How A New Mental Health Reform Bill Could Break The Party Divide

by ALEX ZIELINSKI – It’s been nearly three years since the Senate held a hearing on mental health care. The last meeting, sparked by the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary shooting that left 27 dead in Newton, Connecticut, called for an urgent, bipartisan solution to the country’s gaps in access to mental health care. But neither gun control policy or mental health legislation has advanced since. Now, nearly 1,000 mass shootings later, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee has reconvened to push actual legislation into the spotlight. And this time, the bill featured touts a powerful promise: Bipartisan support. Mental health care policy has historically been paired with gun control laws in Congress, making it a consistently complicated and drawn-out battle. Usually, GOP policymakers stick to their guns (literally) by pinning the spread of gun violence on the lack of comprehensive mental health care, and urging efforts focused...

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Cowboy Bob, Black Magic, And The Courtroom Of Death

by ERICA HELLERSTEIN – “Macy’s persistent misconduct… has without doubt harmed the reputation of Oklahoma’s criminal justice system and left the unenviable legacy of an indelibly tarnished legal career.” – U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, 2002 Wearing a crisp white shirt, Robert “Cowboy Bob” Macy sits in a plush beige chair in front of the camera. His face is wrinkled; his hair gray and thin. A tan leather saddle rests on the table behind him, and a western-themed wind chime clinks in the breeze. “Do you believe in God?” David Aubre, a French filmmaker, asks the former Oklahoma County District Attorney. “Very much,” Macy drawls. “Do you think there’s a chance that God is against the death penalty?” Macy blinks. The camera focuses on his face, and he remains quiet save for a few shallow breaths. More than ten seconds pass. Finally, he concludes, “I don’t know how to answer...

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Where Republicans are United, Divided on the Economy

by BRUCE DRAKE – Republicans differ sharply from Democrats in their views on the state of the economy, the tax system, government aid to the poor and other issues. But Republicans also have divisions within their own ranks. Here is a profile of Republicans’ views of the economy and economic policy, based on our surveys: Recovery As a whole, Republicans are more bearish about the national economy than Democrats. Just 16% of Republicans rated the economy as excellent or good in our May survey, compared with 36% of Democrats. And Republicans are more likely than Democrats to say the economy isn’t recovering. One-in-three Republicans (33%) said the economy wasn’t recovering at all, compared with 7% of Democrats. In a January survey, more Republicans (63%) than Democrats (47%) said they were falling behind financially. When asked in July, Americans rated the parties about equally when it came to which would better handle...

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Congressman: ‘No Way’ Comprehensive Immigration Reform Will Happen, Even After Obama

by EMILY ATKIN – It’s been widely reported that newly-elected Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) won’t bring immigration reform legislation to the House floor while President Obama remains in office. What’s been mentioned less is what will happen when Obama is gone. According to Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), Ryan promised the House’s ultra-conservative Freedom Caucus in a closed-door meeting that he won’t bring comprehensive immigration reform to the floor even after a new president is elected — that is, unless he can ensure that the majority of House Republicans will vote for it. And Jordan pointed out that it’s very unlikely that the majority of Republicans will ever support anything comprehensive. “We got assurances on the immigration issue and this comprehensive Gang-of-Eight-type of plan that that’s not going to happen,” Jordan told radio host Laura Ingraham on Friday. “And frankly, in the next Congress, there’s no way something...

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Clinton Unveils Criminal Justice Platform Amid Protest By Black Lives Matter Activists

by BEENISH AHMED – Hilary Clinton unveiled her platform on criminal justice reform at a rally on Friday that was briefly interrupted by demonstrators from the Black Lives Matter movement. The Democratic presidential front-runner called for an end to racial profiling in law enforcement and said that she would prevent the federal government from asking job applicants about their criminal history. “Race still plays a significant role in determining who gets ahead in America and who gets left behind,” Clinton said. “Racial profiling is wrong, demanding, doesn’t keep us safe or help solve crimes. It’s time to put that practice behind us.” Clinton spoke at a packed gym at Clark Atlanta University, a historically black institution. She was interrupted by demonstrators from the Black Lives Matter movement. In response to their cries of “Black lives matter,” Clinton said, “Yes, yes they do.” Speaking over the group, she attempted to continue...

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No Survivors From Russian Plane Crash in Egypt

At least 224 people killed after airliner crashed in mountainous part of Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula All 224 passengers and crew on board a Russian passenger plane that crashed in Egypt’s Sinai peninsula have died, Egyptian medical and security sources said. Search and rescue team members are still gathering the remains of victims after the crash on Saturday, the sources said. The plane was heading to St Petersburg, likely carrying tourists returning from holidays in Egypt’s popular Sharm el-Sheikh resort. The Russian embassy confirmed there were no survivors. A statement Egypt’s civil aviation ministry said the wreckage of the Russian passenger jet was found in the Hassana area, south of the city of el-Arish. It said the plane – a Metrojet Airbus A321 – took off from Sinai Peninsula’s Sharm el-Sheikh, a popular destination for Russian tourists, and disappeared from radar screens 23 minutes after take-off. Day of mourning Among...

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Is Denmark’s Democratic Socialism a Realistic Model for the U.S.?

by JOSH HOXIE – If you ask Bernie Sanders about his version of socialism, you’ll probably hear a lot about the small Scandinavian country perhaps best known for inventing Legos. Anderson Cooper experienced this firsthand when he asked about the Vermont senator’s embrace of democratic socialism during the first Democratic presidential debate. That prompted the full Sanders rap on the wonders of Denmark, including the Nordic country’s strong safety net and egalitarian ethic. As a longtime fan of all things Danish, from their bike lanes to their Viking hats, I’m excited to see this northern nation enter the spotlight here at home. While studying abroad in Denmark as a college student, I compared its universal health care system to our own — and found Denmark’s far superior. This was in 2009, a time when this was anything but an academic exercise. Back home, Congress and the Obama administration were brushing...

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Ted Nugent on SC Teen: ‘Act Like an Animal and You Will End up Being Treated Like an Animal’

by Jen Hayden – According to the NRA’s most famous board member, the South Carolina teen who refused to give up her phone and was subsequently violently arrested, she’s nothing more than an animal. In a column for conspiracy heavy WND, Nugent spewed his hateful and racist views: As the liberal denial freaks recoil in feigned horror at such “unnecessary” violent disruption by the good officer Fields, I am proud to stand with the many millions of Americans who know damn well she had it coming, and clearly long overdue at that. The introverted kid who classmates say rarely talked “had it coming.” Never mind he knows nothing of this child, he went on: By all accounts, the brat, like so many undisciplined brats before her, simply refused to obey the rules, refused to obey the teacher, refused to obey the principal and refused to obey officer Fields.By all these consistent...

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‘A Tale of Two Retirements’: New Report Blasts Rigged Rules That Favor Corporate Execs

by Andrea Germanos – Imagine a retirement account worth over $49.3 million. For 100 Fortune 500 CEOs, it’s no dream—it’s their average retirement nest egg, according to a report, A Tale of Two Retirements, released Wednesday by the Center for Effective Government and the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS). Underscoring the nation’s inequality, the CEOs’ retirement assets together total $4.9 billion, the same amount as that held by 50 million families—41 percent of American families—combined. “The CEO-worker retirement divide has turned our country’s already extreme income divide into an even wider economic chasm,” said Sarah Anderson, IPS Global Economy Project director. Take Honeywell CEO David Cote, who, the report notes, has promoted cuts to Social Security and is a founding member of the pro-austerity group Fix the Debt.  He stands to get a monthly retirement check of over $948,000, while General Electric chief executive Jeffrey Immelt stands to take in $463,000...

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These 4 Republican Senators Are Forming A Group To Tackle Climate Change

by KATIE VALENTINE – The environment just got a boost from an unlikely source: Senate Republicans. Four senators — Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Mark Kirk (R-IL), and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) — formed a Senate Energy and Environment Working Group this week that, according to Ayotte’s office, will “focus on ways we can protect our environment and climate while also bolstering clean energy innovation that helps drive job creation.” The group will meet semi-regularly to discuss environmental issues and talk about potential legislative ways to address them. “The Energy and Environment Working Group will be a way for us to bring people together and start an ongoing conversation about these topics — like how we can best protect our environment and climate, pursue common sense and market-based reforms to grow our economy, and promote cleaner energy production,” Ayotte said in a statement. The news of the group’s formation comes...

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Thank You, Donald Trump?

by David Michael Green – Call me a jerk if you want to (you won’t be the first), but I kinda like it when bad things happen to bad people.  I especially appreciate it when greedy plutocrats who run over the weakest of us to in order to make themselves even richer and more powerful get handed their lunch. Sadly, mine is a largely unrequited desire, and an altogether lonely avocation.  It just doesn’t happen so very often that the world’s most deserving get their just reward.  There might be justice in the cosmos, but I regret to say that I’ve not had the pleasure of encountering a whole lot of it in this lifetime. Lately, though, I’ve been getting bruises on my butt from falling off my chair so often, as the crimes of more than a decade ago are miraculously now getting some attention.  That’s not the same as...

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The Paradox of Paul Ryan: Why the Tea Party’s Right to be Wary

by Bill Moyers, Michael Winship – Only in a world where Cosmopolitan magazine can declare the Kardashians “America’s First Family” and the multi-billionaire loose cannon Donald Trump is perceived by millions as the potential steward of our nuclear arsenal could about-to-be Speaker of the House Paul Ryan be savaged as insufficiently right-wing. This is after all a man who made his bones in Congress and the Republican Party as an Ayn Rand-spouting, body building budget-buster slashing away at the body politic like a mad vivisectionist, as well as an anti-choice, pro-gun zealot who never met a government program he liked (except the military, whose swollen budget he would increase until we are all left naked living in a national security state). But the former vice presidential candidate is widely cited among many of his colleagues as a likable enough chap who is polite to his elders in the hierarchy of Congress,...

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Preempting Democracy: What’s Not Being Voted on This November is Sinister

by Simon Davis-Cohen – From minimum wage increases to anti-fracking measures, the right of local citizens to vote on key issues is now in the crosshairs State preemption has reached an infamous status. People are outraged by state legislatures’ claim of unilateral authority to prohibit local governments from raising the minimum wage, curbing fossil fuel extraction or otherwise increasing state protections for workers, the environment and even tenants. It’s an accelerating issue; state preemption bills are broadening. For example, in Michigan and elsewhere the preemption of local minimum wage hikes is being expanded to include all law making that regulates employer-employee relations. And now, in the past few months, local citizens’ very right to vote on the issues has been caught in the crosshairs. Those whom are spearheading this wave of state preemption—often linked to the equally infamous American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)—are escalating their tactics. August and September 2015 court...

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Slamming War on Drugs, Sanders says Let States Make Pot Legal

by Andrea Germanos – ‘We need major changes in our criminal justice system—including changes in drug laws,’ the Vermont senator said Bernie Sanders on Wednesday evening slammed U.S. drug policy and called for the lifting of the federal prohibition on marijuana. The presidential hopeful made the remarks at a town hall meeting at George Mason University. “In the United States we have 2.2 million people in jail today, more than any other country. And we’re spending about $80 billion a year to lock people up. We need major changes in our criminal justice system—including changes in drug laws,” the U.S. Senator from Vermont said. He said that in 2014, there were 620,000 marijuana possession arrests. “That is one arrest every minute,” he said. Sanders also cited an ACLU report that showed that there were over 8 million marijuana arrests from 2001 to 2010, almost 9 in 10 of which were for...

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‘Gasoline on the Fire’: Obama Orders Ground Troops To Syria

by Jon Queally – Expanded military footprint will include Special Ops forces inside Syria and expanded ground operations in Iraq In a move that critics says fulfills long-held warnings of “mission creep” and amount to throwing “gasoline on a fire,” the Obama administration on Friday announced that U.S. ground troops will now be deployed inside Syria. In strategic leaks to various media outlets, the Pentagon made clear the president’s plan to send approximately 50 Special Operations soldiers inside the war-torn country. Reports also note that expanded ground operations will also be taking place in neighboring Iraq. Unnamed U.S. officials reportedly “stressed” to Reuters that the new boots-on-the-ground in Syria were “not meant to engage in front-line combat but rather to advise and assist moderate rebels.” One official told Reuters the key role of the troops would be “logistical” and designed, the news agency reported, to “ensure that weapons and other supplies are delivered...

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Meet The People Being Prosecuted For Voter Fraud In Kansas

by KIRA LERNER – Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a notorious voter suppression architect, is the only election official in the country with prosecutorial power. He secured that authority earlier this year, the latest step in his crusade to go after what he views as rampant voter fraud throughout his state. Earlier this month, he filed his first criminal charges. The targets: three people he says committed voter fraud in the 2010 election. Research shows that new voting restrictions enacted by states across the country prevents voters — particularly minorities and younger citizens — from casting ballots. And according to the Brennan Center for Justice, voter fraud is a non-issue and most alleged fraud in elections relates to unintentional mistakes by voters or election administrators. But Kobach would disagree. To him, the three people he’s decided to prosecute have committed a “serious crime.” One is convicted of a felony, meaning...

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Amid Flood of Dark Money, Groups Make Simple Request of FEC: ‘Do Your Job’

by Deirdre Fulton – Existing regulations are “woefully inadequate to address today’s political environment” Decrying the unprecedented flow of so-called “dark money” into the U.S. political process, a coalition of civic and religious organizations, environmentalists, and academics on Tuesday submitted comments to the Federal Election Commission (FEC), calling on the agency to—put simply—do its job. “Since the 2010 Citizens United decision, each election cycle has seen dramatic changes in the campaign finance environment,” the groups declared in comments (pdf) that press the FEC to address critical regulatory shortfalls. “Yet, the rules and regulations of the Federal Election Commission have not kept pace.” In fact, they continued, “Today’s flood of dark money in federal elections via both electioneering communications and independent expenditures is almost wholly the creation of the Federal Election Commission and the Commission should take responsibility for correcting this problem.” While Citizens United undoubtedly “opened a floodgate of outside spending,”...

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Catholic Theologians Ask New York Times To Stop Letting Ross Douthat Write About Theology

by JACK JENKINS – On October 17, New York Times opinion writer and prominent Catholic conservative Ross Douthat penned a scathing critique of Pope Francis entitled “The Plot To Change Catholicism.” In it, he blasted the pope for supposedly endorsing the idea that divorced and remarried Catholics should receive communion without an annulment, and slammed the famously egalitarian pontiff for his “ostentatious humility.” The piece is one of several Douthat has written about Pope Francis and Catholicism in recent months, most of which are deeply critical of the Church’s left wing and Francis’ relatively progressive take on various theological issues. This week, however, American Catholics are fighting back. On Monday, a group of Catholic theologians published an open letter directly challenging Douthat, who reportedly has little if any formal training in theology or Church history. The signers took particular umbrage with his most recent article, but also appeared to decry...

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Ben Carson Says He’s Not A Homophobe. Ben Carson Disagrees

by ZACK FORD – Though Wednesday night’s Republican presidential debate focused mostly on the economy, one question did bring up social issues. CNBC anchors asked Ben Carson about serving on the board of a company as LGBT-friendly as Costco given his anti-LGBT views, and he used it as an opportunity to claim he’s not at all homophobic. “Obviously you don’t understand my views on homosexuality,” he claimed. “I believe our Constitution protects everybody regardless of their sexual orientation or any other aspect. I also believe marriage is between one man and one woman. There is no reason you can’t be perfectly fair to the gay community.” Rather than address the fact that opposing same-sex marriage is basically the opposite of believing the Constitution protects same-sex couples, Carson went on the defensive. “They shouldn’t automatically assume that because you believe that marriage is between one man and one woman that you...

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Snowden an ‘International Human Rights Defender,’ EU Resolution Calls for His Protection

by Andrea Germanos – Resolution passed by European Parliament Thursday calls on member states to prevent whistleblower’s extradition, rendition The European Parliament passed a resolution Thursday urging its nations to afford NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden protection. Passed by a 285 to 281 vote, the resolution calls on EU member states to “drop any criminal charges against Edward Snowden, grant him protection and consequently prevent extradition or rendition by third parties, in recognition of his status as whistle-blower and international human rights defender.” Snowden, who’s been residing in Russia since 2013, responded to the resolution on Twitter by calling it a “game-changer”: Edward Snowden ✔@Snowden Hearing reports EU just voted 285-281, overcoming huge pressure, to cancel all charges against me and prevent extradition. Game-changer. 10:16 AM – 29 Oct 2015 Follow Edward Snowden ✔@Snowden This is not a blow against the US Government, but an open hand extended by friends. It is...

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