‘These have been among the worst weeks of my life’ – By RACHAEL BADE 10/18/15 07:10 PM EDT Updated 10/18/15 08:19 PM EDT



In a POLITICO interview, Trey Gowdy laments attacks on him and the Benghazi committee as Hillary Clinton’s appearance nears.

House Benghazi Chairman Trey Gowdy, a former federal prosecutor, used to get death threats in his previous line of work. But watching his Benghazi investigation get slammed by accusations that it’s a partisan assault on Hillary Clinton is actually much worse, he says.

“I would say in some ways these have been among the worst weeks of my life,” Gowdy said this weekend during a lengthy interview with POLITICO. “Attacks on your character, attacks on your motives, are 1,000-times worse than anything you can do to anybody physically — at least it is for me.”

Gowdy faces the biggest moment of his political career when he squares off with Clinton this Thursday. But as the chairman prepares for the showdown, he’s facing increasing pressure to salvage his panel’s reputation — and perhaps his own.

Gowdy worked behind closed doors for 18 months in an effort to keep the committee’s work out of the political fray. But his strategy started unraveling after three Republicans suggested the committee was aimed at hurting Clinton in the polls. Democrats pounced, newspaper editorials called for the panel to be disbanded, and now there are calls from commentators of all stripes for Gowdy to reveal what he’s uncovered.

Meanwhile, the Clinton campaign and its allies have kept up the pressure with an almost daily barrage of news releases and statements slamming the panel’s work.

It’s left the usually cheerful South Carolina lawmaker sounding frustrated — and, at times, even defeated. Weary of the drumbeat of criticism, Gowdy says he’s stopped watching the news and reading the newspaper. During a Sunday morning TV appearance, Gowdy, usually quick to joke, seemed solemn as he fended off another round of accusations that the committee is a partisan exercise.

Gowdy believes the criticism has been demonstrably unfair — an attempt to “delegitimize” his panel and discredit his personal reputation ahead of Clinton’s high stakes testimony on Thursday.

“It’s not lost on me that the uptick in criticism is [happening] the two weeks before she’s coming,” he says. “I don’t think that that is a coincidence; it’s an attempt to marginalize and impugn the credibility of the panel that’s going to be asking her questions.”


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Social start-up gives homeless people a helping hand – BBC News July 5 2015

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3 hours ago

For some in San Francisco the tech boom has brought wealth, but the city also has one of the highest rates of homelessness in the United States.

Some in the tech community are trying to help including Hand Up, a company which is linking donors directly to members who need support.

The BBC’s North America Technology Correspondent Richard Taylor reports.


The American housing crisis is threatening to put us all on the streets – STEVEN ROSENFELD, ALTERNET WEDNESDAY, JUL 1, 2015 02:15 AM PDT

A new study reveals apartment rents are skyrocketing, and low- to moderate-income households are feeling the pinch

The American housing crisis is threatening to put us all on the streets
On Monday, New York City took a dramatic step that highlights just how out of control rental housing costs have become in the Big Apple and in many cities nationwide. For the first time, New York froze rents for one-year leases on a million rent-stabilized apartments.

“Today’s decision means relief,” Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters. “We know tenants have been forced to make painful choices that pitted ever-rising rent against necessities like groceries, child care and medical bills.”

Landlords balked and citicized City Hall, calling the move an “unconscionable, politically driven decision.” But Rent Board chair Rachel Godsil was having none of it. Her staff had found that landlord incomes had grown for nine years in a row, including by 3.4 percent last year, while costs only grew by 0.5 percent. In contrast, a majority of most stabilized renters faced continuing income stagnation.

New York City’s struggle with affordable rental housing is part of a nationwide trend that has seen rental housing costs skyrocket in recent years as the housing market has mostly recovered from the 2008 recession, which was in part fueled by real estate speculation and Wall Street aggressively repackaging and reselling risky high-interest mortgages.

According to a new study by Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies, vast stretches of the county are facing a rental housing crisis marked by big rent spikes. “The number of cost-burdened renters [paying more than 30 percent of incomes]… set a new high in 2013 of 20.8 million, totaling just under half of all renter households,” Harvard researchers found. “Although the number of severely burdened renters edged down slightly, the number of moderately burdened renters climbed by a larger amount.”

Most low to moderate income households are feeling a very big pinch. The researchers said that 80 percent of households with annual incomes under $15,000, three-quarters of renters with incomes up between $15,000 and $29,999, and 45 percent of households earning up to $44,999, are all “severely burdened,” with non-whites and single mothers facing the greatest financial stress.

“Minorities and certain types of households are especially likely to have severe housing cost burdens,” the report said. “Indeed, 26 percent of black households, 23 percent of Hispanic households, and 20 percent of Asian and other minority households were severely burdened in 2013, compared with just 14 percent of white households. Nearly a third of single-parent families also had severe burdens, compared with a tenth of married couples with children. Finally, more than half of households headed by an unemployed individual in 2013 were severely housing cost burdened.”


Justice Thomas: Racial disparities don’t always hurt black people. Look at the NBA! – Updated by German Lopez on June 25, 2015, 11:20 a.m. ET

The Supreme Court on Thursday saved a key component of the Fair Housing Act of 1968, which protects against housing discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. But not every justice was happy with the decision.

The Supreme Court on Thursday saved a key component of the Fair Housing Act of 1968, which protects against housing discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. But not every justice was happy with the decision.

Take, for example, Justice Clarence Thomas’s dissent, in which he argued that disparate racial impact is not a good way to measure racism. He pointed out the National Basketball Association (NBA) is mostly black yet it’s not considered racist, suggesting that not all racial disparities are considered unfair and unlawful:

Racial imbalances do not always disfavor minorities.… And in our own country, for roughly a quarter-century now, over 70 percent of National Basketball Association players have been black.

But cherry-picking one sports league misses the broader point of laws like the Fair Housing Act: they’re supposed to protect from systemic issues — and there’s little question that African Americans face huge disparities on a systemic level. Black Americans have lower wages even after attaining higher education, they’re less likely to get calls back for job applications, they’re mired by people’s subconscious racial biases, they’re more likelyto be shot and killed by police, and, yes, they still face residential segregation. When looking at the aggregate of these socioeconomic problems, it’s not hard to see why something like the Fair Housing Act might be needed to protect black people from widespread discrimination.


Every single county in America is facing the same crisis – KRISTEN CAPPS, THE ATLANTIC CITIES JUN. 20, 2015, 5:25 PM


Atlantic Cities

From Portland, Oregon, to Portland, Maine. From Jacksonville to Juneau. No matter where you look, there isn’t enough affordable housing.

Without exception, there is no county in the U.S. that has enough affordable housing. The crisis is national and it is growing. Since 2000, rents across the nation have increased. So has the number of of families who desperately need affordable housing.

New research from the Urban Institute shows that the supply of housing for extremely low-income families, which was already in short supply, is only declining. In 2013, just 28 of every 100 extremely low-income families could afford their rental homes. Than figure is down from 37 of 100 in 2000—a 25 percent decline over a little more than a decade.

Using data from the Census Bureau and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, researchers built an interactive map to illustrate the nationwide reach of the problem. In no county in the U.S. does the supply of affordable housing meet the demand among extremely low-income households. (Families who made no more than 30 percent of an area’s median household income were considered “extremely low income.”)

Map 2Atlantic Cities

In Travis County, Texas, for example, the extremely low-income cutoff for a family of four is $21,950. There are about 7,000 safe, affordable rental units to meet the needs of these poor Austin families. But there are more than 48,000 extremely low-income families living there.

The Urban Institute’s research shows how the number of extremely low-income households around the nation has grown since 2000. At the same time, federal housing-assistance programs have grown, but not nearly enough to keep up with need. The difference in the availability of affordable housing between 2000 and 2013 is immediately apparent from the maps, especially in states in the South (namely Alabama, Kentucky, and South Carolina), the Midwest (Ohio and Illinois), and the West (Nevada).

Map 3

Atlantic Cities

Strike federal support from the map—as many members of Congress might like to do—and the picture grows considerably bleaker. Extremely low-income households increasingly rely on assistance from HUD: More than 80 percent of affordable rental homes for extremely low-income families are provided through assistance from HUD. (This figure is surging: It was 57 percent of households in 2000.)

The Urban Institute’s interactive map shows just what a dire situation the nation would face without federal housing assistance. In Pulaski County, Arkansas, for example, some 15,000 families met the criteria for extremely low income in 2013 (earning no more than $18,650 for a family of four). Without federal assistance, none of these poor families in Little Rock would have access to affordable housing: zero. As it stands, only 24 extremely low-income families out of every 100 can find safe, affordable rental housing in Little Rock.

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A full-time minimum-wage job wont get you a 1-bedroom apartment anywhere in America – Updated by Ezra Klein on May 28, 2015, 1:30 p.m. ET

There is no state in the union where a full-time, minimum-wage worker can afford to rent a one-bedroom apartment for less than 30 percent of his paycheck (which is a standard measure of housing affordability).

That’s the depressing takeaway from a new report by the National Low-Income Housing Coalition. The paper includes this map tallying the hours a worker would have to put in at her job each week to rent a one-bedroom apartment without it eating more than 30 percent of her wages:

In Texas, a minimum wage worker needs to put in 73 hours a week to afford a one-bedroom unit. In California, it’s 92 hours. In the District of Columbia, it’s a solid 100 hours.

These are, of course, state averages. Rent will be more expensive in some cities — but those cities will often have a higher minimum wage than the rest of the state. Sadly, as this chart from the report shows, the increase in rental prices tends to be much higher than the increase in the minimum wage:

National Low-Income Housing Coalition

National Low-Income Housing Coalition

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16 maps that Americans don’t like to talk about – by Max Fisher on May 27, 2015

The New York Stock Exchange. | Stephen Chernin/Getty

The New York Stock Exchange. | Stephen Chernin/Getty

The United States has a lot to be proud of: it is the most powerful country on Earth and a global leader in culture and innovation as well as international affairs, and has a well-earned reputation for freedom and democracy. But, like any country, it has its flaws, as well. And those flaws are important to remember and examine — even if many Americans would probably rather not think about them.


The US was built on the theft of Native Americans’ lands

This map begins by showing Native Americans’ land in 1794, demarcated by tribe and marked in green. In 1795, the US and Spain signed the Treaty of San Lorenzo, carving up much of the continent between them. What followed was a century of catastrophes for Native Americans as their land was taken piece by piece. By the time the US passed the Dawes Act in 1887, effectively abolishing tribal self-governance and forcing assimilation, there was very little left.

European settlers who arrived in North America found it filled with diverse, long-established societies. They may well have become sovereign nation-states had the settlers, and later the United States, not sought to purge them from their lands, deny them self-rule, and, once they had been reduced to a tiny minority, forcibly assimilate them and their land. These acts are the foundation upon which the United States as we know it today was built.

Image credit: Sam B. Hillard/Sunisup


The Trail of Tears, one of the darkest moments in US history — and we rarely talk about it

Trail of Tears

The largest act of ethnic cleansing perpetrated by the United States government began in 1830, when Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act into law, which gave him the power to negotiate the removal of Native American tribes in the South to land west of the Mississippi. Of course, those negotiations were corrupt and rife with coercion. Take, for example, the removal of the Cherokee, which was conducted via a treaty never approved by leaders of the Cherokee nation and resulted in, according to a missionary doctor who accompanied the Cherokee during removal, about 4,000 deaths, or one-fifth of the Cherokee population. Later scholarship suggested the numbers could be even higher than that.

–Dylan Matthews

Image credit: Nikater


America’s indigenous population today is sparse and largely lives in areas we forced them into

Indigenous population density

This map of indigenous population density today shows the effects of not just the initial disease-driven depopulation of North America in the wake of European settlement in the 15th to 18th centuries, but also the long effort of the US government in the 19th century to remove Native Americans from their homes and place them in reservations of its choosing. The Cherokees of Georgia are gone, having been forced to relocate to eastern Oklahoma. A handful of counties in the upper Plains states, Arizona, and New Mexico have large or majority native populations. Alaska natives are still a majority in a number of counties. But in most of the country — especially in the South, Midwest, and Northeast — Native Americans make up a vanishingly small percentage of the population.

–Dylan Matthews

Image credit: Rural Assistance Center


America didn’t just tolerate slavery for a century — we expanded it


Image credit: Golbez


The fight over slavery in the United States began even before independence, as constitutional framers clashed over whether or how to reconcile the world’s most barbaric practice with the idealistic new nation. The abolitionists lost, and while states such as Pennsylvania and New Hampshire ended slavery almost immediately after independence, slaveholders continued expanding the institution of slavery for decades. Slavery developed into a sort of cultural institution upon which Southern whites depended for their economic livelihood and their identity; they fought bitterly to press slavery onto news states. As America expanded westward, both pro- and anti-slavery factions tried to claim the territories as their own. The cultural and political divide deeply polarized the nation, leading inexorably to war.

The demographics of America’s public schools are changing. This year, for the first time in American history, nonwhite students outnumber white ones. But racial segregation in schooling — driven in large part by segregation in housing, and thus in school district placement — persists. The vast majority of white students attend majority-white schools. Black and Latino students are also likely to be in schools that are majority nonwhite, except in heavily white rural areas.

–Dylan Matthews

Image credit: Urban Institute

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The surprisingly simple way Utah solved chronic homelessness and saved millions

A man in a wheelchair makes his way to the homeless shelter in Salt Lake City as a major storm blows into Utah. (Tom Smart/Associated Press)

The story of how Utah solved chronic homelessness begins in 2003, inside a cavernous Las Vegas banquet hall populated by droves of suits. The problem at hand was seemingly intractable. The number of chronic homeless had surged since the early 1970s. And related costs were soaring. A University of Pennsylvania study had just showed New York City was dropping a staggering $40,500 in annual costs on every homeless person with mental problems, who account for many of the chronically homeless. So that day, as officials spit-balled ideas, a social researcher named Sam Tsemberis stood to deliver what he framed as a surprisingly simple, cost-effective method of ending chronic homelessness.

Give homes to the homeless.

Tsemberis’ research, conducted here in the District and in New York City, showed this wouldn’t just dramatically cut the number of chronically homeless on the streets. It would also slash spending in the long run. In the audience sat a Utah businessman named Lloyd Pendleton. He had just taken over the Utah Housing Task Force after a successful run in business. He was intrigued. “He came over to me and he said, ‘I finally just heard something that make sense to me,’” recalled Tsemberis in an interview. “‘Would you be willing to come to Utah and work with us?’”

That conversation spawned what has been perhaps the nation’s most successful — and radical — program to end chronic homelessness. Now, more than a decade later, chronic homelessness in one of the nation’s most conservative states may soon end. And all of it is thanks to a program that at first seems stripped from the bleeding-heart manual. In 2005, Utah had nearly 1,932 chronically homeless. By 2014, that number had dropped 72 percent to 539. Today, explained Gordon Walker, the director of the state Housing and Community Development Division, the state is “approaching a functional zero.” Next week, he said, they’re set to announce what he called “exciting news” that would guarantee an “even bigger headline,” but declined to elaborate further.

The chronic homeless rate in Utah is nearing a “functional zero.” (Courtesy of the Utah Homeless Task Force.)

How Utah accomplished this didn’t require complex theorems or statistical models. But it did require the suspension of what had been conventional wisdom. For years, the thought of simply giving the homeless homes seemed absurd, constituting the height of government waste. Many chronically homeless, after all, are victims of severe trauma and significant mental health and addiction issues. Many more have spent thousands of nights on the streets and are no longer familiar with home-living. Who, in their right mind, would willingly give such folk brand new houses without any proof of marked improvement?

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Historian Says Don’t ‘Sanitize’ How Our Government Created Ghettos – MAY 14, 2015 3:16 PM ET

A helicopter flies over a section of Baltimore affected by riots. Richard Rothstein writes that recent unrest in Baltimore is the legacy of a century of federal, state and local policies designed to "quarantine Baltimore's black population in isolated slums."

A helicopter flies over a section of Baltimore affected by riots. Richard Rothstein writes that recent unrest in Baltimore is the legacy of a century of federal, state and local policies designed to “quarantine Baltimore’s black population in isolated slums.”

Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Related NPR Stories

Fifty years after the repeal of Jim Crow, many African-Americans still live in segregated ghettos in the country’s metropolitan areas. Richard Rothstein, a research associate at the Economic Policy Institute, has spent years studying the history of residential segregation in America.

“We have a myth today that the ghettos in metropolitan areas around the country are what the Supreme Court calls ‘de-facto’ — just the accident of the fact that people have not enough income to move into middle class neighborhoods or because real estate agents steered black and white families to different neighborhoods or because there was white flight,” Rothstein tells Fresh Air’s Terry Gross.

“It was not the unintended effect of benign policies,” he says. “It was an explicit, racially purposeful policy that was pursued at all levels of government, and that’s the reason we have these ghettos today and we are reaping the fruits of those policies.”

Interview Highlights

On using the word “ghetto”

One of the ways in which we forget our history is by sanitizing our language and pretending that these problems don’t exist. We have always recognized that these were “ghettos.” A ghetto is, as I define it, a neighborhood which is homogeneous and from which there are serious barriers to exit. That’s the technical definition of a ghetto.

Robert Weaver, the first African-American member of the Cabinet appointed by President Johnson as his secretary of Housing and Urban Development, described many of the policies that I’ve described today in a book he published in 1948 called The Negro Ghetto.

The Kerner Commission referred to the ghetto.

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California cities fight homeless rights bill – by Renee Lewis April 7, 2015 5:00AM ET

An influential league of California cities is opposing a bill that would allow people to rest in public areas — a position that homeless activists argue is consistent with the group’s history of supporting abuses against marginalized groups.

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The Right to Rest bill, which moves to a state Senate hearing on April 7, would allow homeless individuals to sit, stand, eat or rest without it being a criminal offense.

Municipal laws in California targeting these behaviors have skyrocketed in past years, a recent report showed, with researchers identifying over 500 restrictions in California municipalities — nearly nine laws per city, on average.

The League of California Cities, an association of California city officials that work to influence policy decisions, drafted a petition last week against the bill, arguing that it doesn’t provide a solution to homelessness and would “undermine the ability of all others to access clean and non-threatening public spaces.”

For rights advocates, that’s tantamount to calling the homeless dirty and threatening.

The League “hides or puts a veil over the race and class issues that are really behind this … but it always seeps through,” said Paul Boden, executive director of the Western Regional Advocacy Project (WRAP).

“Bottom line,” Boden said, the League is saying, “‘We don’t want to see these people, and we want to preserve our authority to pass and enforce these laws, so if too many come around to make us uncomfortable, we can use these laws to get rid of them.’”

The homeless are not the first marginalized group targeted by the League in its over 100-year history, according to documents provided by the Western Center on Law and Poverty (WCLP), an organization that works on the behalf of low-income Californians.

Past League targets for the removal from public space or even entire municipalities include Chinese, Japanese and African Americans, as well as “any person who is diseased, maimed, mutilated, or in any way deformed so as to be an unsightly or disgusting object,” according to the documents.

To counteract the League of California Cities’ opposition to the bill, WRAP, WCLP and other social justice groups sent a letter to Jim Beall, chairman of the California Transportation and Housing Committee, who will oversee this week’s hearing on the bill. In it, the advocacy groups placed the group’s resistance to the Right to Rest bill into a long history of antipathy toward the downtrodden.

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