Synthetic cannabinoids: A dangerous high

By: JON O. EBBERT, M.D.,

The Internet age has ushered in a dizzying array of new psychoactive substances. Many of these drugs have been marketed as “legal highs,” staying ahead of regulatory authority through drug structure modification.

One of these drug classes is synthetic cannabinoids. This class is often referred to using the generic terms “Spice” or “K2.” These substances emerged from scientific investigations in the 1980s into novel therapeutics for AIDS, multiple sclerosis, and cancer. They mimic but do not exactly replicate the structure of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the principal psychoactive constituent of cannabis. They are high-affinity full agonists at the cannabinoid receptor, which may be responsible for the adverse clinical effects associated with their use.

What are the effects of this class of drugs?

A recent Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report provides information about a series of 22 patients who had been examined after using synthetic cannabinoids between Aug. 22 and Sept. 9, 2013 (MMWR 2013;62:939). These patients were aged 16-57 years and 82% were male. Patients experienced hyperglycemia, hypokalemia, acidosis, tachycardia, nausea and vomiting, confusion and disorientation, aggression, unresponsiveness, and seizures. Five patients required assisted ventilation but none of them died. The product was sold in a smoke shop in Brunswick, Ga. Previous reports have highlighted the possibility of kidney injury, as well.

The Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention Act of 2012 was signed into law in July by President Obama. The act banned synthetic compounds commonly found in synthetic cannabinoids, placing them under schedule I status. But, as we see from the report above, these substances are still available.

Many use synthetic cannabinoids to avoid detection because these substances do not show up on routine drug tests – special testing and a high degree of suspicion are needed. Use of these drugs can lead to dependence and withdrawal symptoms when they are discontinued. Referral to drug treatment specialists is the best approach when we suspect patients are struggling with addiction and using synthetic cannabinoids.

Mediterranean diet plus olive oil kept diabetes away

A Mediterranean diet with plenty of olive oil ‘is palatable and has a high potential for long-term sustainability, with obvious public health implications for primary prevention of diabetes,’ the study authors wrote.

A Mediterranean diet with plenty of olive oil ‘is palatable and has a high potential for long-term sustainability, with obvious public health implications for primary prevention of diabetes,’ the study authors wrote.

By: MARY ANN MOON,

Even without increased exercise or calorie restrictions, older white men and women at high risk for cardiovascular disease who followed a Mediterranean diet enriched with extra-virgin olive oil were 40% less likely to develop type 2 diabetes than those who were simply advised to reduce their fat intake, according to a report published online Jan. 6 in Annals of Internal Medicine.

Those on the olive oil–enriched Mediterranean diet also were less likely to develop diabetes than were those who followed a Mediterranean diet supplemented with nuts.

None of the study’s three diets restricted caloric intake, nor did patients increase their physical activity. Thus, there was no appreciable weight loss or reduction in waist circumference in any of the three groups: The protective effect was attributed solely to the change in the overall dietary pattern, said Jordi Salas-Salvadó, M.D., Ph.D., of the Universitat Rovira i Virgili in Reus, Spain, and his associates.

“Of note, this dietary pattern is palatable and has a high potential for long-term sustainability, with obvious public health implications for primary prevention of diabetes,” they added (Ann. Intern. Med. 2014 Jan. 6 [doi 10.7326/M13-1725]).

Dr. Salas-Salvadó and his colleagues compared three diets in a subset of 3,541 participants in the PREDIMED (Prevención con Dieta Mediterránea) clinical trial: men aged 55-80 years and women aged 60-80 years who had three or more cardiovascular risk factors such as smoking, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, low LDL cholesterol, overweight or obesity, and family history of premature cardiovascular disease.

Those patients were randomly assigned to follow a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO) (1,154 patients), a Mediterranean diet supplemented with mixed walnuts, almonds, and hazelnuts (1,240 patients), or a diet advising reduced intake of all types of fat (1,147 control patients). The two intervention groups were given either free EVOO or free mixed nuts, and the control group was given nonfood gifts such as kitchenware.

The two intervention groups also received personal advice from dietitians regarding the use of EVOO or mixed nuts; increased intake of vegetables, fruits, legumes, and fish; switching from red or processed meat to white meat; avoiding butter, fast food, sweets, or sugar-sweetened drinks; increasing the use of sofrito sauce (tomatoes, garlic, onion, and spices simmered in olive oil) to add flavor to food; and reducing the consumption of alcohol except for red wine.

The two intervention groups met with dietitians every 3 months to receive information on Mediterranean foods, seasonal shopping lists, meal plans, and recipes, as well as personalized advice to enhance adherence. The control group also met with dietitians for sessions “with the same frequency and intensity,” but with advice pertaining to a low-fat diet rather than a Mediterranean diet, Dr. Salas-Salvadó and his associates wrote.

At a median follow-up of 4.1 years (range, 2.5-5.7 years), rates of both nonadherence to the diet and withdrawal from the study were significantly higher in the control group than in either intervention group.

A total of 273 participants developed new-onset type 2 diabetes: 6.9% of patients following the Mediterranean diet plus EVOO, 7.4% of patients following the Mediterranean diet plus nuts, and 8.8% of the control group, the researchers reported.

After adjusting for smoking status, fasting glucose level, total energy intake level, and physical activity level, the hazard ratio for developing diabetes was 0.60 for the Mediterranean diet plus EVOO and 0.82 for the Mediterranean diet plus nuts, compared with the control group. That reflects a significant 40% reduction in risk for the first intervention group but a nonsignificant 18% reduction in risk for the second, the investigators said.

Those results were consistent across subgroups of patients defined by age, sex, comorbidities, family history of CVD, and degree of adiposity. The findings from sensitivity analyses also aligned with those of the main analysis: The relative risk for developing diabetes was 0.70 with the Mediterranean diet supplemented with EVOO and 0.82 for the Mediterranean diet supplemented with nuts.

The study was stronger than previous observational studies of this issue, the authors noted, because of its randomized design and statistical control of many potential confounding variables. It was limited, however, in that it assessed only a subgroup of participants in the PREDIMED clinical trial and because that trial did not have the development of diabetes as a primary endpoint. Moreover, the study involved only older white patients at high risk for CVD, “which limits the generalizability of our results to other age groups or ethnicities,” Dr. Salas- Salvadó and his associates said.

The study was supported by the Spanish federal government, Instituto de Salud Carlos III, Centro de Investigación Biomédica en Red de Fisiopatología de la Obesidad y Nutrición, Centero Nacional de Investigaciones Cardiovasculares, Fondo de Investigación Sanitaria-Fondo Europeo de Desarrollo Regional, Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación, Fundación Mapfre 2010, the Catalonia Department of Health, the European Federation, and the regional government of Navarra. Olive oil and mixed nuts were donated by the Fundación Patrimonio Comunal Olivarero and Hojiblanca SA, the California Walnut Commission, Borges SA, and Morella Nuts.

Anxiety heightens risk of stroke

Dr. Maya Lambiase

Dr. Maya Lambiase

By: DOUG BRUNK, Clinical Psychiatry News Digital Network,

The more anxious you are, the greater your chances of an incident stroke, results from a prospective analysis demonstrated. The association was independent of other known risk factors including depression, researchers led by Maya J. Lambiase, Ph.D., reported online Dec. 19, 2013, in the journal Stroke.

“Results indicated a dose-response relation between anxiety and stroke,” according to Dr. Lambiase, a cardiovascular behavioral medicine researcher in the department of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh, and her associates. “Exploratory analyses suggest that behavioral factors, particularly smoking and physical activity, may be important pathways to consider.”

Over a period of 22 years, the researchers studied a nationally representative sample of 6,019 people aged 25-74 years from the first National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES I), which was conducted from 1971-1975. At baseline, all study participants underwent an in-person structured interview, physical exam, and blood draw, and they completed psychological questionnaires including the General Well-Being Schedule (GWB), a four-item tool that asks respondents to rate the severity of their anxiety-related symptoms during the past month. Strokes were identified through hospital or nursing home reports and death certificates. Numerous covariates were accounted for, including use of blood medications, diagnosis of diabetes by a physician, total serum cholesterol, body mass index, and depressive symptoms as measured by the GWB’s depressed mood subscale and by the Center for Epidemiologic Studies of Depression scale (CESD).

During a mean 16-year follow-up, the researchers identified 419 cases of incident strokes (221 in men and 198 in women). They observed that every one standard deviation increase in anxiety was associated with a 17% increase in stroke risk following adjustment for demographic factors. Men and women in the highest tertile of anxiety symptoms had a 33% higher risk of stroke, compared with those in the lowest tertile following adjustment for other cardiovascular risk factors.

“Poor health behaviors may be one pathway linking anxiety with stroke risk,” the researchers wrote. “In the present study, behaviors (particularly smoking and physical activity) had the most sizable attenuating effect on the relationship between anxiety and incident stroke. However, since these behaviors did not account fully for the association between anxiety and incident stroke, direct biologic effects of anxiety should also be considered. Chronic anxiety could lead to excess activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and sympathetic nervous system, which may increase the risk for stroke. Anxiety could also contribute to stroke or other cardiovascular disease by lowering the threshold for arrhythmia or by reducing heart rate variability.”

The researchers acknowledged certain limitations of the study, including the fact that baseline history of stroke and coronary heart disease were self-reported and that bias “may have occurred due to excluding individuals lost to follow-up or with missing data. We could not formally test mediation due to insufficiencies in temporal ordering of data collection. Stroke cases were identified based on discharge reports/death certificates and were not confirmed by imaging or a neurologist. Additionally, we may not have accurately captured silent strokes (resulting in an underestimate of cases in the population), although such misclassification would likely bias results toward the null.”

The study coauthors were Laura D. Kubzansky, Ph.D., and Rebecca Thurston, Ph.D.

The study was funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and by the National Institute of Mental Health. The researchers stated that they had no relevant financial disclosures.

Constipation drug overdose can cause heart, kidney problems

By: MIKE BOCK, Family Practice News Digital Network,

Exceeding the recommended dosage of over-the-counter sodium phosphate drugs can lead to severe kidney and heart problems, the Food and Drug Administration has announced.

The drugs, which are often prescribed for constipation relief, have been linked to dehydration, changes in electrolyte levels, and more severe complications, including kidney injury, arrhythmias, and death, the agency said in a statement.

A review of data from the FDA’s Adverse Event Reporting System and the medical literature identified 54 cases of adverse events from sodium phosphate drugs, with 25 adults and 29 children affected between 1957 and 2013. Of those cases, which included both rectal and oral administration of the drugs, adverse events deemed serious occurred in 60% (16) of the pediatric cases and 70% (16) of the adult cases, and resulted in the death of one child and twelve adults.

According to the reports, most cases of serious harm occurred with a single dose that was larger than recommended or with more than one dose per day. The recommended dosage is one dose per day for a maximum of 3 days.

While adverse effects are rare, the FDA recommends caution in prescribing the drugs. Young children, patients over 55 years, and people with a history of kidney problems are at an increased risk of potential adverse events.

ACA marketplace enrollment nears 2.2 million

By: MARY ELLEN SCHNEIDER, Family Practice News Digital Network,

Nearly 2.2 million Americans enrolled in private health plans through federally or state-run insurance marketplaces during the first 3 months of the Affordable Care Act’s open enrollment period, nearly a quarter of whom are aged 18-34 years, according to figures released Jan. 13 by the Health and Human Services department.

“The numbers show that there is a very strong national demand for affordable health care made possible by the Affordable Care Act,” Kathleen Sebelius, HHS secretary, said during a press briefing. “Among young adults, the momentum was particularly strong.”

More women (54%) than men (46%) enrolled in a health care plan, according to preliminary demographic data provided by HHS. This is the first time demographic information has been released.

More than half of marketplace enrollees are between ages 45 and 64 years, with 22% aged 45-54 years and 33% in aged 55-64 years.

But HHS officials said they were encouraged by the number of younger Americans who had selected a plan through the marketplace. Young, and presumably healthy enrollees, are considered essential to ensuring a favorable risk mix for insurers. Over the first 3 months of open season, individuals aged 18-34 years made up 24% of enrollees. In comparison, 18-34 year olds make up 26% of the U.S. population under age 65 years.

“We think that more and more young people are going to sign up as time goes by, which was the experience in Massachusetts,” Gary Cohen, director of the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said during the press briefing.

Overall, enrollment in health plans surged in December, outstripping the slow start of the online insurance marketplaces in October. The number of people enrolling in a health plan through the marketplaces, which HHS defines as selecting but not necessarily paying for a plan, was more than 1.7 million in December alone, up from about 364,000 in October and November.

Another 1.6 million Americans were deemed eligible for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program through the marketplaces from Oct. 1 through Dec. 28, according to the report. That figure does not include individuals who applied to the program directly through their state agencies.

Most enrollees selected plans with lower premiums and higher out-of-pocket costs. A total of 60% selected a “silver” plan and another 20% selected a “bronze” plan.

Most enrollees (79%) are receiving some type of financial assistance in paying their premiums, according to the HHS report.

GOP’s 2014 horror strategy: Exploit Americans’ misfortune, drum up fake outrage

(Credit: Jeff Malet, maletphoto.com)

(Credit: Jeff Malet, maletphoto.com)

By Brian Beutler, Salon

Prepare for them to search high and low for people disappointed with Obamacare — then pretend to share their pain

A quick look at the House and Senate vote calendars indicates that Congress did not in fact come back into session over the holidays to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which means that as of today (depending on how you count it) millions and millions of people who were previously uninsured now have comprehensive healthcare coverage.

There’s the 3-or-so million young adults under 26 who have been covered under their parents plans for a couple of years now, about 4 million new Medicaid beneficiaries, and some large percentage of the 2 million who have enrolled in a private plan via Healthcare.gov or one of 14 state-based insurance exchanges and submitted their first premium payment.

Their benefits are now active, which means proponents of repealing the law have a severe entropy problem on their hands. Just like you can’t re-create an erased image by unshaking an Etch-A-Sketch, you can no longer re-create the pre-Obamacare status quo by repealing the law. Some new beneficiaries would be returned to the ranks of the uninsured, just as they were before, but others would return to an individual market they were happy to leave behind, and even the thin skim of people who were happy with plans that have been canceled wouldn’t necessarily be able to reclaim them.

After spending three months effusing sympathy for people who’ve had their insurance plans canceled, Republicans can’t really continue to support repeal while ignoring the (2 million? 6 million? 9 million?) who would lose their coverage as a result. But the GOP lacks a consensus replacement for Obamacare, and the plans that caucuses within the party do support don’t do anything for the new beneficiaries, and fall well short of Obamacare’s coverage expansion in the long run.

They’ve walked into a cul-de-sac planting mines behind themselves along the way.

Under the circumstances, it’d make a lot of sense for Republican leaders to seek a New Year’s détente. Stop pandering to their own voters by behaving as if outright repeal is an eventual possibility; stop fogging things up for their own constituents, many of whom would be better off if they understood what the law has to offer them. Democrats want to fix flaws in the Affordable Care Act, Republicans could agree to support some improvements in exchange for making the law system more GOP-friendly without undermining its structure.



But in the least shocking news you’ll hear all year, Republicans lack both the intent and ability to adopt a less combative approach to healthcare reform. They like how the last three months of 2013 unfolded politically (a three week government shutdown notwithstanding!) and will do whatever they can to make 2014 look a lot like that. They’ll probably even fund the government and increase the debt limit without inviting crises to keep the media focused on Obamacare.

This week they will begin exploiting for political gain the misfortunes of people who seek medical care under the impression that they’re covered only to find out, for some reason, that they’re not. These might be beneficiaries who, due to technical woes and clerical backlogs, are having trouble accessing their benefits, or people who thought they had enrolled but never actually did.

When someone finds he’s eligible for fewer subsidies than he believed, conservatives will pretend to share his outrage; when a family earns more money than expected and must rebate subsidy dollars to the IRS (a clawback provision Republicans supported!) the GOP will be there.

Don’t believe me? Here’s Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., quoted in the New York Times.

“The hardest problem for us is what to do next,” Graham said. “Should we just get out of the way and point out horror stories? Should we come up with a mini Contract With America on health care, or just say generally if you give us the Congress, the House and the Senate in 2014, here’s what we will do for you on multiple issues including health care? You become a more effective critic when you say, ‘Here’s what I’m for,’ and we’re not there yet. So there’s our struggle.”

According to the Times, “Mr. Graham said that Republicans would probably get away with denouncing the Affordable Care Act through the midterm elections, but that by 2016 they would need to have a fully formed alternative.”

The Democratic response to these stories will take the form of aggregates as much as discrete stories. Some of Obamacare’s “winners” will win with lifesaving surgery or chronic care. But most will just benefit with access to routine care. “Area Man Gets First Colonoscopy” isn’t a great counterpoint to “Area Man Can No Longer See Same Doctor.”

So Democrats will also brandish a growing beneficiary total. By the end of March, that figure will probably exceed 10 million. Millions more, even the law’s greatest skeptics, will know people whose lives are better as a result of Obamacare. If they’re smart, supporters will organize devoted beneficiaries and their families so that Republican candidates begin to fear attacking the law, and Democratic candidates regain confidence in their ability to run on a platform of keeping and improving it.

By spring, we should have a clearer sense of how these conflicting constituencies stack against each other, and, thus, how the political story will play out. But until then I expect inertia will prevail on the right. They’ll continue to pretend that new beneficiaries don’t exist and to solicit horror stories as if the calendar still said 2013, and will do so for as long as they sense it’s to their political advantage.

 

Louisiana’s Incarceration Is a Private Business

Prison (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Prison (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

by Donald Kaufman,

Louisiana has assailed its residents to a level unequal to any other state, keeping another signature No. 1 ranking in the percentage of residents it locks up. According to Le Monde, one in 86 adults—double the national average—ends up behind bars in the Pelican State. That is five times higher than Iran, and 13 times more than China. Louisiana has created a system more efficient and despondent than state run prisons or regular privatization. The costs are low, profits high and human life is a commodity that allows the market to keep growing.

It began in the 1990s when Louisiana prisons had a major problem with overcrowding. Within the government, officials kept the paradigm of discussion about the problem to two choices: reduce sentences or build more prisons. In their pernicious judgment they went with a new and different type of privatization—local incarceration facilities, which they coined “parish jails.” In doing so, they put the power into the hands of rural sheriffs who have found ways to profit off of human incarceration. Parish jails were initially intended for inmates serving less than 12 months. The outcome instead is that the average prisoner stays eight and half years with one in five serving more than 11. These rural sheriffs not only have the power of the law, but also the invisible hand of the prison lobby that supports them at every turn and bleeds them dry on every empty cell.

For many in the local towns, dystopia is no longer a bleak speck on the horizon; instead, it is the world they live in. For the ones not in prison, the best jobs are the dismal $8 an hour prison guard slots, one of the few positions that offers a pension. This in turn propagates a demand for more “local parishes” and more people to incarcerate. It is no longer about crime, community or any sort of safety; instead, there is a $182 million industry (one-third of Louisiana’s entire prison budget) that must stay afloat at all costs. When the national conversation is obsessed with deficit, these local jails are the perfect solution. Rather than taxpayers spending $23,000—the average per year for an inmate or more than a million dollars for early lifers at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola—these parish jails have valued each inmate at $24.39 a day with meals costing less than $2. Out of the more than 40,000 people behind bars in Louisiana, the nefarious laws come down hardest on blacks, who make up 76 percent of the state’s prison population. One in 14 black men from New Orleans is behind bars, and one in seven is either in prison, on parole or on probation. The chance of a better life after time served is nearly futile. Most of these local jails provide no educational opportunities, and when the prisoners are finally released they are given a paltry $10 and a bus ticket.

One in three Louisiana prisoners reads below a fifth-grade level. Classes are given only at state level prisons and are limited to the extreme violent offenders who many times spend their life behind bars. The moronic irony that the dead are educated and the freed have no chance provides the sheriffs with a better chance of returning commodities. Within five years, 50 percent of Louisiana’s inmates come back due to new offenses. As time progresses and the greedy want more, the community of law helps propagate more profit by making the sentences harsher.

Louisiana’s laws and sentences have become so absurd that they go beyond any question of human decency. Bouncing a check can carry a punishment of up to 10 years in prison; a repeated burglary offender can receive a minimum of 24 years without parole; and a triple drug conviction (which includes cannabis) can land someone in prison for life without parole. The drug laws are especially harmful considering that compared with the national average, Louisiana has a much lower percentage of violent offenders behind bars and a much higher percentage of nonviolent ones. The typical serving sentence for a nonviolent drug crime is 10 years in Louisiana.

The result of all this? Billions of dollars in taxpayer money and a city (New Orleans) that continues to lead the nation in homicides. “Tough on Crime”—as the willfully ignorant and malignant slogan goes—is nothing more than a farce. Louisiana, according to The Times-Picayune, has one of the highest rates of both violent and property crimes in the country and the highest percentage of people serving life without parole.

As a society we need to look at different ways to deal with laws and “criminals.” According to The Guardian, Sweden has reoffending and crime rates far below Louisiana’s and saw a 6 percent decline in the number of its prison admissions from 2011 to 2012, a drop that is at least partially attributable to the country’s liberal approach to incarceration. Sweden’s jail terms rarely exceed 10 years even for the most heinous crimes. Reintegration and education are what is valued most there. These are human lives, not commodities for a few to make a profit off of.

Tell Georgia Republicans: Stop blocking the Medicaid expansion

To: Governor Deal and the Georgia state legislature By Credo Mobilize,

Denying federally-funded health insurance to Georgia residents in need is unconscionable. Stop playing games with the health of your constituents and take immediate steps to accept Medicaid expansion funding under the Affordable Care Act.

Why is this important?

One of the most important provisions of the Affordable Care Act (aka ObamaCare) expanded Medicaid eligibility to all Americans whose income is less than 133% of the federal poverty level – about $15,000 per year for individuals and about $30,000 per year for families of four. Many of these individuals do not receive healthcare from their employer and do not earn enough money to afford it on the private insurance market, so expanding Medicaid eligibility was a smart policy approach to decrease the number of Americans without health insurance. According to the Urban Institute, in Georgia alone there are 534,000 people who should be receiving free healthcare coverage under the Medicaid expansion. But a Supreme Court decision last year in National Federation of Independent Businesses v. Sebelius gave states the opportunity to opt-out of Medicaid In a craven attempt to undermine President Obama and prevent the Affordable Care Act from providing healthcare coverage to their constituents, right-wing Republican government officials in 20 states – including Georgia – have decided to refuse federal funding and prevent millions of Americans from receiving the Medicaid coverage they need. Refusing to accept Medicaid funding from the federal government isn’t just bad for Georgia’s residents, it is also bad for the state’s finances. According to a study released on December 5 by the Commonwealth Fund, states that refuse federal funding to expand Medicaid stand to collectively lose tens of billions of dollars per year by 2022. In Georgia, for example, by refusing to accept federal funding for health coverage, Governor Deal and Republicans in the state legislature are losing out on estimated $2.8 billion per year starting in 2022. Recently, Ohio’s rightwing Republican governor John Kasich became the 8th Republican governor to accept the Medicaid funds. Unfortunately, 20 other Republican governors are still refusing to accept the funds, even though the federal government is picking up 100 percent of the cost through 2016 and 90 percent in the following years. Republican Governors are vulnerable on this issue. Across the country, they are coming under heavy scrutiny for playing games with their constituents’ healthcare and blocking their access to Medicaid. With the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion now in effect in dozens of other states, now is the perfect time to ramp up grassroots pressure on Governor Deal and other Republicans in Georgia to provide their constituents with the healthcare coverage they deserve.

Cutting Unemployment Benefits, Immoral and Bad Economics

Sen. Bernie Sanders

Sen. Bernie Sanders

By Sen. Bernie Sanders, Reader Supported News,

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said today that Congress must restore unemployment benefits that expire Saturday for 1.3 million Americans, including some 600 Vermonters, who have been out of work for longer than 26 weeks.

Unless Congress acts, jobless benefits will lapse during the first half of 2014 for an additional 1.9 million people, including another 2,300 Vermonters.

“It is not only immoral to cut off help for workers struggling to find jobs, it is also bad economics,” Sanders said. “At a time when long-term unemployment is near a record level, cutting benefits will hurt the rest of the economy and cause even more jobs to disappear.”

Failure to extend benefits would be a $25 billion blow to the economy during the coming year and result in the loss of more than 200,000 additional jobs, according to the conservative estimate by the Congressional Budget Office. The CBO also projected a 0.2 percent drop in the nation’s gross domestic product unless the benefits are extended.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has said that a measure to restore long-term jobless benefits will be the first bill that the Senate takes up when it reconvenes on Jan. 6. Sanders is one of 21 cosponsors of the bill, but only one Republican senator, Dean Heller of Nevada, has signed on as a supporter. “The critical question is how many Republicans are prepared to stand with unemployed workers,” Sanders said.

While the jobless rate has declined in recent months, it is still far worse than it was in 2008 when President George W. Bush signed the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program into law. Back then the unemployment rate was 5.6 percent and the average length of unemployment was 17.1 weeks. Today, the official unemployment rate in November was 7 percent and the average length of unemployment is more than 36 weeks.

Moreover, the official unemployment figure masks the reality that total unemployment stood last month at 13.2 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That number counts workers forced to settle for part-time jobs and those who gave up looking for jobs.

The number of long-term unemployed has been among the lingering effects of the severe recession that began in 2008. Today, there are three job applicants for every one job opening. There simply aren’t enough jobs out there for the 11 million Americans who are actively seeking work. As a result, 37 percent of all unemployed Americans have been out of work for more than six months.

Because the recession has continued to hurt job prospects, Congress reauthorized the extended unemployment benefits program 11 times since the recession began in 2008.

Altogether, nearly 24 million Americans (including more than 33,000 Vermonters) have received the emergency unemployment benefits since 2008. Unemployment benefits, typically $300 a week, lifted 2.5 million Americans out of poverty last year, according to the Census Bureau.

Robert Wilkins confirmed: Senate completes overhaul of key appeals court

Robert Wilkins listens as President Barack Obama speaks in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, June 3, 2013, where he announced his nomination of Wilkins, Patricia Ann Millet and Cornelia Pillard to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Wilkins successfully sued the Maryland State Police for racial profiling after his family was pulled over and searched for drugs while driving back from a funeral. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Robert Wilkins listens as President Barack Obama speaks in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, June 3, 2013, where he announced his nomination of Wilkins, Patricia Ann Millet and Cornelia Pillard to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Wilkins successfully sued the Maryland State Police for racial profiling after his family was pulled over and searched for drugs while driving back from a funeral. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

by Henry C. Jackson, Associated Press | theGrio.com

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate confirmed one ofPresident Barack Obama‘s key judicial nominees on Monday, completing an overhaul of the country’s second most powerful court into one dominated by Democratic-appointed judges.

The Senate voted 55-43 to confirm Robert Wilkins to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. That gives Democratic appointees a 7-4 majority on the politically influential bench. The D.C. Circuit, second in clout only to the Supreme Court, hears appeals of White House actions and federal rules and regulations.

Wilkins’ confirmation is a fresh demonstration of Senate Democrats’ ability to push through most presidential nominations by a simple majority, thanks to a weakening of filibusters that they muscled through the chamber in November.

It came on the same day the Supreme Court heard arguments about a constitutional provision relating to temporary presidential appointments. At issue is Obama’s use of the provision to make so-called recess appointments, which presidents can make without Senate approval.

Obama applauded the confirmation of Wilkins, who was previously approved unanimously by the Senate for a district judgeship. Obama said Wilkins would bring important perspective to the D.C. Circuit.

“He has applied the law with the utmost impartiality and integrity,” Obama said in a statement. “I am confident that he will continue to do so on the D.C. Circuit.”

Republicans’ resistance to many Obama nominees, including judges, prompted Democrats to change years of Senate filibuster tradition. Instead of requiring 60 votes to move nominations forward, the Senate can advance almost all presidential nominees on a simple majority vote. The only exceptions are nominees to the Supreme Court.

The change virtually assured Wilkins’ confirmation. In a just over a month, the Senate has confirmed two other Obama nominees to the court, Patricia Millett and Cornelia “Nina” Pillard.

Republicans again criticized the rules changes on Monday, though they said little about Wilkins’ credentials.

“Our politics today desperately need the cooling saucer of the Senate,” said Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, senior Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee. “The action by the majority leader to make it easier to consider nominations on a purely partisan basis went in the wrong direction.”

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., chairman of the Judiciary panel, said Wilkins, who is black, would bring a “diverse personal and professional background help further enrich the judiciary.”

Republicans and Democrats have bitterly fought over appointments to the D.C. Circuit. But none disputes the court’s influence, which stems from its caseload and its reputation as something of a proving ground for the Supreme Court. Four of the high court’s justices, including Chief Justice John Roberts, previously served on the D.C. Circuit.

In addition to its 11 active judges, the D.C. Circuit also has six senior judges who handle a reduced caseload. Five of the senior judges were appointed by Republicans and one by a Democrat.

Until recently, the court had been a source of frustration for Obama.

Republicans repeatedly blocked his first nominee to it, Caitlin Halligan, until she withdrew her nomination. Sri Srinivasan was confirmed to the court in May, but Republican senators promised to stop any further nominees to the court. They said the bench did not have enough work to warrant filling its vacancies.

In November, under old procedures, Senate Republicans had blocked Wilkins’ nomination. Furious, Democrats noted that Wilkins had been confirmed for a district judgeship in 2010 by a voice vote.

Is the End of Marijuana Prohibition the End of the War On Drugs? Probably Not.

A Black Agenda Radio Commentary by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

“Ask yourself, what would it look like if policymakers wanted to end the prohibition of marijuana, but not necessarily the the war on drugs…”<\p>

The forty years of so-called “war on drugs” has been the rhetorical excuse for a nationwide policy of punitive overpolicing in black and brown communities. Although black and white rates of drug use have been virtually identical, law enforcement strategies focused police resources almost exclusively upon communities of color. Prosecutors and judges did their bit as well, charging and convicting whites significantly less often, and to less severe sentences than blacks.

The forty years war on drugs has been the front door of what can only be described as the prison state, in which African Americans are 13% of the population but more than 40% of the prisoners, and the chief interactions of government with young black males is policing, the courts and imprisonment. Given all that, the beginning of the end of marijuana prohibition, first in Colorado and soon to be followed by other states ought to be great good news. But not necessarily.

Ask yourself, what would it look like if policymakers wanted to end the prohibition of marijuana, but not necessarily the the war on drugs. What if they desired to lock down the potential economic opportunities opened up by legalizing weed to themselves and their class, to a handful of their wealthy and well-connected friends and campaign contributors? What if they wanted to make the legal marijuana market safe for predatory agribusiness, which would like to claim lucrative patents on all the genetic varieties of marijuana which can be legally grown, as they already try to do with other crops?

“The end of marijuana prohibition is not designed to create jobs in our communities, nor is it intended to shrink the prison state…”

If they wanted to do those things, the system in place in Colorado today would be a good start. In Denver today, low income property owners can’t just plant pot in the back yard or on the roof in hopes of making one mortgage payment a year out of twelve, it doesn’t work that way. Ordinary households are limited to 3 plants per adult, and for reference only the female plants are good for smoking, and prohibited from selling the weed or the seed. To participate in the marijuana economy as anything but a consumer requires background checks, hefty license fees, a minimum of hundreds of thousands to invest, and the right connections. All this currently drives the price of legal weed in Colorado to over $600 per ounce, including a 25% state tax, roughly double the reported street price of illegal weed.

So to enable the state to collect that tax money, and the bankers, growers and investors to collect their profits from marijuana taxed by the state and regulated in the corporate interest, cops and judges and jailers in near future, in Colorado and in your state as well, figure to be just as busy as they always have been the last forty years, doing pretty much what they’ve always done… conducting a war on illegal drugs, chiefly in the poorer and blacker sections of town, with predictable results.

The end of marijuana prohibition is not designed to create jobs in our communities, nor is it intended to shrink the prison state. Our ruling class simply does not allow economic growth that they can’t monopolize, and the modern prison state has never been about protecting the public from drugs or crime. Prisons and our lifelong persecution of former prisoners serve to single out, brand and stigmatize the economic losers in modern capitalist society, so that those hanging on from paycheck to paycheck can have someone to look down upon and so that they might imagine that this vast edifice of inequality is, if not just, inevitable.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Bruce Dixon. Find us on the web at www.blackagendareport.com.

Bruce A. Dixon is the managing editor at Black Agenda Report and the co-chair of the Georgia Green Party. He lives and works in Marietta GA and can be reached through this site’s contact page or at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.

Phil Gingrey, Paul Broun & Jack Kingston’s Refusal To Support Unemployment Insurance Likely To Cost Georgia’s Economy An Estimated $28.9 Million By The End Of The Week

Broun, Gingrey & Kingston Are Siding With the Tea Party & Hurting Georgia’s Economy, Middle Class & Working People

Phil Gingrey, Paul Broun, and Jack Kingston have turned their backs on Georgians looking for work and it’s costing Georgia’s economy millions. Gingrey, Broun, and Kingston have all opposed extending critical unemployment insurance in the past for Georgians looking for work. That kind of irresponsible economic ideology caused 54,400 Georgians to lose critical assistance on December 28, which is likely tocost the state’s economy an estimated $28.9 million by the end of the week, according to new analysis based off a report from the Ways and Means Committee.  

The Ways and Means Committee Democrats report projected the impact of the expiration of federal unemployment insurance on state economies over the course of the week following December 28th, which is when Emergency Federal Compensation expired. The DSCC uses the Ways and Means Committee data to project the impact on states over a two week period. These estimates are conservative, given that additional individuals will lose benefits during the week of January 6.

Georgia families and the state’s economy will continue to pay the price more and more each day as long as Gingrey, Broun, Kingston refuse to support UI’s extension and stand up to Tea Party Republicans in Washington, who continue to block the renewal of long-term unemployment benefits.

“Phil Gingrey, Paul Broun, and Jack Kingston’s reckless and irresponsible economic agenda is hurting Georgians who are looking for work, hurting the state’s middle class and will likely cost Georgia’s economy at least $28.9 million by the end of the week,” said Justin Barasky, a spokesman at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. “Phil Gingrey, Paul Broun, and Jack Kingston are siding with Washington special interests and the Tea Party instead of doing what’s right for Georgia’s economy, and the middle class and working people are paying the price.”

Polls show that a majority of Americans support renewing unemployment benefits. A recent Hart Research poll shows 55% of voters say Congress should act to maintain unemployment benefits.

BACKGROUND:

BROUN HAS REPEATEDLY VOTED AGAINST EXTENDING UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS

February 2012: Broun Voted Against Renewing Long-Term Unemployment Benefits. In 2012, Broun voted against renewing long-term unemployment benefits as a part of bill to extend the payroll tax cut. The bill renewed long-term unemployment benefits into January 2013. The cost of the bill was partially offset by requiring larger pension payments from newly hired federal employees and lawmakers, auctioning blocks of electromagnetic spectrum used by television broadcasters, and reducing funds for programs listed in the Affordable Care Act. [CQ Vote Summary, 2/17/12] The bill passed 293-132. [H.R. 3630, Vote #72, 2/17/12]

November 2010: Broun Voted Against Extending Unemployment Benefits. In November 2010, Broun voted against extending federal unemployment insurance benefits through February 2011 for the long-term unemployed who had exhausted the typical 26 weeks provided by the states. The bill would also provide 100 percent federal funding to state programs to cover additional implementation costs. An estimated 2 million Americans were set to lose their benefits without Congressional action by the end of that month. The bill failed, 258-154, without a two-thirds majority required for bills under suspension rules. [[CQ Weekly, 11/22/10; HR 6419, Vote #579, 11/18/10]

July 2010: Broun Voted Against Extending Unemployment Benefits. In 2010, Broun voted against extending unemployment benefits for workers who had exhausted their benefits. The extension, passed in July, would apply retroactively to June 2, and would expire at the end of November.  The legislation provided 100 percent federal funding to state unemployment programs to cover additional implementation costs and would add $33.9 billion to the deficit over 10 years. The bill passed, 272-152. [CQ Today, 7/22/10; HR 4213, Vote #463, 7/22/10]

July 2010: Broun Voted Against Extending Unemployment Benefits. In 2010, Broun voted against extending expired unemployment benefits to approximately 1.7 million people who had lost benefits between the end of May and July 3.  The bill would extend through November 30, extended eligibility for unemployment insurance for laid-off workers. The measure would make the extension retroactive to June 2, when the provisions expired, meaning that eligible workers could receive benefits retroactively. The bill also included an amendment that would prevent payment of jobless benefits to known or suspected terrorists; individuals convicted of sex offenses against minors; and illegal immigrants. The bill passed, 270-153. [CQ Today, 7/01/10; HR 5618, Vote #423, 7/01/10]

June 2010: Broun Opposed Extending Unemployment Benefits to 1.7 Million People. In 2010, Broun voted against extending federal unemployment benefits that expired in early June through November 30, 2010. Another 1.7 million people would see their benefits expire if not passed, according to the House Ways and Means Committee.  House Democrats urged their colleagues to assist the unemployed, asserting that the bill would support consumer spending and help stimulate the economy. Historically, Congress had extended benefits in economic emergencies without finding offsets. The $33.9 billion cost over a decade would was not offset. The bill failed under suspension rules requiring a two-thirds majority, 261-155. [CQ Today, 6/29/10; HR 5618, Vote #398, 6/29/10]

October 2008: Broun Was One Of Only 28 Members To Vote Against Extension of Unemployment Benefits. In 2008, Broun voted against a bill that would extend unemployment insurance. Specifically, the bill would provide seven additional weeks of benefits for those whose unemployment insurance has run out, and 13 additional weeks for jobless workers in states with an unemployment rate higher than 6 percent. The bill passed 368-28.  [CQ Today, 10/03/08; HR 6867, Vote #683, 10/03/08]

September 2008: Broun Opposed Extension of Unemployment Benefits. In 2008, Broun voted against a $60.8 billion economic stimulus package designed to fund infrastructure projects, unemployment insurance and Medicaid. The bill would specifically extend unemployment insurance benefits by seven weeks nationwide and an additional 13 weeks in states with high unemployment. The bill passed 264-158.  [CQ Today, 9/26/08; HR 7110, Vote #660, 9/26/08]

June 2008: Broun Opposed Unemployment Benefit Extension. In 2008, Broun voted against a bill that would extend federal unemployment benefits to individuals for 13 weeks beyond the 26 weeks already authorized under law for all states. The bill included language that would extend federal unemployment benefits for another 13 weeks to states with high unemployment. The bill also included language that would set the extended benefit program to expire March 31, 2009. The bill passed 274-137. [CQ Today, 6/12/08; HR 5749,Vote412, 6/12/08]

Broun Opposed Extension of Unemployment Benefits. In 2008, Broun voted against an amendment that would provide extended unemployment benefits for people out of work longer than six months. The amendment appropriated $21.2 billion for domestic programs, military construction and foreign aid programs. It would provide $4.6 billion for military construction and $5.8 billion for levee building in Louisiana. The amendment would provide a permanent expansion of education benefits for post-Sept. 11 veterans, offset with 0.47 percent surtax on modified adjusted gross income above $500,000 per year for individuals and $1 million for couples. It also would temporarily extend unemployment insurance benefits and place a moratorium through March 2009 on seven Medicaid regulations proposed by the administration. It would appropriate $9.9 billion for the State Department, USAID and international food assistance. The amendment passed 256-166. [HR 2642, Vote 330, 5/15/08; Congressional Quarterly, Congressional Quarterly Weekly, 5/16/08]

GINGREY REPEATEDLY VOTED AGAINST EXTENDING UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS

February 2012: Gingrey Voted Against Renewing Long-Term Unemployment Benefits. In 2012, Gingrey voted against renewing long-term unemployment benefits as a part of bill to extend the payroll tax cut. The bill renewed long-term unemployment benefits into January 2013. The cost of the bill was partially offset by requiring larger pension payments from newly hired federal employees and lawmakers, auctioning blocks of electromagnetic spectrum used by television broadcasters, and reducing funds for programs listed in the Affordable Care Act. [CQ Vote Summary, 2/17/12] The bill passed 293-132. [H.R. 3630, Vote #72, 2/17/12]

November 2010: Gingrey Voted Against Extending Unemployment Benefits. In November 2010, Gingrey voted against extending federal unemployment insurance benefits through February 2011 for the long-term unemployed who had exhausted the typical 26 weeks provided by the states. The bill would also provide 100 percent federal funding to state programs to cover additional implementation costs. An estimated 2 million Americans were set to lose their benefits without Congressional action by the end of that month. The bill failed, 258-154, without a two-thirds majority required for bills under suspension rules. [[CQ Weekly, 11/22/10; HR 6419, Vote #579, 11/18/10]

July 2010: Gingrey Voted Against Extending Unemployment Benefits. In 2010, Gingrey voted against extending unemployment benefits for workers who had exhausted their benefits. The extension, passed in July, would apply retroactively to June 2, and would expire at the end of November.  The legislation provided 100 percent federal funding to state unemployment programs to cover additional implementation costs and would add $33.9 billion to the deficit over 10 years. The bill passed, 272-152. [CQ Today, 7/22/10; HR 4213, Vote #463, 7/22/10]

July 2010: Gingrey Voted Against Extending Unemployment Benefits. In 2010, Gingrey voted against extending expired unemployment benefits to approximately 1.7 million people who had lost benefits between the end of May and July 3.  The bill would extend through November 30, extended eligibility for unemployment insurance for laid-off workers. The measure would make the extension retroactive to June 2, when the provisions expired, meaning that eligible workers could receive benefits retroactively. The bill also included an amendment that would prevent payment of jobless benefits to known or suspected terrorists; individuals convicted of sex offenses against minors; and illegal immigrants. The bill passed, 270-153. [CQ Today, 7/01/10; HR 5618, Vote #423, 7/01/10]

June 2010: Gingrey Opposed Extending Unemployment Benefits to 1.7 Million People. In 2010, Gingrey voted against extending federal unemployment benefits that expired in early June through November 30, 2010. Another 1.7 million people would see their benefits expire if not passed, according to the House Ways and Means Committee.  House Democrats urged their colleagues to assist the unemployed, asserting that the bill would support consumer spending and help stimulate the economy. Historically, Congress had extended benefits in economic emergencies without finding offsets. The $33.9 billion cost over a decade would was not offset. The bill failed under suspension rules requiring a two-thirds majority, 261-155. [CQ Today, 6/29/10; HR 5618, Vote #398, 6/29/10]

October 2008: Gingrey Opposed Extension of Unemployment Benefits. In 2008, Gingrey voted against a bill that would extend unemployment insurance. Specifically, the bill would provide seven additional weeks of benefits for those whose unemployment insurance has run out, and 13 additional weeks for jobless workers in states with an unemployment rate higher than 6 percent. The bill passed 368-28.  [CQ Today, 10/03/08; HR 6867, Vote #683, 10/03/08]

September 2008: Gingrey Opposed Extension of Unemployment Benefits. In 2008, Gingrey voted against a $60.8 billion economic stimulus package designed to fund infrastructure projects, unemployment insurance and Medicaid. The bill would specifically extend unemployment insurance benefits by seven weeks nationwide and an additional 13 weeks in states with high unemployment. The bill passed 264-158.  [CQ Today, 9/26/08; HR 7110, Vote #660, 9/26/08]

June 2008: Gingrey Opposed Unemployment Benefit Extension. In 2008, Gingrey voted against a bill that would extend federal unemployment benefits to individuals for 13 weeks beyond the 26 weeks already authorized under law for all states. The bill included language that would extend federal unemployment benefits for another 13 weeks to states with high unemployment. The bill also included language that would set the extended benefit program to expire March 31, 2009. The bill passed 274-137. [CQ Today, 6/12/08; HR 5749,Vote412, 6/12/08]

May 2008: Gingrey Opposed Extension of Unemployment Benefits. In 2008, Gingrey voted against an amendment that would provide extended unemployment benefits for people out of work longer than six months. The amendment appropriated $21.2 billion for domestic programs, military construction and foreign aid programs. It would provide $4.6 billion for military construction and $5.8 billion for levee building in Louisiana. The amendment would provide a permanent expansion of education benefits for post-Sept. 11 veterans, offset with 0.47 percent surtax on modified adjusted gross income above $500,000 per year for individuals and $1 million for couples. It also would temporarily extend unemployment insurance benefits and place a moratorium through March 2009 on seven Medicaid regulations proposed by the administration. It would appropriate $9.9 billion for the State Department, USAID and international food assistance. The amendment passed 256-166. [HR 2642, Vote 330, 5/15/08; Congressional Quarterly, Congressional Quarterly Weekly, 5/16/08]

November 2005: Gingrey Supported $430 Million in Cuts to Job Training, Unemployment Assistance. In 2005, Gingrey voted in favor of the Labor, HHS & Education appropriations conference report that cut $1.5 billion from key domestic priorities. The measure cut a program helping people find jobs by $89 million, cut youth and adult job training grants by $67 million and cut funds for offices that help unemployed workers obtain benefits by $141 million. The bill also cut an initiative the helps eradicate abusive child labor and protect worker rights and wages around the world by $20 million. The bill failed 209-224.  [House Appropriations Committee Democratic Staff, “Summary of the Conference Agreement – HR 3010,” 11/16/05; HR 3010, Vote #598, 11/17/05]

KINGSTON HAS REPEATEDLY VOTED AGAINST EXTENDING UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS

Kingston Was Unsure Whether He’d Support An Extension To Unemployment Insurance, Said The Concern Was When Benefits Were Extended “People Have A Tendency Not To Look For Work As Vigorously.” In January 2013, Statesboro Heraldreported: “Long-term federal unemployment benefits have been extended repeatedly since the 2008 recession, but members of Congress went home for the holidays without passing another extension. Kingston said he will have to see what the possibilities are before deciding on whether to support another extension. ‘The big concern is when you extend unemployment, people have a tendency not to look for work as vigorously as if it was coming to an end,’ he said. ‘So, you know, the object is to get people back to work, not to extend unemployment.’” [Statesboro Herald1/6/14]

February 2012: Kingston Voted Against Renewing Long-Term Unemployment Benefits. In 2012, Kingston voted against renewing long-term unemployment benefits as a part of bill to extend the payroll tax cut. The bill renewed long-term unemployment benefits into January 2013. The cost of the bill was partially offset by requiring larger pension payments from newly hired federal employees and lawmakers, auctioning blocks of electromagnetic spectrum used by television broadcasters, and reducing funds for programs listed in the Affordable Care Act. [CQ Vote Summary, 2/17/12] The bill passed 293-132. [H.R. 3630, Vote #72, 2/17/12]

November 2010: Kingston Voted Against Extending Unemployment Benefits. In November 2010, Kingston voted against extending federal unemployment insurance benefits through February 2011 for the long-term unemployed who had exhausted the typical 26 weeks provided by the states. The bill would also provide 100 percent federal funding to state programs to cover additional implementation costs. An estimated 2 million Americans were set to lose their benefits without Congressional action by the end of that month. The bill failed, 258-154, without a two-thirds majority required for bills under suspension rules. [[CQ Weekly, 11/22/10; HR 6419, Vote #579, 11/18/10]

July 2010: Kingston Voted Against Extending Unemployment Benefits. In 2010, Kingston voted against extending unemployment benefits for workers who had exhausted their benefits. The extension, passed in July, would apply retroactively to June 2, and would expire at the end of November.  The legislation provided 100 percent federal funding to state unemployment programs to cover additional implementation costs and would add $33.9 billion to the deficit over 10 years. The bill passed, 272-152. [CQ Today, 7/22/10; HR 4213, Vote #463, 7/22/10]

July 2010: Kingston Voted Against Extending Unemployment Benefits. In 2010, Kingston voted against extending expired unemployment benefits to approximately 1.7 million people who had lost benefits between the end of May and July 3.  The bill would extend through November 30, extended eligibility for unemployment insurance for laid-off workers. The measure would make the extension retroactive to June 2, when the provisions expired, meaning that eligible workers could receive benefits retroactively. The bill also included an amendment that would prevent payment of jobless benefits to known or suspected terrorists; individuals convicted of sex offenses against minors; and illegal immigrants. The bill passed, 270-153. [CQ Today, 7/01/10; HR 5618, Vote #423, 7/01/10]

June 2010: Kingston Opposed Extending Unemployment Benefits to 1.7 Million People. In 2010, Kingston voted against extending federal unemployment benefits that expired in early June through November 30, 2010. Another 1.7 million people would see their benefits expire if not passed, according to the House Ways and Means Committee.  House Democrats urged their colleagues to assist the unemployed, asserting that the bill would support consumer spending and help stimulate the economy. Historically, Congress had extended benefits in economic emergencies without finding offsets. The $33.9 billion cost over a decade would was not offset. The bill failed under suspension rules requiring a two-thirds majority, 261-155. [CQ Today, 6/29/10; HR 5618, Vote #398, 6/29/10]

September 2008: Kingston Opposed Extension of Unemployment Benefits. In 2008, Kingston voted against a $60.8 billion economic stimulus package designed to fund infrastructure projects, unemployment insurance and Medicaid. The bill would specifically extend unemployment insurance benefits by seven weeks nationwide and an additional 13 weeks in states with high unemployment. The bill passed 264-158.  [CQ Today, 9/26/08; HR 7110, Vote #660, 9/26/08]

June 2008: Kingston Opposed Unemployment Benefit Extension. In 2008, Kingston voted against a bill that would extend federal unemployment benefits to individuals for 13 weeks beyond the 26 weeks already authorized under law for all states. The bill included language that would extend federal unemployment benefits for another 13 weeks to states with high unemployment. The bill also included language that would set the extended benefit program to expire March 31, 2009. The bill passed 274-137. [CQ Today, 6/12/08; HR 5749,Vote412, 6/12/08]

May 2008: Kingston Opposed Extension of Unemployment Benefits. In 2008, Kingston voted against an amendment that would provide extended unemployment benefits for people out of work longer than six months. The amendment appropriated $21.2 billion for domestic programs, military construction and foreign aid programs. It would provide $4.6 billion for military construction and $5.8 billion for levee building in Louisiana. The amendment would provide a permanent expansion of education benefits for post-Sept. 11 veterans, offset with 0.47 percent surtax on modified adjusted gross income above $500,000 per year for individuals and $1 million for couples. It also would temporarily extend unemployment insurance benefits and place a moratorium through March 2009 on seven Medicaid regulations proposed by the administration. It would appropriate $9.9 billion for the State Department, USAID and international food assistance. The amendment passed 256-166. [HR 2642, Vote 330, 5/15/08; Congressional Quarterly, Congressional Quarterly Weekly, 5/16/08]

November 2005: Kingston Supported $430 Million in Cuts to Job Training, Unemployment Assistance. In 2005, Kingston voted in favor of the Labor, HHS & Education appropriations conference report that cut $1.5 billion from key domestic priorities. The measure cut a program helping people find jobs by $89 million, cut youth and adult job training grants by $67 million and cut funds for offices that help unemployed workers obtain benefits by $141 million. The bill also cut an initiative the helps eradicate abusive child labor and protect worker rights and wages around the world by $20 million. The bill failed 209-224.  [House Appropriations Committee Democratic Staff, “Summary of the Conference Agreement – HR 3010,” 11/16/05; HR 3010, Vote #598, 11/17/05]

1993: Kingston Voted Against Extending Unemployment Benefits. In 1993, Kingston voted against adoption of the conference report to provide about $1 billion for extended unemployment benefits for workers who have exhausted their 26 weeks of state unemployment benefits for an additional seven or 13 weeks of compensation, depending on the unemployment rates in their states. The bill was adopted 320-105. [HR 3167, Vote #615, 11/23/93]

1993: Kingston Voted Against Extending Unemployment Benefits. In October, Kingston voted against a previous attempt for passage of the bill to provide about $1 billion for extended unemployment benefits for workers who have exhausted their 26 weeks of state unemployment benefits for an additional seven or 13 weeks of compensation, depending on the unemployment rate in their state. The bill would require legal immigrants to wait five years to become eligible to receive Supplemental Security Income payments. The bill passed 302-95. [HR 3167, Vote #509, 10/51/93]

Jason Carter’s mixed response on Obamacare undermines campaign, Ga. Democrats

3831cc3d2ca0210600bad1a1b5ab8fd2By Patrick Davis,

On Thursday, January 9, a poll from InsiderAdvantage CEO/Fox5 shows that Republican Governor Nathan Deal has a large lead over Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jason Carter.

Even though it is early in the campaign, a bigger issue for the 38 year-old Democrat in an increasingly diverse state such as Georgia is that attempting to out-Republican the Republicans via political rhetoric about the federal government , President Obama and/or the Affordable Care Act is not a winning strategy.

If Carter wants to succeed in 2014, he will have to dispel myths about the Affordable Care Law and help to educate Georgians about how he would help make the law and/or Medicaid expansion work for Georgians as the new governor.

However, since November, Carter has been a part of the conservative chorus in criticizing the Affordable Care Act.

“Anybody who looks at the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare or whatever you want to call it, has to recognize that it’s a mess,” Carter said in an interview.

Recently, Carter had responded to the Affordable Care Act by saying the following in an interview with Creative Loafing:

“The problem we all have now is that the Affordable Care Act – or Obamacare, whatever you want to call it – is in such disarray today that it’s hard to know what it means.”

The White House says things are getting on track and of the 1.1 million people the administration says are enrolled through HealthCare.gov, the overwhelming majority, 975,000, registered in December.

Carter has fashioned himself as a problem solver and many people want to give him the benefit of the doubt, but attacking President Obama’s health care law will not win votes from Republicans who voted for Romney or George Bush and will provide frustration for increasing number of Democrats and open-minded independents who may stay home in 2014.

Carter hasn’t been seen outside of metro Atlanta since his campaign announcement in places such as Macon, Augusta, Valdosta and Savannah which are Democratic strongholds and supported President Barack Obama.

At some point, very soon, we need to get the full story about whether he supports the Affordable Care Act. Carter owes this to voters for the sake of being transparent.

Does State Sen. Jason Carter have the political stamina to defend the Affordable Care Act along with explaining the benefits of expanding Medicaid in Georgia?

Atlanta mayor Kasim Reed has withheld an endorsement and even though Reed may have personal reasons, but it is noteworthy.

Reed said the following:

“I definitely have said I think he’s special and he definitely has an opportunity to win,” Reed said during a media availability after his second-term inauguration. “But I’m not a bandwagon jumper. When you offer yourself to office, you’ve got to get out here, you gotta go through it. That’s what I did.”

Carter will have to take his campaign to another level and not be seduced by pressure from people in his own campaign in taking shots at President Obama as if that will increase his chances of winning.

Carter needs to embrace the ‘existing law’ and take a principled stand starting today on Obamacare and other issues ranging from voting rights to public education.

The Affordable Care Act isn’t perfect, but it is a significant step in the right direction in regard to insuring all Americans.

Governor Deal is ethically challenged and Carter has attempted to draw distinctions.

“The problem with the current governor is that he cares more about the Washington politics of Obamacare than about helping or protecting Georgia taxpayers. We have a situation where Georgia pays federal tax dollars and those tax dollars are being used to expand Medicaid in other places. What the governor has said is that he would rather play politics with that money than come back to Georgia.

I would try to find a creative way to bring that money back the way other places – Kentucky or Arkansas – they’ve all been looking for ways to do that. It probably won’t be a straight acceptance of Obamacare and Medicaid expansion. It would be a problem-solving approach that doesn’t care about the politics and cares about what’s best for Georgia taxpayers and Georgia citizens.”

More Georgians signing up for Obamacare, state poll supports Medicaid expansion

336e27186224901d714a3768ac1be41dBy Patrick Davis,

On Monday, January 13, Georgia’s largest television station, WSB-TV, reported that the Department of Health and Human Serviceshas released figures outlining how many people have signed up for health insurance through the federally operated marketplace.

Officials said Monday that more than 58,600 Georgians have signed up for coverage as of Dec. 28.

The marketplace was launched on Oct. 1.

In a breakdown of who is signing up for the Affordable Care Act in Georgia, officials report that fifty-seven percent of enrollees are women and men represent forty-three percent.

Health and Human Services officials say that on a national level enrollment numbers have grown ‘eight-fold’ last month in the number of people between the ages of 18 and 34 selecting plans through the federal marketplace.

With the General Assembly in session, Georgia Republicans want to reaffirm their opposition to the Affordable Care Act and its implementation.

In December, a cadre of state Republicans publicly said that want to replicate what other states with Republican-led state houses in regard to the Affordable Care Act. For many Republicans, it is a movement to repeal ‘Obamacare’.

“Our (proposed legislation) simply says the state of Georgia and any political entity, any agency, any public university or college will simply not be able to implement Obamacare at all,” said lead sponsor Rep. Jason Spencer, R-Woodbine, in a news conference on the state Capitol steps.

“We’re telling the Obama administration: ‘If you want the ACA in Georgia, you’re going to pay for it and you’re going to implement it. And don’t expect aid from Georgia in doing so,” said co-sponsor state Rep. Michael Caldwell, R-Woodstock

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the individual mandate of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act which was passed through a Democratic Congress and signed by President Barack Obama in March 2010.

The continued resistance by Georgia Republicans will be a campaign issue in 2014, especially in congressional, U.S. Senate and gubernatorial races.

In the Atlanta Journal Constitution, poll results suggest six of ten Georgians are in favor of Medicaid expansion.

However, Republican Governor Nathan Deal and Georgia Republicans have resisted in expanding Medicaid and opt to do nothing on the state level.

Deal has continued to keep the stance that the Peach State cannot afford to expand Medicaid, despite the federalgovernment would pay 100 percent of the cost for three years and 90 percent permanently after three years.

The War Over Poverty

Paul Krugman

Paul Krugman

By Paul Krugman,

Fifty years have passed since Lyndon Johnson declared war on poverty. And a funny thing happened on the way to this anniversary. Suddenly, or so it seems, progressives have stopped apologizing for their efforts on behalf of the poor, and have started trumpeting them instead. And conservatives find themselves on the defensive.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. For a long time, everyone knew — or, more accurately, “knew” — that the war on poverty had been an abject failure. And they knew why: It was the fault of the poor themselves. But what everyone knew wasn’t true, and the public seems to have caught on.

The narrative went like this: Antipoverty programs hadn’t actually reduced poverty, because poverty in America was basically a social problem — a problem of broken families, crime and a culture of dependence that was only reinforced by government aid. And because this narrative was so widely accepted, bashing the poor was good politics, enthusiastically embraced by Republicans and some Democrats, too.

Yet this view of poverty, which may have had some truth to it in the 1970s, bears no resemblance to anything that has happened since.

For one thing, the war on poverty has, in fact, achieved quite a lot. It’s true that the standard measure of poverty hasn’t fallen much. But this measure doesn’t include the value of crucial public programs like food stamps and the earned-income tax credit. Once these programs are taken into account,the data show a significant decline in poverty, and a much larger decline in extreme poverty. Other evidence also points to a big improvement in the lives of America’s poor: lower-income Americans are much healthier and better-nourished than they were in the 1960s.

Furthermore, there is strong evidence that antipoverty programs have long-term benefits, both to their recipients and to the nation as a whole. For example, children who had access to food stamps were healthier and had higher incomes in later life than people who didn’t.

And if progress against poverty has nonetheless been disappointingly slow — which it has — blame rests not with the poor but with a changing labor market, one that no longer offers good wages to ordinary workers. Wages used to rise along with worker productivity, but that linkage ended around 1980. The bottom third of the American work force has seen little or no rise in inflation-adjusted wages since the early 1970s; the bottom third of male workers has experienced a sharp wage decline. This wage stagnation, not social decay, is the reason poverty has proved so hard to eradicate.

Or to put it a different way, the problem of poverty has become part of the broader problem of rising income inequality, of an economy in which all the fruits of growth seem to go to a small elite, leaving everyone else behind.

So how should we respond to this reality?

Bernie Sanders: People Can’t Survive on $7.25 an Hour

Sen. Bernie Sanders

Sen. Bernie Sanders

By Sen. Bernie Sanders,

With minimum wages set to go up on New Year’s Day in Vermont and 12 other states, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) today renewed his call for an increase in the federal minimum wage.

“States and communities are not waiting for Congress to raise the minimum wage. They are doing the right thing because the simple truth is that working people cannot survive on the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, or $8 an hour or $9 an hour. If people work 40 hours a week, they deserve not to live in dire poverty,” Sanders said.

Wage increases at the state and local level are occurring in Vermont and elsewhere at a time of growing income inequality throughout the United States. In the last several years, 95 percent of all new income went to the top 1 percent. “We need to raise the minimum wage to at least $10.10 an hour,” said Sanders. “That’s why I cosponsored legislation which will soon be on the Senate floor.”

Citing an Economic Policy Institute study, Sanders said that boosting the federal minimum wage would generate 85,000 new jobs and increase the take-home pay of Americans by some $35 billion. Sanders also noted that nearly 90 percent of Americans who would benefit from an increase in the minimum wage are adults over the age of 20.

Raising the minimum wage also could lower the federal government deficit. Today, for example, nearly half of the children of Wal-Mart associates receive Medicaid benefits or are uninsured. In several states, Wal-Mart has the highest percentage of employees receiving food stamps. “American taxpayers should not have to subsidize the low wages at Wal-Mart to make the store’s owners, already the richest family in America, even richer,” Sanders said.

Some Republicans in Congress not only oppose raising the minimum wage but want to scrap the minimum wage law altogether. Overwhelming numbers of Americans disagree. A new ABC/Washington Post poll showed that two-thirds of Americans support raising the minimum wage. Sixty-four percent of independents and even 57 percent of Republicans favor increasing the minimum wage, according to a recent CBS News poll.

The real value of the federal minimum wage has fallen by more than 30 percent since 1968. If the minimum wage had kept up with inflation, it would be more than $10.70 per hour today.

Robert B. Reich: The year of the Great Redistribution

ROBERT REICH

ROBERT REICH

One of the worst epithets that can be leveled at a politician these days is to call him a “redistributionist.” Yet 2013 marked one of the biggest redistributions in recent American history. It was a redistribution upward, from average working people to the owners of America.

The stock market ended 2013 at an all-time high — giving stockholders their biggest annual gain in almost two decades. Most Americans didn’t share in those gains, however, because most people haven’t been able to save enough to invest in the stock market. More than two-thirds of Americans live from paycheck to paycheck.

Even if you include the value of IRA’s, most shares of stock are owned by the very wealthy. The richest 1 percent of Americans owns 35 percent of the value of American-owned shares. The richest 10 percent owns over 80 percent. So in the bull market of 2013, America’s rich hit the jackpot.

What does this have to do with redistribution? Some might argue the stock market is just a giant casino. Since it’s owned mostly by the wealthy, a rise in stock prices simply reflects a transfer of wealth from some of the rich (who cashed in their shares too early) to others of the rich (who bought shares early enough and held on to them long enough to reap the big gains).

But this neglects the fact that stock prices track corporate profits. The relationship isn’t exact, and price-earnings ratios move up and down in the short term. Yet over the slightly longer term, share prices do correlate with profits. And 2013 was a banner year for profits.

Where did those profits come from? Here’s where redistribution comes in. American corporations didn’t make most of their money from increased sales (although their foreign sales did increase). They made their big bucks mostly by reducing their costs — especially their biggest single cost: wages.

They push wages down because most workers no longer have any bargaining power when it comes to determining pay. The continuing high rate of unemployment — including a record number of long-term jobless, and a large number who have given up looking for work altogether — has allowed employers to set the terms.

For years, the bargaining power of American workers has also been eroding due to ever-more efficient means of outsourcing abroad, new computer software that can replace almost any routine job, and an ongoing shift of full-time to part-time and contract work. And unions have been decimated. In the 1950s, over a third of private-sector workers were members of labor unions. Now, fewer than 7 percent are unionized.

All this helps explain why corporate profits have been increasing throughout this recovery (they grew over 18 percent in 2013 alone) while wages have been dropping. Corporate earnings now represent the largest share of the gross domestic product — and wages the smallest share of GDP — than at any time since records have been kept.

Hence, the Great Redistribution.

Some might say this doesn’t really amount to a “redistribution” as we normally define that term, because government isn’t redistributing anything. By this view, the declining wages, higher profits, and the surging bull market simply reflect the workings of the free market.

But this overlooks the fact that government sets the rules of the game. Federal and state budgets have been cut, for example — thereby reducing overall demand and keeping unemployment higher than otherwise. Congress has repeatedly rejected tax incentives designed to encourage more hiring. States have adopted “right-to-work” laws that undercut unions. And so on.

If all this weren’t enough, the tax system is rigged in favor of the owners of wealth, and against people whose income comes from wages. Wealth is taxed at a lower rate than labor.

Capital gains, dividends, and debt all get favorable treatment in the tax code – which is why Mitt Romney, Warren Buffet, and other billionaires and multimillionaires continue to pay around 12 percent of their income in taxes each year, while most of the rest of us pay at least twice that rate.

Among the biggest winners are top executives and Wall Street traders whose year-end bonuses are tied to the stock market, and hedge-fund and private-equity managers whose special “carried interest” tax loophole allows their income to be treated as capital gains. The wild bull market of 2013 has given them all fabulous after-tax windfalls.

America has been redistributing upward for some time – after all, “trickle-down” economics turned out to be trickle up — but we outdid ourselves in 2013. At a time of record inequality and decreasing mobility, America conducted a Great Redistribution upward.

Georgia teachers are furious with Gov. Deal

email-call-deal-teachersBy Bryan Long BetterGeorgia.com,

Georgia teachers are furious with Gov. Deal.

The governor has changed every teacher’s health insurance coverage, causing dramatic increases in out-of-pocket expenses, the elimination of copayments and less choice for doctors.

Some teachers have even told us they don’t have in-network doctors in their community and they must drive across state lines to find the nearest doctor in the governor’s new health plan.

Teachers have every right to be angry.

And today we want you to support your local teachers as they fight to fix the health plan the governor broke.

First, you can join a grassroots movement called  T.R.A.G.I.C. (Teachers Rally Against Georgia Insurance Changes). The group is sounding the alarm because more than half a million teachers and other state employees are being short-changed by Gov. Deal.

Founded just over a week ago by the wife of a Georgia teacher, the T.R.A.G.I.C. Facebook group has quickly grown to more than 7,850 members. The group has already captured the attention of WSB-TV and in the the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Gov. Deal is defensive because he knows he’s already on thin ice with Georgia’s teachers.

Our teachers have not had a state-funded raise in five years and they are fed up. And the governor’s proposed raise this year may or may not be passed on to teachers.

Now, instead of fixing the problem he created, Gov. Deal is calling our teachers dumb.

He’s claiming that this grassroots movement built by teachers is a actually the pawn of an insurance company:

“The party that lost the bid … has attempted to generate this kind of uproar,” the governor said. “I think that’s the genesis of it and in some cases people have been given false information. If there’s a problem, we will address it. But at this point in time many people aren’t aware of the details.”

How insulting.

At Better Georgia, we know our teachers are smart, well-informed and nobody’s pawn.

We can’t say as much for Gov. Deal, who received hundreds of thousands of dollars from health insurance companies trying to buy his attention.

And we know that Pres. Obama didn’t cause this health insurance crisis.

Nope.

Gov. Deal made this mess all by himself.

That’s why today, we’re asking you to support Georgia’s teachers and state employees by calling the Governor’s office.

Tell Gov. Deal that he’s created a problem for Georgia’s teachers, and now it’s up to him to fix it.

And, while he’s at it, he should apologize for insulting our teachers.

In the AJC article, Gov. Deal says, “If there’s a problem, we will address it.”

Governor, there’s no question that there’s a problem.

During the last 12 years, the state has short-changed local school districts by $7.6 billion dollars – more than a billion dollars per year since Gov. Deal took office.

Our school districts have made many cuts just to make ends meet:

  • 80 percent will furlough teachers this year
  • 95 percent have increased class sizes
  • 71 percent have reduced the number of days children attend school

Every day, our teachers are forced to do more with less, shortchanging our children and our future.

It’s time to make our schools a priority and give our teachers the respect they deserve.

Instead of calling them dumb for throwing the flag on his ill-conceived plan, Gov. Deal should fix the problem, and he should apologize for insulting our teachers.

If you care about the future of our schools, you should care about our teachers.

Calls to elected officials (especially in an election year) really do make a difference.

Making this call is the most important thing you can do to support your child’s teacher today. We’ve made it easy.

Just click here for a call script and a feedback form to let us know the result of your call. Call now.

Christie: Vindictive ass or incompetent buffoon

"I am not a bully", said THIS guy.

“I am not a bully”, said THIS guy.

By Daily Kos,

Don’t shoot me, but I’m willing to entertain the possibility that Christie had nothing to do with the original lane closings. Not saying he didn’t know, because if he did and investigators make the connection, it’s over for him. Nothing controversial about that. But let’s say he didn’t know and game this out from that assumption …

So he doesn’t know about the lane closings when it first happens. Yet there is growing media noise about it and the legislature starts digging. He asks his aides, and they say “just politics, boss. We did nothing.” He believes them. But … four months later of increasing scrutiny, and he—a former prosecutor!—still doesn’t get curious enough to start his own internal probe? He doesn’t ask, “Was there REALLY a study, and if so, can you show it to me?” I find that hard to believe. Not knowing about the original closures? Plausible (whether likely or unlikely). Still not knowing what happened four months later, well, that stretches credulity to the breaking point.

Furthermore, why would his aides think it would be okay to screw some small-town mayor (and everyone else on that bridge) over a meaningless irrelevant endorsement? I mean, who expects endorsements from the rival party, and then gets so upset when they don’t get it to go to such great lengths as this in retribution? And who gets excited at the idea of schoolchildren getting stuck on that bridge?

They thought it was fine because of the culture that Christie has created, one of intimidation and bullying. Remember that bullying incident where he screamed at the school teacher? That wasn’t caught by a rival campaign tracker. That was caught on camera by a Christie staffer, andthey put that stuff online. They’re proud of that! So given that Christie once boasted that “for better or for worse, this staff will reflect my personal style of leadership and decision-making,” it shouldn’t be surprising that it reflected the worst of his personality. Or put another way, his staff didn’t go rogue.

Now, his “I didn’t know a thing” schtick, however implausible, at best paints him as a clueless dolt who can’t handle his staff—completely counter to the persona he’s built over the last several years as a hands-on in-the-trenches roll-up-your-sleeves-and-get-it-done governor. You can’t be blissfully unaware of what your top staff is doing and then claim you are deeply involved in the governing business.

But worse for him, the “bully” narrative is now set in stone. It was his greatest source of strength but now it’s been neutered. I doubt his staff will be posting any other YouTubes of him being a dick to ordinary people. Good luck with that.

Finally, notice how lonely Christie looks today? No one is defending him, not even Republicans. There are too many interests in his party vested in his failure ahead of 2016. The tea party crowd is suddenly pretending to care about Christie being a bully, as if they don’t love people who are dicks to liberals. The establishment would love to have a viable nominee, but those supporting the likes of Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio are twisting the knife. The Christianist Right is similarly gleeful.

So he’s been left alone, flailing, leaving people to debate the title of this post.

Thomas Holloway Should Serve Prison Time as Atlanta Falcons’ Michael Vick

Atlanta Falcons former football player, Michael Vick served 23 months in prison for being involved in dog fighting. He was released in 2009 and was sent to a rehabilitation program. Since his release and joining the Philadelphia Eagles of the NFL he has been working with the Humane Society. He speaks around the country condemning dog fighting. As a result of two years from the NFL, we wonder whether this length of time negatively impacted his brilliant career. He is now on injured reserve as the season ended.

What should be done with Thomas Holloway, the owner of Sumter News? It is a weekly newspaper. He has a little dog named Doodlebug who is highlighted weekly and many of our citizens have fallen in love with Doodlebug. So, why would Holloway shoot another person’s dog so cavalierly? We understand the dog stopped before he was shot. Fortunately, the little fellow survived a bullet to his abdomen that was surgically repaired successfully.

How would Holloway feel if Doodlebug was shot? We would bet money he would push for that perpetrator to go to prison like Michael Vick. We think Holloway should be punished with imprisonment.

There were aggressive dog lovers who made death threats against Michael Vick. They were not satisfied until he was put in prison and many didn’t think he served long enough. I wonder what these dog lovers are saying about Thomas Holloway. Michael happens to be Black and Holloway is White, do you think that type of racism has entered into the equation.

We will be watching to see how justice is served by the court in this case. Holloway has been the chronicler of news that mainly deals with criminals who are arrested for drugs and other crimes. Shooting an innocent dog that almost died is criminal and we want to see if the local justice system will do the right thing.

Many of our readers may not know who Thomas Holloway is; so we want to inform them of what we know. The dog shooting is one of many controversial acts that have been criminal in nature. Take the White girl who was missing in early 1980’s and who was found strangled to death. It was widely rumored that Holloway was the girl’s boyfriend. He found her body in the woods and was a suspect who was never charged with her murder.

Several citizens have called us to tell us that Holloway was allegedly accused of stealing water from Magnolia Village that is next to his property. And one Sumter County resident called and told us that Holloway allegedly ran his vehicle into a crowd of Black demonstrators injuring one Black female back in the 1960’s civil rights movement.

Humane Society open to Michael Vick owning dogs

Michael Vick(Getty Image photo)

Michael Vick(Getty Image photo)

By the CNN Wire Staff,

(CNN) — The head of one of America’s biggest animal protection organizations said Thursday that Michael Vick, who served prison time for his role in a deadly dogfighting operation, should have the opportunity to bring a dog home — in due time.

Humane Society of the United States President Wayne Pacelle told HLN’s Jane Velez-Mitchell that the Philadelphia Eagles quarterback shouldn’t get a pet immediately and should have to meet certain milestones whenever he does. But
Pacelle, whose group has worked with Vick in public outreach efforts, said that it would be wrong to close the door to his ever having a dog again.

“He’s been going through counseling, he’s been speaking to kids twice a month, and he needs to interact with animals,” said Pacelle. “If he continues to hit these markers, then if his daughter wants a dog two or three years down the line,… I’m saying that we should be open to that possibility.”

Under the terms of his conviction, Vick is currently barred from owning an animal. But the Newport News, Virginia, native this week told The Grio, a news website focused on an African-American audience, that he would “love to have another dog in the future.”

“I think it would be a great step in my rehabilitation process,” Vick said. “Just to have a pet in my household and show people that I genuinely care, (to show) my love and my passion for animals, I think, would be outstanding.”

Jim Gorant, the author of the book “The Lost Dogs” about the animals that were killed and those that survived from the ring that Vick belonged to, questions the extent of Vick’s love for animals given his conviction.

“It’s a common thing among dogfighters: In one sentence, they’ll talk about how much they love these dogs, and the next sentence they’ll talk about how they force them to fight,” the author told HLN’s Velez-Mitchell.

“It’s hard to take him at face value, (given) what he’s done,” added Gorant. “He was arms deep in this process of abusing and killing these animals.”

The NFL indefinitely suspended Vick in August 2007 after he pleaded guilty to a federal charge of bankrolling a dogfighting operation in Virginia. Vick left a Kansas prison in May 2009 to serve the last two months of his 23-month sentence in home confinement.

The Humane Society, which claims support from 11 million people, bills itself on its website as the country’s “mainstream force against cruelty, exploitation and neglect” of animals — including the very kind of dogfighting rings and killings
for which Vick was convicted. After being released, Pacelle said that Vick approached the group “to help … combat that problem.”

The society president defended his group’s partnership with Vick, saying that it has helped spur a new conversation about the reality of dogfighting. Pacelle said that the quarterback has personally talked with thousands of children regarding an issue he first learned about as an adolescent, helping start a dialogue that’s led to animal protection clubs popping up at several inner-city schools.

“What he did is terrible, there’s no question about that,” Pacelle said. “But this is an issue of protecting animals in the future. And endlessly flogging Michael Vick is not going to save one animal. But putting him to work in communities to save animals and educate people about the problem of dogfighting — especially with atrisk kids — is the way to help the problem.”

“Thousands now are being reached,” he added. “We’ve never had a conversation with them before.”

Vick’s off-the-field past has done little to diminish his popularity on the field. According to NFL.com, he currently ranks first in fan voting for the 2011 Pro Bowl — above all other players, at all other positions.

Still, Vick has acknowledged publicly that his rehabilitation is not yet complete.

And as much as Vick might potentially save some dogs by making the public more aware of fighting rings, Pacelle said that having him interact with dogs should benefit Vick personally. The Humane Society plans for public interactions at first, during which he might even attend “end dogfighting classes” with others.

“Animals have a healing quality to them,” Pacelle said.

Moral Monday comes to Georgia

January-2014-(1)-1_17

ACTION NOW: Calls for Medicaid expansion, seen above during a recent protest outside Grady Memorial Hospital, get an in-your-face push from Moral Monday protest on Jan. 13.

by Thomas Wheatley @thomaswheatley Creative Loafing Atl,

When the Georgia General Assembly convenes on Jan. 13 for the annual legislative session, protesters outside the Gold Dome will deliver a simple message: expand Medicaid. The group, which includes members from the civil rights groups, health care advocates, and labor unions, is inspired by North Carolina’s Moral Monday movement that generated national headlines. The multiracial, multi-cultural rallies held each week in 2013 at the Tar Heel State’s Capitol featured hundreds of people protesting far-right policies and practicing civil disobedience — and in many cases, they went to jail. Each week, Georgia protesters will rally, lobby lawmakers, and educate each other and the public on policy issues. CL recently spoke separately with two of the event’s organizers, Tim Franzen of the American Friends Service Committee (and Occupy Atlanta organizer) and the Rev. Tim McDonald of First Iconium Baptist Church in East Atlanta.

How did the decision come about to bring the Moral Monday movement to Georgia?

TF: A Moral Monday movement forces people to look at the state budget not just as a random shopping list, but a list of moral priorities that has been benefiting the wrong folks for too long. It’s been a dramatic and inspiring thing to watch. We were anticipating a whole lot of radical stuff this legislative session, so we were thinking this Moral Monday approach might help. The Occupy movement started conversations. But the reality is it didn’t change the direction of
this deepening of inequity that’s hitting the South pretty hard especially… One of the things we have in common [with North Carolina] right now is the snapshot of our political landscape is very similar. The tide has turned quickly and the demographics are very similar. [North Carolina] is potentially going to be a blue state in the next five or 10 years. And Georgia is, too. And there’s this last gasp of Republican politicians and agenda.

Why choose Medicaid expansion?

TF: It’s a real no-brainer. By our calculations, at the very least, the most conservative projection, if Gov. Deal doesn’t expand the Affordable Care Act, 600 Georgians are going to die this year. That doesn’t account for the thousands of others who will have problems getting the medication they need. [Or] people who are HIV positive who might be able to live a longer, more comfortable life, that won’t be able to because of simple ideological stubbornness. This feels like something that’s winnable and something that really cuts to the core of morality in our state. It’s a clear example of a politician choosing to do something knowingly that’s morally wrong.

Why approach it from a moral perspective?

TF: When we think about our laws, when it all comes down to it, it’s about what’s right and what’s wrong. When we look at this divide and wealth disparity and we look at who the system continues to [favor]… it becomes this question of “is this right or wrong?” … It’s just not right for a country that has as much money as ours to have such a huge percentage of its population uninsured, incarcerated, and working two jobs and still living below the poverty line. Looking at it through a moral lens forces good men and women to take a side.

Devil’s advocate: If the state’s demographics and politics are changing to make these policy proposals more feasible, then why not just wait?

TM: People are suffering. People are dying. We don’t have time to wait. I wish we could. I wish we had that luxury. But people are hurting because we have not expanded Medicaid.

TF: Things are bad. Who gets prioritized in our budget, how the tax system works, it already benefits the people who have so much at the expense of people who have so little. And it continues to get worse. We have a group of politicians who have a super radical agenda that Georgians simply can’t afford. We have this opportunity to get [an estimated] 70,000 good jobs and get 60,000 uninsured Georgians health care coverage. Many of these people are folks who have kids. And our governor, for purely ideological reasons, is saying, “Nah, I don’t think so.” We have to start framing this as morally wrong. These are moral issues.

MLK Celebration 2014 Monday, January 20

Rev. Mathis Kearse Wright, Jr., Keynote Speaker(Submitted photo Matt Wright)

Rev. Mathis Kearse Wright, Jr., Keynote Speaker(Submitted photo Matt Wright)

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.(Americus Times Recorder / Virginia Summerlin)

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.(Americus Times Recorder / Virginia Summerlin)

Staff Reports,

President Eugene Hall of the Americus and Sumter County MLK Ministerial Association and the Americus Sumter County Movement Remembered Committee, Inc. (ASCMRC) have joined together to sponsor this year’s Rev. Martin Luther King holiday celebration on Monday, January 20, 2014. The commemoration will begin at the Sumter County Courthouse at 10:00 a.m. and continue at 11:00 a.m. at Friendship Baptist Church, Cotton Avenue.

Mr. Sam Mahone, Chairman ofASCMRC, Inc. will be the keynote speaker at the Courthouse venue. The Mistress of Ceremony will be Pastor Lodenia Waymon Coleman of Campbell Chapel A.M.E. Church of Americus, GA. Musical selections
will be rendered by the Freedom Harvest Worship Center Choir, and Sumter County Commissioners’ Chairman, Mr. Randy Howard will share details of the State funded Historical Marker that will be located on the Courthouse grounds honoring Rev. King.

Immediately following the dedication services; a public civil rights commemoration march will take place beginning at the Courthouse and ending at Friendship Baptist Church, Cotton Avenue.

Rev. King’s Holiday celebration services will continue with Co-Pastor Linda Rutherford Wright from New Union Grove Baptist Church, Americus as Mistress of Ceremony.

Music selections will be rendered by the Unity Choir, Deacon Otis Westbrook, Ms. Leslie Peeples, and AmeriGospel Youth Choir. Elder Elijah Smith, Sr. will be receiving the 2014 R. L. Freeman Community Award honoring him for his years of dedicated service for social justice and civil rights for all people.

This year’s program will be highlighted by our-own civil rights warrior, Reverend Mathis Kearse Wright, Jr, President of God’s Army for the Advancement of All People (GAAAP), and past President of the National Association for the
Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in Sumter County and Pastor of New Union Grove Missionary Baptist Church.

Rev. Wright said that “the time has come for a new vision, a new movement whereby the poor people will unite regardless of color or race. Although resources for the poor maybe limited but there is power in numbers. For example, at the voting polls – if all eligible poor people would register and go to the polls on Election Day and vote for the best candidate(s) to represent their interests, then progress will surely come.

The community is welcome to come and be a part of the “New” movement for equal justice for all of God’s people.

Holloway: More Than a Common Criminal

Thomas Holloway, publisher of Sumter News(Sumter County LEC file photo)

Thomas Holloway, publisher of Sumter News(Sumter County LEC file photo)

Brutis, owned Virginia Summerlin(Sumter County LEC file photo)

Brutis, owned Virginia Summerlin(Americus Times Recorder / Virginia Summerlin)

Staff Reports,

The 78-year-old owner and publisher of the Sumter News was jailed earlier this month after being accused of brutally shooting a dog.

Thomas Holloway, of the Sumter News, was charged with performing cruel acts on, or harming, maiming or killing dogs; reckless conduct; cruelty to animals and discharge of firearm on or near public housing or street, according to a Sumter County Sheriff’s Office investigative report.

Holloway turned himself in and was released on bond. The dog, Brutis, a three-year-old Labrador/Bull Mastiff mix, is back home after surgery.

The incident occurred on New Year’s Eve in the 300 block of Neon Bass Road in Americus. According to the dog’s owner, Virginia Scott Summerlin, 35, of Americus, Holloway was delivering papers in his truck sometime between 3 and 4
p.m. He had just dropped a paper in front of the home of her ex-husband, David, when the dog started chasing Holloway’s vehicle.

Summerlin said she tried to call out to the dog to come back when she saw Holloway pull his vehicle to the other side of road. And when her dog went up to Holloway’s truck and sat, she heard a gunshot.

“When my dog came back to the house, that’s when I noticed the bullet holes,” Summerland told the media in an interview.

The bullet shot between the dog’s ribs and hind legs, and exited through the stomach.

A veterinarian treated the dog for its injuries including to the liver and was released.

Holloway couldn’t be reached at his office for comment.