http://media.ca8.uscourts.gov/opndir/05/09/041747P.pdf">between</a> 1999 and 2003, but Nancy says she stopped in 2000. “As soon as I accidentally walked into a room and saw them packing stuff up, I [said] I wouldn’t drive anymore and they couldn’t come to my house anymore.”</p><p>Nancy says that when they were busted, the feds came to her for information that she didn’t have. “They wanted my friend’s buddy, I was offered 8 years but told them I wasn’t guilty and wasn’t taking 8 years.” That’s when she went to trial and got 25.</p><p>Ferneau was convicted of conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine, along with two men, Shawn Barth and Rosalio Vargas. Unlike Nancy, the men were convicted of a range of other charges, including possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine, distribution of methamphetamine, possession of marijuana with intent to distribute and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. Vargas was also charged with “possession of a firearm by an illegal alien.”</p><p>The main evidence of Nancy’s involvement in the conspiracy was the testimony of two other men, who Nancy claims were not credible witnesses: One had said he was not going back to jail at all costs, and the other made a plea deal in exchange for testifying. A number of other witnesses testified that Nancy didn’t know, according to court documents. The government claimed that Ferneau not only knew about the drug sales, but was more than a minor participant and had been actively involved in the conspiracy to distribute meth.</p><p>But the fact that Nancy was only charged with conspiracy suggests at the very least that the federal government was not confident in having enough evidence to make further charges stick.</p><p> </p> Thu, 17 Nov 2016 11:23:00 -0800 Tana Ganeva, The Influence 1067404 at https://www.alternet.org Drugs Drugs barack obama commutations clemency pardons office donald trump Nancy Fernau methamphetamine cocaine federal prison war on drugs mandatory minimums 'Let Me Go Home, Not Die Here!' With Trump Headed to White House, Obama's Prison Clemency Program More Urgent Than Ever https://www.alternet.org/let-me-go-home-not-die-here-trump-headed-white-house-obamas-prison-clemency-program-more-urgent-ever <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '1067020'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1067020" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">There&#039;s little hope that a President Trump will continue Obama&#039;s clemency initiative for people serving long sentences for drugs. </div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/p1110279.jpg?itok=aAWeb1gb" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p><em>Editor's note: President Obama has extended clemency to an unparalleled number of people convicted of nonviolent drug-law violations—a program unlikely to be prioritized by Donald Trump. AlterNet and The Influence have partnered on a series profiling people impacted by the program, as time runs out for inmates hoping to get their sentences commuted before President Obama leaves office.</em></p><p>Nancy Ferneau was so sure she was going home this year that she told her sister not to bother coming down from Seattle, where they grew up, to the Carswell Correctional Facility in Fort Worth, Texas for her annual visit.</p><p>She was mistaken. Nancy’s plea for clemency was denied, and she has to wait another year before she’s eligible to apply again.</p><p>Nancy is 65, and suffers from a staggering array of illnesses. She’s had two types of cancer, and has had a lumpectomy and a kidney removed. She’s had more than 12 surgeries on her back, neck, knees, and wrists. She’s had a stroke, has painful arthritis and needs surgery on her feet. She has been incarcerated since 2003, and she wants to go home before she dies.</p><p>She’s not sure why the Office of the Pardon Attorney thinks she should serve out her full sentence, but suspects a series of minor infractions from early on in her time behind bars—before she learned that you don’t talk back to guards, even when you think you’re right—was the reason her petition was denied. The criteria for clemency requires nearly <a href="http://theinfluence.org/if-obama-can-forgive-me-why-cant-she-woman-whose-sentence-was-commuted-after-13-years-still-stuck-in-jail-thanks-to-florida-prosecutor/">spotless records</a>, a virtually impossible feat in many prisons.</p><p>“You can be written up for all sorts of crazy stuff,” Amy Povah, a former prisoner, explains. She almost ended up in solitary twice—once for feeding the birds, which she didn’t know was against the rules, and once for trying to bring some canned tuna to a cat who lived in the education building.</p><p>In her appeal against the decision, Ferneau wrote, “I ruined my life, my children’s lives and my family’s lives, but they have forgiven me. I changed. I don’t want to die in prison and that’s what I’m looking at if I’m not given a second chance. Please, I need to go home to my family, give me this chance to prove I’m worth your trust in this, let me go home, not die here!”</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>                                                                                                  ***</strong></p><p>It’s gotten lost in the election din, but as the White House <a href="https://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2016/10/27/president-obama-grants-another-98-commutations-month-october">press office</a> proudly proclaims every time a new batch of prisoners is granted clemency, Obama has commuted the sentences of more people in the past year than the last 11 presidents combined.</p><p>It should be a proud legacy. These are people who were sent away for decades, even life, for <a href="http://theinfluence.org/this-man-sold-meth-to-pay-for-his-sons-lifesaving-transplant-obama-gave-him-clemency-but-his-ordeal-continues-in-a-halfway-house/">doing or selling drugs</a>, or <a href="http://theinfluence.org/i-got-a-24-year-prison-sentence-for-mdma-my-husband-made-its-time-for-obama-to-step-up-clemencies/">having a relative or boyfriend</a> who did or sold drugs. Perversely, in many cases the less involved someone was in a drug trade, the more likely they were to receive a long sentence. That’s because less involved people have less information to trade for better plea deals. They’re also more likely to object to pleading guilty and take a chance on going to trial.</p><p>That’s what happened to Nancy Ferneau. She was offered eight years, but didn’t think she’d done anything wrong, so she went to trial. Her court-appointed attorney was inexperienced, according to Ferneau. She got 25 years.</p><p>Although President Obama's record of 944 <a href="http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Justice/2016/1105/President-Obama-s-944-commutations-Why-he-s-releasing-prisoners">commutations</a> is impressive—a policy with little political gain and lots of potential fallout—the number of people with hopes riding on clemency is overwhelming. The U.S. pardon attorney’s office got 7,941 petitions for clemency in 2016 alone.</p><p>Close to 50 percent of federal prisoners are serving time for drug crimes, according to the <a href="http://www.ussc.gov/sites/default/files/pdf/research-and-publications/quick-facts/Quick-Facts_BOP_March2016.pdf">U.S. sentencing commision</a>; while approximately 75,000 federal prisoners are serving mandatory minimum sentences. Last Friday, another 72 were <a href="http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Justice/2016/1105/President-Obama-s-944-commutations-Why-he-s-releasing-prisoners">informed</a> their sentences would be cut short, but Ferneau wasn’t one of them.</p><p>The election of Donald Trump certainly doesn’t appear to better her chances. "Some of these people are bad dudes," the president-elect said in August of people released under the clemency initiative. "And these are people who are out, they're walking the streets. Sleep tight, folks."</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>A Tough Life, Then an Even Tougher Break</strong></p><p>Long before Ferneau spun into addiction—crack, pills, meth—her life was filled with the kind of stressors that would override many people’s best intentions to stay away from drugs. Her mom left her dad when she was seven because he drank too much and beat her. She took care of the family by getting a job as a cashier in a grocery store and married the owner, a strict, religious man who wouldn’t even let Ferneau or her sisters wear makeup or sleeveless tops. Ferneau ran away and got married at 16 to a man named Ronald. They had two daughters before she was 19.</p><p>The young family teetered on the edge of poverty, especially once her husband was fired from a steel mill for not showing up to work. He also drank too much. “We fought a lot, he drank a lot and ran with other women,” Ferneau writes.</p><p>After she left him, she had a series of jobs: grocery store clerk, bartender, at a shipyard. She met a new man named Jack. One day, she and Jack were at a picnic, while her daughters were with their dad, who had remarried.</p><p>“On arriving home from the picnic, I got a phone call that my kids and their stepmom were at the neighbors, their dad was knocking on the door and after them. My boyfriend and I went to pick up my girls, him and my ex-husband got in a fight and my boyfriend accidentally shot and killed my ex-husband.”</p><p>Jack was acquitted, but the shooting death of her ex did not make for a smooth start to their marriage.</p><p>“Even though my husband was found not guilty, it was like he couldn’t accept the fact that he had killed someone, and he started drinking and beating me,” she writes. So she left him, and “started hanging around with the wrong people.” She began to do drugs, and overdoing it with the partying.</p><p>She met another man at the shipyard and he moved in, while Ferneau started doing more drugs. “We were working during the week and doing drugs on the weekends.” </p><p>The state stepped in and put her daughter in a group home. Her other daughter left as well, moving in with a friend’s family in a nicer part of town.</p><p>“High-class, better than me,” Ferneau writes. The loss of her daughters traumatized her. “So, without my girls I lost control, I started shooting cocaine and getting high during the week as well as the weekends.” She lost the boyfriend, she lost her job, “and proceeded to run amok for the next 20 years,” shoplifting to support her drug use.</p><p>A stint in jail too many convinced Ferneau to stop and get her life together. She moved, bought a trailer. But then she met another man and started shooting and smoking crack—relapse, of course, is a common part of addiction. That led to another six-month spell in jail, after police found drug paraphenalia. Ferneau says it belong to the man, but she took the blame.</p><p>“When I came out of prison, I moved in with a friend of mine (female) and tried to straighten out my life. I stayed away from all the people doing drugs and cleaned up my life.”</p><p>And that’s when Ferneau's real trouble began. She met a guy and started driving cars for him from North Dakota up to Washington State, where he sold them for more money. She introduced him to a friend. But, “when I found out what kind of business, I quit seeing them both." </p><p>That business, as it turned out, was moving and selling meth, first from Iowa, then from Washington, to North Dakota. The operation lasted <a href="http://media.ca8.uscourts.gov/opndir/05/09/041747P.pdf">between</a> 1999 and 2003, but Ferneau says she stopped in 2000. "As soon as I accidently walked into a room and saw them packing stuff up, I [said] I wouldn't drive anymore and they couldn't come to my house anymore."</p><p>Ferneau says that when they were busted, the feds came to her for information that she didn’t have. “They wanted my friend’s buddy, I was offered eight years but told them I wasn’t guilty and wasn’t taking eight years.” That’s when she went to trial and got 25.</p><p>Ferneau was convicted of conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine, along with two men, Shawn Barth and Rosalio Vargas. Unlike Ferneau, the men were convicted of a range of other charges, including possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine, distribution of methamphetamine, possession of marijuana with intent to distribute and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. Vargas was also charged with “possession of a firearm by an illegal alien.”</p><p>The main evidence of Ferneau's involvement in the conspiracy was the testimony of two men, who she claims were not credible witnesses: one had said he was not going back to jail at all costs, and another made a plea deal in exchange for testifying. A number of other witnesses testified that she didn’t know, according to court documents. The government claimed that Ferneau not only knew about the drug sales, but was more than a minor participant and had been actively involved in the conspiracy to distribute meth.</p><p>But the fact that she was only charged with conspiracy suggests at the least that the federal government was not confident in having enough evidence to make other charges stick.</p><p>Regardless of what she knew and whether she was involved, there was never any question of her having committed violence—unlike many other crimes for which perpetrators might get less time.</p><p>“I’m in here with murderers and child molesters that got less time than I got for supposed ‘knowledge’ of what was going on… all the man [Fernandez] could say about me was, “She knows what’s going on,” Ferneau says.</p><p>“I do believe in karma, and did enough wrong things when I was younger that I am paying for them, but I really feel I have done enough.”</p><p>She points out that she isn’t the only one being punished here. “I have grandchildren and great-grandchildren that I have never seen.” Her mother is 85 years old.</p><p>“I just want to go home,” Nancy Ferneau writes. “I want to live with my mom and enjoy my remaining years.”</p> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2016 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '1067020'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1067020" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Fri, 11 Nov 2016 16:11:00 -0800 Tana Ganeva, AlterNet 1067020 at https://www.alternet.org drugs obama trump "My 22-Year-Old Daughter Died Because She Told ER She Didn't Have Health Insurance": The Enduring Nightmare of America's Health Care System https://www.alternet.org/my-22-year-old-daughter-died-because-she-told-er-she-didnt-have-health-insurance-enduring-nightmare <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '1066033'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1066033" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">It can happen to anyone. </div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2016-10-25_at_7.42.27_pm.png?itok=MiRMMFxi" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p dir="ltr">The final two times Amy Vilela hugged her daughter are captured in a pair of photographs taken in June and July of 2015. </p><p>In the first photo, Amy is holding Shalynne in her hospital bed, tubes sticking out of the 22-year-old’s neck and face. Staff at a hospital in Kansas City had just taken her off life support. “It was like her body was tensing up, and it was like she was hugging me,” Amy says.</p><p>In the second photo, she’s kneeling over her daughter in her coffin. This time, Shalynne is made up with violet eyeliner, her hair combed and swept to the side.</p><p>“It was crazy, because I knew it was the last time I would touch her.”</p><p>Counterfactual history is tricky in the emergency room, where a million things can go wrong even when everything is done right. But Amy thinks that Shalynne would be alive if she’d had health insurance—or if she didn’t live in a country where healthcare is dominated by private insurers and profit-driven hospitals.</p><p>In 2014, Shalynne was playing a Nintendo Wii with her brother when she injured her knee, busting the ACL. A few months later she drove cross-country from Kansas City, Missouri to Las Vegas, Nevada, a 22-hour drive. Soon after that, her knee and calf started swelling up.</p><p>On June 3, she was roughhousing with her boyfriend in Las Vegas, and fell on her knee again. This time it <em>really</em>hurt.</p><p>Amy was away on a business trip, and busy, and somewhat annoyed about having to field panicked calls. “I could hear her screaming in the background, saying it was the worst pain of her life. And I'm like ... okay, then take her to the hospital.”</p><p>Shalynne’s boyfriend drove her to Centennial Hills Hospital Medical Center emergency room, where the intake staff asked for her insurance. She told them she didn’t have any. According to her boyfriend’s deposition, intake staff told Shalynne she wouldn’t have to pay if she left, obtained insurance somewhere, and then came back.</p><p>She repeatedly told them that there was something <em>really</em>wrong with her, complaining of excruciating pain in her calf and knee.</p><p>In their lawsuit, the Vilela family claim that once hospital staff were told Shalynne didn’t have insurance, they treated her dismissively—failing to provide adequate emergency care or screening procedures, neglecting to get her medical history, and not giving her meds for what she described as “eight-out-of-10” pain. </p><p>***</p><p>It’s against the law for emergency rooms to treat uninsured patients differently than insured patients. But there are ways around the law. In a 2008 <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/10/10/AR2008101002679.html">op-ed</a>, Dr. Manoj Jain described how doctors, who <em>do</em>, after all, expect to be paid for their work, conduct “wallet biopsies” and discriminate against uninsured people when they need emergency care. The 2010 Affordable Care Act was supposed to fix that by drastically reducing the ranks of the uninsured. But 9 percent of Americans still lack health insurance, thanks in part to Republican governors’ refusal to expand Medicaid in their states. </p><p>The ACA was also supposed to lift the strain on emergency rooms, often the only option for uninsured people, but research <a href="http://www.usnews.com/news/blogs/data-mine/2016/02/18/obamacare-has-barely-made-a-dent-in-er-visits">shows</a> that ER visits have not fallen, leaving many emergency rooms strained. “We are seeing, in effect, medical refugees,” <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-sudip-bose/the-emerging-state-of-med_b_12316002.html">wrote</a> Sudip Bose, an ER doctor, earlier this month.</p><p>Amy suspects that in Shalynne’s case, the ER staff (the intake staff; Shalynne never saw a doctor) made some assumptions about her daughter because she told them she didn’t have insurance. Another factor, Amy believes, is that the hospital staff thought she was Hispanic; they marked her ethnicity as Hispanic, although Shalynne was actually half black and half white, while her boyfriend, who had brought her to the hospital, was black.</p><p>But if they thought that Shalynne was a “freeloader,” they were wrong. She was working two jobs and studying to be a nurse. Like many young people, she was occupied with life transitions that meant she didn’t prioritize health insurance. She was between careers and ending a marriage (the reason she wasn’t on her parents’ insurance). But she was working hard to support herself.</p><p>“She was a very, very loving and caring person,” Amy says. “Full of life. Really fun. Hard worker. Just a good kid.”</p><p>One of Shalynne’s previous jobs had been in a nursing home, and she got letters from her patients’ families. “The children of the people she was taking care of [would write] thanking her for being so empathetic and kind. She would sit and talk with the nursing home patients even after her shift was over."</p><p><strong>'How Could This Happen in America?'</strong></p><p>Since their daughter’s death it’s been painful for her family to watch the presidential debate over health care play out. To listen, for example, to Donald Trump present “health savings accounts” as the solution to America’s healthcare problems—which are plentiful and nightmarishly daunting, as anyone who’s ever tried to make sense of an astronomically high hospital bill can tell you. </p><p dir="ltr">On Monday, the Obama administration <a href="http://abc11.com/news/obama-administration-confirms-double-digit-premium-hikes/1571097/">confirmed</a> that premiums are likely to skyrocket by double-digit percentages next year, while in some marketplaces consumers will be left with only one insurer, which does not bode well for patients.</p><p>Trump, like congressional Republicans, says he wants to repeal the ACA, but has not offered a concrete alternative. Hillary Clinton promises to stick by it and pursue reforms: “As president, I'll defend the Affordable Care Act, build on its successes, and go even further to reduce costs. My plan will crack down on drug companies charging excessive prices, slow the growth of out-of-pocket costs, and provide a new credit to those facing high health expenses.”</p><p>Amy doesn’t want to be partisan about this, because she doesn’t think this is a partisan issue. Who could possibly disagree with the idea that a 22-year-old shouldn’t die because of her health insurance status? EMTALA, the law that requires ERs to treat patients equally regardless of whether they’re insured, was passed during the Reagan administration.</p><p>But the toxic nature of the healthcare debates since the 1990s, when Hillary Clinton first tried to revamp the health insurance industry, and on through the battle over ACA, has perverted common sense. Amy thinks the hateful rhetoric surrounding health reform has created an environment of stress and distrust that contributed to her daughter’s poor treatment and preventable death.</p><p>Yet, whenever she tells her daughter’s story to anyone, whether a hardcore Trump supporter or a fan of Jill Stein, their reaction is always the same: disbelief, horror and some variation of, “Oh my god, how can this can happen in America?”</p><p>                                                                                                     ***</p><p>If the staff at Centennial Hills had taken Shalynne’s medical history, they’d have found out she had sickle-cell <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17409269">anemia</a> trait and PCOS-induced obesity, and that she smoked cigarettes and used the <a href="https://www.drugwatch.com/nuvaring/">NuvaRing contraceptive</a>. These are all risk factors for deep vein thrombosis, as was the fact that she’d taken a 22-hour drive a few weeks before.</p><p>In his deposition, her boyfriend says her calf was visibly swollen and that she pointed this out to staff repeatedly. They took an x-ray (which isn’t <a href="https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/dvt/diagnosis">usually used</a> to detect blood clots). Shalynne asked for an MRI, which they refused, according to her mother and boyfriend’s depositions.</p><p>"They're not helping me, Mommy,” her daughter wailed on the phone.<strong> </strong>Shalynne felt humiliated. In the end, they told her they couldn’t do anything for her because she needed surgery and didn’t have insurance. They sent her home with a knee brace. Her calf continued to swell, and she started having trouble breathing when she climbed the stairs.</p><p>Amy still wasn’t too worried. After all, she herself had gone to the same hospital complaining of heartburn a while back and doctors had run a gamut of heart tests and an imaging scan. But Amy has health insurance, and she’s white. “If it doesn’t touch you, you don’t know about it, you know?”</p><p>When Shalynne flew back to Missouri, she started getting chest pains, but her parents thought it was a panic attack—she was only 22, after all. Then early one morning, she woke up terrified, in extreme pain and clutching her chest. Her dad called 911.</p><p>Amy finally got scared when the phone rang at 5am and it was her ex-husband, Shalynne’s father.</p><p>“I knew in my gut that it wasn’t good,” she says.</p><p>“I can still hear his voice. I’ve never heard him like this. He was saying there was an ambulance, now they say she coded, I’m thinking, she’s 22. I’m in shock, thinking, she’s probably okay, she’s probably upset or something.”</p><p>But Amy’s sister, an ER nurse, told her she’d better get to Kansas City, now. Shalynne had suffered a pulmonary embolism, a worst-case scenario where a clump of clotted blood lodges in the lungs. </p><p>When Amy arrived, Shalynne’s room smelled like blood, because she’d hemorrhaged from all the anti-coagulants pumped into her body to dissolve the clot. </p><p>“Every breath she’d take, her eyes would flutter open, and I’d say, Shalynne, please, fight. I thought, she’s young, she could make it. Fight.”</p><p>A family member Googled what it means when someone’s pupils dilate and it wasn’t good. Shalynne was put on life support, so the family could say goodbye.</p><p>“They asked us what time to pull her life support,” Amy says. “I got in the bed and I held her.”</p><p>They brought in friends and family to say goodbye, played her favorite music. “I was telling her how much I loved her.”</p><p>Doctors tried to convince Amy to leave the room as they turned off her daughter's life support but she refused. “I'm not leaving her side. I'm gonna be there with her when she leaves this world.”</p><p>One of the saddest things about it, Amy says now, is that when they looked at her phone the last thing she Googled was “symptoms of a heart attack.” She knows her daughter was probably scared and worried about whether to go to the hospital, given her lack of health insurance. She’d applied for Medicaid after her experience in Vegas; the paperwork arrived the week of her death.</p><p>“I miss Shalynne. Did they fix Shalynne’s heart yet?” her three-year-old brother asks, when he points to the vial of ashes that Amy wears around her neck.</p><p> </p><p> </p><p></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="480" width="270"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="480" width="270" typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/large/public/antonio.jpg?itok=sOXyUhtp" /></div><p><em>Antonio, sleeping with a Shalynne memory bear.</em></p> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2016 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '1066033'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1066033" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Tue, 25 Oct 2016 16:32:00 -0700 Tana Ganeva, AlterNet 1066033 at https://www.alternet.org health care emergency room Watch This Hilariously Insane Sheldon Adelson Anti-Marijuana Ad https://www.alternet.org/drugs/watch-hilariously-insane-sheldon-adelson-anti-marijuana-ad <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '1065697'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1065697" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The billionaire mogul has turned his attention to keeping pot illegal, even as 60 percent of Americans support legalization. </div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2016-10-19_at_3.20.08_pm.png?itok=xRNdkNYp" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p dir="ltr">In the past decade, billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson has used his money to fund such noble ventures as <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2014/03/28/newt-gingrich-says-wealthy-donors-like-sheldon-adelson-have-too-much-influence/">Newt Gingrich's</a> doomed presidential run and starting a <a href="https://www.thenation.com/article/gop-megadonor-sheldon-adelson-funds-mysterious-anti-iran-pressure-group/">war with Iran.</a> Lately, he’s turned his attention to another strange (and equally doomed) campaign: stopping the legalization of marijuana in states where he doesn’t even live.</p><p dir="ltr">Massachusetts is currently considering ballot measure "Question 4" that would legalize the sale and use of recreational marijuana, which 60 percent of Americans support. Sheldon Adelson, however, does <em>not</em> support legal pot, so he's trying to sink the campaign.</p><p dir="ltr">The Las Vegas billionaire reportedly <a href="https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2016/10/14/sheldon-adelson-donating-million-anti-pot-campaign/93B5Znm6w2jYrZR978oLbP/story.html">donated</a> 1 million to a group opposing the measure, Safe and Healthy Massachusetts. Before Adelson’s contribution, groups opposed to legal pot had raised $634,000, while legalization advocates were working with $3.3 million, <a href="https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2016/10/14/sheldon-adelson-donating-million-anti-pot-campaign/93B5Znm6w2jYrZR978oLbP/story.html">according</a> to the <em>Boston Globe.</em></p><p>“His generosity will prove critical in preventing a billion-dollar marijuana industry from establishing a foothold in our communities,” a Safe and Healthy Massachusetts spokesman said in a statement.</p><p dir="ltr">Since pot prohibitionists don’t have much medical science (or <a href="http://www.pbs.org/kenburns/prohibition/unintended-consequences/">history</a>) on their side, as a genre anti-legalization ads tend to rely on misleading data and menacing voiceovers. The ad produced by this Adelson-bankrolled group is no different.</p><p dir="ltr">“Question 4 would allow thousands of pot shops and marijuana operators throughout Massachusetts. In neighborhoods like yours,” a female voiceover threatens, as the video shows a harried-looking mother driving her small daughter through a dystopian new world where every suburban storefront is a cannabis dispensary instead of, I guess, a Burger King.</p><p dir="ltr">In fact, the state's legal marijuana industry would be tightly regulated. According to the Yes on 4 campaign, if the law passes, cities and towns will have the right to limit, and even prohibit, marijuana businesses. But few are likely to outright prohibit marijuana establishments, given what they stand to gain. As Adam Peck <a href="https://www.regulatemassachusetts.org/question4/">points out</a> in <em>Think Progress,</em> the legal pot industry generates significant tax revenue, which can serve as a welcome corrective to budgetary shortfalls that have led to cuts in social programs.</p><p dir="ltr">But moving on. Will the measure poison your children? Definitely. The next scene shows her daughter running up to a delightful spread of pink candies, adulterated, we suppose, by the devil weed.</p><p dir="ltr">There <em>have</em> been incidents of people eating pot candy not knowing what it was, like the Omaha dad who famously ate pot brownies and had an <a href="http://jezebel.com/we-cant-improve-this-headline-about-a-dad-who-ate-pot-b-1785411321">unpleasant exchange with the family cat.</a> But that’s why industries are regulated: there are measures, such as clearly marking pot products, that can help prevent accidental use.</p><p dir="ltr">Next up, road safety. “Pot Fuels Surge in Road Safety Deaths,” an NBC headline <a href="http://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/pot-fuels-surge-drugged-driving-deaths-n22991">flashes</a> on screen as the mother continues to navigate her living nightmare. Actually, there’s no evidence of that. Here’s what the study cited in the NBC piece actually found: </p><blockquote><p dir="ltr">As medical marijuana sales expanded into 20 states, legal weed was detected in the bodies of dead drivers three times more often during 2010 when compared to those who died behind the wheel in 1999, according to a new study from Columbia University published in <a href="http://aje.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2014/01/27/aje.kwt327.full.pdf+html">the American Journal of Epidemiology</a>.</p></blockquote><p>It would stand to reason that as pot becomes easier to get, a sampling of any random group of people might yield higher traces of the drug. That doesn’t mean that pot <em>caused</em> the car crashes, especially given that pot stays in your body long after its psychoactive effects have worn off. Research <a href="http://norml.org/library/item/marijuana-and-driving-a-review-of-the-scientific-evidence">compiled by NORML</a>, the ant-prohibition group, appears to show that marijuana does not play a huge role in car crashes. One theory is that drivers who are high tend to drive more slowly and carefully, unlike drunk drivers, who are more likely to drive recklessly fast. </p><p dir="ltr">The schlocky ad concludes in a predictable manner for the genre, with a teenaged boy walking out of a pot dispensary. But he’s not just any teenaged boy. He’s the woman's son. “Mom!” he says, shocked. “Kevin??!?” his mother cries in horror, pain, anger and disappointment.</p><p dir="ltr">He could be your son. He could be anybody’s son. Actually the law would limit pot product sales to people over 21, so it would be your adult son, whom you'd probably want getting high instead of binge drinking in college. </p><div>WATCH: </div><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/bjtmo2M3Exw" width="560"></iframe></p> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2016 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '1065697'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1065697" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Wed, 19 Oct 2016 12:02:00 -0700 Tana Ganeva, AlterNet 1065697 at https://www.alternet.org Drugs Drugs sheldon adelson marijuana 'If Obama Can Forgive Me, Why Can’t She?' Woman Whose Sentence Was Commuted Still in Jail Thanks to Florida Prosecutor https://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/if-obama-can-forgive-me-why-cant-she-getting-your-sentence-commuted-doesnt-mean <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '1065383'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1065383" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Getting your sentence commuted doesn&#039;t mean you&#039;re home free. </div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/donella.jpg?itok=erDI6vvx" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p><em>Editor's note: President Obama has extended clemency to an unparalleled number of people convicted of nonviolent drug-law violations, a program unlikely to be prioritized by the next president. AlterNet and The Influence have partnered on a series profiling people impacted by the program, as time runs out for inmates hoping to get their sentences commuted.</em></p><p>On August 3, Donella Harriel was watching a sports game in the TV room of the Federal Correctional Institution in Aliceville, Alabama, when her unit manager came in and told her to come to her office.</p><p>“She said I better be knocking her door down at 11:45. I was like, OMG, is my family okay?"</p><p>“Your family is fine,” the manager said.</p><p>With no idea what was going on, Harriel went to the office at 11:45 as instructed. She found the whole unit team waiting there. Then the phone rang, and they put it on speaker. It was her attorneys, with unbelievable news: Harriel would soon be walking out of prison—she’d officially been granted clemency after serving 13 years of a 22-year sentence.</p><p>“I was so stunned, overwhelmed with gratitude and full of belief that God really is huge,” she says. “All I could think about is going to call my kids and mother... Nothing could have prepared me for that moment.”</p><p>In her 13 years of detention, she saw her kids twice: once during her 11th year in prison, and again this July. “They couldn't afford to come to Texas where I was located,” Harriel says.</p><p>She went away when they were small. Now they’re 15 and 21.</p><p>"She's my mommy!" Harriel's daughter Jerrica Harriel tells me by text. "She left when I was nine. I remember some but I didn't get to grow with her and vice versa, so there's things we still have to discover about each other, things we didn't experience together and things that she should have taught me. But I know it's not her fault and I'm not blaming her, because things happen. I do love her and wish I knew her better though."</p><p>Jerrica says her younger brother, who was two when their mother went away, barely knows her.</p><p>"So he knows of and about but he doesn't know a mother as he should, ya know?"</p><p>She says the family is excited that her mom will be closer, and glad she has gotten her act together.</p><p>"I appreciate her for it because it's gotten her to where she is today, which is a step closer to her family!"</p><p>Donella Harriel could technically be living closer to her family in Port St. Lucie, Florida right now: Her official release date is June 2017, but prisoners tend to be released into <a data-mce-="" href="http://theinfluence.org/this-man-sold-meth-to-pay-for-his-sons-lifesaving-transplant-obama-gave-him-clemency-but-his-ordeal-continues-in-a-halfway-house/">halfway houses</a> six months or so before their official release date. Instead, she’s still incarcerated, for reasons that illustrate the tangled relationship between federal and state jurisdictions in mandatory minimum sentencing.</p><p>Her federal sentence—for possession with intent to sell cocaine base (crack)—was enhanced to 22 years in part because of a prior state charge in Florida. Since her federal conviction was a violation of her probation from that charge, there’s a hold on her release in Martin County, Florida, a so-called detainer, which prevents a prisoner's release.</p><p>As well as keeping Harriel from being in a halfway house right now, it also means that when she walks out of federal prison in June 2017, Martin County authorities will take her into custody, move her back to Florida and hold a hearing to decide if she owes the state more time behind bars.</p><p>“It's stopping me from going to the halfway house, as well as the organization that Obama has that picks us up from prison and take us shopping for clothes etc, then to meet our families and out to eat before going to the halfway house,” Harriel writes.</p><p>Guy Blackwell, a retired assistant attorney general (Tennessee), has asked Assistant U.S. Attorney General <a data-mce-="" href="http://archive.tcpalm.com/news/gov-rick-scott-appoints-nita-denton-to-19th-circuit-judicial-nominating-commission-ep-630624818-335523031.html">Nita Denton</a>, a Republican appointed by Gov. Rick Scott to the 19th Circuit Judicial Nominating Commission, to lift the detainer in Harriel’s case.</p><p>“I am a retired U.S. Assistant Attorney General and simply am trying to help someone who seems to have been sufficiently punished and appears to have a positive future,” Blackwell wrote to Denton’s office. He pointed out that dropping the detainer would save Martin County the cost of transporting her from federal to state custody.</p><p>“It’s a shame this has happened,” Blackwell tells me over the phone. He decided to help prisoners get their sentences reduced after seeing the damage wreaked by mandatory minimums in his 30 years as a prosecutor. He had a few phone calls with Denton’s office, but couldn’t convince them to drop the detainer.</p><p>“She has a detainer because she violated her probation,” Nita Denton says over the phone. Asked if she plans to advise that Harriel be released, she replies, “I have not made any decision on what’s going to happen until she’s returned on detainer to the state of Florida.”</p><p>Though President Obama has commuted the sentences of a record 774 people, mostly nonviolent drug offenders—surely big news in the criminal justice world—Denton claims to know little about it. “I’m sorry, I’m not familiar with that program because we don’t deal with it on the state level, other than what I read in the paper, but other than that....“</p><p>“People need to see how these challenges we face aren’t helping us with re-entry,” Harriel writes, referring to Denton. “If Obama could forgive me and see my growth, why couldn’t she?”</p><p data-mce-style=" center;"><strong>                                                                                                      ***</strong></p><p>“Dear Donella, I wanted to personally inform you that I am granting your application for commutation,” President Barack Obama wrote Harriel in a letter dated August 3. “I believe in your ability to prove the doubters wrong, and change your life for the better. So good luck, and Godspeed.”</p><p>His faith in her is warranted. In 13 years behind bars, Harriel did not have a single official disciplinary action taken against her. That’s not to suggest that only model prisoners deserve a second chance, but still, it’s pretty remarkable.</p><p>“It is <em>very</em> difficult to have that kind of clean record for someone that’s been in custody that long,” Blackwell says. “If you’re in there 13 years, there’s [usually] gonna be something negative. You say something to someone, get in the middle of something someone else started, and it’s really easy to get a demerit, a black mark, that’s gonna be on the record.”</p><p>Harriel's two priors stem from what she describes as a troubled time in her life. She ran away from home when she was 18, “and some guys took me in.” She and other young women took cruise ships to and from the Bahamas, smuggling drugs in exchange for money and shelter. She got busted, incurring her first charge.</p><p>Five years later, police found a family member’s drugs in her home; though she wasn’t there at the time, she was still arrested. The federal charge that landed her an enhanced 22-year sentence, thanks to the two priors, came when a state trooper found drugs in her boyfriend’s underwear. </p><p>“I was driving my boyfriend from Florida to North Carolina and when I stopped in South Carolina for some gas, a state trooper was there,” Harriel writes. “He followed me throughout the store and waited until I made my purchase and pumped my gas. Then he followed me to the interstate to pull me over not even a mile away from the gas station (for speeding, he says). Then, we were searched and because they found drugs in my boyfriend's boxers, I was charged with conspiracy.”</p><p>It's the kind of guilt-by-association case that is all-too-familiar among America’s incarcerated, particularly <a data-mce-="" href="http://theinfluence.org/i-got-a-24-year-prison-sentence-for-mdma-my-husband-made-its-time-for-obama-to-step-up-clemencies/">women prisoners</a>.</p><p>Donella Harriel's clean record and 13 years behind federal bars should make a compelling case for her freedom in Florida, but it depends on the judge, and the recommendation of the state's attorney.</p><p>Despite her ongoing troubles she is still grateful to Obama, whose intervention will mean—if she can get that detainer taken care of—that she gets to be with her family nine years sooner than she expected.</p><p>“I will never forget it and I will live every day of my life with thankfulness,” she says, “knowing that I was one of the chosen ones.”</p> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2016 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '1065383'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1065383" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Sun, 16 Oct 2016 10:30:00 -0700 Tana Ganeva, AlterNet 1065383 at https://www.alternet.org News & Politics News & Politics obama clemency program Man Who Got Life for Dealing Meth to Pay His Child's Medical Bills Had Sentence Commuted by Obama, Only to Be Controlled by a Rigid Christian Halfway House https://www.alternet.org/man-who-got-life-dealing-meth-pay-his-childs-medical-bills-had-sentence-commuted-obama-only-be <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '1064935'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1064935" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Dicky Joe Jackson was released from prison after 21 years. But reintegration has not been easy. </div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/n-dicky-joe-jackson-570.jpg?itok=oicxGFvP" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p><em>Editor's note: President Obama has extended clemency to an unparalleled number of people convicted of nonviolent drug-law violations, a program unlikely to be continued by a President </em><em>Clinton or Trump</em><em>. AlterNet and <a href="http://theinfluence.org">The Influence</a> have partnered on a series profiling people impacted by the program, as time runs out for inmates hoping to get their sentences commuted.</em></p><p>It didn’t take long after Dicky Joe Jackson’s son, Cole, got sick, for the health insurance company to find a way to avoid covering his treatments.</p><p>"As soon as the bills for the cancer tests started rolling in, the insurance company began looking for ways to get out of paying them,” Cole's father, Dicky Joe Jackson, <a data-mce-="" href="http://www.candoclemency.com/dicky-joe-jackson-life/">wrote</a>. His family, which was not made of money in the first place—Jackson drove a truck for a living—soon faced the kind of health insurance nightmare that would break far bigger bank accounts.</p><p>In 1989, when Cole was two, doctors told the Jackson family that the only way to save his life was a bone marrow transplant. The health insurance company was as understanding about this as you’d expect.</p><p>They “upped our monthly premium without notifying us,” Jackson explains. “The automatic draft didn’t clear the bank because we were budgeted tight, so they dropped us.”</p><p>Through some ingenious fundraising, the family got part of the money together and Cole got the transplant from his 11-year-old sister April, but it didn't fully heal him, and they continued racking up medical expenses. By then, the family owed $200,000 in medical bills, Jackson says.</p><p>Then Jackson’s father, who’d also worked as a trucker, died. This left Jackson solely responsible for supporting his mother and the rest of his family, and for paying for his son's life-saving treatments.</p><p>Given that he was not a particularly desirable <a data-mce-="" href="https://www.guernicamag.com/features/the-life-sentence-of-dicky-joe-jackson-and-his-family/">candidate</a> for a bank loan, the only way Jackson could figure out how to do that was to transport methamphetamine on his truck route. Jackson had occasionally used meth to stay awake on long drives. A meth dealer he knew asked him to carry the drug in his truck.</p><p>Then Jackson <a href="https://www.aclu.org/files/assets/111813-lwop-complete-report.pdf">sold</a> some meth to an undercover <a href="http://theinfluence.org/pretending-to-be-a-heroin-user-i-could-always-run-faster-than-one-undercover-drug-cop-repents/">cop</a>. He was arrested in 1995. In part because the supplier testified against him, claiming he was the ringleader, the supplier got 10 years. Dicky Joe Jackson got life without parole.</p><p>                                                                                               ***</p><p>“I had given up,” his daughter April tells me over the phone.</p><p>When she first heard about President Obama’s clemency initiative, her hopes surged. Then they quickly fell, after she realized the sheer number of nonviolent drug prisoners hoping to have their sentences commuted. “So many thousands of people that deserve this just as much as we do—it’s like winning the lottery. Any time more were announced, I lost just a little bit of hope. I thought, Here we are, nearing the end of Obama’s term. I have no faith that it’ll continue."</p><p>“We were losing hope,” April says. “And when I got that call, words just can’t describe … I was in disbelief at first. It was very surreal. Like a dream. I felt a gratitude that can’t be expressed with words.”</p><p>“I WANT TO DO ALL I CAN FOR THOSE STILL IN SO IM GONNA GET WITH YOU WHEN I GET HOME. THEYVE APPROVED ME FOR HOME CONFINEMENT SO ILL BE HOME IN A WK OR SO,” Jackson typed in an email to an advocacy group on August 3, the day he <a data-mce-="" href="http://theinfluence.org/obama-reduces-214-drug-sentences-thats-good-but-nowhere-near-enough/">received clemency</a>.</p><p>Jackson walked out of prison on September 1. But as with most stories involving America’s justice system, his and his family’s trials are far from over. Jackson is technically under the purview of the Bureau of Prisons until December 1, when his sentence officially ends, after which he’ll be on probation for five years.</p><p>Even though the family had been told he<strong> </strong>was "approved for home confinement," April says, Jackson was instead diverted to a halfway house run by Volunteers of America. Founded in 1896, the organization defines its mission as, “a church without walls that answers God’s call to transform our communities through a ministry of service that demonstrates to all people that they are beloved.”</p><p>That has not been Jackson's experience so far. "These people here... you know, we were under the understanding that they're trying to help you reintegrate into society. But they act like the Gestapo, my gosh," he says. "They're constantly on your neck, won't give you a minute's freedom."</p><p>Halfway houses, meant to serve as re-entry points for prisoners, are chosen by the Bureau of Prisons, <a data-mce-="" href="http://famm.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/FAQ-Halfway-House-4.24.pdf">according</a> to the advocacy group Families Against Mandatory Minimums. "When deciding whether to send someone to a halfway house and for how long, the BOP will look at the prisoner’s disciplinary record and whether the prisoner has refused to participate in prison programs and reentry preparation programs,” they write. The BOP did not respond to a request for comment by publication time.</p><p>"The original intent of the halfway house was to help prisoners transition from prison life into society,” says <a data-mce-="" href="http://theinfluence.org/i-got-a-24-year-prison-sentence-for-mdma-my-husband-made-its-time-for-obama-to-step-up-clemencies/">Amy Povah</a>, founder of Can-Do: Justice Through Clemency. “But over the years some staff have adopted a 'gotcha' bully mentality that creates unnecessary burdens and oppression."</p><p>The Volunteers of America website says, “We excel at meeting immediate needs, but are able to transform lives through our belief in, and reliance on, grace.” The organization didn't reply to a request for comment.</p><p></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="251" width="480"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="251" width="480" typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/large/public/screen_shot_2016-10-06_at_10.24.17_am_1.png?itok=txMdNrY2" /></div><p><em>The Volunteers of America website.</em></p><p data-mce-style=" left;">Here’s how Volunteers of America is helping Dicky Joe Jackson reach his full potential. Though the 58-year-old is blind in one eye—thanks to a botched prison surgery—and is on multiple meds, the work specialist at the halfway house demanded he get a job. As he was shuffled between his family home and the halfway house, where he was sleeping until he could be approved for "home confinement," the halfway house hounded him about work.</p><p>"Get a job, get a job, get a job," Jackson says they told him. "They force you to go out get one of those minimum-wage jobs, then they hassle your employer so they don't want you around there."April wanted her dad to see a doctor for a full medical checkup, but the halfway house made it clear that a job was the priority. If he didn't find work, it would count as a “shot” against him—a strike of sorts, the accumulation of which would send him back to prison.</p><p>"I went 21 years in prison without a single incident report. Now, in two weeks, I've got two shots," Jackson says. He got one because one day April couldn't drive him to the halfway house, so he drove himself, thinking that was fine because he has a legal driver's license. It wasn't—he was written up for driving without being approved for driving.</p><p>Jackson got a job, driving a truck moving sand at a gravel site. Then he was informed that he was not actually eligible to get a job until the paperwork was finalized.</p><p>"Unfortunately, they're not having it. They tell him that he can't start a job until they approve the job," April says, and until they approved his paperwork. But he could get job training until then.</p><p>So he did that, starting his non-job job at the gravel pit. He had finally been moved to home confinement on September 15, but<strong> </strong>to ensure all was on the up and up, his case worker at the halfway house required he go there in person to check in every Wednesday and Friday. He did that.</p><p>Every day before he left for work he had to call the halfway house. He had to call them when he arrived at his job, when he left his job, and again when he got home from work. And to make sure his family was not up to anything untoward, the halfway house also called them at all hours of the day and night, from 10pm to 3:20am, April says. "'Just wanted to make sure you’re home.’ Where would we be at 3:20 in the morning?”</p><p>Jackson says he doesn't mind that much, but fails to see the point.</p><p></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="270" width="480"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="270" width="480" typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/large/public/loginsheet.jpg?itok=7ot5YCuz" /></div><p><em>Dicky Joe Jackson's log-in sheet.</em></p><p>Still, it wasn't enough. Last week, he called in before his training, April says. A Volunteers of America staffer called him at work, telling him he was supposed to be at home—even though a different staffer had approved the training.</p><p>The staffer on the phone said she couldn't get in touch with the staffer who approved the training, and demanded that Jackson stop work and report to the halfway house in an hour and a half, even though he was an hour away. April rushed to pick him up and drive him.</p><p>He went back to work, but had to go back to the halfway house after work. But he couldn't go to work the next day, because they hadn't signed his paperwork. Finally, all the paperwork was squared away and he could officially start work.</p><p>He checked in before work. Then another staffer called April at the house, demanding to know where he was.</p><p>"I tell her he's at work. She says no, he's supposed to be at home," April says. "I let her know that is incorrect. Check the pass. She says she can't get in touch with him at work. She calls his work again and she calls me back. She says that since she can't reach him, she's put him on escape status. I tell her I'll go down there myself. I go to his work and have him call in. She tells him it's too late; she's put him on escape status and he's to report down there in the next 1.5 hours or she's calling the marshal."</p><p>Even though his employer verified that Jackson was at work, she demanded to speak with him. But Jackson didn't get the call, he says, because he was too far away in the gravel pits to be flagged by the front office.</p><p>So Jackson had to go back to live at the halfway house, which he says is 20 people a room, in bunk beds, making it noisy and impossible to sleep.</p><p>His son Cole is 28 now. He has to inject himself four times a day to keep the immunological disease that has threatened his life since birth at bay. It’s not easy for him to leave the house.</p><p>“My brother is incredibly ill,” says April. “It’s a really big deal for him to have Dad at home. Never had a chance to do that his whole life. We don’t know how long he’s got, so it’s frustrating, to say the least.”</p><p>Dicky Joe Jackson's story illustrates the extreme difficulties faced by large numbers of released prisoners.</p><p>Imagine it: You’ve gone through the trauma of decades in prison. You’re released into a world you don’t recognize, your young children grown. You are not likely to be richer than you were when you entered prison. So it’s hardly surprising many people end up back there. According to the Bureau of Justice, inmates released from state prison have a <a data-mce-="" href="http://www.nij.gov/topics/corrections/recidivism/pages/welcome.aspx">76.6 percent</a> five-year recidivism rate.</p><p>"I've come out to a different place. It's kind of scary. I know I done wrong, but I feel like I paid my debt," Jackson says. "It's real different for me. The world has just exploded with tech. When I went to to prison, the internet has just opened up. I can't even operate a telephone. I don't even know how to text or nothing."</p><p>He wishes the halfway house would give people a bit more leeway to re-adjust to this alien world. "These people expect you to get all this, understand all this, in just a couple of days."</p><p>Jackson insists he's not a "whiner" and thinks people should pay their debt to society, but believes people are serving sentences that are "way too much" for nonviolent crimes. "Then, when you get out, it's not over. You have to deal with the halfway house, no one wants to rent you an apartment, no one wants to give you a job. It's a black flag for the rest of your life."</p><p>Jackson says President Obama is the first president in his lifetime interested in more than "lining his own pockets." But he worries that the difficulties faced by newly released inmates will sabotage Obama's clemency initiative. He thinks there are people in the criminal justice system who don't want the program to succeed, because then, "they'll be out of a job."</p><p>These are the realities behind the positive clemency headlines.</p><p>“The ones that are trying to do right, doing good, and you’re harassed every step of the way,” April says. “Hell, no wonder we have recidivism rates the way you do—we make it impossible.”</p><p></p><p><em>Dicky Joe Jackson with his family.</em></p><p></p><p><em>Birthday party.</em></p><p></p> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2016 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '1064935'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1064935" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Wed, 05 Oct 2016 12:38:00 -0700 Tana Ganeva, AlterNet 1064935 at https://www.alternet.org Drugs Human Rights clemency obama A GOP Congressman Wants to 'Ensure Lives Are Protected'--By Expanding the Death Penalty for Drugs. https://www.alternet.org/drugs/gop-congressman-wants-ensure-lives-protected-exand-death-penalty-drugs <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">That&#039;s not really a good idea, and here&#039;s why. </div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/tomreed.jpg?itok=JzyYH8GK" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY) has introduced the <a href="https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/6158/text">Help Ensure Lives Are Protected Act of 2016</a>, which would subject drug dealers who sell heroin laced with fentanyl to death or life imprisonment if “death or serious bodily injury results from the use of such substance.”</p><p>In a way, Reed’s move represents the natural progression of the widespread <a href="http://theinfluence.org/bereaved-mother-attacks-her-daughters-heroin-dealer-in-viral-post-but-we-should-resist/">idea</a> that heroin dealers should be primarily <a href="http://theinfluence.org/shoot-your-local-heroin-dealer-vigilante-mission-fits-wider-pattern-of-scapegoating/">scapegoated</a> for heroin-related deaths—as <em>The Influence</em> <a href="http://theinfluence.org/this-27-year-old-is-going-to-prison-for-life-because-his-fiancee-odd/">has</a> <a href="http://theinfluence.org/judge-gives-man-23-years-after-someone-odd-on-his-heroin-lectures-us-about-ruining-lives/">covered</a>. But here are some of the reasons it’s not a great idea:</p><p>1. Although the death penalty has never been proven to act as a deterrent to committing crimes, what enhanced penalties would likely do is deter people from calling for help if someone is overdosing. As the <em>Huffington Post</em> <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/heroin-dealers-death-penalty_us_57ec4051e4b024a52d2cc053">points out</a>, that’s in stark opposition to Good Samaritan laws, which remove criminal penalties if someone reports an overdose.</p><p>2. Most drug “dealers” are not El Chapo. Many people who sell drugs are from poor communities, and do it just to try to make ends meet or to feed their own habits.</p><p>Reed has said that the bill would <a href="http://www.wellsvilledaily.com/news/20160927/reed-get-tough-on-drug-dealers">target</a>, ” … the worst of the worst… these are not the users.” To be fair, the bill <em>does</em>s tate that the law would apply in cases where 100 grams or more of heroin has been mixed with fentanyl—that’s a significant amount of heroin, and way more than the average person who uses the drug is likely to have. But users often combine resources to buy drugs in bulk. Sorting out who’s a “big-time dealer” versus somebody just cooperating with their heroin-using family or friends would be pretty complicated—and in the course of the War on Drugs, prosecutors have not had a great record of self-restraint.</p><p>Keep in mind that over 97 percent of cases don’t go to trial because they’re <a href="http://theinfluence.org/warped-incentives-five-disturbing-things-about-our-justice-system-explained-by-a-public-defender/">pled out</a>. The likely result of enhanced sentencing would be to add another weapon in a prosecutors’ kit for pressuring people into accepting harsh plea bargains: 30 years verses the death penalty is a pretty persuasive argument.</p><p>3. The whole reason we have failed to incarcerate our way out of illegal drug use is that <a href="http://theinfluence.org/three-concepts-you-need-to-grasp-if-you-want-to-know-whether-to-legalize-drugs-yes-even-heroin/">illicit markets exist for a reason</a> and are incredibly resilient. Locking up one guy for life (or killing him twenty years from now) would just open up the market for someone else.</p><p>4. The bill explicitly names fentanyl. So what happens if a new, deadlier substance enters the black market? Do we rush to expand the death penalty again? Fentanyl is very often mixed into street heroin—one recent small-scale study found <a href="http://theinfluence.org/study-86-percent-of-drug-samples-tested-at-insite-contain-fentanyl/">90 percent</a> of samples contained it—but accurately determining at which point in the supply chain it was mixed in could also be difficult.</p><p>Perhaps Reed is really trying to help. But there are better ways to prevent overdose deaths than enhanced penalties—and the death penalty <a href="http://theinfluence.org/nothing-good-happens-in-secret-the-sordid-ways-death-penalty-states-obtain-execution-drugs/">is inhumane in any circumstance</a>. Instead, how about pushing for supervised injection facilities, or for increased training and supply of naloxone?</p><p> </p> Thu, 29 Sep 2016 11:29:00 -0700 Tana Ganeva, The Influence 1064579 at https://www.alternet.org Drugs Drugs Rep. Tom Reed drugs heroin fentanyl death penalty overdose 'Nothing Good Happens in Secret'—The Sordid Ways Death-Penalty States Obtain Execution Drugs https://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/nothing-good-happens-secret-sordid-ways-death-penalty-states-obtain-execution-drugs <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Life is getting increasingly complicated for officials in states intent on carrying out the death penalty.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen-shot-2016-07-28-at-4.50.06-pm.png?itok=m0rOQVsf" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>One afternoon, Donnie Calhoun, owner of Calhoun Compounding Pharmacy in Anniston, Alabama—”<a href="http://www.calhouncompounding.com/services">Compounding for Life’s Problems</a>“—came back from a meeting to find a strange request from the Alabama Department of Corrections. The girl who’d answered the phone had written their question down on a notepad: Did he want to make a lethal injection drug that they would use to carry out an execution?</p><p>“I went, what? They <em>do</em> this?” He called them back and let them know that he would not make a drug that would be used to kill. “For me, as a health-care professional, I want to help people live longer. The last thing I want to do is to help someone die.”</p><p>Other sterile compounding pharmacists in the state were similarly unenthused about requests to help Alabama execute its death row inmates. Of the nearly thirty compounding pharmacies contacted by the state, all refused, according to <a href="http://www.annistonstar.com/news/court-records-show-pharmacists-refused-death-penalty-drugs/article_61ca7062-b1e0-11e5-ac9e-db30e09f373a.html">court records.</a> “Of course, we said absolutely not,” says one of the owners of Eagle Pharmacy in Hoover, Alabama. “It’s something no one wants to do, and it’s quite understandable.”</p><p>A pharmacist in Virginia also says that someone from the attorney general’s office recently popped into his store and asked about lethal injection drugs. “No one will do it,” he says. “Maybe you should try executing them with heroin,” he wise-cracked to them about a drug that’s a <em>whole</em> lot easier to obtain in the state of Virginia.</p><p><strong>Why Execution Drugs Are Getting Harder to Find</strong></p><p>Life is getting increasingly complicated for officials in states intent on carrying out the death penalty.</p><p>For the past few years, executions have been hindered by an unlikely obstacle: the moral compass of the pharmaceutical industry—or, more precisely, Pharma’s concern over bad PR.</p><p>This is especially evident in Europe, where there’s widespread opposition to the US death penalty. The EU, which bans capital punishment, also prohibits the sale of drugs for lethal executions in America, so pharmaceutical companies that do business in Europe have to actively make sure their products aren’t used in American executions. Many large companies not only refuse to make drugs for lethal injection but make their distributors sign contracts forbidding them from selling drugs to US departments of correction. Many have written US states asking that they don’t use drugs they already have in stock.</p><p>Of course, that hardly guarantees that their product won’t end up in a syringe in an execution chamber: States tend to ignore their requests that their medicine isn’t used to kill.</p><p>Documents obtained by The Influence show that two of the substances in Virginia’s stash of execution drugs—rocuronium bromide to induce paralysis and potassium chloride to stop the heart—were manufactured by Mylan and APP Pharmaceuticals respectively. Both companies have European branches and have denounced the use of their drugs in executions.</p><p>There are clear incentives for doing this: In 2014, Mylan lost $70 million when a German investor pulled out, after it was discovered Alabama was using Mylan-produced rocuronium bromide to put prisoners to death. The drug was part of a previously untested execution cocktail, <a href="http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/lethal-injection/drug-maker-mylan-takes-70-million-hit-battle-over-lethal-n230051">according to</a> NBC.</p><p>In October 2015, Mylan published a statement decrying the use of its drugs for capital punishment:</p><blockquote><p><em>“Recently Mylan received information indicating that a department of corrections in the US purchased Mylan’s rocuronium bromide product from a wholesaler for possible use outside of the labeling or applicable standard of care. Mylan takes very seriously the possibility its product may have been diverted for a use that is inconsistent with its approved labeling or applicable standards of care.”</em></p></blockquote><p>Mylan confirms to The Influence that the department of corrections it wrote to in 2015—asking that its drugs only be used for approved medicinal purposes, not death—was Virginia.</p><p>“Mylan takes seriously the possibility that one of its products may have been diverted for a use that is inconsistent with its approved labeling,” they wrote in 2015. “We appreciate that the Department of Corrections may purchase Mylan products for therapeutic purposes. Nevertheless, we would request your assurances that the Department of Corrections has not acquired Mylan’s rocuronium bromide or any other Mylan product for a purpose inconsistent with their approved labeling and applicable standards of care, and that it will not do so in the future.”</p><p>And yet here are Mylan’s drugs, still sitting in Virginia’s execution arsenal as of this June.</p><p>Rocuronium Bromide produced by Mylan:</p><p></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="350" width="528"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="350" width="528" typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/screen-shot-2016-07-29-at-8.35.21-pm-528x350.png" /></div><p>Potassium Chloride produced by APP Pharmaceuticals was also in Virginia’s stash as of this June:</p><p></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="334" width="618"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="334" width="618" typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/screen-shot-2016-07-29-at-8.36.13-pm.png" /></div><p>“Pharmaceutical companies have never wanted medicines they make to save and improve the lives of patients used in executions designed to end the lives of prisoners,” says Maya Foa, director of the human rights advocacy organization Reprieve’s death penalty team. “They have taken concrete steps to prevent this by implementing rigorous distribution controls to prevent sales of these medicines to Departments of Corrections for use in lethal injection executions. States like Virginia should respect the wishes and interests of the industry and stop the misuse of medicines in executions.”</p><p>More documents obtained by the The Influence indicate that the wholesaler which sold Mylan’s drugs to the State of Virginia before the company put contractual controls in place is Cardinal Health—a large drug distributor based in North Carolina.</p><p>There’s no evidence that Cardinal Health has sold drugs to Department of Corrections <em>since </em>the companies instituted their controls. It’s a sign that the public pressure campaigns of groups like Reprieve will continue to diminish the drug supply as the drugs in stock expire.</p><p>Alfredo Prieto was killed by the state of Virginia on October 1, 2015. The Virginia Department of Corrections confirms that he was executed using Mylan’s rocuronium bromide and APP’s potassium chloride. The latter drug has effects <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/courts_law/supreme-court-justices-hotly-debate-the-use-of-a-lethal-injection-drug/2015/04/29/18414836-eea8-11e4-8666-a1d756d0218e_story.html">likened to</a>“being burned alive from the inside,” if the prisoner is not fully sedated.</p><p>The potassium chloride from APP expired this June, according the the Virginia Department of Corrections. But the Mylan-produced rocuronium bromide is good until 2017.</p><p><strong>Cash and Incompetence—The Sheer Sketchiness of Some Sources</strong></p><p>But using pharmaceutical companies’ drugs despite their protests is nowhere near the sketchiest way states have gone about facilitating their lethal injections.</p><p>As few years ago, Texas, Arizona and Nebraska paid $80,000 to a businessman to obtain the sedative sodium thiopental from India. That plan went awry when the FDA confiscated the drugs in 2015—turns out, you’re not allowed to order large quantities of powerful barbiturates from foreign countries via mail.</p><p>When a Nebraska official asked the vendor for a refund, he (obviously) declined, pointing out that he’d met his end of the bargain. The FDA is likely still warehousing them, Chris McDaniel at Buzzfeed <a href="https://www.buzzfeed.com/chrismcdaniel/the-standoff-between-states-and-the-feds-over-illegal-drugs?utm_term=.slo37bOOMX#.rie51Mzzqo">reports.</a></p><p>The shady sources of drugs and the secrecy surrounding execution protocols have had nightmare outcomes. Here’s one of many examples: In 2010, the state of Arizona likely used an expired batch of sodium thiopental from overseas to sedate Jeffrey Landrigan before administering the paralytic, Liliana Segura <a href="https://theintercept.com/2016/05/19/pfizers-death-penalty-ban-highlights-the-black-market-in-execution-drugs/">reported</a> at the Intercept.</p><p>Because the sedative forming the first part of the execution-drug trio had likely expired, Landrigan was probably fully conscious when the second drug paralyzed him, and when the third drug stopped his heart. His eyes were open when he died.</p><p>Neither does using a US pharmacy to obtain execution drugs guarantee that things will be handled professionally.</p><p>In 2014, the quaintly named Apothecary Shoppe, a compounding pharmacy in Tulsa, Oklahoma—“Because your prescription matters”—was revealed as the source for lethal injection drugs used in three Missouri executions.</p><p>A year later, regulators inspecting the pharmacy found over one thousand code violations—including questionable sterilization practices and drug potency, Buzzfeed <a href="https://www.buzzfeed.com/chrismcdaniel/pharmacy-that-mixed-execution-drugs-is-being-sold-after-disc?utm_term=.yx375Z11Bx#.gi19OXaaVN">reported</a>. The Apothecary Shoppe had also fudged the expiration dates on its drugs.</p><p>As Buzzfeed points out, years before, Missouri’s death row inmates had expressed their concerns that products made by compounding pharmacies didn’t “meet the requirements for identity, purity, potency, efficacy, and safety that pharmaceuticals under FDA regulation must meet.”</p><p>The state dismissed their concerns.</p><p>“[This] allegation does not make plausible claim that Missouri’s execution procedure is sure or very likely to cause serious illness or needless suffering and give rise to sufficiently imminent dangers,” the state wrote, arguing that their lawsuit should be dismissed.</p><p><strong>Providing the Drugs Is a Bad Business Strategy</strong></p><p>But even turning to passably well-run compounding pharmacies hasn’t been working so well lately for death-penalty states.</p><p>Nowadays, it’s a bad business strategy for a pharmacy to wade into the deeply divisive issue of lethal injections. Set against the potential awful publicity, the financial incentives offered by death-penalty states are not particularly tempting.</p><p>Several pharmacists in death penalty states who spoke with The Influence said that they would not make drugs for executions, either for ethical reasons—even one who supports the death penalty said he couldn’t bring himself to make the drugs, even for a good fee—or because it’s too controversial. The<a href="http://www.iacprx.org/page/CC32315LethalIn/IACP-Board-Updates-Position-on-Compounding-for-Lethal-Injections.htm"> International Academy of Compounding Pharmacists</a>(IACP), the largest trade group of compounding pharmacists, has advised members not to make the drugs.</p><p>“No no no,” a pharmacist in Virginia said. “I would not want to. In a word, no.”</p><p>So in the past few years, more and more death-penalty states have tried a new tack: passing gag orders that keep the identity of the manufacturer and parts of the execution protocol secret, in the hopes that if they can guarantee total anonymity, they’ll have more takers.</p><p>The latest state to pass a secrecy law is Virginia—the law went into effect this month. A spokesperson for the Virginia Department of Corrections tells The Influence that the state has now begun its clandestine search for more execution drugs.</p><p><strong>“Nothing Good Happens in Secret”—Virginia’s Weird Deal</strong></p><p>There are seven people on death row in Virginia. Two of them were scheduled to die this year, but their executions have been temporarily stayed.</p><p>Ricky Gray is on death row for taking part in a robbery spree where he and his accomplice  killed seven people, including <a href="http://www.richmond.com/news/article_71d1f334-1bae-5102-83dd-da5b8df6e331.html">two children.</a> Ivan Teleguz, a Ukrainian national, was convicted of having his ex-girlfriend murdered—but there are <a href="http://www.globalresearch.ca/miscarriage-of-justice-in-america-is-becoming-the-new-normal-the-case-of-ivan-teleguz/5517578?print=1">major holes</a> in the state’s case against him, including key witnesses admitting they lied in exchange for a deal from prosecutors.</p><p>Whether and how Gray and Teleguz are killed might depend on a strange electoral compromise, struck between pro-death penalty lawmakers and Virginia Governor Terry McAullife.</p><p>In late 2015, state lawmakers introduced a bill to bring back the electric chair, so that executions could proceed even if the state ran out of  execution drugs.</p><p>The bill passed the House and Senate. But when the law landed on Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s desk, he made it clear it would not pass.</p><p>“I personally find it reprehensible,” McAuliffe <a href="http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2016/apr/11/mcauliffe-seeks-to-make-execution-drug-makers-secr/">said</a> at the time. “We take human beings, we strap them in a chair and then we flood their bodies with 1,800 volts of electricity, subjecting them to unspeakable pain until they die.”</p><p>He proposed an alternative: Instead of going back to the electric chair, the state would acquire drugs from sterile compounding pharmacies—but through the passage of a state secrecy clause that would protect the identities of the pharmacies.</p><p>“These manufacturers will not do business in Virginia if their identities are to be revealed,” McAuliffe said at the time, <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/virginia-politics/mcauliffe-guts-virginias-electric-chair-bill/2016/04/11/3c0d4a74-ff2f-11e5-9203-7b8670959b88_story.html">according</a> to the Washington Post. McAuliffe made it clear that if his secrecy amendment didn’t pass, he would end executions in the state rather than resort to the chair.</p><p>McAuliffe’s compromise effectively ensured the death penalty would continue—even though he could have stopped it.</p><p>“I am pleased the Governor agrees that the death penalty must remain available in order to preserve the full measure of justice,” Del. Jackson Miller (R-Manassass), the electric chair bill’s sponsor, told local news sources.</p><p>Sen. Scott Surovell (D), who helped lead the charge against both the electric chair bill and McAullife’s secrecy clause, tells The Influence that he was deeply disappointed by the Governor’s move.</p><p>“Our governor purports to be against capital punishment. He kept it alive in Virginia instead of imposing a moratorium like other governors have done,” he says. “Nothing good happens in secret. I don’t think the government should do anything in secret—especially kill a human being.”</p><p><strong>“My Body Is on Fire”—Oklahoma</strong></p><p>The warden of Oklahoma State Penitentiary sat in front of a grand jury and attempted to explain how the state accidentally used the wrong drug to kill Charles Warner in 2015—and how nobody even noticed.</p><p>“I assumed that what the pharmacist provided was that [sic] we needed. So in my mind, that potassium acetate must have been the same thing as potassium chloride,” testified the warden.</p><p>“My body is on fire,” <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/charles-warner-execution-my-body-is-on-fire-9981842.html">were</a> Warner’s last words, said after he was administered midazolam, the first drug in the lethal cocktail.</p><p>If ever a compelling argument were needed for why execution procedures should have far more scrutiny and transparency—rather than more secrecy—Oklahoma’s most recent executions provide it. A damning <a href="https://www.ok.gov/oag/documents/MCGJ%20-%20Interim%20Report%205-19-16.pdf">106-page jury report</a>found failure at almost every step of the process—as well as a decent amount of attempted cover-up—in both the execution of Charles Warner and the attempted execution of Richard Glossip later that year.</p><p>And those failures happened after the state had tried to reform its execution protocol in response to the botched execution of Clayton Lockett in 2014, who appeared to writhe in pain and tried to get up from the gurney multiple times after being administered the sedative midazolam.</p><p>It took 43 minutes for him to die.</p><p>According to court filings, officials at the Corrections Department settled on using midazalom as the sedative in part with the aid of a cursory online search when they couldn’t find any pentobarbital, the officially sanctioned drug.</p><p>As they discovered, midazolam takes much longer to work than pentobarbital.</p><p>“I did have a discussion with our medical director at the time and he said, ‘Yeah Midazolam probably when administered will, will render sedation.’ And that’s all he would say,” said the former general counsel for the corrections department, who was involved in Lockett’s execution. “Then, you know, I did my own research, I looked on-line, you know. Went past the key Wiki leaks, Wiki leaks or whatever it is, and I did find out that when administered, Midazolam would administer, would render a person unconscious. That’s what we needed … So we thought it was okay.”</p><p>After the political fallout from Lockett’s botched execution, the state was forced to investigate and reform its execution processes before going through with the executions of Charles Warner and Richard Glossip.</p><p><strong>“I Was Looking at It, Going, It’s Potassium”</strong></p><p>This time, Oklahoma Department of Corrections obtained the drugs for Warner and Glossip’s executions by making a list of pharmacists and calling them up.</p><p>First, the officials asked for pentobarbital. The first pharmacist on their list refused to make execution drugs. Others said yes, but that they couldn’t get pentobarbital.</p><p>So the Department of Corrections switched its drug protocol and went back down its list of pharmacists, until finding one who agreed to provide midazolam, rocuronium bromide and potassium chloride.</p><p>That pharmacist accidentally ordered potassium chloride in a more diluted form than was needed. Seemingly in a rush to correct his mistake, he tried ordering potassium chloride again. But when he tried to pick the drug from a wholesaler’s website, he accidentally clicked potassium acetate, a far less common drug.</p><p>The pharmacist, whose identity remains confidential, tried to explain his error to the grand jury: “… in my head I was not thinking potassium chloride, because I was looking at it, going, it’s potassium. As I said, pharmacy brain versus probably a law brain, I guess. I don’t know.”</p><p>He was paid $869.85 in cash for his work.</p><p>On the day of Charles Warner’s execution, January 15, 2015, a Department of Corrections employee picked up the drugs from the pharmacy and drove them back to the prison, where no one noticed that the third drug was wrong—even though the Warden wrote down the words potassium acetate on the execution drug form.</p><p>They photographed the drugs. The IV team made syringes of each drug, and still, no one noticed that the drug meant to stop his heart was the wrong one.</p><p>Asked how the team could have failed to notice, the IV team leader replied, “That’s a great question. And I don’t know that I can absolutely answer that.”</p><p>Although admitting “the buck stops with me,” his explanation for not noticing was that he was so nervous about getting the right concentrations of each drug—a mighty important task, given the horrors of botched executions when the inmate hadn’t been adequately sedated.</p><p>He continued, “…the concentration of this drug [midazolam] is much more concentrated than what we normally use … So—and I’m not very good at math in my head. So I had to really think about the concentration of that. Am I—is this right?”</p><p>He described feeling anxious about getting the dosage right and performing the execution. “Somehow in my—again, my mind is going, 30 minutes from now you’re going to be in that room starting IVs on some guy that is not going to like you very much. And you’ve got—and all eyes are on you, in effect,” he said.</p><p>The final drug was easy compared to the other two, so it seems he let his attention flag a little bit:</p><blockquote><p><em>“It was three vials; boom, boom, boom. It just took a minute and we drew them up, we were done. It was the easiest of the three. In terms that we didn’t have to focus on dilutions and concentrations. We just had to draw them up and they were done. And somehow that glaring word, acetate—I don’t know, ma’am. I just totally dropped the ball, is all I can say.”</em></p></blockquote><p><strong>“The Most Abundant Element in Our Atmosphere”</strong></p><p>On September 30, a prison employee made another trip to the same pharmacy—this time to pick up drugs for the execution of Richard Glossip.</p><p>Glossip’s case had attracted international attention. This was in part because of his strong claim of <a href="https://theintercept.com/2015/09/29/glossip-to-die-tomorrow/">innocence</a>—he was sentenced to die because a 19-year-old meth user who beat a motel owner to death claimed Glossip had put him up to it—and in part because Glossip challenged Oklahoma’s drug protocol all the way to the Supreme Court, claiming that midazalom was not a strong enough sedative to prevent him from experiencing pain. The Supreme Court voted 5-4 that states could continue using that <a href="http://www.scotusblog.com/case-files/cases/glossip-v-gross/">drug protocol.</a></p><p>On the day that Richard Glossip was supposed to die, the warden noticed that the third drug in the drug cocktail they were about to prepare was potassium acetate, not potassium chloride. The warden opted to keep quiet about this realization. Later, they were asked why in front of the Grand Jury.</p><p>“When I seen it, I thought it was the same thing,” the Warden testified. “And I reflected on the way that we had done it previously with the accountabilities to ensure—I didn’t know—when the drugs were brought down, I didn’t know the pharmacist that we use or the pharmacy. I didn’t know who ordered the drugs. That’s not part of my job duty. I didn’t know it hadn’t been looked at, I assumed it had been. I assumed that what the pharmacist provided was that [sic] we needed. So in my mind, that potassium acetate must have been the same thing as potassium chloride.”</p><p>So the IV team members proceeded to draw up the syringes. At that point one of them also noticed the drug discrepancy and alerted prison authorities.</p><p>Over the next few hours, as Richard Glossip awaited his execution, state officials debated whether to proceed with the killing or to stop it. Governor Mary Fallin’s General Counsel pushed to go ahead with the execution after the doctor and pharmacist both said potassium acetate and potassium chloride were medically interchangeable.</p><p>“Google it,” the Governor’s General Counsel told the attorney general’s office, which wanted to halt the execution.</p><p>After all, it would look bad if they stopped the execution, he pointed out to the attorney general—because then everyone would find out that they had executed Charles Warner using the wrong drug.</p><p>As the clock ticked, the attorney general swayed Governor Fallin to grant a last minute delay that would spare Richard Glossip’s life—for now. Glossip remains on death row.</p><p>The state issued a press release explaining that the executions had been temporarily paused while the Governor’s office, Department of Corrections and the attorney general’s office addressed legal issues surrounding their drug protocol: “Executions will resume once those issues have been addressed to the satisfaction of all three parties.”</p><p>***</p><p>The Oklahoma Grand Jury concludes its report by listing the circumstances that led to this series of blunders.</p><p>It’s hard to find qualified physicians willing to take part in an execution these days, they point out. Pharmaceutical companies have clamped down on the use of their products in lethal injection. And it’s hard to find pharmacists willing to make the drugs instead.</p><p>Their solution? Switching to “nitrogen hypoxia”—death by suffocation with gas.</p><p>“Both Doctor A and Professor A testified executions carried out by nitrogen hypoxia would be humane,” the write, “and as nitrogen is the most abundant element in our atmosphere, the components for execution via nitrogen hypoxia would be easy and inexpensive to obtain.”</p><p><em>This article was originally published by <a data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?hl=en&amp;q=http://theinfluence.org/&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1472927708874000&amp;usg=AFQjCNF1Yl2Z4dOcy3Q4sN9hasI6X5x6XQ" href="http://theinfluence.org/" target="_blank">The Influence</a>, a news site that covers the full spectrum of human relationships with drugs. Follow The Influence on <a data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?hl=en&amp;q=https://www.facebook.com/theinfluence.org/&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1472927708874000&amp;usg=AFQjCNHy-dJoycXMe3rpzk6ECxVZ3E6flA" href="https://www.facebook.com/theinfluence.org/" target="_blank">Facebook</a> or <a data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?hl=en&amp;q=https://twitter.com/TheInfluenceOrg&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1472927708874000&amp;usg=AFQjCNGl9ihu-cPxcQl_-TAZeL01RICWxA" href="https://twitter.com/TheInfluenceOrg" target="_blank">Twitter</a>.</em></p> Fri, 02 Sep 2016 11:27:00 -0700 Tana Ganeva, The Influence 1063047 at https://www.alternet.org Human Rights Human Rights death penality Mylan pharmaceutical This Is Your Brain on Bad Media Coverage: 5 Dire Drug Headlines, Just From Today https://www.alternet.org/drugs/your-brain-bad-media-coverage-five-dire-drug-headlines-just-today <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The media is getting better on covering drug issues, but old habits die hard. </div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/brain_on_drugs.jpg?itok=rc-3qEf8" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Although media coverage of drugs, addiction and criminal justice is gradually improving, there’s still no shortage of headlines (articles, too) that summon up outdated ideas and regressive stereotypes. Here are five examples obtained simply by Googling the word “drugs” for two minutes this morning.</p><p>1. <a data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?hl=en&amp;q=http://www.businessinsider.com/r-pain-drugs-in-pregnancy-tied-to-behavior-issues-in-kids-2016-8&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1471446656644000&amp;usg=AFQjCNFS7X6P_djxCnN_QqU0--hv61H95g" href="http://www.businessinsider.com/r-pain-drugs-in-pregnancy-tied-to-behavior-issues-in-kids-2016-8" target="_blank">Pain Drugs in Pregnancy Tied to Behavior Issues in Kids</a></p><p>Translation: The Fleshy Pods Who Incubate Babies Should Chew on Dry Bark for Pain Relief Because Using Tylenol Might Lead To an Adverse Effect on Their Kids That Is Not Actually Measurable! </p><p>Like many articles about scientific studies, this one spends 90 percent of its time walking back the dramatic headline. Although the study in question tracked women’s acetaminophen use and did find a slight correlation with behavioral problems in their kids, the link seems logically tenuous: it doesn’t account for other factors (maybe people who feel more physical pain are more irritable, etc.), and the fact that behavioral issues are difficult to measure and understand.</p><p>From the piece:</p><blockquote><p><em>The study doesn’t prove acetaminophen, also known as paracetamol, directly causes developmental issues in children, noted Dr. Hal Lawrence, executive vice president and chief executive of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).”Behavioral disorders are multifactorial and very difficult to associate with a singular cause,” Lawrence, who wasn’t involved in the study, said by email. “The brain does not stop developing until at least 15 months of age, which leaves room for children to be exposed to a number of factors that could potentially lead to behavioral issues.</em></p></blockquote><p>But the headline, relayed across multiple media platforms today, makes it <em>sound</em> like taking Tylenol during pregnancy is a huge risk.</p><p><a data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?hl=en&amp;q=http://www.clarionledger.com/story/news/2016/08/15/drugs-root-crime/88812862/&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1471446656644000&amp;usg=AFQjCNGcM-ooGrTIbaphL5kh5QJ0bOCOGQ" href="http://www.clarionledger.com/story/news/2016/08/15/drugs-root-crime/88812862/" target="_blank">2. Drugs: the Root of All Crime?</a></p><p>At this point, even former drug warriors recognize that it’s not drugs, but drug criminalization, that fuels drug-related violence. The reasons are simple (and nicely explained by Johann Hari for the <em>Influence</em> <a href="http://theinfluence.org/three-concepts-you-need-to-grasp-if-you-want-to-know-whether-to-legalize-drugs-yes-even-heroin/">here</a>). People who traffic or deal illegal drugs don’t have government safeguards to protect their business. So they occasionally perform acts of violence to keep everything running smoothly. If you’re a cookie vendor and someone steals from your cash register, you can go to the police. If you deal heroin and a rival drug gang steals your drugs, you can’t go to the police, so you have an incentive to do something very bad to the people who stole your drugs to stop them doing it again.</p><p>Legalizing things, and subjecting them to all sorts of annoying federal, state and local regulation, tends to neutralize the role of organized crime, <a href="http://theinfluence.org/whats-the-difference-between-a-speakeasy-and-a-crack-house/">as happened</a> at the end of alcohol prohibition.</p><p>3. <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-3738199/Babies-born-addicted-opioids-TRIPLED-15-years-America-s-heroin-painkiller-crisis-escalates.html#ixzz4HVSPmZyW">Babies born addicted to opioids has TRIPLED in 15 years as America’s heroin and painkiller crisis escalates </a></p><p>Newspapers continue to blare the headline that babies are born addicted. This <a href="http://theinfluence.org/how-the-myth-of-the-addicted-baby-hurts-newborns-and-moms/">is a total myth</a>. Addiction is characterized by a complex set of behavioral, mental and physical symptoms, which babies do not display. Although drug use during pregnancy may sometimes lead to adverse <em>physical</em> symptoms in newborns, there are scientifically proven <a href="http://theinfluence.org/how-the-myth-of-the-addicted-baby-hurts-newborns-and-moms/">ways to ease</a>their symptoms if they show symptoms of withdrawal.</p><p>As a side note, when women who use drugs are too scared to get proper medical care during pregnancy because of fears over having their kids taken away, both kids and parents suffer.</p><p>4. <a data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?hl=en&amp;q=http://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-trending-37085012&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1471446656644000&amp;usg=AFQjCNGgUT0JCjawtPd-qOjsXh3e6NhT0g" href="http://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-trending-37085012" target="_blank">How I Kicked Drugs Without Going Into Rehab</a></p><p>This woman’s personal journey of kicking meth by getting a dog and hitchhiking around the country is pretty great. Of course it isn’t necessary for everyone to go to rehab; most people with addiction <a href="http://www.alternet.org/drugs/most-people-addiction-simply-grow-out-it-why-widely-denied">recover on their own</a>.</p><p>The trouble is, this piece is filled with shaming clichés about addiction:</p><blockquote><p><em>“One day I woke up. I called my mum crying. I said that I was lost and I didn’t know what to do. She very bluntly said: ‘Look in the mirror Kristy, look at what you have become and when you see that you will know why you are where you are.’ I did. I looked into that mirror that morning and cried. I was skinny. Ugly. Unhappy. I was nothing. I was just a waste of space.”</em></p></blockquote><p>After she took a good look in the mirror, she proceeded to do the following: “With the help of her stepfather, Ehrlich locked herself away in a hotel room for a week. That was the first step. The next was getting a pet—Rockdog.”</p><p>Rockdog sounds awesome! Again, while her personal story is inspiring, the implication seems to be that those people who <em>can’t</em> just suck it up and suffer through without help are lacking some sort of magic willpower. Many people suffering from addiction go through cycles of relapse. Also, not everyone can leave their life to go hitchhiking for a year.</p><p>5. <a href="http://www.wkyt.com/content/news/US-Attorney-to-announce-efforts-to-battle-drugs-in-Eastern-Kentucky-390276112.html">U.S. Attorney announces efforts to battle drugs in Eastern Kentucky</a></p><p>Finally, an American law enforcement official has decided to start a War on Drugs! Why didn’t anyone think of that before? To be fair, this is not the worst headline in the world. But it’s important to note that continuing to casually use wording like “battle” perpetuates a particularly unhepful militaristic mindset.</p><p> </p> Tue, 16 Aug 2016 13:55:00 -0700 Tana Ganeva, The Influence 1062017 at https://www.alternet.org Drugs Drugs Media drugs media criticism rehab pregnancy crime Texas Cops Boast About Grand Achievement of Jailing Adults for Having Sex, Shaming Them on Facebook https://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/texas-cops-unjustly-jail-adults-having-sex <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">They falsely pitched the sting as a way to bust sex traffickers and help their victims.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/8517928248_3e16eedbae_z.jpg?itok=Sq9UDmY-" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p><em>This article was originally published by <a href="http://theinfluence.org/texas-cops-boast-about-grand-achievement-of-throwing-adults-in-jail-for-consensual-sex/">The Influence</a>, a news site that covers the full spectrum of human relationships with drugs. Follow The Influence on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/theinfluence.org">Facebook</a> or <a href="https://twitter.com/TheInfluenceOrg">Twitter</a>.</em></p><p>Texas law enforcement officers have heroically “saved” dozens of “sex trafficking victims” by putting them in jail and plastering their mugshots on Facebook.</p><p>According to local media <a href="http://www.kiiitv.com/story/32309921/56-arrests-more-to-come-in-biggest-sex-trafficking-bust-ever-for-mclennan-county-sheriffs-office">outlets</a>, the McLennan police department carried out a sting operation in which officers posed as both sex workers and clients, netting 56 arrests (and 61 arrest warrants overall). They pitched the sting as a way to bust sex traffickers and help their victims.</p><p>But as <em>Reason </em><a href="http://reason.com/blog/2016/06/27/biggest-sex-trafficking-bust-ever-for-mc">points out</a>, it seems the majority of arrests were of adult women and a handful of men alleged to be their pimps, not underage victims or women pressed into sex work against their will.</p><p>Although the relationship between the women and men who might work as their pimps can, obviously, be coercive, it’s not clear how throwing both in jail will help the women “escape” sex work if they want to. U.S. jails are not exactly an efficient route to professional advancement. Having your mugshot plastered to Facebook is not the best advertisement for employability. This issue was not sufficiently addressed during the press conference.</p><p>“If we can save an individual, that’s part of our goal, not just to throw people in jail,” McLennan Sheriff Parnell McNamara said at a press conference. “However, make no mistake, putting criminals in jail is our favorite pastime.”</p><p>Police also <a href="http://theinfluence.org/we-need-to-end-this-form-of-legalized-highway-robbery/">availed themselves</a> of some cash and drugs during this selfless endeavor. “As a result of the investigation approximately $4,500 in U.S. currency was seized, along with quantities of illegal narcotics. Over the last 19 months these detectives have initiated a total of 200 cases, showing this community that this form of modern-day slavery is in our back yard.”</p><p>“They should all be ashamed,” commented one Facebook follower. “I wish you had posted their names,” said another, clearly deeply sympathetic to the victims’ plight.</p><p><em>This article was originally published by <a href="http://theinfluence.org/texas-cops-boast-about-grand-achievement-of-throwing-adults-in-jail-for-consensual-sex/">The Influence</a>, a news site that covers the full spectrum of human relationships with drugs. Follow The Influence on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/theinfluence.org">Facebook</a> or <a href="https://twitter.com/TheInfluenceOrg">Twitter</a>.</em></p><p> </p> Thu, 07 Jul 2016 12:19:00 -0700 Tana Ganeva, The Influence 1059175 at https://www.alternet.org Human Rights Human Rights texas civil liberties criminal justice excessive force sex work sex workers Man Faces Life in Prison Because Woman OD'd on Fentanyl That She Willingly Bought https://www.alternet.org/drugs/man-faces-life-prison-woman-overdosed-od-fentanyl-she-willingly-bought <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">In an atmosphere of social panic, justice gives way to vengeance. </div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/fent.png?itok=Gaejsnn0" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p><em>This article was originally published by <a href="http://theinfluence.org/" target="_blank">The Influence</a>, a news site that covers the full spectrum of human relationships with drugs. Follow The Influenceon <a href="https://www.facebook.com/theinfluence.org/" target="_blank">Facebook</a> or <a href="https://twitter.com/TheInfluenceOrg" target="_blank">Twitter</a>.</em></p><p>Prosecutors are increasingly seeking <a href="http://www.drugfree.org/join-together/prosecutors-charging-drug-dealers-in-heroin-overdose-deaths/">long sentences </a>for people who deal drugs that might contribute to fatal overdoses. In a <a href="http://www.wmur.com/news/bail-revoked-for-man-accused-of-selling-fatal-dose-of-drugs/40248664">recent</a> case, Kevin Manchester has had his bail revoked and faces life in prison after he allegedly sold fentanyl to a woman who overdosed and died.</p><p>Fentanyl is the latest drug to <a href="http://theinfluence.org/the-medical-report-shows-fentanyl-and-that-media-narratives-around-princes-death-are-deadly/">unleash ever-helpful media panic</a> and knee-jerk policy making. Its high potency means that it is <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kevin-franciotti/after-princes-tragic-overdose-heres-what-you-need-to-know-about-fentanyl_b_10270416.html">active at much lower</a> doses than heroin (hence the screaming headlines about how it’s 50 times stronger than heroin). So people who unwittingly use heroin that contains fentanyl can snort or inject a fatal dose.</p><p>Manchester appears to have sold fentanyl knowingly. But missing from the headlines is that crucially, his client appears to have asked him for it.</p><p>“Previous text messages between the two show that Michelle and the defendant both knew the drugs he was selling contained fentanyl,” Assistant Attorney General Danielle Horgan said.</p><p>“Michelle wanted good stuff, according to those texts,” his public defender Sarah Newhall said. “She wanted fentanyl. The only time she asked for a drug by name was for fentanyl.”</p><p>Also missing from the news report is whether the woman had taken other drugs (most drug-related deaths involve combinations of substances, such as mixing heroin with benzos or alcohol) or had pre-existing health conditions.</p><p>Prosecutors are using the text exchange between Manchester and the woman as evidence of his heightened culpability. The defense has argued that far from being a drug-dealing menace—too dangerous to be allowed back into the community through bail—Manchester struggles with addiction and was dealing drugs to help support his family. The judge, in turn, used this seemingly mitigating information to suggest that he is a drug-dealing menace.</p><p>“His later confession of sorts that he was unemployed and selling to support his own family and his habit would certainly shore up the idea that he was active in sales,” the Honorable Judge Coburn opined.</p><p>Here’s a thought experiment: The number of deaths linked to alcohol is basically immeasurable, since too much booze leads to everything from drunk driving fatalities to early death from disease to unintelligent behavior like starting fights or running into traffic to choking to death in your sleep (although the <a href="http://www.cdc.gov/features/alcohol-deaths/">CDC has estimates</a>). Yet when alcohol leads to a death literally <em>no one</em> on the production or distribution chain gets blamed, despite the fact that alcohol companies’ deft marketing strategies have contributed to rising rates of drinking among groups that have historically moderated or abstained, like women. If we’re throwing around dramatic declarations about drug “<a href="http://theinfluence.org/if-were-really-in-the-midst-of-an-opioid-epidemic-were-reacting-in-just-the-wrong-way/">epidemics</a>” maybe a more appropriate target of alarmism is alcohol, the drug that kills more people than heroin and prescription drugs <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2015/12/22/americans-are-drinking-themselves-to-death-at-record-rates/">combined.</a></p><p> </p> Thu, 30 Jun 2016 11:17:00 -0700 Tana Ganeva, The Influence 1059306 at https://www.alternet.org Drugs Drugs drugs heroin fentanyl overdose OD kevin manchester 'Support the NRA With Every Sip!'—Welcome to the NRA's Wine Club https://www.alternet.org/drugs/welcome-nra-wine-club-support-nra-every-sip <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Because there&#039;s nothing like a nice cabernet after a hard day of packing heat. </div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/wine_wiki.jpg?itok=MGuuDtf2" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p><em>This article was originally published by <a href="http://theinfluence.org/" target="_blank">The Influence</a>, a news site that covers the full spectrum of human relationships with drugs. Follow The Influence on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/theinfluence.org/" target="_blank">Facebook</a> or <a href="https://twitter.com/TheInfluenceOrg" target="_blank">Twitter</a>.</em></p><p>As a member of the National Rifle Association (NRA), there are many ways to fulfill your patriotic duty and defend American freedoms: Short-circuit the democratic process by <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/special/politics/nra-congress/">buying off</a> the entire GOP establishment; threaten to <a href="http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/ted-nugent-harry-reid-nra">shoot </a>elected lawmakers; <em>or</em> sit on your ass and guzzle expensive wines delivered to you from “hidden, tucked-away vineyards.”</p><p>“Support the NRA with every sip!” reads the website for the <a href="https://www.nrawineclub.com/web/?src=nraweb2014">NRA Wine Club</a>. “NRA members, in fact, get a special deal. “Exclusive First-Time Offer Offer for NRA Members:4 Exceptional Wines for Just $29.99*—Save Over $84!”</p><p>In their brave stand against ISIS, Hillary Clinton, PC culture and Sharia Law, freedom’s foot soldiers might one day be forced to make the ultimate sacrifice. But in the meantime, there’s no need to sacrifice good taste! “Does this sound familiar?” asks the site, chronicling the many wine-related problems faced by NRA members:</p><blockquote><p>“The wine I picked from the store tasted bad.” <em>Better or worse than tyranny?</em></p><p>“Should I get the 2010 or the 2009?” <em>Who cares? All of freedom ended in 2008.</em></p><p>“It takes me forever to decide which wine to get.” <em>Unlike the amount of time it takes to purchase a semi-automatic rifle, which is literally <a href="http://www.philly.com/philly/columnists/helen_ubinas/20160614_Ubinas__I_bought_an_AR-15_semi-automatic_rifle_in_Philly_in_7_minutes.html">seven minutes</a>.</em></p><p>“There’s nothing good available in my area.” <em>Thanks, Sharia law.</em></p><p>“Is this cab any good or should I get that pinot?” <em>The eternal struggle.</em></p></blockquote><p></p><p> </p><p>Defenders of our inalienable right to own military weapons capable of mowing down dozens of people in minutes appear highly satisfied with their wine club.</p><p>“I am pleased with the first shipment of wines. I am pleased that I joined your club! I look forward to many happy years together :-)” says one woman.</p><p>Another Freedom Warrior declares: “Never again will I arrive at a dinner party or at a friend’s house without a bottle or two of fine wine in hand. Thank you, Vinesse! Cheers!”</p><p>To be fair, many NRA members are <a href="http://thinkprogress.org/politics/2009/12/10/73042/nra-poll/">more moderate</a> than the NRA’s leadership. But, you know, the leadership are the people guiding the discourse and obstructing gun reform and doing things like <a href="http://theinfluence.org/five-things-that-get-blamed-for-mass-shootings-other-than-guns/">blaming “political correctness”</a> for massacres.</p><p> </p> Wed, 15 Jun 2016 11:21:00 -0700 Tana Ganeva, The Influence 1058387 at https://www.alternet.org Drugs Drugs nra wine club wine guns When Someone You Love Dies in Police Custody and They Blame 'Excited Delirium' https://www.alternet.org/drugs/when-someone-you-love-dies-police-custody-and-they-blame-excited-delirium <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Civil liberties advocates are highly skeptical of the idea that otherwise healthy people just drop dead in police custody for reasons that have nothing to do with the police.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/julieanthony.jpg?itok=E5xpry62" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p><em>This article was originally published by <a href="http://theinfluence.org/" target="_blank">The Influence</a>, a news site that covers the full spectrum of human relationships with drugs. Follow The Influence on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/theinfluence.org/" target="_blank">Facebook</a> or <a href="https://twitter.com/TheInfluenceOrg" target="_blank">Twitter</a>.</em></p><p>Julie Cobio Firkins prayed and then walked into a room to watch her 33-year-old husband die. “The video that you’re going to see is very sad,” she remembers the officer warning her—twice—before playing footage from a police bodycam. But as the tape rolled, she had a different thought: “It was brutal, not sad.”</p><p>Why were all those officers tasing her husband, over and over, while he lay under a trailer truck? And why, once they had him in handcuffs, didn’t they help him more when he cried out that he couldn’t breathe?</p><p>“If you’re talking, you’re breathing, dude,” an officer said.</p><p>***</p><p>On a clear, mild night in April 2013, at just after three, an Idaho man named Bobby Muse called 911 because he thought he heard a woman screaming. Two Nampa County police officers drove to a neighborhood in Nampa known to police as a place where trouble happens.</p><p>But on their way to the call, officer Eric Duke noticed a guy driving a pickup truck with his lights off. Duke tried to alert him by flashing his own lights, but Anthony Firkins raced away in his truck, a move that might make more sense given his likely state of mind—he’d recently relapsed on <a href="http://theinfluence.org/neuroscientist-meth-is-virtually-identical-to-adderall-this-is-how-i-found-out/">meth</a>. He’d agreed to get help, but put it off because the week before he ran into police, a grandfather he’d adored had died.</p><p>“He was high on meth and probably freaked out, getting chased by police,” Julie says. He’d had at least one panic attack before. “The way I know him, he was probably like, ‘Who are these guys? What are they doing?’ I’m pretty sure he was just scared.”</p><p>Anthony Firkins sped through the small town, blowing through red lights and stop signs. When his pickup hit some railway tracks, it skidded and spun down the road, crashing into a fence. He ran out, hopped onto the truck bed and jumped a fence into the lot of Pacific Steel &amp; Recycling. He crawled under the axle of a truck trailer and that’s where officers found him. Most of the police bodycam footage—The Influence obtained several videos—starts there.</p><p>“Taser taser taser!” an officer yells, as they run to block off both sides of the truck. The tasers start going off. Another yells, “Tase him again!”</p><p>An officer drags him out from under the trailer. The confusing footage shows a blur of limbs, handcuffs, a wooden baton. Tasers go off the entire time. “Slow it down guys!” a voice of reason cautions, once Anthony has been hauled from under the truck. A taser pops again—this time a direct hit to Anthony’s bare side. They’re knocking him (though not <em>that</em> hard) with a baton and then their fists, trying to get him in position to be cuffed.</p><p>The cops handcuff him and search his pockets. Breathing heavily, they then begin to calm down and mill around, collecting evidence. Over the next five minutes or so, they make small talk, sometimes punctuated by noises from Anthony and their responses.</p><p>At one point, Anthony yells loudly. Then he wails “help” a total of seven times. “Save me!” he cries.</p><p>“We just did, man,” an officer replies. “You’re good.”</p><p>“Relax,” one says. “Don’t start getting froggy, dude!” another warns. “Don’t get froggy!”</p><p>“Oh shit!” Anthony screams. “I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. Goddammit, I can’t breathe. I promise. I can’t fucking breathe. Help!”</p><p>“I’m going to die,” he moans.</p><p>“You’re not going to die,” says one. “We got the medics coming in here, so you’re OK.”</p><p>He gets quiet. The officers start chatting about how dirty their uniforms are—one suggests his wife won’t be pleased with the extra laundry. Minutes later, they notice that Anthony has stopped breathing.</p><p><strong>A Baffling Cause of Death</strong></p><p>“I can still hear his screams,” says his wife, Julie.</p><p>His dad, Anthony Firkins Sr., got the call while driving for the trucking company where his son had also worked. He took on the unfathomably grim job of studying the autopsy photos. “Nobody should have to look at their child’s brain, but I had to.”</p><p>Everyone seemed at a loss as to why Anthony had died.</p><p>“He was young. He was healthy. They were digging for a reason,” Julie says. Did he maybe have a heart condition, she says an officer asked her on the phone. He didn’t.</p><p>Then the coroner reached a conclusion that made no sense to them: She said Anthony’s cause of death was consistent with excited delirium (with acute meth intoxication as another significant condition). The manner of death—homicide, suicide, etc.—was undetermined.</p><p>His family had never heard of excited delirium. This was not a satisfying answer. “They were tasing him, beating him, not letting him breathe,” Julie says. “Just to say that it was excited delirium, that’s a cop out.”</p><p></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="350" style="width: 650px; height: 321px;" width="708"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="350" style="width: 650px; height: 321px;" width="708" typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/screen-shot-2016-05-04-at-5.22.52-pm-708x350.png" /></div><p><strong>What Is Excited Delirium, and Does It Even Exist?</strong></p><p>Excited delirium is a very strange thing. Coined in the mid-1980s by a Miami medical examiner named Charles Wetli to <a href="http://fusion.net/story/6203/this-graffiti-artist-was-killed-by-a-police-taser-how-many-more-are-dying/">explain</a> deaths that seemed linked to cocaine use (but not overdose), it reportedly makes sufferers erupt in bizarre, aggressive behavior that may end in sudden death.</p><p>Wetli <a href="http://www.miaminewtimes.com/news/is-excited-delirium-killing-coked-up-stun-gunned-miamians-6367399">thought</a> excited delirium mostly afflicted young men with outsize coke habits, but he also proposed some highly dubious risk factors for women: a history of cocaine use and too much sex.</p><p>When the <a href="http://articles.latimes.com/1989-05-14/news/mn-413_1_needle-marks-county-s-chief-medical-examiner-overdose">dead bodies</a> of sex workers began turning up around Miami throughout the 1980s, baffling detectives, who could find no signs of struggle or clear cause of death, Dr. Wetli surmised that after years of crack use, just one sex act was enough to kill them off. The women, it turned out, had in fact been asphyxiated, most likely by a <a href="http://www.miamiherald.com/latest-news/article1929169.html">serial killer</a>.</p><p>“You’re talking about little girls on the street, and it’s not too hard to asphyxiate them, especially when you have their backs on the ground and your weight on their abdomen,” a pathology professor told the <a href="http://articles.latimes.com/1989-05-14/news/mn-413_1_needle-marks-county-s-chief-medical-examiner-overdose/2">Los Angeles Times.</a></p><p>Ever since, there’s been disagreement about what excited delirium is and what causes it—and whether it exists. Yet it’s found its way into police training: Cops are widely taught that people in a state of excited delirium are out of their minds, have “superhuman strength,” and are “impervious to pain.”</p><p>It’s “the difference between a Tyrannosaurus and a tabby cat. There’s no subtlety about the intensity of energy, the physicality. It doesn’t seem like you’re dealing with anything human,” expert William Everett is quoted saying in the Idaho Peace Officer Standards &amp; Training lesson plan.</p><p>And medical examiners cite excited delirium as cause of death, even though it’s not recognized by the American Medical Association or the <a href="http://www.dsm5.org/Pages/Default.aspx">DSM</a> (the <a href="http://www.fmhac.net/assets/documents/2012/presentations/krelsteinexciteddelirium.pdf">American College of Emergency Physicians</a> does recognize it as a distinct medical condition).</p><p>Civil liberties advocates are highly skeptical of the idea that otherwise healthy people just drop dead in police custody for reasons that have nothing to do with the police. “There have been more empirically based reasons why someone might have expired that aren’t investigated once excited delirium is raised,” says Eric Balaban, senior staff counsel at the ACLU’s National Prison Project. “In instances where it’s been raised initially, once more inquiry has been done, they’ve often changed the cause of death.”</p><p>Set against that are the cops who say they’ve witnessed it.</p><p>Police academy instructor Rick Bowen once showed up at a domestic violence call. He was “a very seasoned street cop” by then, he says, but this was like nothing he’d ever seen. “There was a long, violent struggle. He was almost animalistic; all of his actions were like that of a … caged animal.” Bowen says he would like to send the bill for his five knee surgeries to excited delirium deniers, tell them about the nightmares he had for years.</p><p>The man singlehandedly took on a squad of cops, Bowen says. “Then he was completely silent.” He died right in front of him; if Bowen had known what excited delirium was at the time, he says, he could have gotten the man medical help before it was too late.</p><p>Captain Greg Meyer spent 30 years in the LAPD; the popularity of PCP in the ’70s and ’80s made life decidedly unpleasant for police. “One little white guy, an architecture student, fought six cops and woke up in the hospital with no memory of it,” he says. Back then they didn’t have a fancy medical term for it: “We just called it ‘whacked out.’”</p><p>“Some people make excuses for them,” Meyer says of drug users. “’Not their fault,’ which is crap. They choose to take the drugs; they could die. C’est la vie!”</p><p>Theories that have been floated about how someone could die of excited delirium include: an extreme spike in body temperature, a sudden jolt of adrenaline or skeletal muscle breakdown.</p><p>Excited delirium skeptics acknowledge that aggression, confusion and strange behavior exist. Obviously, sometimes people do too many drugs and freak out, or have an underlying mental health problem that spirals into a psychotic episode. And it can be difficult to safely restrain someone in a mental health crisis, whether you call it excited delirium or not.</p><p>Where the two sides drastically part ways is in the idea that people are just dying from excited delirium. These deaths almost always seem to happen during encounters with police, skeptics point out. And there are many ways to die in police custody that aren’t mysterious at all.</p><p><strong>An Insidious Killer</strong></p><p>Dr. Werner Spitz, a German forensic pathologist with black-rimmed eye glasses and a shock of white hair, has been involved in enough historic investigations and trials to thrill a conspiracy theorist: the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr.; OJ Simpson, Phil Spector, JonBenet Ramsey, Casey Anthony.</p><p>He says he’s seen close to a hundred cases where excited delirium was cited as cause of death. He hasn’t seen one where he came away convinced that that’s what actually happened. “I fail to see where this is coming from, that excited delirium has become a very common reason for people to die,” he says. Often, he finds a more straightforward explanation: suffocation through being restrained in a way that prevents breathing.</p><p>“Maybe they can breathe just a little bit or maybe they cannot breathe at all,”  Dr. Spitz says. “Occasionally … an individual cannot breathe and they’ll even scream, ‘I cannot breathe.’ If they breathe they’ll be fine. If they don’t, they’ll be dead.”</p><p>“It happens routinely,” says Erik Heipt, a Seattle lawyer who litigates policy brutality cases for <a href="http://budgeandheipt.com/">Budge &amp; Heipt.</a> “Someone is held in the prone position with multiple officers on their back, goes still, and dies underneath the weight.”</p><p>“It’s a vicious cycle where you have officers who are perceiving someone resisting,” Heipt continues. “So they’re pushing down on them to get them to stop resisting. They’re underneath, having trouble breathing, so they’re struggling harder. Police add more body weight. [The suspect] stops moving … all of the sudden they look and the person’s face is purple.”</p><p>If they’ve been running, struggling, experiencing a mental health crisis or using certain drugs, compression and positional asphyxia become especially dangerous. Just when they might need to breathe more deeply, police action might make it harder to breathe, leading to hypoxia: a mismatch of oxygen needs to oxygen the body’s getting. A sneaky killer.</p><p>“The process of hypoxia is insidious, and subjects might not exhibit any clear symptoms before they simply stop breathing,” <a href="https://www2.fbi.gov/publications/leb/1996/may966.txt">wrote</a> Dr. Donald Reay. “Generally, it takes several minutes for significant hypoxia to occur, but it can happen more quickly if the subject has been violently active and is already out of breath.”</p><p>Even after a person has stopped struggling, police might continue putting pressure on them, thinking they’ve just tired themselves out or stopped resisting, when really they’ve passed out. Later, officers might say the suspect had been trying to throw them off and run away.</p><p>“But that’s not why he’s rising,” Dr. Spitz says. “When you cannot breathe, you fight for your life. And you only have one of those.”</p><p><strong>“You’re killing me!” —Brian Torgerson</strong></p><p>In 2010 Brian Torgerson, 45, opened his door to find two Seattle Police Department officers. His dad had called them because Brian, who was schizophrenic, had hit him, then got in his car and drove off. His parents hoped officers would get him help.</p><p>Brian and the officers chatted outside his door. But when they grabbed him, he locked his arms to his chest. They tussled and the cops called for backup. Officers from two precincts stormed up the stairs to Brian’s apartment.</p><p>Despite witness testimony that Brian wasn’t resisting, especially after he was handcuffed—unless you count his yelling “You’re killing me!” pre-handcuffs—over the next 20 minutes multiple officers at a time sat on him or pressed down on him with their knees. They covered his head and neck in a spit hood, which became so drenched with his blood and vomit that it likely choked him further. They strapped him, facedown—and still wearing the spit hood—to a flat board, and then sat on and kneed him again, even though his hands and legs were bound <a href="http://budgeandheipt.com/news-press/fathers-lawsuit-blames-seattle-police-for-sons-injuries/">to the board.</a></p><p>“I was concerned that the man might be having trouble breathing given the number of officers on top of him and the fact that he was on his stomach strapped to the board,” a witness said. Brian lived but suffered severe, permanent brain damage.</p><p>Right after the incident, the department posted a version of events on their website: “The officers escorted the man down to the street where they were waiting for transportation to the hospital. While there, the man stopped breathing,” reports the <a href="http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/fathers-lawsuit-blames-seattle-police-for-sons-injuries/">Seattle Times</a>.</p><p>In court, the officers involved didn’t exactly lie about what happened, but there were some peculiar omissions.</p><p>“The incident resulted in a “Help the Officer” radio broadcast. Officers responded from the (sic) both the West and East Precincts. The Seattle Fire department arrived and treated Torgerson for medical problems and a cut to the nose. He was subsequently transported to HMC,” stated officer G. Leavitt, swiftly passing over the part where Torgerson was handcuffed, bleeding and vomiting, in a spit hood, with officers on his back.</p><p>“If there were a medal for withholding important information from a court of law, the defendants would win the gold.” wrote lawyers for Torgerson’s family in a legal brief. “From reading defendant’s motion, for example, the Court would have no idea that for over 20 minutes after Brian Torgerson’s hands were cuffed behind his back and his legs zip-tied together, multiple officers were on top of him—holding him in a prone (face down) position position by kneeling on his upper back, literally compressing him with enough body weight to suffocate him and stayed on top of him after noting he was no longer breathing.”</p><p>Asphyxiation doesn’t mark the body in any way, leaving no physical signs to make it obvious to coroners that someone died because they couldn’t breathe (“It’s not like CSI,” Erik Heipt, who helped litigate the Torgerson case, helpfully notes). Circumstantial evidence, like video or witness testimony, is the only way to determine suffocation from compression as cause of death. It can be all too easy to bury what really happened, for example in the terse prose of a police report.</p><p>The city offered a $1.75 million settlement to end the Torgersons’ case—apparently they weren’t too confident in officers’ defense that Brian’s heart stopped due to excited delirium and that they’d used reasonable force.</p><p></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="350" width="444"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="350" width="444" typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/screen-shot-2016-05-04-at-5.27.15-pm-444x350.png" /></div><p><em>Brian Torgerson in the hospital</em></p><p><strong>Why Officers Often Don’t Realize What They’re Doing</strong></p><p>Whenever an in-custody death of this kind doesn’t implicate police there’s no pressure on departments to change their training procedures. “That gives blanket permit to the police department to continue to do this,” says Dr. Spitz. "Instead of looking the thing straight in the face, calling it what it is.”</p><p>In his experience it seems that a lot of officers don’t realize how little weight it takes to suffocate someone. It’s not just chest compression that does it; pressing down on the lower body can also be dangerous if it prevents the diaphragm from expanding.</p><p>When Kevin <a href="http://www.sun-sentinel.com/local/broward/fl-relief-bills-2015-session-20141212-story.html">Colindres</a>, an 18-year-old <a href="http://www.myfloridahouse.gov/Sections/Documents/loaddoc.aspx?FileName=_s0042__.DOCX&amp;DocumentType=Bill&amp;BillNumber=0042&amp;Session=2014">autistic man</a> from Florida, died after an encounter with police, the medical examiner didn’t understand why. So she asked officers to recreate the incident, with the officer who’d applied restraint taking Kevin’s place.</p><p>Dr. Spitz says: “In less than one minute the officer that applied the restraint but was subject of restraint [in the experiment] … he indicated to the restraining officer, 'Get off of me right now.' He said, 'I can’t breathe.' He very severely panicked under the restraints.”</p><p><strong>Better Guidance Is Out There</strong></p><p>But there are best practices to avoid asphyxia in a person who’s been restrained.</p><p>Police guidelines in other countries seem unequivocal. “Any body position that interferes with breathing can cause death,” states a <a href="http://www.police.vic.gov.au/content.asp?Document_ID=37779">training manual</a> used by police in Victoria, Canada. Officers are told to recognize risks such as the person saying they can’t breathe, gurgling/gasping sounds, panic, prolonged resistance and “sudden tranquility.” They must also avoid or at least utterly minimize the time spent in a prone restraint. And: “Do not sit or lean on the abdomen EVER.”</p><p>The UK’s College of Policing “authorized professional practice” <a href="https://www.app.college.police.uk/app-content/detention-and-custody-2/control-restraint-and-searches/">sheet</a> similarly warns officers of death risks if someone is positioned in a way that inhibits breathing and counsels: “the best management is de-escalation, avoiding prone restraint, restraining for the minimum amount of time, lying the detainee on their side and constant monitoring of vital signs.”</p><p>And even in the US, a 1995 <a href="https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles/posasph.pdf">manual</a> by the Department of Justice advised, “To help ensure subject safety and minimize the risk of sudden in-custody death, officers should learn to recognize factors contributing to positional asphyxia. Where possible, avoid the use of maximally prone restraint techniques (e.g., hogtying).” Other guidelines included “as soon as the suspect is handcuffed, get him off his stomach.” The NYPD issues very similar advice.</p><p>Other professionals concur: “…we are trained to never put a patient face-down on the ground,” <a href="http://thefederalist.com/2014/12/05/what-everyones-missing-by-focusing-on-nypd-chokehold-of-eric-garner/">wrote</a> Marc E. Fitch, who’s trained ER staff and mental health providers on crisis prevention techniques. He explains: “Face-down on the ground, the patient is often unable to expand his chest to take a breath. This condition is exacerbated by people piling on top of the patient in an effort to keep him or her down, the patient’s weight and health conditions, and his or her stress level.” Other risk factors include obesity and recent use of drugs like cocaine or meth.</p><p><strong>But Instructions Are Often Less Helpful</strong></p><p>The advice is sometimes muddied, however. For example, the basic training manual used in Idaho—where Anthony Firkins died—splits restraint instructions into three categories: compliant, unknown risk and high-risk handcuffing. It seems to suggest that prone handcuffing is the best strategy for a “high-risk” suspect: “Prone Handcuffing: The highlighted areas in each section emphasize the principle to be accomplished. The methods to accomplish it may vary depending on circumstances and environment. Control and officer safety are always primary considerations.” The manual includes the following illustration: </p><p></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="350" style="width: 167px; height: 350px;" width="167"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="350" style="width: 167px; height: 350px;" width="167" typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/screen-shot-2016-05-05-at-9.48.41-am-167x350.png" /></div><p>Yet the manual does embed a Wikipedia entry on positional asphyxia at the end, as well as Dr. Reay’s paper on it. And in the section on excited delirium one of the 10 tips presented by an expert says to avoid the prone position during transport—as did a police bulletin distributed to Nampa sheriff’s deputies in 2010. It seems like a confusing combination.</p><p><strong>“Help Me, Grandma, I don’t want to go.” —Alonzo Ashley</strong></p><p>On a boiling July day in 2011, Alonzo Ashley and his girlfriend were at Denver Zoo when Ashley got so sick from the heat that he <a href="http://www.westword.com/news/denver-zoo-death-girlfriend-disputes-cops-tale-about-why-alonzo-ashley-was-tased-video-5898080">threw up.</a> He went to a water fountain to splash water on his head. When a security guard came up to him, he allegedly became hostile, although his girlfriend says he merely told the security guard to <a href="http://www.westword.com/news/denver-zoo-death-girlfriend-disputes-cops-tale-about-why-alonzo-ashley-was-tased-video-5898080">leave him alone</a>. At that point, Ashley seemed to lose it. He chased after the security guard and pushed over some trash cans. Zoo officials called the police.</p><p>The first officer on the scene told him to sit. Ashley sat, but then got up and wandered away. More officers arrived and tried to take him down, tasing him in “drive stun” <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-28413451">mode</a>—a direct hit designed to cause pain—and punching him in the stomach. They tased him again. Officers would later note that Ashley seemed “extremely strong.”</p><p>“Help me, Grandma, I don’t want to go,” the apparently confused Ashley cried out.</p><p>He was handcuffed, laid on his stomach, his legs folded in a figure-four lock—crossed and pressed towards his back. He threw up again. After a few minutes, Ashley stopped breathing and was pronounced dead in the hospital.</p><p></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="289" width="180"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="289" width="180" typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/alonzo_ashley.jpg" /></div><p><em>Alonzo Ashley</em></p><p>Later, one of the officers said that his sweating and apparent strength led him to conclude they had an excited delirium case on their hands. The trial documents <a href="https://www.ca10.uscourts.gov/opinions/14/14-1431.pdf">note</a>, “It is often impossible to control individuals experiencing excited delirium using traditional pain compliance techniques. Paradoxically, these individuals are physiologically more likely to die from a prolonged struggle, but also more likely to physically resist restraint.”</p><p>This is a potentially lethal paradox, regardless of one’s stance on excited delirium. Let’s say that excited delirium exists and gives you superhuman strength and you can die from it. Or, let’s say it’s nonsense, but the symptoms associated with it have developed because of a mental health crisis or bad drug reaction (or in Ashley’s case, possibly overheating). What are officers supposed to do to make sure the person, others in the area, and officers are safe?</p><p>Michael Brantley, a police instructor at the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy, believes that excited delirium exists and that it can result in death on its own. He also doubts that aggressive police tactics are the best way to prevent that outcome. “I think a lot of it depends on situation. If you have someone already agitated because of the state they’re in, to introduce pepper spray, a taser, a large group of officers, it can increase that anxiety [that’s] already kicking up their system.”</p><p>But Captain Greg Meyer think tasers are a godsend in their purported ability to incapacitate the excited delirium sufferer—and that the sooner they’re under control, the sooner they can get medical help.</p><p>The science is still out on <a href="http://www.popsci.com/tasers-may-be-unsafe-says-new-report">tasers</a>, but it seems clear that their overuse can escalate an already fraught police encounter. In fact, lawsuits over sudden deaths in police custody have targeted manufacturer Taser International. The company, for its part, has not inspired confidence by avidly promoting the idea that “excited delirium” can be deadly on its own to police departments, even distributing a pithy note to <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2009/02/tasers-delirium-defense">share</a> with bereaved families: “We regret the unfortunate loss of life. There are many cases where excited delirium caused by various mental disorders or medical conditions, that may or may not include drug use, can lead to a fatal conclusion.”</p><p><strong>On His Stomach—Anthony Firkins</strong></p><p>Death associated with restraint asphyxia in police custody has been endlessly debated, with some experts (those favored by police departments) contending that it’s unlikely that people die that way. Some researchers have <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9360565">concluded</a> that you probably can’t die like that; others that you can.</p><p>As Rick Bowen points out, no cop ever went to work hoping for a mysterious in-custody death on their watch. And police just don’t get the <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/investigative/2015/06/30/distraught-people-deadly-results/">right training</a> to deal with mentally ill or otherwise distressed people—an oversight that far too often ends in fatal shootings. But many police practices and habits escalate situations that can and should be de-escalated.</p><p>Anthony Firkins’ family wonders what might have been had officers handled things differently. He was tased six times (according to the <a href="http://www.idahostatesman.com/news/local/crime/article53458120.html">Idaho Statesman’s</a> count).</p><p>It should be noted that once he was in cuffs, officers calmed down and tried to get him to relax; footage doesn’t suggest multiple officers putting weight on his back for an extended period, like in the Brian Torgerson case (although the police cams don’t pick up everything and it’s pretty dark). The two officers, Joshua Krohn and Eric Duke, who spent the most time with Anthony after he’d been restrained tried to calm him down. “Just relax man. Take deep breaths, you’re alright,” said Krohn.</p><p>But other than short spells on his left side and then his right side—while officers searched his pockets, and a minute or so later—Anthony was handcuffed and down on his stomach, in the prone position that many training manuals advise against.</p><p>He was on his stomach when he repeatedly yelled that he couldn’t breathe. The idea that people who are having trouble breathing can’t talk appears to be a misconception—air can come out of you, even if there isn’t enough coming in.</p><p>Anthony was prone when officer Duke put him in a figure four-figure leg lock, crossing his legs behind his back and pressing them against his back. He’d kicked back his legs once, but after that he stopped physically struggling or making much noise.</p><p>He was still on his stomach when officer Becky Doney—who later told investigators that he’d stopped fighting at that point, which video evidence confirms—placed him in a hobble restraint.</p><p>Anthony stayed prone until officer Garrett Tillet noticed that the “fine dust” on the ground under his face was no longer moving. He felt under his nose, and couldn’t find his breath.</p><p>“Yeah he was breathing… and his breathing was shallow about 20 seconds earlier and then I took my hands off him.” officer Krohn told the arriving EMTs.</p><p>Anthony had no pulse by the time the medics arrived. They took him to the ER where doctors tried to revive him, pumping his chest. They briefly brought back a pulse, but it didn’t last. He was pronounced dead shortly after five in the morning.</p><p>***</p><p>In 2014, a Filer, Idaho officer shot and killed a black lab. The story was widely <a href="http://boisestatepublicradio.org/post/idaho-town-residents-want-mayor-council-booted-after-police-officer-kills-dog">reported</a>, the dead dog memorialized on a <a href="https://www.facebook.com/badcopfiler/">Facebook page</a> with over 11,000 likes demanding that “Officer Hassani get out of Filer, Idaho.” The Mayor and city council faced a <a href="http://www.cbsnews.com/news/idaho-mayor-faces-possible-recall-after-police-officer-kills-dog/">recall</a> campaign over the incident.</p><p>Julie Firkins couldn’t understand why a dead dog got more attention than her dead husband.</p><p>Both she and Anthony Sr. still don’t get why no one faced any consequences for Anthony’s death, or why the family didn’t even get an apology. It took Julie 10 months to even get access to one of the videos—the Chief of Police let her watch it, but only if she promised not to bring recording materials into the room (the Nampa police department declined to comment, noting that the statute of limitations hadn’t expired).</p><p>Eventually, the family gave up on suing, because the amount of money they might have gotten in a lawsuit wouldn’t have offset the money spent on lawyers and experts, and money is tight. Anthony left three kids behind, now aged 12, 8 and 6.</p><p>“We’re talking about a human being’s life,” says Anthony Sr. “Three boys,” he says of the kids. “I wish I could have filmed the funeral so [the police] could see their broken hearts.”</p><p><em>This article was originally published by <a href="http://theinfluence.org/" target="_blank">The Influence</a>, a news site that covers the full spectrum of human relationships with drugs. Follow The Influence on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/theinfluence.org/" target="_blank">Facebook</a> or <a href="https://twitter.com/TheInfluenceOrg" target="_blank">Twitter</a>.</em></p> Wed, 08 Jun 2016 09:12:00 -0700 Tana Ganeva, The Influence 1057966 at https://www.alternet.org Drugs Drugs drugs police We Spoke With That Utah Mormon Republican Who Wants to Institute Porn Filters https://www.alternet.org/sex-amp-relationships/interview-utah-mormon-republican-who-wants-institute-porn-filters <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">“I’m not a prude or a whacko; I’m not a religious zealot. it just doesn’t make sense anymore.” </div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/weiler.jpg?itok=MsSGjXyD" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p><em>This article was originally published by <a href="http://theinfluence.org/" target="_blank">The Influence</a>, a news site that covers the full spectrum of human relationships with drugs. Follow The Influence on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/theinfluence.org/" target="_blank">Facebook</a> or <a href="https://twitter.com/TheInfluenceOrg" target="_blank">Twitter</a>.</em></p><p>Todd Weiler, a Republican Utah Senator, has embarked on a crusade to save the state’s young people from the perils of pornography. “I’m only trying to protect children from porn,” he insists to <em>The Influence.</em></p><p>In April, Weiler spearheaded an effort to declare porn use a “public health emergency” in his state. Most recently, he has begun collecting ideas on how to curb teens’ access to porn. Among them is a UK-style filter that automatically blocks porn from the internet unless users opt in. He also thinks smartphones sold to anyone under 18 should be outfitted with a chip that blocks pornography.</p><p>Weiler, whose stance has unsurprisingly sparked a lot of barely-veiled mockery—”Mormon Republican Wants to Ban Porn” is a tempting, if inaccurate, headline—stresses that he doesn’t care what adults do.</p><p>“I’m not a prude or a whacko; I’m not a religious zealot,” he says. But “it just doesn’t make sense anymore,” he says of porn’s ubiquity and accessibility, especially among young people. He points out that we have rules to prevent kids from seeing R-rated movies and going to strip clubs, yet his teenaged son can look at “hardcore sexual intercourse and pornography” on his smart phone.</p><p>He likens porn’s ready availability to that of cigarettes in more freewheeling times: “When I was a kid in <a href="http://theinfluence.org/harm-reduction-and-capitalism-homeless-people-living-in-a-chicago-field-swept-away-by-development/">Chicago</a>, I could buy cigarettes in any vending machine in the city. When we finally embraced the concept that tobacco is harmful and addictive, the vending machines went away. They didn’t ban it, they made it harder for children. I want to do that with porn.”</p><p>When I point out that today’s tech-savvy teenagers would make short work of a technological impediment to an enticingly forbidden world, Weiler parries that just because teenagers manage to procure liquor or cigarettes doesn’t mean we do away with age limits on alcohol and tobacco.</p><p>When I note that a wasted <a href="http://theinfluence.org/how-i-learned-that-tough-love-would-only-fail-my-son-and-found-something-so-much-better/">teenager</a> could cause a <em>lot</em> of damage to themselves and the world, so porn is not exactly analogous, he admits that porn-viewing isn’t going to kill a whole family on the road as a drunk driver might. But he says it can still cause lifelong harms—that young men are getting the wrong ideas about sexuality, relationships and women. And in very extreme cases porn <em>can</em> wreck a life.</p><p>“I know an individual fired from two jobs because he can’t stop looking at porn at work,” Weiler says. “This guy, fired twice, marriage on the rocks … still can’t seem to stop doing it. If that’s not addiction, then I don’t know what is.”</p><p>***</p><p>Given that people can get addicted to <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MsKU-twd_pQ">eating drywall</a>, it stands to reason that the more pleasant activity of masturbating to sexually arousing imagery has the potential to lead to an unhealthy, repetitive fixation.</p><p>Interestingly, given <a href="http://theinfluence.org/mormons-for-marijuana-utahs-unique-path-to-medical-pot/">Utah’s</a> heavily Mormon populace, this manifests in a unique way among religious people.  A 2014 Case Western Reserve University psychology study revealed that highly religious men were significantly more likely to worry their porn use constituted an addiction, regardless of how much porn they watched. ”We were surprised that the amount of viewing did not impact the perception of addiction, but strong moral beliefs did,” Joshua Grubbs, lead author of the study, <a href="https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140212112843.htm">told</a> <em>Science Daily</em>.</p><p>The internet is awash with testimonials and manuals from Christian men who overcame their porn addiction through Jesus—often crediting porn with near-sentient powers to lead believers astray. “Here are the three lies porn told me and will tell you as well,” writes Christian Pastor Justin Davis. They are: 1) That was the last time, 2) You can stop anytime you want, and 3) Confessing your struggle will cost you too much.</p><p>“Here is what I believe with all of my heart: If you struggle with pornography, God isn’t disappointed in you; He is fighting for you,” Davis continues. “He died and conquered sin and death so you can have victory in this area of your life.” That Jesus died to end jerking off is a pretty unorthodox theological interpretation—nevertheless, it does seem that some deeply religious men are truly suffering, unable to square any porn-watching with their beliefs and identifies.</p><p>The question of porn’s potential harms isn’t just for prudes: Everything to how porn performers are treated by the industry to the racism, sexism and homophobia visible in a lot of mainstream porn are matters of valid concern. But it’s also a recurrent bug in human history that everyone’s always freaking out that some new-fangled sexual phenomenon or other will tear society apart, and <em>please</em> <em>won’t somebody think of the children?</em></p><p>Like all substances or activities that are <a href="http://theinfluence.org/newsflash-despite-our-drug-related-problems-non-problematic-drug-use-is-the-norm/">totally fine</a> for some people, but <a href="http://theinfluence.org/the-anatomy-of-a-heroin-relapse/">cause havoc</a> in others’ lives, <em>some</em> sort of intelligent, balanced regulation—informed by science, not panic—would seem the best course.</p> Fri, 27 May 2016 10:02:00 -0700 Tana Ganeva, The Influence 1057295 at https://www.alternet.org Sex & Relationships Sex & Relationships porn mormon republican This 27-Year-Old Is Going to Prison for Life Because His Fiancée OD'd https://www.alternet.org/drugs/27-year-old-going-prison-life-because-his-fiancee-odd <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">“It’s not different than a person who shoots somebody with a gun,” said U.S. attorney David Hickton.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2016-05-09_at_1.36.59_pm.png?itok=ixHvpmou" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p><em>This article was originally published by <a href="http://theinfluence.org/" target="_blank">The Influence</a>, a news site that covers the full spectrum of human relationships with drugs. Follow The Influence on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/theinfluence.org/" target="_blank">Facebook</a> or <a href="https://twitter.com/TheInfluenceOrg" target="_blank">Twitter</a>.</em></p><p>At every level of the criminal justice system, from patrol cops to judges, there’s an increased push for a more humane approach to drug use—treating addiction where it exists instead of shoveling drug users into America’s overcrowded jails and prisons.</p><p>But you can always count on U.S. prosecutors to find some way to exact inhumanely long prison sentences. In several states, prosecutors have begun to charge people who sell or give someone drugs <a href="http://theinfluence.org/man-sentenced-to-decade-in-prison-because-his-girlfriend-overdosed/">with murder</a> if that person dies.</p><p>The Washington Post <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/her-fiance-gave-her-heroin-she-overdosed-does-that-make-him-a-murderer/2016/05/08/f9a9e79a-f29b-11e5-a2a3-d4e9697917d1_story.html">highlights</a> one such case: Jarret McClasland and his fiancée Flavia Cardenas did heroin together for her 19th birthday—she OD’d and died. The 27-year-old was charged with second-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison with no possibility for parole.</p><p>“They took our son from us,” says his dad. “The sentence they gave him is a living execution … You would not believe the kind of person he is versus the kind of person they portray.”</p><p>The Post notes that in at least four states—New Jersey, Tennessee, West Virginia and Louisiana—prosecutors are routinely charging people who supply drugs with homicide. In other states, lawmakers have introduced legislation classifying overdose deaths as murders.</p><p>“It’s not different than a person who shoots somebody with a gun,” said U.S. attorney David Hickton.</p><p>Yeah, OK. In addition to illustrating the preternatural ability of the U.S. justice system to deflect reform, the efforts rely on several clichés and misconceptions about people who use drugs and people who sell them. As the cultural figure of “addict” has metamorphosed from urban person of color to suburban straight-A cheerleader—your daughter!—it’s only natural for a new threat to emerge, which can naturally only be met with an aggressive crackdown. What better way to maintain the equilibrium of a racist drug war than pinning OD deaths on the (ideally urban) drug dealer?</p><p>Of the five anecdotal cases highlighted in the <em>Washington Post</em> report, in four the overdose victim was female, while the person charged was male. Although in these particular cases, the people charged were boyfriends and husbands, the gender breakdown doesn’t seem all that surprising—it resonates with the notion of women led astray by bad men. It’s a common trope in drug war history, going back at least to the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/judge-frederic-block/war-on-drugs_b_2384624.html">image</a>of 19th-century Chinese immigrant luring white women to their opium sex dens, where God-only-knows what kind of nation-weakening miscegenation took place.</p><p>The prosecutions are reliant on the myth that there’s a clear-cut difference between users and dealers—a black-and-white distinction that rarely occurs in real life.</p><p>“A lot of people who deal drugs are addicts, even though they are caught selling or trafficking,” Inimai Chettiar, director of the Justice Program at the Brennan Center for Justice told the<em>Post</em>, “If you go after the person who sold to the person who wound up dying, you’re not really going after the people who are responsible for the drug trade–the kingpins.” Going after drug cartels is certainly more work than demonizing someone’s boyfriend as a heartless dealer.</p><p>These prosecutions also mark the kind of policy hypocrisy that can only come from a drug panic. Alcohol-related deaths—ranging from drunk driving accidents to overdoses to death following long-term illness—greatly outstrip those related to opioids. And while in most states, bartenders can face civil and criminal charges for serving an inebriated person, when’s the last time a bartender was charged with <em>murder</em> after serving a drink that contributed to an alcohol-poisoning fatality?</p><p>Obviously, it’s a good thing that prosecutors <em>aren’t</em> targeting bartenders. But horrific cases like the McClasland one shouldn’t be happening either.</p> Mon, 09 May 2016 10:31:00 -0700 Tana Ganeva, The Influence 1056150 at https://www.alternet.org Drugs Drugs drugs influence crime prison murder Republican Lawmaker Who Got Caught Driving Wasted Loves Drug-Testing Poor People https://www.alternet.org/drugs/republican-lawmaker-caught-driving-wasted-drug-testing-poor-people <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Hypocrisy, thy name is Rep. Tom Taylor. </div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/jail_inmate_taylor_thomas_k_front_04142016_012215_677_pm_rabun_county_sheriff.jpg?itok=GfFZMljH" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p><em>This article was originally published by <a href="http://theinfluence.org/">The Influence</a>, a news site that covers the full spectrum of human relationships with drugs. Follow The Influence on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/theinfluence.org/">Facebook</a> or <a href="https://twitter.com/TheInfluenceOrg">Twitter</a>.</em></p><p>On April 7, Georgia Rep. Tom Taylor was caught careening through a 45-mile-an-hour zone at 72 mph. In the car were four underaged exchange students, a water bottle that smelled like booze, and a gun: quite the party for 2:46 in the afternoon.</p><p>Taylor told the officer he’d had a glass of wine the night before and nothing to drink that day, but blew a .225 on a breathalyzer test—close to three times the legal limit, according to the <a href="http://news.wabe.org/post/ga-state-rep-tom-taylor-dunwoody-charged-dui">police report</a>.</p><p>This week, the <em>Atlanta-Journal Constitution</em> <a href="http://www.ajc.com/news/news/state-regional-govt-politics/leaders-liquor-lobby-give-big-to-georgia-legislato/nrB8Y/">reported</a> that following his arrest, Taylor received at total of $20,000 from groups associated with the liquor industry, as well as from a handful of lawmakers. It’s not hard to see why. Taylor is a member of the House Regulated Industries Committee, which oversees liquor laws. In 2015, he voted to expand Sunday <a href="https://votesmart.org/candidate/122832/tom-taylor#.VyDX_YRlmu4">sale times for alcohol. </a></p><p>But Taylor’s liberal attitude towards mind-altering substances does not stretch to the poorer people living in his state. In 2012 and 2014 Taylor <a href="https://votesmart.org/candidate/122832/tom-taylor#.VyDr2YRlmu4">voted for measures</a> that would have forced welfare applicants to take a drug test before receiving government aid. The 2012 measure applied to people requesting TANF, or welfare benefits. The 2014 one would have forced people applying for food stamps to take a drug test if they raised “reasonable” suspicion of using drugs.</p><p>As the <em>Influence</em> has <a href="http://theinfluence.org/three-reasons-drug-testing-welfare-applicants-is-terrible-policy/">noted</a>, drug-testing welfare and food stamp recipients is ludicrously ineffective: It basically blows a ton of state money on <em>not</em> catching large numbers of drug users. It’s seen as a) good political theater for Republicans who get to vilify the poor by implying they’re getting wasted on the taxpayers’ dime, and b) a way to discourage people from applying for aid.</p><p>Lawmakers who’ve opposed the legislation make the obvious point that recipients of far larger amounts of government money—like, say, <em>politicians</em>—do <em>not</em> have to undergo testing for irresponsible or problematic substance use.</p><p><a href="http://www.rawstory.com/2016/04/georgia-republican-busted-for-drunken-driving-with-four-kids-in-his-car-and-a-gun-on-his-hip/">h/t Raw Story</a></p><p> </p> Wed, 27 Apr 2016 10:37:00 -0700 Tana Ganeva, The Influence 1055404 at https://www.alternet.org Drugs Drugs drug testing drunk driving dui Rep. Tom Taylor georgia "Streets Covered in Zombies"—What's Behind New York's K2 Drug Panic? https://www.alternet.org/drugs/streets-zombies-new-york-k2-drug-panic <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">It&#039;s easier to attack a &quot;demon drug&quot; and its users than it is to confront issues of poverty, homelessness, gentrification, and access to health care.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/k2.png?itok=Fnm9Xm2k" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p><em>This article was originally published by <a href="http://theinfluence.org/" target="_blank">The Influence</a>, a news site that covers the full spectrum of human relationships with drugs. Follow The Influence on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/theinfluence.org/" target="_blank">Facebook</a> or <a href="https://twitter.com/TheInfluenceOrg" target="_blank">Twitter</a>.</em></p><p>“You smoke a blunt, get high and still have money left over,” says 28-year-old José Martinez, a homeless man in Harlem, of the perks of K2. “Shit’ll last you three or four days if you get a real strong bag.” And it isn’t hard to get: “You just walk down and look for the smell!”</p><p>Martinez’ drug of choice does not sit well with the city’s lawmakers, police and media. As if the city’s street homeless people didn’t already have enough problems, the city’s panicked response to K2 may be adding to them.</p><p>Last summer, the New York City Police Department released <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TJLBaZfeT3M" target="_blank">two videos</a> alerting us to a public menace: K2, a new drug that was reportedly making the city’s homeless go insane. One video showed a naked man crouched in the street, howling and pounding on the pavement. In the other, a naked guy goes to town on a fence, punching through the wooden slats undaunted by the squad of cops spraying pepper spray in his face (he tests police skills further with a nude chase across the lawn).</p><p>“NYPD Uses Graphic Video to Warn of Synthetic Marijuana K2’s Dangers” responded one <a href="http://abc13.com/news/graphic-video-used-to-warn-about-k2s-dangers/904378/" target="_blank">headline</a>. A news anchor <a href="http://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/news/2015/08/4/nypd-tries-to-get-handle-on-synthetic-marijuana.html" target="_blank">zinged,</a>“The NYPD says this is your <em>braain</em> on synthetic marijuana!”</p><p>“It’s incredibly dangerous and harmful,” police chief William Bratton intoned somberly at a <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/nyc-crime/synthetic-pot-people-crazy-dangerous-nypd-article-1.2314664" target="_blank">press conference</a>, where he also labeled K2, <a href="http://nypost.com/2015/08/04/weaponized-weed-that-makes-people-strip-naked-wreaking-havoc-in-nyc/" target="_blank">“weaponized marijuana.</a>” Of the street-homeless people and others purportedly in its thrall, Bratton<a href="http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2015/08/04/bratton-synthetic-marijuana-gives-homeless-users-superhuman-strength-makes-them-impervious-to-pain/" target="_blank">said,</a> “These individuals, many of them under the influence of this drug, are totally crazy, have superhuman strength, are impervious to pain. So some normal takedowns are not going to work.”</p><p>One thing missing from the NYPD’s dramatic public service campaign about K2 was the actual K2. The man in the first video may have had a lot of problems, but K2 likely wasn’t among them. The video <a href="http://pix11.com/2015/08/06/nypd-defends-use-of-old-videos-for-k2-training/" target="_blank">was several years old</a> and no one knows what—if anything—he was on. The other piece of footage had been cribbed from a 2003 episode of COPS and starred a man with a history of PCP use, <a href="http://gothamist.com/2015/08/05/all_drugs_are_same.php" target="_blank">Gothamist reported.</a></p><p>These inconvenient facts did not deter public officials and the media from continuing to hype the dangers of “synthetic marijuana” and its effects on the city’s homeless people.</p><p>“Our city streets are ­being taken over by zombies from a scene in <em>The Walking Dead</em>,” a New York City lawmaker<a href="http://nypost.com/2015/09/04/lawmaker-synthetic-weed-leaving-streets-full-of-zombies/" target="_blank">proclaimed.</a> A <em><a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/03/nyregion/k2-a-potent-drug-casts-a-shadow-over-an-east-harlem-block.html" target="_blank">New York Times</a></em> article also warned of this invasion of the undead, describing 125th Street in Harlem as “a street of zombies.”</p><p>“It’s literally poison,” said Preet Bharara, US attorney general for the southern district of New York, at a <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5N9mS4FMaeg" target="_blank">press conference</a>.</p><p>“Synthetic Marijuana (K2, Spice, Rocks, Candy) Can Kill!” screams a <a href="https://www.oasas.ny.gov/" target="_blank">New York State PSA</a> currently displayed on New York City’s subway trains.</p><p>But how realistic (or helpful) is the amped-up rhetoric?</p><p><a href="http://profiles.columbiapsychiatry.org/profile/zcooper" target="_blank">Dr. Ziva Cooper,</a> who has studied K2 at Columbia University Medical Center, says that K2—synthetic cannabinoids sprayed on plant matter and sold in packets with colorful names like “Scooby Snax”—carries genuine health risks. The chemicals can vary from batch to batch, even if they’re labeled as the same brand, she says, and the concentration of the drug is inconsistent—even within the same packet.</p><p>Nationally K2 was linked to 15 deaths in the first half of 2015 and a spike in calls to <a href="http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6422a5.htm" target="_blank">poison control</a>, <a href="http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6422a5.htm" target="_blank">according to the CDC.</a>It’s been <a href="http://www.news-medical.net/news/20100304/Fake-pot-can-cause-hallucinations-and-seizures.aspx" target="_blank">linked to</a> seizures, hallucinations and aggressive behavior.</p><p>But despite the drug’s undoubted downsides, harm reduction specialists point out that drug hysteria never helped anyone to craft intelligent public policy.</p><p>“K2 is like crack in the ’80s,” says Katrina Balovlenkov, director of Supportive Services at <a href="http://harmreduction.org/connect-locally/new-york/nyhre/" target="_blank">Harm Reduction Educators</a>. “Like, crack is whack, now K2 is whack.” (In fact, the original “Crack is whack” mural stands a few blocks away from the Harlem office where Balovlenkov and her colleagues help low-income people manage their substance use).</p><p>Happily, K2 panic is not on the scale of the nationwide 1980s freak-out over crack, which drove mass incarceration and ravaged poor communities of color for generations. Still, public reactions to K2 bear many of the hallmarks of a standard drug scare.</p><p>“A new drug comes on the market. It’s associated with some group of stigmatized people–in this case the homeless–and there’s a panic,” says Julie Netherland, director of the <a href="http://www.drugpolicy.org/departments-and-state-offices/office-academic-engagement" target="_blank">Office of Academic Engagement</a> at the Drug Policy Alliance.</p><p>Meanwhile, on-the-ground harm reductionists point out that police crackdowns might get some of the drug off the street, but they can be counterproductive in helping people in need; same for alarmist public health campaigns.</p><p>Therese Sonneson, harm reduction coordinator at Community Access, a non-profit that helps people transition into permanent housing, says she and other staff came across K2 smokers a few years ago. At first, they were concerned about K2, partly because it was a new drug, partly because people did occasionally act strangely on it, and largely because they were terrorized by alarmist advice in the media. For example, they’d read to call 911 immediately if they even suspected someone had smoked K2—a not-very-helpful strategy when there’s no antidote to the drug. And calling 911 clearly ups a person’s chances of a potentially bad encounter with police.</p><p>Sonneson has her doubts about the drug’s alleged deadliness, pointing out that despite 6,000 hospitalizations in New York City last year, there have been almost no deaths. According to the department of health, two deaths have been<a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/html/pr2015/k2-pr.shtml" target="_blank">linked to K2</a> in the city—in at least one case, it was due to <a href="https://a816-health30ssl.nyc.gov/sites/nychan/Lists/AlertUpdateAdvisoryDocuments/Synthetic%20cannabinoids-HAN-advisory_Summer%202015%20-penultimate8.pdf" target="_blank">a mix of</a> substances.</p><p>She points out that if someone is having a bad time on a drug, panic is not helpful. “If a person is freaking out, you create a safe space. You ground them, let them know this will pass,” she says. “You don’t go, ‘Oh my God, you’re gonna die!’”</p><p>Until recently K2 was completely legal. But in October, the city <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/de-blasio-signs-bill-making-sale-k2-illegal-nyc-article-1.2405193" target="_blank">passed</a> measures criminalizing the manufacture and sale of synthetic cannabinoids, which went into effect in December. At a press conference announcing the new measures, Mayor Bill de Blasio promised to go after manufacturers and sellers, while sparing users.</p><p>“These laws do not punish the individuals that’re held hostage, held in the grip of this toxic drug,” the mayor <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/738-15/transcript-mayor-de-blasio-signs-k2-legislation-law-criminalize-sale-production" target="_blank">insisted.</a> “It criminalizes the process that brings this poison into people’s hands.”</p><p>Channeling his inner drug warrior, de Blasio vowed to unleash the full force of the law in wiping “Scooby Snax” and “Black Mamba” from the streets.”In 60 days, when this law takes effect, if you manufacture K2, if you possess K2 with the intent to sell it, or if you sell K2, you are now going to come up against the greatest police force in the world.”</p><p>On the streets of Harlem</p><p>On a painfully cold day, Harm Reduction Educators’ Dimitri Margulis takes me around 125th and Lexington, the inspiration, he points out, for Lou Reed’s “Waiting for the Man.” It’s also the local epicenter of K2 sale and use. Margulis, who has lived in the neighborhood for decades, has his theories about why policymakers and law enforcement have taken up arms against this Demon Drug.</p><p>“I’ve seen it so many times in my life,” Margulis notes. “When the neighborhoods become desirable they get ‘cleaned up.’”</p><p>In a recent op-ed, a board member of the New Harlem East Merchants Association <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/holley-drakeford-harlem-quality-of-life-crisis-article-1.2482096" target="_blank">highlighted</a> this link between the crackdown on K2 and neighborhood development—deriding the city for not doing more to clear the area of homeless people and K2 smokers. The author griped: “While some efforts have been made, the problems still linger: homelessness,<a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/6-basic-facts-k2-article-1.2378531" target="_blank">K2 use</a> and an unfairly high density of methadone clinics, to name a few.”</p><p>As we walk around, Margulis points to signs of gentrification. There’s where the new<a href="http://ny.curbed.com/archives/2016/01/26/planned_east_harlem_tower_will_be_condos_not_rentals.php" target="_blank"> luxury condo tower</a> will be built. There’s the police mobile unit, stationed in the street 24/7. There are the police floodlights that shine brightly through the night in the park where many poor and homeless people assemble, sometimes to do drugs, drink or smoke K2. There’s the can collection station—recently shuttered—where poor and homeless people used to be able to trade cans and bottles for change. The metal grates where they used to sleep now have sprung metal bars, making it impossible to lie down.</p><p>Margulis doesn’t buy de Blasio’s promise to go after K2 sellers while leaving users alone. At street level, the distinction between user and seller can be pretty meaningless, he points out—especially since the crackdown on bodegas has moved more sales onto the street.</p><p>“People selling on the street are users,” he says. “It’s not like you’ve got a fucking kingpin in front of the McDonald’s on 125th street that’s waiting to go back to Randall’s Island [homeless shelter]. He’s not fucking Pablo Escobar. He’s a guy selling $5-worth of K2 so he can get 50 cents off of it and maybe one joint. So it’s demonizing an already marginalized population.”</p><p>Meanwhile, Katrina Balovlenkov of Harm Reduction Educators says she’s seen police hand out desk appearance tickets for K2 smoke. At one city council meeting, she says, an officer’s excuse was that police couldn’t tell the difference between pot smoke and K2 smoke—a ludicrous claim when K2 smells like “wet burning trash” and most officers are probably familiar with how marijuana smells.</p><p>A desk appearance ticket can really harm her clients. “Our population and a lot of the population that’s using K2 are either not going to get the follow-up letter in the mail, because we’re their address, or they’re homeless. And then they’re going to get a bench warrant for failure to appear. So now instead of ticket you now have a one-way trip to Rikers for a bench warrant.”</p><p>“You’ve got someone who’s high as a kite, totally disoriented, and the police set them down on the corner, like, “Here’s your ticket!” she continues. “What do you expect people to do with that? You expect them to remember six weeks laterto show up somewhere amidst all of the other crises they’re trying to get through in their lives? And you’re giving it to them while they’re impaired? It’s a terrible system.”</p><p>“Cops just find a reason to collar,” says José Martinez, who has smoked K2 for years as a homeless person in the city. He’s resigned to his troubles with police, shrugging off as unsurprising that he got arrested for smoking K2 even though use is not technically illegal.</p><p>He recalls the judge’s confusion when faced with a defendant who hadn’t broken any laws. “I went to bookings and all of that, and even the judge told me, word for word, ‘You weren’t supposed to get arrested for this; this is not illegal,’” he says. In the end, to save future hassle, the judge suggested he avoid smoking in front of cops.</p><p>Martinez’s run-ins with the law have not discouraged him from smoking. And he says the crackdown on suppliers and bodegas has made the drug more expensive, but still a better deal than weed.</p><p>His feelings about K2 are mixed. On the one hand, he likes it so much he blew through a bag every day before a stint in rehab helped him cut down to two joints. He says that even if weed were legal, he’d still opt for K2. “If [I’m] in a good place, I’ll just smoke some and close my eyes and lay down,” he explains.</p><p>On the other hand, he was smoking so much before that it was messing up his body. “That shit had me throwing up,” he says. Doing that much also made him kind of obnoxious, he admits, and he started lots of fights at his shelter. “Mentally it was doing some shit to me. I was punching people in the face. Every day I come with some kind of mark on my face.”</p><p>But it’s better now that he’s using less. He tries to eat better when he’s smoking. When he sees pools of street vomit that don’t contain chunks of food, he considers it a telling indicator that fellow K2 users aren’t taking care of themselves: “That’s how you know [they haven’t] been eating right.”</p><p>He points out that often, people who seem really messed up on K2 have also overdone it in other ways. “There’s people that’ll do crack, cocaine, methadone, every other drug—and then smoke K2. That’s not good.”</p><p>What’s the best way forward?</p><p>Clearly, mixing K2 with 25 other street drugs is a bad plan. Katrina Balovenkov, has also come across anecdotal evidence that it mixes poorly with psychiatric meds. Experts also have other suggestions on how to use more safely.</p><p>Therese Sonneson has written a guide for people who work with K2 users. It tells staff to inform them about how to mitigate the potentially bad effects of K2, suggesting they start out slow with a small dose and wait at least a few minutes to see how it affects them, since people react differently. It suggests they do the drug with a friend they trust in a safe space. Explore ways to lower intake.</p><p>It advises that if someone is agitated—but without severe physical symptoms like seizures or physical pain, in which case medical help<em> should</em> be called—that staff try to calm them.</p><p>“It is often helpful to sit with the person, talk with them, and help them feel safer,” the guide notes. “Remind them that the effects of the drug will wear off. It is often helpful to go into a dark, quiet room.” Keeping the person hydrated is also important.</p><p>Katrina Balovlenkov says she and her team have seen the full gamut of reactions to K2—from seizures and hallucinations to aggressive behavior—but also suggests keeping a cool head.</p><p>“If they’re really over-stimulated, can you take them in the back and keep them calm? If someone is totally inappropriate, do they need to go take a walk? We’ve had one person have a seizure and we just called 911,” she says.</p><p>But these cases are the minority. “A lot of people do it with minimum side-effects, other than what they would get on any other drug,” says Balovenkov.</p><p>On a policy level, she suggests that the problems associated with K2 can’t be handled without addressing the needs of the poor people who are most likely to use it excessively or in other unhealthy ways.</p><p>“It means handling poverty and homelessness and mental health and substance use disorders. That’s what it comes down to: ‘K2 is a symptom of a different problem,’” she points out. “Not, ‘K2’s gonna kill you!!’”</p><p><em>This article was originally published by <a href="http://theinfluence.org/" target="_blank">The Influence</a>, a news site that covers the full spectrum of human relationships with drugs. Follow The Influence on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/theinfluence.org/" target="_blank">Facebook</a> or <a href="https://twitter.com/TheInfluenceOrg" target="_blank">Twitter</a>.</em></p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p><em style="box-sizing: border-box; font-family: 'Source Sans Pro', sans-serif; color: rgb(99, 99, 99); font-size: 16px; line-height: 25px;">Tana Ganeva is the deputy editor of The Influence. You can follow her on Twitter: <a href="https://twitter.com/TanaGaneva" style="color: rgb(240, 74, 74); text-decoration: none; font-family: Lato, sans-serif; font-size: 18px !important; box-sizing: border-box; background-color: transparent;">@TanaGaneva</a></em></p> </div></div></div> Thu, 18 Feb 2016 11:04:00 -0800 Tana Ganeva, The Influence 1050950 at https://www.alternet.org Drugs Drugs k2 spice Synthetic Cannabinoids fake marijuana homelessness poverty new york city harm reduction Homeless Women and Children Booted by 'Christian' from Shelter to Keep Them From 'Tempting' Men https://www.alternet.org/economy/homeless-women-and-children-booted-christian-shelter-keep-them-tempting-men <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '1047321'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1047321" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">And right in the middle of winter. </div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2015-12-14_at_12.35.36_pm.png?itok=lZ0Xyivv" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>In a fine illustration of American Christianity's priorities, a Kentucky homeless shelter director has banned women and children from the town's only shelter to keep people from having sex. </p><p>"It seems like these last days it's getting worse ... the ungodly type," director Billy Woodward told local news station <a href="http://www.wymt.com/content/news/Women-no-longer-accepted-at-homeless-shelter-after-sex-problem-361346571.html">WYMT</a>. Although presumably not dripping with sin like the shelter's female residents, children are no longer welcome either, due to "the woman factor," he told the station. An exception could be made if they're accompanied by male relatives. The women were sent to a shelter in another town 30 minutes away. </p><p>Woodward also opined that shelter residents might be seeking out "mates" to help them with their tough economic circumstances, but they "go overboard with it."</p><p>A more pressing problem than consenting sex between adults: homeless women are at an extraordinarily high risk of sexual assault, particularly when they're living outdoors. In one study, 13 percent of homeless women surveyed said they'd been raped in the <a href="http://www.vawnet.org/applied-research-papers/print-document.php?doc_id=558">past year.</a> Although women forced to live on the streets face the highest rates of sexual assault, sheltered women are also vulnerable to assault by residents and staffers. </p><p>Watch below: </p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="360" mozallowfullscreen="" scrolling="no" src="http://up.anv.bz/latest/anvload.html?key=eyJtIjoiZ3JheSIsInAiOiJkZWZhdWx0IiwidiI6IjMzNjQxNjYiLCJwbHVnaW5zIjp7ImRmcCI6eyJjbGllbnRTaWRlIjp7ImFkVGFnVXJsIjoiaHR0cDovL3B1YmFkcy5nLmRvdWJsZWNsaWNrLm5ldC9nYW1wYWQvYWRzP3N6PTY0MHg0ODAmaXU9LzMwMTcyMTcxNS9XWU1UJmNpdV9zenMmaW1wbD1zJmdkZnBfcmVxPTEmYWRfcnVsZT0xJnZwb3M9cHJlcm9sbCZlbnY9dnAmb3V0cHV0PXhtbF92YXN0MiZ1bnZpZXdlZF9wb3NpdGlvbl9zdGFydD0xJmNvcnJlbGF0b3I9W3RpbWVzdGFtcF0mY21zaWQ9MzM5NSZ2aWQ9QU5WX0dSVFZfMzM2NDE2NiJ9fSwiYW5hbHl0aWNzIjp7InBkYiI6ODczOTQyNzh9fX0" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="640"></iframe></p> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2015 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '1047321'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1047321" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Mon, 14 Dec 2015 09:28:00 -0800 Tana Ganeva, AlterNet 1047321 at https://www.alternet.org Economy Economy rape sex Guess What? You Can Pay $600 a Month to be Homeless in San Francisco https://www.alternet.org/guess-what-you-can-pay-600-month-be-homeless-san-francisco <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '1046905'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1046905" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The city&#039;s housing crisis is truly insane. </div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2015-12-07_at_11.25.48_am.png?itok=_Wfc5uXp" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>In the past few years, San Francisco's massive rents have displaced long-time residents and worsened the city's already epic homelessness problem, sending more people into encampments or forcing them to live in cars or doubled up. </p><p>Now, residents have the opportunity to experience that glamorous lifestyle by paying $600 a month to live in a FedEx truck. The <em>SF Weekly</em> <a href="http://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/600-to-live-in-a-FedEx-truck-S-F-rentals-get-6674249.php">reports</a> that an enterprising car landlord equipped an old truck with luxury amenities like a mini-fridge and fold-out couch, renting the truck out for $600. No running water or toilets. “I didn’t end up putting plumbing in it because I was going to get a gym membership and use their facilities to help motivate me to work out every day — awesome plan right?! — so if you don’t mind doing that then this is a GREAT match for you,” reads the Craigslist description, according to the <em>Weekly. </em></p><p>A student who rented the truck found herself facing the predictable problem of parking tickets and extreme discomfort:</p><blockquote><p>Cinthia, a student at San Francisco State University, lived in the truck this fall. She would often park it near the school’s soccer fields and move it on cleaning days. But it wasn’t a flawless system — one night the battery died and the truck wouldn’t move. After class, she came back to a rainbow of parking tickets. </p><p>“The first time parking it was hard because I accidentally left the FedEx truck in a residential area and got yelled at,” said Cinthia, who asked that her last name not be used out of embarrassment. “I only move it at night when no one is around. The hard part is not being able to be at your house and relax. You don’t have a place to shower, and that can be tough.”</p></blockquote><p>Yes, it can. The piece estimates that 268 people are living in cars in San Francisco and that number increases substantially if you include surrounding areas, where housing costs have also shot up.</p><p>According to the official count, 6,686 people in the city don't have homes, and about half of those lack access to shelter. More than 2,000 kids who go to school in the San Francisco School District don't live in stable, permanent housing, as <a href="http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/housing-crisis-insane-6-cities-where-homelessness-out-control">AlterNet previously reported</a>.</p> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2015 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '1046905'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1046905" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Mon, 07 Dec 2015 08:21:00 -0800 Tana Ganeva, AlterNet 1046905 at https://www.alternet.org housing san francisco Gun-Obsessed GOP State Rep in Nevada Threatens Syrian Refugees: 'I'm About to Fly to Paris and Shoot 'em in the Head Myself' https://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/gun-obsessed-gop-state-rep-nevada-threatens-syrian-refugees-im-about-fly-paris-and <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '1046899'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1046899" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">On her Saturday talk show, Rep. Michele Fiore amped up the violent speech. </div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2015-12-07_at_10.03.30_am.png?itok=Id6o-CO6" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Staunching the spread of terrorism and preventing attacks like the one in San Bernardino has policy experts and officials stumped. No worries, though, because a Nevada GOP Assemblywoman has come up with a fitting plan to battle global terrorism: go to a foreign country with the express purpose of murdering innocent men, women and children. </p><p>On her Saturday talk show, Nevada Rep. Michele Fiore said she's so opposed to settling Syrian refugees in her state she would fly to Paris and shoot them herself. </p><p>Co-host Brian Wilson asked Fiore why she hasn't signed a letter promising to bar Syrian refugees from Nevada, a stance that policy experts have repeatedly said would wrongly punish innocent people while not making Americans any safer. Fiore assured the host that her failure to sign the letter was merely an oversight, rather than any shortage of ignorant bigotry on her part. </p><p>"I'm about to fly to Paris and shoot 'em in the head myself!" Fiore joyfully declared, laughing at her own hilarious joke about murdering civilians. "I'm not OK with Syrian refugees, I'm not OK with terrorists, you know I'm OK with putting them down, blacking them out. Just put a piece of brass in their ocular cavity and end their miserable lives. I'm good with that."  </p><p>Fiore most recently exemplified responsible governance by sending out a Christmas card portraying her entire <a href="http://wonkette.com/596634/idiot-nevada-lawmaker-michele-fiore-decks-the-halls-with-guns-tits-more-guns" style="font-size: 12px;">family armed</a> with guns, including a small child: </p><p></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="319" width="480"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="319" width="480" typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/large/public/screen_shot_2015-12-07_at_10.55.37_am.png?itok=nXu34pXy" /></div><p> </p><p>Listen to audio of Fiore's statement from her radio show below: </p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/Bjkj-5HmIZ0" width="560"></iframe></p> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2015 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '1046899'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1046899" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Mon, 07 Dec 2015 07:38:00 -0800 Tana Ganeva, AlterNet 1046899 at https://www.alternet.org Human Rights Human Rights refugees michele fiore Women's Health Advocates Slam Right-Wingers for Planned Parenthood Smears https://www.alternet.org/womens-health-advocates-slam-right-wingers-planned-parenthood-smears <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '1046618'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1046618" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">&quot;Anti-choice rhetoric must end, or anti-choice violence never will,&quot; noted the head of NARAL&#039;s Colorado branch. </div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2015-12-01_at_3.30.00_pm.png?itok=UnMU3aNe" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Women's health advocates gathered on the steps of the Colorado capitol Tuesday to demand a stop to inflammatory language they say incites violence against health care clinics and abortion providers. </p><p>"Anti-choice rhetoric must end, or anti-choice violence never will," said Karen Middleton, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado. </p><p>Planned Parenthood has been subject to a series of extreme verbal attacks by Colorado lawmakers, advocates said. In October, Colorado Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt described Planned Parenthood executives as demons, saying on a radio show, "I mean, whenever I look at a picture of those executives, if you look in the spirit, at the demons inside of them, you can see the blood dripping from their fangs. These people are just evil.” He said he was "proud" of a <a href="http://rhrealitycheck.org/article/2015/03/09/colorado-lawmaker-proud-south-dakota-legislator-compared-planned-parenthood-isis/">South Dakota lawmaker</a> who compared the health care provider to ISIS. </p><p>When the Colorado GOP launched its effort to defund Planned Parenthood, Rep. Mike Coffman described the group's actions as flying "in the face of human decency." Mere days after the shooting, the <a href="https://twitter.com/DougCOGOP">Douglas County GOP</a> tweeted a Breitbart article comparing Planned Parenthood to the alleged shooter, Robert L. Dear, advocates pointed out. "Abortionists and Planned Parenthood shooter are two sides of the same coin," read the <a href="http://www.theblaze.com/contributions/abortionists-and-planned-parenthood-shooter-are-just-two-sides-of-the-same-coin/">headline.</a> The GOP presidential candidates have previously attacked the group using incendiary language, with Ted Cruz <a href="http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/cruz-planned-parenthood-a-criminal-enterprise/article/2569135">calling</a> Planned Parenthood a "national criminal enterprise" and Carly Fiorina falsely accusing Planned Parenthood of harvesting brains from living fetuses.</p><p>"It's been a veritable feeding frenzy in who could be more over the top in their anti-Planned Parenthood rhetoric," said Amy Runyon-Harms, executive director of Progress Now Colorado.</p><p>Anti-choice politicians and pundits have categorically denied any connection between the anti-choice movement and its rhetoric and Robert Dear, the man who carried out the attack on Planned Parenthood. Right-wing media outlets went so far as to say Dear was a "left-wing transgender activist," a claim echoed by Ted Cruz (suffice it to say there's no evidence to support this claim). While the shooter's motive has not been officially determined, advocates at the rally believe the extreme rhetoric espoused by conservative politicians may have influenced Dear, who reportedly said, "No more baby parts," at the scene. </p><p>"I find it hard to believe these things are not linked," Runyon-Harms said.</p><p>She continued, "Since the tragedy last Friday, what's noticeable is the distinct lack of mention of Planned Parenthood by those same people who daily try to villainize the committed women and men who work day in and day out to provide quality affordable health care to those who need it most." </p><p>Runyon-Harms noted that one Colorado lawmaker has weighed in on the organization since the shooting—Rep. JoAnn Windholz, who issued the following <a href="http://www.rawstory.com/2015/12/colorado-gop-lawmaker-planned-parenthood-is-the-real-culprit-in-the-shooting/">statement</a> Tuesday:</p><blockquote><p>“Violence is never the answer, but we must start pointing out who is the real culprit. The true instigator of this violence and all violence at any Planned Parenthood facility is Planned Parenthood themselves. Violence begets violence. So Planned Parenthood: You stop the violence inside your walls."</p></blockquote> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2015 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '1046618'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1046618" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Tue, 01 Dec 2015 11:21:00 -0800 Tana Ganeva, AlterNet 1046618 at https://www.alternet.org rally Bombs, Shootings, Arson, Death Threats: Writer Details What It's Like to Work at Women's Health Clinic https://www.alternet.org/bombs-shootings-arson-death-threats-writer-details-what-its-work-womens-health-clinic <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '1046539'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1046539" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">In a series of tweets posted Sunday night, Bryn Greenwood describes the campaign of terror she experienced while working at a Planned Parenthood.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2015-11-30_at_12.48.08_pm.png?itok=raGgi5cY" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Over the weekend, the GOP candidates scurried to distance the Republican Party's extreme anti-choice rhetoric from the actions of Robert Lewis Dear, the gunman who murdered three people at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado. With the exception of Mike Huckabee, they also dissembled when asked if the attack constituted domestic terrorism.</p><p>In a series of tweets posted Sunday, Bryn Greenwood described the campaign of terror she experienced when she volunteered at a Planned Parenthood clinic. Although the clinic did not perform abortions, the volunteers were subjected to everything from attempted arson to cherrybombs to phone calls calling them "murdering whores," all for the depraved activity of providing health care to low-income women.</p><p>"The goal was to make us afraid to come to work, to make us quit, to make us close the clinic. That's terrorism. That's how terrorism works," Greenwood noted. See her tweets below: </p><p></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="641" width="503"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="641" width="503" typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/screen_shot_2015-11-30_at_12.34.09_pm.png" /></div><p></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="627" width="509"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="627" width="509" typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/screen_shot_2015-11-30_at_12.38.04_pm.png" /></div><p></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="635" width="515"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="635" width="515" typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/screen_shot_2015-11-30_at_12.38.29_pm.png" /></div><p></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="610" width="514"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="610" width="514" typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/screen_shot_2015-11-30_at_12.38.54_pm.png" /></div><p></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="418" width="506"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="418" width="506" typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/screen_shot_2015-11-30_at_12.39.23_pm.png" /></div> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2015 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '1046539'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1046539" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Mon, 30 Nov 2015 09:11:00 -0800 Tana Ganeva, AlterNet 1046539 at https://www.alternet.org terror 5 Awful GOP Responses to Planned Parenthood Shooting https://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/5-awful-gop-responses-planned-parenthood-shooting <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '1046525'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1046525" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">From Cruz&#039;s claim that the shooter was a woman to rampant victim-blaming, the GOP responds as tastelessly as one would expect. </div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/fiorina_1.png?itok=inDOWAsq" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Friday's shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado that left three people dead prompted immediate responses from the Democratic <a href="http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/presidential-candidates-planned-parenthood-shooting--2">presidential candidates</a>, who offered condolences and reiterated their support for the organization. </p><p>GOP candidates were slower on the draw, presumably needing time to work out the delicate balance between smearing Planned Parenthood as baby killers while expressing sympathy for the Iraq vet and the <a href="http://www.foxnews.com/us/2015/11/30/civilians-killed-in-planned-parenthood-shooting-identified-as-mother-2-iraq-war/">mother of two</a> who were gunned down.</p><p>When the GOP candidates finally commented, it was about as tasteless as you'd expect. They victim-blamed, claimed the killer's motives were unknown (despite reports that he spoke <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2015/11/29/us/colorado-planned-parenthood-shooting/">about "baby parts</a>" at the scene), and found a way to heap blame upon both Planned Parenthood and the media. Here are some of their tone-deaf responses.</p><p><strong>1. Carly Fiorina</strong></p><p>On <a href="http://www.mediaite.com/tv/fiorina-typical-left-wing-tactics-to-connect-pro-lifers-to-planned-parenthood-attack/" target="_blank">Fox News Sunday,</a> Carly Fiorina called alleged killer Robert Lewis Dear "deranged' and lamented that the shooting took place on a "holiday weekend," before zeroing in on the real tragedy: the unfair treatment of Carly Fiorina by pro-choice activists and the left. </p><p>Host Chris Wallace asked Fiorina if she saw a link between overheated anti-choice rhetoric and violence by abortion opponents. Fiorina, who at the second GOP debate regaled viewers with a grisly and entirely false story about Planned Parenthood workers yanking the brain out of a "living, kicking" fetus, failed to see how her words might inspire someone to take drastic action. </p><p>“This is so typical of the left to immediately begin demonizing the messenger because they don’t agree with the message,” Fiorina told Wallace. “Anyone who tries to link this terrible tragedy to anyone who opposes abortion or opposes the sale of body parts is … this is typical left-wing tactics.”</p><p>Fiorina advanced the inflammatory lie that Planned Parenthood makes a profit from trafficking in fetal body parts. In fact, the fetal tissue is turned over for medical research, with the attendant fees used to cover expenses.</p><p><strong>2. Ted Cruz</strong></p><p>Despite reports that the shooter ranted about "baby parts" at the scene, not to mention his choice of a Planned Parenthood clinic to storm, Ted Cruz saw no reason for anyone to jump to the crazy conclusion that the killer was motivated by anti-choice rhetoric. Instead, Cruz floated his more plausible explanation, telling reporters Sunday that Dear was a "transgendered leftist activist." </p><p>"It’s also been reported that he was registered as an independent and a woman and a transgendered leftist activist," said Cruz, according to the <em><a href="https://www.texastribune.org/2015/11/29/cruz-condemns-planned-parenthood-shooting-colorado/" target="_blank">Texas Tribune</a>. "</em>If that’s what he is, I don’t think it’s fair to blame on the rhetoric on the left. This is a murderer.” </p><p>The bizarre claim that Dear is transgender rocketed around the right-wing blogosphere after Gateway Pundit allegedly found a voter registration form that marked Dear as female. As <a href="http://thinkprogress.org/lgbt/2015/11/29/3726311/ted-cruz-planned-parenthood-shooting-transgendered/" target="_blank">Think Progress</a> reports, there is absolutely no evidence Dear identified as a woman, or as a leftist, noting that the form most likely had a typographical error. </p><p><strong>3. Ben Carson</strong></p><p>Carson responded to the attack by wishing everyone would be a little more polite. He then politely blamed Planned Parenthood for the shooting. </p><p>Asked if extremist rhetoric emboldens domestic terrorists, Carson argued that "both sides" are to blame for vilifying each other. </p><p>"We get into our separate corners and we hate each other, we want to destroy those with whom we disagree," he told Martha Raddatz on <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/week-transcript-ben-carson-gov-john-kasich/story?id=35461787">ABC's "This Week</a>." "It comes from both sides. So, you know, there is, there is no saint here in this, in this equation."</p><p>Fair point for the next time a pro-choice activist storms an anti-choice rally and murders three people. </p><p><strong>4. Donald Trump</strong></p><p>Donald Trump briefly approximated humanness on Chuck Todd's <a href="http://www.nbcnews.com/meet-the-press/trump-i-see-lot-dislike-planned-parenthood-n470886">Meet the Press</a> Sunday, calling the shooting "a terrible thing." Seconds later the GOP candidate returned to form, denouncing Planned Parenthood and essentially blaming the organization for making Trump supporters angry. </p><p>"I will tell you there is a tremendous group of people that think it's terrible, all of the videos that they've seen with some of these people from Planned Parenthood talking about it like you're selling parts to a car ... there are a lot of people that are very unhappy about that," Trump said. "I can say that, because I go to rallies…I see a lot of anxiety and I see a lot of dislike for Planned Parenthood. There's no question about that."</p><p><strong>5. Huckabee </strong></p><p>Mike Huckabee had the guts to call the shooting an act of domestic terrorism and mass murder. "There's no legitimizing, there's no rationalizing. It was mass murder. It was absolutely unfathomable," he said. </p><p>Huckabee then accused Planned Parenthood, which provides health services to low-income women, of mass murder, engaging in exactly the kind of extreme rhetoric that might convince an unhinged person the group is deserving of violent attack. "And there's no excuse for killing other people, whether it's happening inside the <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2015/08/04/health/planned-parenthood-by-the-numbers/index.html" target="_blank">Planned Parenthood</a> headquarters, inside their clinics where many millions of babies die, or whether it's people attacking Planned Parenthood," he said. </p> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2015 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '1046525'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1046525" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Mon, 30 Nov 2015 07:52:00 -0800 Tana Ganeva, AlterNet 1046525 at https://www.alternet.org News & Politics Election 2016 LGBTQ News & Politics planned parenthood gop Donald Trump Truly Outdid Himself With Racist Fearmongering This Weekend https://www.alternet.org/donald-trump-truly-outdid-himself-racist-fearmongering-weekend <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '1046193'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1046193" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">A racist meme Trump posted was originally put on Twitter by a neo-Nazi. </div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2015-11-23_at_11.50.47_am.png?itok=u237Zhij" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Donald Trump had an eventful weekend, racism-wise. On Sunday, the GOP front-runner doubled down on comments he made earlier that he'd seen thousands of New Jersey Muslims celebrating the collapse of the twin towers, an absurd claim denounced by everyone from the Jersey City's Mayor to the <a href="http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2015/11/23/nj-city-officials-rip-trump-over-claim-american-muslims-celebrated-911-attacks.html">Anti-Defamation League.</a> Politifact completely <a href="http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2015/nov/22/donald-trump/fact-checking-trumps-claim-thousands-new-jersey-ch/" target="_blank">debunked it.</a></p><p>Meanwhile, a day after cheering the assault against a Black Lives Matter protestor at one of his rallies, Trump tweeted a graphic featuring the entirely made-up crime stat that 81 percent of white murder victims are killed by black people. In fact, over 80 percent of white homicide victims were killed by other whites in 2014. </p><p></p><div alt="" class="media-image"><img alt="" class="media-image" typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/screen_shot_2015-11-23_at_11.40.53_am.png?itok=v3xPjtVr" /></div><p>Unsurprisingly, the entirely false racist meme is popular with neo-Nazis. Blogger Charles Johnson <a href="http://littlegreenfootballs.com/article/45291_We_Found_Where_Donald_Trumps_Black_Crimes_Graphic_Came_From">tried to trace</a> the origins of the graphic and found it was first posted to Twitter by the user below, who much like Donald Trump, is not shy about expressing his thoughts on the problems facing America today: "sick perverted dildo waving marxism and liberalism," naturally. The avatar is a symbol of a neo-Nazi movement, notes Johnson, and his support for Hitler is front-and-center. </p><p></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="256" width="480"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="256" width="480" typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/large/public/screen_shot_2015-11-23_at_11.25.02_am.png?itok=x9LUg648" /></div><p> </p><p>So far none of the GOP candidates have condemned Trump for spreading racist propaganda. </p> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2015 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '1046193'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1046193" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Mon, 23 Nov 2015 08:25:00 -0800 Tana Ganeva, AlterNet 1046193 at https://www.alternet.org race 'The Housing Crisis Is Insane': 6 Cities Where Homelessness Is Out of Control https://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/housing-crisis-insane-6-cities-where-homelessness-out-control <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '1045706'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1045706" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">In many places, homelessness rates have exploded and no one in charge seems to know what to do. </div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2015-11-12_at_5.30.12_pm.png?itok=dP9wJ1HY" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>In the early 2000s, cities around the country pledged to end homelessness <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/joel-john-roberts/did-americas-ten-year-pla_b_1394905.html">within a decade</a>, drafting ambitious 10-year plans to get all  of their homeless people into stable, permanent housing. One Great Recession later and the number of homeless people stands at <a href="http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Society/2015/1120/Homelessness-ticks-downward-across-US-despite-local-crises">565,000</a>, a quarter of them children, according to data released Thursday (and that's a huge underestimate since the count is based on visibly homeless people and misses, say, anyone who happens to be couch-crashing at the time).</p><p>There have been some success stories. Homelessness among veterans dropped <a href="http://www.usnews.com/news/politics/articles/2015/11/10/va-enters-stretch-on-goals-for-homelessness-claims-backlog">33 percent</a> between 2010 and 2014, and Salt Lake City shrunk its homeless population by 72 percent in nine years, just by giving homeless people apartments,<em> <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/02/housing-first-solution-to-homelessness-utah">Mother Jones</a></em> reported. But in many American cities homelessness is spiraling out of control and no one in charge seems to know what to do about it. </p><p>Rising rents and stagnant wages have led to the unsurprising outcome that many poor people can't afford rent and end up in shelters, cars, on the street, or doubled up. In New York City, that includes a large population of homeless families with children, many of them crowded into filthy city shelters. In many cities, officials face the eternal dilemma of <a href="http://www.homelesshub.ca/solutions/affordable-housing/nimby-not-my-backyard">NIMBYism</a>; how to help homeless people who have nowhere to go while mollifying residents and business owners who want them anywhere besides where they live or have their businesses. </p><p>Here are six cities struggling with a massive homelessness problem and what they are—or are not—doing about it. </p><p><strong>1. New York City</strong></p><p>More than 59,000 people are sleeping in New York City <a href="http://www.coalitionforthehomeless.org/the-catastrophe-of-homelessness/facts-about-homelessness/">homeless shelters,</a> 40 percent of them children. Eighty-four thousand <a href="http://www.icphusa.org/PDF/reports/OnTheMap_TheAtlasofStudentHomelessnessinNewYorkCity2015.pdf">school-aged kids</a> are in a shelter, living doubled up with family or friends, or living outside. Families in shelters are taking longer to move into permanent housing and street homelessness appears to be on the rise; all bad signs for Mayor Bill de Blasio, who rode into office pledging to rein in inequality. </p><p>The irony has not been lost on conservative media, which has berated the mayor nonstop for the apparent rise in street homelessness, while publicly shaming the homeless for good measure. The <em>New York Post</em> dispatched 16 reporters to take pictures of just one homeless man, which they put on their cover, as <a href="http://tktk.gawker.com/the-new-york-post-s-latest-cause-humiliating-a-powerle-1717581558">Gawker reported</a>. "The O'Reilly Factor's" Jesse Waters went <a href="http://video.foxnews.com/v/4329126076001/watters-world-penn-station-homeless-edition-/?#sp=show-clips">to Penn Station</a> to interrogate homeless people about their drinking and drug use. And Police Commissioner William Bratton had to go on Morning Joe to <a href="http://mediamatters.org/video/2015/09/01/on-msnbc-nypd-commissioner-refutes-claims-about/205303">calm</a> Joe Scarborough, who fretted that the NYPD wasn't sufficiently abusing its powers by forcing people into shelters. With evident glee, former GOP mayor <a href="http://nypost.com/2015/09/06/giuliani-to-de-blasio-the-citys-homeless-crisis-needs-tough-love/">Rudy Giuliani</a> taunted de Blasio for letting "progressivism" prevent police from clearing homeless people from the street. Even as the mayor caught flak from conservatives for not disappearing the homeless through excessive police force, some homelessness advocates have knocked the NYPD for clearing out encampments. </p><p>What gets less coverage is the huge increases in homelessness under Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who started, but then dropped, a series of rental subsidies, burdening poor families with rents they couldn't afford. Between 2011 and 2014, the number of people in shelters rose from 37,000 to 53,000 (New York is legally required to provide shelter). </p><p>Since the start of his administration, Mayor de Blasio has pledged $22 million to <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/07/nyregion/de-blasio-targets-violence-prone-individuals-with-mental-health-initiative.html">mental health care programs</a>, launched a rental subsidy called Living in Communities (LINC) and devoted more funding to legal services for <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/de-blasio-launches-12m-plan-tenants-avoid-eviction-article-1.2377842">tenants fighting eviction</a>. But the mayor's reforms might not be enough, given that rent eats up <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2015/10/21/nyregion/new-york-homeless-people.html">70 percent</a> of poor New Yorkers' incomes (New York's minimum wage is $8.75). LINC vouchers have helped people move into permanent housing, but a recent report showed that 80 percent of distributed vouchers aren't being used. That means that even with a voucher, homeless people can't find apartments, so they stay in shelters. One shelter resident told <a href="http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20151109/fort-greene/80-percent-of-homeless-rent-vouchers-arent-being-used-city-says">DNA Info</a> she'd tried 30 landlords who wouldn't touch the voucher. “People don’t want to deal with a LINC voucher because they feel that it’s unreliable,” she told the site. </p><p>Part of the reason landlords are wary of LINC is that the city can't promise the program will continue indefinitely. The <a href="http://www.ibo.nyc.ny.us/iboreports/homeless_rental_assistance_shelter_impact_march2015.pdf">Independent Budget Office</a> has warned that the administration has overly rosy expectations for LINC, since funding for the program relies on reduced shelter costs, and shelter costs aren't being reduced because not enough people are leaving shelter.</p><p>Homelessness advocates have lobbied the mayor and the governor to build <a href="http://www.coalitionforthehomeless.org/press/coalition-of-130-groups-launch-push-for-30000-new-units-of-supportive-housing/">35,000 supportive housing units</a>, apartments where people can get access to social services like mental health care or substance abuse treatment. The mayor initially called for 12,000 units to be built over 10 years. That plan floundered when Governor Cuomo shot back with an offer of 4,000 units (the city and state have traditionally partnered to fund supportive housing under an agreement called NY/NY, but thanks to their now <a href="http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2015/11/de-blasio-escalates-christie-refugee-fued.html">legendary feud,</a> they've failed to reach an agreement). On Wednesday, de Blasio called out Cuomo for failing to step up, and announced that the city would build <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/city-hall/2015/11/8583312/de-blasio-announce-plan-15000-new-supportive-housing-units">15,000 new units</a> of <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/city-hall/2015/11/8583312/de-blasio-announce-plan-15000-new-supportive-housing-units">supportive housing</a> over 15 years.</p><p>"I would say that's good news, but it's one part of the puzzle," Ralph da Costa Nunez, president of the Institute For Children, Poverty &amp; Homelessness, tells AlterNet about the mayor's new plan. "Now, we're doing 15,000 units of supportive housing, but it's all spread over long periods. So what do we do with the rest of the homeless people in the meantime?"</p><p>Meanwhile, the mayor also plans to build <a href="https://nextcity.org/daily/entry/de-blasio-affordable-housing-plan-east-new-york-zoning">80,000 units</a> of affordable housing over 19 years, but they're not necessarily affordable for the poor families in danger of homelessness. </p><p>"He's got good intentions, but the nature of the market won't allow it,"  da Costa Nunez says. "You can create some affordable housing, but what does affordable even mean? Some of those rents require people making $50,000. These families don't make $50,000." </p><p><strong>2. San Francisco, Bay Area</strong></p><p>On November 2, housing activists charged the officers of Airbnb in San Francisco, bearing paper houses with a clear message about the house-sharing company's contributions to the city, reported <em><a href="http://www.sfweekly.com/thesnitch/2015/11/02/housing-and-homeless-activists-storm-and-occupy-airbnb-hq" target="_blank">SF Weekly.</a></em></p><ul><li>Evictions. Love, AirBnB</li><li>Homelessness. Love, AirBnB</li></ul><p>The protest preceded a vote on <a href="https://ballotpedia.org/City_of_San_Francisco_Initiative_to_Restrict_Short-Term_Rentals,_Proposition_F_(November_2015)">Proposition F,</a> a measure that would have placed restrictions on house-sharing, like limiting the number of days units could be rented out (the measure was defeated). Airbnb argued that its service helps middle-class families keep up with their own rising rents and that the company is being scapegoated for the city's lack of affordable housing. Critics say the model has worsened the city's housing crisis by taking so many rental units off the market. </p><p>The controversy over the home-sharing service perfectly encapsulates San Francisco's housing crisis, driven by a tech boom that has fueled development, flooded the city with highly paid young professionals and displaced long-time residents. </p><p>The city's increasing unaffordability (and the increasing unaffordability of surrounding areas) has exacerbated the homelessness problem in a number of ways. </p><p>For decades, San Francisco has had a large population of homeless people on its streets. At last count in January 2015, there were 6,686 homeless people in the city, 3,505 of <a href="http://sfgov.org/lhcb/sites/sfgov.org.lhcb/files/2015%20San%20Francisco%20Homeless%20Count%20%20Report_0.pdf" target="_blank">them without shelter</a>. But in the past five years, there's also been a large rise in homeless families with children. More than 2,000 <a href="http://www.sfinterfaithcouncil.org/sites/default/files/files/COH%20general%20factsheet2015.pdf" target="_blank">homeless kids</a> are enrolled in the San Francisco School District.  </p><p>"The housing crisis is insane," says Jennifer Friedenbach, executive director of the Coalition on Homelessness. "We meet people all the time that got evicted out of their homes. People don't have anywhere to go."</p><p>In the past, homeless people could get temporary shelter in SROs or by sharing rooms, but those spaces are being converted to expensive apartments, Friedenbach says. Meanwhile, the city's population of chronically homeless people is getting older and sicker and requires more care, according to a <a href="http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/S-F-homeless-population-getting-sicker-older-6387308.php" target="_blank">recent report.</a></p><p>Friedenbach points out that since many newcomers aren't used to seeing homeless people, complaints to police have gone up, leading to increased criminalization. Despite its (dwindling) reputation as a bastion of progressive values, San Franciso leads the state in the number of laws targeting the homeless, including measures that ban standing or sitting in public, and laws that restrict lodging in cars and panhandling. <a href="http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2558944">According to the report,</a> these laws are heavily enforced, with police issuing a yearly average of 3,200 citations for anti-homeless laws. While police can't arrest people for their first infraction, a single citation can lead to unpaid fines, a bench warrant and eventual arrest, which can further <a href="http://www.thebolditalic.com/articles/6901--san-francisco-is-making-its-homeless-problem-worse" target="_blank">destabilize</a> homeless people's lives. </p><p><strong>3. Portland, Oregon</strong></p><p>Thanks to its somewhat less barbaric treatment of homeless people than is the norm in many U.S. cities, Portland attracts people in need from around the country. The city has many social services and its police force is less keen on cracking down on the homeless as authorities in cities that have embraced broken-windows policies. </p><p>What the city lacks is space—shelter space to temporarily put up people in need and permanent housing in which to transition people out of shelter. There are <a href="https://www.portlandoregon.gov/phb/article/532833" target="_blank">3,800 homeless people in the city,</a> 1,887 of them lacking shelter, including children. </p><p>The city's skyrocketing rents and low vacancy rates (around 3 percent) haven't helped. Just between 2014 and 2015 rents jumped by <a href="http://www.portlandmercury.com/BlogtownPDX/archives/2015/09/18/study-portlands-got-the-nations-fastest-rising-rents">15 percent,</a> even as many Oregonians' wages have not recovered from the recession. Between 2009 and 2014 low-wage workers in the state saw their wages drop by 5 percent when <a href="http://www.ocpp.org/2015/09/25/fs201509-oregon-low-wage-workers-lose-ground/" target="_blank">adjusted for inflation</a>.</p><p>"For decades we've had a housing problem, for decades we've had a homelessness problem. But the change in the last year is really a whole different picture," Martha McLennan, executive director of Northwest Housing Alternatives, tells AlterNet. The organization operates low-income housing as well as homeless shelters, and McLennan notes that even when families get a housing voucher, many have to give them back because they can't find apartments. Meanwhile, they end up turning away nine families out of every one that tries to apply to their homeless shelter.</p><p>The city's homelessness problem led Portland Mayor Charlie Hales to announce a state of emergency in September. The order will allow the city to circumvent zoning laws to quickly build new shelters, and provide shelter to vets and women by the end of the year, the <a href="http://www.katu.com/politics/Portland-mayor-seeks-emergency-measure-to-house-the-homeless-328874311.html">AP reported</a>. In the meantime, unsheltered homeless people in the city are building increasingly large encampments, and there's pressure on the city to avoid enforcing anti-camping ordinances that technically make so-called tent cities illegal, <a href="https://mail.google.com/">according to the <em>Oregonian</em></a><em>.</em></p><p>"I know the general public doesn't want to hear it," Israel Bayer, an advocate for homeless Portlanders and executive director of <a href="http://streetroots.org/" target="_blank">Street Roots</a>, told the<em> <a href="http://www.oregonlive.com/homeless/2015/06/post_1.html">Oregonian</a>.</em> "No, it's not popular. No, it's not an answer. But at some point, the gap between places to sleep and people needing them is too great. We're overwhelmed." </p><p><strong>4. Seattle </strong></p><p>At last count, Seattle's homeless population was 10,047, 3,772 of <a href="http://www.homelessinfo.org/what_we_do/one_night_count/2015_results.php" target="_blank">them unsheltered</a>; not great for a city that pledged to solve homelessness in 10 years, exactly 10 years ago. Seattle was one of the many cities that in 2005 signed the pledge to end homelessness. Thanks to the recession and the city's hugely inflated rental market, officials have resorted to government-sponsored tent cities.</p><p>In October, Mayor Ed Murray announced the opening of three large, city-sanctioned encampments to be run by service providers. The mayor noted the <a href="http://www.gopusa.com/news/2015/10/26/seattle-opening-homeless-camps-over-objections-of-some-residents-and-business-owners/" target="_blank">urgency of the problem</a>: "We've spent a year trying to get these encampments up and running," Murray said according to <a href="http://mynorthwest.com/" target="_blank">mynorthwest.com</a>. "During that time, over 30 homeless people have died in this city. This would never be my first choice, but we've got to do something, and something quick."</p><p>The first two <a href="http://www.king5.com/story/news/local/seattle/2015/11/19/seattles-first-city-sanctioned-homeless-camps-open/76082760/">opened this week.</a> They'll hold 50 and 80 people. </p><p>Dubbed Murrayvilles, the Depression-era throwbacks sit in a city flush with tech cash. Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook and Google all have operations in the area. In an echo of San Francisco, the tech companies have flooded the city with young tech professionals who have driven up the cost of living, particularly rent. Between 2010 and 2013, average rents in the city jumped by 11 percent, the biggest increase among 50 biggest American cities between 2010 and 2013, <a href="https://nextcity.org/features/view/seattle-affordable-housing-plan-hala-recommendations-high-rent" target="_blank">according to<em>Next City.</em></a></p><p>"Seattle is becoming an unaffordable city for a lot of people," Rex Hohlbein, executive director of Facing Homelessness, tells AlterNet. "Some people leave the city, and some end up homeless." </p><p>The increase in homeless people living on the street or in cars and RVs has led to predictable tensions with neighborhood residents, who might call the police on someone, say, camped out in a car without realizing the ramifications. "If police just ticket, tow, impound the vehicle, that person will be sleeping under a bridge," Hohlbein notes.  </p><p>"You're spiraling them further into crisis by harassing them to move," he says. Although he understands why some people might feel uncomfortable having more homeless people around, he notes that this discomfort arises from fear that is not reflective of real danger. "Most homeless people don't have time to fuck with you, they're trying to figure it out to try to survive." he points out. </p><p>He hopes the city-encampments will allow opportunities for more understanding. </p><p>Seattle's mayor also declared a state of emergency, devoting <a href="http://www.seattlepi.com/local/article/Murray-declares-civil-emergency-over-homelessness-6605652.php">$5.3 million</a> to preventing and reducing homelessness. </p><p><strong>5. Honolulu</strong></p><p>The combination of mild weather and high housing costs have made homelessness rates in Hawaii explode; Honolulu alone has seen a 32 percent jump in homelessness in five years, the <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/23/us/honolulu-shores-up-tourism-with-crackdown-on-homeless.html?_r=0" target="_blank"><em>NYT</em> reported.</a></p><p>Hawaii's reliance on tourism has led lawmakers to desperate measures that are almost awe-inspiring in their unconstitutionality. Last year, <a href="http://www.ryot.org/oahu-wants-send-homeless-remote-island/806309" target="_blank">Oahu</a> city board members suggested shipping the city's homeless to a remote island, like literal lepers. A few years ago, one Honolulu politician gained notoriety for smashing homeless people's belongings with a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/20/tom-brower-sledgehammer_n_4306368.html" target="_blank">sledgehammer</a>. </p><p>Lawmakers have also passed laws restricting homeless people's public activities, like a ban on sitting or sleeping on the sidewalk during the day in Honolulu. Other municipalities enforce anti-camping ordinances to prevent people from sleeping in the parks at night.</p><p>In the past few years, encampments with hundreds of people have formed, and then been busted up by authorities. </p><p>Honolulu's mayor and Hawaii's governor have called measures targeting the homeless "<a href="http://www.economist.com/news/united-states/21636768-catering-tourists-comes-hefty-price-locals-paradise-lost" target="_blank">compassionate disruption</a>," meant to move people off the street and into shelters. But advocates for the homeless and peeved business owners counter that when police break up an encampment, residents just go elsewhere, since they don't have an abundance of attractive options.</p><p>On October 16, Hawaii governor David Inge <a href="http://www.civilbeat.com/2015/10/hawaii-governor-declares-state-of-emergency-for-homelessness/" target="_blank">declared</a> a "state of emergency" for homelessness in the state. The emergency order mandates the construction of a family shelter and $1.3 million for programs that would settle homeless people into permanent housing and also help families facing eviction.</p><p>A few days before the announcement, municipal workers performed sweeps of an encampment of almost 300 people, including families, according to Honolulu's <a href="http://www.civilbeat.com/2015/10/hawaii-governor-declares-state-of-emergency-for-homelessness/" target="_blank">Civil Beat</a>. It appears many relocated <a href="http://khon2.com/2015/10/26/state-to-step-up-homeless-outreach-enforcement-at-kakaako-kewalo-parks/" target="_blank">to other parts</a> of the city. </p><p>Previous sweeps have prompted ACLU lawsuits on behalf of homeless people whose belongings were trashed; one of the plaintiffs claimed she'd been displaced by the city seven or eight times and each time, important belongings like medication <a href="http://www.civilbeat.com/2015/09/lawsuit-filed-over-seizure-of-homeless-peoples-property/" target="_blank">were thrown away</a>. Unsurprisingly, retrieving their things is a bureaucratic nightmare, as the <em><a href="http://www.civilbeat.com/2015/10/heres-what-homeless-people-have-to-do-to-get-their-property-back/" target="_blank">Civil Beat</a> </em>reported.  </p><p><strong>6. Los Angeles</strong></p><p>Los Angeles has one of the most stubborn homelessness problems in the country. Traditionally, its most visible manifestation has been Skid Row, a giant encampment that survived even the formidable over-policing powers of Commissioner William Bratton, who targeted the area with an <a href="http://www.lafla.org/pdf/policinghomelessness.pdf">aggressive police task force</a> when he was LA police chief. </p><p>But the city's homelessness crisis is now citywide. The <em><a href="http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-how-los-angeles-homeless-crisis-got-so-bad-20150922-story.html">Los Angeles Times</a></em> broke down the distressing numbers: homelessness has jumped by 12 percent in two years, to 44,350 in <a href="http://www.lahsa.org/homelesscount_results">Los Angeles County</a>. In that time, the number of people living in tents and cars exploded by 85%. The <em>Times</em> points to the usual suspects behind the soaring rates of homelessness: gentrification of parts of the city, like Venice Beach, that have historically been affordable for the poor; high rent, low wages and high rates of unemployment. There's also a large population of working poor who cycle in and out of homelessness. "About 13,000 people on public assistance tumble into homelessness every month in Los Angeles County," the<em>Times</em> <a href="http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-how-los-angeles-homeless-crisis-got-so-bad-20150922-story.html">noted</a>.  </p><p>Los Angeles' huge unsheltered population presents a host of municipal nightmares. For one, officials are worried that people sleeping in storm drains risk drowning during the upcoming rainy season, the <a href="http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-adv-homeless-elnino-20151101-story.html" target="_blank"><em>AP</em> reported.</a> On Tuesday, city officials announced that public buildings would be converted into temporary shelters for the winter and loosened restrictions on sleeping in cars. Although it was widely reported in September that the Mayor had officially declared a state of emergency, it turns out it's more complicated: the council introduced a motion to declare a state of emergency, and at Tuesday's vote they had not yet greenlit the official emergency order. </p><p>The<em>Times</em> editorial board excoriated the <a href="http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-homeless-20151117-story.html">city's failure to act on the emergency order</a>, noting, "This whole process has been more of a turgid civics debate than an urgent response to a desperate situation. Homelessness is one of the most intractable problems facing the city of Los Angeles. But the supposed state of emergency proclaimed almost two months ago is looking increasingly like a farce and a waste of time."</p>  <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2015 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '1045706'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1045706" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Sat, 21 Nov 2015 00:00:00 -0800 Tana Ganeva, AlterNet 1045706 at https://www.alternet.org News & Politics News & Politics homelessness Watch: Obama Slams Shameful GOP Proposals for a Religious Test for Refugees: 'Shameful, Not American' https://www.alternet.org/world/watch-obama-slams-shameful-gop-proposals-religious-test-refugees-shameful-not-american <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '1045865'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1045865" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The president excoriated GOP candidates who suggest a religious test for refugees. </div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2015-11-16_at_11.28.29_am.png?itok=rQWCm-9j" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Over the weekend, GOP candidates Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/jeb-bush-syrian-refugees-christian-muslim_5648b98de4b045bf3def84df">both floated</a> the profoundly un-Christian proposal that the U.S. allow only Christian Syrians into the country.</p><p>Speaking at the G20 summit on Monday, President Obama issued a blistering critique of a refugee policy that would discriminate based on religion. </p><p>“When I hear folks say that we should just admit the Christians but not the Muslims. When I hear political leaders suggesting that there would be a religious test [based on which country] a person who's fleeing from a war-torn country is admitted, when some of those folks themselves come from families who benefited from protection when they were fleeing political persecution, that’s shameful," Obama said to reporters. "That’s not American, that’s not who we are.”</p><p>Watch below:</p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;"> </span><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/w6fAO_rPGRM" width="560"></iframe></p><p>(<a href="http://www.rawstory.com/2015/11/watch-obama-absolutely-destroys-jeb-bush-for-his-dark-impulse-to-have-a-religious-test-for-refugees/">h/t Raw Story</a>)</p> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2015 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '1045865'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1045865" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Mon, 16 Nov 2015 08:16:00 -0800 Tana Ganeva, AlterNet 1045865 at https://www.alternet.org World Election 2016 The Right Wing World refugee syria GOP Governors and Presidential Candidates Rush to Vilify Refugees https://www.alternet.org/tea-party-and-right/opportunistic-sleazy-republicans-rush-propose-torrent-cruel-policies-toward <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '1045856'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1045856" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">GOP presidential hopefuls took to the air Sunday to do their usual fearmongering. </div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2015-11-16_at_10.31.09_am.png?itok=cYzQEUkH" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>On Sunday, deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes appeared on "Meet the Press" <a href="http://thinkprogress.org/world/2015/11/15/3722351/paris-attacks-syrian-refugees-obama/">to say</a> that the administration will proceed with its plan to settle 10,000 Syrian refugees in the next year. So far, the U.S. has accepted 1,500, a meager amount compared to countries in Europe. </p><p>Rhodes assured host Chuck Todd that the refugees will undergo comprehensive screening and noted that these people are not security threats, but orphans and families fleeing unimaginable horrors. </p><p>"We can’t just shut our doors to those people," Rhodes concluded. "We need to sort out how to focus on the terrorists that we need to keep out of the country. But I think we do need to do our part to take those refugees who are in need."</p><p>In a wholly unsurprising development, several Republican governors and the GOP presidential hopefuls strongly disagreed. On Sunday, Alabama Gov. Robert Bently took a valiant stand against traumatized orphans by pledging to fight any federal effort to settle refugees in the state. "I will not stand complicit to a policy that places the citizens of Alabama in harm's way," he said in a statement. Michigan Governor Rick Snyder also said he would stop refugees from entering the state, reported<em> <a href="http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/paris-terror-attacks/governor-seeks-bar-syrian-refugees-alabama-after-french-attack-n463956">NBC news</a></em>. On Monday, the governors of Arkansas and Texas joined in, stating their opposition to relocating refugees in their states. </p><p>Meanwhile, GOP presidential hopefuls also took to the air on Sunday to fearmonger about displaced Syrians. Ben Carson displayed his usual public policy savvy by proposing to resettle the refugees "over there" (wherever that is). He also gave a helpful lecture on the relationship between frontal lobes and the refugee crisis. </p><p>Marco Rubio worried that there was no one to call in Syria. </p><p>“There’s no way to vet that out. There’s no background check system in the world that allows us to find that out because who do you call in <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/syria">Syria</a> to background check them?” he said, according <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/nov/15/marco-rubio-syrian-refugees-paris-terror-attacks">to the <em>Guardian.</em></a></p><p>And Jeb Bush added a dose of direct Muslim-bashing to the mix, arguing that the U.S. should concentrate on helping Syrian Christians instead of Muslims from the region. Mike Huckabee also demonstrated Christian charity by demanding the <a href="http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2015/11/15/republican-white-house-hopefuls-call-for-curbs-on-syrian-refugee-inflow/">U.S. shut its borders</a> to immigrants from any country associated with terrorist groups.</p><p>As many commentators have pointed out, fear-based policy changes in the wake of a terror attack are pretty much the entire point of terrorism. As Paul Krugman writes, "The point is not to minimize the horror. It is, instead, to emphasize that the biggest danger terrorism poses to our society comes not from the direct harm inflicted, but from the wrong-headed responses it can inspire." </p> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2015 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '1045856'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1045856" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Mon, 16 Nov 2015 07:01:00 -0800 Tana Ganeva, AlterNet 1045856 at https://www.alternet.org The Right Wing Election 2016 The Right Wing World refugees paris syria Ben Carson Admits He Lied About Inspirational West Point Story https://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/ben-carson-admits-he-lied-about-inspirational-west-point-story <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '1045366'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1045366" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The GOP frontrunner&#039;s autobiography seems to be at least part fiction.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2015-11-06_at_12.43.16_pm.png?itok=PMHVEtVv" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>In the past week, Ben Carson has edged out Donald Trump, both in the polls and in the absurd lengths he'll go to cater to the GOP's angry base. But his success has also fueled more media scrutiny, and now key elements from his personal story are falling apart. </p><p>Today, CNN published a story questioning Carson's "inspirational" tales of childhood violence, including a nasty attack on a classmate and charging at his mother with a hammer. Carson's former classmates were unfamiliar with the incidents, <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2015/11/05/politics/ben-carson-2016-childhood-violence/">reported CNN</a>. </p><p>Slightly later, the Carson campaign fessed up that he'd fabricated a story about applying and being accepted into West Point after Politico found no evidence any of that had happened. <a href="http://www.politico.com/story/2015/11/ben-carson-west-point-215598">Politico reports: </a></p><blockquote><p>The academy has occupied a central place in Carson’s tale for years. According to a story told in Carson’s book, “Gifted Hands,” the then-17-year-old was introduced in 1969 to Gen. William Westmoreland, who had just ended his command of U.S. forces in Vietnam, and the two dined together. That meeting, according to Carson’s telling, was followed by a “full scholarship” to the military academy.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p>West Point, however, has no record of Carson applying, much less being extended admission.</p></blockquote>Let's see how quickly Carson's campaign can convert the revelations into evidence of horrific persecution by the media. <p> </p> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2015 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '1045366'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1045366" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Fri, 06 Nov 2015 09:30:00 -0800 Tana Ganeva, AlterNet 1045366 at https://www.alternet.org News & Politics Media News & Politics The Right Wing Ben Carson Guess How Much This Liberal City Charges the Poor to Stay Out of Jail? https://www.alternet.org/guess-how-much-liberal-city-charges-poor-stay-out-jail <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '1045355'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1045355" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">A recent class-action lawsuit challenging San Francisco County&#039;s money-based bail system illustrates the plight of poor arrestees. </div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2015-11-06_at_10.56.02_am.png?itok=yCPSfPzr" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>America's criminal justice system imposes unnecessary hardship on the poor in an abundance of ways, but among the more life-ruining is a money-based bail system that keeps many poor people in jail, even when they haven't been convicted of a crime. </p><p>A recent <a href="http://equaljusticeunderlaw.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/1-S.F.-Complaint.pdf">class-action lawsuit</a> challenging San Francisco County's money-based bail system illustrates the plight of poor arrestees.</p><p>When Riana Buffin, 19, was charged with grand theft, her bail was set at $30,000, a prohibitively high sum given her $10.25-an-hour wage. Twenty-nine-year-old Crystal Patterson's bail was set at $150,000, but she didn't have the luxury of choosing jail over paying the city because she's her grandmother's sole caretaker, so she borrowed $1,500 from friends and family and now owes $15,000 to a bail bondsman. She makes $12.50 an hour as a home-care aid. Charges against both women were dropped, but that doesn't mean their lives weren't disrupted.</p><p>"The problem that we see in Ms. Patterson’s case and in so many of my clients’ cases is that people are faced with this coercive choice: Go into tremendous amounts of debt, plead guilty to a crime you may not have committed, or wait in jail and lose everything that’s dear and meaningful in your life,” San Francisco public defender Chesa Boudin <a href="http://ww2.kqed.org/news/2015/10/29/class-action-suit-against-san-francisco-seeks-to-end-use-of-cash-bail-system">told KQED</a>. </p><p>Eighty-five percent of inmates in the city's jail have not been convicted of a crime, the lawsuit notes. Nationally, around 60 percent of people in jail are awaiting trial.</p><p>Meanwhile, counties that don't operate on a money-based bail system release a large majority of arrestees pre-trial. Washington DC lets out 85 percent, notes <a href="http://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2015/10/29/lawsuit-san-franciscos-money-based-bail-system/">CBS local</a>. Because a poor person is unlikely to jet off to the Cayman Islands to avoid trial for a misdemeanor, chances are they'll show up to trial. </p><p>On its website, Equal Justice Initiative lays out the impact on the individuals and society of a system they say privileges the wealthy.</p><blockquote><p>Those who can afford their freedom pay for it, while others sit in jail pending trial simply due to their inability to pay. Such wealth-based detention has disastrous consequences: overcrowding of local jails, lost jobs, lost housing, shockingly poor sanitation and medical care, broken families, and drained local budgets. In many cases, an arrestee may be held longer in jail while awaiting trial than any sentence she or he would likely receive if convicted, causing even innocent people accused of crimes to plead guilty to offenses that they did not commit in order to cut short lengthy pretrial detention.</p></blockquote><p>The group has mounted similar lawsuits in cities throughout the country.</p>  <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2015 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '1045355'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1045355" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Fri, 06 Nov 2015 06:54:00 -0800 Tana Ganeva, AlterNet 1045355 at https://www.alternet.org lawsuit Donald Trump Tries, Fails to Embarrass John Oliver https://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/donald-trump-tries-fails-embarrass-john-oliver <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '1045116'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1045116" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The host of Last Week Tonight said he has no interest in hosting Trump. </div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2015-11-02_at_1.11.00_pm.png?itok=U890G8Qw" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>John Oliver's "Last Week Tonight" has distinguished itself among late-night talk show offerings by addressing serious issues in a funny, intelligent and in-depth way. That's not GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump's strong suit, so it's not surprising that the real estate mogul has failed to appear on the program. Hasn't even been invited, actually.</p><p>On a Friday episode of "CBS This Morning," Oliver said he has no interest in interviewing Trump, telling the hosts, “He’s said everything he has to say. He’s an open book. That book doesn’t have that many interesting words in it.”</p><p>In response, Trump tried to assert Oliver's loserdom in standard Trump fashion, tweeting that the show had invited him to appear but that he refused because it was a boring waste of time. </p><p> </p><p></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="206" width="501"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="206" width="501" typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/screen_shot_2015-11-02_at_12.58.48_pm.png" /></div><p>"Last Week Tonight" shot back that it had extended no such invite: </p><p></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="237" width="526"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="237" width="526" typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/screen_shot_2015-11-02_at_1.02.20_pm.png" /></div><p>In a predictable bid for ratings, other late-night talk show hosts have repeatedly featured Trump.</p> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2015 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '1045116'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1045116" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Mon, 02 Nov 2015 09:50:00 -0800 Tana Ganeva, AlterNet 1045116 at https://www.alternet.org News & Politics Culture Election 2016 News & Politics john oliver donald trump Christian Couple Sue for Right to Keep Their Kids Uneducated as They Await Rapture https://www.alternet.org/belief/christian-couple-sue-right-keep-their-kids-uneducated-they-await-rapture <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '1045105'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1045105" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">In many states, homeschooling is basically unregulated. </div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2015-11-02_at_11.30.32_am_0.png?itok=_n26fAPl" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>On Monday, the Texas Supreme Court will hear arguments over whether Christian parents of homeschooled children have to follow basic educational standards or if they're allowed to keep their kids blissfully free of knowledge as they wait to be whisked off to heaven.</p><p>Texas couple Michael and Laura McIntyre homeschooled their nine children in a motorcycle shop, where the kids did little by way of school work besides play instruments and sing songs, according to witnesses. One relative overheard a child say that there was no point in doing real school work because, "they were going to be raptured," <a href="http://www.freep.com/story/news/nation/2015/11/01/home-schooled-kids-learn/75021866/">the AP reports. </a></p><p>The family got on school officials' radar when their oldest daughter ran away and tried to enroll in school. The El Paso school district demanded they show proof the kids were getting a proper education, prompting the couple to sue the district for displaying anti-Christian bias and a "startling assertion of sweeping governmental power," the AP reports. </p><p>A lower court ruled against them, and now the Texas Supreme Court will decide whether religious parents should be forced to comply with educational standards. </p><p>Three percent of school-aged children were homeschooled in 2012, according to the <a href="https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=91">National Center for Education Statistics</a>. Parents might take over their kids' education for a variety of reasons, including concern over school environment, but the wide majority keep their kids at home for religious reasons; 64 percent of homeschooled parents say they want to mold their kids' education according to religious ideals, the <em><a href="http://www.newrepublic.com/article/122987/does-homeschooling-make-children-more-religious">New Republic</a></em> notes. Many states, including Texas, do not have concrete rules in place to track the progress of homeschooled children, leading to the potential for abuse of the system and subpar schooling.  </p><p> </p><p> </p>   <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2015 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '1045105'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1045105" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Mon, 02 Nov 2015 08:07:00 -0800 Tana Ganeva, AlterNet 1045105 at https://www.alternet.org Belief Belief Education News & Politics texas school Another Conservative White Guy Shares Thoughts on Black Authenticity https://www.alternet.org/media/another-conservative-white-guy-shares-thoughts-black-authenticity <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '1044971'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1044971" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">National Review editor Jonah Goldberg settles once and for all the question of whether Ben Carson is &quot;blacker&quot; than Barack Obama. </div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2015-10-30_at_1.09.49_pm.png?itok=eJ_aZw2s" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Is there anyone more qualified to judge the authenticity of black people than conservative white guys? </p><p>On Friday, <em>National Review</em> editor Jonah Goldberg penned an op-ed arguing that Ben Carson is "more authentically African American" than Barack Obama. Goldberg also took to Twitter to helpfully inform everyone that Carson is black. </p><div> </div><div><div alt="" class="media-image"><img alt="" class="media-image" typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/screen_shot_2015-10-30_at_1.01.01_pm.png?itok=1lZd9IPv" /></div><p> </p><p>As <a href="http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/jonah-goldberg-carson-obama-authentically-afircan-american">TPM</a> points out, Goldberg's piece is the second recent contribution to the unfortunate cannon of "white conservatives opining about black authenticity." In a series of widely panned tweets, right-wing media mogul Rupert Murdoch also weighed in on the eternally unasked question of whether Ben Carson is blacker than Barack Obama. </p></div><p></p><div alt="" class="media-image"><img alt="" class="media-image" typeof="foaf:Image" src="https://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/screen_shot_2015-10-30_at_1.04.11_pm.png?itok=7IRoc7cb" /></div><p>Murdoch ended up apologizing. Goldberg seems more likely to bask in the outrage.</p><p>h/t<a href="http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/jonah-goldberg-carson-obama-authentically-afircan-american">TPM</a></p> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2015 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '1044971'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1044971" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Fri, 30 Oct 2015 09:53:00 -0700 Tana Ganeva, AlterNet 1044971 at https://www.alternet.org Media Media News & Politics conservatives