Is America Turning Into a Soviet-Style One-Party State?

Newsweek

Is America Turning Into a Soviet-Style One-Party State?

Noah B. Lindell, Newsweek        August 24, 2017 

We are a polarized nation. Every day, every tweet, every new poll result brings more evidence of this fact.

A recent article in the New Yorker even asked whether we are headed for “a second civil war.”

Though another Fort Sumter isn’t likely in the cards, polarization is leeching the life from our democracy. And nowhere is this clearer than in the steady rise of uncontested elections across the country.

In Georgia last November, five of fourteen U.S. House races––and a whopping 81 percent of state legislative races––had only one candidate. The numbers in Massachusetts were not much better: four of nine congressional candidates, and more than three-quarters of state legislative candidates, ran without opposition from the other party.

Over 42 percent of the state legislative seats up for election last year had no major-party competition.

Uncontested races have been on the rise since the 1970s. But the problem has begun to accelerate lately, particularly in state house races. The numbers are even worse in local elections, where candidate name recognition is lower, fewer people vote, and challengers have higher barriers to entry.

All of these uncontested races lead to unaccountable elected officials. It becomes impossible to know if candidates won because the voters like them and their policy views or merely because potential opponents didn’t want to run.

https://s.yimg.com/lo/api/res/1.2/MNzz9Pe.FhSnVvLpc8C80A--/YXBwaWQ9eW15O3c9NjQwO3E9NzU7c209MQ--/http://media.zenfs.com/en-GB/homerun/newsweek_europe_news_328/d30ad4362db0d679447ead8e1e91b837Voters at the Brooklyn Museum polling station in the Brooklyn borough of New York City on November 8, 2016. ANGELA WEISS/AFP/Getty

In a number of states, the situation is even worse: unopposed candidates are simply “declared elected” without appearing on the ballot. These states take away people’s very right to vote in uncontested races.

American voters are not simply accepting their lack of options. They have registered their dissent the only way they can: by not voting.

The evidence shows that 13-17 percent more voters cast blank ballots in uncontested races than in contested ones. Sometimes the numbers are much higher. When Jeff Sessions ran unopposed for U.S. Senate in 2014, for instance, 360,000 Alabama voters (or 31 percent) voted for governor but refused to vote for Sessions.

How did we get to this point? There are several factors.

One is partisan gerrymandering, which packs people into districts where the minority party has little chance of winning. With the most recent round of redistricting, the number of uncontested races jumped. On average, 42 percent of state legislators saw no major-party competition from 2012 to 2016—ten points higher than in 2010.

Another factor is our campaign finance system, which favors big donors. Among incumbents’ many advantages is their control over government functions, which attracts large donors who hope to influence them. Without a competing source of funds, potential challengers will not spend months campaigning—especially in lopsided jurisdictions where they do not think they will win.

It is also true that people are sorting themselves into like-minded communities, which contributes to polarization. But self-sorting cannot explain all—or even most—of the recent increase in uncontested races. After all, there was no mass migration between 2010 and 2012 that can account for the sudden surge in unopposed candidacies after the last redistricting.

Natural partisan sorting also cannot explain why so few primary elections are uncontested. In Georgia and Massachusetts, a full 57 percent of state legislative candidates lacked both primary and general election opponents last year.

Nationwide, nearly four out of five incumbents face no primary opposition. It is the structure of our democracy, not the structure of our communities, that is at fault.

Gerrymandering and the campaign finance system are formidable foes. But tackling these problems will not only reduce uncontested races; it will also fix numerous other ills that plague our democracy.

Ending extreme partisan gerrymandering would give people the government they actually voted for, not the one that their legislature picked for them. This could help reverse the trend of uncontested races, but it would also create legislatures that are ideologically closer to the people they serve.

The Supreme Court will hear a watershed case in the next term that could curb the practice of partisan gerrymandering nationwide. Regardless of how the Court rules, however, people can push their state legislators or sponsor initiatives to create nonpartisan, independent redistricting commissions.

We should also consider adopting public financing for all of our campaigns, as most other industrialized nations do. Public financing programs, especially those that provide the full average cost of running a state legislative race, encourage people to contest otherwise uncontested races. They also take on corruption, and can shift power from the wealthy donor class to the average American.

Unless we do something about the toxic combination of uncontested races, partisan gerrymandering, and our campaign finance system, our own election process will push us ever further apart.

Rather than weaponizing our own democracy against ourselves, America should strive together for a less polarized society.

Noah B. Lindell, legal fellow at Campaign Legal Center, has litigated over a dozen election law cases, and has briefed numerous election law cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and the U.S. Courts of Appeals. He is the author of One Person, No Votes: Unopposed Candidate Statutes and the State of Election Law, forthcoming in the Wisconsin Law Review, and Williams-Yulee and the Anomaly of Campaign Finance Law, published in the Yale Law Journal.

When a photo at the top of the news screams with meaning

Chicago Sun-Times

EDITORIAL: When a photo at the top of the news screams with meaning

Sun-Times Editorial Board      August 22, 2017

https://suntimesmedia.files.wordpress.com/2017/08/23.jpg?w=637&zoom=2Hammond Police say these two suspects committed three armed robberies Friday morning, and may have pulled a fourth a short time later in East Chicago. | Hammond Police

What do you see?

All day on Tuesday, a report about two young men suspected of committing three armed robberies in Hammond in less than an hour drew more online readers than any other Sun-Times news story.

You can bet it wasn’t the words that pulled readers in. The news was breaking and details were sketchy.

It was the photo that mattered. It screamed with meaning.

In that photograph, taken by a surveillance camera, here’s what we see:

We see two young men, probably only teenagers, who should be getting ready for school in the fall or working jobs. They are running down a sidewalk in broad daylight with guns, and we wonder where they got the guns. We know it’s easy enough.

We wonder who the young men are pointing their guns at, and we admit we’re grateful it is not us. We wonder if they are running through a neighborhood where people are afraid to step outdoors because of people like them.

We see how one young man grips his gun with two hands, like he’s done this before. Or did he learn it from watching TV? Guns are everywhere on TV. Was he younger when he first held a gun? Did it feel heavier then?

We notice how the other young man keeps his right hand in his pocket. Even as he aims his gun, he projects an unsettling casualness. We wonder how somebody so young can be so apparently disengaged.

We see the hoodies and the clean white gym shoes and the neat haircuts. Take away the guns, and the two young men look like every good kid we have ever known. We can’t pretend they are made of entirely different clay. Too easy.

We see they are African-Americans, and this matters greatly. It is a heavy burden, now as always, to grow up a black man in America. If the gangs and drugs don’t get you, the racist stereotyping might. How can anybody claim otherwise less than two weeks after hundreds of white supremacists marched in Charlottesville, Virginia? And after the president of the United States failed to condemn the racists properly?

At what age does a young black child look in the mirror and begin to believe the lies might be true?

We study this photograph and we want to say this:

Young men with guns are the problem, not young black men with guns. Young people of any color who grow up in poor and dangerous neighborhoods, who are left by adults to run the streets, who go to bad schools, who can’t find work, who begin to wonder if they stand a chance, who come to believe they have no future — that’s the problem.

We know nothing specific about the two young men in the photo, not even their names. But whatever their full stories might be — whatever bad breaks they may have caught — they must be taken off the street. People who rob other people at gunpoint can’t walk free.

But we look at this photograph, and we wonder how it ever got to this. Why do we bicker over essential school funding? Why does our nation spend so much on the military and so little on jobs programs? Why do so many politicians favor a tax cut for the rich but oppose a living wage for working people?

The photograph is a Rorschach test. What do you see?

Send letters to: letters@suntimes.com.

The Opioid Epidemic’s Biggest Culprit Isn’t Heroin Anymore — It’s Something Deadlier

PopSugar

What Is Fentanyl?

The Opioid Epidemic’s Biggest Culprit Isn’t Heroin Anymore — It’s Something Deadlier

Stephanie Haney         August 22, 2017

https://media1.popsugar-assets.com/files/thumbor/Qj6ZdogaxsRGQQscwQ9lf7DSkJQ/fit-in/2048xorig/filters:format_auto-!!-:strip_icc-!!-/2017/08/20/169/n/43908841/tmp_ghhqdv_897a1e66ddda8df9_Jessica1.jpgPart of a series of images Jessica* created with photographer John Trew to portray the emotions associated with addiction. Photo courtesy of John Trew.

Andrew, an HVAC engineer, looks better than your average 37-year-old, college-educated man from Canton, OH. Clean-shaven, wearing a fitted maroon polo shirt and black dress pants. Athletic. Energetic. Flirtatious.

He sits on the patio of a local restaurant, sipping his cocktail, skimming the menu at the kind of place you take your kids to after soccer practice.

“Yesterday I had one glass of wine, today I had two. Tomorrow, I don’t know,” Andrew says, both hands cupped around a sweaty vodka-soda with lime. “But it’s not heroin.”

But it wasn’t heroin two weeks earlier, either, when the husband and father of three woke up on the floor of his sober-living house to six men shaking him. They told him it took two doses of Narcan, an opioid blocker, to revive him after he overdosed on carfentanil for the sixth time this year.

It wasn’t heroin, because if you ask drug users, people in recovery, medical personnel, and law enforcement, they’ll tell you that drug has all but dried up in the state of Ohio, a state leading the country in fatal opioid overdoses, according to the Center For Disease Control.

If it were heroin, it would’ve been made from morphine, which is derived from naturally occurring opium.

https://media1.popsugar-assets.com/files/thumbor/BbvW1E7FFoh8RQeqSAWdpxX3dp8/fit-in/2048xorig/filters:format_auto-!!-:strip_icc-!!-/2017/08/20/165/n/43908841/tmp_tuJVD9_142166ff08955b64_Andrew1.jpgAndrew, 37, looks out from the patio at a restaurant in Canton, OH, on Aug. 18. Photo courtesy Stephanie Haney.

Carfentanil — a synthetic form of fentanyl — is generally used to sedate very large animals, like elephants, and it’s 10,000 times stronger than morphine. It’s the new drug of choice for those manufacturing and selling illicit drugs in the Buckeye State, which was home to a record-setting 4,149 accidental deaths due to fatal overdoses in 2016.

Fentanyl itself is another popular option. The drug is “50 to 100 times more potent” than morphine, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Oftentimes, drug users don’t realize they aren’t getting quite what they bargained for until it’s too late.

Andrew noticed the switch about six months ago, when he started “falling out” — or losing consciousness — after doses he had previously considered normal.

“I was shooting up all day, every day,” he said, as he stretched out his arms to show dark bruises where his veins had collapsed under his skin. And then finally, one day, he overdosed.

The casual observer probably would never know that Andrew was battling opioid addiction at this very moment, but the crisis that’s hit America hard doesn’t discriminate.

Drug overdose deaths have now become the leading cause of accidental deaths in the US with 52,404 fatalities in 2015, according to the American Society of Addiction Medicine; 33,091 of those deaths, which equates to more than six out of 10, involved an opioid.

And it’s getting worse. While official numbers aren’t in yet, a New York Times preliminary report has the total number of drug overdose deaths for 2016 at more than 59,000, which it described as “the largest annual jump ever recorded in the United States.”

Addiction started for Andrew in 2009, when he started taking his mother’s oxycodone, which she had been prescribed after a medical procedure — he says because he “didn’t want her taking all of that.” He also had a longstanding Adderall prescription added to the mix.

His opioid and Adderall abuse went undetected by his wife until the Summer of 2016, when she noticed he was running out of the ADHD drug before the end of the month. After she made a call to his doctor, his prescription was revoked, and Andrew turned to cocaine. The way he tells it, his wife got fed up, took their kids, and left him, and one week later, he was shooting up heroin.

What Can We Do to Stop the Epidemic?

It’s not that uncommon of a story, and it can happen to anybody. President Donald Trump addressed that issue in his press briefing from New Jersey on Aug. 8.

“Nobody is safe from this epidemic that threatens young and old, rich and poor, urban and rural communities,” he said. “Everybody is threatened.”

But what’s debatable is Trump’s view that amping up incarceration is the answer to the problem. In the same briefing, he pledged to increase federal drug prosecutions and implied he’d fight to lengthen sentences for convicted federal drug offenders. This is in stark contrast to the Obama administration approach to dealing with drug users.

Two days later, Trump told reporters in New Jersey, “The opioid crisis is an emergency, and I’m saying officially, right now, it is an emergency. We’re going to draw it up and we’re going to make it a national emergency. It is a serious problem, the likes of which we have never had.”

What methods the Trump administration will ultimately employ to combat the epidemic aren’t exactly certain at this time.

What we do know is that his comments about “upping federal prosecutions” were made despite a preliminary report issued on July 31 by his Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis. The report almost exclusively recommended addressing shortcomings in access to treatment for addicts, along with prescription drug reform and stopping the influx of synthetic opioids (like fentanyl and carfentanil) from other countries, like China.

That approach is more in line with what people who are living in the throes of the epidemic think would be helpful.

Incarceration Doesn’t Work For Everyone

One of those people is Tugg Massa, 42, from Akron, OH. He’s a recovering addict and founder of Akron Say No to Dope, a nonprofit organization that serves Summit County, where as many as 250 people died last year from drug overdoses. Those deaths were largely attributed to the introduction of carfentanil in the area in June and July of 2016, according to Ohio.com.

Both fentanyl and carfentanil are a whole lot cheaper on the street than morphine and heroin, he explained, which is why they’re being cut with anything and everything people use to get high — usually unbeknownst to the drug user.

“It’s not like it was when I was growing up,” Tugg said. “Not to glorify drug use of any kind, but it’s a lot more dangerous now. It’s not heroin. Heroin won’t even get the people out there using drugs high anymore because this fentanyl and carfentanil are so strong.”

He knows what he’s talking about, as someone who used drugs for 27 years. Tugg’s been sober since Oct. 10, 2012, the day he was arrested for illegal manufacturing of methamphetamines.

https://media1.popsugar-assets.com/files/thumbor/Ynr7yVHdIZ7iIKuc4WoZY3TCmnc/fit-in/2048xorig/filters:format_auto-!!-:strip_icc-!!-/2017/08/20/171/n/43908841/tmp_wLah64_e0a9bf31fee81da0_TuggMassa_2.JPGTugg Massa, 42, checks the call log for Akron Say No to Dope’s 24/7 helpline from his organization’s thrift store and boutique in Akron, OH, on Aug. 14. Photo courtesy Stephanie Haney.

When Tugg got caught, he was making meth to support his own opioid habit. He spent two years in prison for that charge, where, despite his surroundings, he got clean and earned his GED.

“It was difficult,” he said of his time there. “There’s a lot of drugs in prison. I had a drug dealer on one side of my cell and a drug dealer in the other cell next to me.”

Although he successfully overcame his addiction while incarcerated, he feels strongly that being locked up is not for everyone. Instead, Tugg is a major advocate for drug court, where people get the option of undergoing treatment in lieu of conviction. That means if they make it through a 12-month program, their convictions are dropped.

Treatment Is Crucial — When the Timing Is Right

Sheriff Steve Leahy of Clermont County, OH, generally agrees with Tugg about the need for more access to treatment, but also says it needs to be worked hand in hand with the judicial system.

“You can’t throw everybody’s ass in jail,” he said. “But what you also can’t do is hug your way out of it.”

Sheriff Leahy speaks from experience as both a member of law enforcement and someone who has witnessed firsthand a loved one’s battle against opioid addiction. His ex-wife’s struggles gave him valuable insight into what might work in his community.

He points out that some people simply aren’t responsive to treatment, possibly because they’re not ready for it at that point in their addiction.

“I think there are just some people who do need to be in jail or incarcerated. Maybe because they’re selling as a pusher or they are committing crimes and burglaries and other felonies,” he said. “You have to protect the community at large. Also, with the same breath, sometimes the only way to protect an individual from themselves is by having them locked up until you can get them to a point of treatment.”

https://media1.popsugar-assets.com/files/thumbor/2LT1_0KGCC_6LUv1BPWXwH7KrpY/fit-in/2048xorig/filters:format_auto-!!-:strip_icc-!!-/2017/08/20/173/n/43908841/tmp_LQ9f1u_09b5bbcbc73090e4_Jessica4.jpgPart of a series of images Jessica* created with photographer John Trew to portray the emotions associated with addiction. Photo courtesy of John Trew.

Whatever they’re doing in Clermont County seems to be working. The death toll skyrocketed to 94 in 2015, placing Clermont at the top of the state for accidental overdose deaths, according to Leeann Watson, associate director of Clermont County’s Mental Health Recovery Board. That figure was up from 68 in 2014 and 56 in 2013, Watson said, who is also co-chair of the opiate task force. But in 2016, the number dropped slightly to 82 deaths.

One tool that Leahy believes in is his county’s community alternative sentencing program, which people can choose to participate in while they are incarcerated.

The program is administered in a wing of the county jail dedicated exclusively to those who have volunteered for treatment. It’s an opportunity for convicted drug offenders who are ready to tackle sobriety to make the best use of their time.

“You have to have the buy-in of the court system, which includes the probation department and other mental health and addiction specialists,” Leahy said. “It’s kind of a multi-pronged attack.”

Court Programs Can’t Help When Drugs Don’t Show Up on Tests

Andrew, who was placed on probation in January after officers found a needle in his car when he got pulled over for speeding, hasn’t had to face a choice like those convicted in Sheriff Leahy’s jurisdiction yet.

Not after trying out replacement drug therapy with Suboxone and methadone; not after attending treatment facilities in both Mexico and Florida; not after witnessing two people die from opioid overdoses in his own home on two separate occasions. And not even after his own latest overdose.

When his sober-living housemates revived him just two weeks ago, the police were called and he was taken to the hospital.

If he had tested positive for drugs at the hospital, he would’ve been kicked out of the sober-living house and sent to jail for violating probation.

The crazy thing is, his drug test came back negative.

“I’ve been given a lot of grace,” he says.

“Grace” for Andrew, this time, came in the form of a standard urine test that didn’t detect the particular concoction of street opioids that shut his system down.

Yes, you read that right. The standard drug tests administered at many hospitals that treat overdose victims don’t pick up carfentanil and the street versions of fentanyl that are killing people in record numbers.

https://media1.popsugar-assets.com/files/thumbor/58m58-6sY2z4WAcaOiynX5lYgqg/fit-in/2048xorig/filters:format_auto-!!-:strip_icc-!!-/2017/08/20/174/n/43908841/tmp_pQcwOi_c6ff6a6847a67aff_Andrew2.JPGEven after six near-death experiences and witnessing two fatal overdoses in his own home from opioid use in the past year, Andrew says he still can’t promise he won’t ever use opioids again. Photo courtesy Stephanie Haney.

“You have to know what you’re looking for,” said Dr. Barry Sample, senior director of Science and Technology at Quest Diagnostics.

Dr. Allison Chambliss, assistant professor of Clinical Pathology at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, elaborated, “Fentanyl and carfentanil are structurally distinct from the other major opioids, and so do not get detected up by the routine urine opioid drug screens out there that are designed to pick up morphine, codeine, and heroin.”

Even if you might have an idea what you’re looking for, oftentimes the proper tests simply aren’t run — either because they’re too expensive or the facility where the victim is being treated doesn’t have the proper equipment.

Usually it’s only large reference and specialty toxicology labs that have the tools required to carry out these kinds of tests, even though they could be run on urine or blood samples, just like more general opioid tests, Chambliss said.

In Andrew’s case, the standard test was apparently run, and it came back negative for opioids. He was released from the hospital and was able to go back to the sober-living facility with no probation violation recorded.

Even after that close of a call, where he narrowly escaped losing his liberty — and his life — he admits, “I still can’t promise I’ll never use opioids again. It’s too good.”

“Ready” and “Rock Bottom” Look Different For Everyone

Tugg pointed out that in his ministry of recovering addicts, “They have to come to me. I can’t go chasing people down.”

He shared Sheriff Leahy’s sentiment that drug users have to be ready on their own, which many addicts describe as their “rock bottom” moment. For him, it was a letter from his daughter while he was in prison, asking him, “Who do you think you are?”

https://media1.popsugar-assets.com/files/thumbor/-YujbBb-5jhFxQX6C3f7M5w6gs0/fit-in/2048xorig/filters:format_auto-!!-:strip_icc-!!-/2017/08/20/176/n/43908841/tmp_k8N1Ns_ca4508f9568c656a_Jessica3.jpgPart of a series of images Jessica* created with photographer John Trew to portray the emotions associated with addiction. Photo courtesy of John Trew.

Rock bottom for *Jessica, 26, from Los Angeles looked very different.

Having used drugs since the age of 13, Jessica became addicted to opioids at 16 after trading away cocaine for “tar” and not realizing that it was, in fact, heroin.

At one of her worst moments, she was homeless, on the street, doing whatever was necessary to score drugs. At another, an obsessed partner held her against her will for half a year.

Jessica says her captor forbid her from speaking to anyone else, eating, showering, or even using the bathroom outside of his presence. She finally convinced this man that her going to treatment would be better for their relationship, which is how she escaped that situation.

“When I got to treatment, I had to learn how to form sentences again. I couldn’t speak. I didn’t know how to raise my head and look somebody in the eye,” she said. “Even just eating was a big thing. I didn’t know how to do that anymore. I had to learn how to stop asking permission for things, which was really hard. That’s something that I still struggle with today.”

But even being held against her will wasn’t what brought her to the realization that she needed to get clean.

Her epiphany came in 2012 at the age of 21, when she had “everything” in every materialistic sense of the word. She was living with a wealthy man — who supported her $400-a-day heroin habit — in a beautiful home in Southern California. She said it was hitting an emotional bottom that finally did her drug use in over a period of four months when she was trying to overdose every single day.

“It was a feeling of desperation that was something I hadn’t felt before,” she said. “That true desperation of, ‘I have everything in the world, but I am nothing,’ that’s what was different this time than all the other times. I finally realized that I as a person had no self-worth.”

“I would be looking in the mirror at myself, because I was an IV user, and I would shoot in my neck, so I would have to be in front of a mirror. I’d be standing in front of a mirror, looking myself in the eyes as I’m injecting my neck with heroin trying to die,” she said. “Praying that you don’t wake up this time, that is the scariest feeling in the whole world,” she said.

Today, she’s five years sober and has been working for the last two and half years at a sober treatment facility in Texas, which she credits with helping to maintain her sobriety.

The Street View of How to Fight the Opioid Crisis

https://media1.popsugar-assets.com/files/thumbor/I_aSDoKKji-EAE9WwAJG2POgO1E/fit-in/2048xorig/filters:format_auto-!!-:strip_icc-!!-/2017/08/20/178/n/43908841/tmp_N7TDyF_612b794489d2ab96_TuggMass_ThriftStoreBetter.jpgSigns advertise free Narcan class outside New Beginnings, the thrift store and boutique Tugg runs in Akron, OH, in support of Akron Say No to Dope. Photo courtesy Stephanie Haney.

It’s unclear exactly what will happen to the wide-scale handling of this epidemic nationwide, if and when the opioid crisis is officially declared a national emergency, but Jessica and the other people we interviewed for this story have a wish list.

Sheriff Leahy, Jessica, and Tugg all agree that more in-house treatment facilities are crucial in this fight.

“When someone is ready to get off of drugs, we need to address that right then,” Tugg said. “We need more beds. No wait time.”

Jessica noted that in addition to more beds, facilities need more time.

“Long-term treatment is what’s working. The 30 day treatment centers are not long enough. You can’t work through all the trauma that you’ve caused to yourself as an addict. Your first week, you’re detoxing. Your second, third week, you might be going to groups and start having emotions again, and your fourth and fifth week, you’re planning your discharge already. So you’ve really only gotten a week of actual treatment,” she said.

“Starting to form new habits takes a long time. You can’t learn that in 30 days, which is why I stayed in treatment for a year and a half,” Jessica said. “A lot of treatment centers are only 30 days, which is why they’re always full because people, they’ll go in, 30 days, get out, relapse, and go back in. The long-term places are getting people and holding them and really turning them back out to be productive members of society.”

From a law enforcement perspective, Leahy would also like to see funds available for “one or two more” directed patrol officers, meaning members of law enforcement that are assigned a specific task for a particular purpose. In his community, that purpose would be to have more of a presence to help stop the flow of drugs across jurisdictional lines.

“And maybe a reinstitution of D.A.R.E. or something similar to that,” Leahy said. “We can do whatever we’re doing now, but we’ve got to get to the young people.”

At the federal level, Trump alluded to the fact that he’s talking with China about “certain forms of man-made drugs that come in” during his press briefing.

That prospect got Tugg excited.

“We need to put sanctions on China. If they’re not going to regulate what they’re sending over here, then there should be sanctions against them,” he said. “The fentanyl and carfentanil that’s going around, they can get it right through the mail from China and get it dropped off right at their house.”

Andrew says he got his last batch of opioids from his housemate, who is connected with one of the major drug cartels in Mexico. He won’t say how it arrived in Ohio.

We asked what advice he would give — after everything he’s experienced — to someone who was considering trying opioids for the first time today.

“I would say, ‘Pull out your phone and look up epitaph, because you’re gonna want to know what that word means,'” he says. “And then tell everyone you love that you love them. And then flip a quarter. Because there’s a 50/50 chance you’re gonna die.”

*Names have been changed to protect the identities of these sources.

If you or someone you know is in need of drug-related treatment or counseling, you can reach the Substance and Abuse Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) on its Treatment Referral Routing Service helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

SAMHSA’s National Helpline is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.

If you’re in the Summit County, OH, area, you can call Akron Say No to Dope’s 24/7 hotline at 855-246-LIVE (5483).

Agriculture a culprit in global warming, says U.S. research

Thomson Reuters Foundation

Agriculture a culprit in global warming, says U.S. research

by Ellen Wulfhorst Thomson Reuters Foundation    August 22, 2017

https://d2sh4fq2xsdeg9.cloudfront.net/contentAsset/image/1df1cc5f-9141-4d53-bcef-dc05ecc9f162/image/byInode/1/filter/Resize,Jpeg/jpeg_q/70/resize_w/1230

While soil absorbs carbon in organic matter from plants and trees as they decompose, agriculture has helped deplete that carbon accumulation in the ground

NEW YORK, Aug 22 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Agriculture has contributed nearly as much to climate change as deforestation by intensifying global warming, according to U.S. research that has quantified the amount of carbon taken from the soil by farming.

Some 133 billion tons of carbon have been removed from the top two meters of the earth’s soil over the last two centuries by agriculture at a rate that is increasing, said the study in PNAS, a journal published by the National Academy of Sciences.

Global warming is largely due to the accumulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from such activities as burning fossil fuels and cutting down trees that otherwise would absorb greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide.

But this research showed the significance of agriculture as a contributing factor as well, said Jonathan Sanderman, a soil scientist at the Woods Hole Research Center in Falmouth, Massachusetts and one of the authors of the research.

While soil absorbs carbon in organic matter from plants and trees as they decompose, agriculture has helped deplete that carbon accumulation in the ground, he said.

Widespread harvesting removes carbon from the soil as do tilling methods that can accelerate erosion and decomposition.

“It’s alarming how much carbon has been lost from the soil,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “Small changes to the amount of carbon in the soil can have really big consequences for how much carbon is accumulating in the atmosphere.”

Sanderman said the research marked the first time the amount of carbon pulled out of the soil has been spatially quantified.

The 133 billion tons of carbon lost from soil compares to about 140 billion tons lost due to deforestation, he said, mostly since the mid-1800s and the Industrial Revolution.

But the findings show potential for the earth’s soil to mitigate global warming by absorbing more carbon through such practices as better land stewardship, more extensive ground cover to minimize erosion, better diversity of crop rotation and no-till farming, he said.

The world’s nations agreed in Paris in 2015 to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases generated by burning fossil fuels that are blamed by scientists for warming the planet.

President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the landmark Paris accord in May, saying it would undermine the U.S. economy and weaken national sovereignty.

Supporters of the accord, including some leading U.S. business figures, said Trump’s move was a blow to international efforts to tackle global warming that would isolate the United States.

Reporting by Ellen Wulfhorst, editing by Belinda Goldsmith; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org

Will Trump Resign? Odds of Trump Quitting Before Impeachment Reach New High

Newsweek Politics

Will Trump Resign? Odds of Trump Quitting Before Impeachment Reach New High

Jason Le Miere, Newsweek        August 21, 2017

Will President Donald Trump jump before he can be pushed? That was the view put forward by Trump’s former ghostwriter last week, after one of the president’s worst weeks on the job. Those looking to make some money off the White House turbulence increasingly agree. The odds of Trump resigning from presidency are shorter than ever.

According to Irish bookmaker Paddy Power, large sums have begun to be placed on Trump calling it quits, taking the odds into evens, the equivalent of 50 percent. While still not as strong as the odds on Trump being impeached, which currently stand at 4/6, or 60 percent, it still represents a significant shift. A similar move was also witnessed at leading British bookmaker Ladbrokes, which took its odds in from 11/10 to evens.

Republicans control both houses of Congress, meaning there is almost no real threat of immediate impeachment. However, in the wake of Trump’s Charlottesville, Virginia, remarks, leading Republicans have begun to speak of the president in more critical terms than at any point since he entered the White House.

The move in the odds occurred after a week of controversy for Trump, beginning with his much-criticized comments about violence in Charlottesville, in which he equated the actions of white nationalists and neo-Nazis to those protesting them. One of the counter-protesters, Heather Heyer, was killed when a car, allegedly driven by one of the marchers at the rally, drove into a crowd.

As the week progressed, multiple business advisory panels had to be shut down after corporate leaders decided they no longer wanted to be associated with a president accused of defending neo-Nazis. The week ended with Trump’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon, losing his job.

Amid the controversies, former Vice President Al Gore called on Trump to resign. Meanwhile, Tony Schwartz, who helped Trump write the 1987 book The Art of the Deal, said he “would be amazed if [Trump] survives till end of the year.”

He added: “Trump is going to resign and declare victory before Mueller and Congress leave him no choice.”

https://www.yahoo.com/sy/ny/api/res/1.2/YiZeHfXpm0w8PSchzvbRFQ--/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjtzbT0xO3c9ODAw/http://media.zenfs.com/en-GB/homerun/newsweek_europe_news_328/b3ac97fe767692e385ceae1fe06d5c22President Donald Trump on the South Lawn of the White House upon his return to Washington, D.C. on August 20, after a vacation in Bedminster, New Jersey. Yuri Gripas/Reuters

Special Counsel Robert Mueller is currently leading an investigation into possible links between the Trump campaign and Russia. Paddy Power says Schwartz’s insight, coupled with Trump’s various controversies of late, including escalating rhetoric over a potential nuclear war with North Korea, have encouraged people to put their money on Trump walking out on the White House.

“Tony Schwartz spent 18 months with Trump when helping ghost-write his memoir, and while that must have been totally unbearable, it also means he knows The Donald pretty well,” Paddy Power said in a statement Friday. “After an awful week for the president that has seen other issues like North Korea pushed into the shadows, it’s no surprise punters are latching onto the fact Trump might call it a day.”

‘Print’ on Texas family wall is original Rockwell, sells for $1.6 million

Reuters

‘Print’ on Texas family wall is original Rockwell, sells for $1.6 million

By Marice Richter, Reuters      August 21, 2017

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DALLAS (Reuters) – A Texas family who discovered their old Norman Rockwell work of baseball umpires was an authentic painting sold the work at auction for $1.6 million, Heritage Auctions said on Monday.

The painting, an original study for the work called “Tough Call,” shows three umpires pondering whether to halt a game as raindrops begin to fall. It became one of the best-known Rockwell illustrations after being published on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post in 1949.

Rockwell gave a signed copy to John “Beans” Reardon, a baseball umpire featured prominently in the work. Sandra Sprinkle, Reardon’s granddaughter, later inherited the piece and put it above the mantle of her Dallas home for about a decade, it said.

After her death in 2015, her husband Gene Sprinkle sold the couple’s home and moved to a retirement community, where his nephew took a look at the piece and noticed brush strokes.

“We always thought it was a print, but we hung it over our fireplace because it was signed by Norman Rockwell to Beans Reardon,” Gene Sprinkle told Reuters by telephone on Monday.

Sprinkle, a 74-year-old retiree, said he agreed to let his nephew contact Dallas-based Heritage, which determined it was an original oil, painted as a study for the final version.

The buyer has asked to remain anonymous, according to Heritage officials.

“Sandra and her grandfather were very close,” Sprinkle said. “Whenever people came to our house to visit, she was always proud to show it off and tell them about her grandfather.”

(Reporting by Marice Richter; Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Sandra Maler)

America is richer than ever — but you’re probably not

Yahoo Finance

America is richer than ever — but you’re probably not

Rick Newman      August 21, 2017

 https://s.yimg.com/uu/api/res/1.2/QWzbnkKm7WP6yqDc8X0.Bg--/Zmk9c3RyaW07aD00Mjc7dz02NDA7c209MTthcHBpZD15dGFjaHlvbg--/http://media.zenfs.com/en/homerun/feed_manager_auto_publish_494/e9a59604e9083af31c98a4241cfe1bacYachting life on display. REUTERS/Philippe Laurenson

If you measure America’s well-being by the nation’s overall wealth, these are the best days ever.

But does it feel that way? Obviously not. Disaffected working- and middle-class voters just sent a bomb-thrower at the White House, to dismantle institutions they feel are failing. Economic alienation fuels white supremacists who feel everybody’s getting ahead but them. Roughly 10 million working-age men who ought to be in the labor force are sitting at home instead. An astonishing 60% of Americans feel the nation is on the wrong track.

What, exactly, is the problem? How can the nation be so rich, yet so torn? It starts with the concentration of all that wealth, which resides with a smaller portion of the population than it has in decades. Consumers also feel more jittery about the economy than they used to, revealing long-lasting scars from the housing bust and financial meltdown nearly a decade ago. Government policies haven’t helped much, with many Americans convinced Washington has made the middle class worse off, not better off, while further enriching a ruling class that needs the money least.

First, the good news. The high-flying stock market, combined with a steady recovery in home prices during the last several years, has pushed total household net worth in the United States to about $95 trillion — nearly $30 trillion more than before the last recession began in 2007. As a percentage of disposable income, household net worth just hit a new peak, which means that wealth in the United States relative to the size of the population is now at the highest level on record. We’re rich!

View photos    Household net worth as a percentage of disposable income.

Or rather, a few of us are rich. Bank of America Merrill Lynch points out that, like income, wealth in the United States is held by a declining percentage of the population. In 1992, 54% of all financial wealth was held by the top 10% of earners; today 63% is. The latest numbers from Gallup show that just 52% of Americans own stocks — the lowest percentage on record — down from 65% in 2007.

Home equity is a larger source of wealth for many middle-class families than financial assets, but the trend here is discouraging, too. According to BAML data, the top 10% of earners now control 30% of household wealth, up from 25% in 1992. The homeownership rate, normally around 65%, peaked at 69.2% in 2004, during the housing boom, then bottomed out at 63.4% in 2015, as millions foreclosed or found themselves locked out of the housing market by tight credit or affordability problems. The homeownership rate has only recently begun to tick back up.

View photos     More evidence the rich are getting richer.

The bottom-line story is a familiar one: The rich are getting richer, with the middle and lower classes missing out on most of the gains. Widespread frustration with a backsliding middle class is one of the forces that helped Donald Trump win the presidency last year. And now, the same phenomenon is hamstringing the very economy Trump has vowed to shake from the doldrums. While job creation has been strong, wages are rising slowly, consumers remain reluctant to spend and growth is stuck around 2% per year, a solid percentage point short of the robust growth rates of the 1980s and ‘90s.

The rich don’t spend based on market performance

BAML links growing wealth inequality with relatively weak consumer spending — which would normally be stronger at such high levels of overall wealth. The reason it’s not is that affluent people enjoying most of the wealth gains are less likely to spend the extra money than lower-income folks on a budget. The “wealth effect” is supposed to make consumers more optimistic and willing to spend when their home equity rises or the value of their investing or retirement portfolio goes up. But since the wealthy generally have everything they want, they’re less likely to splurge based on the direction of the stock or housing market. And lower-income people aren’t going to spend more if they don’t feel wealthier.

A declining portion of Americans seems to be enjoying a sense of prosperity. Or, if they do feel it, they’re less likely to think it will last than they once felt. In that way, pessimism and caution beget a self-fulfilling cycle of under-performance in the economy. For Trump to defeat that, he needs to convince people they’re really better off, and likely to stay that way. For now, too many doubt it.

Escaping one of the nation’s worst environmental disaster zones

Washington Post-Health & Science

Escaping one of the nation’s worst environmental disaster zones

By Katie Mattler         August 20, 2017

https://img.washingtonpost.com/wp-apps/imrs.php?src=https://img.washingtonpost.com/rw/2010-2019/WashingtonPost/2017/08/03/Production/Daily/Local/Images/JL_521.jpg?uuid=FbXd5nbeEeeerNVr1VaNuA&w=600In May, Demetra Turner holds a letter telling her to vacate her home in the West Calumet Housing Complex in East Chicago, Ind. With her is her son, Jeremiah Kinley.(Joshua Lott/for The Washington Post)

EAST CHICAGO, Ind. — The smell of burning bacon stirred Demetra Turner from her makeshift bed on the floor, a stack of quilts the only padding between her body and the ground.

Long gone was her mattress, tossed into a dumpster with her couch, her recliner, her favorite theater chairs, her kids’ beds. She had thrown them out on instructions from health officials, who said that everything in the West Calumet Housing Complex was poisoned with arsenic and lead.

Everyone must move, Mayor Anthony Copeland said last August, because the land was too dangerous to live on. But now it was May, and Turner and her children were still trying to escape.

She shuffled past barren walls, packed boxes and cases of bottled water. “Who cooked that bacon?” Turner, 44, asked her 18-year-old son, Jeremiah. He sheepishly replied, “I did.”

She smiled and shook her head. He was just trying to help, she knew. Her overnight job at a gas station left her exhausted, and everyone in the family was desperate to find a new place to live.

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In May 2016, Turner unknowingly moved her family into one of the nation’s worst environmental disaster zones. Last summer, shocked residents in the public housing complex called West Calumet were told that the soil in their yards had been contaminated for decades. In some places, the lead in the dirt measured 228 times the maximum level considered safe.

Subsequent blood tests found that 18 out of 94 children younger than 6, the age group most at risk, had elevated lead levels. Then officials tested the water and discovered that it, too, contained lead, raising concerns that East Chicago was becoming the next Flint, but worse.

Vice President Pence was governor of Indiana at the time of the announcement a year ago that the neighborhood was uninhabitable. He refused to grant East Chicago emergency status and did not visit, and his legal counsel wrote that Indiana had already provided adequate aid to East Chicago. (Pence’s office declined to comment for this article.)

Soon Turner was searching for a new place to call home in a region suddenly bombarded with far more demand for real estate than supply. An environmental crisis morphed into a housing crisis, and West Calumet became a national flash point, a cautionary tale about the Environmental Protection Agency’s underfunded cleanup program.

West Calumet and two nearby neighborhoods were declared a Superfund site in 2009, but it took five years to secure the first round of cleanup funding — $26 million — and another round of money was collected just this March.

In April, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt declared during a visit to East Chicago that places such as West Calumet would be his top priority. During a 90-second statement at a news conference, he said he had come to “restore confidence” that the EPA was “going to get it right.”

Officials should “assess and make decisions and put the community first,” he said, adding that he was “taken” by his conversation with a few residents during the spring visit.

https://img.washingtonpost.com/wp-apps/imrs.php?src=https://img.washingtonpost.com/rw/2010-2019/WashingtonPost/2017/08/20/Health-Environment-Science/Images/JL_528.jpg?uuid=AAJDfHbeEeeerNVr1VaNuA&w=600An empty road runs through the nearly West Calumet complex. (Joshua Lott/for The Washington Post)

“The emotion, the passion was just telling,” Pruitt said.

Later, in an interview with The Washington Post, Pruitt criticized previous administrations for moving slowly and distributing fact sheets and warning signs. “How about cleaning it up? Pruitt said. “How about cleaning it up?”

At the end of July, Pruitt’s Superfund Task Force recommended creating a “top 10 list” of sites to prioritize. The administrator did not specify which sites but mentioned East Chicago to reporters at EPA headquarters and called residents’ despair “heartbreaking.”

Ben Carson, secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which oversees the local housing authority, paid a visit this month. He acknowledged that West Calumet residents had been “inconvenienced” but said their relocations were “done in a good way.”

Of the hundreds of families who were ordered out of West Calumet last summer, Turner’s was one of the last to leave, dodging letters from housing officials threatening to ship her across state lines to Chicago. That was the city she fled a decade ago, where moms fear not dirt but bullets. She wanted to whisk her kids to safer ground but just couldn’t find any.

For decades, lawmakers and officials have been aware of the dangerous dirt beneath West Calumet.

The housing complex was built in the 1970s in the footprint of a demolished lead factory, beside an operating lead smelter cited for pollution, and parallel to a canal that feeds a waterway eventually named the most toxic in the United States. West Calumet children have been exposed to lead in the soil, water and air capable of damaging the developing brain.

At least four times over the past three decades, local leaders have asked the federal government to clean up the area. In 2009, the EPA added West Calumet and two nearby neighborhoods to the National Priorites List list through the agency’s Superfund program.

The EPA initially sampled some yards and removed “hot spots” — sections of dirt with the highest lead levels — while they formulated a more comprehensive plan. But extensive testing from 2014 to 2016 showed that the contamination was far worse than initially realized. That data reached Copeland, the East Chicago mayor, in the spring of 2016. He criticized the EPA for operating at a glacial pace and, a few months later, ordered the complex to be demolished.

All the while, federal, state and local officials did little to protect residents such as Turner, who knew nothing of West Calumet’s history when she moved in last year. She said there was no lead disclaimer in her lease or warning signs posted on the property, an egregious result of poor communication between the EPA, HUD and the East Chicago Housing Authority, according to housing and environmental advocates.

“It merely reflects the glaring lack of oversight and enforcement of existing housing and environmental laws,” said Debbie Chizewer, a Chicago-based attorney at Northwestern University’s Environmental Advocacy Clinic. “ECHA, the City of East Chicago and EPA all knew [about the lead] and did not act here to address this grave danger to this low-income community of color.”

Turner’s old neighborhood, at the harbor near Lake Michigan, was plagued by gang activity and more expensive than West Calumet.

In May of last year, she moved into a two-story, three-bedroom duplex within sight of the neighborhood’s baseball field, basketball court, playground and pool, all perks for Jeremiah and his 11-year-old sister, Makasha. The streets at West Calumet teemed with children, and neighbors hosted backyard barbecues and tended flower gardens. On the Fourth of July, every­one gathered to watch fireworks.

“It was life,” Turner said.

But in late July 2016, just as her family had unpacked and settled, EPA officials began planting alarming signs in the yards: “DO NOT PLAY IN THE DIRT OR THE MULCH,” they said in bold blue letters.

Because West Calumet had been their home only for a short time, the risk to Turner’s kids wasn’t as high as for children born there. Jeremiah’s blood tested below the CDC’s actionable threshold of 5 micrograms per deciliter, and Makasha was never tested.

Even so, Turner felt a bubbling resentment when she looked at the water tower outside her window, painted with words that seemed to mock them all. “EAST CHICAGO,” it reads. “FOR OUR CHILDREN.”

In no time, personal injury attorneys appeared, offering limousine rides and steak dinners to potential clients. Turner brushed them off, wary of what she considered predatory tactics.

In August 2016, the EPA began deep-cleaning the walls and floors and vacuuming the furniture at homes across the complex. But the agency also encouraged residents to buy new furnishings after they moved, Turner said. She thought she would be out within weeks, so she started purging her things, dropping them into large blue dumpsters officials had placed outside.

Family photos went back into boxes. She instituted a new rule: Shoes come off at the door. And she placed an order online for a few dozen quilts that would become their sleeping “pallets.”

That August and September, HUD gave Turner and her neighbors Section 8 housing vouchers that low-income families can use to find homes in the private market. Copeland said the city provided on-site relocation assistance, contacted neighboring housing authorities and “did everything it could to assist those displaced by this unfortunate situation.”

But residents, many of whom regard the city’s housing authority and mayor with animosity, tell a different story. They say the housing authority distributed an outdated list of properties with landlords who refused to accept their vouchers, heightening their anxiety as the city pressured them to leave.

A housing discrimination complaint filed by Chicago lawyers on their behalf bought residents more time. HUD eventually settled and agreed, among other things, to extend their move-out deadline to at least April.

So Turner created profiles on ­every real estate website she could find — Zillow, HotPads, Trulio, Rent.com, Apartments.com, Section 8, Craigslist.

She struck out in East Chicago and transferred her housing voucher to the neighboring town of Whiting, and then Hammond, and then back to East Chicago, a laborious process that requires meetings and paperwork with each new housing authority.

Other neighbors moved to Chicago, but Turner had grown up and raised her children there — Jeremiah, Makasha and their four older brothers — and considered it too dangerous. “I moved out of Chicago to save them,” she said.

By May, Turner’s duplex was the only place on her street still showing signs of life — the only door with a welcome sign, only driveway with a car, only full trash cans at the curb. This exposed her family to yet another danger: burglars.

So Jeremiah, who spends most nights home alone with Makasha, started a new routine.

The teen would jam a chair under each door knob and stack others in front of the picture window. If someone tried to get inside overnight, Jeremiah reasoned, the toppling furniture would wake him so he could call police. It made him feel safer, he said.

Then the city cut power to the streetlights.

Twice, knocks on the door came late at night. Once, while Jeremiah was taking the garbage cans to the curb before bed, people in a car driving by shot at him with a BB gun. Soon after, Turner came home from work to a heart-wrenching sight: Pillows and blankets were on the floor under the kitchen table, just feet from the front door, and Jeremiah was on guard but asleep.

It was a morning in mid-May when Turner came home and found the eviction notice.

She and her kids had less than a week to find a new place to live with her Section 8 voucher or relocate to city-provided temporary housing across town. If they refused, the letter said, they would be evicted and risk losing their voucher.

So in June, Turner finally drove her family away from the dangers of West Calumet forever, past her neighbors’ abandoned homes and the mocking water tower, toward a bug-infested unit that made her cry.

With a furniture stipend, she bought a new living room set and three beds, the family’s first real mattresses in a year. Then Turner plotted their final escape from East Chicago.

At the end of July, a week before her voucher was set to expire, she and the kids loaded up the moving truck again. They said goodbye to the only school Makasha had ever known and left behind Demetra’s broken down minivan, which she could no longer afford to fix.

An hour away in Joliet, Ill., a suburb of Chicago, they had found a house with safe water and clean dirt. But Demetra couldn’t help but fret over all that she had lost: a steady job, trusted doctors, her West Calumet support system. “I’m like a fish out of water,” Turner said.

She planned to tell Carson about her family’s ordeal when he visited East Chicago this month. Community leaders asked HUD to let her into the listening session. Carson, they thought, needed to hear her story.

It wasn’t until the morning of the visit, when Turner was already halfway to West Calumet, that she learned HUD’s response: No.

Brady Dennis contributed to this report.

Katie Mettler is a reporter for The Washington Post’s Morning Mix team. She previously worked for the Tampa Bay Times.

Fracking Giant Sues PA Resident For $5 Million For Speaking To Media About Contamination

MintPress

Fracking Giant Sues PA Resident For $5 Million For Speaking To Media About Contamination

By MintPress News Desk         August 17, 2017

http://www.mintpressnews.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/AP_784994094918.jpgRay Kemble of Dimock, Pa., displays a jug of what he identifies as his contaminated well water outside a regional office of the EPA, Aug. 12, 2013, in Philadelphia. (AP/Matt Rourke)

“Take a skunk and every household chemical, put it in a blender, puree it for five minutes and take a whiff. It burns the back of your throat, makes you gag, makes you want to puke. It’s all still bad. That’s why [the inspectors are] back up here.” — Dimock, Pa. resident Ray Kemble.

Ever since the dangerous consequences  of natural gas extraction via hydraulic fracturing – popularly known as “fracking” — entered the national consciousness, the small town of Dimock, Pennsylvania has arguably been “ground zero” for water contamination caused by the controversial practice.

Now Cabot Oil & Gas, the massive energy company responsible for numerous fracking wells near Dimock, is suing one of the town’s residents for $5 million, claiming that his efforts to “attract media attention” to the pollution of his water well have “harmed” the company. According to the lawsuit, Dimock resident Ray Kemble’s actions breached an earlier 2012 settlement that was part of an ongoing federal class action lawsuit over the town’s water quality. Kemble has stated that Cabot’s fracking turned his groundwater “black, like mud, [with] a strong chemical odor.”

Earlier this year, Kemble filed a follow-up lawsuit against Cabot, which was based on new findings that could help him prove the link between Cabot’s fracking operation and the contamination of his well. Cabot, at the time, argued that the case was built on “inflammatory allegations” intended to “poison the jury pool” and “extort payment” from the company.

Kemble eventually dropped his lawsuit, acting in response to new information that he thought might negatively affect the case. Kemble’s lawyers have declined to comment on the nature of that information. Cabot alleged that this lawsuit was a breach of the 2012 settlement contract Kemble had signed, prompting them to counter-sue Kemble.

Cabot’s decision to sue Ray Kemble may be motivated by more than their distaste for his now-dismissed lawsuit. In context, it appears meant to intimidate and “send a message” to Kemble and any other resident thinking of voicing similar concerns and objections. Days before Cabot’s lawsuit against Kemble was filed, the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry (ATSDR) arrived in Dimock to examine the groundwater of several homes close to Cabot fracking wells, including Kemble’s.

Kemble described the state of his groundwater to The Associated Press: “Take a skunk and every household chemical, put it in a blender, puree it for five minutes and take a whiff. It burns the back of your throat, makes you gag, makes you want to puke. It’s all still bad. That’s why they’re back up here.”

The ATSDR told the AP that it is testing Dimock’s water for bacteria, gases, and chemicals in order to “determine if there are drinking water quality issues that may continue to pose a health threat.” Their previous study in 2012 found high levels of chemicals such as methane, cadmium, lead, and arsenic. They also found that several residences were “at risk of explosion or fire” due to high methane levels. In the past, several drinking water wells in Dimock have exploded due to the high amount of methane now present in the town’s water.

Dimock residents have been expressing concern over the quality of their water for nearly a decade. In 2009, Pennsylvania state officials determined that Cabot Oil & Gas was responsible for the contamination, though the EPA complicated this decision by announcing in 2012 that Dimock’s water was “safe” to drink. The EPA arrived at this conclusion despite the fact that its investigators – along with the ATSDR —had found “significant damage to the water quality” due to the presence of nearby fracking wells.

 

How the Republican party quietly does the bidding of white supremacists

The Guardian-Politics

How the Republican party quietly does the bidding of white supremacists | Russ Feingold

Russ Feingold, The Guardian      August 19, 2017

Let us finally rip off the veneer that Trump’s affinity for white supremacy is distinct from the Republican agenda. It isn’t.

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‘If Republican lawmakers want to distinguish themselves from Trump’s comments, they need to do more than type out 144 characters on their phone.’ Photograph: Andrew Harnik/AP

It takes approximately 30 seconds to send a tweet. A half hour to draft and release a statement. And the shelf life of both is only marginally longer. We should not commend Republican party elected officials who claim outrage on social media at Trump’s remarks, often without daring to mention his name. The phony claimed outrage becomes dangerous if it convinces anyone that there is a distinction between Trump’s abhorrent comments and the Republican Party agenda.

The lesson from Charlottesville is not how dangerous the neo-Nazis are. It is the unmasking of the Republican party leadership. In the wake of last weekend’s horror and tragedy, let us finally, finally rip off the veneer that Trump’s affinity for white supremacy is distinct from the Republican agenda of voter suppression, renewed mass incarceration and the expulsion of immigrants.

There is a direct link between Trump’s comments this week and those policies, so where is the outrage about the latter? Where are the Republican leaders denouncing voter suppression as racist, un-American and dangerous? Where are the Republican leaders who are willing to call out the wink (and the direct endorsement) from President Trump to the white supremacists and acknowledge their own party’s record and stance on issues important to people of color as the real problem for our country?

Republicans on the voter suppression commission are enabling Trump’s agenda and that of the white Nazi militia

Words mean nothing if the Republican agenda doesn’t change. Governors and state legislatures were so quick to embrace people of color in order to avoid the impression, they too share Trump’s supreme affinity for the white race. But if they don’t stand up for them they are not indirectly, but directly enabling the agenda of those same racists that Republican members were so quick to condemn via Twitter.

Gerrymandering, strict voter ID laws, felon disenfranchisement are all aimed at one outcome: a voting class that is predominantly white, and in turn majority Republican.

The white supremacist chant of, “you will not replace us,” could easily and accurately be the slogan for these Republican politicians. Their policies will achieve the same racial outcome as Jim Crow – the disenfranchisement and marginalization of people of color.

It is a sad day when more CEOs take action by leaving and shutting down Trump’s Strategy and Policy Forum, and Manufacturing Council, than elected officials take action leaving Trump’s “election integrity” commission.

Businessman are acting more responsive to their customers than politicians are to their voters. At the end of the day, which presidential council is more dangerous? Which most embodies the exact ideology that Trump spewed on Monday? A group of businessmen coming together to talk jobs or a group of elected officials coming together to disenfranchise voters of color?

Anyone still sitting on the voter suppression commission is enabling Trump’s agenda and that of the white Nazi militia that stormed Charlottesville to celebrate a time when the law enforced white supremacy.

If Republican lawmakers want to distinguish themselves from Trump’s comments, they need to do more than type out 144 characters on their phone. They need to take a hard look at their party’s agenda.

A good start would be with voting rights. Let’s see lawmakers like John Kasich in Ohio immediately stop the state’s intended purging of voting records. Let’s see Wisconsin lawmakers throw out their gerrymandered district map and form a non-partisan redistricting commission.

Let’s see strict voter ID laws criticized with the same vitriol that Republicans used in responding to the events in Charlottesville. Let’s see Republicans call out their own agenda, and openly recognize the connection between the agenda of the racist alt-right and that of the Republican party.

Anything short of radical change to the Republican party’s war on voters of color is merely feigned outrage. Even if the white supremacists are condemned, even if the entire Republican party rises up in self-professed outrage at white supremacists, if voter suppression and other such racist policies survive, the white supremacists are winning. And America is losing.

Russ Feingold is a former Senator for Wisconsin