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GOP’s collateral damage, for-profit detention, life and death in Puerto Rico

Tuesday, October 3, 2017




► In today’s News Tribune — With no capital budget, wave of layoffs hits state agency. More are expected soon. — Ten state workers at Washington State Parks were laid off Saturday. Officials at the state believe more are coming if a capital budget isn’t passed soon.

EDITOR’S NOTE — Today is Day 165 of our state’s capital construction budget being held hostage by Senate Republicans over an unrelated property/water rights issue. The GOP’s hardball strategy to force the reversal of a state Supreme Court decision on rural water rights has cost our state an untold number of construction jobs on projects either suspended or delayed this summer and fall. And now public employees are losing their jobs as well, with more layoffs on the way. When will this nonsense end?

The Washington Federation of State Employees/AFSCME Council 28 is asking everyone to call Sen. Joe Fain (R-Auburn) at 360-786-7692 and urge him to end the capital construction budget impasse. As Senate Floor Leader and a member of both the Ways & Means and Rules committees, Fain is uniquely positioned to break the logjam and end this growing crisis. You can also call your own legislators with that same message via the Legislature’s toll-free hotline at 1-800-562-6000.

► In today’s News Tribune — Head of state government technology leaves post as audit reveals troubles in the agency — WaTech CEO Michael Cockrill will depart for the private sector in October. An audit recently found a number of problems at the agency, including obsolete equipment and revenue issues.




► From KUOW — Washington representatives want to take the profit out of immigration jails — Immigration detention is a booming business in the U.S., mostly run by private, for-profit contractors. A new bill in Congress aims to phase out these private facilities, including the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma. “One thing I am 100 percent confident of is that there is a cheaper, more humane way to treat the undocumented population in our country,” said Rep. Adam Smith (D-Washington). On Tuesday, Smith and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Washington) plan to introduce legislation that calls for an overhaul of the immigration detention system.

► From SeattleMet — Seattle reaffirms support for DACA — Seattle council members on Monday unanimously passed a resolution in support of DACA and immigrant communities, and urging Congressional support for the DREAM Act of 2017.

ALSO at The Stand — DREAMers’ renewals due Oct. 5; scholarships can cover fees — Washington state DREAMers can get assistance in paying the $495 application fee to apply for a two-year extension of their DACA status. But advocates recommend DREAMers mail their applications no later than TODAY (Tuesday, Oct. 3) to make sure they are received by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services by the Oct. 5 deadline.




► In today’s LA Times — Tom Price may be gone, but the Trump administration’s sabotage of Obamacare is moving ahead at full speed (by Michael Hiltzik) — Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price is gone, ushered out of office last week after being caught causing $1 million in unnecessary taxpayer expense by chartering private planes and taking military aircraft around the country and the world instead of flying commercial, like normal people. This looks like a case in which the right thing has happened for the wrong reason — or at least for an incomplete reason. The grounds for Price’s ouster should have been his atrocious management of the most important program under his jurisdiction, the Affordable Care Act. Instead of acting to make Obamacare work better for all Americans, Price took every step within his power to undermine the law in ways that will cost American families millions of dollars. What’s worse, Price’s campaign will keep chugging along without him. Indeed, much of the damage from his tenure already has been done and can’t be reversed for this year or next.




► In today’s NY Times — Republicans won’t rule out tax hikes for some in the middle class — President Trump and Republican leaders have positioned their sweeping tax rewrite as a way to cut taxes on the middle class. But some top officials are now saying the plan may not benefit everyone in that income group. The acknowledgment could complicate the administration’s ability to sell the tax plan, which is already facing questions from Republicans and Democrats over the cost and effect of the ambitious rewrite. Those questions have gotten more pronounced after an analysis last week by the Tax Policy Center, which found that the plan could cost $2.4 trillion over the next decade, with the biggest benefits flowing to businesses and the wealthiest Americans.

► In today’s NY Times — In court today: Extreme partisan gerrymandering — The Supreme Court is set to hear arguments in a Wisconsin case as the justices consider whether it is constitutional to draw voting districts that help the party in power.

► From HuffPost — Gerrymandering is a threat to our republic — Gerrymandering has been decried throughout American history, but this has not prevented both political parties from using it when they could.  In recent years, computer software has enabled intricate partisan manipulation of district lines, with distorting effects.  A state legislature controlled by one party today can easily draw district boundaries in a way that enables, say, forty percent of a state’s citizens to control a majority of its legislative districts.  The United States is the only major democracy in the world that allows politicians to select their own voters through the process of district line-drawing.  Such gerrymandering reduces political competition within districts, perpetuates the tenure of incumbents, and creates legislative majorities in state legislatures and in the House of Representatives that do not reflect the views of the majority of citizens.

► From Politico — DeVos’ security detail could cost up to $6.54M over the next year — Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ security detail could cost up to $6.54 million from now through the end of September 2018. That projected cost is seen as a “high water mark” that the Education Department doesn’t plan to exceed, said spokeswoman Liz Hill.




► From The Guardian — Life or death as Puerto Rico’s older people go without essentials — When the volunteers reached the second-floor landing at Las Teresas, a retirement community on the outskirts of San Juan, they found an elderly man in wheelchair sitting alone in the stifling dark. He was a double amputee and was clearly in a bad state. It wasn’t clear how long the man had gone without food, but he sucked ravenously at a nutritional shake he was offered while a doctor started to examine him.

Four floors up, the team came across a white-haired woman in housecoat printed with dainty flowers. She was leaning against the partially opened window through which came the faintest of breezes. “What do you need?” asked one of the volunteers. “Food, water, medicine?” “All of them,” she replied faintly. “You don’t have anything?” She shook her head, and as the volunteer embraced her, she began to sob. The humanitarian crisis which Hurricane Maria unleashed on Puerto Rico has affected all of the 3.5 million Americans who live on the island. But at the territory’s retirement homes, more than a week without drinkable water, electricity or communication has become a matter of life or death.

► From CNN — Oxfam criticizes U.S. government response in Puerto Rico — Oxfam, a global organization working to end poverty, is criticizing the United States government’s response to the crisis in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. The group, which rarely criticizes government strategies in crises affecting wealthy nations, specifically criticized President Donald Trump’s administration:

“Oxfam has monitored the response in Puerto Rico closely, and we are outraged at the slow and inadequate response the US government has mounted in Puerto Rico. Clean water, food, fuel, electricity, and health care are in desperately short supply and quickly dwindling, and we’re hearing excuses and criticism from the administration instead of a cohesive and compassionate response.”

► From AFL-CIO — Working families respond to mass shooting in Nevada — After yet another mass shooting last night, this time in Las Vegas, working families and their allies responded to the tragic evening. Steve Sisolak, chair of Clark County Commission in Las Vegas, has set up a GoFundMe page to collect donations to aid the victims and their families. Please visit the Las Vegas Victims’ Fund and contribute what you can.

► From WFSE — Bellingham WFSE member among wounded in Las Vegas tragedy — Melinda Brockie, a social service specialist 3 with Children’s Administration in Bellingham and a member of Local 1060, is in need of, and has been approved to receive donations of shared leave. Brockie is one of the victims injured as a result of the senseless massacre that occurred in Las Vegas.

EDITOR’S NOTE — The Bellingham Herald reports that Brockie’s husband, who was at the concert with her, said a first responder saved Melinda’s life — the first responder was a concert-goer who took action while other paramedics worked on nearby victims. “He was an angel to my wife and his act of duty shouldn’t go unnoticed. I don’t know if we will ever meet again but I appreciate all that you did,” Travis Brockie wrote. A GoFundMe account has been set up to help pay for travel expenses of family members who are flying to Las Vegas to be with Melinda Brockie. Family members traveling to Vegas include her two sons.

► From The Onion — ‘No way to prevent this,’ says only nation where this regularly happens

► From The Onion — Americans hopeful this will be last mass shooting before they stop on their own for no reason





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