20111219

End of year giving

Here is a list of all the non profit organizations that I think could use some of your hard earned money:
Electronic Frontier Foundation
MIT OpenCourseWare
National Wellness Institute
American Red Cross
Center for Science in the Public Interest
Harvard School of Public Health
Harlem Children's Zone
St. Mary's Food Bank Alliance
Freedom From Religion Foundation
Humane Borders
American Civil Liberties Union
Planned Parenthood 

There are lots of other organizations that could use your help but I think that these are a good option for you.
Be well.

20111213

My letter to: John McCain, Jon Kyle, and David Schweikert to support the Girls Protection Act

I am writing to express my deep concern about the common situation where girls are taken from the U.S. to their parents’ countries of origin to be subjected to Female Genital Mutilation. FGM is considered a severe human rights violation and the World Health Organization classifies the practice as a reflection of deep rooted inequality between the sexes and an extreme form of discrimination against women.

The WHO estimates that between 100 and 140 million girls and women worldwide have been subjected to FGM, which takes place throughout Africa, certain countries in Asia and the Middle East, as well as in locations where FGM-practicing immigrants reside, such as the United States, United Kingdom and Australia. According to an analysis of 2000 U.S. census data conducted by the African Women’s Health Center (AWHC) at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, MA, approximately 228,000 women and girls have undergone or are at risk for FGM. The data also states that from 1990 to 2000, the number of women who are at risk for FGM grew by approximately 35 percent in this country. A 1996 federal law prohibiting the practice of FGM within the US did not address the risk of girls removed from the country, sometimes to their parents’ countries of origin, to be subjected to FGM.

I am aware that new legislation, the “Girls Protection Act of 2011” (S. 1919) introduced by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) aims to close this loophole and strengthen the 1996 federal law. This legislation would make it illegal to transport a minor girl living in the US out of the country for purposes of FGM. As my United States Senator, I urge you to cosponsor S. 1919 and take this critical step toward reaffirming that FGM, in all its forms, is a human rights violation. I also urge you to support the implementation of culturally sensitive awareness-raising, education and outreach programs to protect girls living in the US from FGM.

I thank you for your attention.

My letter to the FDA to support sodium reduction efforts

Docket No. FDA-2011-N-0400

I support your efforts to consider possible strategies and request you make sodium reduction a top national public health priority.

Americans are consuming far too much salt from packaged and restaurant foods, which account for over 75% of the sodium we consume.  The current average daily consumption for all adults is about 4,000 milligrams (mg), even though the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend consuming no more than 1,500 mg for people with hypertension, those who are middle-aged or older, and African Americans.  Almost half the U.S. adult population falls into  those categories, yet 98% of them exceed the sodium recommendation.

High levels of sodium consumption contribute to hypertension, which 90% of Americans will develop over their lifetime, and can increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease.  At least 150,000 lives could be saved annually in the United States if sodium levels in packaged and restaurant foods were cut in half.  Direct medical costs would be cut by $18 billion per year by reducing sodium consumption from 3,400 mg to 2,300 mg per day and by $28 billion per year if further reduced to 1,500 mg per day.

The food industry maintains that voluntary actions are enough to lower sodium to safe levels.  However, changes made by food producers' over the past four decades have been inadequate to confront a real  and growing -- health crisis.  Rather than waiting for industry to make improvements at its own pace, the FDA should implement the Institute of Medicine's recommendations to establish mandatory limits on the sodium content of packaged and restaurant foods.  Those regulations could be phased in gradually over time to allow food manufacturers to remove the excess sodium from their food products without causing a consumer backlash.

Thank you for your consideration of this important public health issue.  There is virtually nothing else the FDA could  do to improve America's food supply that would provide a greater benefit to public health than to reduce sodium levels in the foods we eat.

20111028

ASU Football - the clothes make the man




ASU football has worn a different uniform each game this season:
UC Davis
Missouri
Illinois
USC
Oregon State
Utah
Oregon
Colorado

20110726

Perpetrators of Gang Rape Released #WTF


Raped at 12 by a gang of footballers – but judges say it’s the victims’ fault and frees them. Now one of the victims talks about the sickening events of that night

Katie (not her real name) was just 12 when her and a friend went with six men to a park where 'something terrible' happened

Katie (not her real name) was just 12 when her and a friend went with six men to a park where 'something terrible' happened (posed by model)

At first, she is almost too nervous to speak, but with her mother’s gentle encouragement, she tentatively begins to find the words.

She hopes, she says, that ‘people won’t judge her’ or think she is ‘messed up’ or that she is a ‘bad girl’.

‘I’m really not,’ she says pitifully.

That a 13-year-old girl should even feel the need to defend her reputation and character in such a way is perhaps the saddest aspect of what you are about to read.

Katie (not her real name) was just 12 when she and a friend, also aged 12, went with six young men to a park in Reading where ‘something terrible’ happened.

Sadly, it doesn’t take a genius to work out what that ‘something terrible’ was.

The six men — all promising local footballers — claimed they thought the girls were at least 16, but they were subsequently convicted of statutory rape because, in the eyes of the law, the girls were unable to give their consent.

Last week, though, the defendants were controversially freed from jail after the Appeal Court ruled that the girls had ‘wanted sex’.

In other words, according to the judgment, Katie and her friend — both just 12, remember — were not really victims at all.

Worse, it gave credence to the view, in the eyes of some, at least, that they were actually to blame for getting the six footballers, aged between 18 and 21, including a former member of Reading FC’s academy, into trouble and ruining their careers.

Already, Katie has received a string of hateful text messages.

‘It’s all your fault,’ said one particularly vile response. Another asked: ‘How can you live with yourself?’

‘It didn’t make me feel very nice,’ says Katie.

The incident in the park, and its aftermath, have been a personal tragedy for Katie, who is now receiving counselling.

But the tragedy spreads wider, for the case also exposes the increasing sexualisation of children and the sickening culture of group sex, which somehow seems to have become acceptable behaviour for a growing number of predatory teenage males.

Dennis De Sousa, aged 19
Jahvon Edwards, aged 19

Two of the six footballers who went to the park with 12-year-old Katie and her friend: Dennis De Sousa (left), aged 19 and Jahvon Edwards (right), aged 19

Anyone who is in any doubt should read the comments of the original trial judge, who said that the six accused standing in the dock in front of him in March this year had treated Katie and her friend  ‘as if they were pieces of flesh’, before sentencing them to two years.

The judge’s words seem especially chilling when you meet Katie.

She is in her school uniform, sitting anxiously in the living room of her home. Her exceptionally pretty features are framed by a sweet brown bob. Katie loves photography and is getting a camera for her birthday. She is doing well at school.

One of her favourite TV programmes is EastEnders. In her bedroom, which is as neat as a new pin, there are CDs of High School Musical and 17 Again, starring teen heart-throb Zac Efron. In the corner is a guitar.

‘I’m not very good,’ she says modestly.

‘Yes, you are,’ her mother says proudly.

Her parents split up when she was a baby, but she sees her dad regularly.

She lives with her mum and step-father, who runs his own business, in a detached house in a ‘picture postcard’ resort in the West Country. They moved there from their native Reading in 2009.

Katie, like many girls her age, has begun to wear make-up. She looks older than 13, but does not seem precocious in any way. On the contrary, when we meet, she is softly spoken and endearingly shy.

The reason her family allowed her to be interviewed is that they — but most importantly, Katie herself —  want other girls to read her account of ‘what really happened’ and learn from it.

‘There is nothing to be scared of,’ her mother tells her before Katie begins to recount, in little more than a whisper, detail by harrowing detail, the chain of events that ended with her going to a park at night with six young men she had never met.

Jahson Downes, aged 20
Luke Farrugia, aged 21

Jahson Downes (left), aged 20 and Luke Farrugia (right), aged 21. All but two of the six footballers come from broken homes

Those events unfolded one weekend in February last year, when Katie and her mother returned to Reading to visit relatives.

During the visit, Katie met the girl who had once been her best friend. We shall call her Lucy.

Lucy, who as we shall see is certainly old beyond her years, invited Katie to a ‘sleepover’, and in the evening they both attended a family birthday party in a local hall.

Soon, Lucy began exchanging text messages with a boy, or rather a young man, whose number she had obtained three weeks earlier (she told him she had found his number on someone else’s phone and ‘wanted to get to know him’). The young man’s name was Jahvon Edwards.

Edwards, 19, used to play for Henley Town and was now a part-time football coach. Lucy told him she was 16.

She received the first text from Edwards at around 8pm. The ‘conversation’ went like this:

Edwards: ‘Out in my car. You?’

Lucy: ‘Who you with? Should we come too?’

Edwards: ‘Five friends.’

Lucy: ‘We can have three each.’

Edwards: ‘Yes ... Who you having?’

Lucy: ‘Whoever wants me?’

Shortly afterwards, Jahvon Edwards and his ‘five friends’ pulled up outside the hall, where the family gathering was still in full flow, in two Vauxhall Corsa cars.

Lucy then asked Katie to come outside with her.

‘I went with her because I didn’t want to leave her on her own,’ says Katie.

She says she wasn’t aware of what Lucy had told Edwards in the text messages. Katie reluctantly got into one vehicle, Lucy in the other.

Katie says she went along because she thought they were only going for a short drive and would be back in ‘five minutes’.

Lucy’s parents (her father is a driver, her mother works in an office) were unaware the girls had left.

When they stopped at a garage in Reading, the girls got out and Katie says she started to cry.

‘I told Lucy I was scared and that I wanted to go back, but she said there was no way we would be able to on our own because we had gone too far.’

Courtney Amos, aged 20
Ashley Charles, aged 20

Courtney Amos (left), aged 20 and Ashley Charles (right), aged 20. In the run up to their court appearance, several of them were busy exchanging crude jokes

So Katie returned to the car. She and Lucy were taken to a local park, where they went to the toilet before splitting up. Katie says she saw Lucy disappear behind a tree, from where she then began calling Edwards and his friends over ‘one by one’ for sex.

Shocking? Degrading? Yes. But it was not the first time 12-year-old Lucy had indulged in such activities.

When the case subsequently came before Reading Crown Court earlier this year, it emerged that Lucy had done ‘exactly the same thing’ at least three times before. There was also a fourth occasion while Edwards and his co-defendants were awaiting trial.

Indeed, ‘shocking’ and ‘degrading’ hardly do such revelations justice.

Meanwhile, back in the park, Katie went and sat on a bench and her eyes began to well up again. One of the footballers wouldn’t leave her alone, however, and kept pestering her to perform a sex act on him, which, legally, is still classed as rape.

‘I kept saying “No, no”, but he kept on, so I gave in,’ she says, her voice faltering.

‘I have never done anything like that before, and I would never do it again. That’s the truth.’

Cynics might doubt her words. I do not. Talking to Katie left me utterly convinced that this was a girl — however foolish and naive she might have been — who was telling me the raw, simple truth.

Afterwards, she and Lucy were driven back to town and dropped off near to where Lucy lived. By now, Lucy’s parents had realised the girls were missing and had called the police. They were found wandering along a lane in the vicinity of her home at 2am.

Katie was reunited with her mother at the police station and, for the third time that night, broke down in tears.

‘I cuddled her and told her everything was going to be all right,’ her mother says.

The following day, Katie and Lucy were interviewed by detectives.

Jahvon Edwards, who lives with his mother in Reading, was subsequently arrested and charged with rape, along with Dennis De Sousa, 19, Jahson Downes, 20, Ashley Charles, 20, Courtney Amos, 20, and Luke Farrugia, 21.

All but two of them are from broken homes.

In the run-up to their crown court appearance, several of them were busy exchanging crude jokes about sex and prostitutes on Twitter.

Take de Sousa, whose own father spent much of the Eighties and Nineties in and out of prison for crimes including affray and conspiracy to supply drugs.

‘Love me some **** (the name given to a particular sex act) and I LOVE a woman that likes to do it,’ he tweeted, followed by: ‘Like what you see, but don’t touch it hoe (street slang for prostitute).’

Amos, brought up by his mother and who, until his rape conviction, was hoping to pursue a career as a children’s football coach.

He re-tweeted this offering from a friend: ‘I use to be a shy boy when I was young, until I lost my virginity and started **** ******** (slang for pleasuring a woman) females like no tomorrow.’

Or Charles, who has a conviction for assault, and used the ‘hashtag’ (a keyword used to categorise a Tweet) TheJoyOfTeenSex — a reference to the Channel 4 series of the same name. He later describes what he might like to do to a friend’s mother.

These, then, are some of the individuals who had sex with two 12-year-old girls in a park on the weekend of February 20, 2010.

Earlier this week, three of the six, who became friends while studying sports science at the same Reading college, agreed to meet the Mail at a bar in the town centre.

It was apparent that they see themselves, not the girls, as the real victims of what happened that night. Their conviction remains but their sentences have now been suspended, and they will remain on the Sex Offenders’ Register for ten years.

‘Our lives have been ruined, and none of us are now able to go on and follow the careers that we would have chosen for ourselves,’ said de Sousa, who now lives in a council flat with his father.

‘I feel we were tricked into going to the park with them’ (a reference to the fact that Lucy claimed she was 16 on her Facebook page).

De Sousa, accompanied by Edwards and Downes, says he felt disgusted when he discovered the truth.

‘I’ve got a little sister that age’, he said.

But isn’t the crux of the matter that he and his five friends were quite prepared to take two young girls, regardless of how old they thought they may or may not have been, to a park with the specific intention of having sex with them?

Repeat: Six boys. Two girls.

The judge who jailed them certainly thought so.

‘It is clear to me,’ he told them, ‘that all of you were utterly reckless in what you did that night. Those girls were utterly unknown to you.

‘You saw those girls as utterly willing sexual partners, which they were, and behaved towards them as if they were simply pieces of flesh, not people.’

The Appeal Court took a more lenient view. You can be the judge of who was right.

20110725

To Cover Up or Not to Cover Up

From the Babe and the Breast:

The Real Reason Not to Cover Up Nursing Mothers (By Martha Neovard)

I was browsing the internet last night at about 3 am, while lying in bed and listening to the crashing of a distant storm, when I came across a recent blogpost, by a woman named loralee (See the blog). The blog itself was fantastic. The author openly admitted she has a level of discomfort when confronted with the sight of an openly nursing mom and baby. Her first reaction is kneejerk, a "cover that up" level of discomfort. Her second reaction is to check herself, take some deep calming breaths, assure herself it is well within the dyad's rights to eat wherever, whenever, no matter what implement they are using to do so. Yes, the article was fantastic, level-headed, pensive, and provoking. A very well-written piece, and after I read it I was left with a sense of relief and satisfaction. So then, stupidly, I moved on to the comments section.


Oy vey.


"I support any mom who wants to breastfeed, and anywhere she wants to, but my old-school upbringing about ‘good girls’ don’t show their boobs in public keeps getting in the way."


"I read your friends’ posts Loralee and I’m sorry, but their posts just made me feel angry. I do NOT agree with what these women feel is their motherly right. Fine, breast feed, go ahead, but cover up first! I feel sorry for the children, who are not theirs, subjected to quite honestly, a traumatic and disgusting event! NO ONE should EVER be subjected to having to see that. I agree, women should NOT have to go to a bathroom, or leave the room, or do it in private. BUT I do feel absolutely, they they CANNOT and SHOULD NEVER be LEGALLY allowed to whip out their tits..." (There is more to this shocking quote, but I will omit the rest, as it would certainly distract from the point of this post.)


"I never comment on anything that can be controversial. Ever. That being said…I nursed all my children and when necessary I did so in public however, it was never obvious. It doesn’t have to be. Nursing our babies is a natural thing but we can be discreet. My youngest child is 29 years old so that was quite a while ago. My daughter-in-law nursed all the grands and she too was discreet. There’s nothing wrong with not putting “it” out for all to see. Just saying…discreet."


I repeat. Oy vey.


For the record, I would never criticize or look down on a woman who wants or needs to use a nursing canopy to feel comfortable nursing her baby out in a public place. In fact, if that is what a mother needs in order to breastfeed when her baby wants/needs to, then I am right behind her, holding the straps (figuratively of course, otherwise I'd be breathing down her neck). They are a useful device, and certainly they are valuable to mothers everywhere. But I digress. The real point of this article is to explain WHY nursing uncovered is so important to breastfeeding moms everywhere, and why they should defend their blanketless state with emphatic arm-waving and raised voices. I repeat, I am NOT opposed to the option of covering whilst nursing, however I am opposed to the idea that some sort of cover is a NECESSITY for breastfeeding in public, and that all moms should use some kind of object to cover themselves so no one can see what they are doing.


Now you are thinking, oh brother here we go. Entereth the raging feminist with her trident of women's rights! No, actually. My concern is not the comfort of wee babies, or overheating, or woman and child rights, or even the reckless abandonment of muted colours in nursing covers (although these do factor in as well). No, instead my concern has to do with brain function and future generations.

Wha?


You see, as Kathleen Kendall Tackett points out in this 2009 article, breastfeeding is a right-brained activity. That means that no matter how many times we discuss it, how much we read about it, and how much we study pictures of it, we cannot teach our bodies how to do it. We need to be in close proximity to breastfeeding in order to understand the concepts associated with positioning, latch, swallowing, and multiple other small factors that go into breastfeeding successfully. It is something that Nature designed us to learn from our mothers, or from the community of women we interact with daily. Nature intended us to see other women breastfeeding their babies, and to internalize that knowledge to use with our own children. It is not something we can comprehend from the pages of a book, or from staring blearily at a nurse lecturing on the importance of breast milk.


As Kendall-Tackett states in her article, learning to breastfeed is much like learning to ride a bike. So, picture this. You have never seen a bike up close in your life. Maybe you saw it in a movie, but the bike was turned so you could only see the wheel, or the person riding it was mostly offscreen, or they just cracked weird bike jokes the whole time. You know that in 10 months time, you will be in a bike race. This bike race will be one of the most important events of your life. For months, people talk at you about riding a bike. Some people tell you to make sure to put your weight in the back, others say the front. Some say peddle swiftly, others say peddle backwards. Some say grip the handlebars just so, others say don't touch the handlebars, because that didn't work for them. You watch a couple videos about bike-riding, but they seem overly technical, and a lot of the jargon flies right over your head. You ask your parents, but their only reply is "We never rode a bicycle, just give it a try and hope it works for you." You go out in public to garner some information, but almost everyone who rides a bicycle rides them behind very tall hedges that you cannot see through. You feel a bit panicky, and a lot apprehensive. At last, the day of the race arrives. You wobble up to the starting line, someone hands you a bike, you climb on hesitantly, and they give you a good shove down a very steep hill and yell "YOU'LL FIGURE IT OUT!!!"


Metaphor much? Yes, breastfeeding these days is a lot like that. We don't see it done. We get some bits and bites of information in the months leading up to birth, then when the moment arrives, someone puts the baby on you and says "Okay, go!" How are you to know what this should all look like? What should it feel like? And really, how are we to know?

The thing is, most of us can't learn this from our mothers. We lost generations of right-brained hereditary knowledge to aggressive marketing and bottle-feeding. For those moms who do come from a family where breastfeeding was the norm, is it still enough to internalize the breastfeeding knowledge we need? How old were you when your youngest sibling was weaned?


Now what if everywhere we went, we saw moms nursing their babies, comfortably and openly? Every time we witness a friend, relative, or complete stranger breastfeeding their baby, our brains subconsciously make notes. So when it comes to our turn, our brain gathers up what we know, and we remember that the baby went THIS WAY, and mother held him just so. We may have even had the opportunity to ask questions. This is how we learn, and how we will know.


I think there is no better illustration for the necessity of seeing breastfeeding than this story, found in The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding:


"In a zoo in Ohio, a female gorilla was born and raised in captivity, got pregnant and had a baby gorilla. On the day she had her baby, she didn't know what to do. She had never seen another gorilla nurse, and she had no concept of breastfeeding. Sadly, the baby gorilla died.
When she became pregnant again the gorilla's keeper called The La Leche League and had volunteer nursing moms come down to the zoo and nurse their own babies in front of the pregnant momma gorilla. At first the gorilla ignored them, but as her delivery date grew closer she became very interested. When the baby gorilla was born the momma gorilla forgot all that she'd learned and started to freak out. The keeper quickly called the La Leche League and another volunteer rushed over and slowly showed the momma gorilla what to do. "She brought her baby's chest to her chest, slowly cradled the baby's head in her left arm, held her breast with her right hand, and tickled the baby's lips with the nipple to get the baby to open his mouth. Then she pulled the open-mouthed baby toward her breast and with one rapid arm motion, got the cooperative baby quickly onto her breast. The gorilla watched, mimicking the moves step by step until, with a nearly audible sigh of relief, the gorilla looked down at her chest and saw her baby feeding happily for the first time."(p 29).


So I ask of you, when next you see a mother breastfeeding her baby without some sort of covering implement, please give her a big smile and bring yourself and your child closer to see. I can guarantee she will smile back, and most will comfortably explain to your child what they are doing. You are doing your child a favour, so that when she has her own baby, the imprint of this encounter will rise in her brain, and assist her instincts in learning to breastfeed your grandchild. If your child is male, he will internalize how to assist and support his partner in her breastfeeding journey. Please, no more calls to "cover up". Anyone who cries for a cover over the beautiful sight of a nursing mother and child is unwittingly and devastatingly calling for the destruction of womanly knowledge, and the handicap of the next generation of breastfeeders.


(Blogger's notes: We are not yet to the point where we see breastfeeding moms everywhere and anywhere, where we are able to internalize by watching. But luckily for us, Nature always has a back-up system where one system fails. Please check out Biological Nurturing and Kathleen Kendall-Tackett's article here to learn about instinctual breastfeeding, and how best to trigger both mom and baby's instincts to achieve a strong latch. Also please consider attending a breastfeeding support group meeting, like La Leche League during your pregnancy. Many women breastfeed openly at these meetings, and they are a great resource both for right-brained knowledge garnering, and for creating a support network, and meeting new mommy friends!)




Find your own breastfeeding privacy scarf on Amazon.

20110724

The Business of Sex Tourism

This article from the New York Times, about sex tourism in Brazil, is a reminder that as a culture we must strive to not objectify people nor to take advantage of them. The link to read it on the New York Times website is here.



Allegations Link U.S. Companies to Brazilian Sex Tourism
by Barry Meier
Published: July 8, 2011


The Justice Department has been conducting a criminal investigation of sports fishing expeditions in the Amazon that may have been used as covers for Americans to have sex with underage girls, according to newly filed court papers.



The investigation and two related actions — a parallel criminal inquiry in Brazil and an unusual lawsuit filed in federal court in Georgia — could provide a rare look at the business operations of the multibillion-dollar international sex tour industry, which has increasingly focused on Brazil.



“Brazil is taking over from Thailand as a premier sex tourism vacation” spot, said Kristen Berg, an official of Equality Now, an advocacy organization in New York that helped bring the lawsuit in Georgia.



That lawsuit was filed last month on behalf of four Brazilian women who claim that they were coerced as minors to serve as prostitutes for Americans on Amazon fishing expeditions operated by an Atlanta-area businessman. One of the women said that she was 12 years old at the time.



Ms. Berg said the lawsuit was the first time that a federal law, the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000, had been used to seek damages from someone accused of operating sex tours.



On Thursday, the defendant in that case, Richard W. Schair, filed a motion asking that the lawsuit be stayed. The motion cited continuing criminal investigations in the United States and Brazil.



In a brief telephone interview, Mr. Schair, who operates an Atlanta-area real estate business, said that allegations that he was involved in child sex tours were untrue. He declined to discuss specifics of the inquiries.



“The allegations are false,” he said. “The facts will prove that.”



Solomon L. Wisenberg, a lawyer in Washington who represents Mr. Schair in connection with the federal criminal investigation, said he was confident that his client would not face charges. The status of the investigation is unclear, as Justice Department officials declined to comment.



Ms. Berg, of Equality Now, said that the group helped bring the Georgia lawsuit because it was looking for precedent-setting cases involving child sex tourism overseas.



She said that she and lawyers from a major firm, King & Spalding, which is working on the case pro bono, traveled to Brazil to interview prospective witnesses, including young women.



Both the lawsuit and the federal criminal investigation are apparently fallout from a separate lawsuit filed in 2007 by Mr. Schair against another operator of Amazon fishing tours, Philip A. Marsteller.



In that action, Mr. Schair charged that Mr. Marsteller had slandered him by telling people that he supplied clients on his fishing tours with prostitutes and drugs. Mr. Marsteller stood by his comments and, as part of his defense, sought statements from young women in Brazil as well as employees of Mr. Schair’s company, called Wet-A-Line Tours. The company is no longer operating.



In 2008, the two men settled the case, with Mr. Schair paying token compensation to Mr. Marsteller, said Kevin Buchanan, a lawyer in Dallas who represented Mr. Marsteller. Mr. Buchanan said that information that came up during the lawsuit led federal officials to begin an investigation of American business connections to child sex tourism in Brazil.



Several news reports in recent years have indicated that Mr. Schair was the subject of criminal investigations both here and in Brazil. But the filing Thursday in conjunction with the Georgia lawsuit was the first time the investigations were publicly acknowledged.



According to the court papers filed by Mr. Schair, federal prosecutors in Miami sent a grand jury subpoena to his company in 2009 asking for, among other things, customer lists. Another document shows that prosecutors notified his ex-wife in December that investigators had obtained information indicating that she was “involved with a company and/or an individual who may have engaged in child sex tourism in Brazil.”



Asked about the documents, a spokeswoman for the Justice Department in Miami, where the inquiry is based, declined, as a matter of policy, to confirm or deny the existence of an investigation.



Translations of Brazilian documents, attached by Mr. Schair to his filing, show that he is charged in a proceeding there with the sexual exploitation of minors. He has denied the accusation.



Mr. Schair made the filing on Thursday on his own behalf.



According to the lawsuit filed last month, Mr. Schair or his employees or customers recruited young girls at a social club along the Amazon to join them on a fishing boat, where the girls were coerced into sex acts and paid.



The Amazon River in Brazil is a particularly attractive area for fishing enthusiasts because it is a home to a hard-fighting species called the peacock bass.



Click here to read more on this issue from Equality Now.

20110708

Kitchen Cleaning Step #1: The Sink

  1. Fill sink to the rim with very hot water; add one cup regular bleach. Soak for one hour.
  2. Drain and rinse thoroughly.
  3. Scrub with Ajax, Bon Ami, or baking soda.
  4. Be sure to rinse thoroughly.
  5. Shine with Windex or another glass-cleaning spray. Dry thoroughly.

20110707

Kitchen Cleaning Step #736: Keep up

When cleaning the kitchen always start with the sink.



A sparkling sink becomes your kitchen's benchmark for hygiene and tidiness, inspiring you to load the dishwasher immediately and keep counters, refrigerator doors, and the stove top spotless, too.



Every Day
  • Wipe down the sink after doing the dishes or loading the dishwasher (30 seconds).
  • Wipe down the stove top (one minute).
  • Wipe down the counters (one minute).
  • Sweep, Swiffer, or vacuum the floor (two minutes).
Every Week
  • Mop the floor (five minutes).
  • Wipe the cabinets, backsplashes, and appliances (10 minutes).
  • Wash the dish rack (four minutes).
  • Wipe the switch plates and phone (one minute).
  • Wipe the inside of the garbage can (one minute).
Every Season
  • Empty and scrub down the inside of the refrigerator (30 minutes).
  • Empty and clean the insides of the utensil drawers (15 minutes).
  • Scrub down the cupboard exteriors (30 minutes).
  • Clean the stove-hood filter (10 minutes).
  • Really clean the sink.

20110701

How to deal with telemarketing calls: Be nice

This morning I received an unsolicited call. Here is how it went down:

Telemarketer: May I speak to ****?
Me: There is no one here by that name.
Telemarketer: Please allow 48 hours for your number to be removed from our list. Thank you and have a good day.
Me: Thank you, have a good weekend.
Telemarketer: Thank you, have a good holiday.
Me: Thank you, have a good month.

That is how it is done. I cannot be out "niced" by anyone, especially on the phone.

20110629

Lend Your Voice to the Deficit Reduction Talks Today!

Prevent Cuts to the Nutrition Programs and Programs for At-Risk, Low-Income, and Poor People in Need!



Washington, DC, 29 June 2011 – The White House and congressional leaders are in final negotiations to raise the debt ceiling.



Congress must raise the debt ceiling so that the U.S. government can pay its current obligations. To secure votes to raise the debt ceiling, some members of Congress are withholding support unless dramatic cuts are made to federal spending—including destructive, long-term cuts to the nutrition, hunger, and other programs for people in need.



Every deficit-reduction package of the last 30 years has been bi-partisan, exempting key programs for at-risk, low-income, poor people from cuts. We must protect these programs.



Final negotiations between the President and key leaders in Congress are happening right now. Call your senators today and tomorrow and ask them to urge Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to create a circle of protection around funding for the nutrition programs and programs for at-risk, low-income, and poor people in the United States and the desperately poor abroad in any legislation to raise the debt ceiling. Do not put off your call! Make your voice heard!



You can explain your message by adding any or all of these points:



  • Exempt programs for hungry and poor people from cuts. All major deficit-reduction packages in the past 30 years under Republican and Democratic leaders have exempted key domestic programs that affect hungry and poor people. Congress must continue this precedent by protecting low-income programs here in the United States and abroad.
  • Revenues and spending cuts must be on the table to achieve deficit reduction so we can continue our commitment to ending hunger and poverty at home and abroad.
  • Funding these programs is good for the economy. Low-income families spend their benefits immediately and in their local communities, leading to local job creation and job sustainability.


Your Senators need to hear from you today and by Friday 1 July at the latest! Call your U.S. senators on 202.224.3121 and tell them to urge Sens. Reid and McConnell to protect the nutrition, hunger and other programs for at-risk, low-income, and poor people in the debt ceiling negotiations.



20110620

House Cuts Do More Funding Damage than First Assumed!

Washington, DC, 20 June 2011 – The 2012 Agriculture Appropriations bill (H.R. 2112) approved by the full House in contentious floor debate last week by a vote of 217-203 does more funding damage to the WIC Program’s Fiscal Year 2012 budget than previously thought! House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Staff advised NWA late Friday night of the further reduction in funding.



Here’s what happened!

  • When the bill left the House Committee on Appropriations Tuesday 31 May, an amendment by Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-CT, had increased funding for the Program from $5.901 billion (the House Agriculture Appropriation Subcommittee’s markup funding level set the previous week) by $148 million to $6.048 billion.
  • But Republican lawmakers opposed DeLauro’s amendment on the floor of the House which offset the increase to WIC by reducing funding to the Brazilian Cotton Institute. Lawmakers then voted to cut the funding from the Cotton Institute. This left WIC funding at $5.901 billion again.
  • The floor manager for the bill, Rep. Jack Kingston, R-GA, Chair of the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, assured Rep. DeLauro and Democrats who had opposed the rollback that he would restore the $147 million included in her amendment to WIC.
  • To accomplish this, he offered an amendment that cut all of the Programs in the first six titles of the bill – everything from agriculture and conservation programs, to rural development, domestic nutrition and food programs, to foreign assistance and related programs, and the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) – by 0.78%.
  • This left WIC funded at $6.00 billion, barely above the Subcommittee’s markup level of $5.901 billion and hardly the bump back up to $6.048 approved by the full Committee.
  • The bottom line: a cut of $733 million off of Fiscal Year 2011 funding of $6.734 billion and a potential loss of 300,000-700,000 moms and young children from the Program’s benefits!

Earlier in the day, with the help of NWA members and the breastfeeding community, the House voted 119-306 (click here for a PDF of the Roll Call Vote) to reject an amendment by Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-NC, to cut $82.5 million in funding for breastfeeding peer counselors and performance bonuses! The House also voted to reject by a vote of 64-360, an amendment by Rep. Paul Broun, R-GA, to cut $604 million from WIC.



These cuts are bad news not only for WIC, but all of the nutrition, agriculture, conservation, and foreign assistance programs and the FDA that have taken a broad-side in the name of deficit reduction and political ideology.



At the end of the day, these cuts, but particularly the WIC and nutrition funding cuts, will damage the nation’s public health nutrition infrastructure, result in challenging nutrition consequences for hundreds of thousands of mothers, children, and families, have long-term negative health consequences, hurt rural and urban communities alike, and hurt small businesses and family farmers. These cuts will cost jobs! None of this makes any sense for an economy that is struggling to find its feet or for families who are caught in endless cycles of frustration, desperation, even hunger as they try to make ends meet!



The final bill does include $14 million in funding for infrastructure, $75 million for breastfeeding peer counselors and related activities (NWA proposed $80 million) including $7.5 million for breastfeeding performance bonuses (NWA proposed $10 million), and $50 million for management information systems/EBT development (NWA proposed $60 million).

20110616

House of Representatives Acts to Cut Mothers and Young Children from WIC!

Washington, D.C, June 16, 2011 - In a sad day for our nation’s most vulnerable population, the U.S. House of Representatives today voted largely along party lines (217-203) to cut hundreds of thousands of mothers and young children off of the nation’s premier public health nutrition program serving low-income mothers and young children to age 5 – the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) – eliminating access to critical nutritious foods, nutrition services and referrals to health care and social services.



The legislation, the Fiscal Year 2012 Agriculture spending bill (H.R.2112) funds WIC at $6.048 billion – a $686 million reduction from the current fiscal year’s funding level of $6.734 billion. Current funding allows WIC to serve roughly 8.9 million mothers and young children. Under the House’s approved bill, between 200,000 and 750,000 low-income mothers and young children will be cut from the Program in the midst of a still weakened economy.



“Families turning to WIC for nutrition assistance are vulnerable and at-risk,” said Kiran Saluja, Chair of the National WIC Association, NWA Board of Directors.” Economic crises compound their vulnerability and WIC food packages and the nutrition services that accompany them ensure that WIC mothers and young children stay healthy.”



“With these funding cuts, WIC will be forced to turn mothers and young children away!” said the Rev. Douglas A. Greenaway, President & CEO of NWA. “WIC’s food budgets, like all families’ food budgets, are sensitive to inflation. Economists are predicting food prices to rise by at least 5% during the 2012 fiscal year, so there won’t be enough money to meet the nutritional needs of all WIC families.”



Quality nutrition services are the centerpiece of WIC: nutrition and breastfeeding education, nutritious foods, and improved healthcare access for low and moderate income women and children with, or at risk of developing, nutrition-related health problems, including overweight, obesity, and type-2 diabetes. Research demonstrates that the food and nutrition education components of WIC work synergistically to achieve successful outcomes:



  • WIC prenatal care benefits reduce the rate of low birth-weight babies by 25% and very low birth-weight babies by 44%.
  • Infants receiving WIC are less likely to be underweight and are in better health than eligible infants not participating in WIC.
  • WIC children have improved nutrient intakes, improved immunizations rates, and dramatically reduced risks of child abuse or neglect.

The National WIC Association, NWA, is a non-profit representing the nearly 9 million mothers and young children participating in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children – known as WIC – and the nation’s 12,200 dedicated WIC service provider agencies.



For further information contact the National WIC Association on 202/232-5492 or visit our web site at www.nwica.org.

20110614

My Letter to US Congressman David Schweikert

As a voting constituent, I write in strong opposition to the counter-productive cuts to nutrition programs included in the Fiscal Year 2012 Agriculture Appropriations bill, H.R. 2112. This legislation would have a devastating impact on our nation’s most vulnerable populations. I urge you and your colleagues to speak out against these cuts when this bill comes to the House floor for debate. I urge you to vote against the bill in its present form.



In particular, funding for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), despite an amendment approved in Committee increasing funding by $147 million, is set at $6.048 billion -- $686 million below the current Fiscal Year 2011 funding level. This would result (depending upon participation growth and food cost inflation) in 200,000 to 350,000 vulnerable, at-risk, low-income pregnant, post-partum, and breastfeeding women, infants, children losing critical nutrition assistance. I urge the House to amend the bill to fund WIC at $6.83 billion.



As passed out of Committee, the legislation also contains report language that misrepresents the reality of WIC’s preventative public health nutrition services – the core mission of the Program. By lumping the cost of these and other critical mission driven client services into program management or administrative costs, the Committee claims that WIC administrative costs are well above 40%. The reality is that in fiscal year 2010, WIC administrative costs (according to USDA) averaged 9.09%. I urge the House to strike this report language.


WIC currently serves nearly 8.9 million mothers and young children (Over 2000 in Tempe) – approximately one out of four pregnant women and roughly 50% of all infants or grandbabies born in the United States – providing nutrition education and breastfeeding support, health care and social service referrals, and nutritious monthly food packages with an average value of $41.43 in fiscal year 2010.



Almost 51% of pregnant women enroll in WIC during their first trimester of pregnancy and at certification, 25% of those pregnant women have three or more nutrition risk factors. Numerous studies have shown that pregnant women who participate in WIC have longer pregnancies leading to fewer premature births; fewer low and very low birth-weight babies; experience fewer fetal and infant deaths; seek prenatal care earlier in pregnancy; and consume more of such key nutrients as iron, protein, calcium, and Vitamins A and C.



Preterm births cost the U.S. over $26 billion a year with the average first year medical costs of a premature/low birth-weight baby roughly $49,033 compared to $4,551 for a baby born without complications. WIC prenatal care benefits reduce the rate of low birth-weight babies by 25% and very low birth-weight babies by 44%, saving the nation vast sums in health care costs. Every dollar spent on pregnant women in WIC produces $1.92 to $4.21 in Medicaid savings for newborns and their mothers.



Infants receiving WIC are less likely to be underweight and are in better health than eligible infants not participating in WIC. Participation in WIC positively influences the nutrient intakes of children, improves immunizations rates, and dramatically reduces the risk of child abuse or neglect. WIC children at ages 1 to 2 have less dental related Medicaid costs compared to children who do not participate in WIC and four and five-year olds whose mothers participated in WIC during pregnancy have better vocabulary test scores than children whose mothers had not received WIC benefits.



For better than a decade and a half, successive Administrations and Congresses have provided bi-partisan supported funding to serve all eligible women, infants and children who apply to WIC. The proposed cut would needlessly harm hundreds of thousands of WIC families.



I urge Congress to fund WIC at $6.83 billion and continue to closely monitor WIC caseload and food cost inflation to assure sufficient funding to maintain current caseload, keep pace with rising food prices, and ensure WIC is able to serve all eligible mothers and young children who apply to the Program.



No one denies that our nation is facing serious fiscal challenges, but balancing the budget on the backs of vulnerable, at-risk, low-income populations that need essential food and nutrition assistance programs is not the way to achieve financial security. I urge you to do everything in your power to protect our nation’s struggling families from hunger and improve their nutritional health and well-being. I urge you to oppose the funding cuts to WIC and the other nutrition Programs.


20110607

House Appropriations Committee Acts On WIC Funding, Floor Action Expected Next Week

Washington, DC, 6 June 2011 – The full House Appropriations Committee, Chaired by Rep. Hal Rogers, R-KY, met 31 May to markup a final version of the fiscal year 2012 Agriculture Appropriations bill passed the previous week for the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, Chaired by Rep. Jack Kingston, R-GA, funding WIC at $5.901 billion.



During the markup, Republican appropriators accepted an amendment, passed by voice vote, offered by Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-CT, increasing WIC funding by an additional $147 million over the Subcommittee’s mark, bringing the appropriation total to $6.048 billion. As this money was derived from an offset achieved by decreasing an equivalent amount of funding for the Brazil Cotton Institute, there is no guarantee that money will not be removed by amendment when the bill comes to the floor – likely next week.



NWA’s recommended funding level for Fiscal Year 2012 is $6.83 billion. Fiscal Year 2011 funding for WIC is set at $6.734 billion and the President’s 2012 budget request was $7.39 billion.



Additionally, the Committee voted to include $14 million in funding for infrastructure, $75 million for breastfeeding peer counselors and related activities (NWA proposed $80 million), $7.5 million for breastfeeding performance bonuses (NWA proposed $10 million), and $50 million for management information systems/EBT development (NWA proposed $60 million).



When one adds to the base funding approved by the full Committee of $6.048 billion, the $125 million in contingency funding, and the estimated fiscal year 2011 recoveries of roughly $476 million, it would appear that the total funding for the 2012 fiscal year ($6.649 billion) will still be inadequate to meet program needs, particularly should food cost inflation spike during the fiscal year as many economist anticipate.



Appropriators continue to suggest that USDA should look to SNAP contingency funds should the WIC Program find itself in need of additional resources during the 2012 fiscal year. NWA does not believe that to be an appropriate way to manage programmatic needs and potentially jeopardizes another nutrition program’s funding requirements. NWA will continue to advocate for $6.83 billion for the Program.



Several items in the Committee’s Report language are particularly troubling.



1. On the matter of Nutrition Services and Administrative funding, NSA, the Committee retained the Subcommittee’s Report which seems a misunderstanding of WIC NSA funding which averaged nationally in fiscal year 2009 at 21.42% pre-rebate and 27.90% post rebate vs. fiscal year 2010 at 23.35% pre-rebate and 29.56% post rebate. Moreover, the Committee accepts what appears to be the premise of the Subcommittee that nutrition services and other WIC set-asides are all considered administrative “overhead.” In the course of making their argument, the Committee also seemed to revisit without explicitly stating so, the arguments of the second half of the Bush Administration wherein efforts were made to cap NSA funding.



The Report reads:



WIC Services and Administrative Costs.— While the average participation in WIC has grown by 26 percent over the past 10 years, administrative costs for WIC have grown by 72 percent or $800 million dollars between 2001 and 2010. Keeping in mind that some of WIC’s program offerings (i.e., nutrition and smoking cessation programs) have expanded over the past 10 years and state salary and benefit costs have grown with inflation, administrative and service delivery costs as a percentage of the overall cost of the program are excessively high. By the Committee’s estimation, administrative costs of operating WIC are well above 40 percent. In contrast to other social service organizations, the model guidelines by the Federal Government’s Combined Federal Campaign require a justification from any local charity that has administrative costs exceeding 25 percent and the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance charity standards set a rate not to exceed 35 percent to cover administrative costs. FNS needs to achieve increased savings through greater use of benchmarking across states or achieve economies of scale whereby the agency and its state partners can decrease the delivery or program costs per participant. These costs pose the greatest threat to fully supporting the vital nutritional needs of all WIC participants. The Committee directs FNS to submit a plan by July 29, 2011, to reduce administrative costs.

2. The Committee also retained the Subcommittee’s Report on WIC Program eligibility and seemed to revisit the arguments of the second half of the Bush Administration wherein efforts were made to cap Medicaid adjunctive eligibility.



Categorical eligibility.—WIC provides nutritional support to some of the most vulnerable individuals in the U.S. population. However, due to the Nation’s overall financial crisis and the rapidly expanding needs of other Federal nutrition programs administered by FNS, the Committee recommends that the agency focus first on the nutritional needs of those originally envisioned in the creation of this program. While the Committee understands the need to seek efficiencies through the use of Categorical Eligibility, the Committee is concerned that USDA is expanding eligibility well beyond the neediest or hardest hit during the economic downturn. In particular, USDA has confirmed that the WIC program is now serving significant numbers of individuals with incomes above 185 percent of the U.S. Poverty Income Guidelines, including seven states that use income eligibility limits above 250 percent of poverty.



Finally, the Committee adopted the Subcommittee’s Report on electronic benefit transfer, EBT, and management information systems, MIS, applauding some of WIC’s successes and supporting NWA’s recommendation that states move expeditiously towards achieving the WIC EBT by 2020 goal, and allow a decoupling of requirements to meet MIS standards before implementing EBT to speed the process.



Electronic Benefit Transfer, EBT.---The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, P.L. 111–296 mandated that each state implement EBT for WIC no later than October 1, 2020. A few states are leading the way on WIC EBT implementation and should serve as models required by other states, including those state plans that take advantage of the states’ existing food stamp or SNAP EBT system. As a reminder, the SNAP program did not require states to fully develop Management Information Systems (MIS) or meet MIS standards before implementation of SNAP EBT, and the WIC program also should not make such a requirement. The Committee directs FNS to develop an implementation plan for a more accelerated schedule in order to take advantage of the benefits that WIC EBT would yield for both the Federal, state and private sector stakeholders. FNS should work with state WIC agencies to provide the Committee with the plan by December 31, 2011.



The House leadership hopes to move the legislation to the full House floor next week. The Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee has yet to markup a fiscal year 2012 Agriculture spending bill.

Senate Legislative Progress Stymied by Political Gamesmanship

Washington, DC, 6 June 2011 – Legislative activity on budget and appropriations issues slows to a crawl this week as the House and Senate alternatively leave for recess and return from recess.



While the Senate is the body back in Washington this week, the body has no budget or appropriations work scheduled, although symbolic floor votes on budget issues may be possible.



Of interest to the WIC community, as it relates to the overall jobs picture and how legislative progress is stymied by political gamesmanship, the Senate has plans this week to take up S-782, legislation to reauthorize the Economic Development Administration, an agency within the U.S. Commerce Department providing aid to economically distressed communities in an effort to stimulate business activity, economic growth, and as a result helping to create new jobs.



The bill will likely become a vehicle for debate over how to bolster the overall national economy and create jobs. Last week news offered a disappointing jobs report indicating the creation of only 54,000 jobs in May, much lower than economists had predicted. At the same time, the nation’s unemployment rate increased to 9.1 percent. Part of that debate will likely involve consideration of the budget, spending and tax issues, which both parties consider directly related to economic growth and job creation.



The outcome of this legislation could reflect the challenges of a small-business bill taken up earlier this year by the Senate that similarly became a vehicle for consideration of unrelated issues, including budget issues, and a resulting dispute over allowable amendments that ultimately sunk the measure.



The bill, S-493, to reauthorize small-business research programs, broadly supported by both parties, languished on the Senate floor for nearly a month and a half. During that time, Senators took up votes on a wide range of other issues as diverse as amendments to block or delay the EPA’s authority to regulate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act; bar millionaires from receiving unemployment benefits; and require Office of Management and Budget to identify and consolidate duplicative federal programs. Senate Democratic leaders pulled the bill in early May after being unable to reach an agreement on what additional unrelated amendments would be considered and after a vote to invoke cloture and thereby limit amendments fell short.

20110520

Proficient Studying

The Study Hacks Blog outlines how to study in the most efficient way possible.



Today I'm sharing a study method presented by Study Hacks.
Scott Young has graciously shared his method for proficient studying and learning. Here are the basic concepts. Read the entire article for yourself if you find these ideas intriguing.



The main idea is to recognize that fast learners make connections between ideas; slow learners memorize.


The summary version


  • Ninety minutes creating a notes compression for the core concepts. (This involves cramming all the key facts and concepts onto a 2-sided paper)
  • Two hours completing and correcting one practice exam.
  • ...
    The power of the method doesn’t rely on the last minute checks, it’s about how knowledge was engineered from the beginning.



    Detailed version


    Study Principles:

  • Learn it once
  • Knowing is being able to teach
  • Memorization is the last resort.


  • Study concepts


    • Learn concepts by analogy.
      1. Break down the formula, idea or concept into smaller pieces.
      2. Ask, “Why?” to probe for patterns in the structure.
      3. Suggest some possible metaphors that fit the pattern.
      4. Use the metaphor to explain the idea.
      5. Strengthen the metaphor and repeat the process.
    • Learn facts through association.


    Please follow this link to read the entire article: Anatomy of an A+: A Look Inside the Process of One of the World’s Most Efficient Studiers.

    20110519

    Vanilla Christ

    God is doing his new thing?






    20110427

    Arizona Senate Bill 1070: A failure

    As seen on the Arizona Republic 23 April 2011

    A year later, SB 1070 looks like a big, expensive con. It brought us boycotts, lost business, a sullied reputation, another court battle and a betrayal of Arizona's heritage.



    Oh, yes. And it did nothing to make the border safer or reduce illegal immigration.



    The national spotlight made Arizona look like a place where extremism is the norm. International media lapped up each outrageous statement from SB 1070 supporters. Comedians ripped a hole in the state's dignity bigger than the Grand Canyon.



    Yet SB 1070 initially got good poll numbers. It was popular for two reasons. 1) The leaders who sold it to the state were that convincing. 2) People were frustrated with federal inaction. Some saw SB 1070 as a wake-up call to Washington. A year later, Congress is still sleeping.



    Recent discussions from the White House about comprehensive immigration reform were the result of President Barack Obama's need to woo Latino voters before the 2012 election. Not SB 1070.


    The measure widely described as Arizona's "Papers, please" law, provided a distraction from discussions about real reform. It gave cover to politicians who prefer to dodge the criticism that comes with standing up for complete solutions.



    When GOP Rep. Jeff Flake decided to run for Senate, this long-time supporter of comprehensive immigration reform had a sudden conversion.



    He jumped on the enforcement-first wagon.



    Was that just because of SB 1070? Of course not. Arizona Sens. Jon Kyl and John McCain long ago abandoned their support for a complete solution. But SB 1070's popularity gave them no reason to reconsider.



    The law helped drive the debate further to the extreme edge, giving Flake no political advantage sticking to his previous position. It eroded what was left of the middle ground.



    Illegal immigration is a national problem this state law could not begin to address. SB 1070 was so clearly an intrusion into federal jurisdiction that key provisions were halted by federal District Court Judge Susan Bolton before they took effect. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that injunction, with noted conservative Judge John Noonan agreeing that provisions of SB 1070 are unconstitutional.



    More legal battles lie ahead. They will sap state resources and keep Arizona in an unflattering spotlight.


    Arizona's sense of unity also took a beating because of SB 1070.



    Latinos make up nearly a third of the state's population. They are part of Arizona's heritage and its future. But SB 1070 made even third-generation Arizona Latinos feel like targets for enhanced law-enforcement scrutiny.



    The law created an atmosphere so ugly that Republican state Sen. Lori Klein felt justified in reading a letter full of anti-Latino slurs on the floor of the Senate.



    This is where SB 1070 brought us.



    Sixty executives from major state business interests successfully called on lawmakers to reject a new round of immigration bills this year.



    This is where the horrible experience of SB 1070 should take us. Arizonans have to continue to speak out against the SB 1070 approach.



    Lessons are being learned elsewhere.


    The wave of copycat bills in other states has largely fizzled - even in Kansas, where SB 1070 architect Kris Kobach is secretary of state. He couldn't sell his state this poison.



    Meanwhile, Utah took a look at what Arizona did and crafted a comprehensive approach that includes a state guest-worker program. It acknowledges the complexity of illegal immigration and makes a humane commitment to family values and children. Arizona considered - and rejected - a similar approach several years ago.



    Instead, the state bought into a false promise that remains a colossal mistake a year later.

    20110426

    Arizona Senate Bill 1070: A year later

    From the Arizona Republic 23 April 2011



    The neighbors pointed at a small green house on the west side of Phoenix and said the man who cut off part of his finger lived inside. Sure enough, a man came out with toilet paper wound around the index finger of his left hand.



    He said he had been cutting meat at a restaurant around the corner when he accidently sliced off a hunk of his flesh. More than 24 hours later, blood kept soaking through the toilet paper, and his finger still throbbed. This raised an obvious question: Why didn't he go to the hospital?



    "Because I don't have papers," said the man, who would give only his first name, Ramon.



    Ramon, 35, an undocumented immigrant from Hermosillo, Mexico, is just one example of how many of the estimated 400,000 illegal immigrants in Arizona have gone deeper underground to avoid contact with the authorities since Gov. Jan Brewer signed the toughest immigration law in the nation one year ago today.



    The law, known as Senate Bill 1070, never took full effect. A federal judge blocked key parts of it, including a controversial provision that would have required police to determine the immigration status of people they encountered during police stops if they suspected them of being illegal immigrants.



    Even so, many illegal immigrants, who have lived in the shadows for years to avoid detection, say they are more afraid than ever of being deported. Ramon feared hospital officials might discover he is undocumented and report him to federal immigration officials. Other illegal immigrants randomly interviewed said they now drive as little as possible to reduce the chances of being stopped and questioned by the police. Others said they won't report crimes to avoid unwanted scrutiny.




    Brewer, who was in the midst of a tough primary race for the GOP nomination for governor, signed SB 1070 under intense political pressure that stemmed from years of mounting public frustration over illegal immigration and drug smuggling in Arizona, as well as Congress' failure to fix the problems.



    The bill cemented Arizona's reputation as the toughest immigration state in the nation and instantly propelled the issue of illegal immigration back into the national spotlight.



    The law also whipped up anti-illegal-immigration fervor that spurred lawmakers in several states to introduce similar legislation. But it also generated a powerful backlash from immigrant, Latino and civil-rights groups, which led to lawsuits and economic boycotts that damaged Arizona's image and cost the state millions of dollars in lost tourism and convention revenue.



    There is no hard data on how the law has affected the state's economy because undocumented immigrants often work off the books for cash and those employed in the "aboveground" economy often get jobs using fake papers, which makes it difficult to distinguish them from legal workers.



    However, the law did spur hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of immigrant families to leave Arizona. While the initial wave seems to have subsided, many immigrants say they are still planning to leave, either because they are afraid of being deported or because they can't find jobs due to the economy and tougher immigration enforcement.



    Supporters of SB 1070 are claiming a victory, saying preventing illegal immigrants from coming to Arizona and scaring away those already here is the intention of the law.



    "I think the greatest effect of 1070 is its deterrent effect," said state Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, a main sponsor of the bill. "And the credit for its strong deterrent effect must be shared by its authors and supporters like myself, with its detractors who so grossly misinterpreted that law that it probably scared a lot of illegal immigrants from coming here in the first place or staying if they were here."



    Fear of the police



    Daniel Chamizo manages a mobile-home park and apartment complex near 31st Avenue and Van Buren Street. Many of the families who live there are immigrants, legal and illegal, from Mexico.



    He said many no longer want to report crimes, afraid police will start asking immigration questions and they will end up being deported. So they call him instead.



    "They come to me and say a lot of things. They tell me about people coming to sell drugs or consume drugs," said Chamizo, 48, sitting behind a cluttered desk in his office. "I tell them, 'I am just the manager. I can't really do anything. Call the police.' But they are afraid."



    A few days earlier, Chamizo said, someone came to his office to tell him there was a dead dog in a nearby park. Chamizo suggested they call an animal-control officer, but they wouldn't.



    "They are afraid of any kind of law enforcement," he said.



    Illegal immigrants have always been afraid to call the police, said Sgt. Steve Martos, a spokesman for the Phoenix Police Department. It's hard to tell if the problem has gotten worse, he said, because police don't know when people are not reporting crimes if they aren't calling. But he acknowledged that "there is a perception that it has."



    Carlos Garcia, an organizer with Phoenix-based immigrant-rights group Puente Arizona, said SB 1070 has driven a wedge between immigrants and the police even though the law never took full effect.



    "It created the fear, and I think it's continued," Garcia said. "It created more space, more distance between the community and the police."




    Those fears have been intensified, Garcia said, by other ongoing crackdowns, among them federal programs that enlist the help of local police to identify and deport illegal immigrants.



    Earlier this year, state Sen. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, the main sponsor of SB 1070, also pushed for a new round of immigration legislation that sought, among other things, to require hospital personnel to notify immigration authorities of patients they suspected of being in the country illegally and also sought to end birthright citizenship for the children of illegal immigrants.



    Those proposals were voted down by the Senate, but they added to the fears, Garcia said.



    "It just made life more difficult for folks," he said. "But because there are so many ties to the community, most people didn't leave (the state). But they kind of prepared themselves. Now, they are just not leaving their house. A lot of the community we talk to, they leave to take their kids to school, they will go to work, and then they will just stay home. They are afraid to go out, and they are afraid to have any contact with police or any sort of authority."



    Impact on economy



    Angela Castro, 39, and her husband, Miguel Yanez, 42, are undocumented immigrants from the state of Mexico. The Phoenix residents have lived in Arizona for more than 10 years.



    Castro said she and her husband now drive as little as possible, especially at night, to avoid police.



    "We are afraid that if we get stopped, they are going to ask about our papers," Castro said.




    Castro was standing on the shoulder of 31st Avenue in west Phoenix, selling used clothing, electronic equipment, toys and other items.



    At one point, she reached down, pulled a 4-week-old puppy out of a box and handed it to a customer. The box contained two more puppies, and Castro said she was selling the poodles for $70 each.



    The street was lined on both sides with other immigrants selling items at yard sales.



    Castro said it was one way for her family to earn money after her husband lost his construction job a year ago. While she is manning the yard sale, he is out scouring the neighborhood for old soda cans and scrap metal to turn in to a recycling center for cash.



    "We don't sell a lot," she said. "Some days, we might make $50. Others, it's $30. Some days, we don't sell anything."



    Kavanagh, a sponsor of SB 1070, said it is difficult to tell whether illegal immigrants are being driven underground by the economic downturn or the immigration law.



    Tom Rex, who studies the state's economy for the Arizona State University's W.P. Carey School of Business, said immigration crackdowns, notably the state's employer-sanctions law, have driven more undocumented workers from the aboveground economy into the underground cash economy.



    The sanctions law, which took effect in 2008, requires all employers to electronically verify whether employees are legally eligible to work. That has made it harder for undocumented workers to use fake documents to get legitimate jobs, as many did in the past.




    It also means less revenue for the state, since undocumented workers employed in the aboveground economy typically pay income taxes, unlike those working for cash.



    On top of that, the state has lost sales-tax and other revenue from the thousands of illegal immigrants who have left due to the immigration crackdowns, further hurting the state's sagging economy, Rex said.



    The Pew Hispanic Center recently estimated that the state's undocumented population shrunk by 100,000 people in the past three years, dropping from 500,000 to 400,000.



    Such a large and sudden loss of people dealt a severe blow to the state's economy, even when costs such as education and other services are factored in, Rex said.



    As evidence, he pointed to retail sales, which plummeted 9 percent in 2008 and 10 percent in 2009. Rex called the drop unprecedented and said it likely resulted from an overall decrease in spending during the recession and immigrants leaving the state.



    "Nothing remotely close to that has ever happened in this state," Rex said.



    Still, Kavanagh said the loss of more than 100,000 illegal immigrants opened job opportunities for U.S. citizens and legal immigrants at a time when the state's unemployment rate is 9.5 percent.



    "So losing 100,000 or 200,000 workers who were undercutting legal workers and depressing wages is a big plus, as far as I am concerned," he said. "Good riddance."




    Clint Hickman, vice president of sales and marketing for Hickman's Family Farms, the largest egg producer in Arizona, said sales to supermarkets and grocery stores that cater to Latinos dropped 20 percent in the wake of SB 1070.



    "Eggs are not easily substituted, so it wasn't that there was some other foodstuff that was being substituted," he said. "It was a real loss of consumption because the people aren't here any more."



    Kavanagh said the drop in sales suggests SB 1070 was a "very effective deterrent."



    "It makes me feel good," Kavanagh said. "Mr. Hickman (will have to) have less hens. You don't overproduce. I am not going to maintain a large population of illegal immigrants who drain our economy and cost us in benefits just so that Mr. Hickman can sell 20 percent more in eggs."



    Shifts in lifestyle



    On a recent afternoon, a heavyset man named Mario pulled a tray of cheesecakes from an oven in the back of his house and put them on a rack to cool. In an adjoining room, other Mexican cakes and breads were cooling on racks.



    Mario, 58, said he came to Phoenix 15 years ago from Chiapas, Mexico, and is a legal permanent resident. He asked that his full name not be used because he didn't have a permit for the bakery and wasn't paying taxes for the bread and pastries he sells.



    Mario said he had been working at a Mexican bakery full time but was laid off six months ago. He blamed SB 1070, which he said forced many of the bakery's customers to leave the state. Sales dropped.



    To earn money, Mario bought a commercial oven. He has been baking bread in the back of his house ever since, selling door to door in his neighborhood.




    "These are bad laws," Mario said. "This was a great state. When I arrived, it was easy to make a living, and life was very peaceful."

    20110421

    Unauthorized Immigrants Pay Taxes, Too

    Estimates of the State and Local Taxes Paid by Unauthorized Immigrant Households



    Tax Day is an appropriate time to underscore the often-overlooked fact that unauthorized immigrants pay taxes.  The unauthorized, like everyone else in the United States, pay sales taxes.  They also pay property taxes—even if they rent.  At least half of unauthorized immigrants pay income taxes.  Add this all up and it amounts to billions in revenue to state and local governments.  The Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) has estimated the state and local taxes paid in 2010 by households that are headed by unauthorized immigrants. These households may include members who are U.S. citizens or legal immigrants.  Collectively, these households paid $11.2 billion in state and local taxes.  That included $1.2 billion in personal income taxes, $1.6 billion in property taxes, and $8.4 billion in sales taxes.  The states receiving the most tax revenue from households headed by unauthorized immigrants were California ($2.7 billion), Texas ($1.6 billion), Florida ($806.8 million), New York ($662.4 million), and Illinois ($499.2 million) {See Figure 1 and Table 1}.  These figures should be kept in mind as politicians and commentators continue with the seemingly endless debate over what to do with unauthorized immigrants already living in the United States.  In spite of the fact that they lack legal status, these immigrants—and their family members—are adding value to the U.S. economy; not only as taxpayers, but as workers, consumers, and entrepreneurs as well.





     





    Methodology





    These estimates are based on a model developed by the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP).  The ITEP methodology relies on three pieces of data: 1) an estimate of each state’s unauthorized population; 2) the average family income for unauthorized immigrants; and 3) state-specific tax payments.  Of course, it is difficult to know precisely how much these families pay in taxes, because the spending and income behavior of these families is not as well documented as is the case for U.S. citizens.  But these estimates represent a sensible best approximation of the taxes these families likely pay.






    Estimates of each state’s unauthorized population are from the Pew Hispanic Center and based on 2010 Census data.  There were an estimated 11.2 million unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. as of 2010.  Pew has also estimated the unauthorized population for each state.  Pew has found that unauthorized immigrants are likely to be less educated than native-born U.S. citizens and legal immigrants, and they tend to work in low-wage jobs.  Thus the average family income of the unauthorized population is lower than the average family income for U.S. citizens or legal immigrants.  The average income of a household headed by an unauthorized immigrant is estimated to be $36,000; 10 percent of which goes towards remittances to family members in countries of origin.





    ITEP maintains detailed tax information for each state, and models how tax structures affect different income groups in each state.  ITEP has estimated the amount of sales, income, and property tax the average unauthorized family pays.





    • Sales tax is automatic, so it is assumed that unauthorized residents would pay sales tax at similar rates to U.S. citizens and legal immigrants with similar income levels.
    • Similar to sales tax, property taxes are hard to avoid, and unauthorized immigrants are assumed to pay the same property taxes as others with the same income level.  ITEP assumes that most unauthorized immigrants are renters, and only calculates the taxes paid by renters.
    • Income tax contributions by the unauthorized population are less comparable to other populations because many unauthorized immigrants work “off the books” and income taxes are not automatically withheld from their paychecks.  ITEP conservatively estimates that 50 percent of unauthorized immigrants are paying income taxes.


    Originally seen at: Immigration Policy Center

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