Tag Archives: dallas

The God Particle – Leon Lederman & Dick Teresi


The God Particle
If the Universe Is the Answer, What Is the Question?
Leon Lederman & Dick Teresi

Genre: Science & Nature

Price: $11.99

Publish Date: June 26, 2006

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Seller: OpenRoad Integrated Media, LLC

A Nobel Prize–winning physicist’s “funny, clever, entertaining” account of the history of particle physics and the hunt for a Higgs boson ( Library Journal ).   In this extraordinarily accessible and witty book, Leon Lederman—“the most engaging physicist since the late, much-missed Richard Feynman” ( San Francisco Examiner )—offers a fascinating tour that takes us from the Greeks’ earliest scientific observations through Einstein and beyond in an inspiring celebration of human curiosity. It ends with the quest for the Higgs boson, nicknamed the God Particle, which scientists hypothesize will help unlock the last secrets of the subatomic universe. This is not only an enlightening journey through baryons and hadrons and leptons and electrons—it also “may be the funniest book about physics ever written” ( The Dallas Morning News ).   “One of the clearest, most enjoyable new science books in years . . . explains the entire history of physics and cosmology. En route, you’ll laugh so hard you won’t realize how much you are learning.” — San Francisco Examiner   “The story of the search for the ultimate constituents of matter has been told many times before, but never with more verve and wit. . . . His hilarious account of how he helped persuade President Reagan to approve the construction of the Super Collider is itself worth the price of the book.” — Los Angeles Times

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The God Particle – Leon Lederman & Dick Teresi

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A Texas-size flood threatens the Gulf Coast, and we’re so not ready

Update: After a period of rapid intensification overnight, the National Hurricane Center upgraded Harvey to hurricane status at noon central time on Thursday. The storm is now expected to reach the coastline near Corpus Christi, Texas, late Friday as a major hurricane — the first U.S. landfall of a Category 3 or stronger hurricane since 2005.

In what could become the first major natural disaster of the Trump presidency, meteorologists are sounding the alarm for potentially historic rainfall over the next several days in parts of Texas and Louisiana. This is the kind of storm you drop everything to pay attention to.

The National Weather Service posted a hurricane and storm surge watch for most of the Texas coastline, and the governors of Texas and Louisiana have begun to assemble emergency response teams. Hurricane hunter aircraft are monitoring the development of the storm, which was just west of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula on Wednesday afternoon.

Conditions in the Gulf of Mexico are nearly ideal for strengthening Tropical Depression Harvey, which could reach hurricane status in the next few days. Water temperatures off the Texas coast are warmer than normal — some of the warmest anywhere in the world right now. Factoring in the state of the atmosphere and ocean, one model estimates the storm’s odds of rapid intensification over the next three days at greater than 10 times the typical chances.

The National Hurricane Center expects Harvey to stall out once it reaches the Texas coastline on Friday, and experts are worried about what might happen next. The official NHC forecast calls for the possibility of more than 20 inches of rain in isolated parts of Texas and Louisiana by next Wednesday, but some individual weather models predict twice that.

Historically, slow-moving tropical storms and low-end hurricanes have caused some of the worst floods on record. In 2001, Tropical Storm Allison stalled over the Houston area, bringing about 10 months worth of rain in just five days. The rainiest day in Houston history was on June 26, 1989, when a slow-moving tropical storm brought just over 10 inches. (Nearby Alvin, Texas, recorded 42 inches in 24 hours in 1979, the all-time U.S. record.)

If Wednesday’s most alarming forecasts pan out, Harvey could be just as bad, if not worse. The heaviest rainfall likely won’t arrive until early next week, which could bring up to four feet of rainfall to parts of the Texas coast.

On Twitter, some meteorologists were agog over Harvey’s rainfall potential, using words like “unsettling” and “borderline unfathomable.” The region just experienced one of the wettest starts to August on record, and the already saturated soil increases the flood risk. All of these signals point to a setup that favors a major disaster. Inland flooding is the leading cause of death in tropical storms and hurricanes.

Floods like the one in the worst Harvey forecasts have come at an increasingly frequent pace. Since the 1950s, the Houston area has seen a 167 percent increase in heavy downpours. At least four rainstorms so severe they would occur only once in 100 years under normal conditions have hit the area since May 2015. With a warmer climate comes faster evaporation and a greater capacity for thunderstorms to produce epic deluges.

Houston has been criticized for unchecked development in its swampy suburbs, which has exacerbated its flooding problem by funneling water along streets and parking lots toward older, lower-income neighborhoods. Just inland, the rapidly-growing corridor of Texas hill country between San Antonio, Austin, and Dallas is sometimes referred to as “flash flood alley,” an increasingly paved area that often sees torrential rainstorms channeled along fast-rising creeks and streams.

Recent rains haven’t been kind to Louisiana, either. Last August, a 500-year rainstorm hit Baton Rouge, Louisiana. And a storm that hit New Orleans earlier this month was so intense locals called it a “mini-Katrina.” Ensuing floods revealed the city’s critically important drainage pump system was partially inoperable, and officials are now contemplating an unprecedented evacuation plan in case the predicted heavy rains materialize. An eastward shift in Harvey’s trajectory by 100 miles or so could force that difficult decision.

Next Tuesday happens to be the 12th anniversary of the landfall of Hurricane Katrina, a storm that many people in the region are still recovering from.

Seven months into the Trump administration, key federal disaster relief positions are still unoccupied: for example, an administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which oversees the National Weather Service. The new FEMA director, Brock Long, was confirmed in late June, three weeks after the start of this year’s hurricane season.

In addition, Trump proposed significant cuts to disaster response agencies and denied emergency funding appeals in several states during his first months in office. A troubled federal flood insurance program covers just one-sixth of Houston residents.

If Harvey’s rains hit the coast with anywhere near the force of the most alarming predictions, we’d be in for disaster. And judging by how New Orleans and Houston have handled recent rains, coupled with the state of federal disaster relief, we’re not ready for it.

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A Texas-size flood threatens the Gulf Coast, and we’re so not ready

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Baton Rouge Officer Who Shot Alton Sterling Will Not Be Charged

Mother Jones

The Department of Justice will not pursue criminal charges against an officer involved in the videotaped shooting of a man in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, last summer, the Washington Post has reported. The announcement—expected tomorrow—will be the first time under Attorney General Jeff Sessions that the department has publicly declined to press charges against an officer investigated in a high-profile police shooting case.

Alton Sterling, 37, was shot and killed by a Baton Rouge Police Department officer in July 2016, setting off days of protests in the city and nationwide. Two officers had responded to a call about a man outside a convenience store who had waived a gun at someone else. When they arrived, they found Sterling outside the store selling bootlegged CDs. A confrontation ensued in the parking lot (the beginning of the incident was not caught on camera), and an officer tased Sterling after ordering him to the ground, cell phone footage of the encounter shows. Sterling remained on his feet, and an officer tackled him while another rushed to handcuff him. In a second cell phone video, one officer is heard yelling “He’s got a gun!” Then he fires several shots into Sterling. Sterling was armed, but it’s unclear from either video whether he reached for his weapon before he was shot. Witnesses told local new outlets that Sterling never reached for his gun during the encounter.

Sterling’s shooting occurred the day before an officer shot and killed another man in a Minneapolis suburb in an incident that was streamed in part on Facebook Live by the man’s girlfriend, and in the same week that a black man—admittedly upset over police shootings of black men—opened fire on officers at a protest over the two shootings in Dallas, killing nine. Just over a week after that incident, three more officers were killed ambush-style in Baton Rouge.

The Obama DOJ launched a criminal investigation into whether the officer who shot Sterling had willfully violated his civil rights by doing so. On Tuesday, the Trump DOJ—led by adamantly pro-police Attorney General Jeff Sessions—will announce that it will not pursue charges against the officer, the Washington Post reports. The decision is not unsurprising—civil rights cases are notoriously difficult to prove in court. The DOJ declined to file criminal charges against officers involved in high-profile police shooting cases on numerous occasions under President Obama, including in the case of of Michael Brown in Ferguson in August 2014.

The report of the Sterling decision comes amid a flurry of other police-related news this week, including the police shooting death of a 15-year-old boy in a Dallas suburb over the weekend and news today that the officer filmed shooting a North Charleston, South Carolina, man in the back multiples times in April 2015 had pleaded guilty to federal civil rights charges similar to those considered in the Sterling case. You can read Mother Jones‘ deep dive investigation into the trial of that officer here.

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Baton Rouge Officer Who Shot Alton Sterling Will Not Be Charged

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15-Year-Old’s Death Shows What Can Happen When Cops Shoot at Cars

Mother Jones

Update (5/2/2017): The Balch Springs Police Department officer who shot and killed Jordan Edwards on Saturday has been fired, though the department still has not identified the officer. In a statement, Edwards’ family said they were “grateful” for the decision, but that there was still a “long road ahead” to justice.

Saturday’s police-involved shooting of a 15-year-old boy in a Dallas suburb has raised questions about the law enforcement practice of shooting at moving vehicles.

Jordan Edwards was killed while leaving a house party last weekend after a Balch Springs Police Department officer fired his rifle into a car Edwards and several others were riding in. Police officials originally said an officer had shot into the car after it had backed toward the officer in an “aggressive manner.” But at a Monday press conference that Balch Springs Police Chief Jonathan Haber held after reviewing police body camera video, the chief conceded that the vehicle had in fact been “moving forward as the officers approached.” The chief said the shooting “did not meet our core values” and that he was troubled by the video. Edwards is the 303rd person—and the youngest—killed by police this year, according to police shootings database maintained by the Washington Post.

Police shootings targeting moving vehicles have drawn increased scrutiny in recent years, prompting some departments to change their policies to discourage or even ban the practice. In January, the International Association of Chiefs of Police released new use-of-force guidelines that discourage officers from shooting at vehicles barring “exigent circumstances” or an immediate threat. Later that month, the Department of Justice slammed Chicago police officers’ “dangerous” and “counterproductive” habit of shooting at moving vehicles in a scathing report, pointing out that bullets are unlikely to disable a vehicle while carrying a high risk of shooting an innocent bystander or passenger—as was apparently the case in Edwards’ death. Research suggests that banning the practice can lead to fewer police shootings. One study by a criminologist at American University found that police involved shootings dropped by 30 percent in the three years after New York City changed its relevant policy. The number of people killed by police dropped by nearly 40 percent over the same time period.

The shooting took place after two police officers responded to a call about a rowdy house party Saturday night. Officers were inside the house trying to locate the owner when they heard what sounded like gunshots and went outside to investigate, according to a statement released by the police department on Monday. Numerous party-goers fled in panic, and according to Lee Merritt, an attorney for Edwards’ family, the boy, his two brothers, and a friend decided to leave. Once inside the car, Merrit says, they heard someone yelling profanities in their direction—then at least one bullet crashed through a passenger side window as they pulled off. The boys, who were unarmed, drove for about a block before realizing that Edwards had been struck in the head. He was later pronounced dead at the hospital.

Balch Springs’ use-of-force policy encourages officers confronting an oncoming vehicle to “attempt to move out of its path, if possible, instead of discharging a firearm at it or any of its occupants.” The department has not released the name of the officer who shot Edwards or video of the shooting, but the officer has been “relieved of all duties” and placed on leave, Haber said.

The investigation into the shooting is being handled by the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department. Edwards family said he was was a star student and athlete with a 3.5 GPA, and Edwards’ football coach, teachers, and friends’ parents have offered glowing praise of the teen to local media outlets in the wake of the shooting. In a statement on Tuesday, Edwards’ family demanded “JUSTICE FOR JORDAN,” while calling on the community to refrain from protest as they prepare for Edwards funeral.


15-Year-Old’s Death Shows What Can Happen When Cops Shoot at Cars

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The First Big Fight Over Sanctuary Cities Pits a Latina Sheriff Against Texas’ Governor

Mother Jones

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In the Democratic hotbed of Austin, Texas, newly elected Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez announced last Friday that her department would join hundreds of counties around the country in reducing its cooperation with federal immigration officials. Unless presented with a warrant or court order, the sheriff’s department would no longer comply with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement requests to hold inmates suspected of being undocumented or notify the agency ahead of their release.

Hernandez’s decision, which goes into effect February 1 and makes the county Texas’ first designated sanctuary, has prompted considerable backlash from Texas Republicans. And now, perhaps inspired by President Donald Trump’s threats to strip federal funding from “sanctuary jurisdictions,” Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has demanded that Hernandez reverse course—or risk millions of dollars in state funding.

In an interview on Fox & Friends on Wednesday, Abbott called Hernandez’s actions “outrageous” and vowed to ban sanctuary cities in Texas. He promised to cut off state grants to cities, pursue legislation that would remove officials that promote the practice, and impose criminal and financial penalties. The Texas Tribune reported on Friday that Abbott’s office had requested a list of federal and state funding to Travis County from the state’s budget office.

In a letter to Hernandez, the governor noted that the county sheriff department received $1.8 million in grant money from the state’s Criminal Justice Division in 2015. Still, Hernandez—who promised during her campaign to cut cooperation with ICE—has so far refused to stand down, telling the Texas Tribune that she would not let “fear and misinformation” dictate her actions.

This isn’t the first time the state government has had a rift with a county sheriff over immigration enforcement. In 2015, Abbott vowed to withhold state funds from Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez when she said she would assess ICE hold requests on a case-by-case basis. (She later said her remarks were taken out of context and promised to comply with federal immigration officials.) In November, state Sen. Charles Perry introduced a bill that required county jails to comply with federal immigration officials and effectively banned sanctuary cities in Texas. The bill is currently in the Senate Committee on State Affairs and slated for a public hearing on February 2; a similar attempt at enacting a ban faltered in 2015.) And in December, when students at several Texas universities called on administrators to establish safe havens for undocumented immigrants on campus, Abbott promised on Twitter that he would slash funding for state universities that became sanctuary campuses.

Just this week, Trump signed an executive order that would slash federal funding to cities and counties that opted not to cooperate with federal deportation efforts. In Austin’s case, that would amount to $43 million in federal grants. It’s unclear to what extent the White House will be able to carry out the order, which will likely face stiff challenges in court.

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The First Big Fight Over Sanctuary Cities Pits a Latina Sheriff Against Texas’ Governor

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After Ghost Ship Fire, Tupac’s Old Lawyer Is Helping Artists Fight Eviction

Mother Jones

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In the aftermath of the Ghost Ship warehouse fire in Oakland, California, that claimed 36 lives earlier this month, the inhabitants of live-work artist warehouses all over America have been receiving eviction threats and notices. In Oakland and San Francisco, residents of at least five such spaces are now facing eviction. Warehouses in Baltimore and Denver have been shuttered since the fire, and others are facing increased scrutiny in Nashville, Philadelphia, and Dallas, as well as Indianapolis, Indiana, and New Haven, Connecticut. Many worry that this activity is related less to safety concerns than to property owners’ desire to expel low-wage artists in favor of wealthier tenants.

Bay Area artists, at least, have a high-profile defender—the civil rights lawyer John Burris, who has stepped up to act as a liaison between tenants and local government code enforcers. Burris, whose name pops up in many a lawsuit regarding abusive practices by local police, is best known for representing Rodney King, Tupac Shakur, and the family of Oscar Grant—who was killed by a BART police officer, inspiring the movie Fruitvale Station. Standing up for low-rent artists seemed a little off the beaten track for Burris, so I reached out to him and his housing guru, James Cook, to see what was afoot.

Mother Jones: What inspired you to help artists facing eviction after the fire?

John Burris: My daughter lost two friends. I knew she has spent time in the Bay Area’s artist warehouses, so I called her immediately when I heard the news. She had two friends who were missing, later confirmed dead. I feel her pain, but I’m pained just as a community person as well. The loss of 36 lives is just outrageous. So we thought, how can we help?

MJ: How are you helping? Are you filing a lawsuit?

JB: No. It’s not clear that the city can be held liable for the fire. But the eviction issue came up very quickly. We invited people in the affected community to sit around our table and tell us their stories. That’s what we do in civil rights law—we hear stories, and the stories move us to action. We said we don’t think we can do what we would traditionally do, which is file a lawsuit, but maybe there’s something else. Now we’re facilitating communication between the city and the artistic community. Ultimately we’ll have to bring in real estate people as well, because they hold the aces. Our goal is to make sure people know their rights, and make policy adjustments if needed to protect people from eviction.

MJ: Why is it important to you that these artists stay put?

JB: We’re concerned that this may turn into a boondoggle for landowners and real estate interests, who will use this tragedy to evict artists and members of alternative communities—including LGBT people. We fear they will legally be able to put people out by saying they need to get a building up to code for safety reasons, and then turn around and rent it for a lot of money to someone else. This practice is not uncommon. Take African American communities—often developers will come in and renovate a neighborhood, driving up rents, and the city fails to take action on behalf of the community, which eventually has to move out. The African American population is declining in Oakland, as it has already declined in San Francisco. So the question is, will this particular event cause that process to occur with respect to the artistic community, here and elsewhere?

MJ: Doesn’t the city have a responsibility to enforce housing codes?

JB: The city has a responsibility to make sure a living space is not harmful. But that doesn’t mean it has to be up to every code, in which case landlords would have reason to put people out left and right. Basic requirements of safety have to be maintained, but we have to preserve the affordable housing stock, too, and respect people’s right to stay in their homes.

MJ: Why would cities want to stop gentrification?

James Cook: We use the term “legacy community” to talk about a community that’s part of a city’s cultural, historical, and economic fabric. For good reason, we have housing laws in many cities designed to keep legacy communities in place, and to create some sort of economic structure to help those communities survive. If you can maintain legacy communities, the theory is that cities will thrive economically, thrive politically, thrive intellectually, thrive culturally. In the Bay Area, artists and LGBT people are legacy communities that we want to sustain.

MJ: Do you think a city has a special responsibility to its current residents, as opposed to potential future ones?

JB: Yes, a community is defined by those who are already here, not those whom you want to attract.

JC: Housing is the next dimension of civil rights law. There’s actually a constitutional case to be made for this. The Constitution says you have the right to a notice and a hearing before your property can be taken away. Some people may say that if you’re a tenant and you don’t own your house, this shouldn’t necessarily apply to you. But housing rights advocates argue that the law applies because you own a stake in the property as a leaseholder. Across the country, we increasingly have laws that mimic the 14th Amendment for tenants.

MJ: Does protecting these artists have implications for other legacy communities?

JB: Yes. Decreasing one type of diversity usually leads to decreasing other types. So if rents go up because the artistic community is expelled, African Americans will suffer too. Forward-thinking leaders of cities value diversity for many reasons, including economic ones. So if something comes along that threatens that diversity, the city has a responsibility to do what it can to make sure that doesn’t happen.

John Burris, right, stands with Tanti Martinez, whose asthmatic son died while incarcerated in California.

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After Ghost Ship Fire, Tupac’s Old Lawyer Is Helping Artists Fight Eviction

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The Governor of North Dakota Has Ordered the Eviction of Thousands of Anti-Pipeline Protesters

Mother Jones

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North Dakota Governor Jack Dalyrimple has issued an executive order demanding the “mandatory evacuation of all persons” from the main site of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) protests near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. The executive order, issued earlier today, requires all people located on land owned by the Army Corps of Engineers to leave immediately. They are forbidden from returning under penalty of arrest. The order could lead to the mass eviction and possible arrest of thousands of #NoDAPL protesters.

On Friday, the Army Corps of Engineers notified protesters that the agency planned to close the Ocheti Sakowin camp by December 5 due to safety concerns given the increasingly cold temperatures. This weekend, the camp was blanketed in snow and temperatures dropped to 26 degrees Fahrenheit. Two days later, in response to widespread criticism, the Corps backpedaled and said it had “no plans for forcible removal” and was “seeking a peaceful and orderly transition to a safer location.” The Army Corps promised to ticket protesters who refused to leave the Ocheti Sakowin camp.

The Ocheti Sakowin camp, one of three near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, is the only protest camp that on land owned by the Army Corps of Engineers. Hundreds and sometimes thousands of protesters have lived there since August within sight of the DAPL construction site. In anticipation of a possible crackdown, the number of “water protectors” staying in teepees, tents, and RVs at the Ocheti Sakowin camp has swelled to as many as 15,000. Many more, including a caravan of Army veterans known as the Veterans for Standing Rock, were planning on arriving in coming days to show solidarity with the protesters. Protesters are also staying on private land near the pipeline construction site.

Governor Dalyrimple’s executive order claims the mandatory evacuation is a result of concerns about the protesters’ safety due to dropping temperatures and snowstorms. “All of a sudden they are so concerned for our safety?” Jeane LaRance, a supporter of the anti-pipeline protests, said on Monday night. “They weren’t worried while spraying everyone with cold water in freezing weather!”

Last Sunday, Morton County Sheriffs sprayed a crowd of about 400 protesters with a water canon in sub-zero temperatures, drawing criticism from observers. According to Jade Begay, an activist with the Indigenous Environmental Network, 167 protesters were injured, and seven were hospitalized, including a woman whose arm was seriously injured by a “less-lethal” weapon.

“We don’t expect a forced removal or a sweep of this camp relatively soon,” said Dallas Goldtooth, a leader of the Indigenous Environmental Network, said in a video posted from his yurt at the Ocheti Sakowin camp. “But we as a camp are prepared, are preparing, for any scenario for the protection and safety of our folks.”

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The Governor of North Dakota Has Ordered the Eviction of Thousands of Anti-Pipeline Protesters

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The Warriors’ Steve Kerr Lets Fly on Trump

Mother Jones

At a press conference before Wednesday night’s win over the Dallas Mavericks, Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr offered a candid assessment of the mood the day after Donald Trump was declared the next president of the United States. “Maybe we should have seen it coming over the last 10 years,” he said.

“You look at society, look at what’s popular, people are getting paid millions of dollars to go on TV and scream at each other, whether it’s in sports or politics or entertainment,” Kerr told reporters. “I guess it was only a matter of time before it spilled into politics but, all of a sudden you’re faced with a reality.” He spoke of the “decorum, respect and dignity” that accompanies the presidency, yet “it all went out the window.” He wished President-elect Trump well and hoped he would be a good president. But he also wondered about his daughter and wife, “who have basically been insulted by his comments,” and his players of color, many of whom, as people of color, endured insults as well. “The whole process has left all of us feeling disgusted and disappointed,” Kerr said. “I thought we were better than this. I thought the Jerry Springer Show was the Jerry Springer show.”

You can read Kerr’s full statement below. h/t @SherwoodStrauss

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The Warriors’ Steve Kerr Lets Fly on Trump

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This Conservative Arizona Paper Never Endorsed a Democrat for President. Until Now.

Mother Jones

The Arizona Republic, once called the Arizona Republican, is a conservative newspaper that has never endorsed a Democrat in a general election for president. But on Tuesday, the paper broke its 120-year streak of supporting Republicans, giving Hillary Clinton its endorsement.

Trump, the paper said, “is not conservative and he is not qualified.”

The endorsement lauds many of Clinton’s qualities, including her years of public service, her temperament, and her experience, while pointing out that Trump lacks these same qualifications. “Clinton retains her composure under pressure,” the paper wrote. “She’s tough. She doesn’t back down. Trump responds to criticism with the petulance of verbal spit wads.”

The paper contrasted the two candidates on issues from immigration to treatment of women. On the latter, the paper noted Clinton’s focus on gender equality as secretary of state and compared that record to Trump’s view of women. “Trump’s long history of objectifying women and his demeaning comments about women during the campaign are not just good-old-boy gaffes,” the editors wrote. “They are evidence of deep character flaws. They are part of a pattern.”

The paper noted that Clinton made a mistake by using a private email server as secretary of state and said she should have erected a “firewall” between herself and the Clinton Foundation while at the State Department, “though there is no evidence of wrongdoing.” But against Trump’s flaws, the paper concluded, hers “pale in comparison.”

On Wednesday, Grant Woods, the former Republican attorney general of Arizona, also endorsed Clinton, calling her “one of the most qualified nominees to ever run for president” and Trump “the least qualified ever.”

The Arizona Republic is the latest conservative-leaning paper to break this year with its tradition of endorsing Republicans. The Dallas Morning News and the Cincinnati Inquirer both recently endorsed Clinton, while several other conservative papers have opted to endorse the libertarian candidate, Gary Johnson.

Thus far, no major papers have endorsed Trump over Clinton.

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This Conservative Arizona Paper Never Endorsed a Democrat for President. Until Now.

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American Women Are Still Dying in Childbirth at Alarming Rates

Mother Jones

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In dramatic contrast to the rest of the developed world, the rate of women dying because of complications with pregnancy or childbirth rose in the United States by 27 percent between 2000 and 2014. During the same time period, according to a study that will be published in the September issue of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 157 other countries reported a decrease in their maternal mortality rates.

Maternal mortality is defined as death while pregnant or within 42 days of being pregnant because of causes related to that pregnancy. The report covers 50 states and the District of Columbia, but researchers described the lack of comprehensive data surrounding maternal mortality as an “international embarrassment.” The lead researcher, editor-in-chief of Birth: Issues in Perinatal Care, with researchers from Boston University, and Stanford University, pointed to a lack of funding as reason for delays in compiling the data, but their conclusion was clear: “There is a need to redouble efforts to prevent maternal deaths and improve maternity care for the 4 million U.S. women giving birth each year.”

The nationwide rates are troubling, but Texas, whose maternal mortality rate doubled over two years, is the state with the sharpest increase. From 2006 to 2010, the maternal mortality rate stayed relatively steady in the state, at about 18 deaths per 100,000 live births. But in 2011, the rate there jumped to 33, and then to 35.8 in 2014. Texas has been at the center of a heated debate around women’s health that included a Supreme Court battle over restriction to abortion access in the state, and in 2013 the Legislature created a task force to study maternal mortality and morbidity. Its first report is set to be released in two weeks. While the state is separately analyzed in this report, the authors do not identify a specific reason for the increase, although they did speculate.

“There were some changes in the provision of women’s health services in Texas from 2011 to 2015, including the closing of several women’s health clinics,” the authors write. “Still, in the absence of war, natural disaster, or severe economic upheaval, the doubling of a mortality rate within a 2-year period in a state with almost 400,000 annual births seems unlikely. A future study will examine Texas data by race–ethnicity and detailed causes of death to better understand this unusual finding.”

The “changes in the provision of women’s health services” in Texas began in September 2011, when the state’s family planning budget was cut by two-thirds. Programs that provided prenatal care for low-income women were deeply affected, and the move also excluded clinics that provide abortion services from the funding. And in 2013, Texas passed HB 2, an anti-abortion omnibus bill that set off a domino effect of restrictions that drained half the state’s clinics of resources, ultimately shuttering them.

More recently, Texas awarded $1.6 million in funding for the Healthy Texas Women program to the Heidi Group, an anti-abortion organization. Only the Harris County Public Health Department received more money from the fund, but just barely—it was awarded $1.7 million.

Carrie Williams, a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of State Health Services, told the Dallas Morning News that the department considered the issue “a complex problem.”

“We’re aware of the numbers and want to see a decrease in this trend, and that’s why the task force is closely reviewing these cases and will make recommendations,” Williams said.

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American Women Are Still Dying in Childbirth at Alarming Rates

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