MoJo Blogs and Articles | Mother Jones Mother Jones logo en 18 Great Trends of the Obama Administration—And 2 Terrible Ones <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>So how has the country been doing during President Obama's term in office? Here's a scattering of indicators and how they've changed from 2008 (the last year of the Bush presidency) to now:</p> <ol><li><a href="" target="_blank">Unemployment rate (U3):</a> <strong>DOWN</strong> from 5.8 percent to 4.7 percent.</li> <li><a href="" target="_blank">Underemployment rate (U6):</a> <strong>DOWN</strong> from 10.6 percent to 9.6 percent.</li> <li><a href="" target="_blank">Violent crime rate (per 100,000 residents):</a> <strong>DOWN</strong> from 458 to 465.</li> <li><a href="" target="_blank">Fear of crime:</a> <strong>DOWN</strong> from 37 percent to 35 percent.</li> <li><a href="" target="_blank">Uninsured</a> <a href="" target="_blank">rate:</a> <strong>DOWN</strong> from 19.7 percent to 10.3 percent.</li> <li><a href="" target="_blank">Number of illegal immigrants:</a> <strong>DOWN</strong> from 11.8 million to 11.3 million.</li> <li><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_obama_marine_one.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 20px 0px 5px 30px;"><a href="" target="_blank">Illegal immigrants from Mexico:</a> <strong>DOWN</strong> from 6.6 million to 5.6 million.</li> <li><a href="" target="_blank">Teen pregnancy rate (per thousand females):</a> <strong>DOWN</strong> from 40 to 25.</li> <li><a href="" target="_blank">Current account balance (trade deficit):</a> DOWN from 4.6 percent of GDP to 2.3 percent of GDP.</li> <li><a href="" target="_blank">American war deaths:</a> <strong>DOWN</strong> from 469 to 28.</li> <li><a href="" target="_blank">Inflation rate:</a> <strong>DOWN</strong> from 3.8 percent to 1.1 percent.</li> <li><a href="" target="_blank">Shootings of police officers:</a> <strong>DOWN</strong> from 149 to 120.</li> <li><a href="" target="_blank">Abortion rate (per thousand women):</a> <strong>DOWN</strong> from 19 to 16.9 (through 2011).</li> <li><a href="" target="_blank">Federal deficit:</a> <strong>DOWN</strong> from 3.1 percent of GDP to 2.5 percent of GDP.</li> <li><a href="" target="_blank">Drug abuse</a>: <strong>DOWN</strong> from 22.4 million to 21.6 million (through 2013).</li> <li><a href="" target="_blank">Drug abuse among teenagers:</a> <strong>DOWN</strong> from 7.7 million to 5.2 million (through 2013).</li> <li><a href="" target="_blank">Household debt (as percent of disposable income):</a> <strong>DOWN</strong> from 12.8 percent to 10 percent.</li> <li><a href="" target="_blank">Public high school graduation rate:</a> <strong>UP</strong> from 74 percent to 82 percent (through 2013).</li> </ol><p>I'm not presenting this stuff because I think it will change anyone's mind. Nor because Obama necessarily deserves credit for all of them. You can decide that for yourself. It's mostly just to get it on the record. And it's worth noting that none of this may matter in the face of two other statistics that might be more important than all the rest put together:</p> <ol start="19"><li><a href="" target="_blank">Median household income:</a> <strong>DOWN</strong> from $55,313 to $53,657 (through (2014).</li> <li><a href="" target="_blank">Americans killed in terror attacks:</a> <strong>UP</strong> from 14 to 50+ (so far in 2016).</li> </ol><p>If you measure household income more broadly, it looks better than the raw Census figures. And household income has finally started increasing over the past couple of years. On the terror front, the absolute number of American fatalities from terrorist attacks is obviously very small. Still, the number of brutal attacks in the US and Europe (the only ones Americans care about) has obviously spiked considerably over the past year.</p> <p>Are these two things enough to outweigh everything else? Maybe. Come back in November and I'll tell you.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 25 Jul 2016 17:55:33 +0000 Kevin Drum 309976 at Bernie Sanders Delegates Threaten Convention Chaos <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>"We got her. We got her."</p> <p>It's near midnight. Democratic Party delegates are milling about the lobby bar of the Marriott in downtown Philadelphia. And on the big overhead screen, there's a CNN report on the news of the day: Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, had given up the post after leaked emails showed that some DNC officials had discussed how to thwart Bernie Sanders' campaign.</p> <p>Sanders delegates are cheering wildly. The head of the party apparatus many of them despise is out. It's a victory for the Sanders revolution. Off to the side, a Florida delegate for Hillary Clinton looks on sadly. "I suppose she had to go," he says. He then sums up the relationship between Sanders delegates and Clinton delegates with one word: "acidic."</p> <p>As thousands of delegates to the Democratic convention hit the City of Brotherly Love (and Sisterly Affection), it was clear that the Clinton campaign's talk of unity, in the wake of <a href="" target="_blank">announcing Tim Kaine as Clinton's running mate</a>, was more hope than reality. Sanders delegates throughout the city were grousing about a series of perceived slights and wrongs: the selection of Kaine, with his <a href="" target="_blank">centrist reputation</a>; the leaked emails, which showed that, yes, the DNC favored Clinton over Sanders, but didn't contain evidence of much underhanded activity; and Clinton's inadequate (in their view) outreach to the Sanders crowd. At a pro-Sanders rally on Sunday afternoon, attendees chanted, "Lock her up," echoing the mantra of Donald Trump's convention last week. At a Monday morning gathering of the California Democratic delegation, Sanders delegates booed mentions of Clinton. And Florida Sanders delegates jeered Wasserman Schultz at their breakfast meeting.</p> <p>Many Sanders folks are still grieving and not accepting Clinton's triumph. Though Sanders <a href="" target="_blank">nudged Clinton to the left during the campaign</a>, demonstrated the vitality of the Democratic Party's progressive wing, helped craft the party's most progressive platform in decades, and won a small concession regarding the future of superdelegates within the party, many of his delegates were openly and vigorously expressing disappointment and voicing their dissatisfaction with Clinton.</p> <p>Lisa Flyte, a Sanders representative on the convention credentials committee, griped that the Clinton campaign "is still taking jabs at us." Though she noted she believed that a Trump victory would likely be bad news for low- and middle-income Americans, she said Clinton has "supported policies that hurt middle-income people here and abroad." She blasted Clinton for supporting "oligarchs overseas and big energy companies." She was ticked off that the Clinton campaign "is saying we're unified without real accommodations." She added, "We're not ready to move on."</p> <p>Jason Brown, the vice chair of the Iowa delegation and a Sanders supporter, was peeved that the Clinton campaign has "not yet reached out to us." He noted that Clinton's message was not inspiring Iowans who had volunteered and voted for Sanders. "These people are looking for more from her," he said. Brown is committed to supporting Clinton, but he remarked, "I'm not sure I can convince the Sanders volunteers with a she's-not-Trump message. They need more."</p> <p>At the start of the convention, Sanders delegates were left to their own devices. The Sanders campaign had created a whip system to provide guidance to its delegates. But as of Monday morning, no instructions were disseminating. "That's been frustrating," one Sanders delegate from Florida says. "We don't know what they want us to be saying or doing. We're in limbo." (Sanders was scheduled to address his delegates at a Monday afternoon meeting.) A California Clinton delegate pointed out that within her state delegation, there had been little conversation between Clinton delegates and Sanders delegates. "It's still very raw," she said. "They're processing a death in the family."</p> <p>At a press conference on Monday morning, the Bernie Delegates Network, an outfit independent of the Sanders campaign that claims to represent two-thirds of the Sanders delegates, presented Sanders delegates outraged at the DNC and Clinton campaign. They were mad that Clinton has named Wasserman Schultz an honorary chairwoman of her campaign. There was talk of launching protests&mdash;"an expression of disapproval"&mdash;during Clinton and Kaine's speeches. This could include delegates booing or walking out.</p> <p>Norman Solomon, a Sanders delegate, asserted, "There is serious interest and exploration&hellip;in a formal challenge" to Kaine. Who might that be? Solomon replied that Sanders delegates have approached several politicians, but that "those who want to eat lunch at the White House, they run the other way." So any names? "We're working on it." (Solomon said he has had "zero connection with the Bernie campaign.")</p> <p>At this event, Manuel Zapata, a California Sanders delegate, shared his bitter disappointment. "Since the moment we got here, people have looked down on us as we walked past people with our Bernie swag on&mdash;as if he's not still a candidate, as if it's wrong for us to support our candidate," he said. He added, "It is disrespectful that a madman like Donald Trump is reaching out for the progressive vote more than Hillary Clinton is."</p> <p>Karen Bernal, a leader of the California Sanders delegation, said there would be nothing wrong with Sanders people jeering Clinton when she comes to the podium. She did note that the Sanders campaign was "pressing us not to be involved in protests and not to be so overt in our expressions&hellip;My job is to make sure that the wishes of my delegates are heard, that their opinions are heard...They have never been a group to take marching orders."</p> <p>Bernal believes Sanders' endorsement of Clinton was a mistake. She said, "We can still be mad at Hillary Clinton and still say it's essential to defeat Trump." But asked if protests by Sanders delegate would help the effort to defeat Trump, Beral noted, "It absolutely helps," because it will signal to progressives that there is a place for them within the Democratic Party. She didn't explain precisely how deriding Clinton and her veep pick would bolster the effort to elect Clinton.</p> <p>It's uncertain what sway Sanders will have over the Sanders delegates looking to make noise at this convention. The delegates at this press conference repeatedly noted that the movement transcends the candidate and that the activists within it will determine the strategy this week. If they are asked by Sanders not to do something, Solomon said, "we'll take that under advisement." He added that Sanders "is not running the show&hellip;The activists at this convention will make the social change."</p> <p><em>Update 1:35 p.m.: </em>Sanders addressed his delegates on Monday afternoon and highlighted the successes he achieved in his campaign, boasting of "the most progressive platform ever written in the history of the Democratic Party" and a "major victory" in reforming superdelegates. But when he told the crowd, "We have got to elect Hillary Clinton," he was met with boos.</p></body></html> Politics 2016 Elections Mon, 25 Jul 2016 16:19:45 +0000 David Corn 309951 at Trump Gets a Sizeable Convention Bounce in the Polls <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>We now have <a href="" target="_blank">four polls out that were taken after the Republican convention:</a> CNN, CBS, Morning Consult, and Gravis Marketing. They show an average post-convention bounce for <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_pollster_republican_convention_bounce.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">Trump of 6.3 points. That's higher than the normal GOP bounce of about 4 points. They also show Trump leading Clinton by an average of 2.5 points.</p> <p>This is not, by itself, anything for Democrats to be worried about. They'll get their own bounce this week, and it won't be until mid-August that everything settles down and we have a good idea of where everything really stands. But we can say two things. First, Donald Trump is suddenly going to start talking about polls again. Second, although liberals might have thought the Republican convention was a dumpster fire, it's obvious that Trump's message&mdash;even delivered in angry, apocalyptic tones&mdash;resonates with a lot of people. Democrats better hope that Team Hillary has an effective answer to that.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 25 Jul 2016 16:09:14 +0000 Kevin Drum 309966 at Clinton Campaign Isn't Worried About Trump's Poll Numbers—Yet <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Donald Trump has taken a lead in several national polls following the Republican convention, but <a href="" target="_blank">Hillary Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook</a> isn't sweating it yet&mdash;at least not publicly.</p> <p>Polls from the <a href="" target="_blank"><em>Los Angeles Times</em></a>, <a href="" target="_blank">CNN</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">CBS News</a> all have Trump slightly ahead nationally following the RNC. But at a press briefing on the opening morning of the Democratic National Convention, Mook dismissed concerns that his candidate was lagging, pointing out that conventions have always boosted a candidate's polling numbers in the past. "There's a clear trend historically in polling that after your convention, you always get a bump," Mook said. "I would kind of suspend any kind of polling analysis until after our convention."</p> <p>Polling guru Nate Silver <a href="" target="_blank">weighed in</a> over the weekend and said that while Trump's poll numbers certainly have improved post-convention, "the initial data suggests that a small-to-medium bounce is more likely than a large one." He <a href="" target="_blank">added</a> on Twitter that Trump got a typical bounce of 4 percent. Still, Silver's model on <em>FiveThirtyEight</em> now <a href="" target="_blank">predicts</a> that Trump would stand a 57.5 percent chance of winning if the election were held today. But like Mook, he <a href="" target="_blank">notes</a> that Trump's lead is due to a standard convention bounce, and his <a href="" target="_blank">more advanced model</a> has the same message for Clinton supporters: Don't panic just yet.</p></body></html> Politics 2016 Elections Hillary Clinton Mon, 25 Jul 2016 15:50:55 +0000 Patrick Caldwell 309956 at Even Trump-Friendly Media Thinks Putin Prefers Trump <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>John Schindler on the <a href="" target="_blank">DNC email leak:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The important part of this story is that Russian intelligence, using its Wikileaks cut-out, has intervened directly in an American presidential election....The most damaging aspect to the DNC leak is the certainty that Moscow has placed disinformation&mdash;that is, false information hidden among facts&mdash;to harm the Democrats and the Clinton campaign.</p> <p>....<strong>It&rsquo;s obvious that Moscow prefers Trump over Clinton in this election,</strong> which ought not surprise given the important role of Putin-friendly advisors in the Trump campaign, and what better way to help is there than to discredit Team Clinton?</p> </blockquote> <p>This is mostly interesting for where it appeared: the <em>New York Observer</em>, which is owned by Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump's husband. Sometimes you can't even count on family to protect you.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 25 Jul 2016 15:32:59 +0000 Kevin Drum 309961 at Fort Myers Shooting Kills 2 People Outside Nightclub <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><strong>Update, 1:20 p.m. EST: </strong>Officials have <a href="" target="_blank">identified the two victims</a> who were killed as 14-year-old Sean Archilles and 18-year-old Stef'an Strawder.</p> <p>A shooting outside a nightclub in Fort Myers, Florida killed at least two people and injured more than a dozen others early on Monday morning. The <a href=";linkId=26901480" target="_blank">victims were mostly students</a>, aged between 12 and 27.</p> <p>"The scene is still very active as investigators and crime scene personnel attempt to determine what had occurred," Fort Myers Police Captain Jim Mulligan said. "The Police Department is attempting to determine a motive for this incident."</p> <p>The shooting took place around 12:30 a.m. in the parking lot of Club Blu Bar and Grill, where nightclub organizers had hosted an event for teenagers. Gunfire reportedly broke out as the teenagers were departing and parents had come to pick them up. The shooting comes six weeks after the Orlando mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub that <a href="" target="_blank">killed 49 people and injured more than 50. </a></p> <p>Police have detained three people for questioning. Later today, Florida Gov. Rick Scott will be <a href="" target="_blank">traveling</a> to the city to meet with law enforcement officials.</p> <center> <div id="fb-root">&nbsp;</div> <script>(function(d, s, id) { var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); = id; js.src = "//"; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs); }(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));</script><div class="fb-post" data-href="" data-show-text="false" data-width="500"> <blockquote cite="" class="fb-xfbml-parse-ignore"> <p>We are deeply sorry for all involved. We tried to give the teens WHAT WE THOUGHT WAS A SAFE PLACE TO HAVE A GOOD TIME....</p> Posted by <a href="">Club Blu</a> on&nbsp;<a href="">Monday, July 25, 2016</a></blockquote> </div> </center> <p>&nbsp;</p></body></html> Politics Guns Mon, 25 Jul 2016 14:12:02 +0000 Inae Oh 309946 at John Oliver Trashes Donald Trump and the RNC for Validating Feelings Over Facts <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src="" width="630"></iframe></p> <p>After a monthlong break, John Oliver returned to <a href="" target="_blank"><em>Last Week Tonight</em> </a>on Sunday to take on Donald Trump and the Republican National Convention, an&nbsp;event he described as a "mismanaged shit show."</p> <p>While the convention included such chaotic incidents as <a href="" target="_blank">Melania Trump's stolen speech</a> and Sen. Ted Cruz getting booed off stage, Oliver revealed one disturbing theme that was able to emerge through all the confusion&mdash;and that was&nbsp;validating misguided emotions to create a sense of imminent threat.</p> <p>"It was a four-day exercise in emphasizing feelings over facts," Oliver said, while showing clips of various speakers repeating the theory that President Barack Obama is a Muslim or that the country's violent crime rate is rising.&nbsp;</p> <p>Watch above to see the segment break down all the RNC's craziness.</p></body></html> Media 2016 Elections Donald Trump Mon, 25 Jul 2016 11:58:32 +0000 Inae Oh 309941 at Giant Corporations Are Reaping Billions From Federal "Small Business" Contracts <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Verizon Communications is the largest wireless provider in the United States, with 177,000 employees and $91.7 billion in sales last year, and yet it somehow managed to wrangle more than $107 million in federal "small-business contracts" last year through the US Small Business Administration.</p> <p>Verizon isn't the only gargantuan company the SBA deems eligible for assistance. In 2015, according to a recent lawsuit by an advocacy group for actual small businesses, the SBA counted contracts with 150 other Fortune 500 companies in its fulfillment of the federal government's small-business contracting obligations.</p> <p>"The Small Business Administration has become perverted," says Lloyd Chapman, founder of the American Small Business League, which filed the suit in May. "At some point their mission changed to helping the government and contractors circumvent the Small Business Act."</p> <p>Congress created the SBA in 1953 with its passage of the Small Business Act, legislation designed to "maintain and strengthen the overall economy" by giving the small fry of the business world a leg up. The definition of "small" varies by industry, from a maximum of 100 to 1,500 employees and revenues of $750,000 to $38.5 million. (Chapman, noting that the average American business has just 16 employees, says these caps are too high.) In any case, federal research shows that such businesses are key to supporting the middle class: Although they employ <a href="">less than half</a> of all private sector workers, they create <a href="">70 percent</a> of net new jobs. They also tend to <a href="">buck the offshoring trend</a> and are seen as a <a href="">counterbalance to income inequality</a> because they spread wealth around to millions of entrepreneurs. "The Small Business Act is the largest economic stimulus program for the middle class in US history," Chapman proclaims. "And we are its protectors."</p> <p>Indeed, his and other watchdog groups have repeatedly accused the SBA of failing to fulfill its original mission. Under the law, the agency is required to ensure that at least 23 percent of federal contract money goes to small businesses. The actual figure, Chapman calculates, is about 4 percent, a difference of hundreds of billions of dollars each year.</p> <p>"The United States government is anti-small-business," says Chapman, whose scrappy three-person outfit in Petaluma, California, has filed dozens of lawsuits against the SBA and other federal agencies over the past quarter-century, often compelling the agency to reveal more information about how it handles contracts. The latest suit seeks an injunction that would require the SBA to stop allegedly cooking its books when it reports on federal contracting.</p> <p>SBA spokeswoman Tiffani Clements would not comment directly on the lawsuit, but argued in an email that it is wrong to assume small-business contracts are improperly diverted to large firms. The Verizon contracts, for example, were awarded to a subsidiary, Terremark Federal Group, that Verizon purchased in 2011. An SBA rule created in 2006 allows a large corporation to purchase a bona fide small business and keep its federal contracts for up to six years before it is required to recertify its size with the federal government.</p> <p>The SBA argues that actual misreporting of small-business contracts is rare, and insists that it is not the fault of its employees. The corporate behemoths may simply ignore the requirement to recertify the size of the firms they acquire. Additionally, Clements said, "There is always the possibility of human error" when the government's contracting officers record a company&rsquo;s data. (Chapman counters that if human errors were to blame, then the small firms would get misclassified as large ones, too&mdash;and nobody in his group has ever seen that happen.)</p> <p>Chapman is hardly alone in his criticisms. Every year since 2005, the SBA's Office of the Inspector General has ranked "small-business contracting" as the agency's most serious management challenge. "As an advocate for small business, SBA should strive to ensure that only eligible small firms obtain and perform small business awards," the OIG wrote in an <a href="">October report</a> citing "widespread misreporting&hellip;since many contract awards that were reported as having gone to small firms have actually been substantially performed by larger companies." The report blamed reporting errors mainly on contracting officers and poor oversight of how companies calculate their size.</p> <p>Perhaps the most significant way the SBA fudges the small-business contracting numbers is as follows: In arriving at its 23 percent figure, the agency does not include any contracts for work performed outside the United States or in service of 27 different federal agencies, including the Postal Service, the federal courts, the National Security Agency, and the CIA. It also excludes a large amount of contract spending related to Medicare, Medicaid, and veterans' health. Finally, it doesn't count contracts commissioned by state and local agencies using federal grant money.</p> <p>The SBA argues that these exclusions are legal because the small business requirements apply only to "contracts" (not grants) at "federal agencies"&mdash;which the SBA defines as excluding "non-executive branch federal entities" such as the court system. It also excludes contracts that don't appear in the Federal Procurement Database System and those that may be deemed sensitive for "national security reasons." &nbsp;</p> <p>In fact, the SBA's exclusions cover the majority of federal discretionary spending, according to an analysis by law professor Charles Tiefer, an expert on government contracts at the University of Baltimore. Tiefer calculates that, in 2011, the SBA excluded $677 billion worth of federal grants and contracts from $1.1 trillion in overall spending, which allowed the agency to claim that 22 percent of the contracting dollars went to small businesses that year.</p> <p>"The SBA has a lot of trouble getting agencies like the Department of Defense to give awards to small businesses instead of the Lockheeds and the Halliburtons," Tiefer explains, "so it wants formulas that establish the lowest possible total to lighten up its work for how much small-business contracting it has to round up."</p> <p>Although genuflecting to the shrine of small business has become standard practice for politicians&mdash;President Barack Obama said in 2012 that&nbsp; small businesses "are the backbone of our economy and the cornerstone of our nation's promise"&mdash;the SBA's flaws are largely ignored by the leaders of both parties. The watchdog group Public Citizen, which <a href="">examined the issue last year</a>, blames the inaction on the revolving door between government and major contractors, and on prodigious lobbying and political donations from Fortune 500 companies.</p> <p>More surprisingly, the issue has received scant attention from the nation's best-known "small business" groups. The National Federation of Independent Business, which claims 350,000 members and chapters in 50 states, hasn't touched it. Chapman believes the NFIB is actually <a href="">a shill operation for large corporations</a>. In 2011, it received a $3.7 million donation from Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS, the dark-money arm of his conservative political fundraising juggernaut.&nbsp;</p> <p>In Tiefer's view, the outrage of Chapman&rsquo;s group is spot on. Redirecting hundreds of billions of dollars to small businesses each year would do a lot to address income inequality, he told me: "The difference is much smaller between the salaries of the people at the top of a small business and the worker bees&hellip;By and large, the people at the top of the big contractors like Lockheed are in the 1 percent, whereas the people in the top of small businesses are not."</p></body></html> Politics Corporations Economy Regulatory Affairs small business administration Mon, 25 Jul 2016 10:00:17 +0000 Josh Harkinson 309921 at The Supreme Court Smacked Down This Draconian Anti-Abortion Law, But Texas Has Other Plans <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>On the morning of June 27, in a case that was widely considered a <a href="" target="_blank">landmark decision in reproductive rights</a>, the Supreme Court ruled 5-3 in favor of Texas abortion providers. They concluded that key provisions of<strong> </strong>HB 2, an omnibus bill that required physicians to have admitting privileges at local hospitals and clinics to be outfitted like hospitals, placed an undue burden on women seeking abortions. The stakes were high: For abortion providers in Texas, a decision to uphold the law would have likely left the state with <a href="" target="_blank">fewer than 10 clinics</a>.</p> <p>On the day the Supreme Court issued its ruling, patients and staff at Houston Women's Clinic&mdash;a clinic that has provided abortion care for 40 years&mdash; cheered in celebration and relief. Their clinic would stay open&mdash;for now.</p> <p>"Our initial reaction was that we were ecstatic&mdash;we were thrilled that logic finally prevailed. To be vindicated and have the Supreme Court recognize HB 2 as a sham law was a very exciting moment," said Kathy Kleinfeld, the director at Houston Women's Clinic. "At the same time, we recognize that the damage has already been done in the state of Texas."</p> <p>The Supreme Court ruling may have eased the burden of outfitting a clinic to ambulatory surgical center standards and finding a physician with admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic, but it's not exactly smooth sailing from here. Despite the historic victory, major barriers remain for clinic owners in Texas. Those that plan to reopen after being shuttered by the regulations have a long, expensive road ahead: The space they once occupied has likely been lost and costly alternatives must conform to code. They must also hire a team of qualified physicians and nurses, purchase the necessary equipment, work through what appears to be increasingly complicated red tape from state regulators, and function in a state with a history of hostility toward abortion providers.</p> <p>The closure of clinics in Texas was already a problem years before HB 2 passed. Amy Hagstrom Miller, who owns Whole Woman's Health, the lead plaintiff in the Supreme Court case, told <em>Mother Jones</em> she remembers a time prior to 2008 when the passage of abortion restrictions became a regular feature in the state Legislature. Then there were between 60 and 70 clinics throughout the state. By 2013 there were 40, and the law shuttered <a href="" target="_blank">more than half</a> of them. When the Supreme Court got involved, only 19 clinics remained open, and there was a massive swath from San Antonio to El Paso without a single clinic. Many <a href="" target="_blank">Texas women</a> who needed abortions went to neighboring New Mexico.</p> <p>Two Whole Women's Health clinics were forced to close after Gov. Rick Perry signed HB 2 into law three years ago, and the admitting privileges requirement reduced the number of physicians on their staff. Hagstrom Miller had filed away spreadsheets detailing a contingency plan in case the ruling didn't go her way. "It's different to have to throw those spreadsheets away&mdash;I kind of wanted to have a ritual burning."&nbsp;</p> <p>In April 2014, Reproductive Services of El Paso&mdash;one of the other plaintiffs in the Supreme Court case&mdash;shuttered after its physician lost her admitting privileges at a local hospital, meaning the clinic was no longer in compliance with HB 2. Last September, the clinic, which has historically served 2,000 patients<strong> </strong>every year, <a href="" target="_blank">reopened</a> at a new location after a federal judge blocked the admitting-privileges provision from being enforced pending the Supreme Court decision.</p> <p>But before opening its doors, Reproductive Services still had to take the Texas Department of Health and Human Services <a href="" target="_blank">to court</a> over a licensing disagreement involving whether the clinic had to adhere to the surgical center standards that had recently been put on hold in federal court. The judge threatened to hold the state health department in contempt for insisting the clinic adhere to the standards that weren't supposed to be enforced and for not issuing the license. Aside from the cost of litigation, Hagstrom Miller said the clinic has had an inspection every three months since it opened.</p> <p>Opening a new clinic in Texas takes a lot of money, resources, and patience. A license can cost a provider more than $5,000, a nonrefundable fee. Heather Busby, executive director at NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, explains there are a series of inspections that each clinic must undergo before opening, but staff members have to be hired and equipment has to be installed to meet the requirements to obtain licensure. "It's not like you get licensed and then you staff up and buy equipment," she says, "you have to do all those things first."</p> <p>Another threat for providers has been the Texas Department of Health and Human Services, which has evolved, Hagstrom Miller said, to become a "more political, gotcha endeavor." Four days after the Supreme Court ruling, officials at the state Department of Health and Human Services published a proposal in the <a href="" target="_blank"><em>Texas Register</em></a><em> </em>that would require providers to <a href="" target="_blank">cremate or bury</a> fetal remains, regardless of gestational stage. The final rules are expected to take effect in September, and Gov. Abbott has expressed approval at the update.</p> <p>Bryan Black, a spokesman for the health commission, told <em>Mother Jones </em>that the rules aren't a major change, and that they only seek to eliminate a very specific form of tissue disposal. He said the incineration method most commonly used is appropriate under the code. Black also said it was Abbott's office that requested that the agency look into creating an amendment back in January. <a href="" target="_blank">Arkansas, Indiana</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Georgia</a> have similar laws on the books. Ohio, South Carolina, and Mississippi have all <a href="" target="_blank">considered</a> requirements to this effect as well.</p> <p>"That regulation isn't used in the interest of women's health," Hagstrom Miller said. "It's a political tool."</p> <p>Even though they are not required to do so, the state Health Department also controls the statistics on the effects of the law and releases them annually. Nearly two weeks before the Supreme Court issued its ruling, the ACLU of Texas sent a letter to the department's commissioner, John Hellerstedt, that demanded the department <a href="" target="_blank">"stop concealing"</a> 2014 statistics on abortion in Texas. Part of the reason the ACLU wanted the numbers to be made public was that in oral arguments, Justice Anthony Kennedy wondered if the case should be sent back to the lower court so that more evidence on the law's impact could be collected. A source inside the health agency told the <em>Texas Tribune </em>that the data had been collected and analyzed <a href="" target="_blank">for months.</a></p> <p>Three days after the ruling, the numbers were released, and they showed a <a href="" target="_blank">significant drop</a> in the number of abortions in the state. However, according to a report by the <em>Houston Chronicle</em>, the state <a href=";cmpid=fb-premium" target="_blank">quietly adjusted</a> the way it recorded abortion statistics for the report, concealing a 27 percent jump in second trimester abortions the year after HB 2 restrictions went into effect. It based its calculations of what constituted a "trimester" on the estimated date of fertilization rather than a woman's last period, which means that 3,008 abortions were categorized as first-trimester abortions when they would have been counted as second-trimester abortions under the HB 2-era rules. Medical professionals <a href="" target="_blank">dispute this method</a> as highly unscientific.</p> <p>The state health department also requires abortion providers to hand out a booklet titled, "<a href="" target="_blank">A Woman's Right to Know."</a> This year's update includes information on disproved theories such as fetal pain, risk of breast cancer after having an abortion, and the risk of depression or mental instability after having an abortion.</p> <p>At this point, providers say they expect further regulations and restrictions on clinics to emerge from the Legislature and the health commission.</p> <p>"We're not surprised that the state, in some way, tried to slide some additional regulations through days after the ruling," Kleinfeld said. "The honeymoon is over. Thank you, Greg Abbott."</p></body></html> Politics Reproductive Rights Mon, 25 Jul 2016 10:00:16 +0000 Becca Andrews 309616 at The Trump Files: Watch Donald Shave a Man's Head on Television <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><em>Until the election, we're bringing you "The Trump Files," a daily dose of telling episodes, strange-but-true stories, or curious scenes from the life of presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump.</em></p> <p>Among Donald Trump's proudest accolades is his place in the WWE's Hall of Fame. Trump has appeared at WWE wrestling shows and events numerous times throughout the years, but the peak of his career in the ring was undoubtedly his "Battle of the Billionaires" with WWE owner Vince McMahon at 2007's Wrestlemania XXIII. "To this day it has the highest ratings, the highest Pay-Per-View in the history of wrestling of any kind," <a href="" target="_blank">Trump bragged</a> in his Hall of Fame induction speech in 2013.</p> <p>The battle was actually fought by wrestlers representing the two men, but Trump still managed to clothesline McMahon and pummel him while the two were on the ground. After Trump's victory, he climbed into the ring to shave McMahon's head and pile shaving cream on top of it.</p> <p>"Donald Trump is in a world he is not familiar with," the announcer said as the carnage unfolded. "This is not real estate." McMahon is not the only one who wished Trump had stopped there.</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src="" width="630"></iframe></p> <p><strong><em>Read the rest of "The Trump Files":</em></strong></p> <ul><li>Trump Files #1: <a href="" target="_blank">The Time Andrew Dice Clay Thanked Donald for the Hookers</a></li> <li>Trump Files #2: <a href="" target="_blank">When Donald Tried to Stop Charlie Sheen's Marriage to Brooke Mueller</a></li> <li>Trump Files #3: <a href="" target="_blank">The Brief Life of the "Trump Chateau for the Indigent"</a></li> <li>Trump Files #4: <a href="" target="_blank">Donald Thinks Asbestos Fears Are a Mob Conspiracy</a></li> <li>Trump Files #5: <a href="" target="_blank">Donald's Nuclear Negotiating Fantasy</a></li> <li>Trump Files #6: <a href="" target="_blank">Donald Wants a Powerball for Spies</a></li> <li>Trump Files #7: <a href="" target="_blank">Donald Gets An Allowance</a></li> <li>Trump Files #8: <a href="" target="_blank">The Time He Went Bananas on a Water Cooler</a></li> <li>Trump Files #9: <a href="" target="_blank">The Great Geico Boycott</a></li> <li>Trump Files #10: <a href="" target="_blank">Donald Trump, Tax-Hike Crusader</a></li> <li>Trump Files #11: <a href="" target="_blank">Watch Donald Trump Say He Would Have Done Better as a Black Man</a></li> <li>Trump Files #12: <a href="" target="_blank">Donald Can't Multiply 16 and 7</a></li> <li>Trump Files #13: <a href="" target="_blank">Watch Donald Sing the "Green Acres" Theme Song in Overalls</a></li> <li>Trump Files #14: <a href="" target="_blank">The Time Donald Trump Pulled Over His Limo to Stop a Beating</a></li> <li>Trump Files #15: <a href="" target="_blank">When Donald Wanted to Help the Clintons Buy Their House</a></li> <li>Trump Files #16: <a href="" target="_blank">He Once Forced a Small Business to Pay Him Royalties for Using the Word "Trump"</a></li> <li>Trump Files #17: <a href="" target="_blank">He Dumped Wine on an "Unattractive Reporter"</a></li> <li>Trump Files #18: <a href="" target="_blank">Behold the Hideous Statue He Wanted to Erect In Manhattan</a></li> <li>Trump Files #19: <a href="" target="_blank">When Donald Was "Principal for a Day" and Confronted by a Fifth-Grader</a></li> <li>Trump Files #20: <a href="" target="_blank">In 2012, Trump Begged GOP Presidential Candidates to Be Civil</a></li> <li>Trump Files #21: <a href="" target="_blank">When Donald Couldn't Tell the Difference Between Gorbachev and an Impersonator</a></li> <li>Trump Files #22: <a href="" target="_blank">His Football Team Treated Its Cheerleaders "Like Hookers"</a></li> <li>Trump Files #23: <a href="" target="_blank">The Trump Files: Donald Tried to Shut Down a Bike Race Named "Rump"</a></li> <li>Trump Files #24: <a href="" target="_blank">When Donald Called Out Pat Buchanan for Bigotry</a></li> <li>Trump Files #25: <a href="" target="_blank">Donald's Most Ridiculous Appearance on Howard Stern's Show</a></li> <li>Trump Files #26: <a href="" target="_blank">How Donald Tricked New York Into Giving Him His First Huge Deal</a></li> <li>Trump Files #27: <a href="" target="_blank">Donald Told Congress the Reagan Tax Cuts Were Terrible</a></li> <li>Trump Files #28: <a href="" target="_blank">When Donald Destroyed Historic Art to Build Trump Tower</a></li> <li>Trump Files #29: <a href="" target="_blank">Donald Wanted to Build an Insane Castle on Madison Avenue</a></li> <li>Trump Files #30: <a href="" target="_blank">Donald's Near-Death Experience (That He Invented)</a></li> <li>Trump Files #31: <a href="" target="_blank">When Donald Struck Oil on the Upper West Side</a></li> <li>Trump Files #32: <a href="" target="_blank">When Donald Massacred Trees in the Trump Tower Lobby</a></li> <li>Trump Files #32: <a href="" target="_blank">When Donald Demanded Other People Pay for His Overpriced Quarterback</a></li> <li>Trump Files #33: <a href="" target="_blank">The Time Donald Sued Someone Who Made Fun of Him for $500 Million</a></li> <li>Trump Files #34: <a href="" target="_blank">Donald Tried to Make His Ghostwriter Pay for His Book Party</a></li> </ul></body></html> Politics 2016 Elections Donald Trump The Trump Files Mon, 25 Jul 2016 10:00:15 +0000 Max J. Rosenthal 309421 at