Real Stuff

July 25, 2018
Comparison of state legislatures


Comparison of state legislative salaries

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Features of State Legislatures

Length of terms: Representatives • Senators
How vacancies are filled in state legislatures
States with a full-time legislature
Legislatures with multi-member districts
State legislatures with term limits
Comparison of state legislative salaries
When legislators assume office?
State constitutions
State legislative sessions
Candidate requirements by state
Resign-to-run laws
Minority and coalition control of state legislative chambers
Veto overrides in state legislatures

Last updated on July 25, 2018
There is a significant amount of variance in legislator salaries between the 50 states. In California, legislators are paid $107,241 per year in salary in addition to per diem costs to cover lodging, meals, and incidentals. Comparatively, New Hampshire legislators earn just $200 per two-year term without per diem. New Mexico is the only state that does not pay its legislators a salary, but lawmakers do still earn per diem.

How state legislator salaries are set

Salaries of state legislators are determined in four ways.

  • Nineteen states use a commission of some kind to determine the salary of legislators. The powers of these commissions vary from non-binding reports to reports that are implemented unless voted down by the legislature, not approved by the governor, or overturned by citizen referenda.
  • In two of the 19 states mentioned above—Arizona and Nebraska—any recommendation to change legislators’ pay must be approved by voters before going into effect.
  • Some states tie legislative salaries to those of other state employees.
  • Other states allow the legislators themselves to set their own salaries.

Salaries by state

The following table details the salaries and per diem compensation for state legislators across the country. Click here for methodology on how this data was collected.
View here


August 22, 2018
The List of Foods and Products that Have Tested Positive for Monsanto’s Carcinogenic Glyphosate

As one of the world’s most common herbicides, marketed by what is now the world’s largest chemical corporation with Bayer’s purchase of Monsanto, glyphosate (the main chemical in “Roundup”) is present in just about everything.

Believe that cotton is sterile, or feminine hygiene products are clean? They aren’t. One thing about biochemistry that industry influenced scientists don’t want to admit is that extremely low levels of some chemicals can still produce important, noticeable effects, and depending on the person, all kinds of things could happen.

(Image credit:

Have you ever had the intuition that the processed food, “gas station” food, all that stuff you eat is toxic in a way you don’t quite understand? Well here’s something your conscience may have been trying to tell you: this herbicide is present at certain levels in almost every single “processed” food product you can think of.

(Image credit: kiheigas)

Even supposedly natural products are often found to be contaminated with it. Soil that a farmer wishing to grow organic produce on, that he purchased or obtained somehow with the little money he had to make a living, could already have been used and contaminated with glyphosate. Minerals and vitamins present in soil at much greater levels in past centuries have been depleted, leading to what some people believe is a catastrophic, collective potassium deficiency, a vital electrolyte necessary for healthy brain and muscle function.

(Image credit: newhope)

Here are some food products that have been credibly tested and confirmed to contain glyphosate.



  • Maize grain
  • Soybeans
  • Soybean fodder
  • Cotton seed
  • Sorghum
  • Cotton seed
  • Maize grain
  • Barley straw and fodder Grass hay
  • Lentils
  • Sweetcorn
  • Sugar beet


  • Kellog’s Raisin Bran
  • Kellog’s Corn Flakes
  • Kashi Organic Promise
  • Kellog’s Special K
  • Kellog’s Frosted Flakes
  • Original Cheerios
  • Honey Nut Cheerios
  • Wheaties
  • Trix
  • Annie’s Gluten Free Bunny Cookies Cocoa & Vanilla
  • Cheez-It Original
  • Cheez-It Whole Grain
  • Kashi Soft Bake Cookies, Oatmeal, Dark Chocolate
  • Ritz Crackers
  • Triscuit Crackers
  • Oreo Original
  • Oreo Double Stuf Chocolate Sandwich Cookies
  • Oreo Double Stuf Golden Sandwich Cookies
  • Stacy’s Simply Naked Pita Chips (Frito-Lay)
  • Lay’s: Kettle Cooked Original
  • Doritos: Cool Ranch
  • Fritos (Original) (100% Whole Grain)
  • Goldfish crackers original (Pepperidge Farm)
  • Goldfish crackers colors
  • Goldfish crackers Whole Grain
  • Little Debbie Oatmeal Cream Pies
  • Oatmeal Cookies Gluten Free
  • 365 Organic Golden Round Crackers
  • Back to Nature Crispy Cheddar Crackers


  • Quaker Simply Granola Oats, Honey, Raisins & Almonds
  • Back to Nature Banana Walnut Granola Clusters
  • Nature Valley Granola Protein Oats ‘n Honey
  • KIND Vanilla, Blueberry Clusters with Flax Seeds
  • Instant Oats
  • Granola
  • Nature’s Path Organic Honey Almond granola
  • Back to Nature Classic Granola
  • Giant Instant Oatmeal, Original Flavor
  • Simple Truth Organic Instant Oatmeal, Original
  • Quaker Dinosaur Eggs, Brown Sugar, Instant Oatmeal
  • Great Value Original Instant Oatmeal
  • Umpqua Oats, Maple Pecan
  • Market Pantry Instant Oatmeal, Strawberries & Cream
  • Oat Breakfast Cereal
  • Kashi Heart to Heart Organic Honey Toasted cereal
  • Cheerios Toasted Whole Grain Oat Cereal
  • Lucky Charms
  • Barbara’s Multigrain Spoonfuls, Original, Cereal
  • Kellogg’s Cracklin’ Oat Bran oat cereal
  • Snack Bar
  • Cascadian Farm Organic Harvest Berry, granola bar
  • KIND Oats & Honey with Toasted Coconut
  • Nature Valley Crunchy Granola Bars, Oats ‘n Honey
  • Quaker Chewy Chocolate Chip granola bar
  • Kellogg’s Nutrigrain Soft Baked Breakfast Bars, Strawberry
  • Bob’s Red Mill Steel Cut Oats
  • Nature’s Path Organic Old Fashioned Organic Oats
  • Whole Foods Bulk Bin conventional rolled oats
  • Bob’s Red Mill Organic Old Fashioned Rolled Oats (4 samples tested)
  • Whole Oats
  • 365 Organic Old-Fashioned Rolled Oats
  • Quaker Steel Cut Oats
  • Quaker Old Fashioned Oats


  • Minute Maid
  • Tropicana
  • Kirkland
  • Stater Bros.
  • Signature Farms


August 2018


PA Grand Jury Report here

August 14, 2018
The Inquirer
Pa. Catholic Church sex abuse report names hundreds of priests, accuses leaders of cover-up: ‘They hid it all.’

HARRISBURG — Top Roman Catholic leaders in Pennsylvania covered up decades of child sex abuse involving more than 1,000 victims and hundreds of priests, according to a long-awaited grand jury report released Tuesday.

Capping what may be the most comprehensive examination yet of clergy sex abuse across a single state, the nearly 900-page document accuses church officials in six Pennsylvania dioceses of routinely prioritizing their institution over the welfare of children in their care.

The allegations stretch back to the 1940s, detailing child rapes and groping that mirrored the reports that have roiled the church worldwide. But the document includes several uniquely disturbing accounts of its own — including one of a 1970s pedophile and child pornography ring in Pittsburgh among priests who whipped their victims and took photos of one boy as he posed naked as if on the cross.

One priest in Southwestern Pennsylvania is said to have sexually abused a boy in a confessional. Another, from Allentown, allegedly forced a boy to give him oral sex and then cleansed the child’s mouth with holy water. Two priests impregnated teens; one urged an abortion, the other arranged a secret marriage.

In all, more than 300 priests were singled out – though some names remain redacted amid legal wrangling over the fairness of the investigation and the public report. Dozens of church superiors — including some now in prominent posts nationally — were also named as complicit.

“All of [the victims] were brushed aside, in every part of the state, by church leaders who preferred to protect the abusers and their institutions above all,” the report says. “Priests were raping little boys and girls, and the men of God who were responsible not only did nothing: They hid it all.”

>> READ MORE: Read the full grand jury report

The abuse “was rampant and widespread,” Attorney General Josh Shapiro said at a news conference in the state Capitol. “It touched every diocese, and it is horrifying.”

Many of those accused — including bishops implicated in alleged cover-ups — disputed the findings in responses attached to the report.

The panel’s assertions are likely to fuel long-simmering battles in Harrisburg, including debates over the fairness of the state’s grand jury system and stalled legislation that would allow childhood victims to sue their abusers and others decades after an assault.

The report also comes amid a new wave of accusations that have upended Catholic congregations worldwide and resulted in the resignation of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, formerly the archbishop of Washington.

Among those named by the Pennsylvania grand jury was McCarrick’s successor in Washington, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, a longtime Pittsburgh bishop and one of Pope Francis’ prominent U.S. advisers.

Wuerl, who took over the Western Pennsylvania diocese in 1988, was faulted by the grand jury as failing to protect children from predators and withholding key information from parishioners during his two decades there.

Wuerl denied the claims Tuesday. His spokesman, Ed McFadden, called the investigation a “flawed process” steered “unwaveringly toward a predetermined result” — a statement that echoed concerns raised by nearly two dozen other clergy members who have disputed the report’s accuracy in court and fought to have their names, at least temporarily, redacted.

“In factual ways large and small, the Attorney General’s Office was more concerned with getting this report out than getting it right,” McFadden said.



Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro (center) speaks on the findings of the grand jury report on child sexual abuse in six Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania.

One woman, the report says, tried to commit suicide days after her testimony and later, from her hospital bed, urged grand jurors to finish their investigation.

Shapiro said he stood by the findings, the result of a two-year investigation by his office.

Despite the wide-ranging criminal behavior the attorney general outlined Tuesday, no new prosecutions are expected to emerge.

Two priests were indicted at earlier stages of the investigation. Many of the accused are either dead or long since removed from ministry, their offenses now beyond the state’s statute of limitations for sex crimes. Some had previously been prosecuted, or the accusations against them made public years ago.

Still, in its scope and breadth, the grand jury’s report was remarkable. The investigation drew upon testimony from dozens of witness and “secret archives” of priest abuse complaints obtained from the Dioceses of Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, Allentown, Scranton, Erie, and Greensburg – together home to more than 1.7 million Roman Catholics.

Pennsylvania’s other dioceses – Philadelphia and Altoona-Johnstown – were not included because previous grand juries had already scrutinized their handling of clergy sex-abuse claims.

>> FROM 2005: Grand jury says cardinals hid priests’ abuse of children, but panel recommends no new criminal charges

But the state’s largest city and only archdiocese weren’t completely absent. Some of the accused priests at one point in their careers made stops in Philadelphia; one allegation recounted a boy being abused at one priest’s family home in the city.

Several names fleetingly referenced in the report — including the late Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua and his former aide Bishop Edward Cullen — were church leaders in Philadelphia before or after service in other dioceses.

In many respects, the tactics described Tuesday mirrored those of the 2005 report that assailed the Philadelphia Archdiocese during their tenures here.


Priests preyed on vulnerable children, and their superiors either ignored or hid allegations while shuffling abusers from parish to parish. Lawsuits filed by accusers often ended in strict confidentiality agreements, ensuring their silence for years.

Problem priests were cycled through church-owned treatment centers — including the St. John Vianney Center in Downingtown. Tuesday’s report dismissed the therapy at such facilities, saying it largely existed to “launder accused priests” and “provide plausible deniability to the bishops and permitted hundreds of known offenders to return to ministry.”

In Allentown, grand jurors accused Msgr. Anthony Muntone of discounting a plea from a priest reporting he had molested a 12-year-old in 1982 and asking for help. Instead, the panel said, Muntone concluded “the experiences [would] not necessarily be a horrendous trauma to the victim” and allowed the priest to remain in active ministry for two decades.

In a response to the report’s findings, Muntone denied he ever put children at risk and said all actions he took came after consultation with the diocese legal counsel.

In Erie, grand jurors assailed Bishop Donald Trautman for lauding the Rev. Chester Gawronski for his “many acts of kindness” and “deep faith” even after he admitted to fondling at least 12 boys during what he described as “cancer checks.”

Trautman, in a statement, characterized many of the accusations against him as false.

And in the Pittsburgh Diocese, the report suggests, church officials weren’t the only ones out to avoid public embarrassment. Former Beaver County District Attorney Robert Master told the grand jury that he proactively shut down an investigation into an accused priest in the 1960s, hoping to “prevent unfavorable publicity” and win support for his political career.

>> READ MORE: Stolen Childhoods: Decades later, the damage from one Philadelphia predator priest still torments a generation of victims

Response from church leaders began even before the report’s release. Bishop Ronald W. Gainer of Harrisburg and Bishop Lawrence Persico of Erie sought to blunt the impact this month by opening their own archives and releasing names of all priests against whom there were “credible claims of abuse.” Other dioceses followed suit Tuesday.

All the bishops noted that most of the accusations predated their tenures by decades and stressed steps their diocese had taken to improve, including instituting a zero-tolerance policy in investigating abuse allegations.

But their responses to specific allegations varied. Bishop David Zubik in Pittsburgh asserted that “he knew of no cover-ups in his three decades” there.

Meanwhile, Persico — the lone bishop to testify before the grand jury — insisted that “apologies and policies … are not enough.”

“We are committed  to publishing the abuses of the past and  to being transparent with our decisions going forward,” he said.



Seated on the stage with 14 other sexual abuse victims, two members of the Fortney family console each other, as Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro describes the abuse their family suffered at the hands of the Rev. Augustine Giella.

As church leaders were grappling with how to address their congregations, state lawmakers were gearing up for a battle over the report’s recommendations — including suspending laws barring victims from suing their abusers decades after their assaults occurred.

Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R., Jefferson) reiterated his support for a bill he authored to eliminate the civil and criminal statute of limitations for child sex abuse in some cases, saying it “takes a crucial step forward to help protect victims.”

But Scarnati has been opposed to making any change to the statute retroactive, arguing that such a move would be unconstitutional and could lead to hundreds of lawsuits against the church.

House Majority Leader Dave Reed (R., Indiana) said he expects to schedule a vote on Scarnati’s bill this fall, but indicated that discussions over its provisions are ongoing.

Even with that fight ahead, accusers and their advocates described Tuesday’s win  — exposing abuse kept secret over decades — as victory enough for now.

“I knew the truth would come out eventually,” said James Faluszczak, a former priest from the Erie Diocese who says he was abused by a priest as a child, and who cried as Shapiro described the report. “I thank God, like, I think, all the other victims, that we’ve had this opportunity to have our voice finally heard.”

Staff writers Tricia L. Nadolny, Chris Palmer, William Bender, Jessica Calefati and Craig R. McCoy contributed to this article, along with Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporters David Templeton, Shelly Bradbury, and Julian Routh.



Erie Catholic Bishop Emeritus Donald Trautman (left) and Erie Catholic Bishop Lawrence T. Persico celebrating Communion during Mass at St. Peter Cathedral in Erie on Feb. 11, 2018.  Source


July 22, 2018
The strange case of a cyber strike that (briefly) renamed a government agency

OK, this might be nothing. Might be something. But it’s, at least, a little odd. Details of a hacked Pennsylvania Department of Health website are being closely held by the Wolf administration and raising questions at a time of worldwide jitters over cybersecurity.

Republican lawmakers have asked the state attorney general to investigate. And the incident has stirred ongoing concerns over backlogs in meeting citizen requests for birth and death certificates.

A mixed bag, I know. What the hack’s going on?

Well, the Associated Press reports  that somebody got into the Health Department’s vital statistics website, prompting a six-day shutdown last month to search for data breaches.

State says none were found. “No records were viewed, altered, created or deleted,” according to Office of Administration spokesperson Dan Egan.

What caught my eye in the AP reporting was the state’s initial response to questions about potential hacking: the system had merely been taken offline for “emergency maintenance due to performance issues.”

But the next day came an admission that law enforcement was involved because of an unauthorized entry to the site. Someone made “cosmetic modifications.”

Eagan declined to discuss details with me other than to say, “We’re working with law enforcement;” and later, by email, “The activity was traced to a computer in India.”

Great, so now it’s an international case? Or we were pranked by a bored call-center worker?

At any rate, turns out the “cosmetic” modification was the type of modification unruly juveniles used to make to a neighbor’s front stoop with a flaming bag of dog poop. Not pretty, definitely jejune and more than a bit embarrassing.

“My understanding is the phrase `Department of Health’ was changed to something else,” State Rep. John Lawrence (R., Chester), told WHYY, “I don’t think you can print the word.”

Let’s try.

Separate sources familiar with the event say “Department of Health” was changed to “Department of A—holes.” The intruder did not use dashes.

Now, many of us, at some point, likely feel the need to refer to some government agency as some version of that. But you can see how state officials might object to having it on a government website.

And just the fact that a hack took place riled GOP lawmakers. Republican heads of four House committees that oversee programs often dealing with vital statistics – Health, Commerce, Labor and  Industry, and Transportation – fired off a letter to state Attorney General Josh Shapiro seeking a “full independent investigation to ensure there was not a breach of Pennsylvanians’ vital personal information.”

Again, the administration claims there was not.

But House GOP spokesperson Stephen Miskin says the administration never informed the public of the hack, told two versions of its system shutdown (first maintenance, then unauthorized entry), “and now wants us all to believe them when they say nothing nefarious happened.”

Philadelphia Republican Rep. John Taylor, Transportation Committee chair, one of the Shapiro letter-signers, says, “If there’s something going on there we should know about it.”

A statement from Shapiro’s office says talks with the administration are underway “to determine what occurred and to determine appropriate next steps.”

This all swirls amid angst over long delays in getting copies of birth and death certificates due to chronic backlogs, an issue of growing concern since federally-required REAL ID is to take effect October 2020.

(Taylor teases that whoever was tech-savvy enough to rename the agency should maybe be tasked with ending its backlog.)

The legislature and the department are pressing for improvements. The House recently passed legislation sponsored by Rep. Lawrence to overhaul the process of issuing birth certificates. The bill sits in the Senate.

So, even if the hack is no big deal (disgruntled employee or contractor?), it comes at a time the department doesn’t need distractions.

REAL ID driver’s licenses will be necessary for most people to fly commercially or enter a secure federal facility. One requirement to get such a license is an original or certified copy of a birth certificate.

And if the Health Department isn’t cranking those babies out as needed, it might just earn “cosmetic modifications” to its name – on a lot more websites than its own.   Source

June 5, 2018
Facebook Gave Data Access to Chinese Firm Flagged by U.S. Intelligence

Facebook has data-sharing partnerships with at least four Chinese electronics companies, including a manufacturing giant that has a close relationship with China’s government, the social media company said on Tuesday.

The agreements, which date to at least 2010, gave private access to some user data to Huawei, a telecommunications equipment company that has been flagged by American intelligence officials as a national security threat, as well as to Lenovo, Oppo and TCL.

The four partnerships remain in effect, but Facebook officials said in an interview that the company would wind down the Huawei deal by the end of the week.

Facebook gave access to the Chinese device makers along with other manufacturers — including Amazon, Apple, BlackBerry and Samsung — whose agreements were disclosed by The New York Times on Sunday.

The deals gave Facebook an early foothold in the mobile market starting in 2007, before stand-alone Facebook apps worked well on phones, and allowed device makers to offer some Facebook features, such as address books, “like” buttons and status updates.

Facebook officials said the agreements with the Chinese companies allowed them access similar to what was offered to BlackBerry, which could retrieve detailed information on both device users and all of their friends — including work and education history, relationship status and likes.

Facebook officials said that the data shared with Huawei stayed on its phone, not the company’s servers.

Senator Mark Warner of Virginia pointed out that concerns about Huawei were not new, citing a 2012 congressional report on the “close relationships between the Chinese Communist Party and equipment makers like Huawei.”

“I look forward to learning more about how Facebook ensured that information about their users was not sent to Chinese servers,” said Mr. Warner, the top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee.

“All Facebook’s integrations with Huawei, Lenovo, Oppo and TCL were controlled from the get-go — and Facebook approved everything that was built,” said Francisco Varela, a Facebook vice president. “Given the interest from Congress, we wanted to make clear that all the information from these integrations with Huawei was stored on the device, not on Huawei’s servers.”

Banned in China since 2009, Facebook in recent years has quietly sought to gain a foothold there. The company’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, has tried to cultivate a relationship with China’s president, Xi Jinping, and put in an appearance at one of the country’s top universities. Last year, Facebook released a photo-sharing app in China that was a near replica of its Moments app, but did not put its name to it. And the company has worked on a tool that allowed targeted censorship, prompting some employees to quit over the project.

Still, the company has struggled to gain momentum, and in January a Facebook executive in charge of courting China’s government left after spending three years on a charm campaign to get the social media service back in the country.

None of the Chinese device makers who have partnerships with Facebook responded to requests for comment on Tuesday.

Huawei was the recipient of billions of dollars in lines of credit from China’s massive state-owned policy banks, helping to fuel its overseas expansion in Africa, Europe and Latin America. Its founder, Ren Zhengfei, is a former engineer in the People’s Liberation Army.

By one measure it is now the world’s biggest telecom equipment maker, not only selling phones but also key pieces of network infrastructure.

Lawmakers in the United States have been wary of the company for years, and have recommended that American carriers avoid buying its network gear.

The Trump administration has taken aim at Huawei and its rival ZTE in recent weeks, and in April the Federal Communications Commission advanced a plan to bar federally subsidized telecom companies from using suppliers that are considered national security threats.   Source

May 23, 2018
American suffers brain injury after ‘sound’ incident in China

US and Chinese authorities are investigating the matter, an embassy spokeswoman said

US and Chinese authorities are investigating the matter, an embassy spokeswoman said

The US embassy in China issued a health alert Wednesday after a US government employee experienced an “abnormal” sound and suffered a mild brain injury — in an incident reminiscent of a mysterious illness that hit diplomats in Cuba.

US and Chinese authorities are investigating the matter after the employee, who was assigned to the southern city of Guangzhou, was diagnosed with mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI), said embassy spokeswoman Jinnie Lee.

In an alert emailed to US citizens in China, the embassy said it does not know what caused the symptoms or of any similar situations in the country.

In Cuba last year, the US disclosed that 24 diplomats and their family members had fallen victim to an unsolved mysterious attack that left them with injuries resembling brain trauma. Ten Canadian diplomats and their relatives also suffered a strange illness.

“We cannot at this time connect it with what happened in Havana but we are investigating all possibilities,” a US embassy official in Beijing told AFP on the condition of anonymity.

The embassy’s health alert says the government employee “recently reported subtle and vague, but abnormal, sensations of sound and pressure”.

“The US government is taking these reports seriously and has informed its official staff in China of this event,” the message says.

“While in China, if you experience any unusual acute auditory or sensory phenomena accompanied by unusual sounds or piercing noises, do not attempt to locate their source. Instead, move to a location where the sounds are not present,” it says, urging people with medical problems to consult a doctor.

Lee said the employee experienced “a variety of physical symptoms” between late 2017 through April 2018. The person was sent to the United States and diagnosed with MTBI on May 18.

“The (State) Department is taking this incident very seriously and is working to determine the cause and impact of the incident,” Lee said.

“The Chinese government has assured us they are also investigating and taking appropriate measures.”

In Cuba, the American victims had associated the onset of their symptoms with “unusual sounds or auditory sensations,” a State Department physician told the US Senate in January.

Charles Rosenfarb, a doctor and director of the State Department bureau of medical services, said the symptoms were mixed but consistent with brain trauma.

The victims suffered headaches, hearing loss, disorientation and some loss of cognitive ability.

Initially officials suspected the Americans had been targeted by some sort of acoustic weapon, although in public senior officials were more cautious, speaking of “health attacks”. Media reports have suggested that the FBI has not been able to verify any evidence to support the sonic weapon theory.

The US government has held Cuba responsible, arguing that Raul Castro’s authoritarian state must have either carried out the assaults or at least known who was behind them.

May 10, 2018
The Hill
Oregon school district forced LGBTQ student to read Bible as punishment: report

Oregon school district forced LGBTQ student to read Bible as punishment: report

An Oregon school district reportedly forced an LGBTQ student to read passages from the Bible as a form of punishment

The World in Coos Bay, Ore. reports that the student’s allegations were detailed by the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) in an March 6 letter to North Bend School District Superintendent Bill Yester. 

The ODE is investigating claims that an LGBTQ high school student was forced by a school administrator to read the Bible while they were being “disciplined,” according to The World.

It reported that ODE officials are investigating whether the forced Bible reading violated the student’s First Amendment Rights, including the Establishment Clause which recognizes the separation of church and state.

On a separate occasion, a different teacher reportedly equated same-sex marriage to marrying a dog during a lesson.

“There is substantial evidence to support the allegation that the district subjected LGBTQ students to separate or different rules of behavior, sanctions, or other treatment,” the department’s letter reads.

ODE is investigating the district’s alleged failure to remedy a hostile environment after complaints had been made by LGBTQ students,” including failing to probe other claims of sexual harassment.

The district was encouraged to reach a settlement with an unidentified student within 30 days of receiving the letter but that reportedly has not happened, The World reported.

The school board will meet with state officials later this month to decide if it is in compliance with Oregon and U.S. anti-discrimination laws, it added.  Source

April 8, 2018
Texas Bill Prohibiting Male Masturbation Moves Closer To Becoming Law

A proposed bill in Texas that would impose a fine for male masturbation is making its way through the state’s legislature.

House Bill 4260, called the “Man’s Right to Know Act,” would punish male masturbation with a $100 fine, and require men who want Viagra to be subject to a rectal exam.

The bill, filed earlier this year by Texas legislator Rep. Jessica Farrar (D), was referred to the House State Affairs Committee on Tuesday.

By focusing on male masturbation, the proposed legislation is an obvious attempt to satirize and draw attention to the unreasonable and dangerous policy proposals concerning women’s reproductive freedom coming from the Republican Party.

Commenting on her bill, Rep. Farrar told

A lot of people find the bill funny. What’s not funny are the obstacles that Texas women face every day, that were placed there by legislatures making it very difficult for them to access healthcare.

Farrar is a vocal abortion rights activist, with a long record of opposing legislation in Texas hostile to women’s reproductive freedom.

The Statesman reports the details of the new legislation prohibiting unregulated male masturbation:

The bill calls “masturbatory emissions” an “act against an unborn child, and failing to preserve the sanctity of life.”

The bill also contains provisions that would also put restrictions on vasectomies, Viagra prescriptions and colonoscopies, including:

  • The state must create an informational booklet called “A Man’s Right to Know” that contains information and illustrations on the benefits of and concerns about those three treatments. A man must review the booklet before going through with any of them.

    A man must receive a rectal exam and an MRI of his rectum before any of the three treatments.

  • A man would not be able sue a doctor for refusing to provide those treatments or another procedure if the procedure violates the doctor’s “personal, moralistic, or religious beliefs.”

  • A doctor must obtain consent from the man before providing the treatment, and the man may give it only if he waits at least 24 hours after the doctor’s visit.

  • The state must establish a registry of nonprofit organizations and hospitals that provide abstinence counseling, a supervising physician for “masturbatory emissions,” and semen storage.

  • “Masturbatory emissions” must be stored for the wife for conception.

The Statesman also notes that current state law “requires that doctors distribute to women considering an abortion the ‘A Woman’s Right to Know’ booklet, which contains illustrations of gestational periods and the risks and side effects of abortions. Women also must wait 24 hours after receiving the booklet and must undergo an ultrasound before the procedure. Abortion of a viable fetus can bring a penalty of at least five years in prison.”

Earlier this week former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton praised Farrar for promoting the proposed new legislation.  After praising Farrar while speaking at an Annie’s List luncheon in Houston on Friday, Clinton opined:

I don’t know. The bill may be satirical but the message sure resonated.

Bottom line: Turnabout is fair play. By focusing on male masturbation House Bill 4260 demonstrates the absurdity and cruelty of the constant and ongoing effort by Republicans to demean and stigmatize women in their pursuit of reproductive health care.

image: State Capitol (Image via Wikipedia)


Feb 28, 2018
Military Times
Wife of 7th Special Forces Group vet faces deportation under tighter immigration rules

A Virginia immigration court on Monday could decide to deport the wife of an Army 7th Special Forces Group veteran, despite provisions in the law that allow her to remain in the United States.

Retired Sgt. 1st Class Bob Crawford, 52, and Elia, 44, married in 2001 when he was still on active duty and deploying regularly with 7th Group to conduct counter-narcotics operations and training missions in Latin America.

Elia illegally crossed into the U.S. in 1999, after she fled the devastation of Hurricane Mitch, which killed 7,000 people in her native Honduras.

After they married, the Crawfords filled out paperwork to seek legal residency for Elia and learned she was under deportation orders. “We’ve been fighting this for years,” Bob Crawford said, listing the filings and attorneys the family has pursued to get Elia legal status.

The pair has two sons, ages 12 and 9, and Elia has been the foundation that has allowed Bob to keep deploying — as many as two or three times a year — first as an active duty soldier and now as a Defense Department contractor.

“My wife supported me the whole time I was gone — she ran the house,” Crawford said. “Behind every good soldier is a good woman.”

Crawford hasn’t discussed his family’s predicament publicly before. He decided to now because he is fearful that the administrative limbo she is caught up in will force the family to split.

Crawford hasn’t discussed his family’s predicament publicly before. He decided to now because he is fearful that the administrative limbo she is caught up in will force the family to split.

Spouses of active-duty troops or veterans are eligible for “Parole in Place,” or PIP, a relief that allows spouses, children and parents of active duty, National Guard and Reserve troops and veterans who entered the U.S. illegally to remain in the country and pursue a green card.

The law was put in place in 2007 to come to the aid of Yaderlin Hiraldo, the wife of Army Sgt. Alex Jimenez. Hiraldo entered the U.S. illegally, and Jimenez was killed in Iraq before they could complete her green card request.

The PIP provision has been “extraordinarily important for military families,” said Leticia Corona, the Crawfords’ attorney. “It’s a tremendous amount of stress for military personnel in general who deploy to dangerous places to be worried about their loved ones who are undocumented back home.”

That policy has not helped the Crawfords, because they can’t file for the relief while a deportation order remains, and the Department of Homeland Security won’t clear Elia Crawford’s order.

“The government won’t terminate that removal so she can get the PIP,”

Bob Crawford said. “So she’s caught between ICE and DHS.”

In recent hearings, the Crawfords have requested the deportation order be removed so they could proceed with the paperwork to be granted PIP.

Getting the orders cleared in earlier cases had been fairly procedural, Corona said. That’s changed under President Donald Trump’s administration, which has taken a harder line on immigration and deportation issues.

In late December, DHS declined the Crawfords’ request.

“They provided no reason as to why they came to that decision,” Corona said.

There was no one immediately available at DHS for comment.

Bob Crawford, who was honorably discharged in 2006 after 20 years of service, including in the 75th Ranger Regiment, a deployment during the Gulf War, and then serving in Latin America with 7th Group, said he has watched over the past year as both Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and new Army Secretary Mark Esper have talked about the importance of military families. He said it’s a juxtaposition to what he and other military families facing deportation are going through.

“I know the military takes care of families — because I lived it for 20 years,” Crawford said. “I just feel, right now, we’re caught in this limbo.”

Crawford continues to deploy in his contractor role to support the military. He is worried about Elia’s safety if the government decides she must return to Honduras.

“Honduras is one of the most dangerous countries in the world, especially for a female if they know she’s a military dependent,” he said.

The Crawfords return to an immigration court in Arlington, Virginia, Monday to see if there are other options available to them to get the deportation orders cleared.

The family is fearful.

“This is kind of my last hope,” Bob Crawford said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen.”   Source

Feb 7, 2018
This Teenager Accused Two On-Duty Cops Of Rape. She Had No Idea The Law Might Protect Them.

When Anna said she was raped by two on-duty cops, she thought it would be a simple case. She had no idea she lived in one of 35 states where officers can claim a detainee consented.

Anna was sitting in the parked car with two friends when a charcoal gray van pulled up and flashlight beams momentarily blinded her. The 18-year-old had grown up in south Brooklyn and spent many Friday nights like this driving around the city with friends, looking for places to hang out away from home. On this night, though, September 15, 2017, sometime between 7:30 p.m. and 8 p.m., she crossed paths with the cops.

There were two of them, both plainclothes detectives over 6 feet tall and powerfully built, flashing their badges and asking questions. There was weed in the front cupholder, and soon the detectives ordered the three occupants out of the car. As Anna later recalled, the detectives handcuffed her and told her friends, both young men, they were free to go. Then, she said they led her — a slender woman just over 5 feet tall — into the back of the unmarked police van with tinted windows.

Inside, Anna said the detectives took turns raping her in the backseat as the van cruised the dark streets and as she sat handcuffed, crying and repeatedly telling them “No.” Between assaults, she said, the van pulled over so the cops could switch drivers. Less than an hour later, a few minutes’ drive from where it all began, the detectives dropped Anna off on the side of the road, a quarter-mile from a police station, surveillance footage shows. She stood on the sidewalk, her arms wrapped around her chest, looking up and down the dimly lit street and pacing slowly before borrowing a cell phone from a passerby to call a friend.

The cops made no arrest, issued no citation, filed no paperwork about the stop. Hours later, Anna and her mother went to a hospital, where Anna told nurses two detectives had sexually assaulted her, according to hospital records. Semen collected in Anna’s rape kit matched the DNA of detectives Eddie Martins, 37, and Richard Hall, 33, of the Brooklyn South narcotics unit. Both have since resigned from the force and been charged with rape.

Former NYPD Detectives Eddie Martins (center) and Richard Hall (right) leaving Kings County Supreme Court in January.

Barry Williams

Former NYPD Detectives Eddie Martins (center) and Richard Hall (right) leaving Kings County Supreme Court in January.

Anna assumed it was a simple case: Two cops had sex with a woman in their custody in the middle of their shift.

When a Facebook friend questioned whether there was enough evidence to dispute the officers’ claim that the sex was consensual, Anna wrote back, “Listen man it doesn’t fucking matter they’re on duty police officers its a fucking violation these are the people we call for help not to get fucked.”

But Anna didn’t know that in New York, there is no law specifically stating that it is illegal for police officers or sheriff’s deputies in the field to have sex with someone in their custody. It is one of 35 states where armed law enforcement officers can evade sexual assault charges by claiming that such an encounter — from groping to intercourse — was consensual.

“Our laws regarding sexual consent must be brought into line with basic common sense, empathy, and human decency.”

In recent years, some states have closed this loophole, applying to cops the same rules already in place nationwide for probation officers and prison and jail guards. Oregon did so in 2005, Alaska in 2013, and Arizona in 2015. Most have not, partly because few people realize the loophole exists, and partly because it has been politically unpopular to push laws that target cops and anger their powerful unions.

Of at least 158 law enforcement officers charged since 2006 with sexual assault, sexual battery, or unlawful sexual contact with somebody under their control, at least 26 have been acquitted or had charges dropped based on the consent defense, according to my review of a Buffalo News database of more than 700 law enforcement officers accused of sexual misconduct.

In most of the states that do not explicitly outlaw sex between on-duty cops and detainees, including New York, an officer can claim consent and face only a misdemeanor “official misconduct” charge, which carries a maximum one-year sentence.

“Cultural shifts happen, but what we need to see is a policy shift,” said Tara Burns, an advocate in Alaska who has worked to expand police sexual assault laws. “There’s a long entrenched history of institutionalized rape culture that has to change.”

BuzzFeed News

Anna’s case has brought new attention to this legal loophole. On October 26, 2017, New York City Council member Mark Treyger announced that the teen’s story had inspired him to propose a bill to make it illegal for police officers to have sex with anyone in their custody. “Our laws regarding sexual consent must be brought into line with basic common sense, empathy, and human decency,” he wrote in a post on Medium, calling on state lawmakers to pass similar legislation. New York City’s two biggest police unions both declined to state whether or not they support the proposal.

Anna hadn’t considered that her story had the potential to spur changes to the law. Her aim when she went public about her case was simply “to encourage other victims to come forward,” she told me after a recent court appearance. “Police aren’t supposed to be doing this.” Seeing her story “blowing up,” as she put it, has left her optimistic that more officers will be held accountable for sexual abuse. She believes that people are listening to her and will listen to others who have similar allegations. “All it took was one voice.”

Anna’s last name hasn’t been made public, which is usually the case for the alleged victim in a rape case. In court documents she is referred to as “Anna Doe,” but on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram she goes by the screenname she’s used since middle school: Anna Chambers. The daughter of Russian immigrants, Anna attended a racially diverse public high school, owns an impressive collection of Air Jordans, and wants to become a paralegal one day. She has tried to maintain her routine as the case has gone on, clinging to the normalcy she can find in this abnormal period. She still goes to the occasional house party or music show, still posts bedroom mirror selfies, still lives her life. On October 5, two weeks after she reported that she was raped, she was ticketed for weed possession.

The same day, the New York Times exposed Harvey Weinstein’s history of sexual misconduct, triggering scrutiny of powerful men who abuse their authority across a wide range of industries — Hollywood, media, politics, restaurants, hotels, sports, finance, factory work, housing. As the accuser in the first high-profile police sexual assault case since then, Anna stands at the intersection of two cultural shifts: the rising credibility of women who report sex crimes in the #MeToo era, and the falling credibility of police in an era flooded with videos of cops doing wrong.

Anna stands at the intersection of two cultural shifts: the rising credibility of women, and the falling credibility of police.

She has not shied from the moment. She has rallied support online, and now has around 7,000 followers on Twitter and 12,000 on her private Instagram account. “Thank you,” she replied to one well-wisher. “Who knows how many other girls they’ve done it to.”

Policing is a male-dominated field — Department of Justice statistics show that more than 80% of officers are men — where abuse is more rampant than statistics indicate because victims are less likely to report officer misconduct. “Police abuse of authority is often concealed,” said Norm Stamper, a former Seattle police chief. “Victims fear coming forward for fear of retaliation.” Officers who rape have plenty of weapons at their disposal: the threat of arrest, the access to a victim’s personal records, and the aura of immunity that comes from carrying a badge. The most sweeping investigation into the scope of police sexual misconduct, by the Associated Press in 2015, counted 990 law enforcement officers who lost their job for sexual misconduct between 2009 and 2014.

“Part of the reason the problem’s so bad in policing is there are people who are drawn to the job for the gun and the badge and the authority,” said Penny Harrington, a former Portland, Oregon, police chief. “And everybody else just keeps their mouth shut.”

Anna began telling her story publicly three days after her encounter with Martins and Hall, tweeting on September 18 — when only her parents, her friends, hospital nurses, and police knew about it — “These crooked ass cops i swear i never want to see one again. What if someone did that to your daughter.” On September 30, two days after the New York Post first reported on her allegations, which were laid out in a court document, she tweeted a photo of a New York Daily News article bearing her photo alongside the headline “Cop Savages.” “This is nuts,” she wrote.

In the months since, she has continued to chronicle her case on social media, posting links to news articles on Twitter and Facebook, sharing photos and videos of her trips to court on Instagram, retweeting the comments of others, and providing her own thoughts on the legal process in the efficient, blunt language of the internet.

“Tryna smear someone who got raped. Be proud of yourselves NYPD this is how you guys work?”

October 22, the day defense lawyers disputed her account: “Tryna smear someone who got raped. Be proud of yourselves NYPD this is how you guys work?”

October 27, the day the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office filed charges of rape, kidnapping, bribery, and official misconduct against Martins and Hall, who face up to 25 years in prison: “GODBLESSSSSS”

November 6, the day Martins and Hall resigned from the NYPD: “Their bail should be revoked since they aren’t ‘cops’ anymore.”

Her lawyer, Michael David, offered to represent Anna after learning that one of his longtime clients was a relative of hers. It’s the biggest case he’s ever handled, and his initial instinct was to rein in her social media activity to protect her from posting something that could be used against her in court.

But she had no interest in being a silent observer, especially at a time when so many women were speaking up about their experiences with sexual assault and harassment. “Usually an attorney tells their client to stay off social media, but in her case it was just the opposite,” David said. “I didn’t tell her to tone it down. It got her attention. It got her media pressure.”

With Anna’s approval, David shared the details of her allegations in interviews with several news outlets: the detectives ordering her to take off her bra to show she wasn’t hiding drugs, telling her friends not to follow the van, making their intentions clear once they were on the road, then forcing themselves on her.

By mid-October, Anna’s name had become a hashtag. The first rally in her honor was on October 17, when about two dozen supporters marched through southern Brooklyn chanting her name and carrying signs that said, “We believe you.” On October 28, Funkmaster Flex, perhaps the most famous hip-hop radio DJ in the world, used the entirety of his five-hour Saturday night show to bring attention to her case, urging listeners to call in if they had any information about Martins and Hall.

A month later, more than 50 supporters gathered in Washington Square Park in Manhattan for another rally. “I obviously am not allowed to attend, but guys I really fucking truly appreciate this so much,” Anna wrote on the Facebook page for the event, adding in a later post, “Please send all pics/videos you guys may have.” Weeks later, on the morning of a court hearing for the case, a banner was hung from the Manhattan Bridge: “Martins & Hall aren’t the only rapists / Abolish police.”

“It’s the first time I’ve felt hope in years,” she said. “All of a sudden women are being heard.”

Across the country, police departments are being pushed to confront longtime patterns of abuse. In October, a retired Anchorage, Alaska, Police Department captain wrote a newspaper column detailing the “incessant” sexual harassment she experienced from fellow cops during her career. At a Chicago Police Board meeting in January, a woman shared her experience of getting raped by a cop during her teenage years in the 1980s. Some activists have begun using the hashtag “#policetoo.” In the five weeks following the Weinstein news, at least three police chiefs were fired for sexual misconduct. Since October, at least 21 cops in seven states have resigned or been terminated because of sexual misconduct allegations.

While there have been high-profile cases of police sexual assault in recent years, the culture of misogyny and invulnerability in most police departments remains, said Harrington, the former police chief in Portland. But she believes a reckoning is coming to law enforcement. “It’s the first time I’ve felt hope in years,” she said. “All of a sudden women are being heard.”

And yet, New York’s law means that a trial will pit the word of two ex-cops against the word of a teenager.

The legal process requires Anna to recall the events repeatedly, in detail. In the past five months, she has given statements to a series of NYPD investigators, to her lawyer, to prosecutors, to a grand jury, and to attorneys representing the city for her lawsuit against the department.

“It’s painful,” she said. “I didn’t know what to expect. I still really don’t.” To Anna, some of those sessions, especially with city attorneys, felt more like interrogations. She hadn’t thought much about the court system before all this. She didn’t know how much of her life was now open for questioning. She hadn’t seen any need to clean up her social media accounts, and didn’t know her old posts could be used as evidence that she was lying. She’d put up photos of herself in bikinis. She’d gone to a porn convention when she was 17. She’d posted on Facebook a link to a website about sex when she was 13. She has never hidden that she enjoys smoking weed. Sometimes she makes dirty jokes.

“Who gives a fuck about what I post,” she tweeted after learning that defense attorneys were citing photos, videos, and comments from her social media history in an effort to persuade the DA’s Office to drop the charges.

Defendants Martins and Hall haven’t told their side. The gist of their defense at this point: “There was no nonconsensual sexual encounter,” said Martins’ lawyer, Mark Bederow, a former assistant district attorney in Manhattan who has worked criminal defense since 2004. He denied that Anna was handcuffed and that the men used physical force on her. While defense lawyers won’t say what, according to the cops, happened inside the van, their public statements and the evidence they have presented so far point to their only possible legal strategy: Painting Anna as a temptress who came onto them.

This has been the most common defense used by cops acquitted in sexual assault cases. In 2007, former Irvine, California, police officer David Alex Park was acquitted of sexual assault after claiming that the woman initiated sex to avoid getting a ticket. In 2016, before Arizona’s recently passed consent law went into effect, former Phoenix police officer Timothy Morris was acquitted of sexual assault even though he admitted to having oral sex with a handcuffed woman in his patrol car, claiming she had seduced him.

Lawyers for Martins and Hall have canvassed Anna’s social media footprint. They’ve flagged items posted since the incident: a tweet about the “paparazzi” she found waiting for her outside the courthouse; captions dubbing herself “50mily,” a possible reference to her $50 million lawsuit against the department; tweets with any sort of sexual reference; comments on her pages posted by others claiming to have evidence that she is lying, including one to which she replied, “I hope ya mommy gets gang raped.”

The effort to damage Anna Chambers’ credibility became known to the public in October when the New York Post obtained a letter the defense lawyers had sent to prosecutors, referencing “provocative photos” and arguing that the DA’s office should “further investigate Chambers’ dubious claims.” The lawyers suggested that the life she presented on social media was evidence that she had not undergone the trauma of a sexual assault. “This behavior is unprecedented for a depressed victim of a vicious rape,” the letter said.

In December, Anna gave her deposition for the lawsuit. In the conference room of a private law firm, she and her lawyer sat across the table from attorneys representing New York City. The questioning and answering spanned 12 hours over three days, and when the transcript was typed up it ran for 740 pages. Hours were spent going over her social media posts, a painstaking accounting going back to her middle school years. Another chunk was devoted to her sexual history. Another covered her gynecological exams. During a round of questioning about a set of Facebook comments, she broke into tears.

The trial is likely many months away. At some point, a judge will determine how much of Anna’s personal and social media life defense lawyers may present at trial. At some point beyond that, she will take the witness stand and be cross-examined by the lawyers who have called her a liar.

Lawyers for Martins and Hall continue to call on the DA’s Office to drop the charges, accusing prosecutors of ignoring evidence that reveals Anna’s “willingness to lie” and of rushing the case forward to satisfy Anna’s supporters who want to see the men held accountable. Of the evidence the defense has pulled from her social media history to undermine her, Anna said, “None of that should matter.” It only matters because of the loophole.

In another letter challenging Anna’s credibility, filed in January, defense attorneys pointed out various inconsistencies among her statements, including over which detective told her to take off her bra, which pocket her cell phone was in, the reason she took time away from high school, and why she told city attorneys she’d dressed up as the Disney princess Jasmine for Halloween when her social media posts showed her in an orange inmate costume, a set of handcuffs dangling from her belt. A judge plans to rule by April 5 on which, if any, portions of the deposition transcript are admissible for trial.

Meanwhile, Anna, who is now 19, still lives in a neighborhood policed by former colleagues of the men she accused. “I see police cars park on my block all the time,” she told me. “I feel like I’m being watched.” She has felt that way since that night at the hospital, when she counted nine cops, of various ranks and roles, passing through the hallway as the investigation into her case began. She spends most days in her room on social media, she said. Those who follow her on Instagram can see the live videos she often posts from her bedroom, rapping to songs or talking to friends or putting on lip gloss while she scrolls through her phone. She responds to the comments, which mostly show love, sometimes spew hate, and every now and then offer advice on her case or encourage her to run for political office. She seems at ease, though not relaxed. She still lives her life, but it is now a life that carries the weight of that September night, and all that has followed. She seems to understand the long road she’s facing, and how lonely it can be. On the first day of 2018, she tweeted a link to a news article about her case, with the note, “Lets not forget.”

And many haven’t. On January 18, the morning of Anna’s latest hearing, about a dozen supporters stood outside the courthouse holding two signs: “Anna Chambers We Believe You” and “Let’s Smash This Rapist Cop State.” Passersby stopped and asked about the case. Staffers talked about it in elevators. Photographers and television cameras gathered in the hallway outside the courtroom. Anna walked past them without looking, her hands in the pockets of her green bomber jacket, her eyes behind reflective sunglasses, her two lawyers flanking her. The gallery was already half full by the time she entered, and she found a seat in a middle row. When Martins and Hall arrived a few minutes later, the only open spot left was just across the aisle. That night, Anna posted on Instagram a photo of herself leaving the courtroom, writing in the caption, “Its disgusting seeing these monsters 12 ft away from me.” ●


Anna tweeted a photo of a New York Daily News article about her case on Sept. 30. An earlier version of this story misidentified the newspaper.


Ohio’s law bars sex in custody between police and detainees, and DC’s does not. An earlier version of the map in this story had the colors reversed.

Feb 8, 2018
CNN Money
This is why the Dow is plunging

The Dow has dropped more than 1,000 points on Thursday, primarily because of concerns about the bond market and inflation.

Wild swings over the past week have left stocks in the red for the year. The Dow has entered a correction, down 10% from its record high just two weeks ago.

Here’s what’s driving the volatility.

1. Concerns about inflation …

Stocks had been rising steadily since the election in part because the economy is so strong. Unemployment is historically low, and there are more open jobs than people to fill them.

Companies are starting to pay workers more to retain existing employees and attract new hires. Businesses will eventually have to raise prices on the stuff they sell to afford their growing payrolls.

Though the economy has been growing steadily for almost nine years, price inflation has remained stubbornly and mysteriously low.

The Federal Reserve combats inflation by raising its interest rates. The central bank has been unable to significantly raise its interest rates over the past decade, fearing it could stymie the economic recovery and perhaps cause prices to fall.

The Fed planned on raising interest rates slowly this year — just three times in 2018. But if inflation picks up, the Fed could raise rates more often or more steeply than it had planned.

Related: Dow plunges 1,175 — worst point decline in history

2. … and interest rates

When the Fed raises rates, the cost of borrowing money increases. That means companies have to pay more for their loans, which cuts into corporate profits. It also means Americans will pay more for mortgages and loans.

Another reason the stock market has risen so much over the past year has been the steady growth in corporate profits. Companies are healthy, and investors have rewarded them by pushing up their stock prices.

When interest rates rise sharply, stocks often fall. Investors worry that businesses’ profit parade will slow down.

3. Worries about the bond market

Stocks have also been on a tear because they have been one of the only investments with a decent return. U.S. Treasury bond yields have been so low that many stock dividends are paying better.

But stocks are a higher-risk investment than bonds, which are backed by the United States Treasury. If bond yields start to rise, investors will want to take some of their money out of stocks and put it into safer bonds.

Sure enough, bond yields hit a four-year high Thursday. The recent tax bill has forced the Treasury to borrow more money, which will put more bonds into play. A supply glut could devalue bonds. Prices and yields move in opposite directions, and bond buyers will want a higher yield (and lower price) to make it worth their investment.

Inflation is bad for bonds, too. If borrowing costs increase, bond investors will want more return — a higher yield.

Attractive yields on a safer investment have made stocks suddenly less attractive.

4. Too far, too fast

Stocks have been rising pretty much in a straight line since November 2016, and that’s not exactly healthy. Stock market analysts believe the stock market is long overdue for a 5% pullback or even a 10% correction.

A cooling-off period would be a good thing. It would make stocks cheaper and more attractive to investors, especially if the underlying companies are healthy, cranking out strong sales and profits.

The market finally began to come down to earth — just a bit — and investors wonder whether this is a much-needed correction or the beginning of a bear market. There could be a little groupthink taking place in the downturn.     Source

Jan 17, 2018
Majority of National Park Service Board Resigns, Citing Administration Indifference

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke speaks on the Trump administration’s energy policy at the Heritage Foundation in Washington in September 2017. Nine of 12 members of the National Park Service advisory board resigned Monday citing Zinke’s unwillingness to meet with the panel.

Andrew Harnik/AP

Updated at 4 p.m. ET

Nearly all of the seats on the U.S. National Park Service advisory board are vacant following a mass resignation Monday night, with ex-members citing Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s unwillingness to meet with them.

Former Alaska Gov. Tony Knowles said that he and eight other members of the panel handed in their resignations. In a separate letter Wednesday, another board member, Carolyn Hessler Radelet, also quit.

The advisory board, which normally has up to 12 members and describes itself as comprising “citizen advisors chartered by Congress to help the National Park Service,” has been an institution since 1935. Members of the current bipartisan iteration were appointed by President Obama and represented the geographical breadth of the U.S. and a range of research disciplines, from social science to natural resource conservation.

The terms of most of the members who quit were set to expire in May. Radelet’s term would not have expired until 2021.

Knowles, in a letter of resignation to Zinke, said the board had “worked closely and productively through 2016 with dedicated National Park Service employees, an inspiring Director and a fully supportive Department.”

Since then, as explained in the letter, the board had repeatedly tried and failed to secure a meeting with the new interior secretary.

“[Our] requests to engage have been ignored and the matters on which we wanted to brief the new Department team are clearly not part of the agenda,” the letter reads.

Alaska Public Radio quoted Knowles as saying that the Department of the Interior “showed no interest in learning about or continuing to use the forward-thinking agenda of science, the effect of climate change, protections of the ecosystems, education.”

“And it has rescinded NPS regulations of resource stewardship concerning those very things: biodiversity loss, pollution and climate change,” he added.

According to The Washington Post:

“The three board members who did not resign include Harvard University public finance professor Linda Bilmes, University of Maryland marine science professor Rita Colwell and Carolyn Hessler Radelet, the chief executive of Project Concern International. Terms for the first two end in May, while Radelet’s term does not expire until 2021.

“In an email, Bilmes said she did not resign her post because she is conducting research with other colleagues funded by the National Park Foundation, and wanted to complete her project.”

In a statement Wednesday, Department of Interior spokesperson Heather Swift said the department welcomes the resignations. She called the board members’ claim of neglect “patently false,” saying the department had been working with the board as recently as earlier this month.

“The appointment of two of the individuals who claim to be resigning had already expired in July and November, and they did not seek reappointment,” Swift added in her statement. “Their hollow and dishonest political stunt should be a clear indicator of the intention of this group.”

E&E News points to another area of contention between the Department of the Interior and the NPS advisory board:

“At the heart of the dispute is the Trump administration’s move in August to scrap a 2016 order by the Obama administration that called for a focus on climate change in managing natural resources in U.S. parks. …

“Among other things, the order called for park managers to make decisions based ‘on science, law and long-term public interest.’ And it said park superintendents and other NPS leaders had to ‘possess scientific literacy appropriate to their positions and resource management decision-making responsibilities.’ ”

Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell, a Democrat who is the ranking member on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, issued a statement of support for the resigning board members.

“The President still hasn’t nominated a director for the National Park Service and Secretary Zinke has proposed tripling entrance fees at our most popular national parks,” she said. “His disregard of the advisory board is just another example of why he has earned an ‘F’ in stewardship.”

“To not have any meetings, to not have their phone calls returned, to not have any opportunity to have an audience with the officials at the interior department is really a slap in the face and I think sometimes you have to make a statement,” Sally Jewell, the secretary of the interior during President Obama’s second term, told NPR’s Here and Now on Wednesday.

“They were being ignored, and I have to believe that’s consistent with what this administration has done with other advisory boards and councils in other agencies, as well,” she said.

Since taking office, President Trump has sought to roll back protections of national parks and public lands under the auspices of the Department of the Interior. The administration has ordered a dramatic downsizing of two massive national monuments in Utah and has announced plans to open up oil drilling in protected areas of the Arctic and the Atlantic.

“If we lose the people with the knowledge and the ability to educate the next generation of young people, to appreciate our history, our culture, our natural world,” Jewell said, “then we lose the value of the national parks.”

Swift has vowed to “fast-track filling these new vacancies with people who are actually dedicated to working with the Department to better our national parks.”

The department has also moved to renew the board’s charter.

“The advice and recommendations provided by the Board and its subcommittees fulfill an important need within the Department of the Interior and the National Park Service,” Zinke said in a document dated Jan. 4 and published in the Federal Register on Wednesday, “and it is necessary to re-establish the Board to ensure its work is not disrupted.”  Source

Jan 16, 2018
The Inquirer
As the flu season gets worse, is there anything we can do? 
by Anna Nguyen, Kids Health Assistant Editor @HealthyKidsPHL

As many of us probably know, the flu is making its rounds in a big way this year. Last week, health officials described the flu season as “moderately severe” due to persistent cold weather and an imperfect vaccine.

We checked in with Peter Bidey, D.O., Medical Director of Family Medicine at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine and member of the Inquirer Health Advisory Panel, about what’s happening and basics tips to try to stay healthy.
What’s going on with this year’s flu? Why is the flu vaccine imperfect?

Currently, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is showing that the majority of influenza cases are the H3N2 strain of influenza, which can strike early in the flu season and often can make both the young and elderly very sick. Due to the fact that it has been particularly cold, and with the virus striking during the holiday seasons this makes more of us stay indoors, together, in more confined spaces.  This circulated air and close contact is a perfect scenario to spread the virus itself.

Last, but not least, the virus can mutate both in the population as it circulates and the virus that was used to make the vaccine can also have mutations occur during the process. Both of these factors can make the vaccine imperfect and not always cover all strains of the virus each year.  For example, some estimates are saying that this year’s vaccine is approximately 30 percent effective.

Are products marketed as immune boosters for kids such as vitamin C gummies or drops worth using?

Immune boosters that contain Vitamin C and other antioxidants are not specifically bad.  However, there is not a vast amount of data that shows that these compounds provide any benefit. Although they might not hurt a patient, these key minerals and vitamins are best absorbed by eating a healthy diet rich in fruits and ve

What are some ways to keep our kids’ immunity up?
To answer this question, just think back to what your mother or father told you when you were sick. It is always best to:

  • Wash your hands frequently
  • Get the proper amount of sleep
  • Cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough with a tissue or into your elbow.
  • If sick, try to avoid contact with other individuals so that you do not spread the disease.
  • If not sick, try to avoid coming in contact with sick individuals.
  • Eat a healthy diet full of fruits and vegetables

Always contact your primary care provider if symptoms are not improving or worsening

Should my family get flu shots if we didn’t yet?
Emphatically, yes! It is not too late in the season and although the vaccine is not perfect, it still can do a lot of good. The vaccine can still protect you from some strains of this year’s influenza. If you or a loved one still do contract the flu, the vaccine can allow you to have a much milder case and help protect you from needing hospitalization. Source

Jan 4, 2018
32 Pa. hospitals penalized for allowing infections, injuries

Chambersburg Hospital
Chambersburg Hospital (

The federal government has penalized 32 Pennsylvania hospitals for high rates of infections and injuries that took place in the facilities.

They are among 751 hospitals around the country being penalized by way of reduced payments from Medicare. The penalties result from a four-year-old program that’s part of the Affordable Care Act and intended to prod hospitals into making reduction of such incidents a higher priority.

Seventeen of the Pennsylvania hospitals that were penalized were also penalized the previous year.

The penalty amounts to 1 percent of the money hospitals receive from Medicare. In 2015, when 39 Pennsylvania hospitals were penalized, it cost them an estimated $19 million.

Hospitals were penalized for having higher rates of infections related to certain catheters and intravenous lines, certain surgeries and MRSA and c-diff infections. They also reflect higher rates of certain hospital injuries, such as bed sores and hip fractures from falls at the hospital.

An analysis by Kaiser Health News found that hospitals which treat higher proportions of people with lower incomes were more likely to be fined than hospitals that mostly serve people who are better off.

Kaiser further wrote: “The penalties have been controversial from the beginning. The hospital industry faults them as unfairly punishing hospitals that treat sicker patients and those that do a better job of identifying infections and other patient complications. Patient advocates say that, while not perfect, the penalties have been a valuable prod to make hospital executives consider more than the bottom line.”

  • Albert Einstein Medical Center, Philadelphia
  • Allegheny General Hospital, Pittsburgh
  • Allegheny Valley Hospital, Natrona
  • Chambersburg Hospital, Chambersburg
  • Einstein Medical Center Montgomery, East Norriton
  • Ellwood City Hospital, Ellwood City
  • Excela Health Frick Hospital, Mount Pleasant
  • Forbes Hospital, Monroeville
  • Geisinger-Bloomsburg Hospital, Bloomsburg
  • Geisinger-Community Medical Center, Scranton
  • Heritage Valley Sewickley, Sewickley
  • Holy Spirit Hospital, Camp Hill
  • Indiana Regional Medical Center, Indiana
  • J C Blair Memorial Hospital, Huntingdon
  • Jefferson Hospital, Jefferson Hills
  • Lancaster Regional Medical Center, Lancaster
  • Lehigh Valley Hospital, Allentown
  • Lehigh Valley Hospital – Hazleton, Hazleton
  • Lehigh Valley Hospital-Schuylkill, Pottsville
  • Meadville Medical Center, Meadville
  • OSS Orthopaedic Hospital, York
  • Pennsylvania Hospital, Philadelphia
  • Phoenixville Hospital , Phoenixville
  • Pottstown Memorial Medical Center, Pottstown 
  • St Joseph Medical Center, Reading
  • St Luke’s Miners Memorial Hospital, Coaldale
  • St Mary Medical Center, Langhorne
  • UPMC Altoona, Altoona
  • UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside, Pittsburgh
  • UPMC St Margaret, Pittsburgh
  • Wayne Memorial Hospital, Honesdale
  • West Penn Hospital, Pittsburgh

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