Archive

April 10th, 2016

So Little to Ask For: A Home

    One of the people I greatly admire is Khadijah Williams, a young woman who was homeless for much of her childhood.

    Khadijah bounced from home to home, shelter to shelter, from the time she was 6. “I can’t count how many times I’ve been forced to move,” she recalls.

    “Though school was my salvation, my test scores suffered as a result of missing so much school and having no place to study,” she adds. “I stopped trying to make friends because I was so tired of crying about losing friends.”

    Ultimately, Khadijah found a home — because she won a scholarship to Harvard, enabling her to move into a dormitory. Now 25, she’s working for the city government in Washington, D.C., and one of her tasks is helping homeless kids.

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Salman Rushdie: No 'safe space' when defending free speech

    A group of Emory University students recently made news by demanding protection from being put "in pain," as one student chant put it, by slogans like "Accept the Inevitable: Trump 2016" chalked overnight on campus walkways.

    In pain? They could just wait for rain to wash their troubles away.

    That's what Salman Rushdie, a writer who knows a thing or three about being threatened for his ideas, said when I asked him about the Emory uprising.

    Yes, that Salman Rushdie. The Booker Prize-winning, Muslim-raised British Indian novelist and essayist has been living under threats to his life since Iran's late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa in 1989 calling for his assassination.

    Khomeini did not like the way the Prophet Muhammad is depicted in "The Satanic Verses," Rushdie's 1988 novel. After the Ayatollah's death, the fatwa was continued and a bounty for Rushdie's death raised by other Muslim fanatics.

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Operation Paul Ryan

    Exciting news, people: The Republican Party establishment has a secret plan to stop blue-collar voters from supporting Donald Trump. The plan is code-named “Operation Paul Ryan.”

    Good grief.

    The GOP’s old-line clique of congressional bulls, corporate funders, lobbyists, and right-wing think tanks is as confused as goats on astroturf when it comes to grasping a core part of Trump’s appeal.

    Trump’s winning because he’s reaching out to longtime Republican voters who’ve finally realized that it’s the party’s own Wall Street elites who knocked them down economically. And it’s the insider cadre of influence peddlers who’ve shut them out politically.

    The party power powers are insisting that The Donald is winning only because he’s drawing voters who are ignorant, racist, xenophobic, and sexist. Some of them certainly are. But he’s also drawing huge numbers of disaffected Republicans who are mainly opposed to the party’s own power players.

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Ohio Proves It: Rehabilitation Works

    You might not guess it from the Republican governor or GOP-dominated legislature, but Ohio is proving itself the most progressive state in the union when it comes to youth prison reform.

    The Buckeye State has shifted away from punishing kids who get ensnared in the juvenile justice system to rehabilitating them, and it’s saved money doing so.

    “What we’ve done in the past is treat the children who are incarcerated like mini adults,” explained Linda Janes, the deputy director of Ohio’s Department of Youth Services. “We know better now through research and through all kinds of evidence that that’s a mistake. Children have to be treated like children.”

    That conclusion is good for youth offenders and good for society.

    Guards in the Ohio juvenile system are now called “youth specialists,” and school uniforms have replaced prison khakis. Offenders spend their days in a school setting and earn their high school diplomas.

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Obama's wobbly legal victory on immigration

    The administration of President Barack Obama just won a big legal victory for its decision to let some children of illegal immigrants remain in the country. On the surface, that might seem to augur well for the administration's efforts to ease other immigration restrictions in the face of Congressional opposition.

    Don't count on it. The federal court decision that backed Obama was based on precarious legal reasoning that's vulnerable to reversal by the Supreme Court.

    On Tuesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit struck down Arizona's refusal of driver's licenses to dreamers, people brought here illegally as children. But the decision didn't rule on whether the president has the power to make immigration policy, focusing instead on the relationship between Arizona and the federal government. That leaves a lot of bigger legal questions unanswered.

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Frozen post-Soviet conflicts often don't stay that way

    Armenia and Azerbaijan have announced a truce after three days of fierce fighting in the secessionist region of Nagorno-Karabakh, but the flare-up is proof that the post-Soviet frozen conflicts are not really frozen. At any moment, they can be ignited by the realignment of international alliances and loyalties, and people will start dying again.

    There are four post-Soviet frozen conflicts. Three smolder around the Black Sea: Transnistria, a separatist region of Moldova, the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and, since last year, eastern Ukraine. The first two started in the early 1990s, the third one in 2014, as Russia attempted to destabilize an anti-Moscow government in Kiev. The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, a territory disputed by Armenia and Azerbaijan, is the oldest.

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Detouring the Trump and Clinton steamrollers

    The Wisconsin primaries in both parties put holds on the expectations of presidential frontrunners Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump -- especially the latter, whose bubble has been significantly deflated.

    Trump's supposedly inevitable Republican nomination plunged into a ditch in the Badger State with his 13-point loss to Sen. Ted Cruz. Yet it hardly signaled a joyous embrace of the Texas conservative extremist by the party establishment.

    What it did demonstrate was the wisdom of 2012 party nominee Mitt Romney in counseling fellow Republicans to join an anybody-but-Trump strategy, which got a huge boost from the celebrity tycoon's own loose and errant tongue.

    Trump's comment about punishing women for having abortions illegally, along with his smears of Cruz's wife, Heidi, and his campaign manager's arrest on a charge of battery against a female reporter, made him about as popular among the female persuasion as Jack the Ripper.

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Cruz and Sanders raise campaign stakes in Wisconsin

    Wisconsin gave a boost to the Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz insurgencies Tuesday, protracting the Democratic presidential race and lessening already shaky odds that Donald Trump can win the Republican nomination before this summer's convention in Cleveland.

    Sanders, the Vermont Democrat, handily defeated former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a state where both made big efforts, though she still remains a strong favorite to win the nomination. Cruz scored a must-win over Trump, with Ohio Gov. John Kasich coming in a distant third. The results add to a sense among some Republican leaders that the Trump quest may have stalled.

    Cruz only mildly chipped away at the front runner's commanding delegate lead. Still, Trump's defeat will compound Republican discomfort with his candidacy,which has been fueled by his recent rants about foreign policy and offensive comments about women. No major presidential candidate in modern history has had the astronomical unfavorable ratings among voters that Trump suffers.

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Clinton Can Only Be Defeated At Ballot Box, Not By Bogus 'Scandals'

    Fearless prediction: No legalistic deus ex machina will descend to save the nation from the dread specter of President Hillary Rodham Clinton. No cigar-smoking duck like the one on the old Groucho Marx program, no Kenneth Starr-style "independent" prosecutor, no criminal indictment over her "damn emails," no how, no way.

    Ain't gonna happen.

    Voters who can't bear the thought of the former first lady, U.S. senator, and secretary of state taking the oath of office in January 2017 are going to have to do it the old-fashioned way: defeat her at the polls.

    Those impassioned Trump supporters holding "Hillary for Prison" signs are sure to be disappointed. Again. Played for suckers by a scandal-mongering news media that declared open season on Clinton 25 years ago. And haven't laid a glove on her yet.

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A Sweet Tax

    As Americans prepare to meet this year’s April 18 deadline to file our taxes, there’s talk of taxes across the Pond, too.

    Great Britain just passed a tax on sugary drinks. Unlike similar measures in Mexico and Berkeley, California, the British version may lead to soda manufacturers actually reducing the sugar in their products.

    I feel ambivalent about soda taxes. While soda contributes nothing to nutrition and plenty to diabetes, soda taxes fall hardest on the poor.

    Part of me says that if a small tax can really cut soda consumption, then it’s worth it.

    For instance, in Mexico — the nation with the highest rate of soda consumption in the world — a 10 percent tax on sugar-sweetened beverages led to a 12 percent drop in soda sales in its first year.

    But I’d prefer finding other strategies, like removing vending machines from schools or ending junk food marketing to kids. What if sodas were no longer included with Happy Meals?

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