What's remarkable to me about Romney's flip flop problem is that he and the right fostered it together, with absolutely no help from Democrats.This is a little bit meta, so bear with me. I'm not talking about Romney's actual substantive history of[...]
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Joyce L. Arnold, Liberally Independent, Queer Talk, equality activist, writer.
I?ll admit that I consider the Presidential and Vice Presidential ?debates? as almost completely useless in adding anything of substance. Scripted bits of campaign marketing, along with some prepared ?zingers,? are about all there is to it. But even so, and even though I?d love to see the Commission on Presidential Debates discarded and substantive conversational formats replace them, I applaud the efforts of three young women from Montclair, NJ.
First, from Commission on Presidential Debates, and arbitrarily beginning in 1976, when The League of Women Voters still ran the debates (the Commission took over in 1988), a list of women who moderated presidential and vice presidential debates. Women were on panels on several occasions over the years. Presidential: 1976: Pauline Frederick, NPR; Barbara Walters, ABC; 1984: Barbara Walters, ABC; 1992 Carole Simpson, ABC. VP: 1988: Judy Woodruff, PBS; 2004 and 2008: Gwen Ifill, PBS.
When Emma Axelrod, Elena Tsemberis, and Sammi Siegel learned, in a civics class, that it?s been twenty years since a woman moderated the presidential debates, they were ?shocked,? and then actually did something. At Change.org they posted two petitions. One is addressed to the Commission on Presidential Debates, Select a woman to moderate a 2012 presidential debate. The second is addressed to Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, Obama and Romney: Support the Call for a Woman to Moderate a Presidential Debate.
From the introduction to the first:
Moderators are chosen by the Commission on Presidential Debates, which is made up of three women out of seventeen commissioners. … we?re encouraging the Commission to name at least one woman to moderate one of the three upcoming presidential debates … .
And from the petition itself:
Women and men will never be truly equal in our country until they?re one and the same in positions of power and both visible in politics.
As of a few hours ago, that petition had 121,574 out of the 150,000 signatures sought.
In the introduction to the second petition, directed to Romney and Obama, they first point to the original petition, then add:
This is important to each of us, for different reasons. Here?s what we think, and we hope you?ll join the campaign and sign our petition.
I have seen women being judged more on appearance than achievement first hand during my summer camp experience spending three weeks at Girls Leadership Institute. Most of the girls I met had at some point been through a depression, had anxiety, or had a difficult situation at home. Many of the friends I made there were marked with scars from self-harm, or were victims of bullying or sexual harassment. It was inspiring to hear their stories. …
I … personally noticed a shift in gender representation throughout my time in school. In middle school, all students, both male and female, took the same math classes at the same levels. But in high school, I watched female friends drop out and switch to easier classes. These women are equally as intelligent as their male peers, but are not encouraged to pursue harder math courses, just like women are rarely encouraged to pursue positions like moderator of a presidential debate. …
I understand the responsibility women have to fight for these rights because of one of the most important women in my world. I was shocked one day to learn that my passive, selfless grandmother used to stand up and shout ?enough is enough? at the front lines of rallies for the passing of the ERA. … Even though the ERA was never passed, it?s not too late to show the world that women and men have an equal standing in our country.
As of a few hours ago, that petition had 57,615 out of the 75,000 signatures sought.
The young women, not surprisingly, have run into opposition. From AlterNet:
Regarding the importance of having a woman moderator, Axelrod told NPR, ?It seems so doable to just have them pick a woman this election.? …
As Tsemberis told the Daily Beast, … there is a symbolic importance to having a female moderator in the presidential debates:
?It?s necessary that our country sees a woman in this prominent position, being visible on the political stage, asking the questions. ? A female moderator would be able to add a new perspective to the debates and touch on topics ? like reproductive rights, inequality in the workplace and how the economy impacts women and their families.?
The AlterNet piece included a comment from ?debate expert Allan Louden,? who indicated that campaigns want moderators who are ?boring, predictable and safe.? Which may help explain the first effort, on Tuesday of this week, to deliver the signatures-to-date on the petition to the Commission. The young women were
… turned away … at the door … . In addition, their requests to meet with the executive director of the Commission, Janet H. Brown (a woman!), went unheeded.
The Commission will announce moderators this month, so both they, and most likely the Obama and Romney campaigns, only have to ignore the three, and the thousands of signatures, for a few more weeks. It isn’t impossible that a woman will moderate a presidential debate, and probably likely that Gwen Ifill or some woman, will again moderate the VP debate.
Whatever else, Emma Axelrod, Elena Tsemberis, and Sammi Siegel have already made a difference, just by raising the issue. If it works for you, show them some support, use the links above, and click on over to add your signature.
(Axelrod, Tsemberis, Siegel photo via Change.org)
Yesterday, Obama's campaign made a rare misstep-- a stupid radio spot in favor of "clean coal" that attacks Romney for being pro-environmental. Listen to it; it's sickening. Our pals are CREDO were as disgusted as we were. Their petition asks Democrats and independents to "Tell the Obama campaign: Drop your cynical pro-coal ad... The people of Ohio know that fossil fuel pollution tends to punish most those who can least afford to move away from it," the group says "an ad suggesting that President Obama is more coal-loving than Romney isn't just cynical, it's misleading. From lung disease for generations of miners who have been left with no choice but to work in coal mines, to water pollution which increases cancer rates, to power plant pollution which causes everything from asthma to neurological damage. And of course the climate pollution from burning coal is an ominous and growing cloud over all of our futures."
Ironically, on the same day, across the board in northern West Virginia, that state's most populist candidate for federal office, Sue Thorn, had a letter published by the Post-Gazette
I cannot understand how U.S. Rep. David McKinley could criticize United Steelworkers president Leo Gerard and say he is disrespectful of coal miners ("Bad for Coal," July 29 letters), when Mr. McKinley consistently puts corporate profits before miners' lives.
On July 26, Mr. McKinley and other House lawmakers put workers at risk and voted for House Resolution 4078, a bill to freeze "significant federal regulation." This bill is a death sentence for miners. HR 4078 would block new federal rules to prevent combustible dust explosions like the Upper Big Branch disaster, which killed 29 miners in West Virginia in 2010. Mr. McKinley even voted against an amendment to exempt regulation of combustible dust from the bill.
HR 4078 would also prevent the Mine Safey and Health Administration from implementing a new rule to limit miners' exposure to coal dust and prevent black lung disease. In the last 40 years, black lung killed or helped kill 70,000 coal miners and rates have doubled in the last decade.
Mr. McKinley has also failed to support the Robert C. Byrd Mine and Workplace Safety act, comprehensive legislation meant to prevent mine disasters.
Mr. McKinley's criticisms of Mr. Gerard ring hollow coming from someone who puts coal company profits before coal miner safety. Maybe Mr. McKinley's comments are more reflective of the fact that his campaign started receiving funding from Massey Energy's Don Blankenship in 2010, shortly after the Upper Big Branch disaster and Mr. Blankenship's contributions exceeded Federal Election Committee rules. While Mr. McKinley's biggest funders are coal companies and he may be a friend of theirs, he's no friend of coal miners.
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I've got to wonder why CNN thinks interviewing the washed up, flame throwing, race baiting, ex-Speaker of the House is worth putting on the air with little or no rebuttal. But sadly, here was Newt Gingrich defending his buddy Michele Bachmann and her McCarthyism and host Wolf Blitzer doing very little to counter it.
Today on CNN, Newt Gingrich applauded the central tenets of McCarthyism to justify his support for Rep. Michele Bachmann?s (R-MN) baseless campaign to root out alleged Muslim Brotherhood infiltration of the U.S. government. Host Wolf Blitzer singled out Bachmann target Huma Abedin, a top aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, telling Gingrich that it?s ?ridiculous? to include her and that the whole thing reeks of McCarthyism. But the former House Speaker ? and Mitt Romney supporter ? wouldn?t back down, praising McCarthyism for rooting out communists and defending Abedin?s inclusion in Bachmann?s witch hunt. ?This State Department has been amazingly pro-Muslim Brotherhood,? he said, ?American citizens have the right to have the Congress ask the question.? [...]
Bachmann has been widely criticized for her anti-Muslim campaign, including by some top Republicans, particularly for singling out Abedin. But the Minnesota congresswoman has yet to offer substantial proof of any Muslim Brotherhood plot. In fact, actual members of the Islamist group have recently lamented that they can?t even take over the Egyptian government.
You could tell Blitzer was plenty irritated with Gingrich for attacking someone he's friends with, but that didn't stop him from allowing Gingrich from doing his best to justify the witch hunt and with treating Gingrich with a whole lot more deference than he deserved, to put it mildly. I had zero respect for Blitzer before watching this interview. The fact that he could sit there and allow someone like Gingrich attack a friend of his like this without pushing back further is really disgusting. Every time I think CNN can't do something to make sure their ratings tank even further, they manage to surprise me and one up themselves as they did here.
Transcript via CNN below the fold.
BLITZER: Let me ask you a question about Michele Bachmann and some other Republican congressman who wrote a letter questioning basically the loyalty of some patriotic Americans who work in the United States government including one of the top aides to Hillary Clinton, Huma Abedin (ph) whom I happen to know rather well. She's married to a former congressman, as you well know. You said this and I'll put it up on the screen.
"The Muslim Brotherhood is a serious worldwide organization dedicated to a future most Americans would find appalling. Seeking to understand its reach and its impact in the U.S. government is a legitimate, indeed a central part of our national security process. Bachmann, Franks, Gohmert, Rooney and Westmoreland -- all congressmen -- are showing a lot more courage than the defenders of timidity, complicity and passivity." You know the criticism that's been leveled against her and these other congressmen, especially with Huma Abedin (ph), who is a wonderful, wonderful person. Have you ever met her?
GINGRICH: I may have met her in passing. I don't know her.
BLITZER: -- to start raising all these issues of McCarthyism to say she's not really loyal because she's Muslim, if you will.
GINGRICH: Let me -- OK -- it's not -- this is -- this is baloney, Wolf. We've known each other a long time.
BLITZER: Tell me why it's baloney.
GINGRICH: First of all behind McCarthyism there were real spies. People tend to forget this. There's a new book coming out on Reagan and Hollywood in the '40s and the book is --
BLITZER: There are a lot of innocent people who suffered --
GINGRICH: And there were a lot of guilty people --
BLITZER: -- because of baseless charges.
GINGRICH: But there were a lot of guilty people who would never have been uncovered if some people didn't have the courage to take them on. There's a brand new book coming out on Reagan and Hollywood in the late '40s and it is appalling the number of hard core communists that were working in the movie industry. There has been an enormous effort to rewrite history, so --
BLITZER: But in this particular case --
BLITZER: -- with Huma Abedin (ph), Huma Abedin (ph) -- you don't know her. I know her --
GINGRICH: (INAUDIBLE) my question.
BLITZER: You know she's married to a Jewish guy, a congressman --
GINGRICH: All right.
BLITZER: -- Anthony Weiner and you know she is not in a part of a Muslim Brotherhood conspiracy or anything like that. That's ridiculous to even put her -- to raise her name like that.
GINGRICH: OK. She is very high up in the State Department.
BLITZER: That's correct. She's --
BLITZER: -- deputy chief of staff to the secretary of state.
GINGRICH: And presumably has some influence.
BLITZER: A lot of influence.
GINGRICH: OK. So to ask the question, this is a question, why have we had a series of decisions and Andy McCarthy (ph), who was a prosecutor in the first World Trade Center terrorism (INAUDIBLE) and has worked on this issue for 20 years lays out case after case after case where this State Department has been amazingly pro-Muslim Brotherhood. Now, whose advice is that? I don't know him. I can't tell you. I'm not accusing anybody of anything. I am saying American citizens have a right to have their members of Congress ask the question --
BLITZER: Here's my point. Here's my point and you and I will disagree on this. Here's my point, you can raise all sorts of questions about the Muslim Brotherhood, whether the Obama administration should have recognized the new president of Egypt, who is obviously a leader in the Muslim Brotherhood, all that is legitimate. But to take a woman who is a wonderful American patriot and to start throwing her name out there as if she's some sort of spy, if you will, or some sort of insider --
GINGRICH: Nobody -- nobody suggested --
BLITZER: -- because -- because maybe you know some distant relative or whatever may have done I mean that's ridiculous.
GINGRICH: Well, I think it was mother and father, so I don't know how distant --
BLITZER: Well I don't think her mother and father were members of the Muslim Brotherhood.
GINGRICH: I'm just saying but I think that was the allegation --
BLITZER: Yes. GINGRICH: So let's not get into distant relatives --
BLITZER: I have a problem questioning the role of the Muslim Brotherhood making sure that there's no one --
BLITZER: But to start throwing out names --
GINGRICH: So let's agree -- well --
BLITZER: -- of wonderful American citizens without the evidence, without any background, that goes beyond.
GINGRICH: One leading figure said, I don't know her but I'm sure she's OK. Now, I just want --
BLITZER: I know her and I'm sure she's OK.
GINGRICH: OK, I'm just suggesting to you that's when you get into a group thing that says don't even ask these questions.
BLITZER: I don't -- you can ask the questions, but I don't think you should smear somebody's reputation unless you have --
GINGRICH: I'm happy to say --
BLITZER: -- you know you have the smoking gun.
GINGRICH: OK. OK. I'm willing to say they probably should have written the letter with no specific name --
BLITZER: That's better --
GINGRICH: But the question in the letter it is totally valid and shouldn't be avoided by hiding behind one person.
BLITZER: On that note we'll leave it.
GINGRICH: All right.
BLITZER: Mr. Speaker, we'll see you at the convention.
GINGRICH: See you there.
BLITZER: See Callista at the convention, too.
BLITZER: Appreciate it very much.
GINGRICH: Thank you.
More than two years after New Jersey legislators approved a medical marijuana law in the state, residents will now be able to register for identification cards with the state’s Department of Health, the first step in the process to obtaining a medical prescription for cannabis. The ID cards, valid for two years, cost $200 for patients and $20 for those on assistance programs like Medicare and Medicaid. New Jersey is one of seventeen states and the District of Columbia that have legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes, although it remains prohibited on the federal level.
Forget the tape delay. Forget the weird cutting of certain events. Forget the obsessive focus on American athletes at the expense of covering the whole games. Forget the substanceless pool- and track-side interviews. From a sheer editorial judgement perspective, he biggest question about NBC’s coverage of the 2012 London Olympics has got to be how this video, “Bodies in Motion,” (NBC has, perhaps wisely, declined to make it embeddable) which features slow-motion shots of female athletes’ bodies set to music so cheesily porn-like it’s hard to believe that this isn’t a video someone made to parody the focus on female Olympians’ bodies.
The cluelessness of it even extends to the written description for the video: “Check out these bodies in motion during the Olympic Games,” as if the women it’s portraying, none of whom are identified by name, or country, which might have been a petty distraction from ogling, are inanimate objects rather than people. This utterly contentless video, which communicates nothing about the events these women are participating in or what it takes to perform them, might meet the editorial standards at Maxim, though the video quality isn’t even particularly impressive. There is no way it should pass the editorial standards for a news organization.
And yes, it’s a dumb viral video. But it’s a reminder of how much this Olympics, which has been a terrific one for women in so many ways, has brought out the uglier, stupider impulses in a lot of people, whether it’s the athletic official who suggested that British heptathalete and eventual gold medalist Jessica Ennis weighed too much, or Jere Longman’s bizarrely nasty attack on American hurdler Lolo Jones. And the video illustrates the root of many of the complaints about NBC’s coverage of the games: they’re presenting news events as if they’re entertainment. A lot of the time, that’s meant errors of ethics, like having local anchors refer to events that already passes as if they’re upcoming to hype NBC’s primetime coverage. This time, it’s an error of editorial judgement, packaging women doing their jobs, which happen to be entertaining, as if they’re eye candy. As NBC reassesses its coverage in preparation for the next games, “Bodies in Motion” should be a prime example of where the network’s judgement failed.
The Affordable Care Act aims to expand access to health care by requiring all U.S. citizens and permanent residents to have health insurance. The health care reform law provides an expansion of Medicaid and state exchanges where people can buy affordable private insurance to increase the availability of coverage, but the millions of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. are barred from these programs.
As a result, some immigrants without legal status worry they will be easier to identify as undocumented because they are uninsured. “While we do not collect information about the immigration status of our patients, the fact that they will be uninsured could be taken as ?code’ for also being undocumented,” Alicia Wilson, executive director of La Clinica in Washington, DC, told Reuters. Even the U.S.-born children of immigrants can be vulnerable:
According to the Urban Institute, nearly 1 in 10 U.S. families with children are of “mixed status,” with at least one parent who is undocumented and one child who is a citizen.
These children are likely to be eligible for insurance, including the government-sponsored Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). But many remain out of the system because of their parents’ dread that the undocumented spouse will be identified and deported, since U.S. immigration authorities, part of the Department of Homeland Security, must verify a child’s residency status. [...]
According to [National Council of La Raza's Jennifer] Ng’andu, 8 percent of children from families where both parents are U.S. citizens don’t have insurance, compared with 25 percent in households where children live with at least one undocumented parent.
Despite legal protections allowing undocumented immigrants to receive care at hospitals without endangering their status, one single mother from Mexico City who is undocumented said she fears that she will be asked about her immigration status at the hospital “and am always worried that the police will intervene, that my children will be taken away from me.”
by Andrew Light and Adam James
This past Tuesday, Todd Stern, America?s top climate diplomat at the Department of State, was compelled to clarify comments he made last week at Dartmouth College on the global goal of limiting temperature increase caused by climate change to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6°F). Several commentators, including our former CAP colleague Brad Johnson on this blog, raised concerns that it signaled a reversal of a commitment the U.S. has had since 2009 to the 2C goal. Stern denied this assertion in no uncertain terms: ?Of course, the U.S. continues to support this goal; we have not changed our policy.?
While it?s heartening to have the 2C goal reaffirmed by our chief climate envoy, it?s unfortunate that he had to do so. Only a very selective and skewed reading of this speech should set off any alarms. What Stern actually said at Dartmouth doesn?t even register as a gaffe.
Stern?s comments in the Dartmouth speech on the 2C target are relatively minor. They comprise a very small portion of a much more broad-ranging speech which includes, among other topics: current evidence of the disastrous impacts of rising temperatures around the world, the ideological divide over concern about climate change in the U.S., the Obama administration?s efforts to lower domestic emissions without comprehensive energy legislation, the nuances and challenges of climate diplomacy in a forum where consensus must be reached by 194 countries, and options for reducing emissions among smaller coalitions of the willing.
On the 2C target, Stern only challenges the likelihood that building a top-down international treaty, which divided up the allocation of emissions reductions country by country to stabilize temperature at 2C, would actually work. For various reasons, mostly concerning national self-interest, he favors a ?more flexible approach? which would start with bottom-up nationally derived policies and then instead take the challenge to be to ?increase the overall ambition? to stabilize at 2C with a hoped-for boost by future innovations in clean energy technology.
If this part of Stern?s speech is minor, the U.S. commitment to the 2C target is quite important even if progress toward that goal is lagging. The endorsement of this target was the first major shift in international climate policy that the Obama administration embraced, signaling a complete break with the approach taken by the Bush administration which had isolated us in the international climate negotiations.
The 2C target was first endorsed by President Obama himself in the leader?s declaration emerging from July 2009 G-8 summit in L?Aquila Italy. In fact, the leaders statement wound up endorsing a stronger statement than what was originally proposed. An earlier draft had stipulated that holding temperature increase at 2C over pre-industrial levels was ?aspirational.? The final statement removed this proviso signaling a newly unified position by the richest developed countries in the world.
Later that year, the 2C target was repeated and endorsed by most of the 194 parties in the U.N.?s official climate negotiations in Copenhagen, including a last minute personal push by President Obama, and the rest of the U.S. climate team led by Todd Stern. Five countries however kept the ?Copenhagen Accord? from becoming official given the defacto consensus rule governing any agreement in this process. But the 2C target, and a lot more by way of architecture for a regime for measuring progress on emission reduction, was enshrined the following year in the Cancun Agreements in the same process.
Now, there are many reasons to criticize these statements and agreements as not doing near enough to actually help to reduce the world?s greenhouse gas pollution and, indeed, ensure that the 2C target will be met. But one cannot deny that they are nonetheless important pieces of international diplomacy in themselves. The U.S. can?t easily reverse course on the 2C target any more than it could announce tomorrow that it was pulling out of the U.N. climate negotiations altogether. Since the president put his own credibility on the line in forging the language of these agreements, he?d have to provide some explanation to other global leaders.
It would, in short, be a diplomatic train-wreck for our chief climate negotiator to announce a reversal of the US position in a speech like this one. So, it should be no surprise that he didn?t do any such thing.
Nonetheless, we?ll play along. Suppose it was Stern?s intention to quietly float the idea of backing away from 2C on a pleasant August day in New Hampshire outside of the media spotlight, to ?road test? it for the future. If that was Stern?s position then this particular speech would have been the wrong vehicle.
At the beginning of the speech, well before Stern challenges the idea that a top-down treaty can deliver on the 2C target, he discusses eight separate impacts of rising temperatures which should serve as a wake up call for anyone who now doubts the reality of anthropogenic climate change, ranging from the 2010 Pakistani floods, to this year?s Colorado wildfires, to ice melt in Greenland. He concludes with a warning: ?And remember, these events are what we?re seeing with only a modest global temperature increase ? about 1.3° F since 1900 ? compared to the much larger increases we will see if we don?t take strong action.? So now we?re to believe that the real point of the speech is to reverse-course on the U.S. endorsement of the 2C target? Interesting. Maybe next week Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood will argue for eliminating federal highway speed limits by first iterating the number of traffic fatalities at current limits.
The real problem that critics are having here is with Stern?s approach to forging an international climate agreement. For well-rehearsed reasons, most people in the environmental community prefer a treaty like the Kyoto Protocol that, crudely put, sets an overall target for emission reductions, allocates to each signatory party a portion of those reductions to be responsible for, and then leaves it to them to form a national policy to meet their agreed upon obligation. Stern thinks there is little or no hope that we?ll create a global treaty that looks like Kyoto which can actually meet a 2C goal ? much more ambitious than the goals of the Kyoto treaty ? because too many parties will disagree on the allocation of responsibility for reducing emissions. We agree with him on this point.
Regardless of the disagreement one would have on the legal form of a new climate treaty with any of us, Stern?s position here does not seem to be downplaying the importance or the possibility of hitting a 2C target. In fact, he uses the importance of hitting a 2C target as the rationale for criticizing the current negotiation process. Take the line that is causing the most concern now among many of our friends:
This kind of flexible, evolving legal agreement [which Stern prefers] cannot guarantee that we meet a 2 degree goal, but insisting on a structure that would guarantee such a goal will only lead to deadlock.
Why bother mentioning a 2 degree goal if the US doesn?t think it is important anymore? Charitably read, the claim is that no international agreement will ever guarantee a particular outcome. At best it will be structured smartly enough to compel all parties to achieve a desired outcome rather than breaking out of the agreement altogether.
This is a good lesson for us all to keep in mind, particularly given the questionable success of the Kyoto Protocol. Just after the Durban climate negotiations last December, Canada announced that they will not meet their obligations under the Kyoto Protocol. While this came as no surprise to those following the actions of the Harper government since coming into power, it?s still an object lesson of the sort of thing we don?t want to tee up for a more ambitious global treaty that needs to include the fastest growing carbon polluters in the developing world.
Finally, Stern ends this part of the Dartmouth speech with a plea to move beyond the turgid waters of the UN climate negotiations to reduce emissions in other ways. This is the actual punch line to the international portion of this address. What can we practically do to move forward? He begins:
Now I want to shift gears slightly. As much as we need to make the UN climate regime work effectively and promote aggressive, real-world action, we also need to recognize that it can?t do everything. So we should expand the field of international engagement to include other, more informal groupings of countries prepared to act in ways that can make a difference. The point of such coalitions is not to negotiate agreements, debate the meaning of treaty clauses or grandstand about the imagined sins of our rivals, but to act. To produce results. To get something done. And efforts like these are starting.
Stern goes on to highlight efforts like the new Climate and Clean Air Coalition, now comprised by some 20 countries and 10 non-state partners to take on short-lived climate forcers, especially methane, black carbon, and HFCs, which now ?account for over 30% of current global warming, millions of premature deaths, and extensive crop losses.? Again, if the point of this speech was to float an abandonment of the commitment to the 2C target, and a new dismissive stance on international climate policy out of touch with reality, as some have put it, then this speech is a flop.
The validity of Stern?s preferred ?flexible? approach to structuring a new climate treaty is a discussion for another day. The worries about the US commitment to the 2C target, whether it is achievable at this point or not, are unnecessary and unhelpful.
Andrew Light is a Senior Fellow and Director of International Climate Policy, and Adam James is a Special Assistant, at the Center for American Progress.
To discipline misbehaving students, public schools in Ohio and Florida regularly send children to “seclusion” — isolation in a locked cell-like room, old office, or closet, NPR’s State Impact reports. Many of these children are special needs students and their parents are not always told of this disciplinary practice.
Ohio schools — where seclusion is almost completely unregulated — sent students to seclusion rooms 4,236 times in the 2009-2010 school year. Sixty percent of these students had disabilities. Florida schools have fewer cases, with 969 instances of seclusion from 2010 to 2011. The state has just three stipulations for using seclusion rooms: teachers may not choke or suffocate students, the room must be approved by a fire marshal, and the lights must be left on.
But last school year, one Pickerington special-education teacher sent children to a seclusion room more than 60 times, district records show. In nearly all of those incidents, the children were not violent. Often, they were sent to the seclusion room for being ?mouthy,? or whining about their school work.
Pickerington Special Education Director Bob Blackburn said the teacher in that classroom was new and that someone in the district has now taught her the right way to use the seclusion room.
Other Pickerington teachers misused the rooms, too, though. In another classroom, children were secluded more than 30 times last school year. Two-thirds of those instances involved misbehavior and not violence, district records show.
Far from benefiting violent or rowdy students, seclusion has been found to be deeply traumatizing, sometimes leading children to hurt or kill themselves. In one special education school in Georgia, a 13-year-old boy hung himself in a seclusion room in November 2004.
Someone recently hacked a construction sign in Provo, Utah to flash “God Hates Gays.” Provo is best known as the town where prominent Mormon college Brigham Young University is located. A YouTube video uploaded today captures the flashing message, alternating that phrase with “Follow Detour,” on a roadside after dark. According to a spokesperson from the Utah Department of Transportation, the sign was “a very bad prank that is obviously unacceptable.? Watch it: