Monday, June 30, 2014

As House Republicans Block Immigration Reform, Conyers Backs President Obama’s Strategy

(DETROIT) – Today, the White House made public that Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has no intention of bringing immigration reform legislation up for a vote on the House Floor. House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) delivered the following statement after President Obama’s announcement that he will take administrative steps in the coming months to reform the country’s immigration system:

U.S. Representative
John Conyers, Jr.
“It is now abundantly clear that this do-nothing Congress will take no action this year to reform our immigration laws. In the face of an intransigent Congress and a broken immigration system, I fully support the Obama Administration in taking decisive action to protect families and ensure that our immigration enforcement efforts are carried out in a humane manner. At the same time, I believe that we must take responsible and compassionate steps to address the plight of unaccompanied children and families apprehended along our southwest border. A humanitarian crisis requires a humanitarian solution.”

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Conyers & Cohen: “Supreme Court Ruling an Affront to Reproductive Rights, While Opening Door to Employer Discrimination”

(WASHINGTON) – Today, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, ruling that closely-held for-profit companies with religious objections can opt out of providing contraception coverage under the Affordable Care Act. After the ruling, Ranking Members John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) and Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice Ranking Member Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) delivered the following statement:

U.S. Representative
John Conyers, Jr.
Representative John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.): “Today, the Supreme Court delivered yet another blow to women’s reproductive rights, based on the extraordinary conclusion that corporations – as opposed to their individual owners – have their own right to the free exercise of religion. Already, millions of women in America are benefiting from the protections found in the Affordable Care Act, including access to contraceptives. The ruling today could undermine this essential coverage for many women under the guise of ‘religious liberty.’ Alarmingly, the ruling also opens the door to the unnerving possibility that corporations could claim exemptions to various health and safety protections based on their asserted religious beliefs. Regrettably, the Supreme Court’s ruling today allows for bosses to wade into – and potentially discriminate against – the personal healthcare choices of their employees; healthcare decisions must continue to remain between an individual and their doctor.”

Representative Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.): “I am disappointed in today’s Supreme Court ruling that puts women’s reproductive care in a class of its own and strips it as an element of comprehensive healthcare. This ruling means that the Affordable Care Act’s benefit of contraceptive care is no longer guaranteed for the millions of American women who are employed by private businesses helmed by anyone who may object to providing basic, preventive care to its female employees. I am disappointed in this wrong-minded ruling and will continue to work to see that women have access to the care they deserve as prescribed by the Affordable Care Act.”
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Saturday, June 28, 2014

In Letters, Conyers Enlists President Obama, HHS Secretary & Detroit Water and Sewage Dept. Director to Stop Water Shutoffs & Protect Detroiters

(DETROIT) – Today, Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) sent three letters - to President Obama, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Burwell, and Sue McCormick, Director and Chief Executive Office of the Detroit Water and Sewage Department - requesting immediate federal action and local relief for the water crisis impacting thousands of Detroiters. Copies of the three letters are attached. After the letters were transmitted, Representative Conyers issued the following statement:

U.S. Representative
John Conyers, Jr.
“Since March, water service for up to 3,000 Detroit customers per week has been cut off due to an overzealous and misguided approach to cost-cutting by the Detroit Water and Sewage Department. As water rates have skyrocketed 119 percent over the past decade, upwards of 90,000 largely impoverished households are currently in arrears and in danger of termination. Regardless of the rationale for these cutoffs, the human consequences are unacceptable and unsustainable. The failure to reinstate water service means unsanitary conditions, malnutrition and disease for babies, the sick, and the elderly,” said Conyers.

“The time for action is now. Throughout the past week I have worked with local residents, state and federal officials to resolve this crisis; today I am taking this issue to the highest levels – by sending letters to President Obama, HHS Secretary Burwell, and Detroit Water and Sewage Department Director McCormick – to stop the shutoffs and protect Detroiters. Specifically, I wrote urging the following actions be taken immediately:

Ø  Calling on President Obama to make available for relief some of the $200 million still available for Michigan from theHardest Hit Fund - a reserve made available for relief from impacts of the Great Recession
Ø  Requesting that HHS Secretary Burwell formally designate the water crisis a public health emergency eligible for direct federal relief
Ø  Urging an immediate end to the shutoffs by the Detroit Water and Sewage Department

“In the 21st Century - in the wealthiest nation on earth - no one should ever go without safe, clean water. These steps are just the beginning, as we work determinedly to ensure that this crisis is resolved and never repeated.”

Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food & Water Watch added: “We applaud Representative Conyers for taking action to demand that water service is restored to all Detroit residents. When 45 percent of the city struggles to pay for water in their home, it is clear that the problems go far beyond delinquent payments. It’s indicative of broader, systemic issues resulting from decades of bad public policy that have culminated in profits before people. Governor Snyder should act to ensure that all residents have their water restored--access to safe, clean, affordable water is a human right.”

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Thursday, June 26, 2014

Detroit’s Water Cutoffs: Counterproductive and Coldhearted

By John Conyers, Jr.

U.S. Representative
John Conyers, Jr.
Imagine a week without running water. Imagine not only the physical thirst but also the inability to bathe, to cook, or to clean. Imagine the hardships this scenario would present for a family with children in diapers and the public health risks it would impose on a broader community.

This is the reality right now in Detroit. But we can change it. Today, I am proposing a range of solutions -- including an immediate cessation of shutoffs, special protections for vulnerable groups, and new long-term investments in the water system -- to resolve this crisis.

What makes the current situation particularly troubling is that it is not the result of a real disaster or an underdeveloped water system, but rather the result of a short-sighted business decision.

With its location amidst the Great Lakes and extensive sanitation systems, Detroit should have access to plentiful and inexpensive water. Yet, due to an overzealous and misguided approach to cost-cutting, the local utility has, since March, been cutting off water service for up to 3,000 customers per week. With water rates skyrocketing 119 percent over the past decade, up to 90,000 largely impoverished households are currently in arrears and in danger of termination.

This isn't just bad ethics. It's short-sighted economics.

Water cutoffs are not a pathway to financial solvency. To the contrary, actions that deny residents the ability to cook and clean for themselves and their families create costly long-term challenges related to dysfunction and disease. I'm talking about babies, the sick, and the elderly going without the most essential life-sustaining substance because of a bad business decision. The failure to reinstate water service means unsanitary conditions, malnutrition and disease. Ultimately, it means more people forced to leave the city, further depleting the tax base and worsening the financial position of public entities like water department.

So why are local authorities even attempting these cutoffs? The clearest answer is that they're a prelude to privatization -- a signal to potential investors that the utility is getting tough on those who miss payments. Privatization is a growing trend among water utilities, but a trend that's been demonstrated to increase costs and lower quality. Under many of the "concession contracts" that have become popular in the U.S. and beyond, investors pay an upfront sum to the local government in exchange for the rights to maximize profits by over-charging and under-serving residents. Regardless of the rationale for these cutoffs, the human consequences are unacceptable and unsustainable.

It's time for action. This week, working with local residents and state and federal officials, I am pursuing a range of options to stop the shutoffs and protect Detroiters:

• I am formally requesting that the water department cease all cutoffs, and -- at the absolute least -- immediately cease any threats and cutoffs affecting families with young children, the elderly, pregnant women, the infirmed, and households with a demonstrated inability to pay.

• In a letter to President Obama, I am calling for his administration to make some of the more than $200 million still available for Michigan from the Hardest Hit Fund -- a reserve made available for relief from impacts of the Great Recession -- available for relief from the water crisis.

• I am requesting that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services take steps to formally designate this situation a public health emergency eligible for direct federal relief.

• I am requesting that the Department of Justice conduct a broader investigation into the legality of draconian water shutoffs under the authority of an unelected emergency manager.

• Working with nongovernmental organizations from around the world, I am calling on the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Water and Sanitation to come to Detroit to document the failure to distribute an abundant and essential resource.

These actions are just the beginning. In the 21st Century, in the wealthiest nation on earth, no one should go without safe, clean, public water.
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At Overcriminalization Hearing, Conyers Details Devastating, Discriminatory & Counterproductive Impact of Collateral Consequences

(WASHINGTON) – Today, the U.S. House Judiciary Over-Criminalization Task Force held a hearing on collateral consequences.Collateral consequences are state and federal civil penalties that flow from criminal convictions and occur after an individual has already served their sentence and repaid their debt to society. These collateral consequences impair opportunities for employment, housing, public benefits, educational loans, and family connections. Although studies show that there are over 45,000 state and federal collateral consequences of conviction, judges in the United States are not required to warn convicted individuals of all of these consequences. These collateral consequences make re-entry, transition, and success difficult, if not, impossible. They also disproportionately affect women and children, especially those of color. During his opening remarks, full committee Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) delivered the following statement:

U.S. Representative
John Conyers, Jr.
 Our Nation is in the midst of an over-criminalization crisis, the causes of which have been long in the making. Ill-conceived charging and sentencing policies have led to an explosive growth our prison population over the past 40 years.  Even though the United States has only 5% of the world’s population, we lead the world in mass incarceration with more than 25% of the world’s prisoners. Today’s hearing focuses on one of the most serious consequences of our appetite for overincarceration—namely, the devastating collateral consequences that impair an individual’s ability to successfully re-enter society upon his or her release from prison.

“The collateral consequences of imprisonment on a person who has repaid his or her debt to society are pervasive. These adverse effects pertain to nearly every aspect of their lives and, often, for the rest of their lives. Collateral consequences can restrict – the type of employment for which you will be hired; where you are allowed to live; what social benefits you may obtain; whether you qualify for educational loans; the sort of educational and vocational training you can receive; your ability to participate in your child’s life; whether you can exercise your constitutional right to vote; and even if you can obtain a driver’s license.

“The sheer number and extent of these burdens are overwhelming.  There are more than 45,000 state and federal collateral consequences that affect about 65 million Americans with criminal records. The vast majority of these consequences can last a lifetime.  Most states do not allow people to regain their lost civil rights and privileges no matter how many years have passed since their conviction. As a result, someone who was convicted of a minor drug offense decades ago at age 18 may nevertheless be prohibited from obtaining certain types of employment, college loans, or housing even though they have repaid their debt and not committed another crime since. These destructive collateral consequences prevent these individuals from becoming productive citizens and reintegrating successfully into their communities. The research shows that overincarceration coupled with barriers to re-entry are counterproductive and actually increase the risk of recividism.  When we prevent people from living, working, providing for their families in a legitimate manner, what choice do we give them?

“And we must not ignore the lasting effect that collateral consequences have on families and children. In 2007, it was estimated that 1.7 million children under age 18 had a parent in jail.  In fact, African American children have a greater than 25% chance of having one of their parents incarcerated before they turn 18. The incarceration of a parent causes significant and lasting economic and psychological distress on families.  Losing the sole breadwinner raises the risk that a family will experience food, housing, and health insecurity and require public assistance. The loss of a primary caretaker raises the likelihood that the children may end up in foster care. Studies show that having a parent incarcerated decreases the educational and financial opportunities for their children while increasing the likelihood that those children will enter the foster care system,  develop physical and mental health issues, including substance abuse, and eventually enter the criminal justice system themselves.

“The fact that these collateral consequences—just like our investigative, charging, and sentencing policies— disproportionately impact the poor as men, women, and children of color contributes to what Michelle Alexander’s research has repeatedly referred to as ‘The New Jim Crow.’  We have a legal, political, and moral responsibility to right the injustice we have written into our state and federal criminal laws and corresponding civil collateral consequences. Perhaps most importantly, we must identify what actions Congress as well as the states should take to address this crisis.

“The experts and the data demonstrate that overincarceration and excessive and continuing collateral consequences are counterproductive.  It wastes taxpayer money and does not decrease the crime or recidivism rates. We need to implement the commonsense solutions that have demonstrated track records of success in states, such as: alternatives to incarceration, such a pretrial diversion or home confinement; investment in our children by investing in education, health, employment, community programs; rehabilitative educational and vocational training and housing services to make the transition back into the community as seamless as possible.

“In conclusion, I look forward to hearing from our witnesses about how our state and federal system of collateral consequences create barriers and their recommendations actions that we can take, as a Congress and a nation, to ease these burdens now inflicted on over 65 million of our citizens.”
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An election without protection

By John Conyers and Barbara Arnwine

U.S. Representative
John Conyers, Jr.
The 2014 mid-term elections are coming, with the political season upon us. It is all so familiar—the ads on TV, knocks on the door, and calls during dinner as candidates vie for the hearts, minds, and votes of America’s electorate. Unfortunately, these elections are also gearing up, in ways reminiscent of the past, to be accompanied by high levels of activity to restrict the electorate’s ability to vote. Unless Congress acts very quickly, these elections will be the first in fifty years not protected by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. For the leaders of our nation—those who came to Congress to serve the American people and protect our democracy—the gutting of our Voting Rights Act should be a call to arms.

There is no doubt that we are seeing a more divided electorate and a more divided Congress. But there is one thing that most of us should be able to agree upon: Every eligible American citizen has a right to go to the polls, to cast a vote, and to have that vote counted. This is a fundamental American freedom, a cornerstone of our democracy, and one of our proudest traditions.

And we must all do our part to keep it that way. Staying on the sidelines is NOT an option.

In the past two election cycles, we have seen an increase in legislation, policies, and practices designed to strategically and systematically limit Americans’ ability to vote. And a year ago today, inShelby County v. Holder, the Supreme Court gutted the core of our Voting Rights Act with a divided and controversial decision. The decision struck down the formula that determined which states and localities, because of a history of voter discrimination, had to obtain federal approval prior to implementing changes in voting laws. Prior toShelby, on hundreds of occasions, federal review stopped states from rigging voting rules against their own citizens.

The Shelby decision and nullification of federal review marked a devastating and monumental setback for voting rights in America. Within twenty minutes of the Supreme Court’s decision, the attorney general of Texas announced he would implement a restrictive voter ID law that Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act had blocked. Other states such as North Carolina and Alabama enacted similarly restrictive laws.

During the 2014 election, new voting restrictions will be in effect for the first time in a major federal election in up to nine states, pending court challenges. As we near the election, this situation may well worsen. Without the protections of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, some officials will do everything in their power to attempt to institute restrictive voting measures.  For example, in certain states, Secretaries of State may move polling places without considering the effect upon all communities and without giving sufficient notice to those affected.  Whether or not the intent to restrict the vote can be proven before Election Day, these actions, if not challenged, will undermine the values of American democracy.

Fighting voting discrimination is not just about protecting minority rights, but it is about protecting the fundamental rights and values of all Americans. That is why for nearly fifty years, the Voting Rights Act has garnered bipartisan support, and why that support must continue today.

Democrats and Republicans must work together to strengthen the Voting Rights Act now. Today, on the one year anniversary of the Shelby decision, the Senate is holding a hearing on a Voting Rights Amendment Act. It is imperative that the Senate and the House of Representatives move in short order to advance this bill, which was introduced in the House by a bipartisan group of members in January.

As we did 50 years ago with the passage of the Civil Rights Act, America must once again make fundamental decisions about what type of nation we want to be. Policies that restrict voting are not the tools of great leaders, but the tricks of those who view our electoral process as a parlor game. It is time for the great leaders in Congress, both Democrat and Republican, to rise up and end these practices. The price of failure is democracy itself.

Voting is beautiful, be beautiful ~ vote.©

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Detroit's own Velveteen Rabbit New Release: "Two"

Velveteen Rabbit, featuring Sandy Hopkins of Detroit, latest video release, "Two".
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Conyers: “Human Tragedy Along Southern Border Should Not Be a Partisan Issue”

Today, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee held a full committee hearing entitled, “An Administration Made Disaster: The South Texas Border Surge of Unaccompanied Alien Minors.” This hearing comes as a humanitarian crisis in parts of Central America is felt along the Southwest border of the United States - where thousands of children have arrived in recent weeks - largely as a result of violence occurring in El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. As the hearing got underway, full committee Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) released the following statement:

U.SS. Representative
John Conyers, Jr.
“The title of this hearing gives me great concern, not just because it unfairly attacks the President, or that it presupposes a conclusion without any substantial evidence, but that it dangerously mischaracterizes the issue at hand.  At best, it evidences a desire to use the humanitarian crisis playing out along the border as an excuse to not act on comprehensive immigration reform. At worst, it demonstrates that some of my Republican colleagues are willing to exploit even a humanitarian crisis - involving children no less - to attack the Obama Administration. There is simply no place for this posturing and finger-pointing in the face of this human tragedy,” said Conyers.

 “I had hoped that the Judiciary Committee could have a balanced discussion about causes and solutions to the crisis we are seeing play out along the border. The dramatic flow of children across our Southwest border is the symptom of the real humanitarian crisis that is going on every day in Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala where most of these children are from. Many of these children are fleeing record violence in their home countries and asking for protection abroad – not only in the United States, but also in places such as Mexico, Nicaragua, Beliza, Panama and Costa Rica.

“We must rise to meet the challenge this humanitarian crisis poses and demonstrate our continuing commitment to the protection of refugees as well as the rule of law. Now is the time to lay down our legislative armor, stop the political theatrics, and do something simply because it is the right thing to do.”

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Sick Teen Ordered Into Foster Care Defends Mom on Facebook

Your tax dollars at work.

Just a note: Cook County, Illinois has the highest rate of removals on the state.

This is how to reduce medical costs and keep foster care system staff employed.

Michelle Rider took her 16-year-old son, Isaiah, to Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago after doctors in three other cities were unable to effectively treat his neurofibromatosis -- a painful condition that causes tumors to grow on his nerves.
But Lurie officials -- citing Michelle Rider's requests for stronger medications -- told a Cook County Court that it was best that Isaiah be taken into temporary protective custody, saying the boy's symptoms appeared to improve when his mother was not around.
"She didn't do anything wrong at all. She's been there since day one," Isaiah Rider said in the video.
"They told me I wasn't able to see my mother and I was shocked, I was shocked by it."
Michelle Rider appeared in Cook County Juvenile Court Tuesday in an effort to regain custody of her son, but a decision on his status has not been made. She has not been charged with any wrongdoing in the case and the hearing will be continued July 2.
"I feel they took me away from my mom and now I'm living here in foster care with some person I barely know," Isaiah said in the video.
Hospital officials have said they cannot comment on the case because of privacy concerns.
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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Conyers: Water Cutoff Threatens Public Health

Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) strongly condemned recent cutoffs that have left thousands of Detroit residents without access to drinking water or basic sanitation. In March, the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) announced it would begin terminating water service for up to 3,000 customers per week if their water bills were not paid. Last week, the Detroit City Council approved an 8.7 percent increase in the water rate. According to recent statistics from the DWSD, approximately 80,000 area households are currently in arrears. In response, Representative Conyers issued the following statement:

U.S. Representative
John Conyers, Jr.
“Detroit’s water crisis did not happen in a vacuum. Over the past decade, Detroiters have seen their water rates increase by 119 percent. Over this same period, forces beyond city residents’ control—including a global financial crisis that left one-in-five local residences in foreclosure and sent local unemployment rates skyrocketing—severely undercut Detroiters’ ability to pay,” said Conyers. “Draconian water cutoffs are not a pathway to financial solvency.

To the contrary, actions that deny residents the ability to bathe, hydrate, or prepare meals for themselves and their families create costly long-term public health challenges. These water cutoffs are not only inhumane but economically short-sighted.

“I am developing a range of solutions with local stakeholders to address the crisis, including requesting federal emergency relief, engaging the local water authority to ensure protection of vulnerable populations, and introducing legislation to protect access to water during bankruptcy proceedings. In the coming days, I will be working with my colleagues in Congress, state and federal officials, and my constituents to defend the right to water and protect public health.

 I will not tolerate the notion that—in the 21st Century, in the wealthiest nation on earth—families should go without access to affordable public water and sanitation services.”

 Voting is beautiful, be beautiful ~ vote.©

Conyers, Wilson, & Kaptur Host Brain Trust on Long-Term Unemployment As Congress Turns a Blind Eye

(WASHINGTON) – This afternoon, the Congressional Full Employment Caucus held a panel discussion on the ongoing employment crisis in America, entitled “Bipartisan Solutions to Long-Term Unemployment.” The event - moderated by Arthur Delaney with the Huffington Post - featured esteemed panelists including: Betsey Stevenson, a Member of the White House Council of Economic Advisors; Judy Conti, Federal Advocacy Coordinator with the National Employment Law Project; and Heidi Shierholz, an Economist at the Economic Policy Institute. During the course of the discussion, panelists identified proven bipartisan solutions - that Congress can consider and pass immediately - to combat the ongoing employment crisis in the United States and get Americans back to work.

At the conclusion of the panel discussion, Representatives John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.), Frederica S. Wilson (D-Fla.), and Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) issued the following statement:

U.S. Representative
John Conyers, Jr.
Representative John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.): “The unemployment rate has declined at an unacceptably slow pace in the half-decade since the financial crisis. More than 3.4 million currently-unemployed people have been out of work for 27 weeks or longer, excluding the untold number of individuals who have become discouraged and dropped out of the workforce. I co-founded the Congressional Full Employment Caucus this year so that Congress focuses on the widespread unemployment crisis. Having a job is not only essential for having a home and having healthcare. It is essential for enjoying a life of basic stability and dignity. The discussion today not only shed light on the plight of the long-term unemployed - and the discrimination that they face - but also on the actions Congress can take right away. The greatest danger is that Congress will forget this human tragedy. Today’s panel is the first of several efforts - spearheaded by the new Full Employment Caucus - to restore the focus on jobs and to identify and advocate for lasting solutions to the unemployment crisis.”

Representative Frederica S. Wilson (D-Fla.): “There’s a simple message I’ve been trying to get across since I arrived in Congress: Unemployment is our true deficit. People are suffering. Five years after the onset of the financial crisis, there are still more than eleven million people actively looking for jobs, more than four million who have been jobless for six months or longer, and seven million who have given up looking for work altogether. Nearly 3 million Americans, including more than 130,000 Floridians, have not received their unemployment insurance benefits since December 2013.  Now more than ever, it is important that we support a movement towards full employment by enacting policy that creates jobs and boost wages. The mantra of this Congress must be: Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!”

Representative Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio): “Putting Americans back to work is priority number one.  Our unemployment crisis not only hurts those who cannot find work today, but future generations.  We must act now.  The solution could not be more clear.  If we want a strong future, we must invest in our crumbling infrastructure—supporting millions of good jobs modernizing our transportation, energy, and water sectors.  We have the tools to do great things for the American people.  We need the will to act.  I am excited to be leading that charge today.”
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Ranking Member Conyers Statement at Hearing on the Proposed Merger of AT&T and DIRECTV

(WASHINGTON) – This morning, the U.S. House Judiciary Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law held a hearing on, “The Proposed Merger of AT&T and DIRECTV.” During his opening remarks, Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) delivered the following statement:

U.S. Representative
John Conyers, Jr.
“Today, we consider the proposed merger of AT&T, the Nation’s second-largest seller of high-speed Internet and wireless telephone services, with DirecTV, the Nation’s second-largest paid television provider. While neither we nor the competition enforcement agencies should pre-judge this deal, there are several concerns that I want the witnesses to address today.

“To begin with, this transaction raises the concern that there may be too much and too rapid consolidation in the telecommunications industry, especially when viewed in the light of other recently announced or rumored deals. I fear that the trend toward greater consolidation in this industry may ultimately benefit large corporations and their shareholders at the expense of consumers. While I fully appreciate that the goal of antitrust law is to protect competition and not competitors per se, this ongoing wave of consolidation will, without question, result in fewer firms and may harm consumers by limiting choices and raising prices. After all, it is the very threat of losing business in the face of high prices or low quality products and services that drives competitive business practices. The preeminent purpose of antitrust law is to protect consumers by ensuring that no one firm achieves market power such that it no longer risks losing business because it can force consumers to pay higher prices or accept lower quality goods and services in the absence of a competitive marketplace. I hope that the Justice Department and the Federal Communications Commission will carefully consider the overall impact of industry consolidation as they review the merits of this particular transaction.

“One rationale in favor of the merger - that it would create a stronger competitor to large cable companies - may, in fact, spur further consolidation in the telecommunications industry. I do not doubt that the merged AT&T-DirecTV entity could be large enough to effectively compete against large cable companies, but what is to stop competitors from using the same argument to justify further consolidation? After all, cable companies could point to the merged AT&T-DirecTV to justify further consolidation among themselves, which, in turn, could justify further consolidation by competitors to cable companies. As a result, we could have a ‘race to the bottom’ whereby large companies seek more and more mergers and acquisitions in response to mergers and acquisitions by other companies, ultimately leaving fewer choices for all consumers.

“Turning to the specifics of the proposed transaction, I am concerned about the loss of a competitor for paid television services in many of the largest markets. As a national satellite-television provider, DirecTV is a competitor to AT&T’s U-Verse video service in the 22 states where U-Verse is offered. And, U-Verse currently competes with DirecTV in 10 of the 20 largest metropolitan markets for paid television. The loss of a paid television competitor in those markets where AT&T and DirecTV directly compete with each other would reduce consumer choice and could have the potential to raise prices. Although AT&T has committed to continuing to offer DirecTV as a standalone option for three years after the acquisition, there are no guarantees that consumers will continue to have a such an option after that time. The burden remains on AT&T to show that this merger will not harm consumers.

“We should also consider whether smaller video providers, in the aftermath of the sheer size of a combined AT&T-DirecTV, could face increased content prices, potentially driving some of them out of business. In addition to being a video distributor, DirecTV is a video programmer that owns three regional sports networks and has interests in some national networks. Small competing video distributors fear that the size of a combined AT&T-DirecTV – as both a seller and a buyer of programming – could harm smaller competitors in two ways. First, a vertically integrated AT&T-DirecTV could discriminate against rival distributors by withholding or charging higher prices for its own programming. Second, such a combined entity would be a large enough distributor to command discounts from other programmers, potentially forcing smaller distributors to pay higher prices for content to make up the difference.

“Finally, we must consider whether imposing behavioral remedies would, in practice,  be effective. As a condition for approval of the Comcast-NBC Universal transaction, the FCC and the Justice Department required Comcast-NBCU to take affirmative steps to foster competition – including voluntary compliance with net neutrality protections –  as well as steps to benefit the public interest. AT&T has indicated that it will voluntarily commit to similar types of commitments to its proposed acquisition of DirecTV. Some observers, however, are concerned that the behavioral remedies imposed in the Comcast-NBC transaction were ineffective and difficult to enforce. Accordingly, we should consider whether such commitments should be strengthened and made more enforceable to better protect the public interest in this case.

“I look forward to having a fruitful discussion of these issues so that all stakeholders, particularly consumers and the enforcement agencies, are better informed about this significant transaction.”

Voting is beautiful, be beautiful ~ vote.©

Monday, June 23, 2014

Don't Choke Foster Kids With Rubber Gloves - Baby LK Report For June 22nd 2014

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

Conyers, Goodlatte, Coble, Nadler Applaud Senate Agreement on Cell Phone Unlocking Bill

House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.), Chairman Robert C. “Bob” Goodlatte (R-Va.), Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet Subcommittee Chairman Howard Coble (R-N.C.), and Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet Subcommittee Ranking Member Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) applauded the announcement that Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Leahy (D-Vt.) and Ranking Member Grassley (R-Iowa) have reached an agreement on legislation to allow consumers to unlock their cell phones. 

After this announcement, Ranking Member Conyers, Chairman Goodlatte, Subcommittee Chairman Coble, and Subcommittee Ranking Member Nadler released the following statement:

“We are pleased that Chairman Leahy and Ranking Member Grassley have reached an agreement on legislation that permits consumers to unlock their cell phones and other mobile devices without the approval of their wireless provider. This is an issue of consumer choice and flexibility, plain and simple. 

We look forward to working together with the Senate to ensure that legislation addressing this issue, which is of significant importance to most Americans, is signed into law.”

The bipartisan agreement, which mirrors the language included in the House-passed Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act (H.R. 1123), also expresses Congress’ intentional to resolve the bulk unlocking issue by moving it to report language accompanying the bill. 

The House Judiciary Committee approved the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act on July 31, 2013 and the legislation passed the House with a bipartisan vote on February 25, 2014.
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Reps. Conyers, Wilson, & Kaptur to Host “Bipartisan Solutions to Long-Term Unemployment” Panel, June 24th at 1 PM

(WASHINGTON)-In the United States today, there are more than 3.4 million unemployed workers who have been searching for a job for longer than six months.

While lawmakers on both sides of the aisle and across the political spectrum consistently rank addressing unemployment as a top priority, there has been little bipartisan action to spur job creation in recent years. The Congressional Full Employment Caucus – founded by Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) and Congresswoman Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.) – will hold panel discussing this crisis, entitled “Bipartisan Solutions to Long-Term Unemployment,” in 2226 Rayburn House Office Building.

This panel will bring together a diverse range of leading thinkers to identify proven bipartisan solutions - that Congress can pass immediately - to combat the ongoing employment crisis in the United States and get Americans back to work.This event will be moderated by Arthur Delaney with the Huffington Post, and esteemed panelists include:

  • Betsey Stevenson, a Member of the White House Council of Economic Advisors; 
  • Michael Strain, a Resident Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute; 
  • Judy Conti, Federal Advocacy Coordinator with the National Employment Law Project; and 
  • Heidi Shierholz, an Economist at the Economic Policy Institute.
For further information about the panel discussion or the Congressional Full Employment Caucus, please contact Erik Sperling in the Office of Congressman John Conyers, Jr. at 202-225-5126 or

 “Bipartisan Solutions to Long-Term Unemployment” Panel:

  • Arthur Delaney, Huffington Post
  • Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.)
  • Congresswoman Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.)
  • Congresswoman Marcy Kaputer (D-Ohio)
  • Betsey Stevenson – Member, White House Council of Economic Advisors
  • Michael Strain – Resident Scholar, American Enterprise Institute
  • Judy Conti – Federal Advocacy Coordinator, National Employment Law Project
  • Heidi Shierholz – Economist, Economic Policy Institute
When:Tuesday, June 24, 1:00 pm. Where: 2226 Rayburn House Office Building

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After Failing to Renew Unemployment Insurance, Congress Is a Culprit in Foreclosure Crisis

By Reps. John Conyers Jr., Matt Cartwright and Steven Horsford

In the immediate aftermath of the nation’s 2008 foreclosure crisis, Congress played a constructive role in keeping Americans in their homes.

Lawmakers supported loan modification programs and sweeping financial reforms, and — while many rightfully demanded more action — these efforts eased the effects of the crisis.

Today, the lingering effects of predatory lending and the Great Recession mean that foreclosures remain a serious problem in communities around the country.

But, in the national fight to stop foreclosures, one crucial fact has changed: Congress is now a culprit.

By failing to extend emergency unemployment insurance benefits, House GOP leaders have unnecessarily thrust millions of Americans into financial hardship and many, in turn, into foreclosure.Congress must again be part of the solution.

Lawmakers should immediately extend emergency UI benefits. But, if House GOP leaders continue their obstruction, the absolute least lawmakers can do is pass a measure to direct the Federal Housing Finance Agency to impose a six month moratorium on foreclosures for individuals who have lost UI due to congressional inaction.

Because of the GOP’s termination of the federal emergency UI program, more than 2.2 million Americans, including more than 200,000 veterans, have lost access to an essential lifeline that’s rightfully theirs. Unemployment insurance is not a hand-out.

Americans who lost their jobs in one of the toughest job markets in memory have largely paid into the emergency compensation program through payroll taxes.

There’s simply no valid economic argument for failing to renew UI.  The Census Bureau estimates that these benefits enabled 2.5 million people to get out of poverty in 2012 and enabled more than 11 million to do so since 2008.

According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, restoring benefits would result in 200,000 additional jobs this year by increasing consumer demand.

The logic is simple: When unemployed Americans receive income, they spend it.

When they can go out and purchase their necessities, they boost the economy and promote job-creation. All this boosts tax revenue and reduces deficits.

When you factor in the foreclosures that result from people unexpectedly losing their basic UI income, the social and economic impacts are immeasurably greater.

Foreclosure and evictions are not only responsible for massive anxiety and suffering but also downward spirals in property values and tax revenue.

Restoring UI is not just a matter of sound policy making. It’s a matter of basic decency.

While the Senate has done what’s right by passing legislation to extend UI, House GOP leaders refuse to even allow a vote.

If this intransigence continues, the newly-confirmed director of the FHFA, Melvin Watt, can take matters into his own hands and impose a moratorium on foreclosures for Americans affected by the cutoff.

Earlier this year, we, along with 74 of our colleagues, sent a letter requesting that he use his authority to do so.

Half a decade after the onset of the financial crisis, it’s unacceptable that tens of millions of Americans are still unemployed or desperately underemployed.

Congress must — at the absolute least — keep these Americans from losing their homes.

John Conyers Jr. of Michigan, Matt Cartwright of Pennsylvania and Steven Horsfordof Nevada are Democratic members of the House of Representatives.

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CPS needs no law, just a rumor

This was all because of a natural home birth documented on their blog. I will bet CPS will eventually remove the child. Why? Because of this youtube video. Voting is beautiful, be beautiful ~ vote.©

Friday, June 20, 2014

Is Hamtramck about to file for bankruptcy?

To file or not to file, that is the question.

Due to the fact that the City of Hamtramck is currently involved in numerous matters of litigation, where the probability of out-of-court settlements is statistically significant, a massive reduction in property tax base eminent from the pending Wayne County property tax foreclosures, an exodus of businesses, MERS payment restructuring, and your basic political inurement, bankruptcy is inevitable...

But what do I know?

Stay tuned.

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House Passes Conyers Amendment to Prevent Transfer of Shoulder-Fired Anti-Aircraft Missiles to Syrian Fighters

(WASHINGTON) – Late yesterday evening, the U.S. House of Representatives considered H.R. 4870, the “Department of Defense Appropriations Act of 2015.” During consideration of the legislation, Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) and Congressman Ted Yoho (R-Fla.) offered a bipartisan amendment to prevent the transfer of shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles - otherwise known as Man-Portable Air-Defense Systems, or MANPADS - to any party in the Syrian Civil War. Since their initial use on a battlefield in 1978, MANPAD attacks have resulted in nearly 1,000 civilian deaths. After the amendment was approved unanimously by the full U.S. House of Representatives, Congressman Conyers issued the following statement:

U.S. Representative
John Conyers, Jr.
If there’s one simple lesson we can take away from US involvement in conflicts overseas, it’s this: Beware of unintended consequences. As was made vividly clear with US involvement in Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion decades ago, overzealous military assistance or the hyper-weaponization of conflicts can have destabilizing consequences and ultimately undercut our own national interests. I am grateful that the House of Representatives unanimously passed my amendment last night to prevent the transfer of shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles - commonly called MANPADS - to forces in Syria. These weapons are easily hidden, capable of extraordinary damage, and have already resulted in the loss of nearly 1,000 civilian lives,” said Conyers.

“Both U.S. and Israeli officials have feared that these weapons could be used by terrorists to bring down commercial jets. As the boundaries are increasingly blurred between insurgents fighting the Syrian government and those fighting the Iraqi government, providing additional arms could further destabilize the Middle East. The possibility that MANPADS - or any weapon - could fall into the hands of radical groups would unquestionably increase the already-devastating human toll in the region.

“The answer to violence is not to increase access to weapons that allow for more violence. Preventing the transfer of anti-aircraft missiles is a first step towards de-escalating the chaos that has haunted Syria and the wider region for far too long, but until a lasting, peaceful resolution can be found it must not be the last.”

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Ranking Member Conyers Statement at Net Neutrality Hearing

(WASHINGTON) – Today, the U.S. House Judiciary Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law held a hearing entitled, “Net Neutrality: Is Antitrust Law More Effective Than Regulation in Protecting Consumers and Innovation?” During his opening remarks Ranking Members John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) delivered the following statement:

U.S. Representative
John Conyers, Jr.
“I thank Subcommittee Chairman Spencer Bachus for holding this important hearing on net neutrality and the role of antitrust law in ensuring a free and open Internet. The Judiciary Committee has a central role in studying the issue of net neutrality and, more generally, competition on the Internet, and I appreciate the Chairman’s decision to assert our jurisdiction.

“Turning to the specific question of whether antitrust is more effective than regulation in addressing net neutrality, we should keep three things in mind. To begin with, we need a regulatory solution to address potential threats to net neutrality and must allow the Federal Communications Commission to do its job. Congress created the FCC to develop the expertise so that it could properly regulate the complex telecommunications industry. Any FCC rules to address net neutrality could have the benefit of addressing some potential threats to net neutrality before they fully materialize. And, it could do so in a manner that would be more comprehensive than the piecemeal approach of antitrust enforcement.

“Additionally, having a set of best practices enshrined in rules would provide certainty for industry.  The FCC’s efforts, therefore, must be given the opportunity to develop. In developing its rules to ensure a free and open Internet, the FCC should incorporate the following principles: broadband network providers should be prohibited from failing to provide access to its broadband network for any provider of content, applications, or services on reasonable and nondiscriminatory terms; broadband network providers should be prohibited from blocking, impairing, or discriminating against or otherwise interfering with the ability of any person to use a broadband service to use or access lawful content, applications, or services on the Internet; and there should be strong transparency requirements regarding clear disclosure to users of information concerning any terms, conditions, or limitations on the broadband network service.

“The FCC began its latest rulemaking process only a month ago, and we must allow that process to proceed. To the extent that we do look to antitrust law as a way of ensuring net neutrality, enforcement of existing antitrust law would be insufficient. Under current antitrust law, there is relatively little that antitrust enforcers can do outside the merger review context to address the conduct of a regulated industry like broadband Internet service with respect to enforcing net neutrality principles. Through a series of decisions, the Supreme Court has limited the potential to successfully pursue claims under the Sherman Antitrust Act arising in the net neutrality context.

“Moreover, exclusive reliance on antitrust enforcement, while having the benefit of a more nuanced and fact-specific approach to the problem, would also be a cumbersome, more limited, more resource-intensive, and after-the-fact way to develop a regulatory regime for net neutrality. Another potential approach would be for the Federal Trade Commission to use its authority under Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act to stop ‘unfair methods of competition.’ While I hold an expansive view of Section 5, to the extent that this approach goes beyond the scope of the Sherman Act or other antitrust laws it would be very controversial, as my friends on the other side of the aisle would be the first to note. Moreover, antitrust law is not sufficiently broad in scope as it does not address the non-economic goals of net neutrality, including the protection of free speech and political debate.

“Former Chairman James Sensenbrenner, Representative Zoe Lofgren and I introduced bipartisan legislation back in 2006 to strengthen antitrust law to address net neutrality, in part because the FCC was doing too little at that time, in my view. I am certainly open to suggestions on how antitrust law can be better tailored to address net neutrality concerns, but if we go down that path, current law must be modified to codify net neutrality principles. Whether one supports a more antitrust approach or a more regulatory approach, inaction by Congress and regulators is not an option, as potential threats to net neutrality remain present.

“In my opening statements at our 2008 and 2011 hearings on this issue, I noted that in many parts of our country, consumers have the choice of only one or two broadband Internet service providers that effectively function as monopolies or duopolies. I noted then that the market power that these broadband providers enjoyed could lead to differential treatment of content carried by the provider depending on how much a customer pays or the financial incentives for discriminating for or against given content. The concerns I noted may have only grown since then, particularly in light of increasing consolidation in the telecommunications industry that may result in even less choice, less innovation, higher costs, and more power in the hands of fewer broadband providers.”

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