Category Archives: Uncategorized

Fathers forgotten when it comes to services to help them be good parents, new study finds

By Joyce Y. Lee, and Shawna J. Lee

Fathers have a significant impact on their children’s well-being – an impact that begins even before the child is born. In fact, studies have shown that fathers who are involved during pregnancy have healthier children.

During the early years of life, emotionally nourishing father-child relationships lay the foundation for lifelong health and well-being for children. Fathers who are involved during pregnancy also tend to stay involved over the long term. Indeed, the positive influence of father involvement can be felt throughout adolescence and young adulthood.

File 20180613 32319 1pfwgyd.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Fathers want to be more involved but often feel sidelined, studies suggest. George Rudy/Shutterstock.com

Our research lab studies father-child relationships, and we recently looked at the question: What early parent education programs are out there to support fathers during the prenatal and postnatal periods? Our study, published on June 14 in the journal Pediatrics, suggested that there are not that many.

Not many father-friendly early parent education programs

Studies suggest that fathers want to be involved but may not know how to do so. Antonio Guillem/Shutterstock

Specifically, our systematic review examined U.S.-based parent programs for men during the perinatal period, i.e., pregnancy through the first year of life. We could identify only 19 programs (out of a total of 1,353 studies reviewed) that were considered “father-friendly.” Father-friendly was defined as involving or targeting fathers and including outcomes related to fathering, such as father involvement, father-infant interaction and father’s parenting knowledge.

Most programs were offered in clinic or hospital settings. Programs ranged from general education programs (on childbirth, infant care and infant development) to relationship and co-parenting programs to clinical and case management programs.

In addition to the small number of existing programs for fathers, most programs reviewed in the systematic review lacked evidence of improving key fathering outcomes. Relatedly, only three studies were considered high quality. These findings demonstrate the dearth of father-inclusive programs that yield promising outcomes.

Overall, when it comes to education and support during the perinatal period, research shows that there are few parenting programs to prepare men for the magic moment when they welcome their new baby, even though this time has been identified as a critical window of opportunity to intervene to support fathers during their transition to fatherhood.

Most existing programs are designed primarily for mothers. This is a missed opportunity, because fathers in the U.S. are increasingly involved in their children’s lives. And fathers today want to be involved not just as breadwinners, but also as caregivers who provide nurturing and responsive parenting.

Father-friendly practices by health care professionals

A father and newborn. Fathers have reported that they feel neglected in obstetric and pediatric settings. ESB Studios/Shutterstock

In obstetrics and pediatrics settings, fathers participating in research have reported feeling neglected. They are often viewed as playing a secondary role to mothers. This may entail the father seeing himself as a “helper” of the mother instead of a “co-parent” alongside the mother.

This neglect persists for several reasons. For instance, health care professionals may be unwilling or inadequately trained to work with fathers. Clinical services may not be sensitive to men’s parenting needs. Further, mothers might limit men from being engaged in prenatal and postnatal services.

Yet, men have a vital role to play during infancy. To help address the above barriers, Michael Yogman and Craig Garfield, pediatric faculty at the Harvard Medical School and Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine respectively, recommended that health care professionals engage in father-friendly practices. These include acknowledging fathers’ presence at health care visits, welcoming fathers directly, educating fathers about parenting, and encouraging fathers to assume childcare roles early on.

Innovative early parent education programs for fathers

Although there aren’t many yet, innovative parent education programs targeting men during the perinatal period are emerging. One example is Dads Matter, a father-friendly home visitation program that may improve fathers’ engagement with their babies among socioeconomically disadvantaged families.

Another emerging program is Baby Elmo. This is an interactive program that helps fathers understand their babies’ emotional needs to support positive father–child interactions. Baby Elmo is currently being tested for its effectiveness within low-income communities.

Our research lab is implementing a father engagement program for low-income fathers, in collaboration with Healthy Start home visitation programs in Michigan.

Yet another promising program is Supporting Father Involvement by Philip Cowan, emeritus professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley. Supporting Father Involvement is a group-based relationship program that has been successful in promoting father involvement with young children.

On the whole, these programs help ensure that American children – especially those at the highest risk of living apart from their fathers – grow up in households where their fathers or father figures are positively involved from the very beginning.

Fathers play a key role in children’s lives, starting from the very beginning of life. Their involvement in pregnancy is just as important as the involvement of mothers. We celebrate mothers on Mother’s Day and offer multiple programs and resources for helping women navigate motherhood.

The ConversationWe also celebrate our fathers on Father’s Day. However, we leave them with almost no resources for navigating the transition to fatherhood. This disparity in services is inevitably hurting not only fathers, but also their children. It’s time to change this narrative.


Re-published with permission under license from The Conversation

Joyce Y. Lee, PhD Student in Social Work and Psychology, University of Michigan and Shawna J. Lee, Associate Professor, Social Work, University of Michigan


St. Louis Footnote:

The Father Support Center of St. Louis provides comprehensive programs and services to help fathers become better parents in order to improve their children’s futures.

They are located at 4411 N Newstead Ave. St. Louis, MO 63115.

If you or someone you know is in need of their services you can contact them at 314-333-4170 or thru their website http://fatherssupportcenter.org.

 

What hundreds of American public libraries owe to Carnegie’s disdain for inherited wealth

 “A library outranks any other one thing a community can do to benefit its people. It is a never failing spring in the desert.” – Andrew Carnegie

File 20171006 25775 gt1jmy.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1The Girard, Kansas Carnegie library. National Park Service

By Arlene Weismantel, Michigan State University

The same ethos that turned Andrew Carnegie into one of the biggest philanthropists of all time made him a fervent proponent of taxing big inheritances. As the steel magnate wrote in his seminal 1899 essay, The Gospel of Wealth:

“Of all forms of taxation this seems the wisest. By taxing estates heavily at death the State marks its condemnation of the selfish millionaire’s unworthy life.”

Carnegie argued that handing large fortunes to the next generation wasted money, as it was unlikely that descendants would match the exceptional abilities that had created the wealth into which they were born. He also surmised that dynasties harm heirs by robbing their lives of purpose and meaning.

He practiced what he preached and was still actively giving in 1911 after he had already given away 90 percent of his wealth to causes he cared passionately about, especially libraries. As a pioneer of the kind of large-scale American philanthropy now practiced by the likes of Bill Gates and George Soros, he espoused a philosophy that many of today’s billionaires who want to leave their mark through good works are still following.

 

The Medford, Oregon public library, depicted in this postcard, is a classic example of Carnegie library architecture. Offbeatoregon.com

A modest upbringing

The U.S. government had taxed estates for brief periods ever since the days of the Founders, but the modern estate tax took root only a few years before Carnegie died in 1919.

That was one reason why the great philanthropist counseled his fellow ultra-wealthy Americans to give as much of their money away as they could to good causes – including the one he revolutionized: public libraries. As a librarian who has held many leadership roles in Michigan, where Carnegie funded the construction of 61 libraries, I am always mindful of his legacy.

Carnegie’s modest upbringing helped inspire his philanthropy, which left its mark on America’s cities large and small. After mechanization had put his father out of work, Carnegie’s family immigrated from Dunfermline, Scotland, to the U.S. in 1848, where they settled in Allegheny, Pennsylvania.

The move ended his formal education, which had begun when he was eight years old. Carnegie, then 13, went to work as a bobbin boy in a textile factory to help pay the family’s bills. He couldn’t afford to buy books and he had no way to borrow them in a country that would have 637 public libraries only half a century later.

In 1850, Carnegie, by then working as a messenger, learned that iron manufacturer Colonel James Anderson let working boys visit his 400-volume library on Saturdays. Among those books, “the windows were opened in the walls of my dungeon through which the light of knowledge streamed in,” Carnegie wrote, explaining how the experience both thrilled him and changed his life.

Books kept him and other boys “clear of low fellowship and bad habits,” Carnegie said later. He called that library the source of his largely informal education.

Carnegie eventually built a monument to honor Anderson. The inscription credits Anderson with founding free libraries in western Pennsylvania and opening “the precious treasures of knowledge and imagination through which youth may ascend.”

 

This postage stamp depicted the steelmaker in a library, halfway through a book.

Supporting communities

Carnegie believed in exercising discretion and care with charitable largess. People who became too dependent on handouts were unwilling to improve their lot in life and didn’t deserve them, in his opinion. Instead, he sought to “use wealth so as to be really beneficial to the community.”

For the industrial titan, that meant supporting the institutions that empower people to pull themselves up by their bootstraps like universities, hospitals and, above all, libraries.

In Carnegie’s view, “the main consideration should be to help those who will help themselves.” Free libraries were, in Carnegie’s opinion, among the best ways to lend a hand to anyone who deserved it.

Carnegie built 2,509 libraries in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, 1,679 of them across the U.S. in nearly every state. All told, he spent US$55 million of his wealth on libraries. Adjusted for inflation, that would top $1.3 billion today.

Some were grand but about 70 percent of these libraries served towns of less than 10,000 and cost less than $25,000 (at that time) to build.

A lasting legacy

Through Carnegie’s philanthropy, libraries became pillars of civic life and the nation’s educational system.

More than 770 of the original Carnegie libraries still function as public libraries today and others are landmarks housing museums or serving other public functions. More importantly, the notion that libraries should provide everyone with the opportunity to freely educate and improve themselves is widespread.

I believe that Carnegie would be impressed with how libraries have adapted to carry out his cherished mission of helping people rise by making computers available to those without them, hosting job fairs and offering resume assistance among other services.

Public libraries in Michigan, for example, host small business resource centers, hold seminars and provide resources for anyone interested in starting their own businesses. The statewide Michigan eLibrary reinforces this assistance through its online offerings.

The Michigan eLibrary, however, gets federal funding through the Institute of Museum and Library Services. And the Trump administration has tried to gut this spending on local libraries. Given Carnegie’s passions, he surely would have opposed those cuts, along with the bid by President Donald Trump and Republican lawmakers to get rid of the estate tax.

 

George Soros, right, eyed the busts of Andrew Carnegie on a mantel, as he sat with the late David Rockefeller in 2001 when they were among the first recipients of the Carnegie Medals of Philanthropy. AP Photo/Richard Drew

Outside of government, Carnegie’s ideas about philanthropy are still making a difference. In the Giving Pledge, contemporary billionaires, including Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett, have promised to give away at least half of their wealth during their lifetimes to benefit the greater good instead of leaving it to their heirs.

Following in Carnegie’s footsteps, the Gates family has supported internet access for libraries in low-income communities and libraries located abroad. Several billionaires, including Buffett, have publicly professed their support for the estate tax. A philosophy of giving and public responsibility may be one of Carnegie’s most enduring legacies.

The ConversationEditor’s Note: The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is a strategic partner of The Conversation US and provides funding for The Conversation internationally as does the Carnegie Corporation of New York.


Article republished with permission under license from The Conversation. Read the original article.

How flood insurance works: 6 questions answered

By Robert W. Klein, Georgia State University

Editor’s note: Hurricane Harvey dumped up to 50 inches of rain on parts of Texas and Louisiana last month. Meanwhile, Hurricane Irma is bearing down on Florida, which will also likely cause substantial flooding.

Hurricane Harvey on August 26, 2017

Homeowners generally rely on insurance provided by the federal government to cover the costs of rebuilding their lives after a flood. We asked an insurance expert to explain the government program and its challenges.

What is flood insurance?

Homeowners’ insurance does not cover damage to a home caused by flooding. A homeowner must have a separate policy to cover flood-related losses, defined as water traveling along or under the ground.

Most such policies are underwritten by the National Flood Insurance Program, which is part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The National Flood Insurance Program was established in 1968 to address the lack of availability of flood insurance in the private market and reduce the demand for federal disaster assistance for uninsured flood losses. Another purpose was to integrate flood insurance with floodplain management, which includes such things as adopting and enforcing stricter building codes, retaining or restoring wetlands to absorb floodwaters and requiring or encouraging homeowners to make their homes more flood-resistant.

The National Flood Insurance Program’s activities are funded largely by the premiums and fees paid by its policyholders, supplemented by a small amount of general funds to help pay for flood risk mapping. Because the National Flood Insurance Program serves the public interest, some believe that more of its funding should be borne by taxpayers.

Homeowners can purchase a federal flood policy directly from the National Flood Insurance Program or through a private insurer. Separately, some private insurers sell their own flood policies on a limited basis for properties that are overcharged by the National Flood Insurance Program.

How many American homeowners have flood insurance?

It is difficult to determine exactly how many homeowners have flood insurance.

The National Flood Insurance Program had just under five million policies in force as of June 30. Of these policies, approximately 68 percent were on single-family homes and 21 percent on condo units. There is no source on how many private flood policies are in force, but my sense is that it is very small relative to the number of National Flood Insurance Program policies.

In recent years, the number of such policies has been dropping across the country. Some of the counties hardest hit by Harvey, for example, such as Harris (which includes Houston), have experienced significant declines.

A more revealing – and more difficult to ascertain – stat is the share of homeowners in a disaster area who actually have flood insurance. In Harris County, for example, experts estimate that only about 15 percent of homeowners are insured for floods – though the percentage should be higher in areas near coastlines.

Real estate data company CoreLogic estimates that approximately 70 percent of flood losses from Harvey will be uninsured.



Why do people at great risk of flooding forgo insurance?

A number of factors affect a homeowner’s decision to buy flood insurance (or not).

People who perceive that their exposure to floods is high are more likely to buy it, all other things equal. And the mandatory purchase requirement forces owners of mortgaged homes located in Special Flood Hazard Areas – areas at high risk for flooding – to buy insurance.

However, 43 percent of homeowners incorrectly believe that their homeowners’ insurance covers them for flood losses.

Other factors also come into play, such as a lack of information, the difficulty of calculating flood risk and the expectation that the government will provide disaster assistance – which is rarely the case.

What does flood insurance cover?

With a National Flood Insurance Program policy, a homeowner can purchase coverage on a dwelling up to US$250,000 and the contents of a home up to $100,000. It does not cover costs associated with “loss of use” of a home.

The National Flood Insurance Program policy limits have been in effect since 1994 and need to be updated to account for the increase in the replacement cost of homes and the actual cash value of their contents. Although not the best measure of the replacement cost, the median price of new homes sold in the U.S. has soared 132 percent since 1994.

Some homeowners buy additional flood protection from private insurers to make up any shortfall.

Why is the National Flood Insurance Program underwater?

The National Flood Insurance Program has faced considerable criticism over its underwriting and pricing policies, which have resulted in a substantial debt. Essentially, its premiums are not high enough to cover how much it pays out on claims and its other costs.

Part of the problem is that about 20 percent of the properties the program insures pay a subsidized rate. But many other National Flood Insurance Program policyholders are also paying premiums substantially less than what it costs to insure them because the rates do not adequately account for the catastrophic losses incurred during years when more major storms than normal strike, such as Katrina and Rita in 2005 and Sandy in 2012. As a result, the National Flood Insurance Program owes an accumulated debt of $25 billion to the U.S. Treasury.



Hurricane Harvey (and potentially other storms such as Irma that may follow) will substantially increase this debt. CoreLogic estimates that National Flood Insurance Program-insured flood losses from Harvey alone will be $6 billion to $9 billion.

In the short term, Congress will have to increase the National Flood Insurance Program’s borrowing authority for it to pay the claims that will result from Harvey and other storms this year. Lawmakers could make a general fund appropriation to forgive all or a portion of the National Flood Insurance Program’s debt, but it has shown no interest in doing so.

These inadequate rates also exacerbate the moral hazard created by flood insurance. People are more likely to buy, build or rebuild homes in flood-prone areas and have diminished incentives to invest in flood risk mitigation, such as by elevating their home, if they can buy insurance at below-cost rates.

What can be done to fix the program?

Legislative efforts to reform the National Flood Insurance Program to put it on firmer fiscal footing have produced mixed results.

The Biggert-Waters Act of 2012 made a number of changes to the program, such as increasing premiums and other changes to make it “more financially stable,” that would have gone a long way to restore its fiscal solvency. However, an outcry from homeowners in high-risk areas such as coastal Florida led to the Homeowners Flood Insurance Affordability Act, passed in 2014, that limited or rescinded many of the Biggert-Waters rate increases.

Fundamentally, the program millions of Americans rely on to help them rebuild their lives after a devastating flood needs to be fixed. Its dire financial straits could be resolved by either making taxpayers foot more of the bill or increasing premiums closer to full-cost rates for most homeowners, while also raising total coverage levels.

At the same time, the government needs to do more to convince or compel more at-risk homeowners to buy flood insurance – which would be harder to do if it were to raise rates. To me, this suggests that increasing taxpayer support for the NFIP will have to be part of the solution so that pricey premiums don’t become a deterrent to someone buying insurance.

The ConversationWith the likelihood of much more flooding in the coming weeks and years, more needs to be done to mitigate the risk, including producing more accurate and timely maps of the flood risk in various areas, especially high-risk areas, educating people about what those risks really mean and helping relocate homeowners as necessary.

Robert W. Klein, Director, Center for RMI Research, Associate Professor, Risk Management and Insurance, Georgia State University


Republished with permission under license from The Conversation

Media Largely ‘Blind’ to Harvey’s Devastating Impact on Poor Communities

"Hurricanes don't care if you're rich, poor, white, or black—but that doesn't mean that every person is equally vulnerable to a storm."

People wait to be rescued from their flooded homes after the area was inundated with flooding from Hurricane Harvey on August 28, 2017 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Texas's minority and low-income communities have been disproportionately harmed by Hurricane Harvey, but you wouldn't know it from following the coverage of America's mainstream media outlets.

"Low-income families are more likely to live in flood-prone areas with deficient infrastructure." 
—Jeremy Deaton, ThinkProgress

As Neil deMause notes in an analysis for Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), "nearly 600,000 Harris County residents live below the poverty line," yet "one had to read carefully between the lines" to find their stories told in any detail.

"Coverage of the poor during Harvey [has been] a bit better than in Katrina, but that's not saying much," deMause wrote on Twitter.

From the Associated Press to the New York Times, the national media has consistently shown its "blindspot for low-income victims," deMause concludes.

But, as many have pointed out, it is low-income and minority communities that always bear the brunt of natural disasters like Hurricane Harvey.

"Hurricanes don't care if you're rich, poor, white, or black—but that doesn't mean that every person is equally vulnerable to a storm," observes Jeremy Deaton of ThinkProgress. "Low-income families are more likely to live in flood-prone areas with deficient infrastructure."

Robert Bullard, professor of urban planning and environmental policy at Texas Southern University in Houston and "the father of environmental justice," told Deaton that "low-income communities and communities of color don't get the necessary protection when it comes to flood control. Generally, the way that the city has grown and the way that the housing and residential patterns have emerged have often been along race and class lines."

Often these housing "patterns" didn't merely emerge, but were the result of policies designed to "perpetuate segregation."

Bullard goes on to note that Houston—which was hit particularly hard by Hurricane Harvey—"spends more on infrastructure in wealthier neighborhoods. That means bicycle lanes and jogging trails but also embankments that keep floodwaters at bay. Low-income communities tend to lack these features."

"Rebuilding will be a long and painful process for people with so few resources." 
—Neena Satija and Kiah Collier, The Texas Tribune

Not only do these communities lack the some of the protective components of their rich counterparts. As Neena Satija and Kiah Collier of The Texas Tribunehave noted, they also lack a social safety net to help them cope with the aftermath of the storm.

"Hundreds of families have been displaced from city-owned public housing complexes that flooded in the wake of Harvey," Satija and Collier write, citing an adviser for the Houston Housing Authority. "Rebuilding will be a long and painful process for people with so few resources."

Adding to these concerns is the fact that low-income communities in Houston are often also the site of major oil refineries and chemical facilities.

"For decades, Houston has been home to an immense concentration of chemical and plastics plants, oil and gas refineries, Superfund sites, fossil fuel plants, and wastewater discharge treatment plants," Sierra Club has observed. "The overwhelming majority of these facilities were constructed in communities of color, only adding to the burden felt from this disaster. Now, in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, the threat posed by these facilities has been magnified."

In an interview on Democracy Now! earlier this week, Dr. Bullard concluded that "when we talk about the impact of sea level rise and we talk about the impacts of climate change, you're talking about a disproportionate impact on communities of color, on poor people, on people who don’t have health insurance, communities that don't have access to food and grocery stores."

Watch the full interview:


Republished with permission under license from CommonDreams

‘Informed Delivery’ From The US Postal Service – New Potential Evidence

The United Stated Postal Service now offers a service called 'Informed Delivery.' With Informed Delivery, the USPS is able to scan your mail each day and send images directly to you.

Informed Delivery is Expanding Nationwide!

Informed Delivery was previously only available to eligible residential consumers in select ZIP Codes™ of several major metropolitan areas, including Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Houston, Miami, Minneapolis, New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Northern Virginia, and Washington DC. Starting today, April 14th, Informed Delivery will be available in remaining ZIP Codes covering the majority of the United States, as shown on this map.

Informed delivery is free, but you must sign up for it and it is available only to residential consumers who have mail delivered to their homes and is not currently being provided to businesses.

New Form of Evidence

I'm looking forward to informed delivery which should prove to be a valuable new form of evidence in court cases. 

Whenever pleadings, motions or other documents are filed in court, the opposing side is supposed to be given a copy of whatever is filed. A certificate of delivery is usually required to be attached to the court filed documents certifying that the opposing side was mailed, email, hand delivered or otherwise given an exact copy of the documents. 

Some court documents, such as a motion for summary judgment must be responded to in writing and filed within a certain number of days; otherwise, the allegations contain within the motion for summary judgment are deemed admitted and the side that request the motion automatically wins.

I've had several situations as a pro se (self-represented) litigant, where an attorney has claimed to have mailed me documents that never arrived. I have suspected in certain instances that the documents were never actually mailed, most likely so that I wouldn't respond in a timely manner, resulting in the motion being granted, often resulting in the case being lost. 

Before informed delivery, there was absolutely no evidence that the other side did not mail the documents, it was simply their word against mine. Additionally, the opposing side could argue that even if I hadn't received the mailed documents, they could have been misdelivered or otherwise lost. Now with informed delivery, if there is no record of the letter containing the documents, a stronger point can be made in court that the documents were never mailed and the certificate of service was a false statement. 

It's been my experience that judges seem to be biased in favor of attorneys rather than pro se litigants and tend to side with the attorney who claims they did actually mail the documents. Informed delivery is a game changer.

At this time, images will be provided for letter-sized mailings that are processed through automated equipment. The plan is to include images of larger flat-sized mailings, such as magazines and catalogs, in the future. All USPS® customers have access to USPS Tracking® that enables them to track their household’s packages. Visit My USPS® for additional details on personalized package tracking.

An email will be generated each day your household receives mail that is processed through USPS®automation equipment. If no mail is processed through automation that day, you will not receive an Informed Delivery notification. Notifications are not sent on days when there is no mail to be delivered, or on Sundays or federal holidays.

Keep in mind it will also be harder for you to claim you mailed something if you didn't and it may be harder to deny you didn't receive certain mail if the post office has a record that it was scheduled to be delivered.

Only time will tell if judges or the rules of evidence will allow this new technology to be used as evidence.

Use the ZIP Code lookup tool to check if Informed Delivery is available in your area: https://informeddelivery.usps.com/box/pages/intro/start.action

Get up to 10 mail piece images in your morning email, which can be viewed on any computer or a smartphone. Get more mail than that? Additional images are available for viewing on your online dashboard – in the same place you track your packages! Don't worry if you are on travel; if you have email or online access, you can see much of the mail that will be delivered to your mailbox.

If you suspect your mail is stolen, you will know exactly what is missing when filing a police report. https://informeddelivery.usps.com/box/pages/intro/faq

How 8 Men Have Become Richer Than Half of the Entire World’s Population

A while ago, Court.rchp.com commented on the Educational Oppression page how through misinformation and miseducation the richest 85 people in the world held as much wealth as the poorest half; now a tenth of that number controls the wealth. For a few to be rich, many must be poor.

Recently, Court.rchp.com mentioned how billionaires have overthrown the U.S. Government with firing a single shot.

Research and advocacy group Oxfam International released a new report on Monday that outlines the latest developments in global economic inequality. Unfortunately, the results validate previous concerns that these massive imbalances would only accelerate. The number of people who control more wealth than the poorest 50% went from 62 to 8 in just one year. With half the world’s net worth now in such few hands, it should be easier than ever to bring awareness to this ongoing trend — but finding a solution is far more complicated.

Oxfam used Forbes’ list of billionaires and new information from Credit Suisse to reach their conclusion. The eight individuals named are Bill Gates; Amancio Ortega, founder of fashion house Inditex; Warren Buffett; Mexican business magnate Carlos Slim Helu; Jeff Bezos; Mark Zuckerberg; Oracle’s Larry Ellison; and Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York.

Although many people with resources like these have made tremendous contributions to society, the question of how obligated they are to contribute to the common good still remains. After all, their fortunes have the potential to completely reshape the world for the better, but the problem arises when government dictates how much should be taxed and where that money will go. The public sector’s track record of wasting and mismanaging funds is unmatched and can only be rationalized by the economically illiterate. In an ideal world, bureaucrats would be fiscally responsible and impervious to corruption, but reality is never so utopian.

The rapid consolidation of wealth by so few showcases who the current government policies have benefited most. Artificially low interest rates and money printing, which have sent stock markets soaring for nearly eight years, have only helped solidify the elite’s hold on the financial world. They can borrow money for next to nothing and buy up huge stakes in companies, all while enjoying profits courtesy of the Federal Reserve’s stimulus programs.

Government regulations may stem from good intentions, but they can easily create a dragnet that ends up targeting those they were intended to helpWhile normal people are losing their jobs, seeing rent skyrocket and health care costs explode, the State has been propping up those it really serves.

In the report, Oxfam vaguely lays the blame at the feet of corporations:

Businesses are the lifeblood of a market economy, and when they work to the benefit of everyone they are vital to building fair and prosperous societies. But when corporations increasingly work for the rich, the benefits of economic growth are denied to those who need them most. In pursuit of delivering high returns to those at the top, corporations are driven to squeeze their workers and producers ever harder – and to avoid paying taxes which would benefit everyone, and the poorest people in particular.”

Since the financial crisis began, the 1% has been scapegoated continuously, but complaining about an abstract hierarchy won’t help the millions of people living on less than $2 a day. If substantial changes are going to be made, the focus needs to be on finding hard evidence of tax evasion and unethical business practices on an individual level rather than demonizing anyone with substantial wealth. Verifiable information is what sways public opinion, just like the Panama Papers did by taking the first step in exposing some of the world’s richest people for utilizing tax havens and loopholes to avoid being held responsible. Instead of indiscriminately blaming all those who have achieved success, reports like this could act as a blueprint to help put names and faces to those anonymous adversaries who have avoided accountability.

In this age of information, the opportunity to seek individual justice lays with every journalist and activist. When people group others into left-right, rich-poor, or privileged-oppressed, for example, the uniqueness of each individual experience is lost. The inequality seen across the planet is heartbreaking, and any person with a shred of empathy should want to help. Unfortunately, the solution is rarely State intervention. The tool used to remedy this situation must come from grassroots origins. As government’s management of resources demonstrates, there is no other viable alternative. By inspiring others to take action voluntarily, we can build a foundation that doesn’t rely on the threat of violence and use of force for progress.


Republished with permission under license from  Shaun Bradley and theAntiMedia.org

Black Men Still Predominant Victims Of Police Violence In 2016

by Lauren McCauley

Efforts by the Justice Department under President Barack Obama to improve accountability are likely to be dashed under Trump administration

Of the 1,091 killings, officers were charged with crimes in relation to 18 deaths from 2016. (Photo: FuseBoxRadio/cc/flickr)

Despite the protests, media scrutiny, and all around heightened national attention, young black men in 2016 continued to be the predominant victims of police violence in the United States.

According to year-end figures published Sunday by the Guardian database The Counted, "[b]lack males aged 15-34 were nine times more likely than other Americans to be killed by law enforcement officers last year," and were "killed at four times the rate of young white men."

Overall, the number police killings fell slightly—1,091 last year, according to the Guardian tally, from 1,146 in 2015—but the pattern of brutality has remained consistent. (see footnote)

Of those, "officers were charged with crimes in relation to 18 deaths from 2016, along with several others from the previous year," the report noted. "These charges included the arrests of officers involved in the high-profile killings of Terence Crutcher in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Philando Castile near St Paul, Minnesota."

Following another troubling trend, many fatalities occurred when police were called in to help deescalate a conflict or situation.

"One in every five people killed by police in 2016 was mentally ill or in the midst of a mental health crisis when they were killed," the Guardian reported, and the same percentage of deaths "started with calls reporting domestic violence or some other domestic disturbance."

Further, almost 29 percent "developed from police trying to pull over a vehicle or approaching someone in public, including some potential suspects for crimes."

The newspaper notes that their total "is again more than twice the FBI's annual number of "justifiable homicides" by police, counted in recent years under a voluntary system allowing police to opt out of submitting details of fatal incidents."

With a dearth of public accountability for such incidents, media efforts like The Counted and one by the Washington Posthave attempted to fill that void. But, as the Guardian observed, efforts by the Justice Department under President Barack Obama to improve its system are likely to be dashed with the incoming Trump administration.

Particularly concerning for many is the president-elect's nomination of Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) for attorney general, which both the NAACP and American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have vowed to fight.

An analysis published this week by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University's School of Law highlighted Session's regressive stance on criminal justice reform as well as his deep skepticism of federal involvement in state and local affairs, including policing. "As Attorney General, he could end or significantly curtail these investigations," the Center noted.


This article was republished with permission under license from CommonDreams.


Footnote

Under Cover of Christmas, Obama Establishes Controversial Anti-Propaganda Agency

Buried within the $619 billion military budget is a controversial provision that establishes a national anti-propaganda center that critics warn could be dangerous for press freedoms. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

by Lauren McCauley

"It owns all these not-at-all-important laws are smuggled into NDAAs that are signed on Christmas Eve with basically no public debate," wrote media critic Adam Johnson

In the final hours before the Christmas holiday weekend, U.S. President Barack Obama on Friday quietly signed the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) into law—and buried within the $619 billion military budget (pdf) is a controversial provision that establishes a national anti-propaganda center that critics warn could be dangerous for press freedoms.

The Countering Disinformation and Propaganda Act, introduced by Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, establishes the Global Engagement Center under the State Department which coordinates efforts to "recognize, understand, expose, and counter foreign state and non-state propaganda and disinformation efforts aimed at undermining United Sates national security interests."

Further, the law authorizes grants to non-governmental agencies to help "collect and store examples in print, online, and social media, disinformation, misinformation, and propaganda" directed at the U.S. and its allies, as well as "counter efforts by foreign entities to use disinformation, misinformation, and propaganda to influence the policies and social and political stability" of the U.S. and allied nations.

The head of the center will be appointed by the president, which likely means the first director will be chosen by President-elect Donald Trump.

The new law comes weeks before the New York billionaire assumes the presidency, amid national outrage over the spread of fake news and what many say is foreign interference in the election, both which are accused of enabling Trump's victory.

Those combined forces have already contributed to the overt policing of media critical of U.S. foreign policy, such as the problematic "fake news blacklist" recently disseminated by the Washington Post.

And for those paying attention over the holiday weekend, the creation of the a new information agency under the Propaganda Act appears to be another worrisome development.


Republished with permission under license from Commons Dreams.

Corporations Rather than Governments Control the World

Billionaires have officially overthrown the government of the United States, after failing to do so by force over 80 years ago during the 1933 Business Plot conspiracy. They marched on Washington not with soldiers but with dollars. A handful of corporations and billionaires dominate almost every facet of American life including: Our food choices, entertainment,  the economy, political candidate choices and many of the laws that govern us. 

Knowing the law and having the ability to apply it in courts will become increasingly necessary as even more power and influence is gained by corporate interests. It's probably safe to assume that corporate rights will increase under a Trump administation at the expenses of individual liberties unless people learn how to defend their rights. 

The Illusion of Choice

Ten Corporations Control the majority of the food brands that we eat.


By Carl Gibson

In a real democracy, like the constitutional republic in which we supposedly live, the people choose representatives through the election process to vote for their interests in government. In an oligarchy, like the one in which we actually live, corporations buy representatives through the election process to secure benefits for themselves and rig the game further in their favor. Here’s one $300 billion example. This infographic by Luke Keohane of Move to Amend lays it all out in detail.

Senator John McCain (R-AZ) sits on the Senate committees on foreign relations, armed services, and homeland security. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) sits on the Senate subcommittee for defense appropriations. Collectively, these four committees are responsible for funding arms sales and foreign aid, the continued maintenance and development of the military, oversight for government contracts, and the allocation of the budget for the defense department. Through these four committees, $300 billion in taxpayer dollars, which is roughly $2000 per taxpayer, went to private military contractors in 2013.

These defense contractors were able to secure lavish contracts only through their extensive lobbying efforts, like hiring expensive lawyers with existing connections in government. The Hogan Lovell law firm, where Chief Justice John Roberts previously worked before joining the Supreme Court, explicitly boasts on its website about its expertise in helping corporate clients worm their way through the regulatory system:

Our interdisciplinary practice brings together lawyers with the corporate, commercial and regulatory experience to assist our clients in capitalizing on opportunities and avoiding pitfalls.… we know how to guide you through procurement and regulatory minefields as well as how to protect your interests effectively in disputes and government investigations.… Our clients include some of the largest and most established aerospace, defense, and government services companies in the U.S., Europe and the Middle East.

Justice Antonin Scalia also came from a law firm that lobbies for some of the biggest military contractors. Jones Day law firm’s client list includes war profiteers like Bechtel, General Electric, and Verizon. Scalia worked in Jones Day’s Cleveland office before Ronald Reagan appointed him to the Supreme Court. So what happens when veterans of law firms specializing in corporate lobbying make it all the way to the Supreme Court?

In 2010, both Scalia and Roberts voted to establish money as speech in the Citizens United vs. FEC decision, which allowed for corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money influencing elections. And just recently, both justices voted that aggregate limits on individual campaign donations are unconstitutional in the McCutcheon vs. FEC decision. So not only can large military contractors use their influence in Congress to secure lucrative contracts, they also have influence in the courts to overturn laws that previously limited their ability to buy politicians outright.

Last Summer, when the Senate held a vote to authorize the use of military force in Syria, both John McCain and Dick Durbin voted YES. As Maplight shows, Senators McCain and Durbin received more than $300,000 in campaign contributions from defense contractors between the two of them. Moreover, members of the Senate who voted YES for military intervention in Syria received 83 percent more in campaign donations from military contractors than those who voted NO. It’s expected that through the continued support of military contractors in their re-election campaigns, McCain and Durbin will continue to use their positions in the senate to give those same military contractors more government contracts.

It isn’t hard to see that our current system of unlimited money in politics, made possible through corporate “personhood” and money as political speech, is the reason both parties in Congress are so nakedly corrupt. Until we get a constitutional amendment establishing that corporations aren’t people and money is not speech, we can expect more of the same quid-pro-quo bribery in our politics.


Article above Republished with permission from Reader Supported News


Some Corporations are more powerful than most nations

Corporations
Source: InternationalBusinessGuide.org

What Next? White Supremacists In Suits And Ties In Washington

By Lacy MacAuley

A demonstrator holds a banner as they protest in Pennsylvania Avenue outside of the Trump Hotel in Washington in opposition of President-elect Donald Trump, on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016. ( AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

Fascists are coming out of the closet. They may have new haircuts, but their thinking is old and tired. That’s why we need you. Now.

Nazi salutes. White people demanding a white “homeland.” A speaker talking about how women like to be assaulted. Glowing remarks about Adolf Hitler. Reporters getting booed for asking tough questions. This was the scene inside a conference held at a downtown Washington DC government building this past weekend and at a local restaurant.

White supremacists drank champagne this weekend in our nation’s capital to celebrate Trump’s presidential victory. The mostly-male group, part of the “Alt Right” movement, wore suits, ties, and dubious smiles. I wondered if any of them also had white robes at home.

I was outside the building with a crowd of about 500 protesters. Our chants included, “Racists eating creme brûlée? You’re still the KKK,” and, “Fascists, we will shut you down.” We also chanted, “Love will prevail.” It was a diverse group of people from many backgrounds, identities, and ideologies. We held a dance protest on the sidewalk outside the restaurant hosting their meet-and-greet on Friday, after about 30 people protested inside the restaurant. We also occupied the street in an energized, spontaneous march outside of their conference on Saturday.

The conference was organized by the blandly-named “National Policy Institute,” a white supremacist organization that has been designated a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center. It featured many white guys, such as neo-Nazi “academic” Kevin MacDonald, anti-immigration writer Peter Brimelow, and the head of the institute, professional racist Richard Spencer. Also, former TV personality Tila Tequila.

The institute’s flashy, meme-heavy materials call for a moratorium of up to 50 years on immigration from countries that are not European or white enough. They promote forced sterilization, which they’ve creepily called “programatic” contraception for “positive, eugenic effect,” to deny people of color the choice to have children. Their might-makes-right approach blends with their sexist views of a patriarchal society. They hype a whites-only nation, so that no white person will need to see a person of color. Their materials discuss eugenics and false, debunked science that is supposed to show the genetic superiority of people who are white. Their website reviews books written by actual Nazis. This organization and its members are fully fascist, fully racist, and not hiding it.

If anyone were looking for overt signs that fascists are coming out of the closet, this is it. The white supremacists celebrated Trump’s victory last week, and are taking a threatening victory lap. We are living in a dangerous time when they feel comfortable enough to bring their ideology of hate straight into our government buildings. And now that they have “fascie” haircuts and aren’t using so many slurs, have acquired some minor graphic design skills, and are trying their best to dress sharp, they are getting profiled by news outlets from Mother Jones to Rolling Stone. News outlets such as Vice News to The Atlantic were present for the conference.

These white supremacists may have new haircuts, but their thinking is old and tired.

During the weekend conference, I had a cringe-worthy encounter with Spencer, head of the institute, and two other conference attendees. The three, accompanied by a small entourage, had burst out the doors of their Friday night event in the same way a gunslinging band of cattle thieves walks into a saloon in a cowboy movie. They were looking for a fight. What ensued was a ridiculous argument of sorts. They proceeded to call all of us communists (some of us were, some weren’t). They insisted that I was “self-hating” because I, a white woman, don’t want to live in an isolated whites-only world. They yelled over us, mostly, pausing only long enough to catch a phrase or two so that they could jump to their conclusions.

Richard Spencer, whose name is often accompanied by the fact that he has a master’s degree from the University of Chicago, was displaying tactics he likely learned bullying other children on the playground, not in his graduate classes. (I suppose news outlets think it is fascinating that he is a white supremacist with a college education? They didn’t pause to consider the credentials of the protesters outside. I personally could have referred them to several people standing with me with master’s degrees and two with PhDs.) After the three had yelled and yelled for several minutes, as playground bullies are inclined to do, they insulted the physical appearance of all of us, calling us fat, ugly, or both, declared that they had “won,” and walked away. We laughed it off, but it was an interesting encounter that only illustrated the brutal ideology of force that we are up against.

I had started organizing the weekend’s protests months ago with a small group of committed antifascists. None of us thought then that we would be facing a Trump presidency. None of us thought then that a person who was so openly racist and sexist could be elected. None of us would have expected that Steve Bannon, who has said that his website Breitbart has been a platform for the Alt Right, could wind up a close advisor to president. None of us expected this deplorable conference to be some sort of celebration of victory. But now, that is what we’ve got.

Now, more than ever, the Alt Right, the white supremacists, and the fascists, are coming out of the woodwork to try to gain currency in the policy circles in Washington DC.

And now, more than ever, we must stand up to oppose them.

Standing up to fascism means standing for a world in which we celebrate diversity. We embrace the awesome symphony of differences that make the world a beautiful, colorful, engaging place to be. We do not wish to live in a world in which all of us are the same, because that is not only oppressive, it is boring. We wish to live in a world of creative expression, openness, and support for each other.

The philosophy that the National Policy Institute promotes sounds to me like the worldview of an antisocial, insecure hermit. Spencer, who coined the term Alt Right, promotes separating people based upon their identity, as if he were sorting laundry. The worldview he articulates is one of genetic determinism. It is a view that says that people who identify as white have genes that are somehow better than those of people of color. Using previously-debunked science on IQ test results and racial identity, books promoted on the institute’s site claim that white people are more intelligent than people of color. An article by Spencer on his own site depicts white culture as embattled, and says that “white culture” should have “the right to maintain its traditions, culture, and heritage.” And, in his own words, Spencer proposes doing all of this by force.

I’ve never seen anyone in the Alt Right mention the rights of American Indians or previously-enslaved black Americans, who were unwilling participants in the “American experiment.” The Alt Right seems to feel threatened by the freedom of the people who they previously enslaved. They seem to ignore the rights of indigenous people who have borne the brunt of imperialist foreign policy, who by the way are often the ones who immigrate here.

I have also never seen any discussion of how many cultural contributions people from other societies actually made to the cultures that surround us in the US. The food, technology, entertainment, and other cultural practices that the white boys of the Alt Right grew up in have been a product of a cultural milieu of globalization for a long time now.

Their meat and potatoes? Those potatoes were originally indigenous to the Andes mountains. Their salt and pepper? That pepper came from south India via the Mediterranean spice trade. Their numbers? Invented by Persians. Their bluegrass music? Developed by African slaves and indentured Celtic servants. Their aspirin? A medicine adopted from American Indians. Their Fourth of July fireworks? China. Their corn? Mexico. And the list goes on.

It is a fallacy that “white culture” was developed in a vacuum in the first place. But Spencer’s organization wants to pretend that genes made our culture, not the interconnected reality that we all exist in.

But like the self-entitled white boys that they are, the Alt Right wants to make a grab for a country that they think they built, that they think they own. No. We immigrants, we women, we artistic culture-makers, we are the ones who built our communities. And our communities

And if racist imperialism weren’t enough, these white supremacists have plenty of sexism to deliver up. The movement has strong ties to the so-called “manosphere,” which holds the false, ugly notion that women actually want be dominated by men because of genetics. Many “manosphere” adherents don’t think a woman should have a right to divorce. When a reporter from The Guardian asked about the lack of women present at the conference this past weekend, the crowd booed. Then they cheered when Spencer responded with some comments about how women want a “strong” man.

Gross. He has also said, “At some part of every woman’s soul,” he said, “they want to be taken by a strong man.” What gives him this wisdom? He actually cited romance novels as evidence: “I’ve looked at a lot of romance novels that women read and I’ve noticed a distinct pattern,” Spencer said, according to The Guardian.

He also animatedly told the Rolling Stone, “I love empire, I love power, I love achievement,” and admitted to getting a “boner” when reading about Napolean.

So women, definitely don’t get stuck alone in an elevator with this person, especially if he has imperialist literature tucked under his arm. Or a romance novel that I am sure he is just looking at for research.

Womens rights are in a sad state of affairs in our country when the men who think they are qualified to make our policy — Trump, Bannon, and lurking predators like Spencer — don’t even show respect for a woman’s agency over her own body, let alone our agency in the government we are subject to. As a survivor of sexual assault and violence, I empathize with women who are triggered and bewildered right now by the state of our nation.

That is why we need to oppose fascism now. We all stand to lose our freedom if this hateful movement goes any further.

Their worldview holds that people have an innate fear of each other, especially those that are different, and that the politics of power are the only way. They believe that people should live in isolated communities in which everyone looks the same, acts the same, and has the same culture. I don’t think so.

I believe in the part of the human spirit based on love, inclusion, and acceptance. I believe in that impulse that all of us have, of compassionate curiosity towards each other. I believe in our shared humanity and our ability to find common ground. I believe that, in the end, we all want to live in a world of collaboration, not competition. I believe that we all want to live in a world of kindness, caring, and celebration of difference.

Many of us learned of the Holocaust and thought, “If I had been in Nazi Germany, I would have stood up against injustice.” Well, now is our chance to do that in the real world. All of us are needed to counter their fascist agenda. This kind of wild-eyed fascism will not go away by magic. It will go away thanks to you, your shoes marching for freedom, your voice speaking up for justice, and your words helping build political will. You cannot leave this to someone else. This is your problem too. Now is the time to get involved and start meeting in person to stand up for freedom.

After all, what did our cultural heroes Indiana Jones, Captain America, and Superman all have in common? They all fought Nazis. So be a hero, and join us.


This article was republished by permission under license from MintPress News.