Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Sacking Social Workers - Baby LK Report For April 27th 2014

Baby LK recaps the week in news for the child protective industry. Voting is beautiful, be beautiful ~ vote.©

Conyers: Full Employment Essential to Closing Widening Racial Wealth Gap

(WASHINGTON) – Today, Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) attended a press conference hosted by the Center for Global Policy Solutions, in conjunction with the Insight Center for Community Economic Development, and the Ford Foundation, to discuss a newly released report entitled "Beyond Broke: Why Closing the Racial Wealth Gap is a Priority for National Economic Security." Multiple Congressmen were in attendance at the press conference, including: Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Tx.), Rep. Robin Kelly (D-Ill.), Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), Rep. Tony Cardenas (D-Calif.), and Rep. Steven Horsford (D-Nev.). Following the press conference, Representative Conyers issued the following statement:

"Extensive research by the Center for Global Policy Solutions has laid plain what we have long recognized in our neighborhoods and communities: there exists a vast racial and ethnic wealth gap in the United States that has only gotten worse in the aftermath of the Great Recession," said Conyers.

"The newly published report - aptly titled 'Beyond Broke' - highlights how white Americans have 100 times greater access to cash, or 'liquid wealth,’ than black Americans, and 65 times more access than Latino Americans. Worse still, the aftershocks of the housing collapse has disproportionately deepened the crisis in minority communities where home equity has evaporated, practically overnight. The status quo has been unacceptable for far too long.
"Yet, the report also underscores that Congress has legislative solutions at our disposal, chiefly that working towards a  full employment society is a policy critical to reversing the alarming racial wealth gap trend. When every person is trained, working, and earning a salary there are more customers for American goods and services. Ultimately this increased demand in the American economy means that workers have greater bargaining power and, in turn, higher wages. Legislation I have introduced - H.R. 1000, the ‘Humphrey Hawkins Full Employment and Training Act - achieves this goal by creating two public trust funds for training and employment in sectors ranging from infrastructure repair to energy efficiency. "With more than 20 million Americans unemployed and a rapidly increasing chasm in the racial wealth gap, it is past time for Congress to get to work."

Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.), alongside his colleague Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), advocating for full employment legislation as a means to closing the racial wealth gap.
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Monday, April 28, 2014

Michigan Medicaid expansion of new foster care model

Under a provision of the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. "Obamacare") , Medicaid expansion will cover state plans for mental health.

Through community based services, Michigan will set up what is called Health Homes.

Health Homes provide direct services to consumers for coordinated services.

This may be the first demonstration of reform in the child welfare system.

Instead of removing the child leaving families to poor quality services of Child Protective Services, the services come to the family.

The Health Homes model also opens the door for expansion of Supervised Independent Living programs for youth aging out of foster care.

States that did not adopt the Medicaid expansion will not be participating in the expansion of community mental health initiatives such as this.

It can only be hoped that this plan will give a new meaning to fostering care for the improved well being of an individual.

Comments on this proposed policy are due May 28, 2014.

Comments may be forwarded to Elizabeth Knisely at KniselyE@michigan.gov or to the address noted on the attached transmittal sheet.
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Friday, April 25, 2014

Hide the Eggs!!! - Baby LK Report For April 20th 2014

Baby LK recaps the week in news for the child protection industry.

For these stories and all the latest dirt on the child protective indstry visithttp://www.LegallyKidnapped.com

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New study forecasts more Medicaid fraud in child welfare

Even more empirical evidence that Medicaid fraud in child welfare is flourishing.

I have not read the study but there are disparities in Medicaid cost reimbursements for heavily populated urban centers with high rates of poverty.  The same holds true for some rural areas.  This is why few doctors, including dentist, will practice:  they cannot afford it.  Medicaid for child welfare services pays much more in the suburbs.

Child welfare is, typically, the only means to access mental health treatment.  It is termed "voluntary placement" in order for the court to approve Medicaid payments.  These volunteer placements are then lumped into the "abuse and neglect" reporting of SACWIS.

Psychotropic medication is used in child welfare as chemical constraints due to a severe lack of funding for direct services.  It is easier to dope the kids.

Only for brevity do I cite my last reason to take heed to the onerous foreshadowing of this study; there is no oversight to Medicaid in child welfare because it is a secret.


This study quantifies racial/ethnic differences in Medicaid expenditures on psychotropic drugs among a national sample of children with suspected maltreatment. We linked 4,445 child participants in the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being (NSCAW) – consisting of children investigated for suspected abuse and neglect – to their Medicaid claims obtained from 36 states. We used propensity score matching to construct a comparison group of children without known child welfare involvement, and estimated two-part generalized linear models to examine differences in annual psychotropic drug expenditures per child between children of different races/ethnicities. When compared to a matched sample of children, African American and Latino children incur $292 and $144 less expenditures on psychotropic drugs, respectively, than white children. Among NSCAW children alone, African American children display $614 less spending on psychotropic drugs when compared to white children. Racial/ethnic differences in expenditures on psychotropic drugs occur among all children on Medicaid, but the differences are especially pronounced among African American children in contact with the child welfare system. These findings demonstrate that policymakers will need to pay special attention to the needs of children of color as Medicaid expansions proceed nationwide.

New study examines disparities in Medicaid spending on children in the welfare system

In the new health-care climate of the federal Affordable Care Act and efforts to expand Medicaid to accommodate more individuals and children, the need to closely examine ways to best use government funding is becoming increasingly evident.
A new study from the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis examines racial and ethnic differences in Medicaid expenditures for children in the welfare system who use psychotropic drugs – medication for conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, that affect a child’s mental state.
“Children in the child welfare system are the largest nondisabled users of child mental health services — and the most expensive of kids to insure for mental health needs,” said Ramesh Raghavan, MD, PhD, associate professor at the Brown School and lead author of the study.
“Most of the costs affiliated with mental health coverage are due to pharmaceuticals, and the costs of drugs is very high,” he said. “So when you think about the fact that we have around 6 million kids in contact with child-welfare systems nationally – and about half of them have some sort of behavioral or emotional condition that may require drugs for treatment — we really are looking at a huge number of kids who need mental health services.”
The study, “Racial/Ethnic Differences in Medicaid Expenditures on Psychotropic Medications Among Maltreated Children,” was published online in March in the journal Child Abuse & Neglect. The study examined 4,445 child participants in the National Survey of Child & Adolescent Well-Being linked to their Medicaid records in 36 states. It found expenditure differences were especially pronounced among African-American children. Spending on African-American children was between $300 and $600 lower than spending on white children.
The study can be read online here. But the takeaway, Raghavan said, is that expanding coverage through Medicaid alone may be insufficient to assure high-quality mental health care for children, especially children of color.
“We should be focusing on why these expenditure disparities exist, and how we can eliminate them,” he said. “We know this is not because African-American children are less sick than their white counterparts, and we know this is not entirely because of where they live. So we need to figure out why we’re spending less money on these kids of color, and whether that is appropriate or not.
“Focusing on getting more children into Medicaid without trying to understand the kinds of services these kids receive once they are in the program is not going to improve the quality of care for these kids,” he said.
Raghavan will present some findings from the study at the upcoming National Conference on Child Abuse and Neglect April 30-May 2 in New Orleans, sponsored by the Children’s Bureau, Administration for Children and Families.
Co-authors of the study are Derek S. Brown, PhD, assistant professor at the Brown School; Benjamin T. Allaire of Research Triangle Institute, North Carolina; Lauren D. Garfield, PhD, postdoctoral research scholar in the Department of Psychiatry at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis; Raven E. Ross, a doctoral candidate at the Brown School, and Lonnie R. Snowden, PhD, of the Unversity of California, Berkeley School of Public Health.
The study was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.
To read more about Raghavan and his work at the Brown School, visit here.

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Thursday, April 24, 2014

Michigan denies grandparent guardianship on disjointed law

In a 22-page unanimous decision, the Michigan Supreme Court issued an opinion on a grandmother, Lori Scribner, who attempted to adopt her grandchildren.

The issue stands that the grandmother did not put in her application for guardianship in a timely manner according to current child welfare law.

There is a specific window of time in a child custody proceeding which affords children to be placed with relatives.  Typically, there is no legal representation for family members and they will be denied or discredited on lack of legal knowledge in procedure.

Scribner only petitioned for guardianship after the omnipotent Superintendent of the Michigan Children's Institute denied her petition for adoption.

The adoption petition was denied on the grounds that the Michigan Superintendent can, at will, override federal standards and fictitiously generate a "best interests of the child" evidentiary standard which became the only authority to rely upon for the opinion.

After having her grandchildren in her care in Florida, Michigan removed the children, again and placed the back with the foster parents, not on "best interests of the child" but on the basis that MCI Superintendent guardianship has never been rescinded.

All is not yet lost, the issue on whether or not the children should have been assigned to MCI after Scribner stated her formal intentions to care for her children is to be sent back to the Appellant Court.
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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

In Buildup to Weekend Festivities, Conyers Honors the Work of Civic Leaders Bishop P.A. Brooks, Lana Boldi & President Bill Clinton

All-Day Event Programming Scheduled at Cobo Hall on Saturday: 100th Anniversary of COGIC in Michigan, Michigan Democratic Party Women’s Luncheon & Jefferson-Jackson Dinner

(DETROIT) – Today, Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) honored the work of national and community civic leaders prior to events being held throughout the day this Saturday April 26th, in Cobo Hall:

U.S. Representative
John Conyers, Jr.
“Prior to a weekend of celebration and service, I want to recognize and extend my heartfelt appreciation to a group of upstanding, dedicated civic leaders: Bishop P.A. Brooks, Lana Boldi, and President Bill Clinton,” said Conyers.

“I congratulate the Church of God and Christ on reaching their centennial anniversary this year, and thank the Church for all of the good that they have inspired in metropolitan Detroit over those many years. As one of my earliest supporters, I have known Bishop P. A. Brooks for many years, and I have the utmost respect for his leadership and sacrifice that has allowed COGIC to thrive.

“Additionally, I would like to acknowledge the work of Lana Boldi, who is being honored Saturday as the keynote speaker at the Michigan Democratic Party Women’s Luncheon and awarded the Eleanor Roosevelt Award. The very first female apprentice in the automobile industry since World War II,  Lana Boldi was a trailblazer for labor and women’s rights. Her political actvisim is emblematic of how invaluable women are to America’s political life and activities.

“Lastly, I welcome President Bill Clinton to the Motor City, as he rounds out the weekend’s festivities by delivering the keynote address at the Michigan Democratic Party’s annual Jefferson Jackson Dinner. President Clinton’s leadership throughout the ‘90s led to unprecedented economic growth and employment, as well as a strengthened middle class. His legacy and great work remain unfinished, and I thank him for his committement to progress in American politics.”

Further information about the weekend events can be found below:


COBO Center
One Washington Blvd.
Detroit, MI 48226

Church of God in Christ in Michigan Celebrating 100 Years

Keynote Speaker – Bishop Carles E. Blake, Sr., COGIC Inc.’s Presiding Bishop
Saturday, April 26, 10:00 am

Michigan Democratic Party Women’s Caucus Jefferson Jackson Day Luncheon
Keynote Speaker – Lana Boldi
Saturday, April 26, 11:30 am

Michigan Democratic Party Jefferson Jackson Dinner

Keynote Speaker – President Bill Clinton
Saturday, April 26, 6:00 pm

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Conyers Announces Over $7.3 Million in Grant Funding for Medical & Educational Institutions in Michigan

(DETROIT) – Todaythe Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that $3.8 million in grant funding has been awarded to the Children’s Hospital of Michigan’s Graduate Medical Education Payment Program. A $1.7 million grant has been presented to Starfish Family Services Head Start. Additional grants were given to the Western Wayne Family Health Center ($1.2 million) and Wayne State University ($669,000). After the announcement was made public, Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) issued the following statement:

U.S. Representative
John Conyers, Jr. 
"I am delighted to announce that the Department of Health and Human Services has awarded a $3.8 million grant to the Children’s Hospital of Michigan in Detroit. The Children’s Hospital of Michigan’s Graduate Medical Education Program provides an integrated teaching hospital setting to train recent graduates upon their completion of medical school. The crucial firsthand experience provided by this program ensures that Michigan’s future healthcare professionals and providers are prepared and ready to take responsibility for the health of our children. I extend my sincere gratitude to the Department of Health and Human Services for their continued dedication to rewarding worthwhile medical and educational programs such as the Children’s Hospital of Michigan.

“As a long-time advocate of Head Start programs, I am pleased that $1.7 million in grant funding has been given to Starfish Family Services to continue and improve this vital public program in Detroit. Low-income and at-risk children who participate in Head Start are not only significantly more prepared to begin their formal education, but have a much higher chance of graduating from both high school and college. Head Start also provides support and services to each student’s family, providing a positive environment for preschoolers to transition into Kindergarten. I thank HHS for their commitment to improving the standard of education and opportunity for children in Detroit.

“The Western Wayne Family Health Center provides affordable health and preventative care to many individuals and communities in Michigan. This $1.2 million grant from HHS will allow the WWFHC to reach a wider body of patients as well as continue to develop their services and outreach programs. HHS has also awarded Wayne State University $669,000 in funding to continue in their cancer research program as a lead academic participating site for the National Cancer Institute clinical trials. I am pleased to see grants awarded to a wide array of medical and educational programs in Michigan and am greatly appreciative of the recognition and funding provided by HHS.”

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Conyers & Scott: “Obama Administration’s Clemency Initiative a Building Block in Meaningful Criminal Justice Reform”jo

(WASHINGTON) – Today, Department of Justice Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole announced six criteria the Department of Justice will consider when reviewing and expediting clemency applications - for President Obama’s review and approval- from a select group of non-violent individuals behind bars. These petitions will be prioritized for review over other clemency petitions that do not require all six criteria. In addition to announcing the new head of the Office of the Pardon Attorney, Attorney General Eric Holder announced his intention to increase the numbers of attorneys, with backgrounds in both prosecution and defense, to aid the permanent staff of the Pardon Office during this initiative. After the public announcements, U.S. House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) and Ranking Member of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-Va.) issued the following statement:

U.S. Representative
John Conyers, Jr.
“For far too long, America’s criminal justice system and policies have tipped the scales of justice in favor of slogans and sound bites over common sense. This approach has locked away our youth and torn apart families; a disproportionate number of which are within minority communities. As a matter of civil rights and basic justice, the Obama Administration has decided to stem the tide on decades of this injustice. The Department of Justice’s decision to expand and expedite the clemency process has the potential to assist thousands of non-violent offenders serving lengthy sentences behind bars who would not be serving such lengthy terms under sentencing laws today. This action builds on the progress that the Judiciary Committee began, in the 111th Congress, in passing the Fair Sentencing Act to reduce the arbitrary disparity in drug sentencing.”

“We commend President Obama for taking this historic first step, but in doing so we also call on Congress to lead the way for the United States to see lasting criminal justice reform. While clemency attempts to fix our broken system of mandatory sentencing on the back end - providing relief to a lucky individual plucked from the stack of petitions - it does not repair the unjust system that put thousands of individuals there in the first place. Congress must work to eliminate or greatly reduce mandatory minimum sentencing provisions, and enhance judge’s discretion to avoid disproportionate sentences when mandatory minimums are charged. Again and again studies show that mandatory sentences discriminate against minorities, are ineffective at preventing crime, are inefficient from a cost perspective, and often require judges to impose sentences that violate commonsense. For these reasons, we have a moral obligation to put an end to mandatory sentencing and pass laws with proportional penalties that make sense. Only then will justice truly be restored to an American criminal system gone awry.”

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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Conyers: Supreme Court Ruling Poses Another Obstacle to Racial Progress & Diversity

(DETROIT) – Today, the United States Supreme Court in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action,reversed the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit’s ruling and upheld Michigan Proposal 2 prohibiting affirmative action in public education, government contracting, and public employment. Today’s decision did not deal with the issue of race-conscious admissions generally, which have been previously upheld and which the court reiterated today. After the ruling, Ranking Member of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) released this statement:

U.S. Representative
John Conyers, Jr.
“Today’s decision continues a troubling line of recent Supreme Court decisions that are hostile towards our history of civil rights and our struggle for equality. It is unfortunate that this Court allowed Proposal 2 to overrun the intent of the Constitution’s equal protection clause: protecting disadvantaged minorities from discrimination,” said Conyers.

“The blatant unfairness of this approach was highlighted by the Sixth Circuit in their opinion striking down Proposal 2 stating that, while ‘sons and daughters of alumni’ and children of big donors are afforded those non-merit considerations in the admissions process, Proposal 2 would require a minority student to ‘convince the Michigan electorate to amend its constitution - an extraordinary expensive process and the most arduous of all the possible channels for change.’ Similarly, as Justice Sotomayor eloquently stated in her dissent, ‘The Constitution does not protect racial minorities from political defeat. But neither does it give the majority free rein to erect selective barriers against racial minorities.’ She wrote ‘the political process doctrine…ensure[s] that the Majority, when it wins, does so without rigging the rules of the game to ensure its success.’

Representative Conyers added, “Our nation has come a long way in seeking to end discrimination, but our work is far from complete at a time of continued under representation of minorities in higher education and many walks of life. One has to look no farther for evidence of this than the fact that there was a significant drop in minority enrollment after Proposal 2 was enacted - African-American enrollment declined by one third at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor between 2006 and 2012, at the same time overall enrollment expanded by one tenth. Now is not the time for the Court to blindly ignore the biases that continue to exist in our society.”

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Saturday, April 19, 2014

Conyers Applauds $90,000 in Grant Awards to Further Embolden the Detroit Arts

(DETROIT) – Todaythe National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) announced that $50,000 in grant funding has been awarded to The Detroit Symphony Music Hall’s Tchaikovsky Festival for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s “Live from Orchestra Hall” webcast series. Additionally, the NEA awarded $40,000 to InsideOut Literary Arts Project, Inc.’s VOICES Amplified program. After the announcement, Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) issued the following statement:

U.S. Representative
John Conyers, Jr.
"I am pleased to announce that the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) has awarded $50,000 in grant funding to the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. For over 125 years, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra has brought outstanding music and cultural enrichment to the people of Michigan. This grant will enable the Symphony to impact individuals and communities on a global scale through a series of free webcasts broadcast live to more than 75 countries,” said Conyers.

“In addition, a $40,000 grant awarded to the InsideOut Literary Arts Project’s VOICES Amplified program will allow Detroit’s youth to pursue literacy at a higher level by assisting InsideOut in supplying professional writers to teach in Detroit classrooms. The future of Michigan, and the nation, is held in the hands of our youth. It is our duty to ensure they have the opportunity to succeed in creative endeavors. I applaud NEA for recognizing this valuable organization.

“In a time when arts funding is too often relegated to the backburner, it is encouraging to see national investments in Detroit’s artistic programs. I am grateful to the NEA for their commitment to the arts in Michigan and across the country.”

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

On Anniversary of Senate Immigration Reform Legislation, Conyers & Lofgren Highlight A Year of House Inaction

(WASHINGTON) – One year ago today, eight members of the U.S. Senate - Senators Schumer, Durbin, McCain, Rubio, Bennet, Menendez, Flake and Graham - introduced S. 744, the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act.” This comprehensive overhaul of the U.S. immigration system would bring millions of undocumented immigrants out of the shadows, strengthen American businesses, families, and communities, and spur much-needed economic growth. While the U.S. Senate passed S. 744 on a bipartisan vote of 68-32, the U.S. House of Representatives has failed to take any action on comprehensive immigration reform legislation. To mark the anniversary of the legislative introduction, Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.), the Ranking Member of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, and Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), the Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security, released the following statement:

U.S. Representative
John Conyers, Jr.
Representative John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich): “Exactly one year ago, eight Senators - four Republicans and four Democrats - came together and introduced legislation to reform our country’s immigration laws. This bipartisan spirit was animated by a singular reality: our immigration system is fundamentally broken and must be reformed in order to benefit American families, communities, and businesses. Yet, while the Senate worked in an overwhelmingly bipartisan fashion at every step of the legislative process - ultimately passing comprehensive immigration reform with the support of a supermajority of Senators - the path pursued by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives has been unashamedly partisan. Congressional support exists to bring millions of individuals out of the shadows, reunite immigrant families, and boost the economy; all that is lacking is a sense of political courage. In marking the one year anniversary of the Senate’s legislative work, we are acknowledging a year of missed opportunities and inaction by House Republicans. To hold reform up any longer would be more than pure negligence, it would be an act of callousness.”

Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.): "One year ago a bipartisan group of Senators stepped forward to introduce a comprehensive immigration reform proposal.  While not perfect, they had found common ground and their bill attracted broad support in the U.S. Senate.  Americans hoped it would start a process in Congress of examining, debating and giving immigration reform a fair vote to finally fix our broken immigration system.  That's because top-to-bottom immigration reform would grow our economy and create jobs, reduce the debt, make our country safer, energize innovation and competitiveness, and tame illegal immigration.  Even today a majority of Members of the House say that they favor immigration reform, which isn't surprising because reform is overwhelmingly supported by a majority of Americans from across the political spectrum.  That support is one of the reasons why a movement has started to give immigration reform a fair up or down vote in the House.  But the Republican-controlled House continues to stall on immigration reform, and as they continue to run out the clock, the window of opportunity to pass reform narrows."

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

On Tax Day, Conyers Calls for a Fairer Tax Code for America’s Working Families

(DETROIT) – Today, on Tax Day, Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) called on Congress to restore fairness to the nation’s tax code by reducing rates for working Americans, ensuring that the nation’s wealthiest pay their fair share, and eliminating incentives for corporations to move jobs overseas. On the filing deadline, Representative Conyers issued the following statement:

U.S. Representative
John Conyers, Jr.
“For too long, our tax code has disproportionately benefited the wealthiest one-percent of Americans, while doing too little to promote job-creation. On this Tax Day, I urge my colleagues in Congress to close tax loopholes, end special interest tax breaks, and reform the tax code to support the creation and retention of high-wage jobs in the United States," said Conyers.

“Instead of promoting a fairer and simpler tax code, the Republicans’ Ryan budget threatens to increase taxes on working families with children by more than $2,000 per year in order to pay for additional tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and for large corporations. As a matter of social and economic fairness, this is simply unacceptable.

“I am proud to support the Congressional Progressive Caucus budget, which would create needed revenue for jobs programs by taxing income from investments the same as taxes from wages, while ending deductions for yachts, corporate jets, and business entertainment expenses. I am also proud of President Obama’s legacy in cutting taxes for working people and small businesses while allowing the fiscally-irresponsible Bush tax cuts to expire. By closing loopholes to ensure that corporations pay their fair share and stop shipping jobs overseas, we can responsibly invest in modernizing our infrastructure, ensuring that every child has access to high-quality pre-school, and strengthening our nation’s safety net. A fair tax code can help America get back to full employment.”

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Friday, April 11, 2014

House Members Seek Information on Expansion of TSA Behavior Detection Programs

(WASHINGTON) – Today, four House Committee and Subcommittee Ranking Members sent a letter to John S. Pistole, Administrator of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), questioning the expanded use of Behavior Detection Officers (BDOs) through the Targeted Conversation program, which is part of TSA’s Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques (SPOT) program. Under the expanded program, passengers who refuse to answer intrusive questions posed by BDOs at airport security checkpoints will undergo secondary screening. The Ranking Members are concerned that TSA is expanding behavior detection programs despite a lack of scientific validation for these methods.

Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), Ranking Member of the Committee on Homeland Security, Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), Ranking Member of the Committee on the Judiciary, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD), Ranking Member of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Rep. Cedric L. Richmond (D-LA), Ranking Member of the Committee on Homeland Security’s Transportation Security Subcommittee wrote Administrator Pistole that:

“This [Targeted Conversation Proof of Concept] represents an intrusion into the privacy of the flying public through a process TSA has not scientifically validated.”

The Members added: “The expanded use of BDOs subsequent to GAO’s recommendation that TSA limit funding for SPOT until it can provide scientifically validated evidence that behavioral indicators can be used to identify threats to aviation security raises serious concerns.”

Background on Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques (SPOT):

Ø  Over $1 billion has been spent since 2007.
Ø  Zero terrorists have been identified, apprehended, referred to law enforcement or prevented from boarding an aircraft as a result of the program.
Ø  Known or suspected terrorists have passed through screening on 23 different occasions in airports where BDOs were present.
Ø  TSA has not provided any scientific validation for the program.

In 2013, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) recommended Congress consider whether to continue to fund SPOT after TSA disagreed with the recommendation that it limit future funding of the program.

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John Conyers: Children are not adults - don't sentence them to prison as if they were

U.S. Representative
John Conyers, Jr.
By John Conyers 

The United States is the only country that still regularly sentences children to life without parole.

Children who are sentenced to life without parole grow up, grow older and then die behind bars.

We should not be treating children in the criminal justice system as if they were adults. The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly held that irrespective of the severity of the crime, children simply do not have the same level of culpability as adults. Their physical, mental and emotional development is not the same. In addition, research shows that children possess a greater capacity for rehabilitation, change, and growth than adults.

For this reason, children require individualized treatment in the criminal justice system that is appropriate to their age and level of development. But mandatory life without parole prevents such an individualized approach — even if rehabilitation would have been feasible — and forces a child to spend his or her life and final moments behind bars.

In June 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court decided the landmark case of Miller v. Alabama. It held that “mandatory life without parole for those under the age of 18 at the time of their crimes violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on ‘cruel and unusual punishment’ and is unconstitutional.” In holding this practice unconstitutional, the U.S. Supreme Court researched the laws of other countries in addition to international norms, treaties and conventions.

Regrettably, Michigan is among the states with the largest populations of inmates serving life sentences for crimes committed as children.

A recent study from Second Chances 4 Youth and the ACLU of Michigan shows that, overall in Michigan, youth of color comprise only 29% of the youth population but represent 73% of those serving juvenile life sentences without parole. In Wayne County, according to a 2007 study, they represent 94% of the juveniles serving life without parole.

To look at these figures as only a criminal justice issue ignores the fact that this is also a civil rights crisis based on racial injustice. This, along with other criminal laws, operates as a new system of Jim Crow in this country.

In the 1980s and 1990s, the news media painted the face of the upcoming wave of violent, depraved and dangerous “super-predator children” as that of children of color. In the wake of that hysteria, Michigan passed some of the toughest juvenile justice laws in the country, which it still has — and still applies.

Despite the Supreme Court’s decision in Miller v. Alabama, the Michigan courts continue to refuse to grant retroactive relief to juvenile offenders living out mandatory life sentences without parole. This means that more than 360 juvenile offenders who were sentenced to mandatory life without parole are being denied a chance — even though that sentence would be illegal if imposed today. It also means that Michigan continues to violate the Eighth Amendment and international human rights standards.
I recognize that Michigan is not the only state facing this problem, but I believe that Michigan can lead the way to the solution.

Further, I call upon the Michigan Legislature to reexamine penalty provisions that allow for juvenile sentences of either discretionary life without parole or de-facto life without parole, that is, those numeric sentences that lock juveniles away for several decades of their life, effectively robbing them of their chance to be rehabilitated and get their young lives back on track.

Finally, I recommend that Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette exercise considerable discretion with youth sentencing, to return a degree of flexibility, pragmatism and proportionality to each individual case. Specifically, I call upon Schuette to, as a policy matter, decline to seek discretionary life without parole or de facto life without parole sentences for juveniles. We can hold children accountable without warehousing them behind bars for the remainder of their lives.

For all of these proposals, I hope that other states follow Michigan’s lead in working to restore fairness to our juvenile justice system.

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Even the Rich Should Reject the Ryan Budget

U.S. Representative
John Conyers, Jr.

By John Conyers, Jr.
It's no secret that the House Republican budget being considered this week would hurt the livelihoods of low-income Americans. Since winning control of the House in 2010, GOP leaders and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan have used the federal budget process to slash funding for education, nutrition, and job-training in order to pay for tax breaks for a fortunate few. As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates, 69 percent of the cuts in the new Ryan budget come from programs for the poor.
But here's a surprise about the Ryan budget: its drastic cuts would be painful even for the nation's wealthiest one percent. Here's why:
Businesses need well-trained workers. Successful CEOs understand that America will never be able to compete with China and India on the basis of low-wages. Rather, our nation needs to compete on the basis of world-class skills and technical expertise. To do so, we must ensure access to infant nutrition, universal pre-school, well-funded public schools with reasonably-sized classes, after-school enrichment programs, and affordable colleges and technical schools. While President Obama's budget and the Congressional Progressive Caucus budget strongly prioritize these investments, the Ryan budget would cut child nutrition, demolish Head Start, reduce funding to Pell Grants, slash grants for teacher training, and end nearly all federal funding for arts, humanities, and libraries.
Investors need greater consumer demand. With inflation-adjusted wages at historic lows and still more than three applicants for every single job opening, too few Americans are able to afford homes or cars or even to eat meals out at restaurants. This shortage of consumer demand is stifling economic growth, hurting housing market recovery, and denying businesses the customers they need in order to make payroll and turn a profit. By shifting Medicaid and food assistance programs into block grants, cutting funding for low-income heating programs, and slashing federal pensions, the Ryan budget would further diminish individual Americans' purchasing power. This is one reason why the Economic Policy Institute estimates that the GOP budget would cost at least a million jobs in its first year and up to 3.3 million in its second year, while the Progressive Caucus budget would create an estimated 8.8 million jobs by 2017.
The wealthy need medical research and environmental protection, too.As The Huffington Post's Sam Stein has documented, budget cuts since the GOP takeover have devastated scientific and medical research efforts that are indispensable to the development of American products as well as the discovery of life-saving cures. These cuts affect rich and poor alike. Budget cuts have likewise undercut efforts to combat climate change and related issues of drought, ecosystem damage, and extreme weather--phenomena that are not only destroying lives and property but also projected to significantly reduce global economic growth. Because the world is at a crossroads in history, with drastic climate change all but certain absent equally drastic preventative measures, these cuts do little more than exchange present conveniences for future hardship. By making drastic cuts to scientific research, clean energy development, environmental protection, and emergency management, the Ryan budget would make all Americans -- rich and poor alike -- more vulnerable.
In the decades following the Second World War, Congress passed budgets that invested in full employment, a reliable safety net and great public institutions. From the Eisenhower highway system to Medicare to the space program and public research universities, these investments paid dividends to workers and businesses alike. Workers earned the wages needed to buy American goods and services, and, in turn, businesses had the confidence needed to keep investing and hiring. I am supporting the Congressional Progressive Caucus's Better Off Budget, the Congressional Black Caucus budget, and the House Democratic budget because they represent a return to this tradition of shared gains.
As the House votes on a budget plan this week, the choice is not between serving the rich or the poor. It's a choice between investing in broad-based prosperity and continuing a failed experiment of austerity.

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