Jordan Mansfield uses a video visitation system to speak with her husband at the DeSoto County jail in Hernando, Mississippi.
On a chilly Sunday evening in December, a smattering of parents and small children trickled into a graffiti-covered concrete building on the grounds of the DC Jail. It was the last day to visit with prisoners before Christmas Eve, and some of the visitors were wearing Santa hats or bearing presents. The only thing missing was inmates. Three years ago, Washington, DC, eliminated in-person visitation for the roughly 1,800 residents of its jails and installed 54 video-conferencing screens in this building across the parking lot from the detention facility. The screens were installed, at no expense to taxpayers, by a Virginia-based company called Global Tel*Link (GTL), which had scored a lucrative contract for the facility's phone service.
Now the only way families in the capital can see their loved ones in jail—many of whom have not yet been convicted of a crime and will be shipped out of state if they are—is to sit in front of a webcam for 45 minutes. (Two free weekly visits are allotted.) The video on the laptop-size screens often lags, creating an echo effect. It's a cold, impersonal way to speak with someone a few hundred feet away. The effect, the Washington Post editorial board charged, has been "to punish prisoners and families."
Montana Republican state Rep. David Moore has a plan to guide America out of the darkness—ban yoga pants.
Moore, who is upset that group of naked bicyclists pedaled through Missoula last year, decided that what his state really needs right now is tighter regulations on trousers. His proposed bill, HB 365, would outlaw not just nudity, but also "any device, costume, or covering that gives the appearance of or simulates the genitals, pubic hair, anus region, or pubic hair region." Per the Billings Gazette:
The Republican from Missoula said tight-fitting beige clothing could be considered indecent exposure under his proposal.
"Yoga pants should be illegal in public anyway," Moore said after the hearing.
Moore said he wouldn’t have a problem with people being arrested for wearing provocative clothing but that he'd trust law enforcement officials to use their discretion. He couldn’t be sure whether police would act on that provision or if Montana residents would challenge it.
"I don't have a crystal ball," Moore said.
Merlin's pants! According to the Great Falls Tribune, Moore elaborated that he also believes Speedos should be illegal.
HB 365 continues a miraculous stretch for the Montana legislature. Just last December the Republican-controlled legislature issued new dress-code guidelines for the state capitol, advising women that they should "should be sensitive to skirt lengths and necklines."
Likely GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson describes a fish he once caught.
Tea party favorite Ben Carson has said some out-there stuff. The former neurosurgeon, author, and possible Republican presidential candidate once compared women who get abortions to dog-abuser Michael Vick, blamed the decline and fall of the Roman Empire on gay marriage, and concluded that believing in evolution was like thinking that "a hurricane blowing through a junkyard could somehow assemble a fully equipped and flight-ready 747."
But in his writings and public remarks, he has also voiced views on hot-button issues—immigration, foreign policy, gun control—that place him well outside the tea-party mainstream. He once embraced a universal catastrophic health care plan, and some of his other past positions—gasp!—sound downright liberal. Here are some of the comments that may put him at odds with the conservative GOP base.
Former neurosurgeon Ben Carson rallied Republicans at the Iowa Freedom Summit on Saturday, stirring up speculation once more that the conservative activist will seek his party's presidential nomination next year. Carson has never run for office and only recently registered as a Republican, but as the author of six books over more than two decades, he does have a considerable paper trail—and it's starting to get him into trouble.
In his 1992 book Think Big, for instance, Carson proposed a national catastrophic health care plan modeled on federal disaster insurance, which would be funded by a 10-percent tax on insurance companies. He also proposed re-thinking best practices concerning end-of-life care, advocating for a "national discussion that would help us all rethink our culture's mind-set about death, dying, and terminal illness"—similar to the provisions of the Affordable Care Act that conservatives now dismiss as "death panels." (A Carson spokesman told BuzzFeed last week that the health care proposal is "as relevant to his view today as our current military action in Afghanistan is compared to our military strategy in Afghanistan two decades ago.")
Although filled with inspiring stories of medical miracles and his own rough-and-tumble roots, Carson's books also reflect the views of a social-values warrior whose anti-gay comments recently caused him to withdraw as a commencement speaker at Johns Hopkins University, his longtime employer. A sampling:
On intelligent design (from Take the Risk):
From what I know (and all we don't know) about biology, I find it as hard to accept the claims of evolution as it is to think that a hurricane blowing through a junkyard could somehow assemble a fully equipped and flight-ready 747. You could blow a billion hurricanes through a trillion junkyards over infinite periods of time, and I don't think you'd get one aerodynamic wing, let alone an entire jumbo jet complete with complex connections for a jet-propulsion system, a radar system, a fuel-injection system, an exhaust system, a ventilation system, control systems, electronic systems, plus backup systems for all of those, and so much more. There's simply not enough time in eternity for that to happen. Which is why not one of us has ever doubted that a 747, by its very existence, gives convincing evidence of someone's intelligent design.
On the failing of the fossil record (from Take the Risk):
For me, the plausibility of evolution is further strained by Darwin's assertion that within fifty to one hundred years of his time, scientists would become geologically sophisticated enough to find the fossil remains of the entire evolutionary tree in an unequivocal step-by-step progression of life from amoeba to man—including all of the intermediate species.
Of course that was 150 years ago, and there is still no such evidence. It's just not there. But when you bring that up to the proponents of Darwinism, the best explanation they can come up with is "Well...uh...it's lost!" Here again I find it requires too much faith for me to believe that explanation given all the fossils we have found without any fossilized evidence of the direct, step-by-step evolutionary progression from simple to complex organisms or from one species to another species. Shrugging and saying, "Well, it was mysteriously lost, and we'll probably never find it," doesn't seem like a particularly satisfying, objective, or scientific response. But what's even harder for me to swallow is how so many people who can't explain it are still willing to claim that evolution is not theory but fact, at the same time insisting anyone who wants to consider or discuss creationism as a possibility cannot be a real scientist.
On abortion (from America the Beautiful):
This situation perhaps crystallizes one of the major moral dilemmas we face in American society today: Does a woman have the right to terminate another human life because it is encased in her body? Does ownership convey absolute power of life and death over the owned subject? If it does, then NFL quarterback Michael Vick was unfairly imprisoned for torturing and killing dogs in Atlanta.
On gay parents (from The Big Picture):
Recently a homosexual couple brought a child in to be examined on one of our neurosurgical clinical days. During lunch, after the couple had left, one of my fellow staff members commented favorably on the couple's obvious love and commitment to the child. He said to me, "I know you don't approve of homosexual relationships and wouldn't consider their home a healthy atmosphere in which to raise a child. But I was impressed by that couple. I think their sexual orientation is their business. Think what you want, but it's just your opinion."
My response wasn't nearly that politically correct. "Excuse me, but I beg to differ," I said. "How I feel and what I think isn't just my opinion. God in his Word says very clearly that he considers homosexual acts to be an 'abomination.'"
On how gay marriage brought down the Roman Empire (from America the Beautiful):
I believe God loves homosexuals as much as he loves everyone, but if we can redefine marriage as between two men or two women or any other way based on social pressures as opposed to between a man and a woman, we will continue to redefine it in any way that we wish, which is a slippery slope with a disastrous ending, as witnessed in the dramatic fall of the Roman Empire.
On Washington[Redacted] owner Dan Snyder (from One Nation):
On the other hand, many of the greatest achievers in our society never finished college. That includes Bill Gates Jr., Steve Jobs, and Dan Snyder, who is the owner of the Washington [NFL franchise].
(Carson elsewhere defended Snyder's refusal to change his team's name and called the oft-criticized owner "far from the demonic characterization seen in the gullible press that allows itself to be manipulated by those wishing to bring about fundamental change in America.")
On Independence Day (from Think Big):
I do not get to see many movies, but when I watched the video of Independence Day with my sons, I was struck by the portrayal of the resistance efforts mounted against the alien invaders from outer space. The frail and arbitrary distinctions so often made between various segments of society, even between different countries and ideologies, instantly melted away as the people of the entire world focused not on their differences but upon a common threat and the common goal uniting them—the protection of the planet from alien invaders.
Unlike some of his fellow candidates, though, Carson has made little effort to sugar-coat his most polarizing views. Even before he revealed any political ambitions, he'd moonlighted as a traveling Creationism advocate, giving speeches on the subject and even debating skeptic Richard Dawkins on evolution in 2006:
Lt. General Russel L. Honoré first noticed something was deeply wrong in his home state of Louisiana in September 2005, a few weeks after Hurricane Katrina slammed the Gulf Coast. Honoré, commander of the military's disaster response operation, was choppering back to his floating headquarters aboard the USS Bataan when he saw a ribbon of rainbow on the water beneath him. "What in the heck is that?" he recalls asking the pilot. "He said, 'Those are old oil wells, General—you see the derricks knocked down.'" Honoré was staring down at one of the storm's little-noticed consequences—millions of gallons of oil spilled into the state's fragile coastal wetlands. "And my heart almost stopped."
As he recounts the story one Saturday morning outside a coffee shop near his home in Baton Rouge, Honoré's eyes widen incredulously. "Come to find out later, many of those oil wells were actually abandoned," he explains. "And even today—listen to me—the derricks are still on the ground. They've never been picked up."
In the past couple of years, the 67-year-old Army lifer has undergone an almost religious awakening, throwing himself into one of the largest environmental combat zones in the United States. Louisiana has given oil and gas companies carte blanche to carve up its southern coast. Things aren't much better on dry land, where some of the state's poorest residents live in the shadow of some of the country's largest polluters. In response, Honoré has formed the Green Army, an organization that's advocated for some of the state's most threatened communities while clashing with the petrochemical lobby and its champion in Baton Rouge, Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal. Now he might be aiming for something even bigger—the governor's mansion.
The general was born during a hurricane in 1947, on his family's subsistence farm in Pointe Coupee Parish. Honoré, who is African American and identifies as Creole, attended colored schools, paid his way through college, and enlisted in the Army in 1971 over his parents' protests. By 2004, he'd become a three-star general in charge of the First Army and responsible for the deployment of National Guard divisions heading to Iraq. When Katrina hit, his Louisiana roots and local patois made him a natural pick to head Joint Task Force Katrina. Amid the flailing of FEMA and local authorities, Honoré earned respect as a hard-ass—"a black John Wayne dude," as then-New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin put it. He eased the fears of New Orleans' black residents by ordering his soldiers to "put those damn weapons down" and ended his television interviews by shouting, "Over!" Honoré, a Times-Picayune reporter wrote, was a "salty-mouthed, cigar-chompin' guardian angel in camouflage."