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Guardian: Six Ways Trump is Dismantling America

From The Guardian

by and 

Business and the economy

Given all that Donald Trump promised the business world during his bombastic campaign it’s tempting to dismiss the president’s first six months with a “meh”. It would also be myopic.

While protesters are worried about the future, the president has so far failed to pass his tax reforms, which business wanted. But at the same time fears that his China rhetoric, threats of trade wars and Tweets about penalties for US businesses who ship jobs overseas, have not amounted to much. 

The economic trends started under Obama have continued: stock markets have continued their giddy ride to uncharted highs, unemployment has continued to drift down and interest rates have remained low. 

Trump’s overture may seem a little weak but the president has already made significant moves and still more may be happening in the wings. 

Trump has ordered a review of Dodd-Frank, the regulations brought in to tame US financial institutions after they triggered the worst recession in living memory. He has appointed a sworn enemy of net neutrality over at the Federal Communications Commission who is now working to dismantle Obama-era open internet protections. He has freed up energy firms to start polluting rivers again and scrapped a rule which barred companies from receiving federal contracts if they had a history of violating wage, labour or safety laws. 

After years of gains for consumer, environmental and worker rights groups, the pendulum is being swung the other way – but most often those changes are happening behind closed doors. 

In March, Trump pledged to “remove every job-killing regulation we can find” and deregulation teams have been set up to comb through the statutes looking for rules to cull. A recent ProPublica and New York Times investigation found Trump’s deregulation teams were being conducted in the dark in large part by appointees with deep industry ties and potential conflicts of interest.

It’s hardly surprising given that the Trump administration has literallyremoved the White House visitors book, so we may never know who has been whispering in the president’s ear. Six months in, it is hard to tell what is being cut and by whom. We may never know the consequences of Trump’s regulation death squads until it’s too late.  

The environment 

In the past week, both Emmanuel Macron and Sir Richard Branson have claimed that Donald Trump has been gripped by regret over his decision to withdraw the US from the Paris climate agreement. But hopes that the US president will reverse this decision sit uneasily with the consistency of his administration’s environmental rollbacks.

In Scott Pruitt, Trump has an Environmental Protection Agency chief who understands how the agency works and how to hobble it. Pruitt, who has dismissed the mainstream scientific understanding of climate change, has spearheaded a concerted effort to excise or delay dozens of environmental rules.

Emissions standards for cars and trucks, the clean power plan, water pollution restrictions, a proposed ban on a pesticide linked to developmental problems in children, regulations that stop power plants dumping toxins such as mercury into their surrounds – all have been targeted with efficacious zeal by Pruitt.

The EPA administrator was also a fierce proponent of a US exit from the Paris accord, ensuring that Trump wasn’t swayed by doubts raised by Rex Tillerson, the secretary of state, and Ivanka Trump, his daughter and adviser. The US won’t be able to officially pull out until 2020, but the decision has dealt a hefty blow to the effort to slow dangerous global warming and provided a tangible victory for the nationalist, climate change denying elements that now roam the White House.

Elsewhere, public land has been thrown open to coal mining – an industry repeatedly fetishized by Trump – and oil and gas drilling is being ushered into America’s Arctic and Atlantic waters. Two dozen national monuments are under review, several may be shrunk or even eliminated.

Trump is delivering on his crusade to transport the environmental and industrial outlook of the late 19th century to the modern day. Composite: AP, Getty Images & Rex Features

In less than six months, Trump has begun to tear up almost all of the key planks of Barack Obama’s environmental agenda. This blitzkrieg is likely to slow now that it faces a thicket of legal action launched by enraged environmental groups and some states, such as New York. But to Trump’s supporters, the president, who pledged during the campaign to reduce the EPA to “tidbits”, is delivering on his crusade to transport the environmental and industrial outlook of the late 19thcentury to the modern day. Oliver Milman


Donald Trump’s bluster over his harsh immigration reform – namely the implementation of a diluted Muslim-targeted travel ban and a crackdown on undocumented immigrants – belies the cost these self-proclaimed victories have had on both the fundamental institutions of democracy and the most vulnerable communities in the United States.

Take the travel ban, which targets refugees and visa applicants from six Muslim majority countries. The president’s first failed order, haphazardly issued in January, provoked scenes of chaos at airports around the country – temporarily separating familiescancelling legitimately issued visas and propelling the country towards a constitutional crisis, before a series of federal courts intervened to block it.

After his second attempt in March was blocked again in the lower courts, the president, seemingly without care for due process or respect for the co-equal branches of government, threatened to simply abolish the federal appeals court he incorrectly identified as responsible for the decision.

Trump’s bullish perseverance on the ban, which has left many in Muslim and refugee communities around the US living in fear, has resulted in a temporary ruling in the supreme court that allows a much diluted version of the order to come into effect. Although the president heralded the decision a victory, the ultimate test comes in autumn when the country’s highest court will ultimately rule on the ban’s constitutionality.

The president has also moved quickly to supercharge efforts to round up and deport undocumented immigrants. By empowering Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice), the federal agency responsible deportations, to target essentially anyone in the country without legal paperwork, the number of immigration arrests has soared. Although the administration has celebrated this uptick, it has actually been able to deport people at a much slower rate due to the crippling backlog inside America’s immigration courts.

Trump’s attempt at a solution to this has been to create a network of new courts, attached to remote detention centers and far from the reach of immigration attorneys. The strategy, plagued with due process concerns, has enjoyed mixed success. But, once again, it is those most vulnerable – many of whom have lived in America without paperwork for decades and have no criminal history – who have paid the highest price. 


First, the good news. Donald Trump has not started a war. He has therefore, so far, avoided the worst case scenario that some predicted for his presidency. One eighth of the way through his term, he does not yet have a stain on his record like George W Bush has with Iraq. Instead his Twitter spats with cable TV hosts and their indulgence by the media are a luxury of peacetime.


But in other, important ways, the US president has set about diminishing America’s global leadership role and diplomatic standing. He has emphasised the defence of America and western civilisation and downplayed democracy and human rights. He has warmed to authoritarian leaders in China, the Philippines,Russia and Saudi Arabia while going cold on Britain (still no visit), the European Union and Australia. His attacks on the press send an alarming message to dictators everywhere.

The world has noticed. A major survey of 37 countries by Pew Research last month found that just 22% of respondents had some or a great deal of confidence in Trump to do the right thing when it comes to international affairs. After his performance at Nato and G7 meetings, German chancellor Angela Merkel said pointedly: “The times in which we could completely depend on others are, to a certain extent, over. I’ve experienced that in the last few days. We Europeans truly have to take our fate into our own hands.” At the G-20, he cut a lonely, isolated figure.


This damage could be undone relatively quickly but the “America first” president’s proposed 30% cut to the state department, where many top staff have left and not been replaced, threatens to be a lasting legacy. Max Bergmann, a former official, wrote in Politico: “The deconstruction of the state department is well underway... This is how diplomacy dies. Not with a bang, but with a whimper. With empty offices on a midweek afternoon.”

The outlier in Trump’s foreign policy came on 6 April, when the US launched 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at an airfield in Syria in retaliation for the regime’s use of chemical weapons against civilians. It was a move welcomed by hawks and loathed by “anti-globalists” in Trump’s support base. But the most urgent issue, enough to test any US president, is North Korea. There is little evidence so far to suggest he will succeed where others have failed. David Smith

Gender and equality

Trump’s White House has wasted little time erasing many of the changes that advocates for trans rights, reproductive rights and survivors of sexual assault achieved under the Obama administration. 

The Trump team is in the middle of sharply reversing how the federal government enforces laws against gender bias. In February, the administration withdrew the Obama-era guidelines requiring schools to give transgender students unfettered access to bathrooms and locker rooms matching their gender identity. And Betsy DeVos, the education secretary, may restrict the federal government’s ability to intervene when colleges and universities do a questionable job of handling students’ complaints of sexual assault.

Trump is also attempting to dismantle the nation’s public safety net for family planning, with an assist from his party in Congress. The president has signed legislationencouraging states to withhold federal family planning dollars from Planned Parenthood. The latest version of Republican’s attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act would eliminate the birth control mandate – which is also under fire from Trump’s health department – not to mention maternity coverage requirements

Every repeal attempt has contained a measure to block women on Medicaid from using their insurance at Planned Parenthood – measures that would shutter scores of Planned Parenthood clinics across the country. And the administration is poised to give the green light to states, like Texas, that axe Planned Parenthood from their Medicaid programs.

The White House also has aims to zero out funding for the government-funded Legal Services Corporation, which is the main source of legal assistance for women attempting to escape domestic violence, when Congress passes a budget this fall.

Finally, there’s US supreme court justice Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s pick to replace the late Antonin Scalia, who observers say “has all the makings of an extreme anti-abortion justice”. Trump named Gorsuch eleven days into his presidency, fulfilling a longtime campaign promise to nominate justices who will vote to overturn Roe v Wade. 

Criminal justice 

Much of what the federal government can do on criminal justice is left to Congress, since most criminal justice happens at state and local, rather than federal levels. However, Trump’s administration hasn’t spared much time doing what it can to reverse a roughly decades long retreat from the peak of tough-on-crime, mass-incarceration dogma. 

So far, efforts on criminal justice have been much more sizzle than steak, but the prospect of dramatic policy change looms just around the corner. Stuffed in a suite of executive orders signed in February, Trump commissioned a taskforce to make recommendations on combating “the menace of rising crime”, which has been an enduring theme of the administration despite being debunked by experts. That taskforce, which reportedly, and curiously, does not include police chiefs or criminologists is scheduled to make its recommendations on 27 July.

“If you’re going to see anything from the Trump administration proposing new [or longer] mandatory minimums and a general return to the tough on crime tactics, I think you’ll see those recommendations made by the task force,” said Ames Grawert, a criminal justice researcher with the Brennan Center for Justice.

It remains unclear how much support there might be in Congress for taking up such recommendations. As recently as December there was real momentum behind a bipartisan bill to make sentencing less punitive, not more.

In the interim, attorney general Jeff Sessions has instructed federal prosecutors to seek the highest possible penalty in every case, and has championed initiatives to push state cases for federal prosecutors to obtain harsher sentencing. 

In another reversal from the Obama era, Sessions has also signaled that the DoJ will not use its authority to investigate or reform local police departments, even in cases where gross negligence, or rampant civil rights violations may be occurring. Sessions tried, and failed, to pause a consent decree negotiated in Baltimore after the Freddie Gray unrest, and his department has so far flaked-out of a similar effort that was slated for Chicago under the previous administration.

“We will not sign consent decrees for political expediency that will cost more lives by handcuffing the police instead of the criminals,” Sessions wrote in an April 18 op-ed in USA Today. Jamiles Lartey


Poll: Trump Still More Popular Than Hillary Clinton

by /Guardian

Donald Trump is one of the least popular politicians in the history of the United States. Yet, Trump is still more popular than Hillary Clinton. Let that sink in. According to the latest Bloomberg National Poll, Trump has a net favorability of 41% whereas Clinton has a net favorability of 39%. If Democrats are to escape the political wilderness, they will have to leave Clinton and her brand of politics in the woods.

Now, there is no doubt that Clinton has suffered sexist double standards just as Barack Obama encountered racist double standards. Trump labeled her “Crooked Hillary” and his supporters rallied around the chat “Lock her up.” Rich in hypocrisy, Trump has continued to attack Clinton for her emails even though his son has proven to have done much worse. 

Nevertheless, it would be wrong to pin all of Clinton’s unpopularity on sexism and the conspiracies of the extreme right. The Bloomberg poll demonstrates that more than one fifth of Clinton supporters say they now have an unfavorable view of her. Based on follow-up interviews with poll participants, many Clinton voters expressed that their negative feelings were not simply due to her losing but were about the Democratic party’s positioning for the future. 

Even though Clinton has blamed everyone but herself, it is clear that her campaign’s failure to galvanize voter turnout was one of the biggest reasons why Trump won. Her checkered record on progressive policies, bland centrist message and the Democrats’ presumption that Trump’s nomination sealed their victory probably did not help. 

Clinton has largely kept a low profile since the election, occasionally sending Twitter barbs in Trump’s direction. The best case scenario for Democrats is for Clinton – and her family – to stay away. The wise thing for the party to do is to abandon the failed “Third Way” centrist politics that she and her husband have come to exemplify. 

Even so, the Democratic establishment appears to not be learning any lessons. Kamala Harris, the first-term California senator rumored to be a frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020, recently mingled with top Clinton donors and supporters in the Hamptons. Apparently tying rising talent to the infrastructure of a politician less popular than Trump is the game plan for moving forward. 

Playing mostly defense against Trump and talking a lot about Russia, the Democratic establishment has struggled to develop an alternative message that Americans find attractive. According to a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll, only 37% of the country believes Democrats “stand for something.” Even the new sticker options for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee are depressingly shallow. Some of the slogans read: “Make Congress Blue Again” and “I Mean, Have You Seen The Other Guys?” 

Although the establishment comes across as unimaginative and clueless, it is not as if Democrats lack other options. Bernie Sanders has become and remains the most popular politician in the whole country. His bold and progressive populist campaign may have lost out to Clinton in the primaries, but it may reflect a more viable blueprint for the future. The question is whether Clinton loyalists will put aside their purity politics and be pragmatic enough to change the direction of the party. 

Looking across the pond, Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party provides another example to learn from. Dismissed by Blairite centrists in his own party, Corbyn not only over-performed in the general election, he rewrote British politics. 

As Matthew Yglesias argued in Vox, Corbyn’s electoral map looks a lot like Clinton’s; not only did he inspire young voters in a similar way to how Sanders did here, Corbyn ran on a bold policy agenda. In an age in which voters are characterized as irrational creatures who don’t vote because of policy, YouGovfound that the top reason supporters backed Labour was because of the party’s social democratic manifesto. 

Democrats have become a tale of two wings. If the Clintonite establishment wing comes across as hopelessly uninspiring, the Berniecrat progressive wing has appeared energetic and full of ideas. Consider the #PeoplesPlatform sponsored this week by Sanders’ Our Revolution alongside other organizations such as Democratic Socialists of America, Women’s March and Fight for 15. This platform – which Americans can sign a petition for – urges Democrats in congress to support bills such as Medicare for All, Free College Tuition, Voting Rights and Criminal Justice and Immigrant Rights. 

Certainly, Democrats might not win all of these progressive measures in congress. But fighting for these measures would not only shift the political terrain, it would attract Americans desperately looking for a positive alternative to the Republicans. 

Clinton did not provide a true alternative to the status quo. Democrats should look elsewhere for a blueprint forward and leave her politics far behind. Remaining attached to her would be political madness. The majority of Americans know it.


WP: Duke Student Says S.C. Public Schools Failing

Ehime Ohue, a student from Sumter, S.C., is attending Duke University on a full ROTC scholarship. Here, in a piece she originally wrote for her “Introduction to Human Rights” class, she writes about what she learned about her home state in her first year at college.

“Lake Marion does not prepare you for college!”

I heard this at my high school College Homecoming, an annual event where recent graduates share their college experience.

This failure does not fall solely on my alma mater, Lake Marion High.

The state of South Carolina perpetuates what’s called the “Corridor of Shame,” a string of rural school districts where students receive inferior educational opportunities.

As a rising sophomore at Duke University, I now see what the phrase means. I was educated in one of those districts from Head Start to 12th grade. I know firsthand the issues these students face.

The “Corridor of Shame” consists of 36 school districts along Interstate 95. Overall, South Carolina’s population is 48 percent minority, but students in the corridor are 88 percent minority, mostly African American. There, schools receive resources that fall below state averages.

I noticed deficiencies in many ways. My kindergarten teacher complained that she could not “do this anymore” and quit.

Other teachers lacked training and asked to be moved to non-teaching positions. It’s hard to blame them when most teachers in the corridor are paid $3,000 to $12,000 less than those in nearby districts.

High school was where I really noticed the disparities.

We didn’t have enough math teachers and barely enough working calculators. When the school added the International Baccalaureate program, the first class of students completed the program, but none were awarded the diploma. I enrolled the second year the program was offered, and our math teacher was still undergoing training. When he announced he would not be returning, training had to start again for another teacher.

Two AP classes were announced my senior year, but were scheduled at the same time. We were considered a technology center, but our computers were always down. Many of my peers ended up dropping out or flunking out of college.

And my school is considered one of the best in the region.

As a freshman at Duke University, I feel the effects of the “Corridor of Shame” every day.

Sometimes, it is hard for me to understand material my peers clearly find familiar. Often, I feel inferior. I never agree with other students who say, “Everything we are going over now we basically learned in high school.”

What hurts worse is that most students like me will never attend a school as prestigious as Duke. Some may not get accepted, but others may not even apply, including those who lack confidence because they know they’ve missed out on opportunities and resources.

What can be done to change this shameful situation? It must start with equitable funding across all schools in the state, regardless of income of local districts. Equitable funding would provide more resources, including increased teacher support, early reading and pre-K programs and equipment like functioning calculators and computers.

Efforts are underway to bring about such change: The corridor’s school districts successfully sued the state of South Carolina seeking equitable funding.

Despite victories in court, though, change has been slow to reach the schools themselves.

Businesses also need to invest in schools, since these kids will be the future workers they need. Students who graduate also need support in college. In addition, South Carolina’s public universities should consider waiving tuition for students who succeed in graduating from these schools.

I love my state. Until there is no longer a “Corridor of Shame,” though, I will never be able to think about it without remembering my peers’ lost potential. We don’t need to have those who follow me face the same obstacles I faced on the path to higher education.


Washington Post: Senate's Secret Unusual Even in Washington

By Sarah Binder for The Washington Post

Directed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), a dozen or so Republican senators have spent weeks behind closed doors crafting a bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Republicans have not held any committee hearings or legislative drafting sessions for the bill, and Democrats are shut out. Even some Republicans complain they’re in the dark about their own party’s bill.

Dealmaking behind closed doors is common in the contemporary Congress. Still, the GOP’s extreme secrecy in hammering out a health-care deal strikes me as different in both degree and kind from past practice. Is this a legitimate approach, and can it succeed?

Why party leaders like secrecy

A generation ago, even before Watergate, Congress and the president enacted a number of “sunshine” reforms so citizens could follow the legislative process far more easily. In particular, Congress in 1970 put in new rules that made it harder for committee chairs to close hearings to the public, put individual lawmakers’ votes on the record immediately for public review and generally adopted more transparent procedures.

But since then, rising ideological and partisan conflict has pushed congressional leaders back toward opacity. Especially in the House, as political scientist James Curry shows in “Legislating in the Dark,” majority party leaders often limit lawmakers’ access to information on the majority’s high-priority measures, such as the economic stimulus bill adopted in 2009 in the immediate wake of the financial crisis. More and more, House leaders have been releasing bills right before they’re called up on the floor to defang opponents and limit defections from their own party. Limiting transparency with procedural sleight of hand, Curry shows, increases the party’s chances of success.

Even on bipartisan measures, House and Senate leaders prefer to manage all the bargaining behind closed doors. With no ideological sweet spot linking the parties, successful deals — such as the bipartisan budget deals in 2013 and 2015 — require “win-win” bargains: Each party gets its top priority and, in exchange, allows the other party to get its top priority. But negotiating win-win deals requires secrecy. If information leaks out about the less popular parts of a deal before the various constituencies hear about the parts they want, the entire negotiation can blow up. Closing the doors lets negotiators knit together an entire agreement before shaking hands. As the negotiators’ adage goes, “Nothing is agreed to until everything is agreed to.”

So what’s different about McConnell’s ploy?

Still, McConnell’s tactics on health care stand out from other secret dealmaking.

First, most closed-door bargaining in the Senate is bipartisan. True, Republicans are trying to repeal the ACA under special budget rules that eliminate the need for Democratic votes. Even so, it is highly unusual for the majority party’s senators to be kept in the dark on a top party priority. Even if House leaders often limit information on pending measures, McConnell’s tactics are far out of the norm for the upper chamber.

Second, when leaders close the doors, it’s often because the legislative process has ground to a halt. For example, negotiations over federal discretionary spending often take place in secret — but only after the annual appropriations process falters. But on health care, Senate Republicans went straight to closed-door negotiations among their own factions, without even trying to move the House bill — or their own alternative — through the usual public drafting and amending sessions in committee.

Third, McConnell’s tactics are particularly unusual because Republicans are trying to legislate on one of the nation’s most complicated policy issues. Health care affects one-sixth of the economy and may have life-or-death consequences for many Americans on Obamacare. Usually, issues that demand secret negotiations are must-pass measures about to hit a nonnegotiable deadline, such as failing to raise the debt ceiling or to fund the government on time. When the stakes are high and the consequences of failure broadly considered unacceptable, hiding negotiations from the public is usually easier to justify.

Fourth, it’s true that senators have in the past often resorted to small, bipartisan groups (such as the Gang of Six that struggled over health care in 2009 and the Gang of Eight that struck an immigration deal in 2013) working in secret on controversial policy matters. Even so, bipartisan deals that emerge from these “gangs” are usually then defended in public in committee and on the floor — and McConnell has said he won’t do that in this case.

Will McConnell back down?

McConnell holds his cards very close to his vest. But at this stage, he seems unlikely to back down under public pressure to open up the legislative process.

First, given the extreme unpopularity of the bill that the House passed, sunshine can only hurt GOP efforts to deliver on their promise to their base to repeal and replace Obamacare. A Senate deal could have fewer rough edges than the House bill, but it is still likely to be deeply unpopular.

Second, no matter how intense public or Democratic pressure might be, McConnell doesn’t have to worry about objections from anyone other than fellow Senate Republicans. McConnell can pass any bill so long as he has 50 Republican votes — meaning he can afford to lose no more than two of 52 Republican senators. And so the only thing that can influence him are GOP threats to withhold votes.

Third, keeping a tight lid on negotiations limits interference from President Trump, who reportedly called the House health-care bill — which he himself celebrated in the Rose Garden — “mean.” Less interference gives McConnell a better shot at crafting a bill that’s likely to pass. And for Republicans, that’s what it’s all about.



Trump Cuts Would Undercut Teacher Support, Training

By Julia Mikuta, Via the74

It’s no secret that traditional teacher training and “professional development” can feel far removed from the real world of the classroom. That’s daunting to many who might enter the profession, frustrating to many already there — and ultimately hurtful to students.

So when Louisiana announced that every new teacher in the state would receive a full year of “residency-based” training, modeled on how doctors learn their craft, the question the rest of the country should have asked is, “How do we make that happen here?”

Unfortunately, the Trump administration is moving in precisely the opposite direction, with a plan to zero out the funding for innovations like Louisiana’s. The administration’s budget proposal — which includes the largest cuts to federal education funding in memory — would undercut an essential means by which innovations in teacher training and support are developed and spread.  

Louisiana’s plans for residencies rely on long-term funding from Title II of the Every Student Succeeds Act, which Congress passed in 2015 to replace the No Child Left Behind Act in a rare moment of deep bipartisan accord. Yet Trump has proposed to ax Title II entirely in his budget for 2018. If the effort to quash Title II succeeds, it will squander some of the country’s most promising opportunities to strengthen teaching.

Some of these new models of professional development are being led by school districts where student achievement has been on the rise. DC Public Schools in Washington, for example, recently overhauled its teacher training. 

Instead of large group workshops, teachers meet weekly in teams to master the lessons they need to understand in order to teach students well. The DCPS teachers grapple with complex content — like working to understand what it means to multiply or divide fractions, going much deeper than just plugging numbers into an algorithm — and then practice their lessons with each other. 

By the time they teach students, they have received feedback from peers and have tested out responses to common misunderstandings. As DCPS — like many other districts — is seeking greater value out of the money spent on professional development, it has contracted with the University of Virginia to conduct research on this approach, which district officials will continue only if it improves teaching and learning.

In addition to derailing such fresh approaches to teacher preparation and support, the administration’s proposed cuts would gut promising partnerships between school districts and partners with track records of providing professional development that results in better student outcomes.

For example, the New Teacher Center, in its work with districts around the country, not only improves student learning; its support of new teachers has been shown to improve teacher retention — addressing another critical need in this time of a growing teacher shortage.

Supporting principals is just as essential to creating great schools. New Leader stakes on that challenge in partnership with districts, and its training of school leaders results in gains measured in multiple months of additional learning. Title II support is make-or-break for continuing and expanding such work.

 Concerns about the education budget run far wider than Title II; it’s a mistake broadly to believe we’ll put “America first” by slashing our investment in our children’s future 

And it’s a particular mistake to dismantle federal supports for improving teaching and school leadership – though perhaps a predictable one.

Why predictable? Because Title II has long been a fund for which budget hawks have harbored evidence-based hatred. In the past, states and districts have directed much of the funding toward low-leverage in-service professional development activities. Perhaps not surprisingly, researchers report that the impact of the funds on professional practice and student learning has been “mixed [and] mostly disappointing.” 

If this were 2015, that critique would be pertinent. But much has changed since then. The biggest difference is the new law underlying the funding, which took into account that critique. ESSA responds by encouraging states and districts to think smarter and deeper about what development of teachers and principals might look like – in keeping with the strongest practices of excellent schools and of other professions. Indeed, the law lays out a wide and enticing list of ways the funds can be used to make teaching more appealing and effective.

What that freedom makes possible, crucially, is a runway for desperately needed innovation. After a decade of working to provide philanthropic support for new thinking, I can say with confidence that Title II is essential to taking good ideas about teacher and principal preparation and support to meaningful scale.

And the timing is crucial: Numerous state ESSA plans are reflecting changes in the reach of more thoughtful, more individualized approaches to developing talent in the field. These new efforts represent the best hope in a generation for fresh, newly effective approaches that draw on what’s been learned inside and outside the education field.

Cracking the nut of helping professionals get better faster is simply essential in education. Schools, fundamentally, boil down to what happens among students and the adults who instruct, guide, lead, and care for them. So much of the quality of education depends upon the skills teachers and principals have, and how long it takes for them to develop those skills. Title II is crucial to any meaningful national vision for improvement — an effort with the twin benefits of serving students better and making the teaching profession more attractive. 

Every day, the world our children will inhabit grows more complex, interconnected, and dynamic. Every day, we raise the stakes on what it means to be prepared to succeed. And that means we’re raising the bar on what we ask of the professionals in our schools.

This is not the time to scrap plans to support them better — it’s a time to make good on our promises and spread smart new ideas. At this moment of exceptional promise, let’s invest wisely. 

Julie Mikuta is senior director of education at the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation. The foundation has made grants to New Leaders, New Teacher Center, the Louisiana Department of Education, and the District of Columbia Public Schools.


10 Ways to Ruin Easter for Your Family and Friends




1. Refuse to let your kids participate in the "pagan" practice of collecting dyed Easter eggs. Instead lecture them on the dangers of syncretism.

2. While you're driving to church flip off the driver who cuts you off and then watch in horror as he pulls into the same church parking lot as you.

3. Gather the family together for a meal but feast on criticism over __________ (politics, family members, the church service, etc) instead of gratefulness for the resurrection.

4. Leave your chocolate Easter bunny in the sun.

5. Forget to share the Gospel with someone who hasn't yet experienced the power of the resurrected Christ.

6. Choke on a peep.

7. Let your kids participate in an Easter egg hunt but ONLY use hard boiled eggs. Then collect all the eggs from their baskets and make deviled-egg hors d'oeuvres.

8. Make Easter about you, your family and traditions instead of Jesus, his death and resurrection.

9. Make eating "bunny stew" part of your Easter tradition.

10. Forget to pause and praise God for sending his Son to die for our sins and rise victoriously from the dead.

Special to Christian Post

Greg Stier is the Founder and President of Dare 2 Share Ministries International. He has impacted the lives of tens of thousands of Christian teenagers through Dare 2 Share events, motivating and mobilizing them to reach their generation for Christ. He is the author of eleven books and numerous resources, including Dare 2 Share: A Field Guide for Sharing Your Faith. For more information on Dare 2 Share and their upcoming conference tour and training resources, please visit


MLK Jr. Riverside Speech Still Resonates Today

Note: MLK Jr., was assasignated April 4, 1969. This column by Peniel Joseph, remembers a speech that connected the civil rights struggle with global efforts for peach and human rights. 

Fifty years ago this week, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. gave the most important speech of his life at the Riverside Church in New York, denouncing the Vietnam War and connecting the American civil rights struggle with a larger, global movement for peace and human rights. Forty-nine years ago this week, King was shot dead in Memphis, Tennessee.

King's assertion that the United States was the "world's greatest purveyor of violence" threw down a political gauntlet that would frame the revolutionary path he would follow during the last year of his life. "The world now demands a maturity of America that we may not be able to achieve," King told a packed audience in Riverside's pews.

At first blush it may seem counterintuitive to elevate this speech above the watershed "I Have a Dream" speech delivered four years earlier, or the "Mountaintop" speech he would give on the eve of his death. But if King's address at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom made him into an American icon, his Riverside Church speech announced him as a genuine prophet for social justice, one who willingly sacrificed his hard-won status to defy an empire.
The 50th anniversary of this speech is a profound occasion to counter the selective memory with which America has retrospectively embraced King. As a nation, we -- especially our elected officials and political leaders -- only remember the parts of King that align with what we choose to emphasize: his robust embrace of America's democratic traditions going back to the founders. King's elegant lauding of "those great wells of democracy" in his Letter from Birmingham Jail remains a touchstone in our own time. 
Yet King grew increasingly bold and courageous as he confronted systemic challenges to his dream of multiracial democracy, what he called a "beloved community." The proliferation of urban violence, rural poverty, institutional racism and war forced him to reconsider the extent that mere political reforms would lead to economic and racial justice for all. 
In the year between the Riverside speech and his assassination, King became America's most well-known anti-war activist, assuming the mantle from Black Power firebrand Stokely Carmichael and in the process lending a Nobel Peace Prize winner's moral power to a peace movement struggling amid a political landscape where most still supported the war. 
King's speech blamed the nation's Cold War-fueled ambitions for the faltering war against poverty, the policy jewel in Lyndon Johnson's Great Society. While resources to fund the war drained the nation's financial and moral capital, suffering and discord at home inspired riots that King characterized in another speech as "the language of the unheard." 
For the first time in the Riverside speech, King connected a domestic civil rights movement with US foreign policy. He based his criticism of the war on a profound love for America, contrasting the "hopes" and "new beginnings" promised by a national anti-poverty crusade with the escalating death, violence and destruction in Southeast Asia. 
Many blasted this decision as unwise and irresponsible. His criticism of the Johnson White House ended a once-close professional relationship that found him on the receiving end of presidential pens signing the Voting Rights Act in 1965. Once praised by mainstream political and civic leaders for his philosophy of nonviolence, King found himself vilified for calling for an end to the bombing of Vietnamese villages and the napalming of innocent children. 
The Riverside speech's unpopularity -- fueled by its candid assessment of the shortcomings of American democracy -- is precisely what makes it King's most powerful and important speech. 
King loved America enough to always be honest. 
A political leader who dined with royalty and met with presidents at the White House found himself increasingly drawn to the plight of poor people around the world.
His belief that black sharecroppers in the Deep South deserved the same consideration as intellectual and economic elites led to hischampioning a Poor Peoples Campaign that planned to descend on the nation's capital in May 1968 until Congress passed legislation that addressed growing inequality in America. After King's assassination that April, his widow and others tried to continue this work. 
By the time King approached the pulpit at Riverside Church that early spring day in 1967 the gap between America's democratic ideals and its stubbornly unequal reality had, according to King, grown into an unconscionable chasm. There comes a time when "silence is betrayal," said Kingin words meant to admonish himself as much as the rest of the nation. 
A half-century later, King's words continue to haunt our contemporary democratic imagination. At Riverside Church, King spoke of the need to "speak for those who have been designated as our enemies," words that resonate in our own time as much as they did in his. Ultimately, King's call for a "radical revolution of values" anticipated the scourge of economic inequality, racial injustice, religious intolerance and anti-immigrant sentiment that confronts American democracy in 2017. 
Yet the radical King never abandoned his faith in America's capacity for social and political transformation. Near the end of his speech he spoke of the "long and bitter — but beautiful — struggle for a new world" he proudly engaged in. It is a struggle that King willingly sacrificed his own life for one year later and one that continues to this day.
Peniel Joseph is the Barbara Jordan Chair in Political Values and Ethics and the founding director of the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin, where he is also a professor of history. He is the author of several books, most recently "Stokely: A Life." The views expressed here are his.

Today is World Water Day: 7 Actions to M

Mar 22, 2017 | Special to Christian Post

Today may be World Water Day, but given that water is the source of all life and all health, just maybe it's time we make every day a world water day.

Here are 7 easy steps you can take:

Step 1: Remember WASH. WASH is WAter/Sanitation/Hygiene. Make sure the global health and development organizations you support prioritize WASH.

Step 2: No More Rusty pumps! Many churches enthusiastically commit to installing "the village water pump" but 50% of these one-off projects fail. We've got to provide far wider support to what works, not to what makes us feel good.

Step 3: Know your water footprint. The U.S. leads the world in per person water use. In just four days, we use more water here than the world uses oil in a year. Agriculture is the biggest water user in the U.S. and think about how much food we waste. We over-water our lawns and flush almost six billion gallons of clean drinking water down our toilets every day. There are plenty of ways to save money by being smarter about our water use.

Step 4: Have fun! Community-building activities that engage youth and congregations make a difference at home and church. Consider enriching your community experience by reaching out to a neighboring church, synagogue or mosque and share opportunities to make a difference, together.

Step 5: Water is a woman's burden. Supporting sustainable WASH projects is an opportunity to stand in support of all women. Like water, women are the source of life and health around the world.

Step 6: Connect with Clergy. Connect with international counterparts because faith leaders in developing countries can influence everything from policies that prioritize WASH, to changes in hygiene behavior that make the difference between life and death.

Step 7: Support U.S. foreign assistance: No matter how much good work we do in the faith sector, no funding or leadership is more influential than U.S. government foreign assistance. Our government spends just one one-hundredth of a percent of the federal budget on WASH. The faith voice is important on Capitol Hill, so let's use it to remind our representatives in Congress that WASH is vital to success. And to life.

Susan Barnett, a former award-winning network news journalist, is a strategic media, communications and advocacy consultant for nonprofits, specializing in faith and justice. She is founder of Faiths for Safe Water and Cause Communications.

Bradford Pears: the Good, Bad and Ugly

By Bob Polomski, Ph.D./Clemson University

Once upon a time the Bradford pear (Pyrus calleryana ‘Bradford’) was the darling of the nursery industry. Since its debut on the cover of American Nurseryman magazine on April 15, 1963, Bradford pear’s popularity soared as a street-tough tree that offered beauty and durability.

In early spring Bradford pear trees erupted into bloom, these giant ovate snowballs of bright white flowers that were best admired from a distance because of their rotting fish aroma. The flowers, favored by honeybees, bumblebees and other pollinators oblivious to the stench, gave rise to leathery, dark glossy green leaves that “present[ed] a pleasing picture, particularly as they stir in the breeze and their wavy edges catch and reflect the sun’s rays,”  according to the authors of the 1963 American Nurseryman article “Bradford ornamental pear—a promising shade tree.” In the fall the longlasting leaves exploded into shades of orange, red, and purple. The beauty of Bradford pear was matched by its unparalleled toughness: tolerance to drought, pollution, and pests, notably to fire blight, a devastating bacterial disease that injures and kills edible pears.

Bradford pear appeared to be the perfect ornamental street tree, but like kryptonite and Superman, Bradford pear’s Achille’s heel was its production of closely spaced upright branches. As these poorly attached branches grew and expanded in girth, the crown to split apart, often during snow-, ice-, and windstorms. It often happened to unpruned or poorly pruned trees when they reached 15 to 20 years of age.

In the past I counseled anyone who purchased a Bradford pear to buy a pruning saw as well. As described in the 1963 American Nurseryman article, the limbs of young trees must be selectively removed to produce branches with wider angles and stronger unions to develop a strong canopy.

To overcome this structural flaw, cultivars were developed that offered improved branching habits, such as ‘Aristocrat’ and ‘Chanticleer’, a 2005 Urban Tree of the Year by the Society of Municipal Arborists. Other cultivars were developed with narrower forms, such as 'Capital', a U. S. National Arboretum release, that embodied the aesthetic and urban-tolerant traits of Bradford but offered applications in tight, confined locations.

This profusion of callery pear cultivars eventually led to another problem that had ecological consequences. In the past, Bradford pear rarely produced viable fruit because it’s self-infertile and cannot pollinate itself.  With the widespread planting of cultivars that were differed slightly genetically, the barrier to fertility and subequent fruit production was overcome. In some cases the callery pear understock of a Bradford pear would sprout, flower, and provide pollen. The fruits were consumed and dispersed by starlings, robins, and other animals to open, disturbed habitats where the progeny formed dense thickets.

Callery pears mature early—flowering at 3 years of age--and is one of the first trees to bloom in early spring. It’s also one of the last trees to lose its leaves. Callery pears are resistant to insects and diseases and their thorny stems and branches discourage deer-browsing. Interestingly, the "Survivor Tree” at the 9/11 Memorial is a callery pear that survived the September 11, 2001 terror attacks at the World Trade Center. In the context of the Memorial, it serves as a symbol of survival, recovery, and resilience.

Some states in the mid-Atlantic, southeast and midwest regions have declared callery pear an invasive, self-sustaining species that dominates and disrupts native flora. In South Carolina callery pear is on the “watch list.”

In the past I encouraged Bradford pear owners in our state to selectively prune the branches. Now that I witnessed large tracts of land throughout our state covered like a white fog in early spring, I encourage them to prune their trees at soil level.

The glorification and eventual demonization of  Bradford pear is the result of our unwillingness to foster biodiversity in our urban environments. While we make our communities more livable for people, we don’t do the same for trees. We disregard decades of arboricultural research and practices and continue to shoe-horn trees into unsustainable 4 square ft. tree pits that are better suited for traffic lights, signs, and streetlights than trees. It’s the survival of the fittest, and only a handful of tree species can exist in these inhospitable conditions. Bradford pear is one of them.

This monocultural approach that relies on a single or limited number of species or cultivars had already led to catastrophic losses in our urban forests as witnessed by the demise of American elms to Dutch elm disease and ashes to emerald ash borer. However, we continue to rely on a handful of nearly indestructible species and cultivars that thrive in wretched conditions. Crapemyrtle, Chinese elm, sawtooth oak, and Chinese pistache have supplanted Bradford pear as street-smart urban warriors.

Because cities are responsible for 70% of the world’s greenhouse-gas emissions but comprise only 2% of the world’s land mass (Time; Dec. 26, 2016/Jan. 2, 2017), we rely on trees to assume a greater role as ecological engineers in our urban communities. It’s important that communities create growing conditions that support a diverse population of native and noninvasive adapted tree species that provide environmental services and not ecological messes.

Bob Polomski, Ph.D. is a Clemson Extension Specialist--Horticulture/Adjunct Asst. Prof. • Dept. of Plant & Environmental Sciences


Opinion: Racial Understanding Takes Step Forward in Anderson, Thanks to One Man's Efforts

By Greg Wilson

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not.”

 - Dr. Seuss

The power of one man’s vision offered the citizens of Anderson County the opportunity to shine some light on the issue of race relations right here at home. On a chilly Saturday morning, a crowd of a little over 150 gathered at the civic center to participate in guided exercises, encourage discussion and understanding, and to find common ground on issues related to race and culture.

“If we are going to begin to love our neighbors, we have to love our neighbors even when they don’t love us,” said Bakari Sellers, the keynote speaker for the event. “Only then, can we mend the fences that have been broken so long.”

Justus CoxThe get together put on display an honest approach to discussing issues, and allowing anyone who was on every side of the issues to have their say. Passionate, but civil discussion ruled the day.

I grew up in Anderson at a time when there were plenty of “Whites Only” signs downtown. I attended segregated schools until late elementary school, and vivd remember those signs as well as the “Colored Only” signs scattered around the county. 

I was discussing this with friends recently, some of whom also shared similar memories of growing up here. However many of them have reached the conclusion that since the signs are gone, schools are integrated and voting rights laws have opened up the polls to all Americans, racism is no longer a serious issue. Their reaction is shaped by their experience, those of white people on the outside looking in. 

Anderson County now has about 195,000 residents. Just under 33,000 of those citizens are African-American. Another 6,000 are Hispanic. We’re still a very white county, something easy for white folks to forget. 

A quick look at history shows that changing the world it is not only about changing the laws. During the segregation era, Southern states had the Jim Crow Laws which enforced racial segregation, but in many places in the Northern states without such laws on the books racial segregation was culturally enforced in restaurants, businesses and schools. Laws don’t change hearts. (Even God’s 10 Commandments did little to change the hearts of his people). 

While such behavior is no longer allowed by law, it is impossible to miss the discrimination that we still have a long way to go in regards to judging people by the content of the character. Forget the sensational headlines, it’s happening somewhere every day, in ways less blatant, but equally insidious.

If you don’t believe it, ask someone of color who has experienced suspicious or accusatory looks in a place of business, or who has been stopped by law enforcement with dubious reason.  

S.C. Senator Tim Scott not so long ago said that in his first year in Washington, he was stopped seven times by law enforcement. Most of those encounters, Scott said, were due to “nothing more than driving a new car in the wrong neighborhood or some other reason just as trivial.” 

As a white person, I have little frame of reference for such experiences on a day-to-day basis, but I have seen the ugliness in full vitriol as late as the civil rights marches in the 1980s. Men and women holding their children in one hand, while holding signs sporting racial epithets lined the march route in Cumming, Ga. Some threw rocks and bottles at us as they screamed out hateful things.

I also know, from decades of interviewing men and women of color, we still have a long way to go, including right here at home. 

As neighbors in Anderson County, we took a step in the right direction Saturday with the racial relations conference. 

And we were able to take that step forward because of the vision of one young elementary school who, as Dr. Seuss wrote, cares a lot and believes things can be better.

Justus Cox is a graduate of Anderson University and a former intern at Anderson County. Cox was not discouraged when a similar event last November was poorly attended. He used that event as a strategic planning session to make Saturday’s conference a reality. He also plans to continue his effort and maintain momentum. 

It is hard to overstate how important such a commitment is to our community. To watch a young man in his early 20s, one who is busy establishing a career devote his time and effort to making our community a better place is, sadly, uncommon. To witness one who does not easily grow discouraged, who believes things can be better and is willing to work however hard necessary to see it through is even more rare. 

Perhaps is is born from his experience. Raised by a single mother, often homeless, Cox found a path through his faith and the support of his church. In college he became a part of Anderson University’s student-led “Connect” program, which seeks to take a sensitive approach and honor the differences and similarities of all races.  

He sees continuing such dialog as important to the community, promising Saturday is only the beginning of what is to come. 

“He is the man who made this happen,” Sellers said. “Justus cannot be given enough credit for putting together this event. When he asked me to be a part of it, I considered it an honor.” 

Sellers also said Anderson’s racial relations conference is part of the recipe for a better future.

‘We’re going to dedicate ourselves not about what this country was or is, but what it can be. That is how we will make America great.”