Things that Make America Great: Free Expression, Robert Mueller, Trevor Noah
Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort are likely to be indicted as a result of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, according to U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal. Blumenthal, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told Politico, “I’m about 99 percent sure there will be some criminal charges from this investigation.”
Last year, Colin Kaepernick began kneeling while the national anthem played at NFL games. This was intended as a gesture to call out racial injustice in America. The New York Times has a story chronicling the instances of police brutality against people of color with minimal legal or professional accountability. NFL players began using their political voice to inform this national conversation. Rather than focusing on issues of national importance, such as hurricane relief to Puerto Rico, President Donald Trump began calling out players and the league. Last Sunday’s response from the teams was epic.
Trevor Noah dedicated a portion of his show to calling out the hypocrisy of those criticizing protestors, asking “Just when is it ok for black people to protest?” Watch the clip here.
In Cuyahoga County, Where Black Babies Die at An Alarming Rate, a Search for Solutions
Cuyahoga County’s infant mortality rate was almost double the national rate in 2015. Black babies in Cuyahoga County die at a rate three times that of their white peers.
Recent studies show that chronic stress from discrimination may affect black women regardless of their economic status and even if they do everything right during pregnancy. Living in segregated neighborhoods, parenting alone, feeling unsafe at home or in one’s neighborhood could lead to chronic stress, which can affect the health of a woman and her children. A group of experts met this week to discuss this very issue in Cleveland.
Separately in Ohio, physicians and health policy experts discussed the potential impacts of the Graham-Cassidy bill on Ohio’s growing infant mortality rate. You can watch the press conference here.
GOP Scraps Vote to Kill Obamacare, Sparing Sen. Portman Criticism Over His Expected ‘Yes’ Vote
Republicans called off plans to move the controversial Graham-Cassidy bill through the Senate this week after failing to generate enough support for the measure.
“We don’t have the votes,” said Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy, who co-authored the bill with South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham. Pulling the measure gave Sen. Rob Portman another pass on taking a position on a bill opposed by nearly every major medical organization in the country.
Earlier this summer, Sen. Rob Portman voted to strip 16 million people of their health care, and in doing so ignored a warning from the head of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital that such a vote would be harmful to children. Portman’s wife, Jane, is a board member of the hospital the senator voted to harm.
Even the Cleveland Clinic, Ohio’s second largest employer and a world-renowned health care facility, came out in opposition to Graham-Cassidy. We still don’t know where Portman stands. Hat-tip to Brent Larkin of the Cleveland Plain Dealer for his column on the topic.
Still not having learned their lesson, some conservatives are looking to other procedural maneuvers to try and advance another repeal attempt later this year.
Toledo Mayor Joins Rival in Call for Lake Erie to be Declared ‘Impaired’
Toledo Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson has joined others in demanding that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency declare parts of the Lake Erie basin “impaired.” Initially hesitant to do so, Hicks-Hudson said she needed to move forward and ask for the designation because of the current algae bloom problem.
“It is about the Clean Water Act but it is also about climate change. It’s about us really looking at what has really happened today …. I am going to do everything I really can to make a dent in this problem we are facing,” Hicks-Hudson told the Toledo Blade.
When You Feel Like Shopping, Remember Target Announced Plans to Raise the Wage
Target announced plans to increase wages for employees from $10 to $11 an hour next month, right before staffing up for the holiday shopping season. Target also promised to raise its pay floor to $15 an hour by 2020, making it one of the largest retailers to embrace a $15 an hour minimum wage.
ECOT Shows That Political Clout Trumps Incompetence and Greed at Ohio Charter Schools
The Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) has cleared the first hurdle in becoming a dropout recovery school, a distinction that gives more leniency to the chronically failing school.
As a refresher, ECOT has been found inflating enrollment numbers and has been unable to document the amount of time students spend actually learning. State officials stepped up and are forcing ECOT to repay money it never should have received in the first place. ECOT also has the worst graduation rate in the country.
Just days after the state gave ECOT approval to remake itself as a school that targets dropouts, the state also ordered ECOT to pay an additional $19 million for unverified students. That’s in addition to the more than $60 million it previously said ECOT must repay.
ECOT is fighting the repayment efforts in court – with tax dollars because it’s a public school paid for with public money. The Ohio Attorney General is fighting ECOT in court – and his office and staff is paid for with public money. In other words, our tax dollars are being used to help ECOT make its case that it does not have to return the overpayments; and our tax dollars are being used to try and convince the courts that ECOT does have to pay back the money.
Earlier this week, an ECOT school board resolution from 2016 resurfaced because state auditors pointed out that the line authorizing who was in charge of carrying out the spending was left blank. The Columbus Dispatch summarized best here:
“’The corporation authorizes (blank) to do all things necessary, appropriate and/or convenient in connection with the best interests of the corporation,’ including contracting with ‘outlets’ and others ‘for the purpose of conveying information to the public combating negative portrayals.’”
Ads were placed on ECOT’s behalf, funded by taxpayer dollars, but who spent the money and placed the ads directly is still a game of he-said-she-said. Read more here.
Divided Ohio Supreme Court Hands a Strange Win to Gulen-Linked Charter School
Just over a year ago, the Ohio Supreme Court upheld that an Illinois company must pay property taxes on facilities it leases to charter schools.
But this week, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled the opposite in a nearly identical case involving the same company.
Why the change? Two newly elected conservative justices voted differently than their predecessors, which shifted the outcome of this case.
The court said that a charter school’s related property management company should be granted a property-tax exemption for 2010 for a building housing Horizon Science Academy-Columbus Middle School, and then remanded to the Ohio Board of Tax Appeals the exemption sought by Horizon Science Academy-Columbus High School. Read more here.
Horizon schools are linked to Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen who operates more than 200 charter schools in America. The schools’ unethical leases and other business practices are the subject of a new book, Empire of Deceit by international lawyer Robert Amsterdam.
The book also references Gulen-linked schools in Ohio. The Dayton Horizon Science Academy took center stage more than three years ago when ProgressOhio organized a panel of former Horizon teachers to testify before the State School Board. The teachers said they personally witnessed test-tampering, a teacher of Turkish dissent who encouraged an in-class groping game and administrators who ran a “Science Academy’’ with no working labs.
The state school board launched a sham investigation into the teachers’ allegations that found no wrongdoing.
Congressional Republicans Fail in Effort to Kill Obamacare, So They Target Reproductive Rights
House Republicans are poised to vote on the “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act” next week. The bill would make it a crime to perform or attempt an abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, with the possibility of fines and prison time.
The bill last passed the House in 2015 but was blocked by Senate Democrats (thanks, Sherrod Brown).
Cleveland’s Last Abortion Clinic Makes its Case to Ohio’s Highest Tribunal
Cleveland abortion provider Preterm contends that certain restrictions on abortion clinics that were included in the 2013-2014 state budget violate the single-subject rule. Attorney for Preterm, Jessie Hill, says there are other pieces of legislation that have violated the single-subject rule and it’s time for the state’s highest court to rein in that practice. Listen to the full story here.
Looking Ahead to ‘18
Congressman Jim Renacci released an attack ad this week featuring his other GOP rivals as “fat cats” in Columbus who have lost touch with everyday Ohioans. Also, Lieutenant Governor Mary Taylor aimlessly batting at a mouse (much like her approach to governing) is worth the watch. Check it out here.
Democratic gubernatorial candidates have taken the high road thus far, each releasing proposed jobs and infrastructure plans for Ohio. Speaking of, State Senator Joe Schiavoni released his jobs plan, paid for by repealing a business-income tax cut that’s costing state government $1.1 billion in annual revenue. Read more here.
Former Congresswoman Betty Sutton called on the legislature to enact an emergency measure requiring the Ohio Department of Education to actually define what a school must do to qualify as a dropout prevention and recovery school.
And Ohio Democratic Party set October 29 as the date of its second debate among its four gubernatorial candidates. The debate will be part of the party’s annual state dinner.
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