WATCH: MIT professor prescribes solutions for causes of poverty

WATCH: MIT professor prescribes solutions for causes of poverty

Salon

COVER_PHOTO-Unemployment-Temin

Peter Temin, an economics professor at MIT, tackled the causes of poverty in the United States in a new book, “The Vanishing Middle Class: Prejudice and Power in a Dual Economy.” Temin examines racism, tracing all the way back to slavery, as well as substandard education offered in parts of the country and a lack of an proactive infrastructure program.

To Temin’s credit, his book proposes solutions: expanding access to public education as well as investing in infrastructure and forcefully confronting institutional mechanisms that perpetuate racial inequality.

During a recent Salon interview, I asked Temin for his real-world fixes to help low-income individuals and create a vibrant middle class.

“Infrastructure is the easiest one to conceptualize and while . . . candidate [Donald] Trump, said he was going to have a massive infrastructure program, we have seen no sign of it in the first three months . . . into his presidency,” Temin said. “It was going to be funded to have private people do it from tax cuts and that’s not what’s going to help us to have actual construction where we need it . . . in our cities.”

Added Temin: “We need more roads, more bridges, more urban transportation, a whole variety of things.”

Only two presidents have implemented sweeping programs of the type that Temin is proposing: Franklin Roosevelt in the 1930s and Lyndon Johnson in the 1960s. Former President Barack Obama took stabs at such measures during his terms, but aside from his stimulus and health care reform measures, he didn’t come close to the benchmarks set by Roosevelt and Johnson.

Temin and I agreed that the U.S. needs to return to a model of economic policymaking that’s progressive, creative and compassionate if we’re going to have an America with a large middle class.

Catch the rest of our conversation on Salon.

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David Barton: the fact that there is no mention of God in the Constitution is proof it’s not a secular document

David Barton: the fact that there is no mention of God in the Constitution is proof it’s not a secular document

Salon

United States Constitution

(Credit: Shutterstock larry1235)

Religious Right psuedo-historian David Barton spent a good portion of his “WallBuilders Live” radio program today insisting that the absence of any mention of God in the U.S. Constitution is proof that it is not a secular document.

“People say, ‘Well, the word “God” isn’t in the Constitution,’” Barton said. “There’s a reason for that and it doesn’t mean it’s secular, it means just the opposite.”

As Barton sees it, there are four mentions of God in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution is really nothing more than “part two of the Declaration,” so the Founding Fathers didn’t need to bother mentioning it again.

“They didn’t feel like they had to say anything in the Constitution because they’ve already said it really strongly in the Declaration,” Barton claimed. “Why repeat it? Because this is just the completion of the Declaration, if you will.”

Barton’s argument hinges on his assertion that “Article 7 of the Constitution dates itself not as a new document, [but] dates itself to the Declaration of Independence.”

We are not sure what Barton means when he says that the Constitution does not date itself as a new document :

Done in Convention by the Unanimous Consent of the States present the Seventeenth Day of September in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and Eighty seven and of the Independence of the United States of America the Twelfth. In witness whereof We have hereunto subscribed our Names . . .

Barton claims that the mention of “the Independence of the United States of America the Twelfth” is what binds the Constitution to the Declaration, making them two parts of the same document.

Those who don’t see this obvious connection, Barton said, are being misled by “brainless” professors who don’t know what they are talking about.

“If you say that that’s proof of secularism, that means you haven’t read the Constitution, you haven’t read history and you haven’t read what the Founders said about the Constitution,” Barton insisted, saying that in order to believe there is no mention of God in the Constitution, “you have to buy into a bunch of pablum by brainless kind of professors that either doesn’t know what they’re talking about or they’re speaking maliciously trying to undermine and shift the nation to move in a different direction.”

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Louisiana’s public defender system violates the rights of the poor

Louisiana’s public defender system violates the rights of the poor

Salon

Jail Cell, Prison

(Credit: istockphoto allanswart)

The SPLC and allies asked a judge today to certify a lawsuit challenging Louisiana’s broken public defender system as a class action case — citing an expert report that describes how the state’s overburdened public defense system fails to protect indigent defendants’ constitutional right to counsel.

If granted class action status, rulings in the case would apply to the approximately 20,000 indigent defendants facing noncapital criminal charges in Louisiana, potentially reforming the failed system detailed in the report. The lawsuit would likely be the largest indigent defense case of its kind.

The findings, issued by a law professor with more than 40 years of experience in public defense, were filed with the motion for class certification in the 19th Judicial District in East Baton Rouge Parish. The report notes that the Louisiana Public Defender Board and the state public defender — who, along with Gov. John Bel Edwards, are defendants in the lawsuit — consider the system to be in crisis.

“The report we filed today documents what indigent defendants across the state have long known: Louisiana’s public defender system is broken,” said Lisa Graybill, SPLC deputy legal director.  “This failure has created a two-tiered justice system in Louisiana — one for those with the money for meaningful representation in court and another for the poor that simply churns them through the system without providing them the meaningful defense required by the Constitution.

“Louisiana’s public defense system is underfunded, unmonitored, and wholly inadequate,” Graybill said. “The failure of the system is a statewide problem, and it calls for a statewide remedy.”

The motion for class certification argues that Louisiana has allowed the system to languish for years under excessive caseloads and inadequate staffing — a description echoed in the report by public defense expert Robert Boruchowitz.

Boruchowitz’s report describes how heavy caseloads prevent public defenders from conducting adequate investigations and notes that defenders virtually never hire expert witnesses. The report also outlines how many people charged with crimes wait weeks — or even months — in jail before a public defender is appointed.

The result, according to the report, is a criminal justice system where judges, public defenders and prosecutors have become accustomed to a culture that violates the rights of indigent defendants.

Boruchowitz, a Seattle University School of Law professor, conducted and oversaw visits to nearly 20 of Louisiana’s parishes for the report. His conclusions are based on court observations, a review of records, and interviews with public defenders and other criminal justice stakeholders.

The underlying lawsuit was filed in February by the SPLC; the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law; Davis, Polk & Wardwell LLP and Jones Walker LLP

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GOP vs. CBO: Republicans open fire on budget office (again) after agency’s damning report on Trumpcare

GOP vs. CBO: Republicans open fire on budget office (again) after agency’s damning report on Trumpcare

Salon

House Republicans Address The Media After Weekly Party Conference Meeting

Paul Ryan (Credit: Getty Images/ Win McNamee)

During the 1990s, Republicans mocked President Bill Clinton for his disingenuous statements on “the meaning of the word ‘is.’” Nearly 20 years later, they’re resorting to debating the meaning of “lose,” in an attempt to explain away a Congressional Budget Office analysis showing that an estimated 23 million people will be without health insurance under the American Health Care Act recently passed by the House of Representatives. Congressional Republicans are also trying once again to attack the CBO’s credibility, despite the fact that the agency head is a Republican appointee.

The first version of the AHCA, which never even made it to a House vote was expected to leave 24 million people without insurance. To win over some wayward members, the House GOP leadership tossed in a few more billion dollars for “high-risk pools” to provide insurance for people who are less than healthy. It didn’t make much of a difference in terms of coverage, however. In a report issued May 24, the CBO estimated that the revised version of the Republican health care proposal would leave only a million fewer people uninsured.

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The House bill’s provision to end Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion after several years is the primary method by which the new law is expected to save the federal government $119 billion over the next 10 years. But ending the Medicaid expansion is also why the CBO estimated that millions will be left without health insurance.

Under the AHCA, the budget bureau estimates that 14 million people will not become eligible for Medicaid — who otherwise would, under existing law — within 10 years. The remaining 9 million are people CBO expects will be priced out of the health insurance markets without being eligible for the “high risk pools,” or people who will simply opt not to purchase a policy at all, since the Republican proposal eliminates the current mandate to purchase health insurance.

Some Republicans, particularly on the House side, are completely ignoring the Medicaid cuts and the way the AHCA enables insurance companies to charge sky-high premiums for the elderly and extra premiums for women who want maternity care. Instead, they are trying to draw attention to the much smaller number of people who are expected to opt out of purchasing insurance altogether.

“Freedom is the ability to buy what you want to fit what you need,” House Speaker Paul Ryan wrote on Twitter earlier this year. “Obamacare is Washington telling you what to buy regardless of your needs.”

It’s “basically a picture of when people are not forced to buy broccoli, they don’t eat it,” Rep. Daniel Webster of Florida said Thursday, executing a perfect hair split.

Webster is technically correct that people who choose not to buy insurance aren’t losing their coverage, they’re giving it up. But the vast majority of people who would be negatively impacted by the GOP health care bill will have no choice about whether to have insurance or not. They simply won’t have it.

Instead of trying to spin dropping insurance as a form of freedom, other Republicans are attacking the CBO’s professionalism, claiming that the nonpartisan agency, whose leaders serve at the command of the House and Senate’s Republican leaders, cannot be trusted.

“The CBO’s crazy,” Rep. Roger Marshall, R-Kan., told HuffPost on Thursday. “I said for weeks I had zero confidence in the CBO. You would never hire them to manage your retirement plan, so it came out exactly what I expected it to be.”

Those sentiments were echoed by Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif. “The CBO is very good at crunching budget numbers,”  he told HuffPost reporter Matt Fuller. “It has demonstrated it doesn’t have the first clue about how [health care] markets work.”

Attacking the CBO is nothing new for Republicans ever since the party fell under the thrall of supply-side economists who believe tax cuts will always increase government revenues. Even under Republican management, the budget agency must still follow sound economic methods, making it a thorn in the side of Republicans who subscribe to what President George H.W. Bush — a Republican of another era — once called “voodoo economics.”

“If you are serious about real health reform, you must abolish the Congressional Budget Office because it lies,” former House speaker and GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich said in 2011 at a public debate sponsored by a conservative group.

The centerpiece in this latest Republican attack on the CBO is the notion that the agency was unable to correctly predict the number of people who would be insured under Obamacare.

In 2010, the office originally estimated that 92 percent of Americans would be insured by the end of 2016. After the Supreme Court decided that states could not be forced to expand Medicaid eligibility, the CBO lowered its estimate to 89 percent. According to a survey by the Centers for Disease Control, 89.5 percent of Americans were insured in 2015.

Instead of focusing on the overall number — which the CBO got almost exactly correct — Republicans have instead focused on the fact that the budget bureau overestimated the number of people who would enroll in the subsidized individual insurance exchange markets established by Obamacare. The Trump administration has even forced the Department of Health and Human Services to get in on the act and attack another federal agency.

Whereas the CBO predicted 23 million people would buy in via the Obamacare exchanges by the end of 2016, only 10.4 million had done so by the middle of that year. That was largely because more people had sought coverage under Medicaid than through the exchanges. This happened because millions of people who were already eligible for Medicaid did not realize it until they were compelled to seek insurance under the Obamacare individual mandate. In most cases, the provider network is the same. While the CBO got the distribution of newly insured people wrong, it got the overall numbers correct.

Notably, there is one error the CBO made that Republicans are not talking about: the agency actually overestimated how much Obamacare would cost the federal government by a large margin, about one-third. CBO director Keith Hall admitted this in a March letter to Congress.

Not every Republican has been playing the spin game, however. Some Republicans from states that increased the income threshold to become eligible for Medicaid as provided for by Obamacare, including Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, have strongly criticized the AHCA’s provision to return to the former cap.

“I’m from a state that has an expanded Medicaid population that I am very concerned about,” Capito told Talking Points Memo last November. “I don’t want to throw them off into the cold, and I don’t think that’s a strategy that I want to see.”

Capito has retained her reservations about the House bill, telling the Washington Post on Thursday that the CBO report “strengthens my resolve to say, what are we doing to people here, particularly to our most vulnerable or those that don’t have the wherewithal?”

The ultimate fate of the House GOP’s health care bill is likely to rest in the hands of uncertain Republican senators like Capito. Will they be willing to risk a primary challenge from the right in order to have a chance at defeating a Democrat in the general election? (Capito is up for re-election next year, and could be vulnerable both to her right and her left.) Or will they do nothing and risk offending GOP voters who haven’t yet realized the downside of repealing Obamacare?

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Experts and Tribune Media unions raise concerns about Sinclair’s history of pushing conservative “propaganda”

Experts and Tribune Media unions raise concerns about Sinclair’s history of pushing conservative “propaganda”

Salon

Sinclair Broadcast-Tribune Media

(Credit: AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato, File)

Sinclair Broadcasting Group’s recent purchase of Tribune Media is drawing serious concern from Tribune employees and their union leadership, as well as broadcasting experts who fear the company will continue its long history of aggressively slanting local news coverage to the right.

Sinclair, now the nation’s largest owner of local television stations, announced earlier this month it will acquire more than 42 stations from Tribune Media, which will make the company more politically powerful than ever.

The purchase includes stations in numerous markets in key swing states, and also includes three of the biggest independent news stations in the country in the three largest markets: WPIX in New York City, WGN in Chicago, and KTLA in Los Angeles. All three have strong news operations, while WGN also includes WGN America, a super cable station that serves many markets. (Some observers have speculated that Sinclair could try to turn WGN America into a Fox News competitor.)

Sinclair’s well-established pattern of using its stations to boost Republicans politically was on display during the 2016 election, when the company reportedly cut a deal with the Trump campaign for increased access in exchange for more Trump-friendly coverage. (The recent Tribune purchase was made possible thanks to Trump’s FCC commissioner rolling back a regulation designed to prevent excessive media consolidation.)

Bob Daraio, a local representative for the NewsGuild of New York CWA Local 31003 — which represents most WPIX writers and producers — told Media Matters that Sinclair’s pattern of influencing coverage is worrisome to many of the union’s members.

“Sinclair is a very right-wing, conservative, almost alt-right in their political beliefs,” Daraio said. “This brings a concern about objectivity. The fewer companies that own media outlets, the less diversity in the point of view that viewers get to see.”

“Sinclair’s business model is going into a market, buying multiple stations, moving them all to one facility, and firing three quarters of the staff to get as much work with the fewest employees,” he added. “The concern about this media consolidation is it limits diversity. It also creates a barrier to entry into the business for smaller minority- and women-owned companies.”

David Twedell is a business representative in charge of broadcast for International Cinematographers Guild Local 600, which represents two Tribune Media stations slated for Sinclair takeovers: KTLA in Los Angeles and WJW in Cleveland

He said members are concerned about Sinclair’s past actions and how that might affect their work environment.

“Our employees are very nervous about the situation,” he said. “It is a combination of political influence and that Sinclair is extremely anti-union in dealing with its employees. What is it going to mean? It’s a concern and we will be scheduling a membership meeting to talk about it.”

Twedell knows Sinclair’s approach well as a representative for two current Sinclair stations, KATU in Portland and KOMO in Seattle.

Twedell has previously flagged concerns from union members about Sinclair’s practice of creating “must-run” videos with messages that the local stations are required to broadcast. As The Washington Post reported, in a “must-run” video from this March, Sinclair vice president for news Scott Livingston railed against members of the “national media” who “push their own personal bias,” and echoed Trump’s complaints about the mainstream media pushing “fake news stories.” (The New York Times did a larger look at Sinclair’s use of conservative “must-run” commentaries last week, including a 2016 video “that suggested in part that voters should not support Hillary Clinton because the Democratic Party was historically pro-slavery.”)

“It is a matter of supreme frustration amongst everyone in the newsroom,” Twedell told Media Matters. “When they have these must-runs dropped into the programming, it definitely affects the credibility of the product, and that is something our people are nervous about.”

Eric W. Chaudron, executive director of Chicago’s SAG-AFTRA local, which represents most WGN on-air employees, expressed concerns over excessive consolidation.

“We are watching the Sinclair/Tribune deal very closely. WGN TV is the flagship station of the Tribune Media Company, and it has always prided itself on locally focused news content. We are especially concerned that WGN TV continues to maintain its reputation as ‘Chicago’s Own’ station,” he said via email. “We have consistently expressed deep concern over the impact of deregulation and media consolidation on those who work in the industry. Moreover, we believe that professional broadcasters must always serve the public interest of maintaining a diversity of opinion and voices in the media.” Chaudron added, “We are encouraged by Sinclair’s statement that it plans to use the acquisition ‘to strengthen [its] commitment to serving local communities.’”

Broadcasting experts and veterans, meanwhile, offered their own concerns given Sinclair’s history and political agenda.

“They have an ideological position with news and they promote that in their local stations,” said Mark Effron, a clinical specialist in the School of Communication and Media at Montclair State University and a former WPIX vice president of news.

He cited Sinclair’s hiring of Boris Epshteyn, a former Trump campaign adviser, as an analyst last month.

“During the campaign they ran stories that decidedly had a pro-Trump bent to them,” Effron said. “Some of the stations they are taking over have a proud history of reporting. Not only will they be the largest chain in America, but there is a focus and an ideological bent to what they are doing locally. That gives me great concern.”

Jeff Jarvis, a professor at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, a former TV Guide editor and BuzzMachine creator, called some of Sinclair’s past actions “overtly propaganda.”

“Yes, I worry about that,” he said in an interview. “In this case, when it is consolidated under a blatant or subtle ideological bent, I’m worried. It is influencing the world view of local reporting, how national agendas seep into local coverage; immigration, abortion, guns.”

Al Tompkins, a senior faculty member for broadcast and online at The Poynter Institute, pointed to Sinclair’s decision in 2004 not to air an episode of Nightline that included images and names of Americans who died in the Iraq War on its seven ABC affiliates. The move drew a harsh rebuke from Sen. John McCain (R-AZ).

“The Nightline episode was the flag in the ground, a really big shot that they are different. That’s a pretty big deal,” Tompkins said, later adding, “They do have some right-wing leanings, that’s for sure. … One of the telltale signs is if [Sinclair’s conservative slant] shows up in the mid-term elections, that may be a chance for them to differentiate themselves.”

One veteran television reporter at a Tribune Media station who requested anonymity said, “Anytime you’re bought by somebody, you wonder, you worry about what’s coming. You’d rather have the devil you know versus the one you don’t. I’ve read the press clippings about their style, their bent in some markets.”

A journalist at a separate Tribune Media station said the company’s conservative history is a “concern.” “You know about them,” the person added.

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6 reasons why stopping worldwide terrorism is so challenging

6 reasons why stopping worldwide terrorism is so challenging

Salon

France Terrorism's Shadow

FILE – In this Feb. 3, 2017 file photo, police officers cordon off the area outside the Louvre museum as a soldier opened fire after he was attacked in Paris. With the scars and threat of extremist violence looming over France’s presidential election, voters will cast ballots under a state of emergency that is becoming a part of the fabric of French life. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena, File) (Credit: AP)

A January 2017 Pew survey showed that Americans rate terrorism as the top priority for the Trump administration and Congress. They put the issue ahead of the economy, education, jobs and health care costs. The Conversation

For the past 12 years as Director of the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism, I have worked with colleagues to improve understanding of terrorism by studying its causes and consequences. One of our largest and most extensive projects has involved compiling all terrorist attacks worldwide since 1970 into the Global Terrorism Database (GTD).

Based on this work, six issues stand out to me as major challenges for developing effective policy on countering terrorism.

#1: Terrorism is rare

For most places and times, terrorism is an incredibly rare event.

In many recent years, the United States has experienced fewer than 25 terrorist attacks. At the same time, there are about 13,000 homicides and 360,000 robberies every year in the United States. In recent years, worldwide traffic accidents have claimed the lives of roughly 100 times more people than those killed by terrorists.

Even important groups like al-Qaida have committed relatively few attacks. The GTD shows al-Qaida has been responsible for only 59 attacks over its entire lifespan and only five attacks since 2008. The fact that terrorism is so rare means that we have limited ability to do statistical analysis and reach general policy conclusions.

#2: Mass attacks are rarer still

While terrorism is rare, mass casualty attacks are even rarer.

Over half of all terrorist attacks in the GTD since 1970 included no fatalities. The GTD identifies only 17 attacks from around the world that claimed more than 300 lives. Of the more than 156,000 terrorist attacks in the GTD, the coordinated attack of 9/11, which took the lives of nearly 3,000 people, is still the deadliest attack in modern history.

Apart from 9/11 no attack on the U.S. homeland in half a century has claimed the lives of more than 200 people. The closest was the 168 victims of the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, orchestrated by Timothy McVeigh.

Because a few deadly but highly unusual attacks attract so much concern, terrorism policies tend to be based on extremely rare and unusual events rather than the thousands of more common but less spectacular ones. In my opinion, policies based on extreme outliers can have serious and perhaps unforeseen implications.

#3. Prevention is improving

A growing number of terrorist attacks — especially in the United States and Western Europe — are being foiled as plots. This is obviously good news in terms of protecting citizens and saving lives. Another consequence is that policymakers have diminishing information on the actual seriousness of threats because the attackers are being stopped before their plans are actualized.

#4. Terrorist groups are not all alike

Terrorist organizations are extremely diverse which makes generalizations even more difficult.

When most people think of terrorist groups an image comes to mind of some well-organized and highly-publicized entity like the Islamic State or al Shabaab. In reality, it’s hard to generalize about terrorist groups. On one extreme are individuals who have no recognized links to a terrorist organization — so-called lone wolves. On the other end of the spectrum are highly organized groups that persist over time, have a well-defined chain of command and a stable leadership. In between are loosely connected small groups as well as shadowy networks — for example, Neo Nazis or radical Islamists. All of these disparate entities are typically in a state of flux. Change is constant; stability rare.

Of the more than 2,300 unique terrorist organizations identified in the GTD since 1970, nearly 70 percent had a life span of less than a year. Terrorist organizations are a bit like business startups: Most are gone within the first year of operation. It is one thing to respond to a well-organized group, with clear leadership, a chain of command and an identifiable membership. But responses are much more complicated when there is no central organization, no identifiable leader or only an ill-defined group of individuals with varying connections and commitments undergoing constant change.

#5. Assigning responsibility is tough

Attributing responsibility for a terrorist attack is often ambiguous or impossible.

Data from the GTD shows that no terrorist group can be assigned responsibility in nearly 60 percent of the thousands of attacks that occurred worldwide since 1970. Attacks may be launched by loners who are working more or less independently of any specific group. In other cases, more than one group may claim the attack. Or a group may claim responsibility when in reality it had no connection to the attack, or a group may claim incorrectly that another group was accountable.

Analysts may simply never have enough information to reach a conclusion or to distinguish between competing accounts. Following a terrorist attack, governments are under enormous pressure to identify the guilty party and offer a swift response. But how can officials punish wrongdoers and deter others from engaging in terrorist attacks when they never know for sure who the culprit is?

#6: We’re still developing strategy

Finally, while researchers are making great progress in developing a framework for the scientific study of terrorism, the study of counter terrorism is still in its infancy. While it is difficult to get an accurate grasp of terrorist threats, it is even harder to evaluate the strategies used by governments to counter terrorism. Governments are extremely secretive about their counter terrorism policies and strategies. And certainly there is nothing close to a worldwide database on counter terrorism strategies and their effectiveness.

Making better policy

The terrorist threat in the United States is episodic, sporadic and inconsistent. Too often policies react to fear rather than real threat estimates. For example, there is no empirical evidence to support President Trump’s recent decision to ban citizens of six majority-Muslim countries from travel to the U.S. in the name of preventing terrorist infiltration. Trump’s executive order of March 2017 would halt travel from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen. But no one from these countries has been involved in a fatal terrorist attack in the United States since 9/11.

What’s more, these policies are hard to undo. For example, the USA Patriot Act, passed in the chaotic aftermath of 9/11, was designed to “deter and punish terrorist acts,” but was quickly expanded by law enforcement officials to prosecute drug offenses and other non-terrorist crimes. Such an expansion raises concerns about privacy and the power of the federal government.

Successful policy requires collecting the best information possible, honestly accessing it and avoiding over reaction.

Gary LaFree, Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice, University of Maryland

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For-profit tactics might be coming to public universities, and no one is talking about it

For-profit tactics might be coming to public universities, and no one is talking about it

Salon

for_profit_college_marketing

(Credit: andrea crisante via Shutterstock/Salon)

Unless you’re a resident of Indiana, you probably haven’t heard about Purdue University’s recently announced acquisition of troubled online for-profit college Kaplan University. This acquisition is highly unusual and has many unknown implications for Indiana students and educators and beyond — and media’s limited and uncritical coverage of the unprecedented merger is exactly what the leadership behind the deal wants.

On April 27, Purdue University announced the deal to acquire Kaplan University, in a first-of-its-kind move to bring a for-profit college under the umbrella of a public university. Many details of the deal remain unclear, including whether the unnamed new university will operate more like a for-profit or a public college. Purdue issued a press release stating that “the creation of a new public university … will further expand access to higher education.” Purdue President and former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels said in the same press release that he wants “Purdue be positioned to be a leader “ in online education.

Daniels’ rhetoric mirrors common right-wing media defenses of “innovative” (actually troubled) for-profit institutions that take advantage of students and often underserve communities that need accessible higher education most. Kaplan’s track record is no different.

Kaplan’s troubling history

Kaplan University is among many high-profile institutions in the for-profit online college industry that have been investigated for troubling practices that hurt students. In an April 30 article in The Chronicle of Higher Education, for-profit college accountability expert Robert Shireman wrote that “a U.S. Senate committee investigation revealed that Kaplan in 2009 allocated more money to marketing … than to actually teaching students”:

Kaplan’s sales operation trained recruiters to steer prospects away from comparing Kaplan’s programs to other options by using a “fear, uncertainty and doubt” strategy aimed at getting prospects to enroll right away. A U.S. Senate committee investigation revealed that Kaplan in 2009 allocated more money to marketing and profit than to actually teaching students. The recruitment process was designed to get students to sign enrollment contracts — complete with clauses denying them the ability to go to court if there was a dispute — before they even spoke to financial-aid counselors about the details of financing the degree.

[…]

Kaplan tripled its enrollment between 2003 and 2010, mostly by signing up older students who would qualify for the maximum amount of federal student loans. In an industry already known for poor student outcomes, Kaplan’s tactics gave it among the worst withdrawal rates and loan-default rates of the 30 companies investigated by the Senate committee. In several majors at Kaplan, far more former students ended up defaulting on their loans than earned degrees.

In addition to the federal investigation, Kaplan has been or is currently under investigation in at least six states. Kaplan has settled lawsuits for using misleading advertising in Massachusetts and employing unqualified instructors in Texas.

For-profit colleges in general have come under increased scrutiny in recent years due to their low graduation rates and high student loan default rates. This scrutiny has led to calls for harsher guidelines to better hold for-profit colleges accountable for serving students.

Enrollment has steeply dropped across the for-profit college sector in recent years. As Fortune magazine’s Kaitlin Mulhere wrote, Kaplan University’s “enrollment fell 22% in 2016 and its revenue is down 40% from 2014, according to an annual report from Graham Holdings, which own[ed] Kaplan.” Kaplan’s rapidly declining business and dings to the for-profit industry’s reputation across the board mean that the Purdue deal is a timely opportunity for the troubled Kaplan University to reinvent itself.

And the marriage of Purdue and Kaplan also raises the possibility that the problematic behaviors of online for-profit colleges will be introduced into public universities.

Purdue-Kaplan merger was announced with little community input

A second aspect of the Purdue-Kaplan merger that ought to raise red flags for journalists is the manner in which the deal was developed and announced, and the lack of accountability built into it.

Purdue’s faculty members say they were not informed of the merger until an hour before the acquisition was announced, a misstep that angered many who viewed the lack of consultation as a violation of shared governance. The Purdue faculty senate has voted against the deal, calling on Daniels and the board of trustees to rescind it, although Daniels asserts that the senate does not “dictate” matters pertaining to the new university.

The unnamed Purdue-Kaplan school labels itself “the World’s Next Public University”– but the specifics of the deal suggest the public will have little information about the school’s operations. Indiana Republican state senator Brandt Hershman surreptitiously added language into the new state budget specifically to allow the new university to avoid public disclosure laws. According to higher education reporter Goldie Blumenstyk, “in some ways, the new institution will be even less public than a for-profit college.”

As Journal & Courier’s Dave Bangert wrote on May 2:

Steve Schultz, Purdue’s legal counsel, said the [public records] exemptions were put into the bill intentionally to be clear that the new online university will be a different animal that Purdue and its regional campuses.

First, Schultz said, it won’t receive state money. And second, the New U will operate more like a nonprofit corporation and will not, he said, “meet the definition of a ‘public agency’” under state open records or open meetings laws.

Local print media covered the story critically, but few national outlets did

Since the Purdue-Kaplan acquisition was first announced, major national broadcast and print outlets have largely stayed silent on the deal. And when some media outlets have covered the story, they’ve largely failed to mention Kaplan’s troubled history with high student loan default rates, low graduation rates, and federal and state investigations into its problematic practices, as well as the transparency issues that plagued the deal.

Database searches of transcripts from major broadcast networks — ABC, CBS, and NBC — and cable news networks — CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News — found no mention of the Purdue-Kaplan merger for 23 days, despite the important implications it has for higher education beyond Indiana. On May 20, Fox provided the first national television coverage of the Purdue-Kaplan deal. Daniels gave a seven-minute interview to Paul Gigot on America’s News Headquarters. The segment briefly mentioned faculty dissatisfaction with how the deal was negotiated. There was no reference to Kaplan’s problematic history or the lack of transparency around the deal.

Among five major national newspapers — The New York Times, USA Today, Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post — only the Post and the Journal covered the deal. The Post published one article that discussed the state and federal investigations of Kaplan. The Journal published three newsstories and one op-ed about the deal. Between these four pieces, the Journal made no mention of the federal and state investigations into Kaplan, but two pieces discussed faculty complaints about being excluded from the decision-making process (one of them just passingly) .

Local Indiana broadcast outlets ran 41 total segments about the Purdue-Kaplan merger on 11 different local stations of CBS, Fox, ABC, and NBC outlets in the Lafayette, Indianapolis, Fort Wayne, and Terre Haute markets. None of these segments discussed Kaplan’s history of student loan defaults, its low graduation rates, its open records issue, or the federal investigations into its practices.

Indiana print outlets have published by far the most critical and comprehensive coverage of the Purdue-Kaplan deal, though they still failed to provide important context in some instances. Lafayette’s Journal & Courier has provided the majority of analysis on the deal, some of which was also featured in The Indianapolis Star and Evansville Courier & Press. The South Bend Tribune also reported on the merger. In all, 12 stories were written in seven local Indiana newspapers on the Purdue-Kaplan deal, six of which were reprinted in other local newspapers. Most — though not all — of these stories mentioned Kaplan’s problematic history and the merger’s transparency problems. Of the 12 articles, four discussed state and federal Kaplan investigations and six mentioned the lack of faculty input on the deal. Four articles mentioned Kaplan’s record on high student debt loads and default rates and just two touched on Kaplan’s low graduation rates. More than a third of the local articles discussed the open records exemptions for the new university.

More comprehensive media coverage of the Purdue-Kaplan deal and other efforts to privatize public education would be in the public interest. Local communities should be informed about education matters like the Purdue-Kaplan deal that utilize taxpayer money in potentially harmful ways, and they should have a say in whether they want their public institutions to be privatized. Because the deal has not cleared all regulatory hurdles, local and national media still have an opportunity to dig deeper into this story in the coming weeks and months.

Methodology

Media Matters searched Nexis news program transcripts for CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, ABC, CBS, and NBC for all mentions of “Purdue” and “Kaplan” from April 27 through May 18. Nexis transcripts include all-day programming at CNN; programming from 5-11 p.m. on MSNBC and Fox News; and morning, evening, and Sunday show news programming on ABC, CBS, and NBC. Media Matters also used video databases Snapstream and iQ media to search for transcript mentions of “Purdue” and “Kaplan” on MSNBC and Fox News programs that are not included in Nexis, and on local broadcast news programs in the Indiana media market.

To analyze print coverage, Media Matters searched mentions of “Purdue” and “Kaplan” in major print publications The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and USA Today. Media Matters also conducted this search for all Indiana print publications included in Nexis: Vincennes Sun-Commercial, Fort Wayne News-Sentinel, Evansville Courier & Press, Fort Wayne Journal, Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette, The Indianapolis Business Journal, The Indianapolis Recorder, The Indianapolis Star, Lafayette Journal and Courier, The Noblesville Ledger, Palladium-Item, South Bend Tribune, and The Star Press.

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Here is the one way marijuana use can kill you

Here is the one way marijuana use can kill you

Salon

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(Credit: bendao via Shutterstock)

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Once upon a time, a human organ transplant was the stuff of science fiction. Today, it is an accepted miracle of modern medicine. When it comes to this subject however, marijuana use can kill you.

While the science has advanced at a rapid pace, the ethical challenge of deciding who can be eligible for organs and who to prioritize remains a challenge. Despite the fact that demand for lungs outpaces supply, cannabis smokers are often discounted as potential donors in a way that threatens the lives of patients.

In the United States, the Department of Health and Human Services develops requirements for the nation’s Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network. When it comes to lung transplants, donors are evaluated based on age, smoking history and other criteria created more than 30 years ago.

Over a six-year period 302 subjects were examined, comparing the outcomes of those who received donated lungs from cannabis smokers versus non cannabis smokers. Variables, including 1 and 3 year survival ratings, were comparable between the two groups. A history of smoking cannabis didn’t seem to affect the outcomes. People were being saved regardless.

Cannabis smokers are often disqualified to participate both as lung donors and recipients. They have been considered a greater risk because of a higher prevalence of developing lung infections. Because cannabis has long been the most commonly used illicit drug, this both reduces the potential pool of donors and people who may be helped.

Prejudice is not a new to the organ donation process. HIV was once widely regarded as a disqualifier for a patient seeking a transplant. Times changed and medicine improved. People with HIV began not just surviving longer but living and thriving. As a result, attitudes and restrictions changed and relaxed.

There are signs of shifting perceptions when it comes to other organs. A survey of doctors, surgeons and other heart transplant specialists from 26 countries found that 64.4 percent believed a patient using medical marijuana should not be disqualified for this single reason. Only 27.5 percent, supported allowing recreational marijuana users from being eligible donors.

Arizona, California, Delaware,  Illinois, New Hampshire and Washington have laws that prohibit discrimination of organ transplant candidates based on authorized medical marijuana use. Recreational marijuana use does not have the same legal support and protection when it comes to organ transplants.

Researchers have concluded that expanding the donor pool could save more people. After all, one statistic is very clear: Those who received lungs from donors not considered to be prime candidates survived longer than those who failed to be matched and receive new lungs. To allow prejudice to rule over science is never a good answer, particularly when lives are at stake.

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There’s a 20-year-old child murder case that continues to grip Sweden

There’s a 20-year-old child murder case that continues to grip Sweden

Salon

A temporary fence is erected between domestic and international tracks at Hyllie train station in southern Malmo, Sweden

The sun sets over the Oresund Bridge between Sweden and Denmark, seen from Lernacken, Sweden, on Sunday Jan. 3, 2016 On upcoming Monday Jan. 4, 2016, new travel restrictions are set to be imposed by Sweden to stem a record flow of migrants, transforming the Oresund bridge between Sweden and Denmark into a striking example of how national boundaries are re-emerging in Europe. (Erland Vinberg /TT via AP, File) SWEDEN OUT (Credit: AP)

A child murder case from 20 years ago is once again getting enormous attention in Sweden. Two young brothers – aged five and seven – were believed at the time to be responsible for the death of four-year-old Kevin Hjalmarsson in 1998. But concerns over the way the investigation into the so-called “Kevin case” was conducted led the police to reopen the case in May. This has highlighted serious questions about the way children are treated in the country’s legal system. The Conversation

The Kevin case was one of the most high-profile murder investigations of the 1990s in Sweden – and the first in modern Swedish history where such young children were accused of having murdered another child.

The little boy was found dead by the shoreline of a lake outside the small town of Arvika in northern Sweden on August 16, 1998 – the last day of the school summer holidays. He had been strangled and had bruises on his body. After being killed, he was dragged 30m from the seaside to a raft, where his grandfather later found him.

Two brothers accused

Initially announced as a drowning accident, the police soon changed their minds and said they suspected it was a paedophile case. But they were then to reach another conclusion: Kevin had been murdered by two brothers, Robin and Christian, aged five and seven years old.

The younger brother had initially been interrogated by the police as a witness, along with 120 other children in the town. But the boy soon became the head suspect together with his brother.

At a press conference in November 1998, the police announced the conclusion of their investigation: the boys had killed Kevin. The police said they had confessed to the crime, but would not be prosecuted nor formally convicted because children younger than 15-years-old cannot be convicted for crimes in Sweden. This meant that the case was never passed on to the district court. The boys were subsequently taken into institutional care for a while. Social services later tried to find a foster home for one of the boys but no family wanted to have him and he was finally allowed to return home. The boys both still live in Sweden.

Case file reopened

During the autumn of 1998, the case was in the news almost every day. It is now making national news again. In late April, the main Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter and the Swedish public television, SVT, began to reveal possibly serious flaws with the old murder investigation in a series of documentaries.

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This was sparked by a neuroscientist, Rickard Sjöberg at Umeå University, who contacted the media because he found the interview techniques used in this, and other cases, to be unscientific.

Since then, parts of the police investigation have been made public, including police interrogations of the youngest boy. The material reveals that there were no documented confessions or technical evidence that supported the police opinion at the time. And no one can explain how young Kevin was dragged from the scene of the crime to the place he was found.

The boys’ confessions came after more than 30 long interrogations, sometimes without a parent – and with methods that have been criticised as unprofessional. The new material also reveals that the boys may not have been around the crime scene at the time of the murder. Due to the new circumstances, the prosecutor decided to reopen the case on May 8.

SVT interviewed the two boys in its documentary series. Neither of them say they have any memory of the incident today, but they think they did not do it. Now in their late 20s, they have grown up in the eyes of society as “child murderers”. Robin, the younger brother, said on the documentary: “There is no person in the whole world that will ever understand what we have been through, how we have felt and how terrible it has been.” In a press conference on May 19, the two men – whose full names Robin Dalén and Christian Karlsson have now been released – said the SVT investigation was a big relief and thanked the media for helping them.

The right to the truth

In a painful way, the Kevin case highlights the challenges of involving children in crime investigations. Even if a child under a certain age cannot be convicted in a legal sense, the consequences are still very drastic for the child.

There could have been a possible way to avoid this outcome. In Sweden, it is possible to raise the question of guilt in court without pursuing a formal conviction, a process known as “bevistalan”. But this was never used in the Kevin case. Instead, the prosecutor decided not to continue the investigation, thereby concluding the case without a trial.

Bevistalan is rarely used: to my knowledge there have only been two cases in Sweden since Kevin’s murder when a court has assessed a case involving children without delivering a formal sentence. But I think the Kevin case should have been treated in this way – allowing for a trial of sorts for the minors suspected of the crime, but without the threat of conviction or punishment. This would have meant a higher burden of proof was needed from the police, which could have changed the outcome of the investigation. Instead, the case remained at the police level and was never brought to court, meaning nobody really assessed the evidence except for the police themselves.

The Kevin case shows that there is need for a repeated discussion of how to uphold children’s rights in the legal system. The general legal principle that a person is always considered innocent until he or she is convicted of a crime must also apply to young children.

Titti Mattsson, Professor in the Department of Law, Lund University

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Hard-hitting climate ads target Trump and Washington lawmakers

Hard-hitting climate ads target Trump and Washington lawmakers

Salon

partnership for responsible growth

(Credit: The Partnership for Responsible Growth/Youtube)

AlterNet

With fossil fuel-loving climate deniers in the White House, Congress, the president’s cabinet and federal agencies like the EPA, the swamp Trump promised to drain has become an environmental disaster zone. But a new series of television ads will begin running in the nation’s capital Tuesday to make the case to policymakers that not only is the climate threat real, there’s a market-driven, pro-growth solution to the crisis that could get bipartisan support.

Sponsored by the Partnership for Responsible Growth, which according to its website, “advocates for pro-growth tax policy addressing the challenge of climate change with carbon-funded tax cuts,” the initial series of five ads makes a general call to both parties in Congress to protect the country from the impacts of climate change. Undescoring that time is of the essence, the ads come on the heels of an alarming new report by the Arctic Council, an intergovernmental scientific policy forum, that concludes the Arctic could be free of sea ice by 2040 — three decades earlier than previously thought.

During a press call Monday, David Fenton, the founder of Fenton, the social change communications agency that produced the ads, said the new campaign is meant “to bring the truth about climate change to the Washington bubble . . . where pretty much all you ever see on television are ads from the fossil fuel industry about how great fossil fuels are for the country. That leaves out the impact of using them.” He added that the ads are an effort to “redress the balance.”

The first two ads in the series focus on how 97 percent of climate scientists are in agreement that global warming is caused by human activity, and how climate change is not some future problem, but is impacting Americans right now. Each ad will run about 50 times during the week on Fox News, CNN and on “Morning Joe” on MSNBC — stations and programs President Trump is known to watch along with his staff.

The ads aren’t simply urging policymakers to make the transition from fossil fuels to a low-carbon energy system based on renewables, as many environmentalists want to do. The underlying argument is one Trump might be more likely to understand: Fighting climate change can be done through a market-based strategy that could also be used to help pay for the president’s massive tax reform scheme: carbon pricing. The ads urge viewers to learn more about this “free market solution to climate change” by visiting pricecarbon.org.

“Both the White House and House Republican leadership have promised to advance a massive tax reform plan which could add anywhere from $4-7 trillion over 10 years to an already mushrooming debt, with absolutely no proposals for how to pay for it,” said George T. Frampton, Jr., co-founder of the Partnership for Responsible Growth, the ads’ sponsoring organization, during the press call.

“Revenue from a carbon excise fee on carbon fuels could provide $2 trillion or more as a pay-for for tax reform,” he said, noting that “there’s a real appetite among Republicans in the House and Senate to try to do some sort of a major deal on tax reform that would address the climate challenge through a market-based, pro-growth solution.” Frampton, who served as Chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) under Bill Clinton, pointed out that one of the things holding back this solution is the climate denial that is running rampant throughout GOP leadership and that “it will cost a lot more to address it every year we wait.”

The ads have garnered support from conservative and evangelical groups that advocate a free-market carbon pricing approach to address the climate challenge. This method, favored by many economists for reducing global-warming emissions — including Harvard climate economist Martin Weitzman and American Economic Association president William Nordhaus — charges carbon dioxide emitters with a carbon price, an amount that must be paid for the right to emit a ton of the greenhouse gas, usually in the form either of a carbon tax or cap-and-trade, a system that imposes a requirement to purchase permits to emit CO2.

While carbon pricing may sound like a good idea, it has its detractors. Kenneth P. Green, an environmental scientist and director at the Fraser Institute, a conservative/libertarian public policy think tank based in Vancouver, outlines six reasons why a carbon tax is a bad idea, one being a negative impact on the poor:

Poorer people spend a higher portion of their household budget on energy than do the better off. If you were to posit redistributing the tax to the poor, you could deal with this, but if your tax is just a new revenue stream for government (which it will become sooner or later regardless of the initial design), higher energy costs and higher costs for goods and services are going to slap the lower-end of the income spectrum hard.

Green also argues that “new carbon taxes would represent double-taxation. You’re already paying carbon taxes in the additional costs of new vehicles with higher fuel emission standards, more expensive appliances that aim to conserve energy, renewable energy standards that raise your cost of electricity, etc. … Carbon taxes may look good as an abstract exercise in economics, but in the real world, like other eco-taxes, they would quickly morph into just another form of taxation that feeds the ever-hungry maw of big government.”

In a New York Times opinion piece, Cornell University economist Robert H. Frank admits that “if such a tax were phased in, the prices of goods would rise gradually in proportion to the amount of carbon dioxide their production or use entailed. The price of gasoline, for example, would slowly rise by somewhat less than $3 a gallon.” But this might help get drivers into cars that are not as carbon-intensive. “Motorists in many countries already pay . . . much more than Americans do, and they seem to have adapted by driving substantially more efficient vehicles,” he says.

In a U.S. News & World Report op-ed, Chad Stone, chief economist at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a left-leaning think tank, also admitted that a carbon tax “raises the price of energy and other goods and services that compose a disproportionately large share of low-income households’ budgets.” But, he also noted that it “raises revenues that policymakers can use to offset that hit to the budgets of those low-income households.” Of course, whether or not the revenue raised by a carbon tax is redistributed to the poor would remain to be seen.

Cap-and-trade, the other common carbon pricing scheme, also has its doubters. “Restricting carbon emissions by cap and trade is probably not a good idea even in a booming economy,” writes Sergey V. Mityakov, an economist at Clemson University. “On the one hand, consumers are going to suffer directly from the increased prices of the energy and energy-intensive goods they buy. On the other hand, higher energy prices will increase the production costs of American producers, making American-produced goods less competitive in the world market.”

Still, for some environmentalists, just getting Trump and the rest of the head-in-the-oil-sands GOP to start facing the harsh reality of climate change could be a good thing. Putting a price tag on carbon emissions has its pros and cons, and if Congress were to contemplate some form of carbon pricing legislation, its ultimate ramifications beyond reducing emissions could be properly hashed out in a public forum. In the end, it’s not about the tool, but how one uses it. As Stone points out, carbon pricing’s “net impact depends as well on how policymakers use the revenue.”

During Monday’s press call, Jerry Taylor, a former CATO Institute climate skeptic who now campaigns for carbon pricing through his Niskanen Center, a libertarian think tank, underscored the importance of paying attention to the climate science, such as paleo-climate records, present-day climate metrics, thermostatic records and just “basic physics.”

“The case for climate action . . . global warming . . . industrial emissions being the main driver — they come through multiple lines of evidence; it’s not just computer modeling that suggests these things are true,” argued Taylor. “If global warming isn’t happening, then virtually everyhing we know about physics is wrong. These ads do a valuable service in establishing some really basic degrees of knowledge that we have to work from to have an intelligent conversation.”

A discussion about climate policy based on science, facts and evidence? Now that’s something anyone concerned about the climate can agree on.

Watch the first two ads, “Gone Fishin‘” and “Dentists“:

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