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Trump’s Hurricane Dorian map looks doctored with a Sharpie. We might know why.

The forecast maps that the National Hurricane Center produces can be confusing. What they attempt to show is a range of possible paths a storm’s center could take over the next few days. Presented without that context, it’s no surprise some people think the maps show hurricanes growing larger over time, or that they show all the areas that could conceivably be under threat. (In fact, people living outside the “cone of uncertainty” are still at risk.) Visual journalist Alberto Cairo recently explained what the cone means in a fascinating interactive for the New York Times that’s very much worth your time.

Donald Trump, surprisingly, seems to understand exactly what the cone of uncertainty means. He just doesn’t agree with the meteorologists whose job it is to know whatever is humanly possible to know about hurricanes.

If you were online Labor Day weekend, you may have seen Trump tweet about Hurricane Dorian, which had recently ravaged the Bahamas and was heading toward the East Coast. “In addition to Florida – South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama, will most likely be hit (much) harder than anticipated,” he wrote in a now-deleted tweet. There was only one problem: Dorian was not, in fact, forecast to hit Alabama. To clear up any confusion, the National Weather Service office in Birmingham tweeted a fact-check:

But on Wednesday Trump had the last word, as Trump is wont to do. In a video update on Hurricane Dorian filmed in the Oval Office, Trump presented a probability map for Dorian that, lo and behold, showed the hurricane potentially moving toward Alabama. What accounted for this unexpected change of forecast? Well, Trump, or someone on his staff, had amended the map’s cone of uncertainty in what appeared to be Sharpie.

“It was going toward the Gulf, that was what was originally projected,” Trump explained with a straight face as he gestured toward the altered map, “and it took a right turn.” Ah yes, the massive hurricane took a sharp right turn! That’s a much more plausible scenario than a scientifically illiterate president making a mistake in a hastily composed tweet.

According to the Washington Post, Trump repeatedly said “I don’t know” when asked if the map had been doctored. Credit where credit is due — a man who’s not afraid to admit it when he doesn’t know something is a man worthy of our admiration.

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Trump’s Hurricane Dorian map looks doctored with a Sharpie. We might know why.

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They worked in sweltering heat for Exxon, Shell and Walmart. They didn’t get paid a dime.

This story was originally published by Reveal and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

A nationally renowned drug rehab program in Texas and Louisiana has sent patients struggling with addiction to work for free for some of the biggest companies in America, likely in violation of federal labor law.

The Cenikor Foundation has dispatched tens of thousands of patients to work without pay at more than 300 for-profit companies over the years. In the name of rehabilitation, patients have moved boxes in a sweltering warehouse for Walmart, built an oil platform for Shell, and worked at an Exxon refinery along the Mississippi River.

“It’s like the closest thing to slavery,” said Logan Tullier, a former Cenikor participant who worked 10 hours per day at oil refineries, laying steel rebar in 115 degree-heat. “We were making them all the money.”

Cenikor’s success is built on a simple idea: that work helps people recover from addiction. All participants have to do is surrender their pay to cover the costs of the two-year program.

But the constant work leaves little time for counseling or treatment, transforming the rehab into little more than a cheap and expendable labor pool for private companies, an investigation by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting has found.

At some job sites, participants lacked proper supervision, safety equipment and training, leading to routine injuries. Over the last decade, nearly two dozen Cenikor workers have been seriously injured or maimed on the job, according to hundreds of pages of lawsuits, workers’ compensation records, and interviews with former staff. One worker died from his on-the-job injuries in 1995.

Labor experts say Cenikor’s entire business model might be illegal under federal labor law. The Fair Labor Standards Act requires all employees to be paid minimum wage and overtime.

“They have to look at a different way to run their business operation other than merely absconding with the workers’ wages,” Michael Hancock, a former Department of Labor official, said when presented with Reveal’s findings. “They’re being preyed upon.”

An ongoing Reveal investigation has exposed how many drug rehabs across America have become little more than lucrative work camps for private industry. Patients have slaughtered chickens on speeding assembly lines in Oklahoma and cared for residents at assisted living facilities in North Carolina.

Among these programs, Cenikor stands out. It has a long history of accolades from sitting lawmakers and judges and even former President Ronald Reagan. Last year, the Texas-based nonprofit earned more than $7 million from work contracts alone, making it one of the largest and most lucrative work-based rehabs in the country.

Bill Bailey, who as Cenikor’s chief executive officer earned more than $400,000 in 2017, repeatedly declined requests for comment. But in a statement, Cenikor officials said the work provides “a career path for clients to be hired by companies who traditionally do not hire those with felony convictions, allowing them to return to a life of being a responsible, contributing member of society.” They said they follow all state and federal laws.

Many Cenikor participants work for a network of subcontractors that then dispatch them to the major companies.

Walmart said it found Cenikor’s labor arrangement troubling and pledged to investigate.

“Our expectations are that all of our vendors follow both the applicable laws and regulations as well as our standards for suppliers,” Walmart said in a statement.

Exxon declined to answer specific questions, but in a statement said the company “contractually requires all of our suppliers to comply with all applicable environmental, health, safety, and labor laws for themselves and their subcontractors.”

Cenikor sent participants to work at an Exxon refinery in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Julie Dermansky / Reveal

Shell did not respond to requests for comment.

Many participants said Cenikor saved their lives and equipped them for success. After 18 months in the program, participants can become eligible to receive wages and graduate with jobs, a car and the tools to build a promising life. But fewer than 8 percent of people who enter Cenikor make it to graduation, according to the program’s own numbers, and therefore never receive a paying job.

“It was just a money racket,” said former Cenikor patient Alester Williams, who checked himself in to Cenikor for help quitting alcohol and cocaine. “That place was all about manipulation and greed.”

Cenikor patients and staff said work came before everything else. Staff routinely canceled doctors’ and legal appointments in favor of sending patients to work, records show. Working up to 80 hours per week left little time for counseling, therapy, or sleep.

Like many participants, Ethan Ewers was ordered to complete Cenikor by a Texas judge after failing a drug test while on probation. Once he arrived, he said he worked 43 days straight in a sweltering warehouse unloading cargo containers for Walmart. One day in 2016, when he was bone tired and on the brink of relapsing, he finally snapped.

“I said, ‘You need to give me a day off because I can’t do this anymore,’ ” Ewers told Cenikor brass. “It was absolutely ridiculous.”

Multiple former staff members told Reveal that counselors routinely falsified counseling records to make it appear as though patients received more counseling than they did. During busy work seasons, some received no counseling at all.

Peggy Billeaudeau, who was the clinical director at Cenikor’s Baton Rouge facility from 2015 to 2016, said she got so fed up with the excessive work that she and her staff launched their own investigation. They pored over patient timesheets and painstakingly entered the hours into a spreadsheet. Billeaudeau discovered that many Cenikor patients were working 80-hour weeks and rarely received counseling.

She presented the evidence to top Cenikor officials at a staff meeting. “It was kind of like, ‘Peggy, don’t touch that with a 10-foot pole,’ ” she recalled. “It was about the money. Get the money.”

Some rehab staff have a financial incentive to work participants harder and longer, according to interviews. Former vocational services managers, who secured outside job contracts, said the more money they brought in, the larger their bonuses.

Cenikor managers had a compelling sales pitch. They promised companies cheap workers who were drug tested and always on time. Cenikor would pay for transportation and cover the costs of insurance.

“We tended to charge less than the temp agencies because of the demographics,” said Stephanie Collins, a former vocational services manager. “We were competitive.”

Patients, meanwhile, make nothing. They are told that their paychecks will be used to offset the cost of the program. Federal labor law allows Cenikor to deduct the costs of food, lodging, and certain other expenses. But according to interviews and records obtained by Reveal, Cenikor typically brings in far more money from work contracts than it spends on patients.

Food stamps cover meal costs for all Cenikor participants, and in Louisiana, many are signed up for Medicaid to pay for counseling and medical care. Internal financial ledgers from the program’s Baton Rouge facility show that in 2016 and 2017, Cenikor’s job contracts regularly delivered more than twice as much money as its daily operating expenses.

At minimum, labor experts say this means Cenikor patients should see at least some of the pay from their work.

“I can’t fathom this being legitimate,” said John Meek, a former Department of Labor wage and hour investigator. “That math is just against it.”

Despite its reliance on work, Cenikor frequently has skimped on providing safety training or giving participants basic protective gear, such as steel-toed boots and harnesses.

In 2016, David Dupuis and other Cenikor participants went to work for a company cleaning up flooded homes filled with black mold and raw sewage. While regular employees got protective equipment such as masks and boots, Dupuis said Cenikor workers got nothing.

“They didn’t give us any protective equipment at all,” he recalled, adding that workers frequently caught staph infections. “It was extremely hazardous.”

In 2018, Cenikor sent Matthew Oates to a private residence in Baton Rouge to trim trees without a safety harness, helmet, or rope. As he teetered on a ladder 20 feet in the air, Oates lost his balance and tumbled from the tree. The fall broke his back.

“You’re wondering if you’re going to be crippled, you know, you’re going to be in pain for the rest of your life,” Oates said. “You know, what’s going to happen to me? Am I going to be able to work again?”

Oates said his back still causes him severe pain and he regularly sees a chiropractor.

Cenikor has been warned repeatedly to make sure participants are safe on the job. After a Cenikor worker plummeted from an unstable platform and died in an office supply warehouse in 1995, federal labor officials told Cenikor that ensuring patient safety was paramount.

“Cenikor officials should take more of (an) active role in providing quality training” and “recognize hazards associated with the job,” officials with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration wrote. But injuries have continued to rack up.

In recent years, a Cenikor worker crushed his hands in an industrial press, another worker fell off scaffolding and shattered his knee at a chemical plant, and at least two workers broke their backs.

In Texas, Cenikor is not required to report on-the-job injuries to rehab regulators. But when officials with the Texas Health and Human Services Commission learned about the injuries from Reveal, a spokeswoman said the agency was “concerned about any injuries sustained to clients” and planned to investigate further.

A sign at the entrance to the Cenikor Foundation, a private, not-for-profit behavioral health facility, is pictured in Deer Park, Texas. Julie Dermansky / Reveal

In Louisiana, state law requires Cenikor to report injuries, but Cenikor has not submitted a single injury report to the Louisiana Department of Health in the last three years, even though Reveal uncovered numerous injuries during that time. Licensing officials said they would investigate the injuries if a patient complained about them.

The federal Department of Labor had the opportunity to crack down on Cenikor’s labor abuses more than 20 years ago. In 1994, Cenikor participant Loren Simonis graduated from the program and immediately filed a complaint with the wage and hour office, alleging violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Under federal law, workers are entitled to minimum wage and overtime for their work. The Supreme Court ruled in 1985 that working for free in a nonprofit — even one with a rehabilitative purpose — was a violation of federal labor law. Cenikor can deduct the cost of room and board, but it cannot keep all of participants’ wages, former labor officials told Reveal.

But the Department of Labor declined to investigate Simonis’ complaint, according to records obtained by Reveal. Simonis got tired of waiting and filed a lawsuit against Cenikor, claiming unpaid wages. He eventually settled for an undisclosed sum.

Labor officials declined to comment on the department’s 1994 decision and refused to answer questions about whether investigators would look into Cenikor for wage violations. A department spokesman said the agency “takes all complaints of worker safety and health hazards and violations seriously.”

Today, Simonis lives in Oregon with his wife and kids and runs his own screen-printing shop.

“I’ve turned my life around,” he said. “I don’t think Cenikor had anything to do with it.”

Continued here: 

They worked in sweltering heat for Exxon, Shell and Walmart. They didn’t get paid a dime.

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Inmates are risking their lives to fight California’s raging fires.

A new report by Kaiser Family Foundation and the Episcopal Health Foundation found economic and health disparities among those affected by Harvey.

Sixty-six percent of black residents surveyed said they are not getting the help they need to recover, compared to half of all hurricane survivors. While 34 percent of white residents said their FEMA applications had been approved, just 13 percent of black residents said the same.

And even though they are receiving less assistance, black and Hispanic respondents and those with lower incomes were more likely to have experienced property damage or loss of income as a result of the storm.

Additionally, 1 in 6 people reported that someone in their household has a health condition that is new or made worse because of Harvey. Lower-income adults and people of color who survived the storm were more likely to lack health insurance and to say they don’t know where to go for medical care.

“This survey gives an important voice to hard-hit communities that may have been forgotten, especially those with the greatest needs and fewest resources following the storm,” Elena Marks, president and CEO of the Episcopal Health Foundation, said in a statement.

Originally posted here:

Inmates are risking their lives to fight California’s raging fires.

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What Do Millennials Spend All Their Money On?

Mother Jones

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A few days ago, Australian real-estate mogul Tim Gurner had some harsh words for millennials who are unhappy that they can’t afford to buy a house:

“When I was trying to buy my first home, I wasn’t buying smashed avocado for $19 and four coffees at $4 each,” he said. “We’re at a point now where the expectations of younger people are very, very high. They want to eat out every day; they want travel to Europe every year.

“The people that own homes today worked very, very hard for it,” he said, adding that they “saved every dollar, did everything they could to get up the property investment ladder.”

This prompted a snarky, avocado-centric Twitter meme for a while, and the next day the New York Times even tried to fact check Gurner’s claim:

According to the Food Institute, which analyzed Bureau of Labor Statistics expenditure data from 2015, people from 25 to 34 spent, on average, $3,097 on eating out. Data for this age group through the decades was not readily available….As for Mr. Gurner’s second suggestion — skipping the European vacation — there is indeed an opportunity for savings, but research suggests millennials are the generation spending the least on travel.

This is some strange stuff. In its current form, the BLS Consumer Expenditure Survey goes back to the 80s, so this data is indeed available through the decades. Still, at least this is an attempt to take Gurner seriously: he’s not literally complaining about avocados on toast, but about a cavalier attitude toward money in general. So let’s take a look at that. First, here are total expenditures for 25-34-year-olds:

As you can see, millennials spend a smaller proportion of their income than 25-34-year-olds did a generation ago. In the Reagan era, this age group spent 91 percent of their income. Today’s millennials spend only 81 percent of their income.1 Still, thanks to rising incomes their total expenditures clock in about $3,000 higher (adjusted for inflation) than young households in the 80s.

But do they spend a big part of that income on fripperies, like lavish vacations and expensive dinners out? Let’s look:

Three decades ago, 18-34-year-olds spent 10.5 percent of their income on entertainment and eating out. Millennials spend 8.6 percent. In real dollars, that represents a small decline. In other words, millennials are more frugal about dining and entertainment than past generations.

So what do millennials spend their money on each year? They may have $3,000 more in disposable income than young families of the 80s and 90s, but they also spend:

About $1,000 more on health care.
About $1,500 more on pensions and Social Security.
About $2,000 more on overall housing (rent, maintenance, utilities, etc.).
About $700 more on education.

If they’re not buying houses, this is why. It’s not because houses are more expensive: the average house costs about a third more than it did in the 80s and early 90s, but thanks to low interest rates the average mortgage payment is about the same or even a bit lower. But it’s tough to scrape together a down payment when you’re already running a tight ship on dining and entertainment and paying more than previous generations for health care, education, retirement, and student loans.

That said, I’ll add one more thing: our perceptions are probably a bit warped about this. Millennials who write about this stuff tend to live in media centers like New York or San Francisco or Washington DC, where housing is extremely expensive. Even with a decent income it’s hard to afford anything more than a cramped apartment. In the rest of the country things are different, but we don’t hear as much about that. Caveat emptor.

1The share of income not counted as expenditures includes taxes, student loans, credit card payments, savings, etc.

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What Do Millennials Spend All Their Money On?

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The DNC Chair Race Is Over. Now Comes the Real Battle.

Mother Jones

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And to think, that was the easy part. Former Labor Secretary Tom Perez was elected as chair of the Democratic National Committee on Saturday, edging out Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison in the first competitive election for the job in decades. The 55-year-old Perez, the first Latino chair of the party, will now inherit the most thankless job in politics—rebuilding a party that is at its lowest point since the 1920s.

The race was often miscast as a proxy fight between supporters of Bernie Sanders and supporters of Hillary Clinton, a framing that was unfair to both Ellison and Perez, dynamic and progressive political operatives running for a job often reserved for staid political figures. In the end, Perez’s win was not a rejection of Ellison’s vision of the party; in key ways, his campaign was an affirmation of it.

Party chair is a position typically of interest only to political junkies. But with organizers still amped up from the presidential election, the race had the feel and structure of a competitive primary, with a half-dozen candidate forums across the country and an intensive push from rank-and-file voters that recalled previous courting of superdelegates. “I’ve been lobbied consistently by phone, by email, by Facebook, by Twitter for the last month,” said Melvin Poindexter, a DNC member from Massachusetts who was supporting Ellison.

Ellison, for his part, tried to tamp down the barrage of phone calls on his behalf, which one state party chair unfavorably described as “anarchy.” But aggressive lobbying proved critical. Kerman Maddox, a DNC member from California, explained that he’d chosen Perez in part because “Tom called me more than any of the other Democratic candidates”—a sentiment echoed by other voting members.

After the results were announced, a dozen Ellison supporters—including the congressman’s brother, Eric—chanted “party for the people, not big money” from the back of the Atlanta ballroom, with a few cries of “bullshit!” thrown in. While the formal final vote, sealed on the second ballot, was 235 to 200, in a show of unity, Perez was subsequently elected by acclamation. In his first move as chair, he announced that Ellison had agreed to serve as his deputy chair.

“If you’re wearing a ‘Keith’ t-shirt—or any t-shirt—I am asking you to give everything you’ve got to support chairman Perez,” Ellison told the room. Afterward, they switched campaign pins in a show of solidarity.

In the run up to the vote, some Ellison backers argued that there was no real case for a Perez chairmanship—that he was running as a check on Sanders’ influence and little more. But DNC members I spoke with seemed to understand Perez’s pitch quite clearly: he was a turnaround artist who had retooled complex bureaucracies toward progressive ends, first at the Maryland Department of Labor, then at the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, and finally as President Barack Obama’s Labor Secretary. If progressives had forgotten what they liked about Perez, they needed to look no farther than the conservative Breitbart News, which once heralded Perez “the most radical cabinet secretary since Henry Wallace,” the New Dealer who eventually bolted the Democrats to mount a third party challenge in 1948.

The fights that Perez has waged over the course of his career track closely with those Ellison cut his teeth on in Minneapolis—housing discrimination, voter suppression, and living wages. Neo-liberal stooges still have a place in the Democratic party. But the DNC chair isn’t one of them.

Beyond their shared political priorities, Perez even offered a similar diagnosis as Ellison. The party had become top-heavy, focusing too much on the presidential race, and had neglected to compete on a county-by-county level. He advocated something resembling a restoration of former chair Howard Dean’s 50-state strategy, and proposed to spend more time knocking on doors in off-year elections. There was no talk of compromising with President Donald Trump; Perez dubbed him “the worst president in the history of the United States.”

Ellison sought to win the same way he always has, through a mastery of coalition politics. His backers included American Federation of Teachers, the AFL-CIO, Sen. Chuck Schumer, Harry Reid, Rep. John Lewis, and Sanders—many of whom found themselves on opposing sides during the president primary. The threat by OJ Simpson counsel and Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz< to leave the party if Ellison won did not appear to have a substantial effect on voters. (Maybe they were waiting to hear from F. Lee Bailey.) He ran not as Sanders 2.0, but as a restoration of an even older form of Democratic progressivism, one evoked by the spruce-green colors on his t-shirts and tote bags—the campaign colors of his political idol, the late Minnesota Sen. Paul Wellstone.

Just a few hours before the election, there was an indication Ellison might come up short when the committee members voted on a resolution that would reinstate the party’s ban on corporate donations. The ban, which was first implemented by president-elect Barack Obama in 2008, had been dropped last year by the previous party chair, Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz. Ellison had supported the reinstatement of the ban and envisioned a party’s fundraising model in the mold of Sanders’ small-dollar campaign. Perez never committed to reinstating the contribution ban.

The resolution brought on the most contentious 10 minutes of a weekend that, up until then, had been a love-fest. Bob Mulholland of California, the leading critic of the ban, chided critics as naive. He cited corporate opposition to ousted North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory as proof that corporations aren’t all evil. Supporters of the ban, some of the new party leaders whom had been recently elected to their posts with the backing of Sanders’s supporters, implicitly tied the resolution to the senator’s one-time candidacy, warning that the party risked alienating voters who cared about money in politics. Jessica Sell Chambers, a Sanders backer and the newly minted national committeewoman from Wyoming, offered a succinct appraisal: “I belong to the party of the people and the last time I checked corporations aren’t people.”

Inside the Westin, where Democrats began assembling on Thursday, the notion that the chair candidates were engaged in a rancorous, existential fight seemed far-fetched. Perez, who was hoarse from two days of lobbying as he made a last-minute push Friday night, had taken to calling the event “Unity Saturday.” Even the most die-hard Ellison supporters were optimistic that the party would be in good hands win or lose. Each of the leading candidates devoted portions of their stump speech to a call for unity no matter who won.

“I really just want to like put at least four of them together,” said Dolly Strazar from Hawaii, a Sanders supporter who ended up backing Perez. Another voting member, Aleita Huguenin of California, predicted that the fight would quickly simmer down. “I’ve been through too many of them,” she said. “People are a little disappointed, they have two dinners, and will be back together.”

In reality, the contentious fight over the future of the party never really described the DNC race—but there is such a battle playing out across the country. Already, Sanders supporters, both organically and with the support of the Senator’s non-profit Our Revolution, have begun targeting the party’s apparatus at state, county, and local levels. They are poised to take over the California Democratic party in May, after winning a majority of delegates to the state convention in January. The Sanders wing is ascendant in Nebraska and Wyoming, and setting its sights on Florida and Michigan. Beyond party positions, re-energized Sanders supporters are talking openly about primary challenges to Democratic officeholders who support Donald Trump’s policies.

Less than a year after only 39 of 447 DNC members endorsed Sanders’ presidential campaign, his chosen candidate came about 15 votes short of taking over the whole thing. The numbers reflect Sanders’ forces growing strength in the party, a gradual upheaval that may only be sped along by Perez’s victory. DNC members from Wyoming—where the Vermont senator notched a huge caucus victory but due to party rules emerged with few delegates—who are not on board are feeling the heat. When Bruce Palmer, the party’s vice chair, told me he was supporting Tom Perez, he conceded that it may be to his own detriment. After all, he’s got an election next month.

Continued here:

The DNC Chair Race Is Over. Now Comes the Real Battle.

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Trump’s New Labor Nominee Oversaw Politicized Hiring at Justice Department

Mother Jones

At a press conference Thursday afternoon, President Donald Trump announced Florida International University College of Law Dean R. Alexander Acosta as his next nominee to oversee the US Department of Labor. The decision comes after a slew of scandals and mounting pressure from Republicans derailed Trump’s previous pick, fast-food executive Andrew Puzder, who withdrew his name from contention on Wednesday, a day before his confirmation hearing was scheduled.

Trump lauded Acosta’s credentials as a Harvard Law School graduate, a former clerk for Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, and a member of the National Labor Relations Board, emphasizing that Acosta had previously been confirmed by the Senate three times. “I’ve wished him the best,” Trump told reporters. “I think he’ll be a tremendous secretary of labor.” If confirmed, Acosta would be the only Latino in Trump’s Cabinet.

But Trump didn’t mention one of Acosta’s less admirable roles. Acosta served as assistant attorney general of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division from 2003 to 2005 under President George W. Bush—the first Latino in that role—and was at the center of a scandal over hiring practices. During Acosta’s tenure, Brad Schlozman, a deputy assistant attorney general, “improperly considered political and ideological affiliations” when he hired attorneys to work at the Civil Rights Division, according to a Justice Department inspector general report written in 2008. “Attorneys hired by Schlozman were more than twice as likely to be Republican or conservative than those attorneys Scholzman was not involved in hiring,” the report found. That consideration, the report concluded, violated the Civil Service Reform Act and department policy that bars discrimination in hiring based on political and ideological affiliations.

The agency concluded that Acosta and other Civil Rights Division managers failed to “exercise sufficient oversight to ensure that Schlozman did not engage in inappropriate hiring and personnel practices.” Specifically, Acosta and Deputy Attorney General Wan Kim “failed to ensure that Schlozman’s hiring and personnel decisions were based on proper considerations,” the report noted.

When Acosta first took over as law school dean in 2009, H. T. Smith, director of FIU’s trial advocacy program, told the Miami New Times that Acosta’s stint at the Civil Rights Division “caused a rift with the black community,” adding that the former Miami prosecutor needed to meet with faculty members to heal that divide. The NAACP’s Miami-Dade branch expressed concern, telling the Miami Herald at the time of Acosta’s hire that his “lack of diversity in hiring and promotion while serving as U.S. attorney gives cause for concern for his consideration as dean of FIU’s College of Law.”

Kristen Clarke, executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, condemned the “egregious conduct” that played out during Acosta’s time at the Justice Department. “It is hard to believe that Mr. Acosta would now be nominated to lead a federal agency tasked with promoting lawful hiring practices and safe workplaces,” Clarke said in a statement released after Trump’s announcement.

Read the full 2008 inspector general report:

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Justice Department Inspector General Report Acosta Hiring Practices (PDF)

Justice Department Inspector General Report Acosta Hiring Practices (Text)

Link – 

Trump’s New Labor Nominee Oversaw Politicized Hiring at Justice Department

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The Dead Pool – 15 February 2017

Mother Jones

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Apparently Andrew Puzder has withdrawn his nomination to be Secretary of Labor. “He’s very tired of the abuse,” a friend said. This was awkward wording, since the withdrawal came after Oprah Winfrey handed over tape of Puzder’s ex-wife on Oprah in 1990 claiming that he had abused her. Also after revelations that he had hired an illegal immigrant as a housekeeper and failed to submit payroll taxes for her. And after an increasing number of Republicans said they were “on the fence” and basically told President Trump his nomination was dead. Also after the Breitbart wing of the party kept up a steady campaign of complaints that Puzder was too damn soft on immigration.

The upshot is that Trump will now nominate someone who’s probably just as anti-labor as Puzder, but also a fire-breathing wall supporter. Hooray.

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The Dead Pool – 15 February 2017

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The "Oprah" Tape That May Have Sunk Andrew Puzder’s Nomination

Mother Jones

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Update, 2/15/17, 3:24 pm: The White House is expected to withdraw Puzder’s nomination as labor secretary. Politico’s story featuring the “The Oprah Winfrey” footage reportedly played a significant role in the decision.

At the request of senators reviewing the nomination of Andrew Puzder, President Donald Trump’s pick for labor secretary, Oprah Winfrey on Tuesday handed over a 1990 recording featuring Puzder’s former wife, Lisa Fierstein, in which she details allegations of spousal abuse against the embattled fast-food CEO.

The footage, which Politico obtained and released on Wednesday, shows Fierstein dressed in a disguise and using a pseudonym to conceal her identity alongside other women who experienced spousal abuse. In the episode entitled “High-Class Battered Women,” she claimed Puzder once threatened revenge after she first made the allegations public two years before “The Oprah Winfrey Show” appearance.

“‘I will see you in the gutter,” Fierstein claimed he told her. “This will never be over. You will pay for this.”

“I wound up losing everything, everything,” she continued. “I have nothing. He has a Porsche and a Mercedes-Benz. He has the home. He has everything. He was an attorney, and he knew how to play the system.”

In 1988, Fierstein filed a petition accusing Puzder of physically assaulting her on the face, chest, and back, leaving her with “severe and permanent injuries.” The couple divorced in 1987. She has since said that she regretted her decision to appear on the show.

The tape’s review comes amid sinking support for Puzder’s nomination as further questions arise about his labor practices. Employees from his fast-food empire have also come forward complaining about his vehement opposition to raising the minimum wage and protecting workers. His hearing was repeatedly delayed after he failed to properly file the ethics and financial paperwork required of all Cabinet picks.

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The "Oprah" Tape That May Have Sunk Andrew Puzder’s Nomination

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These Could Be the Most Vulnerable Immigrants in Trump’s America

Mother Jones

Labor and immigration rights advocates are worried that the policies being rolled out by President Donald Trump will make life particularly difficult—perhaps even dangerous—for an especially vulnerable worker population: immigrant day laborers.

In the executive order he signed on January 25, Trump prioritized the removal of undocumented “criminal” immigrants. Specifically, his interior enforcement plans call for the removal of undocumented immigrants who have been charged or convicted, or have even just “committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense,” which could include everything from entering the country illegally to getting paid to work or driving without a license. Such a broad definition of criminality—the order also tells immigration agents to focus on those who are a “risk to public safety or national security”—has advocates for day laborers more than a little concerned.

“What President Trump wants to do is increase that kind of enforcement and target—not just certain crimes, but anybody that has any kind of criminal past, any kind of ticket or infraction,” says Victor Narro, project director at the UCLA Labor Center. “That’s the danger” for day laborers.

While reliable numbers are hard to come by, a 2006 national study of day labor estimated that 117,600 people seek this kind of work daily. The laborers often stand out on public streets near lumber yards or home improvement centers in the hope that a contractor or homeowner will hire them for help with heavy jobs such as landscaping, hauling, clearing, or moving.

This makes them highly visible to law enforcement. And while it is legal to solicit work in public in many cities, local ordinances banning loitering or jaywalking can get laborers ticketed and their names put into police databases. If undocumented immigrants are detained and fingerprinted, for whatever reason, they have more to fear. Under Secure Communities, a controversial and since shuttered Obama-era program, fingerprints were automatically sent to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, whose agents could ask local officials to hold undocumented immigrants for deportation.

And Trump isn’t just bringing back Secure Communities. After the presidential election, the Los Angeles Times reported that administration hardliners want to vastly expand expedited removal, a process in which ICE can deport people without so much as a hearing. It is currently used only within 100 miles of the border to remove people who cannot show proper documentation.

Already there have been reports of anti-immigrant vigilantes photographing and harassing day laborers and, in one incident, going into a labor center in Hollywood and taking pictures of signup sheets bearing laborers’ names. “Now it’s going to be much more violent, much more explicit because of the xenophobia and very explicit racism that we see from this administration and from his supporters,” National Day Laborer Organizing Network spokesman Armando Carmona told me. “This is going to be much more dramatic.”

In defiance of the Trump administration, Los Angeles city officials have agreed to draft a law that decriminalizes the work of street vendors—many undocumented—who sell hot dogs, fruit, and other foods on streets. For years, their actions were illegal. The next push by the city’s pro-immigrant advocates is to convince officials to grant amnesty to those vendors who still face criminal charges in the hope of helping them avoid deportation. (Trump’s order also calls for cities that don’t comply with federal immigration law to lose discretionary federal funding.)

In any case, the threat of deportation and physical violence isn’t going to stop people from seeking a livelihood, says labor organizer Salvador Reza, who works with day laborers in Phoenix. “Day laborers are here to work. They need to work. In order to work, they will face the Minutemen, they’ll face the racists, they’ll face the police,” he says. “If you take Arizona as an example, we can fight it and we can win it—but it’s just massive.”

President Trump, adds Reza, “is taking on the whole nation.”

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These Could Be the Most Vulnerable Immigrants in Trump’s America

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Chart of the Day: Obama Era Ends With 152 Million People at Work, an Increase of 9.9 Million

Mother Jones

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The American economy added 227,000 new jobs last month. Unemployment ticked up slightly from 4.72 percent to 4.78 percent, so the headline rate increased from 4.7 percent to 4.8 percent. The whole jobs report was a little strange, though, due to a whopping revision in BLS’s estimate of the total population of the country. Without the controls, 413,000 people re-entered the labor force and the total number of people employed rose by 457,000. Those are both excellent numbers, even if they did cause the official unemployment rate to rise slightly. The labor participation rate rose from 62.7 percent to 62.9 percent regardless of the population revision.

Hourly earnings of production and nonsupervisory employees went up at an annual rate of 2.3 percent. By coincidence, that’s also the average annual increase for the entire Obama presidency. In an era of low inflation, that’s OK but not great. Altogether, this is the last jobs report of the Obama era and the starting point for judging the economic policies of the Trump era:

Headline unemployment rate: 4.8 percent
U6 unemployment rate: 9.4 percent
Labor participation rate: 62.9 percent
Hourly earnings of production and nonsupervisory employees: $21.84


Chart of the Day: Obama Era Ends With 152 Million People at Work, an Increase of 9.9 Million

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