New York Just Took The First Steps In Ending Abortion Clinic Harassment

QUEENS, N.Y. ― New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced a federal lawsuit Tuesday against anti-abortion protestors for the unlawful harassment of patients and their companions outside a New York City abortion clinic.

“The tactics used to harass and menace Choices’ patients, families, volunteers, and staff are not only horrifying ― they’re illegal,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “The law guarantees women the right to control their own bodies and access the reproductive health care they need, without obstruction. We’ll do what it takes to protect those rights for women across New York.”

The announcement was made outside Choices, an abortion clinic in New York City’s Jamaica neighborhood. Every Saturday for the last five years, local anti-abortion protestors have posted up outside of Choices to harass patients. This harassment has included following patients with 3×5 grotesque and heavily edited photos of aborted fetuses, following patients to the door of the clinic and attempting to go inside with them, preaching anti-abortion and misogynist rhetoric loudly just outside the clinic entrance, waiting for patients as they exit their cars, and waving pamphlets and fliers into the faces of the patients and their companions. (Full disclosure: I work as a clinic escort volunteer at Choices, and have seen all of this firsthand.)

This behavior from abortion clinic protestors is often defended under the guise of the First Amendment. But Schneiderman was quick to point out in the press conference that access to safe and legal abortion is also protected by the U.S. Constitution, and that there have always been laws that regulate freedom of speech.

“It is as old as the First Amendment that proper restrictions on time, place and manner of speech are totally lawful. There are many things that are ‘speech’ that are restricted by the law,” Schneiderman said Tuesday.

“You are not allowed to … harass, intimidate and try and prevent people from exercising their constitutional rights,” he added.

Theresa White, a longtime volunteer clinic escort from Queens and clinic escort supervisor who worked with Schneiderman to build the case against the anti-abortion protestors (or “antis”), told HuffPost that this is a serious win for the women of New York and the pro-abortion rights community. 

“We’ve been working on this for over a year,” she said. “This just feels fantastic.”

Other women’s rights activists around the country see New York’s lawsuit against the antis as a loud statement against abortion clinic harassment ― and hope that their cities can follow suit.

Calla Hales, clinic administrator at A Preferred Women’s Health Center in Charlotte, North Carolina, told HuffPost that she hopes the city of Charlotte is paying attention.

Hales is used to hundreds of protestors every Saturday outside the clinic in Charlotte and faces ambivalence with local legislators when it comes to protecting patients. 

“I feel so positive about this,” Hales said. “I understand that protesting and free speech are protected rights. However, it’s very clear that what’s occurring when these groups protest abortion clinics is not merely voicing a different opinion ― it’s harassment, it’s intimidation, and it’s simply cruel. I hope that other cities, Charlotte included, will take note of this.”

Jessica Gird, a clinic escort in Michigan at Northland Family Planning, told HuffPost that the city of Westland has done little to support patients and clinic staff.

“Legislation has really not done a whole lot that benefits patients and staff alike,” she said Tuesday. “In regard to what the antis can and cannot do, it’s relatively expansive in their favor, especially if looked at from the psychological and emotional effects from the patient’s standpoint.” 

Gird said that choosing to terminate a pregnancy isn’t always an easy choice ― and that antis make the entire experience much more traumatizing than it should be.

“While there is no universal abortion experience, this can already be an emotionally charged collection of moments in time,” she said. “They shame our patients and staff, they use manipulation tactics with patients from black and brown communities and with people who are forced to arrive with children, they promote these ideas that have no factual basis to those in vulnerable states, and to me that is in direct opposition to the Christian belief system that they claim to adhere so closely to.”

Derenda Hancock, a clinic escort for Jackson Women’s Health Organization in Jackson, Mississippi, told HuffPost that she wishes the city of Jackson would do more to protect patients, too ― especially because “the Pink House” is the only remaining clinic in the state. 

“We used to have an incredible relationship with the police department,” Hancock told HuffPost. But changes in the local government in November have made it difficult to have a good relationship with the city, and a peaceful one with protestors.

Hancock said that the antis sued the city of Jackson, and the city government caved ― the antis were given a consent decree and no longer have to follow city ordinances for noise levels, signage and buffer zones. 

“They get away with all kinds of things,” she said. 

As states continue to allow the constant interference that occurs outside of abortion clinics, New York’s lawsuit against aggressive anti-abortion harassment is a major win for clinic patients and the abortion rights community. The lawsuit has set a strong precedent for state and city governments to defend women’s health care access.

“We think it’s going to send a very powerful message,” Schneiderman said. 

type=type=RelatedArticlesblockTitle=Related… + articlesList=576ae9d3e4b09926ce5d8053,5841b859e4b0c68e04808b82,5890b3dde4b02772c4e95128

— This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

Source: Huff Politics

Insurers Talk A Lot About Climate Change, But Most Still Do Business In Coal

function onPlayerReadyVidible(e){‘undefined’!=typeof HPTrack&&HPTrack.Vid.Vidible_track(e)}!function(e,i){if(e.vdb_Player){if(‘object’==typeof commercial_video){var a=”,o=’m.fwsitesection=’+commercial_video.site_and_category;if(a+=o,commercial_video[‘package’]){var c=’&m.fwkeyvalues=sponsorship%3D’+commercial_video[‘package’];a+=c}e.setAttribute(‘vdb_params’,a)}i(e.vdb_Player)}else{var t=arguments.callee;setTimeout(function(){t(e,i)},0)}}(document.getElementById(‘vidible_1’),onPlayerReadyVidible);

The insurance industry’s annual confab last week was supposed to be a dry, stoic affair.

Instead, anti-coal protesters stormed the 44th Geneva Association conference at a ritzy hotel in San Francisco, plastered the bathrooms with slogan stickers and slipped fliers under the doors to executives’ rooms. A plane toting a banner reading “unfriend coal” circled the high-rise where the executives held their closing dinner and cocktail party.  

The activists’ demands were twofold: Insurance companies should divest from coal projects and stop underwriting the fossil fuel.

Insurers have raised the alarm on the risk posed by climate change in recent years, forming international coalitions aimed at preparing for the increased floods, storms and heatwaves that come with a warming planet. But of the 16 companies on the board of the Geneva Association ― the insurance industry’s think tank ― just one told HuffPost it cut off both funding and insurance for coal companies.

AXA Group, France’s largest insurer, in 2015 announced plans to divest from companies most exposed to coal activities. This April, the firm said it would no longer offer property or casualty insurance to mining companies or utilities deriving 50 percent of their sales from coal.

“Coal is often a low-cost form of energy, and is widely available to a large proportion of the world’s population,” the company said at its annual shareholder meeting on April 26. “However, coal is also the most carbon-intensive energy source. AXA, like many investors, believes coal both poses the biggest threat to the climate and its business is the most likely to be constrained.”

On the opposite end of the spectrum is XL Group, whose chief executive, Mike McGavick, is the Geneva Association’s current chairman. His Ireland-based firm has refused to divest from coal companies and continues to cover them with casualty and property insurance, calling such moves “nonsense.”

Other firms have followed his lead, including Japan’s Tokio Marine, the United Kingdom’s Lloyd’s, Brazil’s SulAmérica Seguros, Canada’s Intact, Switzerland’s Zurich Insurance Group and the People’s Insurance Company of China, known as PICC. (Berkshire Hathaway, the U.S. insurance behemoth led by billionaire Warren Buffett, underwrites and invests in coal, though the firm is not on the Geneva Association’s board.)

Italy’s biggest insurance company, Assicurazioni Generali Group, has yet to divest or curtail coverage for coal, but a spokesman told HuffPost it was completing an internal audit to determine the scope of its exposure to the fuel.

“Generali is currently performing an in-depth analysis of its exposure to coal infrastructure both from an investment and underwriting perspective,” Matthew Newton said by email. He did not respond to questions about when the audit would be complete, but suggested it could be a first step toward the company divesting and ending insurance policies for coal.

Coal divestment campaigns have gained steam in recent years as hundreds of cities and universities pull their pension funds and endowments out of the industry. The fuel faces fierce competition from natural gas and renewable energy, and its use is on pace to peak in the next decade. But scientists warn that a business-as-usual approach to the industry that’s disproportionately responsible for planet-heating emissions rapidly causing Earth’s climate to change jeopardizes any hope of averting the worst effects of global warming. 

Peter Bosshard, who coordinated last week’s protest for the activist group Unfriend Coal, said convincing insurers to abandon coal would hasten the industry’s demise.

“It’s the one critical fact that’s been left off the hook,” Bosshard, who works for the global warming advocacy group the Sunrise Project, told HuffPost on Monday. “Insurance is a precondition for any major project to go ahead. It’s one thing to divest, but more important is to stop insuring coal.”

Some companies don’t offer any insurance for coal projects. These include New Jersey-based giant Prudential, Canada’s Manulife Financial, the United Kingdom’s Aviva and the Netherlands’ Aegon.

Aviva and Aegon also have moved to pull money they manage out of coal companies. Germany’s Allianz, France’s SCOR and Switzerland’s Swiss Re similarly have committed to divest, but have stopped short of cutting off insurance coverage for coal-heavy clients. None of these firms responded to HuffPost’s request for comment on Friday.

“Given the clean energy transition underway, all insurers should assess their risk exposure to carbon-intensive fossil fuel industries ― including oil, gas and coal ―- and disclose this information, along with their plans to reduce their fossil-fuel risk exposures, to industry regulators and other stakeholders,” Cynthia McHale, insurance director at the sustainability shareholder advocate Ceres, told HuffPost. “Coal rapidly is being replaced and eclipsed by clean, renewable energy. The market growth opportunities are with renewables, not coal.”

type=type=RelatedArticlesblockTitle=Related… + articlesList=56d36cade4b03260bf773563,59441b0ae4b01eab7a2d6f48,58da777ae4b018c4606b99f9,58c993d9e4b0be71dcf104b1,59089118e4b05c397682ce92,58dad105e4b054637062e61d

— This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

Source: Huff Politics

Australian Broadcaster Apologizes For Asking Asian Journalist, 'Are You Yellow?'

function onPlayerReadyVidible(e){‘undefined’!=typeof HPTrack&&HPTrack.Vid.Vidible_track(e)}!function(e,i){if(e.vdb_Player){if(‘object’==typeof commercial_video){var a=”,o=’m.fwsitesection=’+commercial_video.site_and_category;if(a+=o,commercial_video[‘package’]){var c=’&m.fwkeyvalues=sponsorship%3D’+commercial_video[‘package’];a+=c}e.setAttribute(‘vdb_params’,a)}i(e.vdb_Player)}else{var t=arguments.callee;setTimeout(function(){t(e,i)},0)}}(document.getElementById(‘vidible_1’),onPlayerReadyVidible);

An Australian broadcaster is under fire after asking an Asian journalist, “Are you yellow?” during a contentious interview.

Red Symons, who hosts a morning show on the Australian Broadcasting Corp.’s Radio Melbourne station, apologized Monday morning for comments he made while being interviewed by colleague Beverley Wang for her new ABC podcast, “It’s Not a Race.”

During the chat, Symons told Wang he wished he could host a similarly themed podcast, “What’s the Deal With Asians?” according to HuffPost Australia.

Wang replied, “OK, let’s tackle that. What is the deal with Asians, Red?”

“No, I ask the questions. First question is, are they all the same?” before claiming the question was “a useful, general question about the nature of our culture and how one should interact with people who have a different cultural background.”

Other questions weren’t useful at all, like when Symons asked Wang, “Are you yellow?” according to News.com.au.

Symons also questioned if Wang was Chinese and seemed surprised when she explained she had a Taiwanese background but was born in Canada.

Symons: “Do they speak Mandarin or Cantonese?”

Wang: “Who’s ‘they’?”

Symons: “The people in Taiwan.”

Wang: “They speak Taiwanese and they speak Mandarin. And in Canada, where I’m from, they speak English and French.”

Symons: “I knew that. You’re probably from the west coast of Canada.”

Wang: “Why do you think that, Red?”

Symons: “Because it’s closer to Asia.”

 

The interview was enough of a train wreck that the Australian Broadcasting Corp. removed the podcast from its website Friday and apologized “for the content going to air,” according to The Guardian.

Symons apologized for the interview Monday morning on his radio show.

“I came across as racist, and I was wrong in the way I conducted the interview,” Symons said. “This is not who I am, and I acknowledge that on this occasion I caused offense and hurt not only to Beverley but to our listeners.

“The plan was to take on a serious topic, race and culture, and talk with Beverley about a range of related issues. I offer my sincerest apologies. We need to talk about these issues but be careful how we consider them.”

— This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

Source: Huff Politics

Donald Trump Speaks Out On The Death Of Otto Warmbier

function onPlayerReadyVidible(e){‘undefined’!=typeof HPTrack&&HPTrack.Vid.Vidible_track(e)}!function(e,i){if(e.vdb_Player){if(‘object’==typeof commercial_video){var a=”,o=’m.fwsitesection=’+commercial_video.site_and_category;if(a+=o,commercial_video[‘package’]){var c=’&m.fwkeyvalues=sponsorship%3D’+commercial_video[‘package’];a+=c}e.setAttribute(‘vdb_params’,a)}i(e.vdb_Player)}else{var t=arguments.callee;setTimeout(function(){t(e,i)},0)}}(document.getElementById(‘vidible_1’),onPlayerReadyVidible);

President Donald Trump on Monday spoke out about the death of Otto Warmbier, the University of Virginia student who died after spending more than a year imprisoned in North Korea.

Trump said during a technology roundtable event that Warmbier faced tough conditions in detention and called North Korea a “brutal regime,” Reuters reports. 

“Melania and I offer our deepest condolences to the family of Otto Warmbier on his untimely passing,” the president said in an official statement. “There is nothing more tragic for a parent than to lose a child in the prime of life. Our thoughts and prayers are with Otto’s family and friends, and all who loved him.”

“Otto’s fate deepens my Administration’s determination to prevent such tragedies from befalling innocent people at the hands of regimes that do not respect the rule of law or basic human decency,” the statement continues. “The United States once again condemns the brutality of the North Korean regime as we mourn its latest victim.”

The United States once again condemns the brutality of the North Korean regime as we mourn its latest victim.
President Donald Trump

Trump directed the State Department to secure Warmbier’s release last week. Warmbier left North Korea in a Medivac flight because he had been in a coma since March 2016, according to his family.

Doctors who examined Warmbier after his arrival in the U.S. said he suffered a severe brain injury and was in a state of “unresponsive wakefulness.” His parents confirmed his death on Monday.

Warmbier was first apprehended at Pyongyang International Airport when he was a 21-year-old junior at the University of Virginia and on a group tour to North Korea. He was accused of “perpetrating a hostile act against the DPRK” and sentenced to 15 years in prison with hard labor. 

Other lawmakers mourned his death, including Sen. Rob Portman (R), who represents Warmbier’s home state of Ohio.

“He was kind, generous and accomplished,” Portman said. “He had all the talent you could ever ask for and a bright future ahead of him.”

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

— This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

Source: Huff Politics

Steve Scalice's Twitter Account Posts Touching Father's Day Tribute

As Americans recognize the incredible role fathers play in our lives this Father’s Day, the holiday is said to have taken on a “special meaning” for the family of Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.).

The House Majority Whip’s Twitter account has shared a touching tribute to him that encourages others to “take the time to be close with the ones you love” as he continues to recover from last week’s shooting.

In family photos accompanying Sunday’s Twitter post, Scalise is seen smiling as he enjoys everyday moments with his wife, son and daughter.

“Steve’s greatest joy is being a father to Madison and Harrison, and a husband to Jennifer,” the post begins. “This Father’s Day has special meaning for the Scalise family, and they send their best wishes to every family, especially the dads. Take the time to be close with the ones you love.”

The message goes on to thank those who have offered their “continued prayers, support and outpouring of love.”

The tribute came one day after doctors upgraded the congressman’s condition from “critical” to “serious.”

Scalise was one of four people shot during a baseball practice in Alexandria, Virginia, on Wednesday morning.

The 51-year-old from Louisiana underwent another surgery on Saturday, the hospital treating him said.

“He is more responsive, and is speaking with his loved ones. The Scalise family greatly appreciates the outpouring of thoughts and prayers,” the hospital announced, “on behalf of the Scalise family.”

type=type=RelatedArticlesblockTitle=Related… + articlesList=5945a957e4b0f15cd5bbcefc,59442f93e4b01eab7a2d97f8,5942d483e4b0f15cd5b9eabe,5941217fe4b003d5948c43d0

— This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

Source: Huff Politics

Big Early Vote In Georgia Runoff Heightens Expectations In Campaign's Final Days

function onPlayerReadyVidible(e){‘undefined’!=typeof HPTrack&&HPTrack.Vid.Vidible_track(e)}!function(e,i){if(e.vdb_Player){if(‘object’==typeof commercial_video){var a=”,o=’m.fwsitesection=’+commercial_video.site_and_category;if(a+=o,commercial_video[‘package’]){var c=’&m.fwkeyvalues=sponsorship%3D’+commercial_video[‘package’];a+=c}e.setAttribute(‘vdb_params’,a)}i(e.vdb_Player)}else{var t=arguments.callee;setTimeout(function(){t(e,i)},0)}}(document.getElementById(‘vidible_1’),onPlayerReadyVidible);

More than 140,000 people have already cast ballots ahead of Tuesday’s hotly contested U.S.House special election runoff in Georgia, indicating high interest in the race between Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel that both parties see as an important bellwether.

Early voting ended Friday, and the ballots already cast more than double the comparable figure in April’s first-round election, and amount to almost three quarters of the 192,000 people who voted in that 18-candidate race.

With spending on advertising by both sides nearing a total of $40 million, the  race already ranks as the most expensive House contest in U.S. history.

Ossoff and Handel, as the top finishers in the first round, are vying for a seat in suburban Atlanta vacated by Republican Tom Price, who is now President Donald Trump’s secretary of health and human services. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich also once represented the district.

The high early vote total indicates that the final numbers on Tuesday will likely far surpass those of the April election. Election officials in Georgia hailed the “unprecedented” and “phenomenal” turnout, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. It remained unclear, though, which candidate would benefit from a higher turnout.

Ossoff led by slightly more than 2 percentage points in the HuffPost Pollster average of recent surveys of the race.

Price won re-election November, garnering almost 62 percent of the roughly 311,000 votes cast.  

Democrats in particular see the race to replace Price as a test of anti-Trump activism and strategy ahead of next year’s midterm elections. While they have made some impressive showings, they have yet to notch a victory in several highly anticipated congressional special elections this year in traditionally GOP territory.

In April’s election, Ossoff won about 48 percent of the vote, falling just short of clearing the 50 percent mark he needed to avoid a runoff. Handel, one of 11 Republicans competing in the first round, got about 20 percent.

Over the weekend, Ossoff and Handel both campaigned with high-profile political figures in hopes of generating more enthusiasm. Price, as well as former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue ― who now serves as Trump’s agriculture secretary ―  joined Handel at a Saturday campaign stop. Ossoff got a boost Saturday from civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.).

— This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

Source: Huff Politics

GOP Senators Still Frustrated With Obamacare Repeal Bill, Still Doing Nothing About It

function onPlayerReadyVidible(e){‘undefined’!=typeof HPTrack&&HPTrack.Vid.Vidible_track(e)}!function(e,i){if(e.vdb_Player){if(‘object’==typeof commercial_video){var a=”,o=’m.fwsitesection=’+commercial_video.site_and_category;if(a+=o,commercial_video[‘package’]){var c=’&m.fwkeyvalues=sponsorship%3D’+commercial_video[‘package’];a+=c}e.setAttribute(‘vdb_params’,a)}i(e.vdb_Player)}else{var t=arguments.callee;setTimeout(function(){t(e,i)},0)}}(document.getElementById(‘vidible_1’),onPlayerReadyVidible);

A bunch of Republican senators are frustrated with leadership plans to pass a sweeping health care bill with almost no public deliberation.

In fact, they are so frustrated that they seem to have forgotten it would take just three of them to force a slower, more open process.

The latest GOP senator to express concern is Marco Rubio, of Florida. Toward the end of his appearance Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union,” his discussion with host Jake Tapper turned to health care legislation ― specifically, the bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

When the House passed the American Health Care Act (AHCA), its version of the legislation, Republican senators were quick to decry both the bill and the debate that led to it. They said the House had acted brashly ― hatching legislation behind closed doors and then rushing to vote before the public could get a good look at it. Republican senators also said the proposal itself was too harsh ― breaking promises to protect people with pre-existing conditions and taking insurance away from 23 million people, according to Congressional Budget Office predictions.

Now it’s clear that the Senate process won’t play out so differently after all.

A group of GOP senators has been writing the bill in private. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) plans to take legislation directly to the Senate floor, where it will most likely get just 20 hours of formal discussion. Neither the Finance Committee nor the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee ― the two with jurisdiction ― plan to hold hearings. (In 2009 and 2010, Democrats held literally hundreds of hours of hearings, as part of a process for the Affordable Care Act that took more than a year to complete.)

The Senate legislation itself is likely to look resemble that House bill so many GOP senators insisted they couldn’t tolerate. It might propose to unwind the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of Medicaid a little more slowly and offer marginally more financial assistance to lower-income and older consumers, but overall, the impact of the bill would be nearly the same. Many millions of people would lose health insurance, and millions more would lose consumer protections that guarantee access for people with serious medical problems.

Rubio, asked about all of this on Sunday, vowed that the process would be open: 

That bill has to at least have a vote in the Senate, and I hope it’s a vote that allows plenty of time for debate, analysis, and changes. And input.

And if that’s the process we follow, it will be fine. If it is an effort to rush from a small group of people straight to the floor in an up-or-down vote, that would be a problem. The Senate rules are not conducive to that sort of action.

As Topher Spiro, the former Senate aide now at the Center for American Progress pointed out on Twitter, Rubio’s vow is essentially meaningless. The Senate rules for the debate McConnell envisions would give all senators a chance to weigh in, but it would be during that brief, 20-hour window of final debate ― this, for legislation that would affect one-sixth of the economy and the insurance arrangements for tens of millions of Americans.

Last week, Vox published a series of interviews with eight Republican senators. It was a remarkable piece of journalism, in that Vox reporters asked the senators what might seem like the simplest of questions ― what they knew about the contents of the emerging Senate legislation and what they hoped it would achieve.  

The answers were vague and in a few cases nonsensical, and several lawmakers, including Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), were openly critical of the way the legislation is coming together.

Is it the framework of the House-passed bill and then we’re filling in our own details? I don’t know. We just don’t know. My constituents expect me to know, and if we had utilized the process that goes through a committee, I would be able to answer not only your questions but my constituents’ questions.

At least a dozen other Republican senators have made similarly critical comments in the last few months, as their party’s health legislation has taken shape. Republicans have only 52 seats in the Senate, and because it will take 50 to pass legislation, McConnell would have to listen if at least three of them demanded a change. As Sarah Kliff, also of Vox, wrote late last week, “The health care bill only gets to remain secret if Republican senators allow it to. They could force it into the sunlight if that was their desire.”

But so far that desire has not been there. The process is unfolding just as McConnell wants it to, the bill is sounding more and more like its House counterpart, and all of these Republican senators are going along.

It’s enough to make you wonder whether they’re really all that worried and upset ― or whether they are just complaining to the cameras in order to duck political responsibility for what they know is an unpopular, ill-advised piece of legislation. 

— This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

Source: Huff Politics

Here's Yet More Evidence That The 2016 Election In Texas Was A Mess

function onPlayerReadyVidible(e){‘undefined’!=typeof HPTrack&&HPTrack.Vid.Vidible_track(e)}!function(e,i){if(e.vdb_Player){if(‘object’==typeof commercial_video){var a=”,o=’m.fwsitesection=’+commercial_video.site_and_category;if(a+=o,commercial_video[‘package’]){var c=’&m.fwkeyvalues=sponsorship%3D’+commercial_video[‘package’];a+=c}e.setAttribute(‘vdb_params’,a)}i(e.vdb_Player)}else{var t=arguments.callee;setTimeout(function(){t(e,i)},0)}}(document.getElementById(‘vidible_1’),onPlayerReadyVidible);

Texans faced long lines in the 2016 election and confusion over their polling place, registration status and the documentation required to vote, a report from a Texas civil rights group finds.

The Texas Civil Rights Project’s analysis released Thursday tracked over 4,000 incidents reported to a voter hotline or to field volunteers. It shows there was a lack of understanding among voters and election officials alike surrounding voting qualifications required by a controversial 2011 voter verification law. In April, a federal judge ruled the law was designed intentionally to discriminate against black and Latino voters, pushing Texas lawmakers to amend the legislation amid concerns that the state could be put under federal preclearance for its elections.

Of the 4,075 incidents logged in the report, about 8 percent involved confusion over the voter ID law. More than half of the incidents involved questions about a polling location, and the report noted most of these questions came from a predominantly black area in Houston. Over 8.5 million Texans voted in the November election.

A separate ruling found the voter verification law discriminatory last year. As a result, Texas reached an agreement with the Department of Justice to allow voters without an accepted form of ID to cast a ballot if they showed a voter registration card and an acceptable document and signed a declaration saying they could not obtain acceptable identification. But the report notes at least seven of the state’s 254 counties still displayed signs during early voting saying a photo ID was necessary to vote. Most of the voter ID-related incidents reported involved election officials telling people they needed a photo ID in order to vote. In Harris County, in which Houston is included, a man was turned away after showing up to vote with his voter registration card and a utility bill, and was only able to cast a ballot after an election worker accompanied him back to the poll.

The confusion over voter ID is significant because officials pushing voter verification laws often argue the measures aren’t discriminatory if voters receive a free card identifying them. Advocates also argue that the laws don’t discriminate if voters don’t possess an acceptable form of ID and can produce other verification. The issues in Texas show that even if those safeguards exist, voters can still face considerable obstacles to voting. Earlier in June, Texas passed a new voter ID law that formalizes the temporary solution reached last year, but lawyers for the plaintiffs suing the state have urged a federal judge to get rid of the new requirements as well as the original voter ID law.

Despite assurances from state officials that Texas would commit considerable resources to educating residents about the 2011 law, several of its largest community voter outreach groups said they did not even receive a voting manual from the state. Texas set aside just $2 million to educate voters about the law, but the campaign the state launched appears to have been ineffective, according to a ProPublica review of the state’s outreach efforts.

The report also shows many voters didn’t know where to vote and had to wait a long time when they got to their polling place. After the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in Shelby County v. Holder, which struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act, Texas was required to approve changes to elections with the federal government. Since the decision, Texas has closed more polling locations than has any other state in the country, according to a report last year. An estimated 57 percent of the incidents reported involved questions about polling locations and many voters reported having to stand in line for more than an hour to cast a ballot. The lines were particularly long at Prairie View A&M University, a historically black school in Houston, where voters had to stand in line for up to three hours to vote.

To improve elections in the state, the Texas Civil Rights Project called for efforts to modernize the state’s voter registration practices and to comply with voter registration law.

“We will need to think seriously about polling place efficiency, and invest in often over-looked aspects of election administration like voting technology and poll worker training,” the report says. “Lastly, providing robust education efforts to ensure Texas voters understand the current requirements to vote is essential to make the process easier and fairer for individuals across the state.”

— This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

Source: Huff Politics

Trans Employee Sues McDonald's For 'Extreme Sexual Harassment,' Discrimination

A former McDonald’s employee is suing the company and a franchise owner after she says she was sexually harassed and subjected to discrimination on the job because she identifies as transgender. 

In a May 25 lawsuit, La’Ray Reed claims her superiors at a McDonald’s in Redford, Michigan, subjected her to “extreme sexual harassment and disparate treatment.” The 25-year-old, who worked at the franchise full-time between April and August 2015, said she was referred to as a “boy-slash-girl” and relegated to using an unused bathroom that had been serving as a storage closet because she is trans. She also claims her genitals were groped.  

“I am transgender, but I have never dealt with anything like that, especially in the work field,” Reed said in a video released Thursday by the workers’ rights group Fight for $15, which is locked in a legal battle with McDonald’s to improve employee pay and conditions. She noted that her hours were slashed, and she was eventually fired, after she spoke to a manager about the abuse. “They actually took me off the schedule,” she said in the clip, which can be viewed above. “So with that being said, it was even more stressful, even more depressing.” 

Though McDonald’s has a history of supporting the LGBTQ community, several queer advocacy groups said the lawsuit implied that the company’s inclusive efforts may be hypocritical. “McDonald’s can’t pinkwash its record of harassment and discrimination against LGBTQ workers with a fry box and a parade float,” Pride at Work executive director Jerame Davis said in a press release. “It will take a real commitment to equality and better treatment for its workers to address the horrific allegations in these complaints.” 

Reed, who is seeking damages for loss of wages, emotional pain and loss of self-esteem, filed the lawsuit in an effort to “show that trans lives matter,” said attorney Anthony D. Paris of the Sugar Law Center for Economic and Social Justice in an email to HuffPost. 

“She wants to stand up for herself and the other employees of a billion dollar industry, to show that it’s not okay to sexually harass and discriminate against the employees who work for you,”wrote Paris, who is representing Reed. “She wants them to know it’s not okay to treat their employees that way, and they can’t get away with it.”

Reed “knows she is not the only person,” he continued. “It’s happened to others and its gone on for too long, so she is standing up for herself and for others.”  

HuffPost has reached out to McDonald’s for comment on the lawsuit. A company spokesperson told the Detroit Free Press, “As a company, we are committed to the well-being and fair treatment of all people who work in McDonald’s restaurants and discrimination of any kind is completely inconsistent with our values.”

“As this is an ongoing legal matter involving an independent owner operator,” the spokesperson continued, “we cannot comment further.” 

Read the full complaint filed by Reed below. 

Find ways to combat bigotry by subscribing to the Queer Voices newsletter.   

— This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

Source: Huff Politics

Bill Cosby Isn't The Exception, He's The Rule

function onPlayerReadyVidible(e){‘undefined’!=typeof HPTrack&&HPTrack.Vid.Vidible_track(e)}!function(e,i){if(e.vdb_Player){if(‘object’==typeof commercial_video){var a=”,o=’m.fwsitesection=’+commercial_video.site_and_category;if(a+=o,commercial_video[‘package’]){var c=’&m.fwkeyvalues=sponsorship%3D’+commercial_video[‘package’];a+=c}e.setAttribute(‘vdb_params’,a)}i(e.vdb_Player)}else{var t=arguments.callee;setTimeout(function(){t(e,i)},0)}}(document.getElementById(‘vidible_1’),onPlayerReadyVidible);

After 52 hours of deliberations, the jury in the criminal case brought against Bill Cosby by Andrea Constand was unable to reach a unanimous consensus. On Saturday morning, Judge Steven O’Neill declared a mistrial.

Constand says that, in 2004, Cosby tricked her into taking three blue pills that incapacitated her and proceeded to sexually assault her. In December 2015, nearly 10 years after settling a civil suit with Constand in 2006 for an undisclosed sum, Cosby was charged with three counts of aggravated indecent assault. 

Although Cosby wasn’t acquitted, and Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin R. Steele said that he planned to retry the case, a mistrial is unquestionably a win for the 79-year-old actor and comedian. A retrial will take time ― and it means that Constand will have to testify about her trauma again.

Journalist Dana DiFilippo tweeted a video of Cosby supporters celebrating after the mistrial was announced:  

Before the Cosby trial began, justice felt somewhat inevitable. Because in a situation like this one, it just feels like it should be.

A man is publicly accused of sexually assaulting nearly 60 women over the course of decades. The stories are explicit, horrifying and similar. Many of them involve drugging and brutal rape. Together, they paint a picture of a serial and methodical sexual predator who used his celebrity to exploit women. 

As far as the court of public opinion is concerned, Bill Cosby’s guilt was all but decided in late 2014, when the floodgates opened and women’s stories began pouring out on what felt like a near-daily basis. And it felt like, for the first time, people were listening

Of course, this was before the country had collectively propped up a man who bragged about grabbing women’s pussies without consent to our highest office. It was before more than 15 women had publicly accused a candidate for President of the United States of sexual assault with little to no tangible impact on his support.

In the cases of both Cosby and Trump, we’re reminded that women are viewed as unreliable narrators of their own experiences, and that powerful men who are accused of perpetrating sexual violence ― even by more than a dozen women ― are assumed to be victims. 

Barbara Bowman, one Cosby’s alleged victims who has been telling her story publicly since 2006, wrote about this phenomenon in an op-ed for The Washington Post in November 2014, after a Hannibal Burress joke about Cosby seemingly woke people up to the reality of his past: 

Why wasn’t I believed? Why didn’t I get the same reaction of shock and revulsion when I originally reported it? Why was I, a victim of sexual assault, further wronged by victim blaming when I came forward? The women victimized by Bill Cosby have been talking about his crimes for more than a decade. Why didn’t our stories go viral?

Two and a half years later, their stories have gone viral. But the legal outcome remains uncertain. 

The lack of a guilty verdict in this case speaks to the challenges that any alleged victim of sexual assault faces when seeking recourse through the criminal justice system. 

There are the statutes of limitations that prevent victims who wait to speak out from seeking criminal charges. There’s the lack of sensitivity training in some police departments. There’s the backlog of rape kits. There’s the difficult-to-prosecute “he said, she said” nature of many sex crimes. There are the questions victims of sexual assault know that they’ll likely be asked: “Why didn’t you report it sooner?” “Why did you talk to him after?” “Were you drinking?” “What were you wearing?” “Were you maybe kind of asking for it?”

Not only are sexual assaults underreported, but according to RAINN, just 7 out of every 1,000 rapists will see a felony conviction. That statistic doesn’t happen in a vacuum.

Cosby may have had significantly more money and fame and press coverage than most alleged perpetrators of sexual assault and rape. It would be easy to assume that his celebrity is what protected him, that Andrea Constand would have gotten justice if her rapist were anyone else besides “America’s Dad.” But statistically, she wouldn’t have. In many ways, his situation was the exception but at the end of the day, he’s the rule. 

— This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

Source: Huff Politics