Conflict of Interest, in the Eye of the Beholder

Nel's New Day

When is a conflict of interest not a conflict? Today it’s when the State Department says it isn’t. After the agency hired the Environmental Resources Management (ERM) as its consulting firm to review environmental effects of the Keystone XL pipeline, people complained about the connections of the consulting firm, but the agency’s inspector general investigated and found—no problem!

The State Department’s has again reported that the environmental impact study commissioned to ERM regarding the trans-country pipeline found no significant climate impacts. That’s the study from a company listing TransCanada as a client just a year before the Keystone contract while telling the State Department that it had been at least five years since ERM worked with the company building the pipeline. ERM didn’t mention that one of its divisions, ERM West, worked with TransCanada on the Alaska Pipeline Project until last summer—after ERM was hired to write the report.

Until…

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LGBT Rights v. Religion

Nel's New Day

For an entire week, the nation’s media was obsessed about Arizona’s bill that would let everyone in the state do anything they wanted as long as they said it was because of religion. The bill went to Gov. Jan Brewer on Monday, and many Republicans—including three legislators who voted in favor of it—asked her to veto it. Last night she did. According to her speech about the veto, she didn’t want to divide the state so she denied the right-wing groups their wish.

Using political-speak rather than reason, she said her veto was to stop a divide. And of course, the wacko right got very divided–against Brewer:

Fox network Tucker Carlson maintained that requiring people to provide service to everyone is “fascism.” [For those lacking a dictionary, fascism is an authoritarian nationalism that has a veneration of the state and devotion to a strong leader and invokes the primacy of…

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Closing Black History Month 2014

Social Justice For All

Black History Month_2014logo_0 As with every year, I remain somewhat sad that we still  need to celebrate Black History Month in the United States; but we have overwhelming evidence that racism is sadly alive and well and living in every state. Hopefully, SJFA has celebrated many folks who have been relegated to corners of history and are rarely celebrated.  I have to confess what a pleasure it was to celebrate so many African Americans who have dedicated their lives to civil rights and social justice, including many who continue to do so today.

We have no further to look than the case of the killing of Jordan Davis, a black youth, and Michael Dunn, the white man who killed him. One of my favorite writers, Leonard Pitts, of the Miami Herald does a great job of unpacking this horrific case and how it reflects racism on a national scale.

Sadly, the Paula Deen

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Hero of the Week Award, February 28: Gov. Dan Malloy of Connecticut

Social Justice For All

Hero of the Week Hero of the Week

Far too often these days well-meaning people avoid calling out hard truths (interrupting oppressions) in the name of comity or “bipartisanship.” This week’s Hero refused to allow shallow expectations to stop bold, necessary action.

Connecticut governor Dan Malloy (D) was one of the many governors attending the meeting of the National Governors Association in Washington, DC this week. One part of the meeting was a conversation with President Obama. Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal (R), notorious for his spotty attendance at these meetings over the years, rushed from the room as soon as the President left to attack him in front of waiting reporters.

Saying that “the Obama economy is now the minimum wage economy,” Jindal accused President Obama of “waving the white flag” because he is increasingly relying on executive orders to push forward his agenda — an agenda the American people overwhelmingly voted for and…

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People Changing the World

Nel's New Day

Three years this month, protesters from Wisconsin started the highly visible pushback against legislative efforts destroy all public-employee unions. Newly elected GOP governor Scott Walker’s attempt to eradicate most actions of all public-employee unions except law enforcement and firefighters led to massive protests at the state capitol. Thousands of people stayed there 24/7 for months with signs describing their distress at Walker’s determination to give all the state’s power and wealth to corporations and the rich. My partner’s all-time favorite sign came in a pair: a man’s sign stating, “Support Walker” and his sister’s sign with an arrow pointing to her brother and stating, “I’m with stupid.”

Wisconsin farmers held a “tractorcade,” a parade to support these unions. The state failed to reinstate the unions’ power although neighboring Ohio failed to erase public-employee unions after a ballot initiative gave the power back to the middle class.

This month, VW workers…

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Rep. Gomberg bill to help seniors stay in own homes enroute to Governor for signature » News Lincoln County

Rep. Gomberg’s Bill helps low-income seniors and disabled Oregonians stay in their homes

SALEM­—On Monday, the Oregon Senate gave final legislative approval to Rep. Gomberg’s HB 4148A, which provides direct relief to hundreds of seniors struggling to stay in their own homes. The bill changes the interest rate calculation for seniors participating in the state’s property tax deferral program.

“Helping seniors remain in their homes is key to preserving dignity and choice for older Oregonians. Senior Property Tax Deferral is a great program that fulfills these goals. HB 4148 makes minor adjustments that ensure it remains solvent, while protecting seniors from additional fees,” said Rep. Gomberg.

“The Senior and Disabled Property Tax Deferral Program helps thousands of seniors who are at risk of losing their homes,” said Senator Ginny Burdick (D-Portland), chair of the Senate Finance and Revenue Committee. “The change we’re making today provides a measure of fairness for our most vulnerable Oregonians, while maintaining the solvency of the program.”

The Senior and Disabled Property Tax Deferral Program allows seniors and disabled individuals who have qualifying incomes and meet other criteria to defer county property taxes; the state is repaid when their homes are sold.

“It’s our duty to keep the deferral program fund solvent while helping as many people as possible,” said Senate Majority Leader Diane Rosenbaum (D-Portland). “Today’s vote gives some relief to seniors struggling to stay in their homes.”

House Bill 4148A would change the calculation for the rate of interest that the Oregon Department of Revenue charges for deferred taxes. Currently, the department charges compound interest on debt accrued since 2011. The bill would change the calculation to apply simple interest to these accounts instead of the more costly compound interest calculation.

“By making this change, we are helping more seniors stay in the homes they’ve built their lives around,” said Senator Alan Bates (D-Medford). “This change will ease the financial burden that seniors face.”

Seniors interested in joining the program should contact the Department of Revenue at questions.dor@state.or.us .

HB 4148A will now go to Governor John A. Kitzhaber for his signature.

via Rep. Gomberg bill to help seniors stay in own homes enroute to Governor for signature » News Lincoln County.

Having a Gun in the House Doesn’t Make a Woman Safer – Evan DeFilippis – The Atlantic

Having a Gun in the House Doesn’t Make a Woman Safer – Evan DeFilippis – The Atlantic.

Firearms have been touted as a great equalizer between the sexes. But in cases where self-defense matters most, women tend to find their own weapons turned against them.
Evan DeFilipis / Feb 23 2014
A father takes his 14-year-old daughter shopping at a gun show in Houston. (Reuters)

Christy Salters Martin is a professional boxer and the owner of a concealed carry permit. But when she attempted to leave her husband, she was shot with her own gun. Today, she cautions other women against making the same mistake. “Just putting a weapon in the woman’s hand is not going to reduce the number of fatalities or gunshot victims that we have. Too many times, their male counterpart or spouse will be able to overpower them and take that gun away.”

Wayne LaPierre, executive vice-president of the National Rifle Association, has argued that firearms are a great equalizer between the sexes. In a speech at the Conservative Political Action Committee last year, he declared, “The one thing a violent rapist deserves to face is a good woman with a gun.” But the empirical reality of firearm ownership reflects anything but equality, particularly when it comes to intimate partner violence. Such fights become much more frequent and lethal when firearms are involved, and the violence is nearly unidirectional, inflicted by males upon females. This relationship holds true not only across the United States, but around the world.

A recent meta-analysis concluded what many people already knew: the availability of firearms is a strong risk factor for both homicide and suicide. But the study came to another conclusion that is rarely mentioned in the gun control debate: females are uniquely impacted by the availability of a firearm. Indeed, the study found that women with access to firearms become homicide victims at significantly higher rates than men.

It has long been recognized that higher rates of gun availability correlate with higher rates of female homicide. Women in the United States account for 84 percent of all female firearm victims in the developed world, even though they make up only a third of the developed world’s female population. And within American borders, women die at higher rates from suicidehomicide, andaccidental firearm deaths in states where guns are more widely available. This is true even after controlling for factors such as urbanization, alcohol use, education, poverty, and divorce rates.

What’s more surprising is how many of these deaths occur in the home, at the hands of a male partner. In a study in the Journal of Trauma, A.L. Kellermann, director of the RAND Institute of health, and his coauthor J.A. Mercy concluded: “More than twice as many women are killed with a gun used by their husbands or intimate acquaintances than are murdered by strangers using guns, knives, or any other means.”

In another study, published in the American Journal of Public Health, researchers interviewed 417 women across 67 battered women’s shelters. Nearly a third of these women had lived in a household with a firearm. In two-thirds of the homes, their intimate partners had used the gun against them, usually threatening to kill (71.4%) them. A very small percentage of these women (7%) had used a gun successfully in self-defense, and primarily just to scare the attacking male partner away. Indeed, gun threats in the home againstwomen by their intimate partners appear to be more common across the United States than self-defense uses of guns by women.

Another large case-control study compared women who were murdered by their intimate partner with a control group of battered women. Only 16 percent of the women who had been abused, but not murdered, had guns in their homes, whereas 51 percent of the murder victims did. In fact, not a single study to date has shown that the risk of any crime including burglary, robbery, home invasion, or spousal abuse against a female is decreased through gun ownership. Though there are examples of women using a gun to defend themselves, they are few and far between, and not statistically significant.

These facts should be as chilling to men as they are to women. A 2005 studyexamining mortality data from 1998-2000 found that when a female was shot by her intimate partner, the perpetrator subsequently killed himself in two thirds of the cases. This statistic not only shows necessity of getting mental help for at-risk men. It also further suggests that owning a firearm may make a household more vulnerable than ever.