40 Percent of Your Chicken Nugget Is Meat. The Rest Is…

chickennuggetsgross630MotherJones.com,

Marketing isn’t about giving people what they want; it’s about convincing people to want what you’ve got—that is, what you can buy cheap, spiff up, and sell at a profit. Take the chicken nugget, that staple of fast-food outlets and school lunches.

The implicit marketing pitch goes something like this: “You like fried chicken, right? How about some bite-sized fried chicken chunks, without the messy bones?” When most people think of eating chicken, they think of, say, biting into a drumstick. What they get when they do so is a mouthful of muscle—popularly known as meat.

What people are actually getting from chicken nuggets is a bit different, according to a new study by University of Mississippi medical researchers. (Abstract here; I have access to the full paper but can’t upload it for copyright reasons.) They bought an order of chicken nuggets from two (unnamed) fast-food chains, plucked a nugget from each, broke them down, and analyzed them in a lab.

One of them contained just 40 percent muscle. The rest? “[G]enerous quantities of fat and other tissue, including connective tissue and bone spicules.” Mmmm, chicken bones.

The other sample had a whopping 50 percent muscle. The remainder consisted “primarily of fat, with some blood vessels and nerve present,” as well as epithelium, the stuff that glands are made of.

Now why would national fast-food chains be mixing bone and fat and whatnot into the chicken meat they grind into nuggets? I doubt anyone ever woke up and thought, “I’m craving some mechanically formed orbs of chicken parts, including meat, but also with plenty of fat, connective tissue, glands, and bone.” Offal is a lot cheaper than meat—the more you can work in, the more profit you can eke out of this popular menu item. Granted, people should eat more offal, as I’ve argued before. But (a) they have a right to know when they’re eating it; (b) one reason people eat chicken meat is because they think it’s lean—cutting it with chicken fat turns such eaters into suckers; and (c) bone matter, really? Bones are great when they’re gently boiled into highly nutritious broths and stocks. That seems like a much more reasonable use for them than hiding them in chicken nuggets.

I like the way the research team, doctors at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, described the impetus for their study:

Mississippi leads the nation’s epidemic of obesity, and Jackson, Mississippi, the state capitol, is the epicenter. The metropolitan area, which has just over a half million citizens, boasts 50 different companies offering varying numbers of fast food outlets. Restaurant food restrictions are prohibited by state law. Because chicken nuggets are a favorite of children, and the obesity epidemic now extends to them as well, we thought knowing a bit more about the content of the contemporary chicken nugget could be important.

Of course, their analysis doesn’t necessarily apply to the entire vast world of chicken nuggets—they pulled samples from just two chains. But there’s evidence that some widely marketed nuggets may be quite a bit different from straight chicken meat.Chicken breast meat, for example, delivers about 20 percent of its calories as fat (28 fat calories of a total of 141 calories for a full serving) and brings 27.6 grams of protein per 86 gram serving. In dinosaur-shaped “Fun Nuggets,” a supermarket product made by the meat giant Tyson, fully half of the calories come from fat, serving up just 10 grams of protein in a roughly equal serving.

I contacted Tyson to ask about the composition of Fun Nuggets. A company spokesperson referred me to the National Chicken Council, which issued a statementin response to the Mississippi study. “This study evaluates only two chicken nugget samples out of the billions of chicken nuggets that are made every year,” the statement reads. “It is not scientifically justifiable to make inferences about an entire product category given a sample size of two.” It adds:

In making chicken nuggets, our members use quality ingredients and adhere to all food safety laws and regulations to create a product with high quality their customers and consumers expect. Chicken nuggets are an excellent source of protein, especially for kids who might be picky eaters.

The marketing of Fun Nuggets to kids has taken on a new and interesting form. In a recent sponsored post on a site that accepts “cash advertising, spon­sor­ship, free prod­ucts for review or other forms of com­pen­sa­tion,” blogger Sara W. urged parents to pack their kids’ school lunches with Fun Nuggets. Each bag of the product, Sara W. reports, bears a label that can be clipped and “redeemed for $.24 for your school!” Paging Anna Lappé.

Breathing Problems in Children

download (1)What is reactive airways disease?

Reactive airways disease (RAD) is a term used to describe breathing problems in children up to 5 years old. It is common for infants and children to cough and wheeze when they have a cold. It may be hard to know if a child has asthma, bronchiolitis (virus that causes swelling of the airways), or airway hyperresponsiveness. Airway hyperresponsiveness is quick narrowing of your child’s airways, making it hard for him to breathe. Your child may also have pneumonia (lung infection), or simply a cold. Your child’s caregiver may say that your child has virus-induced asthma or RAD. Your child’s symptoms may go away as he gets older, or he may have asthma, or another breathing disorder, later in life.

What increases my child’s risk of reactive airways disease?

Your child is at higher risk if:

  • His mother has asthma, or someone in the family has allergies.
  • He was not breastfed, or he was breastfed fewer than 3 months.
  • He had a lung infection caused by a virus, such as respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).
  • He was treated in the hospital for bronchiolitis.
  • He is around secondhand smoke. He may also be at higher risk if his mother smoked while she was pregnant.
  • He is around anything that can trigger an allergic response, such as pollen and pets.

What signs and symptoms may mean that my child has reactive airways disease?

The signs and symptoms of RAD are similar to asthma. Your child may have trouble breathing. He may cough often or wheeze when he breathes. Your child’s signs and symptoms may get worse when he is sick, or when he exercises. They may get worse when he is around animals, insects, or mold. Weather changes, pollen, smoke, dust, and chemicals can make the symptoms worse. Your child may start coughing or wheezing if he laughs hard or cries hard. His signs and symptoms may come only at night, or they may be worse at night, and even wake your child up. Your child may have any of the following:

  • Wheezing: Wheezing is a high-pitched whistling sound heard when a person breathes out. Your child’s wheezing may come and go before he is 3 years old. Then it may go away altogether. Your child may wheeze only when he has a virus (germ), such as a cold. He may wheeze even when he does not have a cold. He may wheeze when he is around things such as pet hair. His wheezing may decrease as he gets older.
  • Trouble breathing: Your child may tell you that his chest feels tight. His nostrils may flare out as he tries to breathe. His stomach muscles or the skin over his ribs may move in deeply while he tries to breathe. He may also take shorter, faster breaths than usual.
  • Cough: Your child may have a cough that does not go away. You may hear crackles when he breathes or coughs.
  • Fast heartbeat: When your child cannot breathe as well, his heart may beat faster than usual.
  • Runny nose: Your child may have a runny nose along with other signs and symptoms of RAD.

Why are the symptoms of reactive airways disease common among children?

As a young child’s immune system (ability to fight infection) develops, he is less able to fight off colds and other illnesses. Reactive airways disease symptoms can occur because of airway swelling. A child’s airways are small and narrow, making it easy for them to fill and get blocked with mucus. These factors make it hard for caregivers to know what is causing your child’s symptoms, or the best way to treat them.

How is reactive airways disease diagnosed?

Caregivers will ask you about your child’s symptoms. Tell them if your child’s symptoms get worse when he is around pets, or smoke. Tell them if the symptoms get worse at night, or in cold air. Tell them if your infant grunts or sucks poorly when he is feeding. If your older child has to miss school, often feels ill, or is too tired to exercise, tell caregivers. Your child may need one or more of the following tests to find the cause of his symptoms:

  • Pulse oximeter: A pulse oximeter is a device that measures the amount of oxygen in your child’s blood. A cord with a clip or sticky strip is placed on your child’s foot, toe, hand, finger, or earlobe. The other end of the cord is hooked to a machine. Never turn the pulse oximeter or alarm off. An alarm will sound if your child’s oxygen level is low or cannot be read.
  • Spirometry: A spirometer measures how well your older child can breathe. He will take a deep breath and then push the air out as fast as he can. This test measures how much air your child is able to push out. This is called forced expiratory volume (FEV). The test results show caregivers how small your child’s airways have become.
  • Mucus samples: Fluid from your child’s nose or throat may be collected and tested. The results may tell caregivers what is causing your child’s symptoms.
  • Blood tests: Your child may need blood tests to give caregivers information about how his body is working. The blood may be taken from your child’s arm, hand, finger, foot, heel, or IV.
  • Chest x-ray: This is a picture of your child’s lungs and heart. A chest x-ray may be used to check your child’s heart, lungs, and chest wall. It can help caregivers diagnose your child’s symptoms, or suggest or monitor treatment for medical conditions.

How is reactive airways disease treated?

Caregivers may treat your child’s symptoms with medicines. They may follow up with him as he gets older to see if his symptoms go away. Your child may need to use medicines every day or only when needed. He may need one or more of the following treatments:

  • Short-acting bronchodilators: Short-acting bronchodilators may be given to your child to help open his airways. These medicines start to work right away and are used to relieve sudden, severe symptoms, such as trouble breathing. These medicines may be called relievers or rescue inhalers.
  • Long-acting bronchodilators: Long-acting bronchodilators may be called controllers. This medicine helps open the airways over time, and is used to decrease and prevent breathing problems. Long-acting bronchodilators should not be used to treat your child for sudden, severe symptoms, such as trouble breathing.
  • Corticosteroids: These medicines help decrease swelling and open your child’s air passages so he can breathe easier. Your child may breathe the medicine in or swallow it as a pill. He may need higher doses of corticosteroids if he has bad asthma attacks. Give this medicine as ordered by your child’s caregiver. Do not stop giving your child this medicine without his caregiver’s okay.
  • Breathing treatments: Breathing treatments open your child’s airways so he can breathe more easily. Your child may need to use a nebulizer or an inhaler to help him breathe in the medicine. Ask caregivers for more information about these devices, and to show you and your child how to use them.
  • Oxygen: Your child may need oxygen to help him breathe easier. He may need a nasal cannula (small tubes placed in the nose) or mask. Your child may not like to use the mask, so caregivers may have you place it next to your child’s face. Do not take off your child’s oxygen without asking his caregiver first.

What can I do to help prevent my child from reactive airways disease?

  • Do not let anyone smoke around your child: Cigarette smoke can harm your child’s lungs and cause breathing problems. Do not let anyone smoke inside your home. If you smoke, you should quit. You will improve your health and the health of those around you when you quit smoking. Ask your caregiver for more information about how to stop smoking if you are having trouble quitting.
  • Keep all follow-up visits: Tell caregivers about your child’s symptoms. For example, tell them how often and how badly your child is wheezing or coughing. Make sure your child gets all of the vaccines suggested by his caregiver.
  • Avoid triggers: A trigger is anything that starts your child’s symptoms or makes them worse. If you know that your child is allergic to a certain food, do not let him have it. The allergy can cause his airways to close. This can be life-threatening. Avoid areas where there is pollution, perfume, or dust. Remove pets from your home.
  • Breastfeed your infant: Breast milk helps protect him from allergies that can trigger wheezing and other problems.
  • Help your child get enough exercise and eat healthy foods: Follow caregivers’ orders for how to manage your child’s cough or shortness of breath while he is active. If his symptoms get worse with exercise, he may need to take medicine through an inhaler 10 to 15 minutes before exercise. Give your child healthy foods. Ask your child’s caregiver what your child should weigh. If he weighs more than his caregiver says he should, his symptoms may get worse.
  • Avoid spreading illness: Keep your child away from others if he has a fever or other symptoms. Do not send him to school or daycare until his fever is gone and he is feeling better. Keep your child away from large groups of people or others who are sick. This decreases his chance of getting sick.
  • Make changes to your home: Your child’s signs and symptoms may get worse when he is around dust mites, cockroaches, or mold. You can help keep your home free from these triggers. Keep the humidity (moisture level in the air) low. Fix leaks, and remove carpets where possible. Use mattress covers, and wash bedding every 1 to 2 weeks in hot water. Wash tables and other surfaces with weak bleach (1 tablespoon of bleach in a gallon of water).
  • Ask caregivers to create an asthma action plan: An asthma action plan may help you and your child manage his RAD symptoms at home. The plan will include signs to watch for that mean your child’s symptoms are getting worse. The plan will state what to do if this occurs, and list emergency phone numbers. Your child’s triggers will be on the plan so that you both know what to avoid. The plan will list any medicines your child takes. It will also state when your child should see his caregiver for a follow-up visit.

What are the risks of reactive airways disease or its symptoms?

Infants and young children who have RAD are at a greater risk of bronchial hyperreactivity as they get older. This is when the airways quickly overreact to triggers by narrowing or closing. If your child has severe symptoms of RAD, he is at a higher risk of ongoing wheezing and asthma. His risk of lung problems as an adult is also greater. If your child has asthma, he may need to use medicine often or all of the time. The medicine may have side effects. It may make your child shaky, hoarse, or nervous. He may also have a headache, upset stomach, or sore throat. His lungs also may not grow as they should. Infants or children may stop breathing if their symptoms get worse. Talk to your child’s caregiver about these risks.

When should I call my child’s caregiver?

Call your child’s caregiver if:

  • Your child is shaky, nervous, or has a headache.
  • Your child is hoarse, or has a sore throat or upset stomach.
  • Your infant often throws up when he coughs.

When should I seek immediate help?

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • Your child’s wheezing or cough is getting worse.
  • Your child has trouble breathing, or his lips or fingernails are blue.
  • Your older child cannot talk in full sentences because he is trying to breathe.
  • Your child looks restless and is breathing fast.
  • Your child’s nostrils flare out as he tries to breathe. His stomach muscles or the skin over his ribs may move in deeply while he tries to breathe.
  • Your child goes from being restless to being confused or sleepy.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your child’s care. Learn about your child’s health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child’s caregivers to decide what care you want for your child. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you

What causes lung cancer?

Lung-Cancer-1WebMD.com Smoking,

The incidence of lung cancer is strongly correlated with cigarette smoking, with about 90% of lung cancers arising as a result of tobacco use. The risk of lung cancer increases with the number of cigarettes
smoked over time; doctors refer to this risk in terms of pack-years of smoking history (the number of packs of cigarettes smoked per day multiplied by the number of years smoked). For example, a person
who has smoked two packs of cigarettes per day for 10 years has a 20 pack-year smoking history. While the risk of lung cancer is increased with even a 10 pack-year smoking history, those with 30 pack-year histories or more are considered to have the greatest risk for the development of lung cancer. Among those who smoke two or more packs of cigarettes per day, one in seven will die of lung cancer. But even though the risk is higher the more you smoke, there is no safe level of exposure to tobacco smoke.

Pipe and cigar smoking can also cause lung cancer, although the risk is not as high as with cigarettes. While someone who smokes one pack of cigarettes per day has a risk for the development of lung cancer that is 25 times higher than a nonsmoker, pipe and cigar smokers have a risk of lung cancer that is about five times that of a nonsmoker.

Tobacco smoke contains over 4,000 chemical compounds, many of which have been shown to be cancer-causing, or carcinogenic. The two primary carcinogens in tobacco smoke are chemicals known as nitrosamines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. The risk of developing lung cancer decreases each year following smoking cessation as normal cells grow and replace damaged cells in the lung. In former
smokers, the risk of developing lung cancer begins to approach that of a nonsmoker about 15 years after cessation of smoking. For more, please read the Smoking and Quitting Smoking article.

Passive smoking
Passive smoking, or the inhalation of tobacco smoke from other smokers sharing living or working quarters, is also an established risk factor for the development of lung cancer. Research has shown that non-smokers who reside with a smoker have a 24% increase in risk for developing lung cancer when compared with other non-smokers. An estimated 3,000 lung cancer deaths occur each year in the U.S. that are attributable to passive smoking.

Asbestos fibers
Asbestos fibers are silicate fibers that can persist for a lifetime in lung tissue following exposure to asbestos. The workplace is a common source of exposure to asbestos fibers, as asbestos was widely used in
the past for both thermal and acoustic insulation materials. Today, asbestos use is limited or banned in many countries including the Unites States. Both lung cancer and mesothelioma (a type of cancer of the
pleura or of the lining of the abdominal cavity called the peritoneum) are associated with exposure to asbestos. Cigarette smoking drastically increases the chance of developing an asbestos-related lung cancer in exposed workers. Asbestos workers who do not smoke have a five fold greater risk of developing lung cancer than non-smokers, and those asbestos workers who smoke have a risk that is 50 to 90 times greater than non-smokers.

Heart attack

MedlinePlus.com,

A heart attack occurs when blood flow to a part of your heart is blocked for a long enough time that part of the heart muscle is damaged or dies. The medical term for this is myocardial infarction.

CausesMost heart attacks are caused by a blood clot that blocks one of the coronary arteries. The coronary arteries bring blood and oxygen to the heart. If the blood flow is blocked, the heart is starved of oxygen and heart cells die.

A hard substance called plaque can build up in the walls of your coronary arteries. This plaque is made up of cholesterol and other cells.

A heart attack may occur when:

  • Blood platelets stick to tears in the plaque and form a blood clot that blocks blood from flowing to the heart. This is the most common cause of heart attacks.
  • A slow buildup of this plaque may almost block one of your coronary arteries. The cause of heart attacks is not always known. Heart attacks may occur:
  • When you are resting or asleep
  • After a sudden increase in physical activity
  • When you are active outside in cold weather
  • After sudden, severe emotional or physical stress, including an illness Many risk factors may lead to a heart attack. SymptomsA heart attack is a medical emergency. If you have symptoms of a heart attack, call 911 or your local emergency number quickly.
  • DO NOT try to drive yourself to the hospital.
  • DO NOT WAIT. You are at greatest risk of sudden death in the early hours of a heart attack.

Chest pain is the most common symptom of a heart attack. You may feel the pain in only one part of your body, or it may move from your chest to your arms, shoulder, neck, teeth, jaw, belly area, or back.

The pain can be severe or mild. It can feel like:

  • A tight band around the chest
  • Bad indigestion
  • Something heavy sitting on your chest
  • Squeezing or heavy pressure The pain usually lasts longer than 20 minutes. Rest and a medicine called nitroglycerin may not completely relieve the pain of a heart attack. Symptoms may also go away and come back.

Other symptoms of a heart attact can include:

  • Anxiety
  • Cough
  • Fainting
  • Light-headedness, dizziness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Palpitations (feeling like your heart is beating too fast or irregularly)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sweating, which may be very heavy

Some people (the elderly, people with diabetes, and women) may have little or no chest pain. Or, they may have unusual symptoms (shortness of breath, fatigue, and weakness). A “silent heart attack” is a heart attack with no symptoms.

Exams and TestsA doctor or nurse will perform a physical exam and listen to your chest using a stethoscope.

  • The doctor may hear abnormal sounds in your lungs (called crackles), a heart murmur, or other abnormal sounds.
  • You may have a fast or uneven pulse.
  • Your blood pressure may be normal, high, or low.

You will have an electrocardiogram (ECG) to look for heart damage. A troponin blood test can show if you have heart tissue damage. This test can confirm that you are having a heart attack.

Coronary angiography may be done right away or when you are more stable.

  • This test uses a special dye and xrays to see how blood flows through your heart.
  • It can help your doctor decide which treatments you need next.

Other tests to look at your heart that may be done while you are in the hospital:

  • Echocardiography
  • Exercise stress test
  • Nuclear stress test

TreatmentIn the emergency room:

  • You will be hooked up to a heart monitor, so the health care team can look at how your heart is beating.
  • You will receive oxygen so that your heart doesn’t have to work as hard.
  • An intravenous line (IV) will be placed into one of your veins. Medicines and fluids pass through this IV.

Charlie Crist: Racism drove me from GOP

 

Crist said he is 'liberated as a Democrat.' | AP Photo Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2014/05/charlie-crist-racism-drove-me-from-gop-106442.html#ixzz3AgTIJQCf

Crist said he is ‘liberated as a Democrat.’ | AP Photo

By LUCY MCCALMONT ,

Charlie Crist says in a new TV interview that he left the GOP because of racism in the party toward President Barack Obama, stressing a point the former Florida governor has made before.

“I couldn’t be consistent with myself and my core beliefs, and stay with a party that was so unfriendly toward the African-American president, I’ll just go there,” Crist said Tuesday on Fusion’s “America with Jorge Ramos.” “I was a Republican, and I saw the activists and what they were doing; it was intolerable to me.”

Crist, who is currently running for governor as a Democrat, dismissed claims that he left the GOP to become an independent in 2010 because he would have lost to Sen. Marco Rubio if he ran against Rubio in the Republican primary.

Crist, who said he is “liberated as a Democrat,” insisted he broke with the GOP because the party’s leadership “went off the cliff.”

“They’re perceived now as being anti-women, anti-immigrant, anti-minority, anti-gay, anti-education, anti-environment,” Crist said of the Republican Party.

Crist made similar comments in his memoir, released earlier this year, questioning whether some of the tea party’s opposition to the president was racially driven.

“Sometimes,” Crist wrote, as quoted by Slate, “the public’s feelings seemed partly racial. Sometimes, I’m sure they were not. But Barack Obama was the first African American in the White House. Florida had helped to put him there. And it was impossible to imagine an equal measure of virulence for any politician whose skin was white.”

Supreme Court OKs Christian Prayer at Government Meetings

Today, the Supreme Court made a decision in the Town of Greece v. Galloway case—a decision that is a blow to the separation of church and state (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)

Today, the Supreme Court made a decision in the Town of Greece v. Galloway case—a decision that is a blow to the separation of church and state (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)

By Michelle Goldberg,

If you live in a conservative town and want to participate in local government, be prepared to sit through prayers to Jesus Christ. That’s the upshot of today’s 5-4 Supreme Court decision inTown of Greece v. Galloway, a serious blow to church-state separation and to the ability of religious minorities to comfortably participate in public life.

Many of the headlines about today’s decision say something like, “Supreme Court upholds prayer at government meetings,” but that’s not quite accurate, because prayer at public meetings was already permitted. Before today, though, it had to be non-denominational rather than sectarian. That, however, wasn’t good enough for the pious leaders of Greece, New York, a town on the outskirts of Rochester with nearly 100,000 residents. There, town meetings opened with prayers that were unabashedly Christian. As the Supreme Court wrote in the summary of the case that preceded its ruling, “While the prayer program is open to all creeds, nearly all of the local congregations are Christian; thus, nearly all of the participating prayer givers have been too.” According to Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which brought the case on behalf of two Greece residents—one Jewish, one atheist—about two-thirds of the prayers contained references to “Jesus,” “Jesus Christ,” “Your Son,” or the “Holy Spirit.” One guest minister even disparaged residents who objected to Christian prayer as a “minority” who are “ignorant of the history of our country.”

In 2012, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously that “the town’s prayer practice must be viewed as an endorsement of a particular religious viewpoint” and was thus unconstitutional. In overturning this ruling, Justice Anthony Kennedy has written an opinion that is strikingly dismissive of those who’d like to attend government functions without hearing paeans to Jesus. “[T]he record here does not suggest that citizens are dissuaded from leaving the meeting room during the prayer, arriving late, or making a later protest,” he wrote. This is a strikingly low bar for government-sponsored religion—apparently it’s fine as long as non-believers aren’t forcibly subjected to it.

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Not surprisingly, none of the Court’s three Jewish members bought this logic. “In arranging for clergy members to open each meeting, the Town never sought (except briefly when this suit was filed) to involve, accommodate, or in any way reach out to adherents of non-Christian religions,” wrote Elena Kagan in her dissent. “So month in and month out for over a decade, prayers steeped in only one faith, addressed toward members of the public, commenced meetings to discuss local affairs and distribute government benefits.” Thanks to today’s decision, this will now be the norm in many towns besides Greece.

Are White Republicans More Racist Than White Democrats?

The comments made by Cliven Bundy and Donald Sterling this month demonstrate that the U.S. is far from a colorblind society. And the reaction to their comments has drawn further attention to the fraught relationship between racism and partisan politics. When racist statements by high-profile figures are made public, some news commentators become preoccupied withtrying to discern the speaker’s political affiliation.

We were curious about the long-term trends in racial attitudes as expressed by Americans in polls. Are Republicans more likely to give arguably racist responses in surveys than Democrats? Have the patterns changed since President Obama took office in 2009?

Like The New York Times’ Amanda Cox, we looked at a variety of questions on racial attitudes in the General Social Survey, which has been conducted periodically since 1972. The difference is that we looked at the numbers for white Democrats and white Republicans specifically, based on the way Americans identified themselves in the survey.1 Our focus was only on racial attitudes as expressed by white Americans toward black Americans (of course, racism can also exist between and among other racial groups).

Two warnings about this data. First, survey responses are an imperfect means of evaluating racism. Social desirability bias may discourage Americans from expressing their true feelings. Furthermore, the sample of Democrats and Republicans in the survey is not constant from year to year. If the partisan gap in racial attitudes toward blacks has widened slightly in the past few years, it may be because white racists have become more likely to identify themselves as Republican, and not because those Americans who already identified themselves as Republican have become any more racist.

We looked at eight questions from the General Social Survey. First, how many white Americans say they wouldn’t consider voting for a black presidential candidate? In the 2010 edition of the survey, the most recent version to ask this question, 6 percent of white Republicans and 3 percent of white Demorcats said they would not. However, it’s possible that these responses have something to do with Obama himself. In 2008, when Obama was a candidate rather than a president, the numbers were about equal among Republicans and Democrats. And at earlier times, white Democrats were more likely than white Republicans to say they wouldn’t vote for a black president. In 1988, for instance, when Jesse Jackson was running for the Democratic nomination, 23 percent of white Democrats said they wouldn’t vote for a black president, compared to 19 percent of white Republicans.2

silver-racial-index-8

We can also look at whites’ willingness to express negative feelings about blacks. From 1990 to 2008, white Republicans were just slightly more likely than white Democrats to say they considered blacks to be more “unintelligent” than “intelligent.” However, the numbers have fallen over time, and the small partisan gap erased itself in the past two surveys, 2010 and 2012, under Obama’s presidency.

silver-racial-index-4

Another question asked respondents whether they regard blacks as more “lazy” or “hard-working.” White Republicans are slightly more likely than white Democrats to characterize blacks as “lazy,” and the numbers haven’t changed much over time.

silver-racial-index-3

A related question asked respondents whether they think blacks lack the motivation to pull themselves out of poverty. The numbers on this one are high: In the 2012 survey, 57 percent of white Republicans and 41 percent of white Democrats agreed with the statement. This is also one question where the partisan gap has increased since Obama took office.

silver-racial-index-6

What about more personal attitudes toward interactions with African-Americans? A longstanding question on the survey has asked whites whether they’d object to a close relative marrying a black person. The percentage of white people saying so has fallen drastically over time, to 20 percent of white Democrats and 27 percent of white Republicans as of 2012. In 1990, by contrast, 65 percent of white Democrats and 71 percent of white Republicans said they’d object to an interracial marriage of a close relative.

silver-racial-index-1

Another question asked respondents whether they’d object to living in a half-black neighborhood. As with the marriage question, the number of white Americans saying they would object has fallen quite a bit since the 1990s. There generally hasn’t been much of a partisan gap on this question.

silver-racial-index-5

Since 1996, the survey has also asked respondents whether they feel “close” to blacks. Closeness is obviously a subjective quality, and failing to feel close to those in another racial group doesn’t necessarily imply racism. However, a survey question like this one may also be able to pick up on implicit racial attitudes that respondents would feel less comfortable asserting in questions about things like interracial marriage.

This question, in contrast to many of the others, has shown little change over time. It has also shown little partisan gap, although the number of white Republicans saying they don’t feel close to blacks has increased some since Obama took office.

silver-racial-index-2

A final question asked Americans whether they think society spends too much money trying to improve the conditions of blacks. This is the most overtly political of the questions that we’ll study. It also shows the largest partisan gap of any of the questions, and one that has increased since Obama took office.

In 2012, 32 percent of white Republicans said they thought society was spending too much money trying to improve blacks’ conditions, compared to just 9 percent of white Democrats. However, it’s important to note that some of the partisan gap may reflect attitudes toward government spending, rather than toward African-Americans specifically. For example, in 2012, 16 percent of white Republicans, but just 1 percent of white Democrats, said they thought the U.S. was spending too much money on trying to improve the education system.

silver-racial-index-7

Obviously, measuring racism is challenging — through surveys or by other means. If you take the question about voting for a black president as the best indicator of racism, then only about 5 percent of white Americans admit to racism toward blacks. If you regard the question about whether blacks lack motivation as indicative of racial antipathy, then about half of them do.

We combined the responses from the eight questions into one index of negative racial attitudes. We accomplished this by averaging the number of white Americans who provided the arguably racist response to each survey item, extrapolating the value for years in which the General Social Survey didn’t ask a particular question based on the long-term trend in responses to it.

silver-index-racial-9

As of 2012, this index stood at 27 percent for white Republicans and 19 percent for white Democrats. So there’s a partisan gap, although not as large of one as some political commentators might assert. There are white racists in both parties. By most questions, they represent a minority of white voters in both parties. They probably represent a slightly larger minority of white Republicans than white Democrats.

Fortunately, the expression of racism by whites toward blacks has decreased over time, and for Americans in both parties — at least, according to this survey. In 1990, the index of negative racial attitudes stood at 40 percent for white Democrats and 41 percent for white Republicans.

There hasn’t been much of an overall increase or decrease in the index since Obama took office. On average, between the 2004 and 2006 editions of the surveys — the last two before Obama was either a president or a candidate — the index of negative racial attitudes stood at 22 percent for white Democrats and 26 percent for white Republicans. Those values are within the margin of error for those in the 2010 and 2012 surveys.

If there’s a discouraging trend, it’s not so much that negative racial attitudes toward blacks have increased in these polls, but that they’ve failed to decrease under Obama, as they did so clearly for most of the past three decades.

The GED Is Getting Tougher for Students Who Need it Most

The GED, a crucial test for people who did not finish high school, is falling further out of reach from those who need it most. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

The GED, a crucial test for people who did not finish high school, is falling further out of reach from those who need it most. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

By Michelle Chen,

From the relentless standardized tests heaped on fourth graders to the terror of the SATs for college-bound high schoolers, high-stakes testing is on everyone’s mind these days. But the highest stakes might be faced, ironically, by the people whom society is quick to write-off as “drop outs.” The GED, the credential that has helped generations of Americans get a second chance at school, is moving further out of this generation’s reach.

For roughly 700,000 people each year, the GED exam is a key “alternative” pathway to a high school-equivalency credential. Evaluating knowledge in writing, reading, social studies, science and math, the score can be a gateway to a professional job or college degree, and can be used to qualify for financial aid. But now a reformed GED is threatening to narrow that gate: the new format will be more rigorous, costlier and completely computerized—daunting rigors for people who are living below poverty or aren’t tech-savvy. It all adds up to a harder test for people already challenged in many aspects of life: the testers are on average in their mid-twenties, half of them people of color, typically disconnected from the formal education system and facing deep economic burdens and maybe juggling work, family and night classes on the side. And they now face a $120 fee, which the testing company Pearson apparently thinks is a fair price for a shot at a certificate.

All this rebranding of the GED poses a bigger question for society: what is the test good for? The GED carries a stigma of mediocrity and may put people at a disadvantage when competing for jobs against full-fledged high school graduates. And even with a certificate, the testers have to contend with rising tuition costs and overcrowded community college campuses. Facing a 30 percent nationwide “fail” rate, they can ill-afford any more discouragement. Education access advocates fear there has been inadequate funding or program support from state or federal authorities to help with the transition, and adult education programs remain deeply underresourced.

In New Jersey, many students are simply left in the lurch. At Hopeworks ‘N Camden, a youth development and job training organization, the test transition has become a frustrating bottleneck for many students in the GED program who are eager to start college. There is no nearby testing center that offers the new GED or any alternative high school equivalency exam (though more than 10 states including New Jersey are adopting an alternative exam run by ETS, a commercial test-industry rival).

Some students who had gotten partial credit by taking portions of the paper version now must take the entire exam over again. Some students cannot enroll in college because—even though the exam itself is not a prerequisite for community college—the lack of a test grade is currentlyholding up their application for federal Pell grants, so they now face delays in obtaining essential financial aid.

Hopeworks Executive Director Father Jeff Putthoff says the chaos of the transition means that “people who were poor, who had dropped out of school, who had prepared themselves, and now could actually [qualify to enter community college], now would not qualify for financial aid. … If the GED is not available to people, it impedes their ability now to actually move forward” with their long-delayed education plans.

Kavitha Cardoza of the Economic Hardship Reporting Project has noted that while details on the content are unclear, the new GED will feature “more emphasis on critical thinking, more questions on science, and more writing,” and more detailed scoring. But fundamentally, the revamped test is about turning those scores into corporate revenue.

Historically affiliated with the American Council on Education, GED Testing Service recentlybecame a for-profit entity aimed at measuring “readiness for jobs and career and college training.” Mirroring mainstream K-12 reform rhetoric, which highlights corporate management tactics and rigid standardized testing, CEO Randy Trask has boasted that while the GED has been criticized for being outmoded and reaching just a small percentage of non-high-school graduates, the overhauled computerized version will help to “ensur[e] that adults can demonstrate the basic technology skills required for 21st century jobs.”

But are the reforms raising standards meaningfully for students, or simply filtering more people out? After all, Pearson is a household name in school corporatization, aligned neatly with neoliberal education reform programs that push not only robotic standardized tests, but also quasi-private charter schools and controversial “common core” standards to make curricula more uniform and rigid. If the new GED follows the same reform path, then we may see a test that was originally designed to broaden educational access actually become more mechanized and narrow.

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In New Mexico, students have panicked over the high fees and unfamiliar computerized format,according to SF Reporter. And state law mandates that the privatized GED be the official high school equivalency exam of the state, which prevents programs from transitioning to cheaper alternative exams. New Mexico former Lieut. Gov. Diane Denish described the overhaul as “just an attempt to privatize another part of education in the state,” while failing to address core barriers to education.

Richard Murnane, an economist at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, tells The Nationthat if modernizing the GED makes it harder to take and pass, “it means fewer people will get the credential. Will they be served better? We don’t know the answer to that. Nor do we know whether we have made life worse for the people who previously would have gotten the GED and now are not able to.” But he adds that without further support in their education, “Just changing the exam is not a very powerful tool to help alter life chances for these young adults…. You really need to think about what kind of programming makes sense.”

An alternative education that makes sense would go beyond test prep. New research suggests that adult learners seeking true “career-readiness” need front-end educational investment, such as comprehensive apprenticeship programs that connect them to employers, or courses that track them into community colleges. This is a model that some public university systems are already experimenting with. But severe funding gaps plague the entire public higher education system. And yet we hear far more about reforms to assessing and scoring people for certificates, not enriching their lives or educational institutions. That takes us back to a basic lesson: the only true “equivalent” of an education is, well, an education.

All the ideological debate in Washington about the “economic value” of a college degree seems troublingly academic for people shut out of opportunity for even a minimum high-school credential. They’re stuck between a school system fraught with economic and social barriers, and an alternative route to a diploma closing off. Those folks are ready to move forward. It’s our education system that’s stuck in neutral.

Medicaid Expansion May Lower Death Rates, Study Says

Clinics like this one in San Juan, Tex., see a large number of patients who rely on Medicaid.

Clinics like this one in San Juan, Tex., see a large number of patients who rely on Medicaid.

By PAM BELLUCK,

Into the maelstrom of debate over whether Medicaid should cover more people comes a new study by Harvard researchers who found that when states expanded their Medicaid programs and gave more poor people health insurance, fewer people died.

The study, published online Wednesday in The New England Journal of Medicine, comes as states are deciding whether to expand Medicaid by 2014 under the Affordable Care Act, the Obama administration’s health care law. The Supreme Court ruling on the law last month effectively gave states the option of accepting or rejecting an expansion of Medicaid that had been expected to add 17 million people to the program’s rolls.

Medicaid expansions are controversial, not just because they cost states money, but also because some critics, primarily conservatives, contend the program does not improve the health of recipients and may even be associated with worse health. Attempts to research that issue have encountered the vexing problem of how to compare people who sign up for Medicaid with those who are eligible but remain uninsured. People who choose to enroll may be sicker, or they may be healthier and simply be more motivated to see doctors.

The New England Journal study reflects a recent effort by researchers to get around that problem and allow policy makers to make “evidence-based decisions,” said Katherine Baicker, an investigator on the study who served on former President George W. Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers.

“I think it’s a very significant study in part because of the paucity of studies that have really looked at health outcomes of insurance coverage,” said Karen Davis, the president of the Commonwealth Fund, a nonpartisan research foundation. “Actual mortality studies are few and far between. This is a well-done study: timely, adds to the evidence base, and certainly should raise concern about the failure to expand Medicaid coverage to people most at risk of not getting the care that they need.”

The study, conducted by researchers from Harvard’s School of Public Health, analyzed data from three states that had expanded their programs in the last decade to cover a population not normally eligible for Medicaid: low-income adults without children or disabilities. The new law also expands coverage to a similar population nationally.

Researchers looked at mortality rates in those states — New York, Maine and Arizona — five years before and after the Medicaid expansions, and compared them with those in four neighboring states — Pennsylvania, Nevada, New Mexico and New Hampshire — that did not put such expansions in place.

The number of deaths for people age 20 to 64 — adults too young to be considered elderly by the researchers — decreased in the three states with expanded coverage by about 1,500 combined per year, after adjusting for population growth in those states, said Dr. Benjamin D. Sommers, a physician and an assistant professor of health policy and economics who was an author of the study.

In the five years before the expansion, there were about 46,400 deaths per year, while in the five years after the expansion, there were about 44,900 deaths per year. During the same period, death rates in the four comparison states increased, said Dr. Sommers, who began a yearlong stint as an adviser to the federal Department of Health and Human Services after research for the study was completed, but before its publication.

When researchers adjusted the data for economic factors like income and unemployment rates and population characteristics like age, sex and race, and then compared those numbers with neighboring states, they estimated that the Medicaid expansions were associated with a decline of 6.1 percent in deaths, or about 2,840 per year for every 500,000 adults added.

While the data included all deaths, not just deaths of Medicaid recipients, the decline in mortality was greatest among nonwhites and people living in poorer counties, groups most affected by expanded Medicaid coverage.

“I can’t tell you for sure that this is a cause-and-effect relationship,” that the Medicaid expansion caused fewer non-elderly adults to die, Dr. Sommers said. “I can tell you we did everything we could to rule out alternative explanations.”

Several experts with varying views on the Affordable Care Act said the study, which was completed long before the Supreme Court hearings on the law, was conducted by highly qualified researchers who carefully analyzed the available data. Still, they and the study’s authors pointed to limitations in the data, noting that the mortality figures represent county-level statistics, not individual deaths.

“They are trying really hard with the data that they have available, but at the end of the day it doesn’t really compensate for the fact that you don’t have the data you want, which is individual mortality rates and what happens to people with change in coverage over time,” said Gail Wilensky, a health economist who headed Medicare and Medicaid during the administration of the elder President George Bush. In addition, when the researchers looked individually at each of the three states, the only state with a statistically significant decline was in the largest state, New York, and she questioned whether every state would have the same experience.

Douglas Holtz-Eakin, president of the American Action Forum, a Republican-oriented group, said the study was “well done” and “brings more evidence in about the benefit side” of Medicaid, but he wondered if the results could be generalized. The three states studied voluntarily expanded their Medicaid programs, presumably confident they could pay for the expansion, and had enough doctors accepting Medicaid to treat additional beneficiaries. Other states may be less able to afford it, he said, and it is possible that “having a piece of paper that says you’re on Medicaid doesn’t do any good because they can’t see anybody.”

Nonetheless, experts said, the results support those of another Medicaid study being conducted by some of the same researchers in Oregon. Oregon expanded its Medicaid program in 2008, but, without money to cover everyone at first, chose 10,000 people by lottery. Dr. Baicker and her colleagues, comparing those who got Medicaid with those who did not, have so far found that Medicaid recipients see doctors more often, and report better health and better financial stability.

The New England Journal study, published online several weeks before the print edition because of its relevance to the current debate, also found that people added to Medicaid in the three states reported better health and were less likely to delay getting care.

While the data did not describe specific causes of death, researchers found declines in two broad categories of deaths — those caused by disease and those caused by accidents, injuries and drug abuse, possibly suggesting that even accident victims may get or seek more extensive care if they are insured.

“So often you hear, ‘Oh well, poor people just shoot each other, and that’s why they have higher mortality rates,’ ” said Diane Rowland, executive vice president of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit group. “In the midst of many claims about what Medicaid does and doesn’t do, it actually shows that it cannot only be beneficial for health, but in preventing some of the premature deaths of the uninsured.”

Janet M. Currie, director of the Center for Health and Well-Being at Princeton, said the new study, combined with the Oregon research, should help transform the Medicaid debate into one about dollars, rather than over whether covering poor people improves health.

“This says, well there is benefit to giving people insurance,” Dr. Currie said. “Maybe you don’t want to pay the cost, but you can’t say there’s no benefit.”

Benghazi Investigation Is Shameful Political Theater

> on September 17, 2010 in Washington, DC.By Elizabeth Warren,

Earlier this week, Speaker John Boehner announced the formation of a new select committee to investigate Benghazi led by Rep. Trey Gowdy.

All three of my brothers served in the military, and I know firsthand how much Americans serving abroad — and their families — sacrifice. What happened in Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012 was a tragedy. Four Americans died putting themselves in harm’s way in service to peace, diplomacy, and their country. I look at what happened in Benghazi with sadness, with seriousness, and as yet another call to honor the men and women who keep us safe.

So let me be blunt: that kind of seriousness is sorely missing from the no holds-barred political theater of the House Republicans.

I know a little bit about the way Trey Gowdy pursues oversight. I was on the other end of it when I was setting up the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and I was called to testify before the House. As the Huffington Post reported at the time, Gowdy’s interrogation of me “seemed to lack the basic facts” about the agency he was attempting to oversee. I’d like you to read their reporting on one of these exchanges just so you know what this Benghazi “investigation” is likely to look like:

Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) grilled Warren on whether the bureau would make public the complaints it gets. She answered that the complaint issue was a work in progress, but that at the very least, there was progress in creating a system for large credit card companies.

“Are any of the complaints public?” Gowdy demanded.

“Congressman, we don’t have any complaints yet,” Warren said of the still-nascent agency. “What we’re trying to do is build the system.”

Gowdy also seemed to think that Warren had written the Dodd-Frank law, and he was determined to know what Warren meant by defining “abusive” practices as something that “materially interferes” with the ability of a consumer to understand a term or a condition.

“That suggests to me that some interferences are immaterial. Is that what you meant by that?” he asked a momentarily perplexed-looking Warren.

“Congressman, I believe the language you are quoting is out of the Dodd-Frank act,” she said. “This is the language that Congress has adopted.”

Still, Gowdy insisted on her answer, although the definitions and regulations required by the law are still being written.

As a Senator, I take oversight seriously because it is powerfully important. But Trey Gowdy gives oversight a bad name. The House GOP is on a waste-of-time-and-resources witch hunt and fundraising sideshow, shamefully grasping for any straw to make President Obama, former Secretary Clinton, or Secretary Kerry look bad. This stunt does a disservice to those who serve our country abroad, and it distracts us from issues we should be taking up on behalf of the American people.

With millions of people still out of work and millions more working full time yet still living below the poverty line, with students drowning in debt, with roads and bridges crumbling, is this really what the House Republicans are choosing to spend their time on? Even for guys who have so few solutions to offer that they have voted 54 times to repeal Obamacare, this is a new low.

House Republicans are doing whatever they can to distract the American people from what’s really going on in Washington – a rigged system that works great for those who have armies of lobbyists and lawyers but that leaves everyone else behind. A system in which Republicans protect tax breaks for billionaires while they block increases in the minimum wage for millions of people who work full time and live in poverty. A system in which Republicans give away billions of dollars in subsidies to Big Oil while making billions in profits off of our kids’ student loans.

It’s wrong, and it’s shameful.

AJC poll finds tight races for governor, Senate

Former President Jimmy Carter and Jason Carter

Former President Jimmy Carter and Jason Carter

By Greg Bluestein and Daniel Malloy – The Atlanta Journal-Constitution,

Democrats have a serious chance to end Republicans’ statewide dominance and win U.S. Senate and governor’s races this year, an Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll suggests.

But the general election contest has yet to truly begin, and GOP candidates will soon sharpen their attacks against their rivals.

The statewide survey found that Gov. Nathan Deal is 3 percentage points ahead of Democrat Jason Carter in his bid for a second term, within the poll’s statistical margin of error. At the same time, Deal’s approval ratings have lodged at 44 percent, below the 50 percent threshold incumbents aim to reach.

Michelle Nunn, the likely Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate, has sizable leads against four of the five top GOP contenders for the seat of retiring U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss. She polls only 1 percentage point ahead of David Perdue, a Fortune 500 executive who is among the frontrunners for the GOP runoff in July.

The poll is good news for Democrats hoping the party can harness a rising number of minority voters and other newcomers in November rather than waiting for future election cycles, as national political observers envision Georgia as a swing state in the making. But there’s a long way to go.

Top Democrats are untested in statewide campaigns and have faced few attacks at this point. Deal’s campaign has so far ignored Carter in its feel-good ad campaign, and Republican Senate candidates are busy battering each other ahead of the May 20 primary. The independent voters who are likely to swing the race lean Republican, the poll shows.

The survey, conducted May 5-8 by Abt SRBI of New York, is the first time the AJC has polled since the Jan. 28 ice storm that gridlocked the region and a legislative session marked by unrest from teacher groups and a controversial expansion of gun rights.

It polled 1,012 registered voters and has a margin of error of 4 percent.

The poll found that health care and the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, provoke strong passions on both sides of the aisle. Most registered voters think the health care law requires major changes, and one-third believe it should be eliminated. Yet 53 percent also believe Obamacare has had no effect on them or their families.

Deal has opposed expanding the Medicaid health insurance program to more low-income Georgians under Obamacare because he declared it too expensive in the long run.

The stance only appealed to a fraction of GOP voters, but it helped galvanize Democrats; almost two-thirds say they’re less likely to vote for him because of his refusal. It also resonated with independents; some 42 percent said they were less likely to back him in November.

 

Use of Food Stamps Rises in Sumter County

NathanDealBy Emily Guerin and Tim Marema,

The use of food stamps in the County increased during the recession, assisting families in stretching their food dollars, contributing to local spending and helping spark a national debate about the future of the federal nutrition program.

The proportion of Cibola County residents receiving food stamps hit 29.2 percent in 2011, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Services. That’s an increase of 11.4 percentage points since 2007, the year the recession started.

Across New Mexico, 20.9 percent of residents in 2011 received support from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), as the food stamp program is officially known. Nationally, 14.8 percent of the population receives SNAP benefits.

Places like Cibola County, which are located outside metropolitan areas, tend to have a higher percentage of the population receiving SNAP benefits. That’s because incomes are generally lower in nonmetropolitan counties.

The inflation-adjusted median household income in Cibola County in 2011 was $34,536, compared to the New Mexico median of $43,600. Nationally, median household income was $52,306 in 2011.

In 2011, residents of Cibola County received a combined $10,069,205 in SNAP benefits. The USDA reports that each $5 in SNAP benefits generates $9.20 in spending.

SNAP benefits start to circulate in the economy quickly. Participants spend nearly all their food stamps within one month of receipt, according to a study by the University of New Hampshire Carsey Institute.

Grocers say they feel the effects of SNAP and other USDA nutrition programs like Women, Infants and Children (WIC).

“Without SNAP and WIC, we wouldn’t be able to make it,” wrote the owner of the Mill City Market in the small town of Mill City, Ore., in a survey of rural grocers conducted by the Oregon Food Bank and Kansas State University Rural Grocery Initiative.

Owners know they have to stock the shelves to prepare for more business when SNAP benefits hit the streets, said David Procter with the Rural Grocery Initiative

It’s not just the mom-and-pop stores that see a bump from food stamp spending in small towns and rural areas. Wal-Mart reported in a recent Securities and Exchange Commission filing that a decrease in SNAP benefits last year could affect the retail giant’s bottom line.

Average SNAP benefits nationally fell about $30 a month per family in November after a temporary increase that was part of the 2009 economic stimulus package. More funding decreases are on the way.

This summer, Congress agreed to trim about $8 billion from SNAP during the next decade. Backers of the cuts said the program had expanded too much in recent years and was creating too much reliance on government assistance. SNAP expenditures increased 135 percent between 2007 and 2011.

U.S. Rep. Eric Cantor (Va.-R) backed a measure that would have removed SNAP from the [federal] farm bill entirely.

“While [SNAP] is an important part of our safety net, our overriding goal should be to help our citizens with the education and skills they need to get back on their feet so that they can provide for themselves and their families,” Rep. Cantor said during congressional debate.

Food stamps have been part of the farm bill for the past 50 years. The legislation’s combination of farming and nutrition programs has helped ensure the bill receives broad backing from farm-country representatives and more urban-based members who support anti-poverty programs.

That alliance was tested but held with the passage of the 2014 farm bill.

Who Are the Koch Brothers and What Do They Want?

Sen. Bernie Sanders

Sen. Bernie Sanders

As a result of the disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision, billionaires and large corporations can now spend an unlimited amount of money to influence the political process. The results of that decision are clear. In the coming months and years the Koch brothers and other extraordinarily wealthy families will spend billions of dollars to elect right-wing candidates to the Senate, the House, governors’ mansions and the presidency of the United States. These billionaires already own much of our economy. That, apparently, is not enough. Now, they want to own the United States government as well.

Four years ago, the Supreme Court handed down the 5-4 ruling in Citizens United vs the Federal Election Commission. A few weeks ago, they announced another horrendous campaign finance decision in McCutcheon vs. FEC giving even more political power to the rich. Now, many Republicans want to push this Supreme Court to go even further. In the name of “free speech,” they want the Court to eliminate all restrictions on campaign spending — a position that Justice Thomas supported in McCutcheon — and a view supported by the Chairman of the Republican National Committee. Importantly, as a means of being able to exercise unprecedented power over the political process, this has been the position of the Koch brothers for at least the last 34 years.

The Koch brothers are the second wealthiest family in America, making most of their money in the fossil fuel industry. According to Forbes Magazine, they saw theirwealth increase last year from $68 billion to $80 billion. In other words, under the “anti-business”, “socialist” and “oppressive” Obama administration, their wealth went up by $12 billion in one year.

In their 2012 campaigns, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney each spent a little more than $1 billion. For the Koch brothers, spending more than Obama and Romney combined would be a drop in their bucket. They would hardly miss the few billion dollars.

Given the reality that the Koch brothers are now the most important and powerful players in American politics, it is important to know what they want and what their agenda is.

It is not widely known that David Koch was the Libertarian Party vice-presidential candidate in 1980. He believed that Ronald Reagan was much too liberal. Despite Mr. Koch putting a substantial sum of money into the campaign, his ticket only received 1 percent of the vote. Most Americans thought the Libertarian Party platform of 1980 was extremist and way out of touch with what the American people wanted and needed.

Fast-forward 34 years and the most significant reality of modern politics is how successful David Koch and like-minded billionaires have been in moving the Republican Party to the extreme right. Amazingly, much of what was considered “extremist” and “kooky” in 1980 has become part of today’s mainstream Republican thinking.

Let me give you just a few examples:

In 1980, Libertarian vice-presidential candidate David Koch ran on a platform that called for abolishing the minimum wage. Thirty-four years ago, that was an extreme view of a fringe party that had the support of 1 percent of the American people. Today, not only does virtually every Republican in Congress oppose raising the $7.25 an hour minimum wage, many of them, including Republican leaders like Mitch McConnell and John McCain, are on record for abolishing the concept of the federal minimum wage.

In 1980, the platform of David Koch’s Libertarian Party favored “the abolition of Medicare and Medicaid programs.” Thirty-four years ago, that was an extreme view of a fringe party that had the support of one percent of the American people. Today, the mainstream view of the Republican Party, as seen in the recently passed Ryan budget, is to end Medicare as we know it, cut Medicaid by more than $1.5 trillion over the next decade, and repeal the Affordable Care Act. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, “Under the Ryan plan, at least 40 million people — 1 in 8 Americans — would lose health insurance or fail to obtain insurance by 2024. Most of them would be people with low or moderate incomes.”

In 1980, the platform of David Koch’s Libertarian Party called for “the repeal of the fraudulent, virtually bankrupt, and increasingly oppressive Social Security system.” Thirty-four years ago, that was an extreme view of a fringe party that had the support of 1 percent of the American people. Today, the mainstream view of the Republican Party is that “entitlement reform” is absolutely necessary. For some, this means major cuts in Social Security. For others who believe Social Security isunconstitutional or a Ponzi scheme this means the privatization of Social Security orabolishing this program completely for those who are under 60 years of age.

In 1980, David Koch’s Libertarian Party platform stated “We oppose all personal and corporate income taxation, including capital gains taxes … We support the eventual repeal of all taxation … As an interim measure, all criminal and civil sanctions against tax evasion should be terminated immediately.” Thirty-four years ago, that was an extreme view of a fringe party that had the support of 1 percent of the American people. Today, 75 Republicans in the House have co-sponsored a bill that Paul Ryan has said “would eliminate taxes on wages, corporations, self-employment, capital gains, and gift and death taxes in favor of a personal-consumption tax.”

Here is what every American should be deeply concerned about. The Koch brothers, through the expenditure of billions of dollars and the creation and support of dozens of extreme right organizations, have taken fringe extremist ideas and made them mainstream within the Republican Party. And now with Citizens United (which is allowing them to pour unlimited sums of money into the political process) their power is greater than ever.

And let’s be very clear. Their goal is not only to defund Obamacare, cut Social Security, oppose an increase in the minimum wage or cut federal funding for education. Their world view and eventual goal is much greater than all of that. They want to repeal every major piece of legislation that has been signed into law over the past 80 years that has protected the middle class, the elderly, the children, the sick and the most vulnerable in this country. Every piece of legislation!

The truth is that the agenda of the Koch brothers is to move this country from a democratic society with a strong middle class to an oligarchic form of society in which the economic and political life of the nation are controlled by a handful of billionaire families.

Our great nation must not be hijacked by right-wing billionaires like the Koch brothers.

For the sake of our children and our grandchildren, we must fight back.

The Four Biggest Right-Wing Lies About Inequality

ROBERT REICH

ROBERT REICH

By Robert Reich, 

Even though French economist Thomas Piketty has made an air-tight case that we’re heading toward levels of inequality not seen since the days of the nineteenth-century robber barons, right-wing conservatives haven’t stopped lying about what’s happening and what to do about it.

Herewith, the four biggest right-wing lies about inequality, followed by the truth.

Lie number one: The rich and CEOs are America’s job creators. So we dare not tax them.

The truth is the middle class and poor are the job-creators through their purchases of goods and services. If they don’t have enough purchasing power because they’re not paid enough, companies won’t create more jobs and economy won’t grow.

We’ve endured the most anemic recovery on record because most Americans don’t have enough money to get the economy out of first gear. The economy is barely growing and real wages continue to drop.

We keep having false dawns. An average of 200,000 jobs were created in the United States over the last three months, but huge numbers of Americans continue to drop out of the labor force.

Lie number two: People are paid what they’re worth in the market. So we shouldn’t tamper with pay.

The facts contradict this. CEOs who got 30 times the pay of typical workers forty years ago now get 300 times their pay not because they’ve done such a great job but because they control their compensation committees and their stock options have ballooned.

Meanwhile, most American workers earn less today than they did forty years ago, adjusted for inflation, not because they’re working less hard now but because they don’t have strong unions bargaining for them.

More than a third of all workers in the private sector were unionized forty years ago; now, fewer than 7 percent belong to a union.

Lie number three: Anyone can make it in America with enough guts, gumption, and intelligence. So we don’t need to do anything for poor and lower-middle class kids.

The truth is we do less than nothing for poor and lower-middle class  kids. Their schools don’t have enough teachers or staff, their textbooks are outdated, they lack science labs, their school buildings are falling apart.

We’re the only rich nation to spend less educating poor kids than we do educating kids from wealthy families.

All told, 42 percent of children born to poor families will still be in poverty as adults – a higher percent than in any other advanced nation.

Lie number four: Increasing the minimum wage will result in fewer jobs. So we shouldn’t raise it.

In fact, studies show that increases in the minimum wage put more money in the pockets of people who will spend it – resulting in more jobs, and counteracting any negative employment effects of an increase in the minimum.

Three of my colleagues here at the University of California at Berkeley — Arindrajit Dube, T. William Lester, and Michael Reich – have compared adjacent counties and communities across the United States, some with higher minimum wages than others but similar in every other way.

They found no loss of jobs in those with the higher minimums.

The truth is, America’s lurch toward widening inequality can be reversed. But doing so will require bold political steps.

At the least, the rich must pay higher taxes in order to pay for better-quality education for kids from poor and middle-class families. Labor unions must be strengthened, especially in lower-wage occupations, in order to give workers the bargaining power they need to get better pay. And the minimum wage must be raised.

Don’t listen to the right-wing lies about inequality. Know the truth, and act on it.

AN OPEN LETTER FROM GEORGIA

DR. FRANCYS JOHNSON, GA STATE NAACP PRESIDENT

DR. FRANCYS JOHNSON, GA STATE NAACP PRESIDENT

Greetings Freedom Fighters!

As of last night, at the stroke of midnight, the clock of human progress turned back decades in Georgia. Extremists in Georgia have caused unfair, unjust and harmful consequences for regular everyday Georgians
… with the passage of HB 990, HB 772, HB 714 and SB 98.

Sadly, Governor Deal’s inaction has and will continue to cost real lives and hardships for Georgians who are already struggling. You have chosen politics over principle, a short term view of narrow self-interest over a long term vision of what’s actually best for Georgia, making public policy turns that further marginalize our most vulnerable citizens while also crippling the state’s prospects for economic recovery and prosperity.

Politicians lack of regard and compassion for the 650,000 hard working Georgians who would benefit from Medicaid expansion is very troubling. You have signed death warrants for thousands who will die needlessly every year without it. Out of your office we continued to hear the same justification for not accepting Medicaid expansion; Georgia couldn’t afford it. While repeating a lie over and over again might work in your political universe it doesn’t make it less of a lie. Medicaid expansion would turn the 650,000 hard working Georgians that are forced to go to the emergency center as their only means to healthcare
into paying customers with access to preventative care. It would bring over 45 billion dollars of revenue and over 70,000 good paying jobs to our state. As it turns out, doing what’s morally right is also economically smart.

When we and future generations look back in history, we will see a Governor who failed to understand this. That is why he restricted affordable healthcare and expanded gun rights, publicly celebrating the most
dangerous and irresponsible gun bill to be passed in the country. We will see a Governor who allowed and supported attacks on the rights of women by further limited access to reproductive choice. A governor, who condoned removing unemployment benefits to the same bus drivers that protected our children during an unnecessary snow crisis. We will see a Governor that supported drug testing of food stamp recipients and continues to place road blocks against the Affordable Care Act. You have continually shown your support for the few rich at the cost of the overwhelming poor and working class Georgians by
capping income taxes, and restricting loans and scholarships for our states students.

Georgia deserves better than this Governor Deal. When we look at the past legislative session through a moral lens we see our state’s priorities with deep concern. We see a Governor more concerned with party agendas than the welfare and progress of the people he represents. Although this is of deep concern to us, we are hopeful that moral responsibility will be reflected in the future legislation of Georgia. In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, ” We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”

I remain,

Francys Johnson President and Diamond Life Member

Measuring GOP Extremism: What Carville and Greenberg’s Latest Polling Reveals

thumbBy Joe Conason,

It is becoming increasingly plain that the most formidable obstacle to national progress and global security is the Republican Party — and specifically the extremist factions that currently dominate the GOP.

Now Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg and political strategist James Carville have announced what they plan to do about that pressing problem: namely, “The Republican Party Project,” which will provide extensive survey research devoted to “exposing, monitoring, and confronting” the Republicans while helping Democrats and progressives to regain the political offensive.

To begin advancing these ambitious goals, Carville and Greenberg released the first in a series of polls on Wednesday that showcased several of their target’s most divisive and dysfunctional features — and revealed some surprising weaknesses that could eventually prove disabling, if not fatal.

In surveys of more than 1,700 U. S. voters conducted for Democracy Corps between July 10 and July 15, the methodology used by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner oversampled Republicans in order to allow detailed analysis of two subgroups: Republicans themselves and independents who lean toward the GOP. The overall margin of error was under 3 percent and the margin of error for Republicans was about 4 percent.

According to Carville and Greenberg — whose presidential polling proved the best national voter survey in 2012, predicting the popular vote with pinpoint accuracy — Republican extremism is leaving the party increasingly isolated, even from many of its own members.

At the moment, only 31 percent of voters identify as Republicans, compared with 38 percent who identify as Democrats and 30 percent who call themselves independents. (Aggregated surveys collected by Pollster currently confirm an even worse scenario, with Democrats at 34 percent and Republicans at 23 percent.)

But just as significant as party identification is how voters see the Republican “brand.” Although Democrats as a party and in Congress are not exactly beloved, their net negatives are around 10 points below those of the Republicans, who are regarded with absolute disdain by most of those polled. Only 13 percent believe that the GOP “shares their values” and only 9 percent believe that the GOP has “realistic solutions to the nation’s problems.”

The project’s polling also uncovered bad omens for Republicans among almost all age cohorts.

While the Republicans can cite a statistically meaningless 1 percent advantage among Generation X voters, the party has no “generational base” and is strongly disfavored by both Baby Boomers and Millennials.

Indeed, the gap between the parties among upcoming Millennials is nearly 20 points, with only 21 percent identifying as Republican — a data point that Republican leaders may well find terrifying. Moreover, the Republican base is holed up in rapidly depopulating rural areas, while cities and suburbs strongly favor Democrats.

It is also worth noting how alienated moderate Republicans are from their own party, with nearly half regarding it as “too extreme.” Up to 40 percent of moderate Republicans regard their party as “out of touch,” a statement that resonates with 46 percent of Republican-leaning independent voters. Nearly 40 percent of moderate Republicans believe the party is “dividing the country.”

Meanwhile, the project’s survey suggests that Republicans in the dominant tea party and evangelical wings of the GOP are increasingly isolated not only from moderates in their own party but from independent voters, as well, on such issues as abortion, gay marriage, climate change and by their corrosive hatred of President Obama and the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).

On climate change, for example, overwhelming percentages of Democrats (95), Democratic-leaning independents (87), Independents (76) and moderate Republicans (62) all agree that strong action must be taken to offset atmospheric warming caused by human activity — while only 23 percent of tea party adherents and 34 percent of evangelicals share that scientifically-based perspective.

On gun control, 71 percent of tea party adherents feel strongly favorable toward the NRA, while only 34 percent of moderate Republicans and 34 percent of Independents harbor positive feelings toward the gun lobby.

Perhaps most worrisome to Republicans looking toward 2016 with trepidation, the strongly unfavorable attitudes toward Hillary Clinton expressed by tea party (75 percent) and evangelical (66 percent) groups within the GOP are not echoed by more mainstream voters. Only 22 percent of independents — and only 34 percent of moderate Republicans — share that negative view of the former secretary of state, who is widely considered most likely to be the next Democratic presidential nominee.

But Carville and Greenberg promise that this is only the beginning of the bad news for the Grand Old Party — and the future findings of the Republican Party Project will appear first in these pages.

What Happened to the Middle Class?

> on September 17, 2010 in Washington, DC.By Elizabeth Warren,

Editor’s note: Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2012 and is the author of “A Fighting Chance.” She worked as an assistant to President Barack Obama and helped design the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN) — A great crack in America’s middle class came to light recently: While our country continues to lead the world as the richest nation, our middle class, once the most affluent in the world, has fallen behind. According to an analysis by The New York Times,Canada’s middle class is now the wealthiest, and working families in many countries have seen their incomes rise much faster than those in the United States.

The hollowing out of America’s middle class has been years in the making, but it wasn’t inevitable that working families would fall further and further behind. Instead, it was the direct consequence of deliberate choices Washington has made over the past generation to put the rich and powerful first and to leave working people to pick up whatever crumbs were left behind.

It didn’t have to be this way. America knows how to build a middle class that is the envy of the world. After the Great Depression, America made two critical decisions.

First, it put in place strong rules to level the playing field for families, putting more cops on the beat to monitor financial markets and passing basic safety rules to temper the boom-and-bust financial cycle.

Second, the country made building a future for our children the priority. We invested powerfully in our education system, and we made sure that people who worked full time would stay above the poverty line. We built infrastructure — roads and bridges, our power grids — so that we had the right foundation for businesses to build jobs here at home. We also invested in basic medical and scientific research, confident that if we built a great pipeline of ideas, our children would have opportunities their parents could only dream about.

These steps were aimed at building a strong middle class, and they worked. For a half a century, as the country got richer, our middle class got richer. America built a middle class that promised a bright future to each succeeding generation, a middle class that inched its way toward building opportunities, not just for some of our children, but for all our children.

I lived this firsthand, growing up in a country that invested in its children. After my dad had a heart attack, my mom worked a minimum-wage job at Sears — and that was enough to save our house. I went to a commuter college that cost $50 a semester, and my first husband worked on the moon shot. America was full of promise.

About 30 years ago, America began to move in a different direction. Washington took financial cops off the beat by slashing funding of our regulators, letting big banks load up on risk and target families with dangerous credit cards and mortgages. Washington also worked feverishly to cut taxes for those at the top, opening huge loopholes for big corporations and billionaires. Eventually, the loopholes got big enough to drive a truck through. According to the nonpartisan group Citizens for Tax Justice, by 2008-2012, while the corporate tax rate on paper remained 35%, 26 Fortune 500 companies paid $0 in taxes. That’s right — zero.

And how did Washington propose to balance a budget with lower taxes? Stop investing in the future. Instead of supporting college kids who are trying to get an education, the government now uses them as a source of revenue, making billions of dollars in profits off student loans.

Investments in roads and bridges have nearly ground to a halt. And government research — the great pipeline of ideas that led to the creation of the Internet, nanotechnology, GPS and a million medical advances — has had its legs cut out from under it.

Today, the director of the National Institutes of Health says there’s only enough money to fund one out of six National Institutes of Health research proposals, and our investments in scientific research don’t reflect the values of a nation that plans to lead the world in new discoveries.

The impact of these policies has echoed through the economy. Big banks, powerful corporations and billionaires — people who can afford to hire armies of lobbyists and lawyers — have amassed more and more wealth. Meanwhile, the foundations of our once strong middle class have begun to crumble, and families have been caught in a terrible squeeze.

Starting in the 1970s, even as workers became more productive,their wages flattened out, while the costs of housing, health care and sending a kid to college, just kept going up and up. In 1980, the minimum wage was at least high enough to keep a working parent with a family of two out of poverty. Now, the minimum wage isn’t even enough to keep a fully employed mother and a baby out of poverty — and on Wednesday, Senate Republicans filibustered a bill to increase the federal minimum wage modestly.

We know how to strengthen the middle class in this country because we have done it before. We need a level playing field to make sure everyone follows the rules — and that breaking the law has the same kinds of consequences for bank CEOs who launder drug money as for kids who get caught with a few ounces of pot.

We need to decide that our children — not our biggest corporations — are our first priority. We can take on the student loan problem that is crushing our kids, and to rebuild our roads and bridges, upgrade our power grids and expand our investments in basic research. And we can pay for that by putting an end to the tax loopholes and subsidies that go to powerful corporations and the wealthiest Americans.

We can repair the cracks in the middle class. We can strengthen our foundations and make sure that all of our children have a fighting chance. But it means changing who Washington works for — and doesn’t.

What is At-Large Voting in the May 20th Election?

When the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated the key part of the voting rights act, it allowed racial gerrymandering and laws requiring at-large voting. “The voting rights law had been effective in thwarting such efforts,” says Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg who voted against the decision.

Citizens of Sumter County have to vote for candidates running at-large because this is a strategy to defeat Blacks who are in a sizeable minority. Usually, Whites win at-large races because everybody in Sumter County will have to vote for the at-large candidates.

If the Supreme Court didn’t strike down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, we would not have racist at-large voting. The nine states the law applied to were Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia, and scores of counties and municipalities in other states.

When the Supreme Court weakened the Voting Rights Act, Texas announced a voter identification law-a move that had been blocked by the Court-would go into effect immediately, because redistricting maps there would no longer need federal approval.

Sumter County citizens have not voted at-large in years. Most of our voters, Black and White, are confused about voting at-large. There are two at-large seats on the school board. One seat is a four-year seat, and the other is a two year seat. Kelvin Pless is running for the four-year seat, and Michael Coley is running for a two-year seat. Pless and Coley’s candidacies are examples of candidates running at large on May 20, 2014. You must vote for both of them to fill the seven seat school board.

Justice Clarence Thomas, a Georgian, and the extremely racist Black Republican Supreme Court Justice has made it possible for racists in Sumter County to give us at-large voting.

Thomas, along with the other White Republican majority on the Supreme Court, voted to strike down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act. Thomas went even further and called for striking down Section 5 immediately, saying that the majority opinion had provided the reasons and had merely left “the inevitable conclusion unstated.” Thomas has done everything the White Republican majority on the Supreme Court wanted. Blacks and Whites have bled and died to get the Voting Rights Act; and this Black, ignorant, Uncle Tom fighting like a fool has helped destroy it.

In an article by Adam Liptak, Justice Ginsberg said that Congress was the right body to decide whether the law was still needed and where. Congress reauthorized the law in 2006 by large majorities; the vote was 390 to 33 in the House and unanimous in the Senate. President George W Bush, a Republican, signed the bill into law, saying it was, “an example of our continued commitment to a united America where every person is valued and treated with dignity and respect”.

“The Voting Rights Act is no ordinary legislation,” Justice Ginsberg wrote. “It is extraordinary because Congress embarked on a mission long delayed and of extraordinary importance: to realize the purpose and promise of the Fifteenth Amendment,” the Reconstruction-era amendment that barred racial discrimination in voting and authorized Congress to enforce it.

“For a half century,” she continued, “a concerted effort has been made to end racial discrimination in voting. Thanks to the Voting Rights Act, progress once the subject of a dream has been achieved and continues to be made.”

The court errs egregiously,” she concluded, “by overriding Congress’s decision.”

Because of the five reactionary racist Supreme Court Justices, we have to deal with similar racists who have instituted at-large voting. Therefore, White racists here in Sumter County reestablished at-large voting mainly to decrease the chances for Blacks to remain the school board majority in Sumter County. Let’s surprise them and get out the vote in record numbers. And don’t forget you have to vote for two at-large candidates and not just one on May 20, 2014.

Charter schools are cheating your kids: New report reveals massive fraud, mismanagement, abuse

May-2014-1_13By Paul Rosenberg, 

Just in time for National Charter School Week, there’s a new report highlighting the predictable perils of turning education into a poorly regulated business. Titled “Charter School Vulnerabilities to Waste, Fraud and Abuse,” the report focused on 15 states representing large charter markets, out of the 42 states that have charter schools. Drawing on news reports, criminal complaints, regulatory findings, audits and other sources, it “found fraud, waste and abuse cases totaling over $100 million in losses to taxpayers,” but warned that due to inadequate oversight, “the fraud and mismanagement that has been uncovered thus far might be just the tip of the iceberg.” While there are plenty of other troubling issues surrounding charter schools — from high rates of racial segregation, to their lackluster overall performance records, to questionable admission and expulsion practices — this report sets all those admittedly important issues aside to focus squarely on activity that appears it could be criminal, and arguably totally out of control. It does not even mention questions raised by sky-high salaries paid to some charter CEOs, such as 16 New York City charter school CEOs who earned more than the head of the city’s public school system in 2011-12. Crime, not greed, is the focus here.

In short, the report is about as apolitical as can be imagined: It is narrowly focused on a white-collar crime wave of staggering proportions, and what can be done about it within the existing framework of widespread charter schools.

The report, co-authored by the Center for Popular Democracy and Integrity in Education, makes the point that the problem of charter school waste, fraud and abuse, which it focuses on, is just one symptom of the underlying problem: inadequate regulation of charter schools. But it’s a massive symptom, which has so far received only fragmentary coverage. The report takes its title from a section of a report to Congress by the Department of Education’s Office of the Inspector General, a report that took note of “a steady increase in the number of charter school complaints” and warned that state level agencies were failing “to provide adequate oversight needed to ensure that Federal funds [were] properly used and accounted for.”

But, the report noted, it’s not just the federal government that should be concerned. Reform efforts are underway in several states; Hawaii even repealed its existing charter school law in 2013, and put strict new oversight measures in place, and “Even the Walton Family Foundation, an avid charter advocate, launched a $5 million campaign in 2012 to make oversight of charters schools more stringent.”

“We expected to find a fair amount of fraud when we began this project, but we did not expect to find over $100 million in taxpayer dollars lost,” said Kyle Serrette, the director of education justice at the Center for Popular Democracy. “That’s just in 15 states. And that figure fails to capture the real harm to children. Clearly, we should hit the pause button on charter expansion until there is a better oversight system in place to protect our children and our communities.”

The report explained that the problem has its roots in a historical disconnect between the original intentions that launched the charter school movement and the commercial forces that have overtaken it since. At first, the report noted:

Lawmakers created charter schools to allow educators to explore new methods and models of teaching. To allow this to happen, they exempted the schools from the vast majority of regulations governing the traditional public school system. The goal was to incubate innovations that could then be used to improve public schools. i The ability to take calculated risks with small populations of willing teachers, parents, and students was the original design. With so few people and schools involved, the risk to participants and the public was relatively low.

But the character of the movement has changed dramatically since then. As charter school growth has skyrocketed (doubling three times since 2000), “the risks are high and growing, while the benefits are less clear,” the report continued, adding:

This is not an uncommon occurrence in our nation’s history. In the past—in some cases, our very recent past—industries such as banking and lending have outgrown their respective regulator safety nets. Without sufficient regulations to ensure true public accountability, incompetent and/or unethical individuals and firms can (and have) inflict great harm on communities.

Reese Joins Grant Against Black City Councilpersons

Walton Grant, Americus City Councilman

Walton Grant, Americus City Councilman

Shirley Green-Reese, the sister of the late councilman Raymond Green

Shirley Green-Reese, the sister of the late councilman Raymond Green

Staff Reports, 

“Councilpersons Juanita Wilson and Nelson Brown have been ignored and ostracized by Councilwoman Shirley Green Reese. Reese is new to the council. She recently joined Councilman Walton Grant and the other two White councilwomen to vote to reduce the speaking time for citizens to address the city council. The White councilmen wanted to limit Craig Walker [former NAACP VP] to speak for only three minutes. Walker often challenges the council for their racist actions on the council. Shirley Reese made the motion to reduce the speaking time and the Whites immediately voted to carry the motion,” says Dr. John Marshall, former local NAACP president.

“Shirley Green Reese follows the infamous Eloise Paschal who haunted the Black community when she voted with Walton Grant and the other Whites to defeat the late Raymond Green and Eddie Rhea Walker. Eloise.

Paschal voted to fly the Confederate Flag in a local White Cemetery permanently. This was the most egregious Uncle Tom act we have ever seen. Of course, Raymond Green and Eddie Rhea Walker did not vote for a flag that represents death, hatred, and lynching of Black people,” Marshall continues.

“Councilman Walton Grant voted for the flying of the Confederate Flag and Shirley Green Reese is comfortably voting with a White man who supports the symbol of death for Black people,” says Marshall.

“Councilwoman Juanita Wilson and former Councilman Lorenzo Johnson used to do a neighborhood watch together; so Mrs. Wilson expected Shirley Reese to do the watch with her since she replaced Johnson. Shirley said she wanted to do the neighborhood watch with one of the White councilwomen. Does she really believe the Whites on the city council love her?” Marshall asked.

“The NAACP fought to remove a racist police chief, Michael Yates when it was discovered that he did an illegal background check on former NAACP Vice President Craig Walker. For that offense, most City Councils would have immediately terminated Yates. Walton Grant and Eloise Paschal fought to keep Yates in power. Councilpersons Eddie Rhea Walker and Raymond Green did all they could to remove Yates. He even called Eddie Rhea Walker a coon,” says Marshall.

“Shirley Green Reese and Walton Grant will carry on the same old racist actions that we have seen for as long as Grant has been around. How could the sister of Raymond Green align herself with a councilman like Grant? Councilman Raymond Green was a friend of the Black community. He attended the NAACP meetings, he informed us of what devious actions that were taking place, and he did what was right. He had to fight former Councilwoman Eloise Paschal who voted most often with the Whites as his sister Shirley is doing now. Raymond must be turning in his grave to see his sister vote with the likes of Walton Grant, who Raymond saw as his enemy.

Alston Goes Down With The Americus Times Recorder

Beth Alston, editor of the Americus Times Recorder

Beth Alston, editor of the Americus Times Recorder

Staff Reports, 

The Americus Times Recorder (ATR) is the local legal organ in Sumter County. It has been found, over the years, to be the local Black community’s worst enemy. Now, the newspaper is dying. Beth Alston, the editor for more than 25 years has led the most vicious racist attacks on Black leaders in her newspaper. She did not try to clean up her act as the subscriptions were dropping; so it led to the paper’s demise. The ATR will soon become a one day a week publication when it used to be a daily paper.

“The ATR currently owned by Community Newspaper Holdings based in Montgomery, Alabama did not remove the allegedly racist editor Beth Alston, instead, they kept her until the newspaper crumbled,” says former NAACP president , Dr. John Marshall. “Over 17 years ago, Beth Alston attacked me in her newspaper by printing an old lawsuit that dropped all claims against me. Alston published it as if I had been successfully sued. I decided right then to publish my own newspaper and the Americus Sumter Observer was born. She didn’t publish the many malpractice lawsuits against several local physicians in Sumter County, instead, she tried to smear my name,” says Dr John Marshall, local physician and the publisher of this newspaper.

If a prominent White in our community broke the law, the ATR would not report the news with very few exceptions. When a prominent Black is in trouble the ATR rushes to report the news with follow up articles.

Some of the Blacks in our community that the ATR has viciously attacked are: Mrs. Juanita Wilson, former Americus High School Principal; Mr. Nelson Brown, former police Commander; Mr. Craig Walker, former local NAACP Vice President; Mrs. Victoria Harris, former Middle School Principal; Dr. Franklin Perry, former Sumter County School Superintendent; and Rev. Mathis Wright, current NAACP president of the Sumter County Branch, Marshall continues.

“The ATR did not report negatively on the following prominent Whites in our community: Randy Howard, former Sumter County Sheriff; City Attorney Jimmy Skipper’s problems in the Ga. Legislature; Paul Farr, the former Sumter County Attorney; former police chief Michael Yates; School Board candidate Dr. Michael Busman’s DUI charges, and several children of prominent Whites who broke the law”, Marshall concludes.

“Alston and her many publishers over the years were shameless in their racially bias reporting. One glaring example is the arrest of Mr. Craig Walker for spanking his niece. The ATR had a mug shot and an article on Mr. Walker. When Dr. Michael Busman was charged with a DUI and a video of his intoxicated condition was available, there was no mention of Busman in the Times Recorder,” Marshall points out.

“The ATR is currently being sued for race discrimination and reporting lies that were not protected by the first amendment; after the paper failed to retract those lies and correct the discriminatory acts of publishing articles and pictures,” says Rev Matt Wright of the NAACP.

“The editor of the Americus Times Recorder has run her newspaper into the ground with relentless racist attacks and bias reporting which fed poison into the minds of our citizens, Black and White. Imagine the growth in Sumter County if all citizens were treated fairly in the only daily paper. Instead, Blacks felt helpless as there was nothing to challenge the unfair reporting until the Americus Sumter Observer came along to set the record straight. Could this be the main contributing factor that has killed the Americus Times Recorder?” Marshall asked.