By Jonathan Fried

Teresa Garcia [not her real name] was stopped in September 2009 by a Miami-Dade County police officer while on her way home after dropping off her children at school. When she could not produce a driver's license, he arrested her for driving without a license, and she was booked into the Miami-Dade jail system. Although she had no criminal record, ICE placed a detainer on her and took her into custody. After spending several weeks in ICE detention, she was deported to her native country, leaving her two young U.S.-citizen children behind with a relative.

Garcia's story is illustrative of thousands of others resulting from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement "Secure Communities" program. Marketed by ICE under the guise of making our streets safer, that program has become a nightmare for countless immigrants, while adding to the uncertainty of us all.

This past Monday, four days after we learned that Arizona was poised to become an apartheid state for immigrants, ICE announced that it intends to make Florida a little Arizona. Apparently eight more counties joined ICE's "Secure Communities" program. In light of the recent bad press coming out of Arizona, ICE is marketing the Secure Communities program heavily, touting it as a program that will rid the streets of "dangerous criminal aliens."

Click Here for the Full Post


By Pat Byington

Just a month ago, my six-year old daughter Whitney and I traveled to a nearby state park, where we learned from a nature educator how to build fairy houses.

That’s right – fairy houses.

Using fallen leaves, branches, acorns (picking live plants are not allowed), and a heavy dose of imagination, my daughter, who is a city girl at heart, surprised her parents, becoming a fairy house architect in a matter of hours. And ever since that wonderful day she has loved forests and nature.

Click Here for the Full Post


By Deb Katz

Alongside rivers and lakes, on ocean shores and tidal bays, nearly 63,000 metric tons of high-level radioactive waste – which remains dangerous for longer than recorded history – sits in “temporary” storage. In some cases, it’s been there for decades. And it’s almost certain to remain for decades longer, scattered around 33 states.

Some of that waste is squeezed into small pools housed inside flimsy buildings; some sits outside in storage containers never intended to be permanent. In both instances, the spent fuel from the nation’s nuclear power plants is exceedingly vulnerable to accidents and terrorist attacks.

Like so many of society’s waste problems, out-of-sight, out-of-mind has become a de facto “solution” -- except to the thousands of Americans who live near these high-level waste storage sites. I am one of them. I reside near two spent fuel pools, one in Massachusetts, at the now-shuttered Yankee Rowe reactor, and another at the troubled Vermont Yankee reactor, only 16 miles away. Together, these pools hold more than 90 million curies of radioactivity. (The bombings at Hiroshima and Nagasaki released 1 million curies of radiation.)

Click Here for the Full Post


By Mark Cooper and Rep. Nancy Young Wright

A recent announcement of an $8.3 billion loan that guarantees the construction of two new nuclear reactors in Georgia should send the red flags higher up the pole for fiscal conservatives than conservationists.

Federal loan guarantees put the government on the hook for huge, risky investments, and they induce the utilities to make investments that are proven market failures.

Georgia is the perfect illustration, and right here in Arizona we can learn a valuable lesson.

Click Here for the Full Post


By Camille Moran

Wall Street’s collapsing house of cards brought us a time of economic turmoil that most of us have not seen in our lifetimes. Patching the house of cards back together, though, will not bring us lasting recovery.

When will Washington realize that Main Street needs true financial reform and not just piecemeal crumbs dubbed as reform by Big Business and Wall Street? When will Washington realize it is small business that drives our nation’s economy – that without that entrepreneurial spirit, the wheels of our country’s economic system would no longer turn?

Had there been adequate rules in the past, there is a good chance the Great Recession would not have occurred, or at the least, have been less severe. This would have meant less pain for small business owners, with far fewer business failures, home foreclosures and job losses.

Click Here for the Full Post


By David Hills and Michael Lent

Millions of America’s small business owners suffer from bad practices on Wall Street -- something often given short shrift in debate about creation of a consumer financial protection agency.

As owners of a financial advisement firm with offices in Portsmouth, N.H., San Francisco and New York, we focus on financial products with sustainability, values and transparency. And with more than 70 years of collective experience in the financial services industry, and many clients owning small businesses, we've long known that what's good for Wall Street isn't necessarily good for small businesses and consumers.

Through irresponsible lending, greed and poor risk management, huge Wall Street investment firms and banks brought about a financial crisis that's resulted in massive unemployment and hardships for millions. But while small businesses have borne the brunt of the downturn, it is they who will create the jobs that rebuild our communities.

Click Here For the Full Post


By Lew Prince

I’ve owned a small business in St. Louis for 31 years. Like most of my customers and my 26 employees, I watched as greedy hedge funds, irresponsible investment banks and unscrupulous mortgage companies decimated our savings, investments and pension funds, and nearly drove our country into another Great Depression. Now those same hedge funds, investment banks and mortgage companies are spending more than $1.4 million dollars a day (that’s right -- a day) to scuttle financial reform legislation in the U.S. Senate.

What’s the financial industry so afraid of?

Well, there’s the Consumer Financial Protection Agency (CFPA), which passed the U.S. House of Representatives but is under siege in the Senate. The CFPA would make sure banks, mortgage companies, payday lenders and car dealers lay out loan terms in plain language so individuals, families and businesses will know what they’re getting into when they borrow money. It would set clear ground rules for loans, protecting Americans from the kinds of sleazy deals that cost so many people their homes and livelihoods in the wake of the recent Wall Street collapse. And it would actually reduce government bureaucracy by streamlining and combining all federal consumer loan regulations under one roof.

Click Here for the Full Post

Thursday, May 13, 2010

No Woman Should Die Giving Life


By Thoraya Ahmed Obaid

On Mother's Day, we shower women with flowers, cards and other expressions of love and affection. The holiday is a fitting reminder of the lifeline women extend to us all. But for far too many women, their own lifeline ends tragically.

Every day, 1,400 women and adolescent girls die while giving birth or shortly thereafter – one a minute. In a generation, 10 million mothers die, leaving 10 million families bereft. Nearly all of these deaths occur in Africa, Asia and the poorest countries of Latin America.

In the United States, dying in childbirth is rare. But for women in most poor countries, pregnancy and childbirth are leading causes of death and disability. In Africa, for example, one out of 26 woman risks dying of maternal causes.

Click Here for the Full Post


By Erik Camayd-Freixas

On April 23, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed into law a draconian bill that flies in the face of the United States Constitution and undermines the core values upon which this nation is founded.

When this law goes into effect in August, it purportedly will be legal in Arizona to dispense with the Fourth Amendment right to be secure against unreasonable searches and seizures. As in totalitarian regimes, local police will be authorized to detain anyone they “reasonably suspect” is in the country illegally. It will be a crime to be present in Arizona without carrying proper documentation. And who might the police reasonably suspect of this new crime? Well, certainly not the white majority.

Gov. Brewer justified the racist law with empty rhetoric: “Racial profiling will not be tolerated," and, "we have to trust our law enforcement.” Meanwhile, Maricopa County, Ariz., Sheriff Joe Arpaio already is under federal investigation following allegations of abuse of power and racial profiling.

Click Here for the Full Post


By Pramila Jayapal

As the debate around the recently passed Arizona immigration law clearly demonstrates, racial and religious profiling remains a real and urgent problem in the United States.

Washington state isn't immune to the scourge of this discriminatory behavior by law-enforcement officials. This past October, we discovered that FBI agents, instead of collecting information only about people with direct links to national security threats, scrutinized Somali communities across the nation, including those in Seattle. Within 150 miles of our northern border, in counties such as Skagit, Snohomish and Whatcom, Latino, Arab and Muslim communities face an everyday threat of profiling from both border patrol agents and Immigration Control Enforcement officials. And right here in Seattle, we continue to see the racial disparities that disproportionately affect African-Americans, Asians and other people of color.

Although racial profiling has been unfairly familiar to African-Americans and others for decades, mainstream America has only in the recent decades started to acknowledge the issue. Referred to as "driving while black or brown," racial profiling surfaced in popular culture long before law enforcement conceded the practice.

Click Here for the Full Post


By Simon Cho

Five years after leaving my hometown of Upper Marlboro, Md., I returned to my elementary school to speak about being an Olympian.

Everyone knew I’d helped the United States speed skating team win a bronze medal in the 5000-meter relay. But there’s another important part of my story I don’t always talk about: I’m a Korean immigrant who grew up in the U.S. without immigration documents.

I was 4 when, clutching my mother’s hand, we crossed into the U.S. from Canada. My father secured my U.S. citizenship and passport when I was 11, but I remember little of the process.

Click Here for the Full Post


By Linda Tarr-Whelan

I began my career as nurse in 1960, only to be fired on my first day because I didn’t stand up for a doctor. It didn’t matter that I was inserting an IV line for a patient. In those days, showing deference to men -- and virtually all doctors were men -- took precedence. Now we know that the best patient outcomes are achieved by balance and synergy – it takes women and men, doctors and nurses as members of health teams to achieve optimal results.

It's beginning to dawn on society that women are the talent base for the future. They're the force behind consumer spending and the drivers of small-business development. Women in every profession are trained, experienced and ready to add their individual and collective strength to business and political decision-making. Yet when it comes to balanced leadership, we're stuck in a rut.

We rightfully celebrate “first women” like Katherine Bigelow, who this year became the first woman to win a Best Director Oscar in the Academy Awards' 82-year history. But our celebrations mask the stark reality and expose our complacency. We tend to gloss over the real picture. Geena Davis, working to see more women behind the cameras as filmmakers, writers and directors, reminds us that we've been in exactly the same place for 46 years.

Click Here for the Full Post

By Bonnie Saunders and John Loredo

It’s been a dozen years since Arizona voters passed the landmark Citizens Clean Elections Act allowing candidates to seek office without depending on corporate brass, labor unions, and deep pocketed special interests. Clean Elections has given community leaders, teachers, and small business folk a chance to run for office and govern, answerable not to Big Money, but to Arizona’s voters.

Clean Elections is working as advertised. So it should come as no surprise that developers, bankers and the like are trying to pull off a power grab this November. Their goal is to fool Arizonans into gutting Clean Elections and returning our state to the “good old days” when controlling politics was as simple as controlling the money given to candidates.

Turning back the clock would rob Arizonans of the right to have their voice heard on Election Day and in the halls of power. That’s why the resolutions that would put Clean Elections on the 2010 ballot under a different, contorted name, must fail, either by legislative vote or on November 2nd at the polls.

Click Here for the Full Post


By Lynn Evans

If we are really committed to improving educational outcomes for all children in Mississippi, we must change the way education is delivered in the classroom. With the benefit of new programs around the state and the nation, as well as scientific research about how children learn, we can and must make classrooms work better.

There is a growing body of evidence that young children learn best not by rote and didactic teaching, but by self-discovery and guided interactions with their peers. Children in a classroom informed by this research spend a lot of time talking to each other, working in small groups, and moving easily around the classroom to get the help and materials they need. As they work, their teacher moves from small group to small group, checking in on what students are doing, offering help and correction, and asking questions.

Very young children learn to “see” number groups and understand the concepts that underlie mathematics such as patterns, more than, less than, and in addition to. They love to count, and like to build and experiment with numbers and grouping. Too often, children lose their natural attraction to math when what they get at school is lots of rote memorization, work sheets, and too little building on what they see and experience in the world around them.

Click Here for the Full Post

By Laurie Mazur

Forty years ago, 20 million Americans took to the streets to celebrate the first Earth Day. Their agenda was wide-ranging: pollution, smog, endangered species. But one issue—population growth—was seen as the mother of all environmental problems. As Paul Ehrlich, author of The Population Bomb, famously remarked: “Whatever your cause, it’s a lost cause without population control.”

Fast-forward to Earth Day 2010. Climate change and other looming environmental threats make the concerns of 1970 look downright tame. Meanwhile, world population has grown from 3.7 billion in 1970 to 6.8 billion today—an increase of 84 percent. Yet population growth, for the most part, has fallen off the environmental agenda.

Why? The reasons are complex, but here’s the short version. Concern about population growth launched a worldwide movement to promote family planning, and it worked: Fertility rates fell, population growth rates slowed and the “population bomb” was defused. At the same time, while family planning has had huge benefits for human health and well-being, some programs trampled women’s rights in pursuit of lower birth rates. Those abuses, and a right-wing backlash against family planning, have rendered population issues untouchable in many quarters.

Click Here For the Full Post


By Dave Wells

Arizona has to decide whether it cares more about improving educational outcomes or cutting business taxes, because we can't have both.

On May 18th, voters in the state will be faced with a one cent temporary sales tax, the bulk of which will support public education. But passing that initiative will mean nothing, if Republicans in the state legislature continue to push a measure that purports to create jobs, but in actuality will undermine the state's economic future.

Arizona's Job Recovery Act says that problems in Arizona result from taxes being too high, especially our business taxes. It cuts corporate income taxes by 30 percent, makes it possible for multi-state corporations to lower their portion of profits taxed by Arizona, lowers the assessment on corporate property taxes, and eliminates the state equalization property tax.

Click Here For the Full Post

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The State Budget Nightmare


By Woods Bowman

The Illinois state budget is like the Nightmare on Elm Street movies – progressively more horrific sequels that seemingly never end. Maybe this time it will have a happy ending, but I doubt it.

The 2010 crisis is the result of a chronic budget imbalance. Spending has been growing faster than revenue, so slash-and-burn spending cuts that don't lower growth in spending and tax increases that don't increase growth of tax receipts will provide but temporary relief.

There are three things citizens should know about the state budget.

Click Here for the Full Post