Witnesses to Hunger (and Poverty) on the Hill Greg Kaufmann on November 19, 2013 – 9:21 AM ET


SNAP meeting

Nia Timmons and Anisa Davis meet with staffers for Congressman Robert Andrews (credit: Victoria Egan).Nia Timmons was stressed.

A mother of three, she works full-time as an assistant teacher at a pre-K program in Camden, New Jersey where she earns $12 per hour. By the second week of November, she still hadn’t received her family’s food stamp (SNAP) benefits and she didn’t know why. She thought it might be due to the SNAP cut on November 1 that hit 48 million people, including 22 million children, but she couldn’t get any answers from the Camden Board of Social Services.

“I’ve not heard from anyone there, and I can’t reach anyone either,” said Timmons.

She told me her story in a coffee shop in the basement of the Russell Senate Office Building last week. She had traveled to Capitol Hill along with four of her “Witnesses to Hunger sisters” from Camden, Philadelphia and Boston to speak with Members of Congress about the impact their policy decisions are having on people who live in poverty. Witnesses to Hunger is a project of the Center for Hunger-Free Communities at the Drexel University School of Public Health. Participants are mothers and caregivers of young children who use photography and testimonials to document their experiences and advocate for change at the local, state, and federal levels. There are more than eighty Witnesses in various cities on the East Coast.

Timmons and Anisa Davis—also from Camden—shared their experiences with staffers for their representatives, Democratic Senator Robert Menendez and Democratic Congressman Robert Andrews. The other Witnesses met with legislative aides for their respective Senators and Representatives too. They also stopped by the offices of Republicans on the Farm Bill conference committee, including House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas and Florida Congressman Steve Southerland. All of the Witnesses met directly with Democratic Congressmen Chaka Fattah of Pennsylvania and Jim McGovern of Massachusetts, and with Kellie Adesina, legislative director for Ohio Representative Marcia Fudge.

Article continues: http://www.thenation.com/blog/177246/witnesses-hunger-and-poverty-hill

Throwing away the key Nov 13th 2013, 19:40 by The Economist | ATLANTA


LANCE SALTZMAN did not like the way his stepfather, Toni Minnick, settled arguments with his mother, Christina Borg. Once Mr Minnick fired a gun into a wall beside her. A couple of weeks later, says Ms Borg, he threatened to shoot her. So Mr Saltzman went into his stepfather’s bedroom and took the gun. He sold it to a friend, who used it in a burglary. Mr Saltzman was charged with burglary, theft and being a felon in possession of a firearm—all for taking a gun from his own house—as well as with the burglary committed using the gun, in which he says he took no part. He was sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole. He was 22.

Mr Saltzman was mauled by a pit bull as a toddler and is “not altogether upstairs all the time”, says his mother. In his teens he got hooked on drugs and was convicted of marijuana possession, trespassing and petty theft. He was then jailed for a burglary he committed when he was 16, and this was his undoing.

He stole his stepfather’s gun within three years of his release; under a Florida mandatory-sentencing law for re-offenders, the judge had to lock him up for ever. Given Florida’s Stand Your Ground laws, Ms Borg believes that her son would probably be free if he had shot his menacing stepfather instead of stealing his gun.

Mr Saltzman is one of at least 3,278 people serving sentences of life without parole for non-violent crimes, according to a new report from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Around 79% of them were convicted of drug crimes. These include: having an unweighably small amount of cocaine in a shirt pocket, selling $10-worth of crack to a police informant and mailing small amounts of LSD to fellow Grateful Dead fans. Property crimes that earned offenders a permanent home in prison include shoplifting three belts, breaking into an empty liquor store and possessing stolen wrenches.

A hefty 83% of such sentences were mandatory. That is, a state or federal law barred the judge from exercising any discretion (or indeed, common sense). Some were triggered by “three-strikes” laws, which demand a severe penalty for a third crime, no matter how minor, if the defendant was previously convicted of two others. Sometimes, those previous convictions can be from the distant past. Sylvester Mead, for instance, earned life without parole for slurring drunken threats at a policeman while handcuffed in the back of a patrol car; he had convictions for battery and burglary six and 16 years previously. Mr Mead’s last crime, public intimidation, usually carries a sentence of no more than five years. The judge said it “does not warrant, under any conscionable or constitutional basis, a life sentence”, but explained: “I have no choice.”

Article continues: http://www.economist.com/blogs/democracyinamerica/2013/11/criminal-justice

Famed actress Hedy Lamarr helped invent wireless technology – By Eric Pfeiffer, Yahoo News November 28, 2011 9:56 AM


Richard Rhodes’ new biography details how actress Hedy Lamarr helped invest wireless technology

new biography from Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard Rhodes explains how former actress Hedy Lamarr, once considered “the most beautiful woman in the world,” was actually a prolific inventor, providing the U.S. Navy with the blueprints for the wireless technology behind cell phone networks and GPS.

Rhodes told NPR that Lamarr was bored by the Hollywood social scene and  had set up a drafting table in her house and launched a sideline as an inventor. When German submarines began attacking civilian passenger cruise liners, Lamarr and her co-inventor George Antheil, came up with the idea of “spread-spectrum radio” to remotely control torpedoes:

“She understood that the problem with radio signals was that they could be jammed. But if you could make the signal hop around more or less randomly from radio frequency to radio frequency, then the person at the other end trying to jam the signal won’t know where it is,” he says. “If they try to jam one particular frequency, it might hit that frequency on one of its hops, but it would only be there for a fraction of a second.”

Lamarr and Antheil received a patent for their idea in 1942 but the Navy was lukewarm to the idea, leaving it untouched for years. Rhodes says after the war, the Navy returned to the idea and “the whole system spread like wildfire.” And to this day, features of Lamarr’s original invention are still found in most wireless devices.

In the early 1990s, Lamarr finally received acknowledgement for her contribution from the communications industry, reportedly saying, “Well, it’s about time.” When she wasn’t planning the future of how nearly everyone on the planet now communications over the phone, Lamarr was coming up with other less-successful inventions, including a tablet that dissolved in water to create a soda similar to Coca-Cola.

Read more: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2013/11/18/131118fa_fact_keefe

Democrats Set to Rock Republicans By Pushing to Raise the Minimum Wage to $10.10 – By: Jason Easley Thursday, November, 7th, 2013, 10:43 am


raise-the-minimum-wage-walter-williams

Senate Democrats are meeting today and are preparing to drop a bomb on Republicans. They are going to push for raising the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour by 2015.

According to The Hill:

Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) is spearheading the push to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour but not all Democrats are yet on board.

Harkin said Wednesday he is not certain whether all 55 members of the Democratic caucus would back his proposal, which would also raise the minimum rate in jobs that rely on tips to 70 percent of the standard minimum wage.

“There are different views on proceeding to it, as an amendment, as a direct bill, how do you do it,” he said. “That’s what we’ve got to figure out.”

Harkin said one of the goals of the meeting is to find out how many fellow Democrats will back the bill.

“There are some who may want to add something to it, put something else on it, which other people would not want,” he said. “I think people deserve a clean-cut bill. Raise the minimum wage.”

The Harkin proposal would raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour through 3 annual ninety five cent an hour increases. This isn’t about passing a bill though the Senate. What Democrats are doing is laying the groundwork for a potent campaign issue in 2014 and 2016. Chris Christie marched to a big reelection, but he saw his opposition to increasing the minimum wage steamrolled by New Jersey voters who overwhelmingly voted to increase the minimum wage to $8.25 an hour.

Article continues: http://www.politicususa.com/2013/11/07/democrats-set-rock-republicans-pushing-raise-minimum-wage-10-10.html

Senate votes to ban discrimination against gay and transgender workers – By Ed O’Keefe, Published: November 7


Video: The Senate voted Thursday, 64-32, in favor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

The Senate passed a historic piece of gay rights legislation Thursday that would ban workplace discrimination against gay and transgender employees, another milestone victory for a gay rights movement that has been gaining favor in the courts and electoral politics.

The 64 to 32 vote to approve the Employment Non-Discrimination Act marked the first time federal lawmakers had approved legislation to advance gay rights since repealing the military’s ban on gay men and lesbians in uniform in late 2010. Approval of the measure came two days after Illinois became the 15th state to legalize same-sex marriage and four months after the U.S. Supreme Court sanctioned federal recognition of legally married gay couples.

Video

The Senate this week will debate the first major gay rights legislation since Congress voted to repeal the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” in late 2010. Congressional reporter Ed O'Keefe tells us what to watch for in the discussion surrounding the Employee Non-Discrimination Act.

The Senate this week will debate the first major gay rights legislation since Congress voted to repeal the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” in late 2010. Congressional reporter Ed O’Keefe tells us what to watch for in the discussion surrounding the Employee Non-Discrimination Act.

“This is a really tremendous milestone, a day I will never forget,” said Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), the first openly lesbian senator.

President Obama praised supportive senators and called on House Republicans to quickly permit a vote.

“One party in one house of Congress should not stand in the way of millions of Americans who want to go to work each day and simply be judged by the job they do,” Obama said in a statement. “Now is the time to end this kind of discrimination in the workplace, not enable it.”

But ENDA faces a steep uphill climb in a GOP-controlled House still dominated by social conservatives. House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) and his lieutenants think the measure is too broad and is unnecessary; they think that the people ENDA is intended to protect are already covered under existing federal, state and private workplace protection laws.

Article continues: http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/senate-set-to-approve-gay-rights-bill/2013/11/07/05717e4a-47c1-11e3-a196-3544a03c2351_story.html?hpid=z4