8 hours ago by
There is a crisis of impunity for corporate human rights abuses and it is getting worse. In our work with the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, we track the latest legal developments in holding companies accountable for human rights abuses, to share knowledge among lawyers and ultimately strengthen accountability. For years, we have highlighted increasing barriers for victims to obtain justice. As companies are rarely brought to account, there have been few reasons for optimism. So bad is the crisis of impunity that we have had to dedicate a significant portion of space in our latest Annual Briefing to the threats directed at advocates and lawyers working on corporate accountability. In 2016, we even saw Pavel Sulyandziga, a well-known indigenous leader in Russia and member of the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights, speak out about the harassment he and his family are facing because of his work supporting local communities to retain control of their land from extractives companies. Human rights defenders working on corporate accountability have faced killings, beatings and threats and are rarely, if ever, able to obtain justice. The law as a weapon Human rights defenders working on corporate accountability have faced killings, beatings and threats and are rarely, if ever, able to obtain justice. Moreover, the law is often used as a weapon. In the last two years, the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre has tracked over 450 cases of attacks against human rights defenders working on corporate accountability. The most common is judicial harassment (40% of cases). In February 2016, six activists opposing the use of villagers’ land for Socfin plantations were jailed after a Sierra Leone court found them guilty of destroying 40 palm oil plants. The activists say they are innocent and see the trial as a “tactic to get us into prison so that we cannot raise our voice on the unacceptable land deals in Malen Chiefdom.” Six activists opposing the use of villagers’ land for Socfin plantations were jailed after a Sierra Leone court found them guilty of destroying 40 palm oil plants. The activists say they are innocent. These types of legal harassment are often not intended to be successful claims, but rather are designed to silence human rights defenders by tying them up in costly litigation processes. In France, the NGO Sherpa has been sued by the company Vinci for defamation, after the NGO filed a criminal complaint in March 2015 against the company and its Qatari subsidiary over alleged forced labour on their construction sites in Qatar. Sherpa said of the lawsuits: “by involving us in these costly proceedings, Vinci is plainly seeking to pressure us into withdrawing our action for lack of resources.” These lawsuits are often a disproportionate response to statements as small as social media posts. During a mission to Indonesia in September 2016, we met with the NGO KontraS, which is currently campaigning against criminalisation of human rights defenders. They told us of an activist from the NGO WALHI (Friends of the Earth Indonesia) who faced a criminal defamation complaint by supporters of a land reclamation project in Bali, over a Twitter post that mocked them. In the US, community activists were sued for USD 30 million by Green Group Holdings after they complained on social media about the company’s landfill and its impact on the local resident’s health. Lee Rowland, a senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union who worked on the case, said: “No one should have to fear a multi-million dollar lawsuit just for speaking up about their community—but our clients did.” Lawsuits like these have a chilling effect on human rights activism and advocacy. The inequality of power and resources between large corporations with teams of lawyers and grassroots human rights defenders means that many activists may give into the demands of corporations rather than enter a costly legal battle. This chilling effect is immeasurably worse when defenders are threatened with physical assaults and death. From impunity to accountability Companies benefit from an environment where there is freedom of speech, satisfied workers, and an increased consumer base, and governments attract investment when there is a strong rule of law. Governments should decriminalise defamation as advocated by international and regional organizations and leading NGOs, enact laws to protect human rights defenders and their lawyers from harassment, and provide an enabling environment and open civic space for those working on corporate legal accountability.  (Of course, detractors would argue that criminal defamation laws are needed to protect their reputation, but there are still civil liabilities.) Governments should pass legislation to address strategic lawsuits against public participation, like those passed in several US states and Canadian provinces. Corporations can influence governments to improve by voicing opposition to governmental action or legislation that threatens to close the civic space. Natural Fruit filed a defamation lawsuit in Thailand against Andy Hall, a British labour rights activists and researcher, over a  report  that  alleged  labour  abuse against  migrant workers in the company's factories. The Senior Vice President of S Group, a Finnish retailer that sourced from Natural Fruit, testified in support of Andy Hall in the Thai criminal defamation lawsuit against him in July 2016. S Group’s action in this case demonstrates the steps companies can take to support human rights defenders under legal attack. Companies can also draft a dedicated policy on human rights defenders, like adidas has done, explaining why human rights defenders are important to their work and setting out expectations towards the company’s suppliers. Everyone benefits from the work of human rights defenders and the promotion of the rule of law, so businesses and governments should work to support and protect them. The legal system should only be used to bolster the rule of law, not burden its defenders. source

9 hours ago by
At least one million people will die in sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere, researchers and advocates said on Tuesday, if funding cuts proposed by the Trump administration to global public health programs are enacted. The United States currently spends more than $6 billion annually on programs that buy antiretroviral drugs for about 11.5 million people worldwide who are infected with H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS. The Trump administration has proposed slashing those programs by at least $1.1 billion — nearly a fifth of their current funding, said Jen Kates, a vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation. “These are lifesaving interventions, and these levels of reductions will significantly curtail service delivery,” Ms. Kates said. In a briefing for reporters, Hari Sastry, director of the State Department’s Office of U.S. Foreign Assistance Resources, said that everyone now receiving drug treatments under the programs would be allowed to continue, even if the funding cuts were approved. “We will currently maintain those patients on the treatment,” Mr. Sastry said. He did not explain how that would happen if funding dropped by roughly 20 percent, but the programs have wide bipartisan support on Capitol Hill, where they may be shielded from the proposed cuts. A health worker testing a patient for H.I.V. in Homa Bay County, Kenya. Much of the success of anti-AIDS efforts in Africa has come from a guarantee in many countries that people who test positive for H.I.V. can immediately receive treatment. With a huge share of Africa’s population reaching sexual maturity in the next four years, the virus could again imperil much of the continent if fewer people are treated, said Brian Honermann, deputy director at amfAR, a foundation that invests in AIDS research. AIDS treatment not only keeps people alive but prevents them from spreading the virus to others, Mr. Honermann noted. “If you cut the funding by this much, I think there’s a real risk we will backslide, and a whole lot more people will become infected,” he said. Much of the United States government’s funding for AIDS treatment and research is funneled through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or Pepfar, which was established in 2004 by President George W. Bush in an effort to save Africa from an epidemic that threatened to kill much of the population of entire countries, like Botswana and Namibia. President Barack Obama expanded Pepfar, and combined with the Global Fund and other international efforts, the spending is widely credited with arresting the AIDS epidemic. About 37 million people worldwide are infected with H.I.V., including nearly two million children. About one million people died of AIDS in 2015, and two million were newly infected that year. Pepfar funds anti-AIDS activities in more than 60 countries. But in the briefing on Tuesday, Mr. Sastry said the Trump administration planned to ensure that the United States was “focusing our efforts in the 12 high-burden countries to achieve epidemic control.” He did not name those 12 countries, but in past years, the program focused much of its work on a dozen African countries, as well as Haiti, Vietnam and Guyana. The Trump administration has also proposed eliminating $524 million in funding for contraceptives and other family planning efforts that mostly benefit women in developing nations. Melinda Gates, co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said in a statement posted on her Facebook page that the proposed family planning cuts “would lead to more unintended pregnancies, more maternal deaths.” “This budget threatens to trap millions more families in a cycle of poverty,” she said. It is unclear how many lives could be lost as a direct result of the budget cuts, but the Global Fund estimates that every $100 million invested saves about 133,000 lives. An amfAR calculation found a similar effect, suggesting that the administration’s proposed cuts to AIDS programs alone could cost more than one million lives and orphan more than 300,000 children. “All of these programs have multiplier effects beyond just those immediately served by them,” said J. Stephen Morrison, who directs global health work at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “For the first time ever, after 15 years of steady growth, we’re going to see a radical regression that will have huge effects.” source

May 21, 2017 by
About 100,000 black GIs were stationed in the UK during the war. Inevitably there were love affairs, but US laws usually prevented black servicemen from marrying. So what happened to the children they fathered? Fiona Clampin met two such children in Dorset, now in their seventies, who have not given up hope of tracing their fathers. A bottle of champagne has sat on a shelf in Carole Travers's wardrobe for the past 20 years. Wedged between boxes and covered with clothes, it'll be opened only when Carole finds her father. "There's an outside chance he might still be alive," she reflects. "I've got so many bits of information, but to know the real truth would mean the world to me - to know that I did belong to somebody." The possibility of Carole tracking down her father becomes more and more remote by the day. Born towards the end of World War Two, Carole, now 72, was the result of a relationship between her white mother and a married African-American or mixed-race soldier stationed in Poole, in Dorset. Whereas some "brown babies" (as the children of black GIs were known in the press) were put up for adoption, Carole's mother, Eleanor Reid, decided to keep her child. The only problem was, she was already married, with a daughter, to a Scot with pale skin and red hair. "I had black hair and dark skin," says Carole. "Something obviously wasn't right." Carole Travers with a friend The difference between Carole and her half-siblings only dawned on the young girl at the age of six, when she overheard her parents having an argument. "Does she know? Well, it's about time she did," said her stepfather, in Carole's retelling of the story. She remembers how her mother sat her down at the kitchen table and told Carole the truth about her background. "I was chuffed I was different," she says. "I used to tell my friends, 'My dad's an America,' without really knowing what that meant." In 1950s Dorset there were very few mixed-race or black children, and having one out of wedlock carried a huge stigma. Although Carole doesn't remember any specific racist remarks, she recalls the stares. Parents would shush their children when she and her family got on the bus. Carole says her "blackness" was considered cute when she was a child, but as she grew up she became more aware of her difference. "I remember once being in a club and there was a comedian who started making jokes about black people. I'm stood there and I'm thinking: 'Everyone's looking at me,'" she says. "I always felt inferior. As a teenager, I would stand back, I thought that nobody would ever want to know me because of my colour. "I was going out with one boy, and his mother found out about me. She put a stop to it because she remarked that if we had kids, they would be 'coloured'." GIs at work in Weymouth harbour Seventy-two-year-old John Stockley, another child of an African-American GI stationed further down the Dorset coast in Weymouth, does remember the racial abuse in striking detail. John was called names to such an extent that at the age of seven he decided he would try to turn his skin pale to be like his classmates. "I worked out that if I drank milk of magnesia [a laxative] and ate chalk I would make myself go white," he chuckles. "I think I drank over half the bottle! You can imagine the effect. It wasn't good and it tasted disgusting." In one playground incident a boy insulted him with the N-word and called him "dirty", but when John thrashed him he found himself summoned to the school office. "It was a winter's day in the early 1950s," John explains. "I was playing football and I collided with another guy. By this time I was quite fiery, I wouldn't take it, and a blow was struck. I made his nose bleed. To this day I can see the blood on the snow. "My mother lived less than 100 yards from the school, and she was summoned to the office with me. I remember her shaking next to me, holding my hand. The secretary told her what had happened and he said to my mother: 'You have to remember, Mrs Stockley, these people cannot be educated.' That puts my hackles up now." Shocking though the racism seems to us today, it was arguably family life which had a more pernicious effect on these mixed-race children. "Your mum made a mistake," one of his aunts once told John Stockley. "The 'mistake' is me," he says. John's description of his childhood spent living with his grandparents in a village behind Chesil Beach sounds idyllic. But that's to ignore the reason why he went there in the first place. Determined to punish his wife for her double transgression, John's stepfather did not allow him to live in the family home except from Monday to Friday during school term. Even then, John was not permitted to enter the house by the front door. At weekends he was packed off to his maternal grandparents, who provided him with the stable and loving family life he craved - and a refuge from his stepfather. "Of course, coming back from the war and finding his wife with a black child must have been a great shock," John acknowledges. "And they never had any children together. But there was no love at all for him from me, because of what he did to my mother. She was effectively kept in a position of restraint, and I'd see her go through depression because she wanted to do things she couldn't." John says his stepfather - a gambler and philanderer - exercised control over his mother despite the fact that she ran a successful guesthouse. He decided who John's mother could or could not be friends with, John says. "And he didn't like us to be too close. If some music came on the radio when he wasn't there, I would dance with her because she loved to jitterbug. But not when he was around. We were told to stop." Carole Travers's stepfather began divorce proceedings when he found out what his wife had done in his absence. However, when it appeared that he wouldn't get custody of their daughter (Carole's half-sister), he returned to the family home and Carole took his surname. He appeared to accept Carole on the surface, but towards the end of his life he telephoned her and dropped a bombshell. He wouldn't be leaving her anything in his will, he told her, "because you're nothing to do with me". "The money didn't matter," says Carole. "But what he said really hurt me. I told him, 'You're my dad, you've always been my dad, and you're the only dad I've ever known'." Married and with children of her own by this time, Carole started trying to trace her biological father, based on the scraps of information her mother had given her in the weeks before she died. "It just didn't occur to me to ask questions when I was younger," she says, the tone of regret in her voice clear. "My stepfather would always bring me up in any argument with my mother, referring to me as 'your bastard', and I learned not to rock the boat. I just got on with my life." Deborah Prior, front row, in the light dress, lived in Holnicote House in Somerset along with other mixed-race children - the photograph was used to attract potential adoptive parents Not all GI babies were able to stay with their mothers. Dr Deborah Prior was born in 1945, to a widow in Somerset and a black American serviceman. Her mother was persuaded to give her up, and for five years Deborah lived in Holnicote House, a special home for mixed-race children. Deborah spoke to Woman's Hour along with Prof Lucy Bland, who is researching this under-reported chapter of social history. Like Carole, John Stockley wanted to protect his mother by keeping quiet. "I could see it was going to upset her if I asked too many questions, and upset her was the last thing I was going to do," he says. He would take his chance occasionally, although his mother would always evade his enquiries. But John remembers with characteristic clarity the last time he brought up the subject of his real father. "I remember her saying to me in the course of a minor argument between us: 'You don't know what I've been through because of you.' "And I said to her: 'You don't know what I've been through because of you!' She went pale, and realised what she'd said and how she'd put her foot in it. But we never went any further than that. She just looked at me in a sad sort of way, and I said, 'Have I ever done anything to make you ashamed of me?' And she said no. And that was the last we ever spoke about it." It was turning 70 that prompted John to start looking for information about his father, whereas Carole has spent almost half her life searching for a man she knows only as "Burt". Neither of them has many facts to go on - Carole believes her stepfather destroyed the only photos and letters that could have helped her identify Burt. But while their searches may come to nothing, they both take solace from the fact that their mothers loved them against all the odds, and that they were born of loving relationships, not one-night stands. "My mother told me my father was the only man she ever really loved," says Carole. "And I've had Mum's friends say to me since her death: 'Don't ever feel ashamed of your background, because you were born out of love and your mum wanted you.' She knew he was going back to America and she wanted something of him, something to hold on to." source

May 21, 2017 by
A growing number of House Republicans are facing physical threats from angry constituents in their districts, leading many to fear for their safety.  In the last few weeks alone, the FBI arrested a man threatening Rep. Martha McSally's (R-Ariz.) life, a woman pursued Rep. David Kustoff (R-Tenn.) in her car, and Rep. Tom Garrett (R-Va.) heightened security at a town hall event in response to death threats.  Other Republicans still holding town halls say they haven't felt physically threatened by protesters, but they worry about the depth of anger from some constituents in the polarized environment and what it means for political civility.   Scores of GOP lawmakers have experienced going viral this year with videos of constituents shouting their disagreement on support for President Trump and policies such as the GOP’s healthcare bill.  Lately, though, Republicans have observed some furious constituents who appear to be going even further. Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.) described attendees at a town hall in his district last week who booed him down after he said people’s rights are God-given.  “They booed God. They booed the pastor. They booed the prayer. They booed the name of the church. They booed when I said rights come from God,” Brat recounted to The Hill just off the House floor. “That’s a fundamental tenet of western civilization. I mean, I didn’t think that was partisan.” Further north in New Jersey, Rep. Tom MacArthur (R) faced pushback from a crowd when he began telling the story of his special-needs daughter who died at the age of 11. “Shame!” people shouted. “We’ve heard this story.”  “This child in 11 years has shaped my life more than anybody. So if I talk about my daughter too much, well then so be it. But this is the one human being that has impacted my life more than anybody,” MacArthur said. Another person sarcastically yelled out MacArthur should write a book about it.  “Maybe I will write a book,” MacArthur shot back.  Still, not every town hall has veered into nastiness. Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.), a top Democratic target in 2018, said his town hall attendees expressed their clear displeasure with his positions but remained civil.  “You know, they had the signs and stuff like that. But I thought they were pretty nice, I thought they were pretty respectful,” Coffman said.  “From the stories I have heard in other districts, I’ve got it pretty good,” he said. But an increasing number of lawmakers’ encounters with constituents, even in deep-red districts, have gotten ugly.  The FBI arrested a Tucson, Ariz. man for leaving three threatening messages on McSally’s congressional office voicemail, in which he allegedly said her days “were numbered” and threatened to shoot her. A criminal complaint filed last week in the U.S. District Court in Tucson said the suspect told agents he was upset over McSally’s votes to back up Trump.  McSally represents the same swing district previously represented by then-Rep. Gabby Giffords (D), who was shot in the head in 2011 during a constituent meet-and-greet. In Tennessee, a woman angry over Kustoff’s vote for the GOP's healthcare bill this month pursued a car carrying him from an event at a local university. Kustoff and a staffer eventually turned into a driveway and came to a stop. Then the woman approached the car, yelled at Kustoff and struck the car’s windows, according to local reports. Meanwhile, Garrett spokesman Andrew Griffin said the freshman lawmaker has received at least three death threats over the course of the healthcare debate.   One constituent called Garrett’s Washington office and said if his healthcare is taken away, he would take Garrett’s life away. Another person sent a message to Garrett’s campaign Facebook page with graphic details describing how they would kill Garrett.  Griffin said investigating authorities have asked not to publicly reveal any details about the third case yet. In light of all the threats, Garrett made sure to increase security at his town hall in Moneta, Va. last week.  A security presence at town halls hasn’t prevented some physical confrontations. A constituent angry over the GOP’s healthcare bill approached Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), took dollar bills from his wallet and tried to shove them into the lawmaker’s suit pocket, the Bismarck Tribune reported.   Other times, the lawmakers targeted by the most extreme protesters don’t end up getting the brunt of the hostility.  Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) wasn’t home when his young daughter found a sign on the family’s lawn last week that read: “Traitors put party above country Do the right thing for once, shithead.” “Attack me, protest against me, but do not frighten my children at their home,” Fortenberry said in an interview with Fox News’s Neil Cavuto. “If we are going to be a true civil society that actually upholds the values of liberty and free speech, which means respect for differences and trying to work that out through the ballot box if necessary, but also through rational conversation.” Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.) described protesters vandalizing his Gainesville, Fla. office and threatening his staff. One female constituent left a message on the office answering machine for the district director, saying, “Next time I see you, I’m going to beat your f---ing ass.” He decided to only allow visitors into the Gainesville office who have an appointment after protesters kept showing up every week in the front lobby. The protesters subsequently complained that their representative was trying to block their access, but Yoho felt he had no other choice. “They’re mad to the point where they’re cussing at my staff, pushed one of them, poured stuff on one of the staff’s car,” Yoho told The Hill. “If they start acting responsible and respectable, we’ll do the same.”  Yoho's recent town hall in the same town as his vandalized district office was a calmer affair. Attendees made it clear at times they didn't agree with him on the issues, but they remained civil. "We had fun the whole time," he said. source

May 19, 2017 by
Former FBI Director James Comey has agreed to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee in an open session. "The Committee looks forward to receiving testimony from the former Director on his role in the development of the Intelligence Community Assessment on Russian interference in the 2016 US elections, and I am hopeful that he will clarify for the American people recent events that have been broadly reported in the media," Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., said in a statement released Friday evening. "I hope that former Director Comey's testimony will help answer some of the questions that have arisen since Director Comey was so suddenly dismissed by the President. I also expect that Director Comey will be able to shed light on issues critical to this Committee's investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election," said Vice Chairman Mark Warner, D-Va. "Director Comey served his country with honor for many years, and he deserves an opportunity to tell his story. Moreover, the American people deserve an opportunity to hear it." Then-FBI Director James Comey testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee during an oversight hearing earlier this month before he was fired by President Trump. Comey's highly anticipated testimony, which will be slated after the Memorial Day congressional recess, comes after he was fired by Trump May 9 amid a mounting investigation into Russian involvement in the 2016 election and possible ties between Trump campaign associates and that country. While the White House initially pointed to a memo from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, outlining Comey's mismanagement of the investigation into Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton's private email server, as the impetus for his termination, Trump later admitted that the Russia investigation, which the he has called a "hoax," played a role. Earlier on Friday, the New York Times  reported that Trump told Russian officials the day after he fired Comey that the former FBI director was a "nut job" and he had let him go to take off the "great pressure" around the mounting investigation. Earlier this week, NPR confirmed that Trump had asked Comey to scuttle the investigation into his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, according to a memo of the account written by Comey. Trump has denied that ever happened. Wednesday, Rosenstein appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller as a special counsel to take over and continue the Justice Department investigation into Russian election interference and possible links with Trump campaign aides. source

May 19, 2017 by
Investigators into Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential elections are now also probing whether White House officials have engaged in a cover-up, according to members of Congress who were briefed Friday by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. That avenue of investigation was added in recent weeks after assertions by former FBI Director James Comey that President Donald Trump had tried to dissuade him from pressing an investigation into the actions of Trump’s first national security adviser, retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, members of Congress said, though it was not clear whom that part of the probe might target. A Justice Department official, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the topic, confirmed that the special counsel in charge of the probe, former FBI Director Robert Mueller, “has been given the authority to investigate the possibility of a cover-up.” But he cautioned that that “does not mean that is part of the investigation” currently. Where the investigation goes would be up to Mueller, he said. Even as members of Congress were mulling the expansion of the case into possible cover-up, and its reclassification from counterintelligence to criminal, the scandal appeared to grow. Trump-Russia investiigation: Coverup is now part of it | McClatchy Washington Bureau The Washington Post reported Friday afternoon that federal investigators were looking at a senior White House official as a “significant person of interest.” The article did not identify the official, though it noted that the person was “someone close to the president.” A person of interest is someone law enforcement identifies as relevant to an investigation but who has not been charged or arrested. And The New York Times reported that Trump had told visiting Russian officials in the Oval Office that firing Comey had taken pressure off the Russia probe. Cover-ups have traditionally been a major part of investigations that have threatened previous administrations. Articles of impeachment levied against Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton included allegations of obstruction of justice, as they were suspected of trying to hide other wrongdoing. “This is a thorough investigation of what happened in the 2016 election, and it can go anywhere,” said Rep. Mark Walker, R-N.C. The possibility of a cover-up is the third branch of an investigation that began as a look at Russian meddling in the election and broadened into whether members of the Trump campaign had cooperated in that efforts, according to the briefing, members of Congress said. The election interference aspect, which was first alleged in October in a report by the U.S. intelligence community, appears to be an accepted fact, said Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., the senior Democrat on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. What’s really left to be determined, Cummings said, is whether there was “collusion with the Russians, and the possibility of an attempt to cover up.” The most visible questions about the possible cover-up have come since Trump took office, and especially in the days since the president abruptly fired Comey on May 9. News reports that Comey had written memos about his conversations with Trump since January have fueled that aspect of the probe. source

May 19, 2017 by
The Longmont Planned Parenthood health center will close in August, according to a news release from Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains. The Longmont center will be one of six to close in the region. Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains spokeswoman Whitney Phillips said the closures are due to a tough financial landscape in the reproductive health care field, specifically due to the effects of the Affordable Care Act. "We supported (the ACA) because we love the idea of more people having health insurance and increasing access to the critical services that they need, but a lot of our patients were self-pay," Phillips said. "They would come in and get a pap smear and pay out of pocket. Under the ACA, a lot of patients were given the opportunity to be on Medicaid. Again, that's wonderful, but it meant that rather than bill them directly, we had to bill Medicaid. And Medicaid reimburses at a very low rate." Longmont's Planned Parenthood clinic is one of six in the Rocky Mountain region that are scheduled to close later this year. Phillips said this changed how Planned Parenthood does business and changed the way the organization was able to get reimbursements from insurance companies. Planned Parenthood centers in Casper, Wyo.; Parker, Colo.; and Albuquerque, Rio Rancho and Farmington, N.M., will also close. The Boulder Planned Parenthood will remain open, and PPRM will add hours and staff there to accommodate more patients. The four staff members at the Longmont health clinic will be offered positions within other Planned Parenthood locations. If they choose, they can also take a severance package, Phillips said. Phillips said that the decisions were tough to make, but between the Boulder Planned Parenthood and the Boulder Valley Women's Health Center in Longmont, they are confident that patients will be able to access all the services they need. "We did an incredibly long evaluation and took a lot of care to look at every single point of the process and do what's best for patients so we can serve the most amount of people in the best way possible," Phillips said. "It's sad and a little disappointing to close down health centers, but we believe that in the long term, it's the best option so we can serve patients for another 100 years." Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains was founded in 1916. "We've contracted and expanded, contracted and expanded in that time, and this is just another part of that," Phillips said. Planned Parenthood is a nonprofit organization that relies on grants, donations, patient payments and insurance reimbursements to operate. The health centers provide sex education and preventative care, such as cancer screenings and birth control. Phillips said that the Longmont health center does not provide abortion services, but does provide referrals. The Boulder health center provides abortion services. source

May 19, 2017 by
We've talked about a lot of tools in the last few months, and this week I tested one of them out for myself (see the very end.) Have you tested any tools we've talked about? My colleague, Ren LaForme, and I would love to see the results. What new thing are you going to tell us about today? Today's tool is going to make you feel like you're a spy with secret cameras hidden all over the internet. That sounds amazing.   Yeah. There is information on websites that is potentially useful to you as a journalist. But what's more interesting is when something changes on a website, right? Think of a staff page for a local corporation, or a staff page for a local government or even the federal government site, even the White House site, with everything that's going on there. It's interesting what's on them, but what's even more interesting is when they make a change quietly. There are a couple of tools that let you monitor changes on websites without having to visit those sites on your own. My favorite one is a tool made by The Marshall Project. They do such great work on criminal justice reporting. It's called Klaxon. Have you heard of Klaxon? Yeah, Poynter's Ben Mullin wrote about it when it first came out. I'm really liking it. They've just enabled team support, and I think it's getting better by the day. For people who haven't heard of it, how specifically does it work? What does it do? It (takes) a little bit to set up, which we can talk about in a minute. But once it's set up, you go to a webpage and you get this bookmarklet, you know those little things you put in your browser? Google Analytics has one. You click the bookmarklet, and this tab comes up, and you highlight what you want to keep an eye on. Hit save, and it will tell you when that thing has changed. And how does it tell you? You can set it up in different ways. I have mine set up so it checks the page every 10 minutes and sends me an email if something's changed. This is obviously not something you would want to do on a really heavily changing page. You wouldn't Klaxon a homepage. But for other pages, it's really, really useful. Is there a fee to sign up for Klaxon? Klaxon is entirely free. The Marshall Project made it to help journalists everywhere, and a lot do. They said The New York Times uses it, The Texas Tribune, The Associated Press, all kinds of places. Are there any things that you don't love about this tool? I try to only share tools that don't involve any coding or anything like that. This doesn't necessarily involve coding, but there is a bit of a setup process. There are similar tools to this, but a lot of them will run on your browser in the background, which takes up a ton of memory and makes your computer really slow. Klaxon uses sort of a virtual server that you have to set up in advance. It sounds intimidating, but if you go to the Klaxon page on Github, they walk you through step-by-step. It's probably easier than putting together Ikea furniture. One of the reasons this may appeal to journalists, particularly those in newsrooms that have been cut and cut, is that keeping tabs on your beat and sources is something people have less and less time for. If you can automate that process, hopefully you can spend that time producing great journalism. Yeah. This is you putting your eyes and ears in as many places as you want at once. Staffing changes are a classic example of a great way to use this. Local governments or other places may want to keep those kinds of things hush-hush, but they do change it on their page. It's like having a person in that room. Are there other tools people should know about, just as different options? Page Monitor is similar, but it's much easier to set up. But like I said, this one hogs a bit more browser space, and it's slow your computer down. There's also VisualPing, which is connected to Page Monitor. If you look into those, I think you'll see those might be helpful to you if you really are intimidated by the setup process. There's also ChangeDetection.com, which is useful for some things but the least useful of these because you can't specify a part of page. Is there anything else about this tool that we should know about? If your team's on Slack, and I think people are increasingly on Slack, it allows you to install an integration. So instead of sending you an email, it will send a message to a specific Slack channel, which I think is a lot more helpful. It's not hogging up space and everyone on your team could have access to that channel. This is probably a good time to keep tabs on what's happening in the government at every level. Seems like there's a job change like every three minutes. This isn't the best way to find out when it happens, but I suspect in some cases, it will be. source

May 19, 2017 by
Remember when President Trump allegedly leaking classified information to the Russians was dominating news coverage? You'd be forgiven if you only vaguely remembered that, because it was so long ago — Monday, a lifetime in Trump-era news terms. Take a look at what else happened this week: Monday: "Reports: Trump Gave Classified Info To Russians During White House Visit" Tuesday: "Sources: Trump Asked Comey To Shut Down Flynn Investigation" "Israel Said to Be Source of Secret Intelligence Trump Gave to Russians" "McMaster says Trump didn't know where intel he shared came from" "Trump Says He Has 'Absolute Right' To Share Intelligence With Russia" Wednesday: "Trump: No Politician 'Has Been Treated Worse Or More Unfairly' Than Me" "Former FBI Director Mueller Appointed As Special Counsel To Oversee Russia Probe" "House majority leader to colleagues in 2016: 'I think Putin pays' Trump" "Trump Team Knew Flynn Was Under Investigation Before He Came to White House" Thursday: "Flynn stopped military plan Turkey opposed — after being paid as its agent" "Trump campaign had at least 18 undisclosed contacts with Russians: sources" "President Trump Denies Asking Comey To Scuttle Flynn Investigation" "Deputy Attorney General Knew Comey Was Out Before Writing Critical Memo, Senators Say" "Fact Check: 'We Don't Have Health Care In This Country,' Trump Says" The seemingly nonstop avalanche since Trump was inaugurated has threatened to hobble his presidency. It has overshadowed Republicans' domestic agenda, and now, the president embarks Friday on his first overseas trip. It carries potentially high stakes given the Russia investigation and Trump's reported sharing of highly classified intelligence with the Russians, especially considering the source of that information. White House press secretary Sean Spicer, left, calls on a reporter as national security adviser H.R. McMaster listens at right during a briefing at the White House Tuesday. Trump is delivering an address on Islam Sunday in Saudi Arabia. It is supposed to be "inspiring but direct" on "radical ideology," according to national security adviser H.R. McMaster. The speech — by a man, who called for a ban on Muslims coming into the United States as a candidate — "is intended to unite the broader Muslim world against common enemies," McMaster added. Trump is also heading to Israel, the country that multiple outlets have reported supplied the classified information Trump shared with the Russians about an ISIS plot. And the president is also meeting at the Vatican with the pope, someone who said last year that Trump is "not Christian" if he's talking about building walls. As he does, Trump responded, calling Francis' comment "disgraceful" and accusing him of being used as a "pawn" of Mexico. "If and when the Vatican is attacked by ISIS, which as everyone knows is Isis's ultimate trophy," Trump said, "the pope can have only wished and prayed that Donald Trump would have been president because this would not have happened." So, who knows what could happen on this trip? What we do know is that, ahead of the trip, Trump is in a defensive posture — and he has resorted to grievance politics. "Look at the way I've been treated lately, especially by the media. No politician in history — and I say this with great surety — has been treated worse or more unfairly," Trump said in a commencement address Wednesday at the Coast Guard Academy, his one military academy commencement speech of the year. (It wasn't the first time he used an event with a service academy for his own political purposes. When he presented the Air Force Academy with the President's Trophy in the Rose Garden of the White House, he was still smarting from the narrative that he came out on the losing end of the spending bill and railed against Democrats.) He took to Twitter the morning after former FBI Director Robert Mueller was named special counsel to head up the Justice Department's investigation of the Trump team's ties to Russia in the presidential election. He called "this" the "greatest witch hunt of a politician in American political history." Later Thursday, he told NBC News that a special counsel "hurts our country terribly, because it shows we're a divided, mixed-up, not-unified country." And then he went back again to electoral politics, accusing Democrats of sour grapes. "It also happens to be a pure excuse for the Democrats having lost an election that they should have easily won, because of the Electoral College being slanted so much in their way," he said. "That's all this is." The logic here doesn't quite follow, given the special counsel wasn't appointed by Democrats; it was named by his deputy attorney general. That's the same deputy attorney general Trump's White House initially hung its rationale for firing Comey on. This news fire hose, a result of errors forced and unforced for Trump, can have consequences — for the president, for his party and the country. "It's clear that his governing agenda is being sidelined because of the unremitting chaos, the unrelenting chaos that is a fundamental part of Donald Trump and, therefore, a fundamental part of the Trump presidency," said former George W. Bush speechwriter Peter Wehner. "So that agenda is now being sidelined and they're stuck with him." Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called a couple times this week for "a little less drama from the White House, so that we can focus on our agenda...." When it comes to foreign affairs, the stakes are even higher. "I think there is, first of all, concern about the damage that was specifically done to Israeli assets as a result of this leak," Chemi Shalev, a columnist for the Israeli paper Haaretz, said in NPR's Up First podcast Wednesday, "secondly, concern about the safety of information that is moved to the United States and angry, then, at the fact that this relationship would be put in such jeopardy." If allies can't trust the American president, what political capital does he have to tackle thorny international issues, like trade, Mideast peace or relations with the Islamic world? "If the president gives his word to the American people or to legislatures or to a foreign power, then everyone on every level has to know that he means what he says, and he says what he means," said Rick Tyler, former adviser to Ted Cruz's presidential campaign and former spokesman for Newt Gingrich. "And this president is demonstrating none of that." John Feehery, a Republican consultant and former congressional spokesman, said most of Trump's voters probably won't care. But that doesn't mean there aren't potential problems for the GOP. "You know the biggest problem for Republicans is not the firing of James Comey," Feehery said. "The biggest problem for Republicans is the fact that they now own health care and have to do something on it. And the other biggest problem is there haven't been many successes on the legislative level for the Congress. And if they want to get re-elected, they've got to worry about delivering for their constituents." source

May 19, 2017 by
Monday, 32BJ joined fast food workers at City Hall to deliver 3,000 messages to the New York City Council calling on council members to pass a law enabling industry workers to fund their own nonprofit organization with paycheck deductions. They also want the council to pass a law that requires employers to provide regular work schedules to help employees plan their lives better. Others unions that showed support for this venture included 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, Communications Workers of America District One, District Council 37, the Legal Services Staff Association, the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, the Professional Staff Congress and the NAACP New York State Conference. “New York City fast food workers are asking the New York City Council to pass new bills that will protect workers from last minute scheduling practices that make it difficult for them to plan their lives and would allow them to make voluntary automatic contributions to a nonprofit organization of their choice that would fight to protect their rights, safeguard compliance with minimum wage increases and improve their communities,” read the petition. Fast food workers Workers want the council to vote yes on a package of bills introduced in December known as the Fast Food Worker Empowerment Act. Under this law, workers would be able to tell their employers to make automatic regular contributions from their paychecks to a nonprofit organization of their choice. “Most workers in the industry don’t have bank accounts so automatic paycheck deductions are the only way we can make regular contributions,” said Shantel Walker, a Brooklyn-based Papa John’s employee, in a statement. “Under current law, our employers could allow us to make those automatic deductions, but they know we are forming a strong nonprofit by workers and for workers so they won’t do it voluntarily. We need the Council to pass a law so our voices will be heard!” As part of the package of bills, the Fair Work Week scheduling legislation would require fast-food employers to give workers two weeks’ advance notice on their schedule or pay a penalty for changes to their schedule with less than two weeks’ notice, and it would require employers to offer shifts in the store that become available to part-time workers before hiring new workers to fill them. The bill would also discourage the practice of workers starting the opening shift after working the closing shift the night before. “We stand with fast-food workers in their fight to form their own nonprofit organization,” said 32BJ President Hector Figueroa in a statement. “They need to be able to come together in an organization that will help them fight for and enforce the changes they are winning for themselves and their families and helps them lift up their communities. When we pass this scheduling legislation, they want to have an organization that will help them ensure their employers follow the law.” In other news, 32BJ announced their endorsements for New York City Council and for New York State special elections. For City Council districts 2, 4 and 8 in Manhattan, the union endorsed Carlina Rivera, Keith Powers and Diana Ayala, respectively. For City Council districts 12 and 13 in The Bronx and 23 in Queens, 32BJ endorsed incumbent Andy King, Mark Gjonaj and Barry Grodenchik. In Brooklyn City Council districts 43 and 44, the union endorsed Justin Brannan and David Greenfield. “It is more important than ever to have local leaders who will stand up for working people. Our city and our state must focus on protecting the most vulnerable among us,” stated Figueroa. “These candidates have a history of standing up for working people, immigrant rights, good public education, affordable housing, criminal justice, police reform and other issues that are important to our members and their families. That’s why our members decided to endorse them.” source