Sunday, January 14, 2018

Lawsuit Challenging Alabama's Voter ID Law Is Dismissed

A federal judge has tossed out a lawsuit challenging Alabama's voter ID law that requires people to show government-issued photo identification at the polls.

The Alabama lawsuit was one of the latest battles in the U.S. between voting rights advocates, who say the measures are aimed at suppressing voter turnout, and conservative states that argue the protections are needed to ensure honest elections.

U.S. District Judge L. Scott Coogler on Wednesday ruled in favor of the state, saying the provision does not discriminate against minorities and is not an undue infringement on the right to vote since the state makes free IDs available for voting purposes.

Since 2014, Alabama has required voters to show government-issued photo identification when they vote. The Alabama State Conference of the NAACP, Greater Birmingham Ministries and minority voters had sued over the law in 2015, calling it discriminatory and an infringement on voting rights. They contended Alabama politicians knew when they enacted it that black and Latino voters "disproportionately lack the required photo ID."

Coogler ruled in favor of the state, noting that the state makes free IDs available to people who lack them.

"In Alabama, the law has no discriminatory impact because it does not prevent anyone from voting, not when free IDs are issued in every county, or at home, under conditions that any registered voter can meet," Coogler wrote.

Sherrilyn Ifill is president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Funds, which represented plaintiffs in the case. She said the organization is considering its next steps.

"We are deeply disappointed by the judge's ruling dismissing our case before trial. Over the course of two years, we have developed a sound case demonstrating that Alabama's voter ID law is racially discriminatory," Ifill said in a statement.

State lawmakers approved the photo ID law in 2011 not long after the GOP took control of the legislature. They argued the measure was needed to combat potential voter fraud.

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall praised the decision, saying the state's voter ID law was one of the "broadest in the nation" because of the mechanisms for obtaining a free ID.

"Today's decision to dismiss the lawsuit is without a doubt the right decision," Marshall said in a statement.

Coogler said the state has issued 13,442 free voter photo IDs, including some through a mobile unit that travels to different locations. He noted the case of Elizabeth Ware, a 60-year-old African-American woman in Mobile County, whose state ID was stolen in 2014. She tried to get a free voter ID but was turned away by workers saying she was not eligible to obtain one since she previously had a state ID. After her deposition in the lawsuit, Secretary of State John Merrill sent a mobile unit to her home in south Alabama to make the photo ID.

Texas officials last month asked a federal appellate court to let a re-worked version of that state's voter ID law proceed, after years of court fights, because it allows people without acceptable photo ID to vote by signing an affidavit stating they cannot reasonably obtain one.


Steven Pinker: Here’s how political correctness winds up creating its own antagonists

Harvard psychology professor Steven Pinker makes the case that political correctness actually winds up creating its own antagonists as curious students discover certain unspeakable truths have been hidden from them.

SEE ALSO: Today’s hot topics: Pork-barrel revival, Wal-Mart tax-cut dividends, and In Search of Liberty!

Pinker doesn’t offer any precise definitions of political correctness here but it’s clear what he means, i.e. left-wing efforts to silence opponents and censor discussion of certain uncomfortable topics. He offers a number of examples of what he means.

“So here is a fact that is going to sound reasonably controversial but it is not and that is that capitalist societies are better than communist ones,” Pinker states before an audience of Harvard students.

He continues, “If you doubt it well then just ask yourself the question ‘Would I rather live in South Korea or North Korea?’, ‘Would I rather live in West Germany in the 1970s or East Germany…I submit that this is actually not a controversial statement but on university campuses, it is considered flamingly radical.”

Pinker goes on to offer several more statements: That men and women differ in their tastes and interest. That different ethnic groups commit violent crime at different rates. Finally, that the majority of suicide-terror acts worldwide are committed by Muslim extremists. And this brings Pinker to his central point.

“Now if you’ve never heard these facts before and you stumble across them or someone mentions them, it is possible to come to some extreme conclusions,” he says, adding, “That women are inferior, that African-Americans are naturally violent, that we all ought to be anarcho-capitalists and do away with all regulation and social safety nets.”

Pinker’s point is that there are arguments against each of these conclusions, for instance: All modern capitalist systems have significant social safety nets, including (he says) some with the highest levels of economic freedom.

There are plenty of details one could argue with here. For instance, it’s not necessary to go all the way to fringe anarcho-capitalism in order to argue that a particular piece of regulation poses an unnecessary burden on private interests. It’s also not necessary to take from the high rate of black violent crime that violence is in some way innate or natural to certain races (as opposed to culturally influenced).

Still, it’s an interesting argument that efforts to make certain topics verboten wind up creating a kind of intellectual black market where the potential for reaching more extreme conclusions is heightened unnecessarily. Instead, Pinker suggests it would be better to be able to acknowledge these facts and then discuss them openly. I think he’s on to something there but I doubt he’s going to convince those on the far left who have embraced “no-platforming” their opponents. Shouting people down is more emotionally satisfying than having a discussion in which neither side can claim a clear win.


Trump administration to delay Obama rule combating housing segregation

The Trump administration is delaying an Obama-era rule that bolstered enforcement of the Fair Housing Act, a decades-old law intended to combat segregation in neighborhoods across the country. While the delay doesn’t eliminate the rule entirely, housing advocates say it indicates, at the very least, an attempt by federal officials to weaken hard-fought housing protections.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is planning to push back the deadline for cities to analyze and address issues of segregation and improve conditions for people of color by several years, to October 2020, according to a HUD memo obtained by ThinkProgress and set for release on Friday.

“At a minimum this is a precursor to significantly watering down the assessment tool which is a template that jurisdictions use to complete their assessment of fair housing,” said Thomas Silverstein, counsel in the Fair Housing & Community Development Project at the Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights Under Laws. “This is such a significant delay.”

Some communities seeking HUD grant funding have been required to complete comprehensive neighborhood segregation analyses required in the Obama-era rules since October 2016. Deadlines for cities and towns to complete those analyses have been rolling out since on a staggered basis, depending on the date of the grant they were seeking.

With a number of assessments due starting this April, cities and towns will not have to abide by the Obama-era rule when completing their analyses until 2020.

The agency’s current disdain for neighborhood desegregation policies reflects comments HUD Secretary Ben Carson has made in the past. Carson characterized the Fair Housing Act of 1968 and other government-led attempts to integrate neighborhoods, including the Obama-era rule that was introduced in 2015, as a failed “social experiment.”

“These government-engineered attempts to legislate racial equality create consequences that often make matters worse,” Carson wrote in a Washington Times op-ed in 2015. “There are reasonable ways to use housing policy to enhance the opportunities available to lower-income citizens, but based on the history of failed socialist experiments in this country, entrusting the government to get it right can prove downright dangerous.”

The Fair Housing Act was created with the intent of unraveling decades of racial segregation in neighborhoods across the country and banning housing discrimination. It eventually led to the passage of the Housing and Community Development Act in 1974, which increased federal funding for the revitalization of cities, subsidized housing for the poor, and improved housing options available to black Americans.

Following the passage of the Fair Housing Act, HUD required communities seeking federal funds to promise the agency they were actively working to desegregate housing. But that was only enforced for a couple of years in a handful of places, before President Richard Nixon stepped in and replaced the department’s secretary who was leading the enforcement.

Such standards became law in 1974. Still, despite the fact that the American housing market remains segregated, HUD seldomly enforced it, according Silverstein.

Under the Fair Housing Act, communities are required to send HUD an analysis that describes the hurdles residents of color face and what actions local officials are taking to combat segregation. But local leaders often sent in largely inaccurate data, while HUD neglected to verify whether the information was correct.

The Obama administration gave HUD officials more power in 2015 by allowing the agency to withhold money from communities not abiding by the Fair Housing Act and working to break down segregated neighborhoods by creating the so-called Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Act.

The rule created more structure, clarity, and guidance for grant-seeking cities and towns undertaking their analyses, complete with more data and robust community engagement, according to Silverstein. The analysis requires communities to identify racially- or ethnically-concentrated areas of poverty and disparities in access to opportunity and housing. It also requires communities to show the factors contributing to the segregation and create a plan to address those problems, he said.

A number of cities have already gone through the analysis process and implemented policy changes as a result, including New Orleans — which passed new inclusionary housing standards, and the Philadelphia Housing Authority— which adopted small area fair market rents for the housing choice voucher program, previously known as Section 8.

Silverstein fears the Trump administration’s delay will impact HUD’s monitoring of the analyses, which improved after the implementation of the rule, prompting cities to once again, do a less thorough job obtaining accurate segregation data. It could also disincentivize key community stakeholders from sparking robust conversations and gathering accurate information for the analysis  since the delay shows the Obama rule may be on its last leg, he said.


Thug British social welfare workers again

Authoritarian British officials don't listen.  They just KNOW what is right

For any devoted mother with a baby who suffers from colic, it’s a familiar ritual. After every feed, Gina Hodgkins would sit her newborn son Teddy on her lap to rub his back and release any trapped wind causing him discomfort.

She supported his floppy head by gripping him under his chin, with her finger and thumb resting on his cheeks.

So far, so normal. But what happened to Gina, Teddy, his dad and big sister as a result of this entirely innocent routine will strike horror into the hearts of parents everywhere.

Gina’s sturdy grip left marks on Teddy’s cheeks which were exacerbated by an underlying genetic condition few people have heard of. It resulted in two small bruises on his cheeks, which had Gina, and Teddy’s dad Joshua, labelled as abusive parents.

After they were reported by a health visitor, seven police officers arrived at the door to forcibly remove the sleeping baby from his mother’s frantic grasp. Both Teddy and his sister Amelia, then six, were taken into emergency foster care. It took another five months for their innocence to be proved.

And, as we will hear, Gina’s story is unlikely to be an isolated case. Every year, scores of parents have their babies taken away from them after being accused of shaking them so violently that they are left with bruising, broken bones and bleeding on the brain.

Some are convicted of the crimes and jailed. But evidence is emerging that some of these children are not mistreated.

They might, like Teddy, have been born with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS), a gene mutation that affects the body’s connective tissue, making it fragile and stretchy. One of the symptoms is that the skin bruises more easily. It is known as an ‘invisible disability’ and affects up to one in 5,000 babies.

Campaigners increasingly believe that EDS may account for some of the estimated 250 court cases involving shaken baby syndrome every year in Britain, according to doctors who specialise in child abuse.

It’s a difficult line to tread. If the police and health and social work professionals don’t investigate bruising and injuries in children, it could end in tragedy. Few can forget the terrible case of toddler Peter Connelly, known as Baby P, who died in 2007 at the hands of his mother, her abusive boyfriend and his brother.

Yet the other side of the story could be the unimaginable horror of innocent children being unjustly removed from their families.

Gina, 25, and her partner Joshua Sparkes, 22, an online retail worker, fear they will never recover from those ‘lost’ five months. Gina says: ‘My son and daughter were taken away from me when I did nothing wrong. I lost five months’ bonding during a formative time in their lives. I can never get that back.’

The couple met and fell in love more than two years ago and moved to Leatherhead, Surrey, with Gina’s daughter Amelia from a previous relationship. They were both excited when Gina discovered she was pregnant with a baby boy. ‘We painted Amelia’s room yellow and decorated one side with his name, Teddy, just for him,’ says Gina.

The birth at Epsom General Hospital, on July 9, 2016, with both Joshua and her mother Pauline in attendance, was quick and easy, and Teddy arrived a healthy 7 lb 8 oz.

Nevertheless, Gina suspected something wasn’t quite right: ‘When my mum took him for a cuddle, she said he looked a bit bruised. There were marks on his arms as well.

‘The nurse reassured me it was normal, and was a result of him getting a bit squashed during delivery. But it hadn’t been a forceps birth, so I was surprised.’

Back home, over the next few weeks, most of the marks faded. But there were two that never went — bruises on the lower part of both his cheeks. ‘I was taking him to be weighed at six weeks old and the health visitor asked if I had any concerns. I showed her the bruises and she said: “Yes, I was about to ask you what they were.” ’

And so the nightmare began. The health visitor went to make some calls, then said she’d contacted social services and the police. Gina was told to go home and wait. Frightened — but knowing she’d done nothing wrong — Gina did as she was told. Joshua came from work and met her at home.

An hour later, two social workers and seven plain-clothed police officers were at the door. ‘When they arrived, I was on the sofa with Teddy on me, asleep. The female officer asked me to turn him round, so she could see him. As soon as she saw his face, she told me she was arresting me on suspicion of ABH.

‘Joshua got upset and tried to intervene. I was hugging Teddy to my chest as they were coming closer. I didn’t want to let go of him, but when they told me they had arrested me and I had to come with them, I agreed to strap him into his car seat. They said if I came nicely, they wouldn’t handcuff me.

Teddy was handed to a social worker and taken to Epsom General Hospital for further examination. Bruises on his legs and wrists were taken as possible ‘evidence’ of ‘abuse’. Joshua, who’d accompanied his son to the hospital, tried to explain how the baby had always seemed to bruise easily. He said: ‘I told them Teddy was born with red marks covering his limbs and that he had a bleed on the eye when he was born — another symptom of easy bruising — but they didn’t listen.’

An hour later, Joshua was arrested on suspicion of assaulting his baby. ‘They put me in handcuffs in the hospital and walked me out through A&E. It was horrible. People were staring at me. In the police car back to the station, I was shaking with anger and shock.’

Joshua and Gina were released at 3am, by which time Teddy and Amelia were in foster care, seven miles away in Reigate. Joshua says: ‘We just started crying and hugging. We hoped we’d wake up in the morning and be told it was a mistake.’

Strict bail conditions meant that, for the first fortnight, Gina and Joshua were banned not only from seeing Teddy and Amelia, but also being near any child under 16, including their nephews and nieces.

After that, they were allowed to see the children once a week for an hour, under strict supervision.

‘It was awful,’ says Gina. ‘We didn’t want to cry in front of the children, but when they left, we blubbed our eyes out. I was always worried Teddy wouldn’t recognise me the next time he saw me, and Amelia would kick and scream when it was time to go.’

Teddy was then placed in the care of a relative, Gina’s sister, Alex, who lived a mile from their house, after lawyers made representations for an interim supervision order. At this point, Amelia was allowed home, having spent five weeks in care. But the loss of her children, and the fear she would lose them for ever if they were found guilty, took its toll.

Every night when Gina went to sleep, she looked at Teddy’s empty cot and wondered if he’d ever come home. Joshua had no choice but to return to work, but worried about leaving Gina alone: ‘There were a couple of times I had to ask her mum to come round and calm her down because she had become hysterical.

‘She would say: “I can’t do this any more. I can’t live without my children.” She’d recently given birth and now her baby had been wrenched away from her.

‘Trying to explain to Amelia why she couldn’t come home was very hard. We just said the authorities had to find out where Teddy’s bruises came from and when they found out, she’d be able to come home.’

Yet Gina might never have got her children back if it were not for her mother, Pauline, reminding them there was a family history of bruising, which had led to other family members being diagnosed with EDS. Pauline remembered how Gina and her three siblings also bruised easily — so much so that they had blood tests and were found to have the condition.

Symptoms can vary and, in their cases, it manifested more as joints that easily dislocated, weak teeth and poor blood clotting.

However, because it was genetic, she reminded them that Teddy could also carry it. The family passed the information on to their lawyers.

Yet, frustratingly, they had to wait for the first court hearing three weeks later in September 2016 to persuade the judge to let them present the new piece of information and get genetic tests done on their son.

Joshua observed that no one in the hearing seemed to have heard of EDS — and says he saw some of the professionals in the case Googling it.

Finally, on Christmas Eve, four months after Teddy had been taken into care, the genetic report came through. A Harley Street doctor confirmed that both Teddy and Gina were likely to carry the EDS gene.

All the couple could think of was getting their baby back. It would take another four weeks for Surrey County Council social services to drop the case against them.

Finally, Dr Kathryn Ward, a consultant paediatrician at Airedale General Hospital, concluded that ‘the most plausible explanation’ for Teddy’s bruising was that Gina had gripped his face during winding. His EDS gave him ‘an increased predisposition to bruising’, she wrote.

In the final hearing on January 25, social services dropped the case. Finally, five months after they were taken away, Gina and Joshua got their family back.

Yet the question still remains how many other parents have had their baby wrongly taken away from them for similar reasons.

EDS affects around one in 5,000 people worldwide, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Research published earlier this year found that in 93 per cent of cases where abuse was alleged after infants broke bones, there was EDS in the family. Most accused parents were not aware they had it, according to the study in the Journal of Dermato-Endocrinology.

William Bache, a lawyer who specialises in defending parents accused of physical abuse, but who did not represent Joshua and Gina, believes the couple’s case may be the tip of the iceberg.

Mr Bache thinks EDS could offer another explanation for what is known as ‘the triad’ of symptoms that many experts believe all but proves an infant has been forcibly shaken for a prolonged period: brain bleeds, retinal bleeding and brain swelling.

‘Yet the medical profession leads the charge of the ignorant on this because, as soon as they see what they consider to be evidence of the triad, they condemn everybody and stop looking,’ he says.

When she finally got Teddy home, Gina said the only apology she received was from the judge.

Teddy is now 18 months old and thriving, although for his parents, the memories are still very raw.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the  incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of  other countries.  The only real difference, however, is how much power they have.  In America, their power is limited by democracy.  To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already  very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges.  They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did:  None.  So look to the colleges to see  what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way.  It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH,   EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and  DISSECTING LEFTISM.   My Home Pages are here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  Email me (John Ray) here


No comments: