Escalating Violence in Iraq, Maternal Mental Illness, Malia Obama’s Summer Job

Escalating Violence in Iraq, Maternal Mental Illness, Malia Obama's Summer Job

Here’s what I’m reading up on today:

  • The first signs of sectarian reprisals are breaking out in Iraq. 
  • We’re finally hearing more about maternal mental illness. The stories, like this one in the New York Times, are heartbreaking. 
  • City College of San Francisco could get a two year reprieve on accreditation. 
  • The United States beat Ghana in a thrilling World Cup match on Monday.
  • McDonald’s — yes, McDonald’s — is opening up a so-called “tech hub” in San Francisco.
  • Malia Obama has a really, really cool summer job
  • New Emoji’s are on the way for all of your texting needs. 

Prisons’ Fastest Growing Population: Mentally Ill, Aging Inmates

Prisons' Fastest Growing Population: Mentally Ill, Aging Inmates

Aging inmates and those with mental illness constitute the bulk of the fastest-growing segment of prison populations, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer. In a story about Marvae Dunn, a 64-year-old man who allegedly shot and killed his sister-in-law in 2007 but who spent years in declining health languishing behind bars, the Inquirer’s Melissa Dribben delves into the shifts in today’s prison population, which today function as “society’s psychiatric institutions,” she writes.

That shift has been driven by a lack of mental health care outside of prison:

In terms of his mental illness, Dunn was not unusual. Of the county’s 8,500 inmates, about 35 percent are mentally ill, 15 percent of whom are seriously impaired with schizophrenia, bipolar disease, or psychosis. If you include personality disorders, Herdman said, the percentage would be, perhaps, 80 percent.

Among women, he said, the percentages are even higher. About 80 percent of the women at the county’s Riverside facility are on psychiatric medicines, he said, and half have been diagnosed with serious mental illness.

“Nationwide, you will see similar figures,” said civil rights attorney David Rudovsky.

“Virtually everybody who has looked at this problem of seriously mentally ill people in prisons agrees that many are there as a result of a lack of mental-health care in the community,” Rudovsky said. “Despite the enormous cost of using prisons as the last mental-health catchment area, we don’t see much change in the system.”

h/t The Crime Report

Bank Denying You A Basic Account? Here’s One Reason Why

Bank Denying You A Basic Account? Here's One Reason Why

For the first time banks are being scrutinized for blacklisting vulnerable consumers from opening a basic checking or savings account. Alternatives to mainstream banking generally open consumers to predatory or more costly services with less consumer protections. New York’s attorney general this week becomes the first government authority according to The New York Times, to go after banks for using the ChexSystems database to weed out consumers who’ve bounced checks or overdrawn an account—mistakes frequently made by young people just starting out or those who are financially struggling.  The move signals increasing interest on the part of regulators to examine the many ways that companies are using Big Data to hurt consumers who often aren’t aware data is being collected, by whom and for what purpose. 

New York’s interest in at least six banks’ Big Data practices, including Capital One, comes little more than a month after the Obama administration drew attention through its first-ever report on companies’ data collection practices. It calls for increased privacy laws.

Says NYC’s consumer affairs commissioner to The Times about how banks are using ChexSystems data, “We are extremely concerned about it because people who have made small errors are driven onto the margins of the financial system, where they really can’t save for the future.” 

The ChexSystems database was originally intended to weed out serial fraudsters. Most people don’t even know they can order their ChexSystems report. Learn more using this handy Fool guide—and order a copy of that report.

Bloodbath in Iraq, Starbucks Offers Workers Discount Online Degrees, and Cali’s Whooping Cough Epidemic

Bloodbath in Iraq, Starbucks Offers Workers Discount Online Degrees, and Cali's Whooping Cough Epidemic

Here’s what I’m catching up on this morning:

TAGS: Morning Rush

Sacramento Airport Bans Billboard Pushing Healthcare for the Undocumented

Sacramento Airport Bans Billboard Pushing Healthcare for the Undocumented

In Sacramento, Calif., a billboard similar to more than 100 like it that have gone up around the state has been banned from the state capital’s airport, reports Sacramento’s NBA affiliate KCRA. The billboard, a project of the California Endowment’s #Health4All campaign, is pushing for healthcare for all California residents, including undocumented immigrants who are excluded from Affordable Care Act coverage. 

“In-terminal advertising at Sacramento International Airport is managed by Clear Channel Airports under a contract with the Sacramento County Department of Airports,” the airport told KCRA 3 in a statement. “The California Endowment ad was declined because it did not meet the advertising display policy set forth in the agreement we established with Clear Channel, which requires that under no circumstances shall advertising be displayed that would ‘involve the country or the airport in controversial, social, moral, political or ethical issues.’”

According to estimates from the UCLA Labor Center, 1 million Californians remain ineligible for healthcare because of their immigration status. More than 100 #Health4All billboards have gone up around the state, and have been accompanied by radio and TV ads as well.

The campaign includes the faces of some of the most high-profile young undocumented immigrants, including Sergio Garcia, the state’s first known undocumented attorney; Steve Li, who was detained in Arizona amidst the 2010 federal DREAM Act fight before his own parents were deported to Peru; and Ju Hong, a prominent Asian-American immigrant rights activist who interrupted President Obama during a speech in San Francisco last fall.

(h/t Immigration Prof Blog)

Text and Phone Service Directs Callers to bell hooks Quotes

Text and Phone Service Directs Callers to bell hooks Quotes

Ladies, you’ve been there. Some man insists on getting your phone number. He’s annoying and the only thing that might make you feel safe is just giving him a fake number. But some self-absorbed men are left wondering why. 

669-221-6251—a feminist phone intervention project—is a quick solution that gets a point across. A phone call or text to the number acquires a bell hooks quote in return.

So the next time you’re rolling your eyes from some mactivist trying to talk to you, remember that 669-221-6251 can help. You can also donate to the feminist phone international project; all proceeds raised beyond the cost of the phone bill will benefit The National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health. 

Labor Secretary Responds to Federal Contract Workers Demands

Labor Secretary Responds to Federal Contract Workers Demands

The Department of Labor moved yesterday to implement President Obama’s executive order increasing the wage floor for federal contract workers to $10.10 beginning Jan 2015. While some workers are pleased, others are not. The new agency rule came as more than 200 self-identified worker leaders represented by Good Jobs Nation yesterday described $10.10 as poverty wages. Instead, they’re calling on the administration to require that contractors engage in collective bargaining with workers in return for a commitment not to strike. Yesterday’s action for low-wage federal employees signals growing momentum for an across-the-board increase in the federal minimum wage, although many disagree as to how much. A CNN poll cited on the labor secretary’s blog says that more than 70 percent of Americans favor a wage hike—but less than 40 percent think $10.10 is the right number.

When asked about Good Jobs Nation demands, The Wall Street Journal reports that labor secretary Thomas Perez said collective bargaining is not part of the February executive order and is therefore not a part of yesterday’s proposed rule. According to the Journal, Perez didn’t answer whether the issue of collective bargaining is under discussion at the labor department.

Obama’s new $10.10 minimum wage, according to Perez, will impact 200,000 federal workers. 

Futbolistas 4 Life Follows Youth Bringing a Soccer Field to Oakland’s Fruitvale

Futbolistas 4 Life Follows Youth Bringing a Soccer Field to Oakland's Fruitvale

World Cup fever is officially upon us. But what about soccer played a little closer to home?

What happens when Latino youth from Life Academy in Oakland’s Fruitvale, where homicide is the leading cause of death for young people, turn to soccer as a refuge from the streets? They put together a campaign to turn their “prison playground” into a soccer field. Futbolistas 4 Life is a documentary about their story, and the filmmakers have put together a Kickstarter campaign to help finish the film.

The filmmakers write

In 2012, there were 131 homicides across all of Oakland - the highest in six years. Soccer becomes a uniting force for the high school students in this film, who come to call themselves “Futbolistas 4 Life.” By bringing the community together around a new soccer field, they are determined to stop the cycle of violence in their community with courage, willpower and optimism. 

 In the last few years, these teens have lost four young people to gun violence in their small public high school. Their soccer club has become a space where they discuss their experiences with violence, poverty and immigration while strategizing ways to support their community. The film shows the passion and resiliency of these teens who create a legacy for future generations. 

Check out more at their Kickstarter.

Bergdahl in Texas, Cops Stay Quiet about Surveillance, and World Cup Surprises

Bergdahl in Texas, Cops Stay Quiet about Surveillance, and World Cup Surprises

It’s Friday! Here’s what I’m reading this morning: 

  • Bowe Bergdahl arrives in Texas, where he will continue his reintegration process. 
  • The Obama administration pushes local police to keep cell phone surveillance technology secret. 
TAGS: Morning Rush

Active Military Post Prepares to Detain Immigrant Children

Active Military Post Prepares to Detain Immigrant Children

A U.S. Army base outside of Oklahoma City, Okla., is preparing to detain undocumented minors who were recently apprehended crossing the southern border without a parent.

Fort Sill—an active base built during the Indian Wars in the late 1800s—will take between 600 and 1,200 minors. The children mostly arrived from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, often fleeing violence in hopes of reuniting with parents already in the United States. Many of the migrant children, usually referred to as unaccompanied minors, are girls under the age of 12.

The minors may be held at Fort Sill for up to four months, but it remains unclear what will happen to the children after that time. Equally unclear is whether the use of Fort Sill as a detention center for minors is temporary, or whether new child migrants will be placed there in the future. 

Oklahoma’s KSWO-7 has been reporting on the issue locally:

Fort Sill is the third military base that will hold undocumented minors. Texas’s Lackland Air Force Base and California Naval Base are already holding migrant youth. 

Federal Contract Workers to Obama: $10.10 Not Good Enough

Federal Contract Workers to Obama: $10.10 Not Good Enough

A letter sent to the White House today from federal contract workers tells President Obama that his freshly ordered wage increase to $10.10 isn’t good enough. The letter, signed by 216 self-identified worker leaders representing over 50 private companies, ratchets up worker demands in a federal policymaking environment where $10.10 appears to have gained acceptance as the new ceiling. This February, Obama signed an executive order requiring companies contracting with the federal government to increase workers’ wages to $10.10. And while Senate Republicans this spring filibustered a bill naming $10.10 as the new federal minimum wage, Mitt Romney has urged Republicans to get behind it.

Federal contract workers’ dissatisfaction with $10.10 comes amidst cities enacting higher increases. Seattle is still celebrating (or lamenting, depending on point of view) its increase to $15, the highest minimum wage in the nation. And copycat calls from other municipalities to implement the same are gaining ground.



Vergara Trial Ruling Could Help Educational Equality in the Long Run

Vergara Trial Ruling Could Help Educational Equality in the Long Run

The dust is starting to settle around the landmark Vergara trial, which upended California’s teacher tenure statutes. While teachers unions mull a potential appeal, others are looking to the potential upsides in the ruling, which promises to have far-reaching impacts beyond the Golden State. 

Kevin Welner, director of the National Center for Education Policy, blogging over at Valerie Strauss’ The Answer Sheet, argues that sure, Judge Treu issued a sweeping decision by relying on a narrow strip of hotly contested evidence to rule that teacher tenure policies saddle primarily poor students and students of color with “grossly ineffective teachers.” But by shifting his interpretations of earlier cases, Judge Treu lowered the standard plaintiffs must meet in order to prove that an educational policy infringes students’ fundamental rights to education. If an appellate court agrees with Treu, that could potentially help other legal fights for educational equity. It’s a provocative line of thought for people still reeling from this week’s ruling. But follow along.

Welner gives a key example: academic tracking.

There are likely hundreds of thousands of children in California who are enrolled in low-track classes, where the expectations, curricula and instruction are all watered down. These children are denied equal educational opportunities; the research regarding the harms of these low-track classes is much stronger and deeper than the research about teachers Judge Treu found persuasive in the Vergara case. That is, plaintiffs’ attorneys would easily be able to show a “real and appreciable impact” on students’ fundamental right to equality of education. Further, the harm from enrollment in low-track classes falls disproportionately on lower-income students and students of color. 

This means that the burden would fall upon those who engage in tracking practices (e.g., school districts). They would have to show a compelling state interest in maintaining low-track classes, and they would have to show that their particular practices are necessary in order to further that compelling state interest. Since the plaintiffs will be able to point to highly successful schools that do not track, the defendants would not be able to meet that burden.

This type of analysis could be repeated for a wide array of other policies and practices, such as transportation, school choice, buildings, funding formulas, access to computer technology, enriched curriculum, testing and accountability policies, and segregated and stratified schools. If the relatively anemic facts and evidentiary record in Vergara support the striking down of five state statutes, it’s almost mind-boggling what the future may hold for education rights litigation in California (again, if the appellate courts use similar reasoning).

Read the rest of Welner’s piece, and Judge Treu’s ruling (PDF).

ISIS in Iraq, World Cup Kicks Off and Recession Suicides

ISIS in Iraq, World Cup Kicks Off and Recession Suicides

Here’s what I’m reading up on this morning: 

TAGS: Morning Rush

How to Watch the World Cup (With or Without Cable)

How to Watch the World Cup (With or Without Cable)

The World Cup kicks off Thursday—but where can you catch all 64 games? Unless you live close to a sports bar committed to airing all the matches, it’s kinda complicated, especially because cable providers have set up a lot of rules around who can watch what, and when. 

Here’s a quick guide to help get you through the next month of matches:

If you have a television and prefer English language broadcasts:

  • Don’t have cable? ABC will air a weird hodge-podge of just 10 games, mostly on the weekends—including the final game on July 13.
  • Do have cable? ESPN and ESPN 2 will air the remainder of the games.

If you have a television and prefer Spanish language broadcasts:

  • Univision will air all 64 matches. Univision is a cable channel, but the first 56 games are completely free. You’ll have to pony up to catch the last eight matches, however—but you’ll probably be hooked by then anyway.

If you’d rather stream the matches in English:

If you prefer streaming matches in Spanish:

  • Univision will allow you to watch the first 53 matches online, on your iPhone, or on your Android for free! You’ll need a cable subscription after that. Unless you’re a Comcast subscriber—If that’s the case, you’re out of luck.

Still up in the air*: 

  • There are other options I’m looking into—Argentina’s public television station TV Pública is airing half the matches, but I’m unclear whether they’ll be available online in the U.S.
  • TyC is airing the other half, but again, I’m unclear if they’ll be available online.
  • And there’s also Fútbol Para Todos, although I hear you may need to download an app to make it work. 

*These options aren’t working in the U.S. 

Watch Pres. Obama React to Yet Another School Shooting

Watch Pres. Obama React to Yet Another School Shooting

Some Oregon families woke up to a heartbreaking reality this morning. During another school shooting yesterday, this time at an Oregon high school, a teen killed another student with a rifle, slightly grazed a teacher and then killed himself, according to news reports. There have been at least 74 school shootings—incuding Oregon’s—since Newtown, according to a list compiled by Everytown.orgPres. Obama expressed disbelief during a student debt and education event yesterday, that the nation was unable to pass new gun laws in response. “The fact that 20 six-year-olds were gunned down in the most violent fashion possible and this town couldn’t do anything about it was stunning to me,” Obama says, meaning Washington, DC. The only way forward he says, is if public opinion forces Congress’ hand.

What do you think of the president’s reaction and his efforts to curb gun violence so far?

(h/t Washington Post/Business Insider)

Watch ‘Proud To Be’ Commercial Aired During NBA Final

Watch 'Proud To Be' Commercial Aired During NBA Final

A California tribe bought commercial airtime, according to Deadspin, during last night’s Game 3 of the NBA Finals to hammer home its stance on the Washington D.C. football team name and Native peoples. If you don’t live in the seven major cities where the commercial aired (or you’re not a basketball fan), check out the extended version of “Proud to Be,” which premiered over Super Bowl weekend. Two minutes of diverse images culminate into one statement: “Native Americans call themselves many things. The one thing they don’t…” the voice over says before showing the Washington NFL team’s helmet.

What do you think about the ad?

(h/t Deadspin)

Cantor Loses, California Strikes Down Teacher Tenure and Shark Mystery

Cantor Loses, California Strikes Down Teacher Tenure and Shark Mystery

Here’s what I’m reading up on this morning: 

  • Half a million Iraqis flee Mosul after Sunni insurgents seize the city. 
TAGS: Morning Rush

Judge Strikes Down California Teacher Tenure

Judge Strikes Down California Teacher Tenure

In a landmark ruling issued Tuesday, a California judge sided with plaintiffs who argued that teacher tenure and due process protections disproportionately hurt poor students and students of color. The closely watched case, funded by Silicon Valley millionaire entrepreneur David Welch’s education reform group Students Matter and brought on behalf of nine California students in five districts, marks a serious defeat for teachers and teacher unions waging a losing war against education reformers who’ve made teachers out to be responsible for enduring educational inequity in the country.

“Substantial evidence presented makes it clear to this court that the challenged statutes disproportionately affect poor and/or minority students,” Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu wrote in his ruling (PDF), citing a claim that an ineffective teacher costs a classroom $1.4 million in lost earnings over a lifetime. “The evidence is compelling. Indeed, it shocks the conscience.” 

As with everything education, the matter is deeply political. Diane Ravitch, an education historian and vocal critic of the mainstream education reform movement, pointed out that experts who testified in the case are advocates for or are employed by groups that advocate for policies that demand fewer due process rights and more test-based accountability for teachers. 

The ruling was closely watched around the country as a potential model for others who hope to do away with similar teacher protections in their states. The California Teachers Association, California Federation of Teachers and the state Attorney General’s Office argued in a joint defense that the lawsuit scapegoated teachers for what is at its heart about poverty and neighborhood violence, EdSource reported. 

“We believe the judge fell victim to the anti-union, anti-teacher rhetoric and one of America’s finest corporate law firms that set out to scapegoat teachers for the real problems that exist in public education,” CFT president Joshua Pechthalt told the New York Times. “There are real problems in our schools, but this decision in no way helps us move the ball forward.”

“The students who brought this lawsuit are, unfortunately, just nine out of millions of young people in America who are disadvantaged by laws, practices and systems that fail to identify and support our best teachers and match them with our neediest students,” Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in a statement hailing the ruling. “Today’s court decision is a mandate to fix these problems.”

Treu’s ruling, which charged the state legislature to find alternatives to the five newly unconstitutional policies, goes into effect in 30 days.

How A Black Sports Writer Stopped Using ‘Redskins’

How A Black Sports Writer Stopped Using 'Redskins'

Bleacher Report has a nice long essay by Mike Freeman, an African-American sports writer and Marylander, on how he stopped using “Redskins” to describe the Washington NFL team. See highlights below but make time for the thoughtful and compassionate essay, which explores team owner Dan Snyder’s motivation, as well as what it means to be an African-American fan and embrace a team name widely accepted as a slur.

I was part of a racially conscious family in a racially tolerant community with racially diverse friends and family, yet we never discussed that Redskin is a Webster-defined racial slur. None of my black friends and I did either. Ever….

But everything changed for me when my mother began tracing our roots and officially documented what was generally known in our family: that we had American Indian ancestry. That’s when I began to rethink my support of the Redskin nickname…

I was related to the people that were being caricatured. The moment was instructive in many ways. It showed, to me, the hypocrisy of a black man ignoring a slur his entire life because a football team meant so much to him.

It showed something else. I looked around at the diversity in my life, which was extensive, and noticed something: Long into my adulthood, there were few American Indians in my life. There was no one to express their displeasure.

(h/t Bleacher Report)

Marissa Alexander’s Retrial Postponed to December

Marissa Alexander's Retrial Postponed to December

Marissa Alexander’s retrial has been postponed until December 1 due to questions about whether a new Florida bill can be used retroactively in her case. She originally faced retrial on July 28. 

Alexander, 33, was convicted of aggravated assault after firing a warning shot during a fight with her abusive husband. But she was released on bond last November after an appeals court ruled in September that the jury in her trial was given flawed instructions. She was originally sentenced to 20 years; if convicted in a retrial, Alexander faces up to 60 years in prison.

Judge James Daniel was set to determine this morning if Alexander was eligible for a Stand Your Ground hearing—which was denied to her previously. Florida lawmakers passed a Warning Shot Bill in March that Alexander’s legal team says can protect her, but Governor Rick Scott has yet to sign it into law. Because of that pending law, attorneys on both sides asked for an extension. A decision on whether Alexander can get a Stand Your Ground hearing is now postponed until August 1.

One of Marissa Alexander’s most ardent supporters, Mariame Kaba, published an anthology whose proceeds will benefit the Alexander’s legal defense. “No Selves to Defend” is available today, and features writing and artwork that “locates Marissa’s case within a historical context that criminalizes and punishes women (particularly of color) for self-defense.” Only 125 copies of the anthology are available for purchase for $50—and there will be no reprints. 

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