Category Archives: Safer

Why You Should Get an Eco-Friendly Yoga Mat

The number one rule of yoga? Do no harm.

Yoga shouldn?t physically injure you?if it does, you?re doing it wrong and you need to practice safer alignment.

It also shouldn?t injure or harm others?it is a practice of love and universal acceptance.

But when your yoga practice is hurting the environment? That?s when a lot of us turn a blind eye.

In our consumer culture, the yoga market is a cash cow. Americans spend over $16 million a year on yoga classes, mats, clothes and related equipment. Yoga is no longer just a lifestyle, but it has overflowed into fast fashion. Atheleisure is ubiquitous and there is always pressure for us to get more?new, new, new. But stop a minute and consider the effect all that yoga gear has on the environment.

It is tempting to buy cheap yoga mats, but they are more harmful than you may realize. Modern yoga mats are loaded with plenty of plastic-based nasties, but the one of main concern in PVC plastic. Not only are these bad for you (they contain known carcinogens?and phthalates?not things?you want seeping?in to your sweaty back), but PVC plastics?are non-biodegradable, which means they will leach toxins into the environment for years to come. How?s that for ?do no harm??

If you are bringing a reusable water bottle to class but still using a cheap, old mat, do some research. Yoga mats are technically environmental pollutants once you’re done using them. And since cheap PVC mats don’t boast quality or longevity, think of all the yoga mats you will be?dumping into the environment over time.

When buying a new eco-friendly mat, know that some mats claim to be eco-friendly, but always double check. Polyester-based mats will not biodegrade once disposed, meaning they aren’t as?green as they claim to be. And be aware that?good eco mats can get pricey! The temptation to buy a cheap mat is a powerful one, but a?better made mat is going to last a lot longer and be kinder to both you and the planet. If you can, look for mat made with natural rubber, which is both incredibly grippy and sustainable. Make sure it has enough thickness for you, but don?t opt for anything too heavy as it might make you less likely to use it.

I use and swear by?a Jade Harmony?mat, which is made from super-grippy, sustainably-harvested natural rubber and comes in a beautiful array of colors. Gone are the days of my hands slipping and sliding in downward dog, which means my mat has actually improved my practice. Talk about bang for my buck! (Bonus eco benefit: for every mat purchased, Jade plants a tree.) Of course, if you have a latex allergy you should avoid natural rubber. Opt instead for a cork mat.

And if you are looking to recycle an old yoga mat? You can repurpose old mats in your own home easily, or you may be able to recycle PVC mats by sending them back to the manufacturer to be shredded down, melted and reused.

A mat is an integral part of your yoga practice, so make sure it aligns with your core values. Don’t sacrifice your health. Don’t sacrifice the planet. Know what’s in your mat.

Related:
Why People Rave About Cannabis Yoga
5 Ways to Successfully Read More Books
The Best Apps to Keep You Focused & Productive

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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Why You Should Get an Eco-Friendly Yoga Mat

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What Einstein Told His Barber – Robert Wolke

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What Einstein Told His Barber

More Scientific Answers to Everyday Questions

Robert Wolke

Genre: Essays

Price: $1.99

Publish Date: March 7, 2000

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group

Seller: Penguin Random House LLC


What makes ice cubes cloudy? How do shark attacks make airplanes safer? Can a person traveling in a car at the speed of sound still hear the radio? Moreover, would they want to…? Do you often find yourself pondering life's little conundrums? Have you ever wondered why the ocean is blue? Or why birds don't get electrocuted when perching on high-voltage power lines? Robert L. Wolke, professor emeritus of chemistry at the University of Pittsburgh and acclaimed author of What Einstein Didn't Know , understands the need to…well, understand. Now he provides more amusing explanations of such everyday phenomena as gravity (If you're in a falling elevator, will jumping at the last instant save your life?) and acoustics (Why does a whip make such a loud cracking noise?), along with amazing facts, belly-up-to-the-bar bets, and mind-blowing reality bites all with his trademark wit and wisdom. If you shoot a bullet into the air, can it kill somebody when it comes down? You can find out about all this and more in an astonishing compendium of the proverbial mind-boggling mysteries of the physical world we inhabit. Arranged in a question-and-answer format and grouped by subject for browsing ease, WHAT EINSTEIN TOLD HIS BARBER is for anyone who ever pondered such things as why colors fade in sunlight, what happens to the rubber from worn-out tires, what makes red-hot objects glow red, and other scientific curiosities. Perfect for fans of Newton's Apple, Jeopardy!, and The Discovery Channel, WHAT EINSTEIN TOLD HIS BARBER also includes a glossary of important scientific buzz words and a comprehensive index. –> From the Trade Paperback edition.

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What Einstein Told His Barber – Robert Wolke

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Homo Deus – Yuval Noah Harari

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Homo Deus

A Brief History of Tomorrow

Yuval Noah Harari

Genre: Life Sciences

Price: $17.99

Publish Date: February 21, 2017

Publisher: Harper

Seller: HarperCollins


NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER Yuval Noah Harari, author of the critically-acclaimed New York Times bestseller and international phenomenon Sapiens, returns with an equally original, compelling, and provocative book, turning his focus toward humanity’s future, and our quest to upgrade humans into gods. Over the past century humankind has managed to do the impossible and rein in famine, plague, and war. This may seem hard to accept, but, as Harari explains in his trademark style—thorough, yet riveting—famine, plague and war have been transformed from incomprehensible and uncontrollable forces of nature into manageable challenges. For the first time ever, more people die from eating too much than from eating too little; more people die from old age than from infectious diseases; and more people commit suicide than are killed by soldiers, terrorists and criminals put together. The average American is a thousand times more likely to die from binging at McDonalds than from being blown up by Al Qaeda. What then will replace famine, plague, and war at the top of the human agenda? As the self-made gods of planet earth, what destinies will we set ourselves, and which quests will we undertake? Homo Deus explores the projects, dreams and nightmares that will shape the twenty-first century—from overcoming death to creating artificial life. It asks the fundamental questions: Where do we go from here? And how will we protect this fragile world from our own destructive powers? This is the next stage of evolution. This is Homo Deus. With the same insight and clarity that made Sapiens an international hit and a New York Times bestseller, Harari maps out our future.

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Homo Deus – Yuval Noah Harari

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We Can’t Stop Looking at These Extremely Sexual Photos of Fruit

Mother Jones

Stephanie Sarley plays with her food. Then she posts it online. The 28-year-old Bay Area artist is known for her provocative pictures of fruit—which have caught on in a big way: She has 225,000 Instagram followers and counting. Sarley thinks a lot about censorship, copyright infringement, and what makes people uncomfortable and why. I caught up with her to talk about all of that, plus her can’t-look-away art.

Photo courtesy Stephanie Sarley

Mother Jones: How did the fruit art start?

Stephanie Sarley: It was a totally spontaneous occurrence. I had gone to my local market and got all this fruit and I brought it home and I just fingered at it. I filmed it and put it on Instagram and it was a total hit. The comments started rolling in and everyone was freaking out. I wasn’t quite aware of the impact it was going to have on people.

Photo courtesy Stephanie Sarley

MJ: Why do you think people react so strongly to it?

SS: At first I thought it was the image of the vulva and the vagina, it being surrealistic and also being semi-perverted. Maybe it makes them uncomfortable to see fruit in a way they don’t normally. The surprising thing was a lot of women got mad, as if I made them think about something they didn’t want to think about. And men also thought of it more objectively, or as only a gender thing. I got a lot of appreciation from people in the queer community as well. To be a provocateur wasn’t quite the intention of the project, but it’s totally fun and I’ve gone with it.

Illustration courtesty Stephanie Sarley

MJ: Tell me about when Instagram first took down your account.

SS: Right when I was starting to get more popular, before the fruit fingering started, I posted an image of a banana with a condom and pins in it. Within 10 minutes, I got shut down. I was devastated. I was just starting to get recognition. I had 10,000 followers. I was selling my book. Jerry Saltz had just started following me! So I wrote to Instagram to say I’m an artist, not a pornographer. And they wrote back: Your profile violated our terms of services; we took you down because your work is inappropriate. I disputed it over and over again. I kept writing them obsessively. I said, “I am an artist, so you’re not going to do this to me. You’re not going to censor my work.” I actually ended up getting my profile restored in under two weeks.

photo courtesy Stephanie Sarley

MJ: I’ve seen your work pop up in other places. How do you handle copyright issues?

SS: It’s a giant battle to reclaim my art. You know, the internet is a great platform for people who didn’t have the privilege to go to the best art school, but we need to create a safer environment for creatives who don’t want their stuff ripped off. I don’t have a credit card to rely on. People are stealing my art and putting it on their albums, meme-ing it, and I need to find a new way to approach it.

Photo courtesy Stephanie Sarley

MJ: What’s next for you?

SS: I want to move on to big projects in physical spaces. I plan to do more art shows. I’ve been studying art my entire life; I don’t want to be just one thing. I don’t want to be “the crazy fruit finger-er.” I’m not just a weird sexual fetishist on the internet.

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We Can’t Stop Looking at These Extremely Sexual Photos of Fruit

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After a Career Suing Cops, This Lawyer Wants to Be Philly’s Next District Attorney

Mother Jones

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Civil rights attorney Larry Krasner has spent his career standing up to cops. A former public defender who’s no stranger to pro bono work, he’s defended Black Lives Matter protesters, ACT UP alums, the Arch Street United Methodist Church pastors, Grannies for Peace, and Occupy Philly activists.

So he hardly seems like someone who’d want to assume the mantle of one of America’s top prosecutor jobs—for one thing, Krasner has no formal political experience. But as he watched the usual suspects throwing their hats in the ring for Philadelphia’s 2017 district attorney’s race, the 56-year-old felt like it was time to try and change things from within. On February 8, standing alongside activists and organizers from groups he’d previously defended, he announced his campaign. Just a few months later, as the city gears up for its primary on May 16, Krasner’s being hailed as an unlikely favorite and a radical outsider who just might have the gumption—and the support—to shake up Philadelphia’s punitive culture and send a message to the country that mass incarceration is a failed strategy.

Nowhere is the reality of “tough on crime” more evident than Philadelphia. Former DA Lynne Abraham, winner of four straight terms from 1991 to 2010, was known both as “America’s Deadliest Prosecutor” and the “Queen of Death” for her fervid pursuit of executions, over 100 in total. Former mayor and police commissioner Frank Rizzo is among the most notorious cops in American history, once claiming he’d “make Attila the Hun look like a faggot” while on the mayoral campaign trail. That legacy has helped give the City of Brotherly Love the highest incarceration rate of the 10 largest cities in the United States, twice the national average. (It’s also the poorest, with one of the lowest-rated public school systems to boot.)

Criminal justice crusaders saw some hope when Democrat Seth Williams, a self-identified progressive reformer, took the job as the city’s first African American DA in 2010. He claimed he’d champion reasonable reforms to chip away at mass incarceration. But since then, Williams has managed to run up a rap sheet that evinces an almost cartoonish level of corruption. He has been under FBI investigation since August 2015 and on the receiving end of the largest fine ever imposed by the Philadelphia Board of Ethics for gift taking and failure to disclose contributions in excess of $175,000. He fought for the death penalty and prosecuted a man who’d been cleared of murder by DNA evidence. On February 10, Williams announced he would not seek a third term. Then on March 21, he was indicted on 23 counts of corruption and bribery-related charges. His alleged misbehavior, said an FBI special agent, was “brazen and wide-ranging, as is the idea that a district attorney would so cavalierly trade on elected office for financial gain.”

Into the void have sprung seven candidates, all jockeying for the Democratic nomination ahead of the May primary and the right to square off with Republican candidate Beth Grossman. Philadelphia is a deep blue stronghold, so the winner of the primary will likely cruise in the general election. Krasner’s campaign might be best described as an insurgency, and one that has drawn the national spotlight.

Born in St. Louis, Krasner has made Philadelphia home since age nine. He comes from a household that relied on disability checks to make ends meet, and he’s a veteran of the city’s public school system. After attending the University of Chicago, he went on to law school at Stanford, where he “accumulated a skyscraper-sized pile of student loans.” Upon graduation, he forewent prosecutor jobs to become a public defender in Philadelphia, which he considers his hometown. “I didn’t want to be a prosecutor,” he says, because “Philly had a culture that was in love with the death penalty.”

In 1992, when then-President George H.W. Bush came to Philadelphia, ACT UP, the famous activist group striving to end the AIDS crisis, marched a coffin full of fake ashes through the city, protesting perceived inaction by the president. “The coffin tipped, the ashes flew; I think the cops thought they were going to get HIV,” Krasner recalls. “The cops’ reaction was hyper violent—they cracked one person’s skull, made many of them bleed.” At that point, five years out of law school, he decided to dedicate himself to “representing people who were making the world a better place.”

In the years since, Krasner has filed more than 75 civil rights cases against police officers, and gotten 800 narcotics convictions thrown out after exposing two officers to have perjured themselves. Of the 420 protesters arrested at the 2012 Republican National Convention, Krasner won an acquittal rate of 99 percent over four years. Needless to say, these aren’t the usual credentials for someone running for a position sardonically referred to as “top cop.” When I ask him about that term, he bristles. As a district attorney, he says, “you’re supposed to seek justice in an evenhanded way—so if you know cops are dirty, you prosecute the cops.”

Against the backdrop of a new federal administration that wants to toughen rules on prosecuting crime, Krasner instead strongly believes that “mass incarceration hasn’t worked. It hasn’t made us safer; it hasn’t made us freer.” He wants to abolish the death penalty—Philly is the only city in the Northeast that still has it. He’s pledged to refuse to bring cases that have resulted from illegal stop-and-frisk actions. In Pennsylvania, which has more juveniles on life sentences without the possibility of parole than any other state in the country, Krasner has promised thorough resentencing. Rather than plastering uniform 35-year sentences on those juveniles, as the DA’s office has recommended, Krasner has vowed to revisit each case individually, considering things like childhood trauma in reducing sentences, because “this one-size-fits-all sentencing is appalling.”

Krasner also wants to end cash bail and reform civil forfeiture. Over half the people held in prisons in Philadelphia have not been convicted, but, unable to afford bail, have no choice but to await their trial behind bars. Krasner wants to implement alternatives for nonviolent offenders, like diverting addicts straight to treatment facilities, a practice known as “sweat bail.” When it comes to civil asset forfeiture, he says the city should not take anything unless there’s a conviction, and if assets are seized, they should go to the city’s general fund, not back to the DA’s office, as the program is currently structured.

The ideas seem to have resonated. Krasner has ripped up the playbook on incremental reforms, accelerating initiatives that looked politically impossible just a few years back. “Here’s what’s behind the sharp left turn in Philly’s DA race,” reads a recent article in Philly Mag profiling Krasner’s campaign. In fact, all seven Democratic candidates are now campaigning as reformers. National activist groups have hailed Philadelphia’s DA race as a historic one, a rebuke of the zero-tolerance approach championed by the current Oval Office.

“After decades of ‘wars’ on crime and drugs, public sentiment is now shifting toward a more expansive view of crime and justice,” says Marc Mauer, executive director of the Sentencing Project, a nonprofit that works on criminal justice reform. “Fortunately, a growing number of prosecutors view themselves as part of that movement.” Indeed, Krasner is not alone. 2016 saw reform candidates defeat hardline prosecutors in DA races in Florida, Louisiana, and Illinois. After a poor showing in the 2016 election cycle at the federal level, the Democratic Party has been refocusing its energy on local elections, and district attorneys’ offices have become an unlikely seat of progressive reform. Prosecutors are elected in all but four states, around 2,400 seats in total, a major political post that often runs uncontested.

Krasner is heartened to see criminal justice reform become so popular in his city’s race but remains skeptical of some of the rhetoric. Many of his competitors are former prosecutors, insiders, or assistant DAs. “The only other candidate who said he would unconditionally oppose the death penalty was supervising death penalties six months ago,” Krasner says, boasting that he’s been “walking the walk for 30 years.”

National groups are taking notice. Our Revolution, the progressive political action group associated with Bernie Sanders, endorsed Krasner. So, too, did Color of Change PAC, as well as major union groups Unite Here, PASNAP, and 1199C. He banked the endorsement of pop singer John Legend. And billionaire George Soros invested $1.45 million—a stunning amount for a local election—in a super-PAC called Philadelphia Justice and Public Safety that backs Krasner. That move brought extended scrutiny from his competitors, who have now started running negative attack ads aiming to identify Krasner as unsympathetic to victims.

Notably absent from that list of endorsements is the Fraternal Order of Police, Philadelphia’s police union, which was clashing with Krasner even before his campaign took off. When former Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy was involved in a brawl with two off-duty Philly police officers, Krasner represented him, successfully getting all charges against him dropped. That led FOP President John McNesby to describe Krasner’s candidacy as “hilarious.” “He’s not laughing now,” chuckles Krasner. In March, the FOP endorsed Rich Negrin.

Still, Krasner believes that rank-and-file police will welcome his candidacy, if he can win. He points to his close relationships with multiple commissioners and the officers whose children he’s represented. He says he believes that the police will appreciate working with a DA who doesn’t spend his time courting a run for governor. The DA’s office in Philadelphia has often served as a launch pad for political careers at the state and national levels. But Krasner seems to view a stint as the district attorney as a culmination of his life’s work, rather than a stepping stone: “My chair after the DA’s chair,” he says, “will be a beach chair.”

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After a Career Suing Cops, This Lawyer Wants to Be Philly’s Next District Attorney

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Texas’ Governor Just Signed the Most Anti-Immigrant Bill in Years

Mother Jones

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During an unannounced, five-minute livestream on Facebook Sunday night, Gov. Greg Abbott signed legislation outlawing sanctuary cities and granting law enforcement unprecedented powers in tracking down undocumented immigrants.

“Texans expect us to keep them safe—and that’s exactly what we’re going to do by me signing the law,” Abbott told the camera, punctuating his remarks by tapping the bill before signing it. “Texas has now banned sanctuary cities in the Lone Star State.”

“It won’t be tolerated in Texas,” Abbot continued. “Elected officials and law enforcement agencies, they don’t get to pick and choose what laws they will obey.”

Immigration advocates are describing it as the most hostile state law to undocumented immigrants in the country and point out that sanctuary cities are actually safer than other cities, according to FBI crime data. The Facebook Live event allowed the governor to avoid protests a typical signing would have likely drawn, the Texas Tribune noted. A spokesperson for the governor claimed the move was an effort to reach people directly where they’re consuming news.

Abbott declared banning sanctuary cities, jurisdictions that refuse to fully cooperate with federal immigration authorities, a legislative priority this year, and Texas has quickly become one of the battlegrounds in the national debate over them. When Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez announced her department would no longer comply with immigration authorities after taking office earlier this year, the governor cut off funding in retaliation and even threatened to oust her. Meanwhile lawmakers in the statehouse have been debating how wide-reaching the ban on sanctuary cities should be, settling on legislation late last month after a 16-hour marathon hearing. Horrified by the outcome, immigration advocates have pushed back, protesting at the state capitol during the lengthy hearing on the bill last month and gathering outside the governor’s mansion last night.

SB 4 does far more than simply outlaw sanctuary cities. When the new rules go into effect, law enforcement officials and other local leaders who refuse to cooperate with immigration authorities could face to up to a year of jail time and be personally fined up to $4,000. Additionally, any local government violating the law will also be subject to fines—$1,000 at first with each single subsequent infraction adding penalties that can potentially reach $25,500.

The law also grants law enforcement throughout the state sweeping new powers that many immigration advocates consider a form of profiling. One of the most controversial provisions of the new law allows police officers to question someone’s immigration status during encounters such as a routine traffic stop as opposed to during a lawful arrest.

David Leopold, an immigration lawyer and the former head of the American Immigration Lawyers Associates, says it’s the most hostile state law to undocumented immigrants in the country. “It’s like SB1070, the Arizona ‘show me your papers’ law, on steroids,” Leopold says, referring to the controversial legislation that required police to check the immigration status of anyone they detain if they believe that person might be in the country illegally.

“This is a license to racially profile,” Leopold says. “What Texas has done here is told the police…if a person has an accent, is brown, you should probably start asking questions about their immigration status.”

While much of the Arizona law was gutted by the Supreme Court in 2012, the “show me your papers” portion was not struck down—though the justices left open the possibility that such laws could be ruled as being unconstitutional at a later time.

When SB 1070 passed, it sparked outrage across the country and businesses as well as other state governments boycotted Arizona. Immigration activists are strenuously protesting the Texas measure, and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund is planning to sue before it takes effect in September. But so far, the new law isn’t attracting nearly the kind of national attention that Arizona’s law once did.

Leopold points out that this law “came up quietly.” In the seven years since SB1070 was debated, he says, the capacity for outrage about these measures has waned because “we’ve had so much outrageous news about immigration, so many outrageous things and shocking things have happened since Donald Trump took office.”

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Texas’ Governor Just Signed the Most Anti-Immigrant Bill in Years

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More Americans Are Spending Life in Prison Than Ever Before

Mother Jones

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One out of every nine prisoners in the United States is currently serving a life sentence—a record high—even as the overall prison population has fallen. That’s according to a depressing new report by the Sentencing Project, an advocacy group that’s been tracking life sentences since 2004. Almost 162,000 people are now serving life behind bars, up from 132,000 about a decade ago and 34,000 in 1984.

To put that in perspective, for every 100,000 people in America, 50 have been locked up for life. That’s roughly the total incarceration rate—including inmates whose sentences are just a few months—in Scandinavian countries like Denmark, Sweden, and Finland. And it doesn’t even account for the tens of thousands of Americans handed sentences of 50 years or more, which are considered “de facto life sentences,” says Ashley Nellis, a senior research analyst at the Sentencing Project who co-authored the report.

What’s driving the uptick? It’s not a rise in violent crime or murder—both have dropped substantially since the mid-1990s. Nor is it an increase in the number of criminals behind bars: A majority of states saw declining overall prison populations from 2010 to 2015.

The Sentencing Project

The Sentencing Project

In part, the continuing rise in lifers is a legacy of three-strikes laws and mandatory minimum sentencing. It may also be related to the shift away from capital punishment. In some states that no longer allow executions, elected officials like governors and prosecutors have championed life-without-parole sentences—which account for the biggest increase in life sentences nationally—as a way to appear tougher on crime. “Going forward, we will have a system that allows us to put these people away for life, in living conditions none of us would want to experience,” Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy, a Democrat, said in 2012 when his state abolished the death penalty. But these lengthy punishments probably aren’t keeping the public safer. “The impulse to engage in crime, including violent crime, is highly correlated with age,” the Sentencing Project notes. “Most criminal offending declines substantially beginning in the mid-20s and has tapered off substantially by one’s late 30s.”

The biggest losers of all this? Minorities. Of all the lifers and de facto lifers in the country, almost half are African American. What’s more, 12,000 of the total are locked up for crimes they committed as kids, though some are eligible for release thanks to recent court decisions. (In 2010, the Supreme Court ruled that life-without-parole sentences are unconstitutional for juveniles who didn’t commit homicide. In 2012, the justices went further, saying that mandatory life-without-parole sentences for kids, including those who committed homicide, are also unconstitutional. Nineteen states and DC now ban any kind of life-without-parole sentence for juveniles.)

Finally, it’s important to remember that many of the prisoners serving these long sentences never actually hurt anyone: Two-thirds of lifers or de facto lifers in the federal system committed nonviolent crimes—and one-third of them are serving time for drug crimes. With Attorney General Jeff Sessions at the helm of the Justice Department alongside his team of tough-on-crime advisers, there’s a good chance that won’t be changing anytime soon.

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More Americans Are Spending Life in Prison Than Ever Before

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A Loss in the Courts Won’t Stop Missouri’s Anti-Abortion Wave

Mother Jones

For decades, Missouri has embarked on a quest to eliminate abortion access. Earlier this year, state legislators filed some 14 anti-abortion proposals before the start of the session, making it a prominent example of emboldened efforts on the state level in the Trump era. Those measures were dealt a blow last week when a federal judge suspended two longstanding abortion restrictions in the state, but with the GOP controlling every level of the state’s government, state lawmakers are undeterred in their efforts to restrict abortion access.

Today, a Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Louis is the state’s sole abortion provider licensed to serve approximately 1.2 million women of reproductive age, many of whom would face a 370 mile drive to access services, a process further protracted by a mandatory 72-hour waiting period. “People are driving hours to St. Louis, or they’re crossing over the state line into Kansas or other states in order to access services,” says Laura McQuade, the President and CEO of Comprehensive Health of Planned Parenthood Great Plains, one of the Planned Parenthood affiliates that filed a lawsuit last year challenging the Missouri restrictions.

As a leader in restricting abortion access, Missouri passed laws more than a decade ago that required doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at local hospitals and abortion clinics to meet the same structural requirements as ambulatory surgical centers. These laws were subsequently also passed in Texas, where they were challenged and finally struck down by the Supreme Court in a 5-3 ruling in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt in 2016.

Last week, in response to a challenge filed last fall by two Planned Parenthood affiliates with Missouri clinics, US District Court Judge Howard Sachs agreed to enjoin Missouri’s version of the restrictions. Sachs first announced his decision in an April 3 memo sent to the parties involved in the case. In his decision, Sachs noted that the restrictions had negatively affected women in the state and failed to comply with the Supreme Court’s ruling. “The abortion rights of Missouri women, guaranteed by constitutional rulings, are being denied on a daily basis, in irreparable fashion,” he said. “The public interest clearly favors prompt relief.” The restrictions will be halted while the effort to permanently strike down the laws moves through the courts.

Sachs’ ruling could have an immediate impact on abortion access in the state. Shortly after the decision was announced, the Missouri Planned Parenthood affiliates released a joint statement confirming their desire to increase the number of local abortion providers by expanding services to four additional Planned Parenthood locations. But Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley has promised to appeal the decision, saying that it was “wrong” with the dire consequence that laws that “protect the health and safety of women who seek to obtain an abortion” can no longer be enforced.

Last week’s ruling, however, is unlikely to deter state legislators from pursuing further abortion restrictions. Around the same time that Sachs issued the April 3 memo announcing his intent to grant the injunction, two Republican state Senators, frustrated that they were unable to block a St. Louis nondiscrimination ordinance protecting women that are pregnant, use birth control, or have had an abortion, took time during a discussion of tax hikes benefiting the state zoo to joke that women should go to the St. Louis Zoo for abortions, suggesting that it was “safer” and better regulated than the state’s lone abortion provider.

Meanwhile, shortly after Republicans in Congress moved to defund Planned Parenthood, state Republican Rep. Robert Ross proposed an amendment to House Bill 11—an appropriations bill for the Missouri Department of Social Services—that would allow the state to prevent “abortion services” providers from receiving state family planning funding. This could potentially include any group that provides even abortion referrals upon request. Allison Dreith, the executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri characterized the amended bill as having the potential to create “a public health crisis in our state, if family planning clinics, hospitals, and Planned Parenthood are defunded from Medicaid reimbursement.” The measure passed the House on a 107-39 vote and is now with the Senate.

Missouri lawmakers have faced some unintended consequences in their zeal to cut back on family planning services. In 2016, the state rejected the federal family planning funding it had received through Extended Women’s Health Services, a Medicaid program for low-income women funded by both the state and federal governments. Federal law already prevents Medicaid from reimbursing providers for the costs of most abortions, but Missouri legislators hoped to go further by completely cutting off funding to groups like Planned Parenthood by rejecting some $8.3 million dollars in federal funds, opting to create a state-funded program that would no longer have to abide by federal rules mandating that patients have the ability to choose their health care provider.

In the months leading up to the measure taking effect, Missouri has moved to block all abortion providers, including hospitals, from receiving family planning funding. But to the consternation of Missouri conservatives, many Planned Parenthood clinics in the state remained eligible for the program because they are not permitted to provide abortions. “Despite that being a simple amendment last year, apparently the Department of Social Services was confused,” Ross said when discussing his proposed amendment earlier this month, according to reports from the Missouri House of Representatives newsroom. Ross’ HB 11 amendment would change things by ensuring that even those who provide information about or referrals for abortions are excluded from the funding program.

“They have defined ‘abortion services’ so broadly that it is going to basically decimate the entire family planning network across the state of Missouri,” says Michelle Trupiano, the executive director of the Missouri Family Health Council, which allocates funding to 71 clinics in the state under the federal government’s Title X family planning program.

Trupiano notes that under the conditions of Title X, many of the state’s family planning providers are required to offer abortion referrals upon request, a mandate that could open them up to losing funding should HB 11 be adopted. “There wouldn’t be a single provider that could participate in the program,” she adds. With less than a month remaining in Missouri’s legislative session, advocates have begun lobbying lawmakers in hopes of defeating the amendment.

But given the history, advocates say, some lawmakers in Missouri will do anything to restrict abortion, even if it means an overall reduction in access for women to health care options in the process. “Responsible legislators want to move forward to other issues,” McQuade says. “But this is what Missouri is choosing to spend its time on right now. It’s deeply disheartening.”

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A Loss in the Courts Won’t Stop Missouri’s Anti-Abortion Wave

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Airlines Treat People Like Dirt Because the Republicans in Congress Let Them

Mother Jones

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Policymakers reacted swiftly this week to the outrageous viral video of police officers forcibly removing an innocent passenger from an overbooked United Airlines flight. A new passenger bill of rights, including regulations on bumping people from flights, was announced on Tuesday—by Canada’s transportation ministry.

Here in the United States, at least one party has a long history of siding with the airlines at the expense of their passengers. “It’s an ongoing frustration that we haven’t had good cooperation on the Republican side,” says Sally Greenberg, executive director of the National Consumers League. “Their constituents are being mistreated, just like Democratic constituents. I’m disappointed and frustrated.”

In 2016 alone, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) introduced 22 different consumer-protection riders to a funding bill for the Federal Aviation Administration. Among other things, the proposals would have placed a moratorium on seat-size shrinkage, required more transparency about ticket fees and passenger complaints, promoted competition between airlines, and ensured that passengers had the right to sue airlines instead of being forced into arbitration. (See the complete list below.) None of the proposals made it through the GOP-controlled Senate.

“The degrading treatment of this United passenger is the latest example of a major US airline disrespecting passengers and denying them their basic rights,” Blumenthal wrote to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao on Tuesday. “Your agency must conduct a swift, sweeping investigation into United Airlines and the industry practices that led to this incident.”

Congressional Republicans delayed for years the passage of the handful of consumer protections that exist for airline passengers. During the George W. Bush administration, GOP senators killed a passengers bill of rights that, among other things, would have restricted how long people could be confined to a grounded airplane without food and drinks. In 2011, the Obama administration enacted a stricter version of the rule administratively, adding requirements that airlines reimburse passengers for lost bags, disclose extra ticket fees on their websites, and compensate bumped passengers financially.

“The Republicans can be viewed as the party of big business, whereas Democrats are more for personal rights and equality,” says Rainer Jenss, director of the Family Travel Association. One provision his group backed that requires airlines to let families with children sit together on flights free of charge became law last year—but only after it attracted support from a Republican congressman who’d had a family member get separated from his kids during a flight, Jenss says.

Not all Republicans, after all, are airline industry lapdogs. On Tuesday, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie asked the TSA’s Chao to suspend the federal regulation permitting airlines to overbook flights and remove passengers as a result. “This conduct is abusive and outrageous,” Christie said in a press release. “The ridiculous statements, now in their third version, of the CEO of United Airlines displays their callousness toward the traveling public with the permission of the federal government.”

The airline industry, however, favors Republicans. In the most recent election cycle, United Continental Holdings gave them $547,000, versus $497,000 for Democrats—a split that roughly mirrors the industry’s spending patterns. The main airline lobbying group, Airlines for America, leans far more toward Republicans: It donated about $85,000 to Democrats in the latest cycle. It gave nearly six times that much (about $478,500) to Republicans and conservative groups, according to OpenSecrets.org. In 2015, Politico reported that House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Penn.) was actually dating Shelly Rubino, an Airlines for America executive. Republicans “are literally in bed with the industry!” says the National Consumers League’s Greenberg.

She hopes the United scandal will convince Republicans to end their love affair with Big Air: “I think Congress is going to be under a lot of pressure to take some decisive action because of what people saw in that video.”
______

Here’s what Sen. Richard Blumenthal proposed last year to keep airlines in check.
But not one of his amendments made it past Mitch McConnell et al.

A commission on airline competition
A Government Accountability Office study of international airline alliances and their immunity from antitrust laws
A moratorium on seat size shrinkage
A review of aircraft evacuation procedures
Establishing a private right of action under federal consumer protection law
Establishing a private right of action under state consumer protection law
Requiring research on ways to avoid toxic air on planes
Banning the use of e-cigarettes on commercial aircraft
Requiring air carriers to disclose ancillary fees to consumers
Requiring the Department of Transportation (DOT) to consider additional protections against canceled or changed reservations
Extending the Advisory Committee for Aviation Consumer Protection through September 2022
Requiring an airline to forward all complaints to the Aviation Consumer Protection Division
Improving access to aviation consumer protection information
Modifying requirements for a study on air carrier fees
Modifying requirements for passenger seat assignment
Modifying requirements for the review of flight delays and cancelations
Permitting the DOT to investigate and take action on unfair and deceptive practices relating to travel insurance contracts
Authorizing state regulation and claims relating to reward program contracts and frequent flyer contracts
Providing refund of baggage fees when baggage is damaged during transit
Increasing the civil penalty amount for violations of aviation laws
Invalidating mandatory pre-dispute arbitration and class-action waivers in certain air travel contracts
Prohibiting carriers from limiting consumer access to carriers’ flight data

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Airlines Treat People Like Dirt Because the Republicans in Congress Let Them

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These Four Cases Will Quickly Show Who Gorsuch Really Is

Mother Jones

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When newly minted Supreme Court Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch takes the bench later this month, he will likely have an immediate impact on a court that has been somewhat paralyzed since the unexpected death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February last year. The court, evenly divided with eight members, has waited to tackle a number of potentially thorny cases, either because they were unable to agree on whether to hear them or they were reluctant to adjudicate them. Gorsuch has been confirmed just in time to change all that.

He will also shape the future when, on April 13, he participates in his first court conference, where the justices decide which new cases to hear in the new term and which they’re rejecting. Decisions from that meeting may demonstrate quickly whether fears Senate Democrats have raised about his views on everything from religious freedom to gay rights to corporate power were on target.

Here are a few of the pending cases where Gorsuch will have an opportunity to make an early mark:

Masterpiece Cake Shop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission: In 2012, a Colorado baker named Jack Phillips refused to make a custom wedding cake for two men getting married in Massachusetts, one of the few states where same-sex marriage was legal at the time. The couple was planning a reception in Colorado, where they lived and wanted to celebrate. Phillips claimed making the cake would violate his religious beliefs. The couple sued and has prevailed at every level in Colorado courts, which found that baking a gay wedding cake would not violate Phillips’ free speech or religious freedom rights, but refusing to make one would constitute illegal discrimination based on sexual orientation.The case has been stuck in conference purgatory, relisted multiple times for consideration, but probably not for long.

The gay-cake case seems custom-made for Gorsuch, who was one of the lower court judges who ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby, the craft store that claimed providing health insurance to its employees that covered contraception violated its corporate religious freedom rights. The Supreme Court later upheld the ruling in a 5-4 decision, and critics have warned it will be used to justify the kind of anti-gay discrimination at issue in the cake case. The presence of Gorsuch on the high court, instead of Merrick Garland, President Obama’s court nominee who was denied the seat by Senate Republicans, is likely to be decisive. It probably doesn’t bode well for the LGBT community, despite Gorsuch’s claims to have gay friends.

Salazar-Limon v Houston: Even though police shootings have been in the news and the source of intense protest over the past couple of years, the eight-member Supreme Court seems to have been reluctant to wade into the fray. This case is another one that’s been languishing at the court for many months, waiting for a decision on whether it will be heard. It involves what might be called the “reaching for the waistband” defense frequently deployed by cops who shoot unarmed people of color.

In 2010, 25-year-old Mexican immigrant Ricardo Salazar-Limon had a wife, children, and a construction job. One night after a long day of work, he was out with friends and driving to see another friend when a Houston cop pulled him over for speeding. He had no criminal record, no outstanding warrants, a valid drivers’ license, and insurance on his truck. He was in the country legally and was unarmed. But the cop told Salazar he was going to jail and tried to put him in handcuffs. Salazar jerked back and walked towards his vehicle, annoyed because the officer refused to even tell him why he might be going to jail. As he was walking the officer told him to stop and then shot him in the back, leaving Salazar paralyzed from the waist down.

Salazar sued the police department alleging excessive force. In his defense, the officer claimed that he feared for his life when he shot Salazar because he had moved his hands towards his waistband while walking away. It’s the same argument that’s been employed by cops in at least two other shootings of unarmed citizens in Houston, and it works. The District Court dismissed Salazar’s case, and the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the decision. The Supreme Court is now being asked to decide whether a court can dismiss a case against an officer in a suit for excessive force “by concluding that it is an ‘undisputed fact’ that the person reached for his waistband just because the officer said he did.”

The facts in this case are infuriating, yet it’s clear that the court has been unable to get the requisite four votes needed to hear it. Whether Gorsuch will provide that additional vote is anyone’s guess, but criminal justice reformers shouldn’t hold out hope that he’ll change the outcome. He’s ruled in a similar case before. In 2013, he wrote the majority opinion in a 10th Circuit ruling dismissing a lawsuit brought by the parents of a man who was tased in head by a cop and died. The cops in that case also used a “reached for his waistband” defense.

Alaska Oil and Gas Association v. Zinke: One of the biggest concerns raised by those opposing Gorsuch’s confirmation was that his record suggested he would be hostile to environmental regulations and the agencies that create them. That theory will be tested soon after Gorsuch’s swearing in, with a case involving the fate of polar bears.

In 2008, the Bush administration’s Fish and Wildlife Service officially declared the polar bear a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. Two years later, the agency designated 187,000 square miles around the Bering Sea, the Arctic Ocean and the Alaskan North Slope as critical habitat for the bears, which created new restrictions on oil drilling in the region. The Alaskan oil industry sued and alleged that the Fish and Wildlife Service had overreached and made an arbitrary decision in selecting the boundaries for the critical habitat. The trial court partially agreed, but the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned that decision and sided with the wildlife agency. The appeal of that decision is pending before the Supreme Court, which will decide in the next few months whether to hear the case.

Federal agency overreach is something Gorsuch has a clear record on. He wrote a lengthy concurrence to one of his own opinions on the 10th Circuit, calling on the Supreme Court to limit the requirement that judges defer to federal agencies such as Fish and Wildlife when considering the implementation of laws made by Congress. This may be a sign that, despite his love of skiing, Gorsuch probably is not going to side with the polar bears.

Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer: The court agreed to hear this case last year, shortly before Justice Scalia died, but it took its own sweet time scheduling it for oral arguments. When it finally did, a year later, the case was set for the second-to-last week of arguments for the term. The court’s reluctance to decide this case may stem from the fact that it’s the most controversial church-state separation case on the docket this year, and the closest thing to a culture war case that’s likely to break out before the court recesses in June.

Here’s how we described it last fall:

A Michigan church applied for a grant from Missouri’s Scrap Tire Grant program for assistance resurfacing a playground at its preschool with a safer, rubber top made of old tires. While the church’s grant proposal was well rated, the state ultimately turned it down because the state constitution prohibits direct aid to a church. The church sued, with help from a legion of lawyers fresh off the gay marriage battles. They argue that Missouri’s prohibition, originally conceived as part of an anti-Catholic movement, violates the Establishment Clause of the Constitution, especially when the money was going to a purely secular use.

While this might have been an easy win for the church before the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, who was on the court when the justices took the case in January, the remaining eight-members might not be quite so well-disposed to rule in its favor. Forcing taxpayers to underwrite improvements to church property is in direct conflict with some of the court’s earlier rulings. Critics see a ruling for the church as a slippery-slope sort of argument, leading to compulsory government support of religion, which the Founders deeply opposed.

Once again, Gorsuch’s views in Hobby Lobby and religious freedom seem likely to predispose him to support church, but we’ll know more about his position on April 19, when he will be on the bench for the oral arguments in this case.

Liberal court watchers, having lost the confirmation fight, are now moving into breath-holding mode as they look to these cases for clues as to just what sort of justice Gorsuch is really going to be. As Elizabeth Wydra, president of the Constitutional Accountability Center said Friday, “Now that he has been confirmed, we certainly hope that Justice Gorsuch will fulfill Judge Gorsuch’s commitments: To be an independent jurist, to be a good judge who respects precedent, to be an originalist who respects the Constitution’s radical guarantee of equality, and follows the text and history of the Constitution wherever it leads.She added, “The burden remains on Gorsuch to prove that he will be a Justice who fairly applies the law and the Constitution and does not, contrary to President Trump’s promises, just represent certain segments of the population.”

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These Four Cases Will Quickly Show Who Gorsuch Really Is

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