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Toms River – Dan Fagin

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Toms River

A Story of Science and Salvation

Dan Fagin

Genre: History

Price: $1.99

Publish Date: March 19, 2013

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group

Seller: Penguin Random House LLC


WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE •  Winner of The New York Public Library’s Helen Bernstein Book Award • “A new classic of science reporting.”— The New York Times The riveting true story of a small town ravaged by industrial pollution, Toms River melds hard-hitting investigative reporting, a fascinating scientific detective story, and an unforgettable cast of characters into a sweeping narrative in the tradition of A Civil Action, The Emperor of All Maladies, and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks . One of New Jersey’s seemingly innumerable quiet seaside towns, Toms River became the unlikely setting for a decades-long drama that culminated in 2001 with one of the largest legal settlements in the annals of toxic dumping. A town that would rather have been known for its Little League World Series champions ended up making history for an entirely different reason: a notorious cluster of childhood cancers scientifically linked to local air and water pollution. For years, large chemical companies had been using Toms River as their private dumping ground, burying tens of thousands of leaky drums in open pits and discharging billions of gallons of acid-laced wastewater into the town’s namesake river. In an astonishing feat of investigative reporting, prize-winning journalist Dan Fagin recounts the sixty-year saga of rampant pollution and inadequate oversight that made Toms River a cautionary example for fast-growing industrial towns from South Jersey to South China. He tells the stories of the pioneering scientists and physicians who first identified pollutants as a cause of cancer, and brings to life the everyday heroes in Toms River who struggled for justice: a young boy whose cherubic smile belied the fast-growing tumors that had decimated his body from birth; a nurse who fought to bring the alarming incidence of childhood cancers to the attention of authorities who didn’t want to listen; and a mother whose love for her stricken child transformed her into a tenacious advocate for change. A gripping human drama rooted in a centuries-old scientific quest, Toms River is a tale of dumpers at midnight and deceptions in broad daylight, of corporate avarice and government neglect, and of a few brave individuals who refused to keep silent until the truth was exposed. NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY NPR AND  KIRKUS REVIEWS “A thrilling journey full of twists and turns, Toms River is essential reading for our times. Dan Fagin handles topics of great complexity with the dexterity of a scholar, the honesty of a journalist, and the dramatic skill of a novelist.” —Siddhartha Mukherjee, M.D., author of the Pulitzer Prize–winning The Emperor of All Maladies   “A complex tale of powerful industry, local politics, water rights, epidemiology, public health and cancer in a gripping, page-turning environmental thriller.” —NPR “Unstoppable reading.” — The Philadelphia Inquirer   “Meticulously researched and compellingly recounted . . . It’s every bit as important—and as well-written—as A Civil Action and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks .” — The Star-Ledger   “Fascinating . . . a gripping environmental thriller.” — Kirkus Reviews (starred review)   “An honest, thoroughly researched, intelligently written book.” — Slate   “[A] hard-hitting account . . . a triumph.” — Nature   “Absorbing and thoughtful.” — USA Today From the Hardcover edition.

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Toms River – Dan Fagin

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Chris Christie Warned Trump Against Hiring Michael Flynn Last Fall

Mother Jones

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie advised Donald Trump against hiring Michael Flynn, both before the November election and afterward, Christie said on Monday. This warnings came when Christie served as chairman of Trump’s transition team and before the team was made aware that Flynn, who served briefly as Trump’s national security adviser, was under federal investigation.

“I didn’t think that he was someone who would bring benefit to the president or to the administration,” Christie said at a news conference. “And I made that very clear to candidate Trump, and I made it very clear to President-elect Trump. That was my opinion, my view.”

Christie made clear that he did not believe Flynn was a suitable choice. “If I were president-elect of the United States, I wouldn’t let General Flynn in the White House, let alone give him a job,” he said.

Shortly after the election, Vice President Mike Pence took over the transition team from Christie. Christie was recently named the head of a White House commission to combat drug addiction, and he has been mentioned as a potential addition to the White House staff. Flynn was forced to resign in February after it became public that he had lied to Pence about his contact with the Russian ambassador.

Christie reportedly clashed with Flynn, who was an adviser to Trump during the campaign last year. According to NBC News, both men were present at Trump’s first intelligence briefing last August.

Meanwhile, four people with knowledge of the matter told NBC News that one of the advisers Trump brought to the briefing, retired general Mike Flynn, repeatedly interrupted the briefing with pointed questions.

Two sources said Christie, the New Jersey governor and Trump adviser, verbally restrained Flynn—one saying Christie told Flynn to shut up, the other reporting he said, “Calm down.” Two other sources said Christie touched Flynn’s arm in an effort get him to calm down and let the officials continue.

Both Christie and Flynn denied this at the time. But if it’s true, it would help explain why Christie on Monday said that Flynn was “not my cup of tea” and that they “didn’t see eye to eye.”

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Chris Christie Warned Trump Against Hiring Michael Flynn Last Fall

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Left Hook: A Brief History of Nazi Punching in America

Mother Jones

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Long before the New York Times wondered, “Is it O.K. to punch a Nazi?,” far-right extremists were confronted by militant anti-fascists. These groups’ roots go back before World War II, when radicals battled nascent fascists and Nazis in the streets of Europe. The rise of violent white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups in the 1980s sparked the American “antifa” (anti-fascist) movement. Street squads like Anti-Racist Action and Fuck Shit Up took a nod from their European predecessors and responded with their own brand of extremism. A timeline of the American anti-fascist movement:

One of five anti-KKK marchers killed in Greensboro, North Carolina. Bettmann Archive/Getty Images

1979

Members of the Ku Klux Klan open fire on a “Death to the Klan” march in Greensboro, North Carolina, killing five people.

1981

The Dead Kennedys release “Nazi Punks Fuck Off.”

1982

In Southern California, Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice (SHARP) forms in response to the growing white power movement.

1983

The Baldies, a multiracial street crew, forms in Minneapolis. They dish out “righteous violence” to members of the Twin Cities’ racist skinhead gangs.

1988

Members of the Baldies join up with other young activists to launch a nationwide network of anti-fascist groups called Anti-Racist Action (ARA). Members commit to confronting right-wing extremists face-to-face: “Whenever fascists are organizing or active in public, we’re there…Never let the Nazis have the street!”

Late 1980s

Fuck Shit Up (FSU), a.k.a. Friends Stand United, which the FBI later classifies as a street gang, expels neo-Nazis and racist skinheads from punk shows in Boston. (In 2011, its founder, Elgin James, released Little Birds, a movie loosely based on his life—and went to prison for extortion.)

1993

A SHARP member shoots and kills a 21-year-old white supremacist in Portland, Oregon.

1998

White supremacists murder two ARA members—a white man and a black man who were best friends—in the desert outskirts of Las Vegas.

1999

A follower of Matt Hale, the neo-Nazi leader of the World Church of the Creator, goes on a three-day murder spree across Illinois and Indiana. His victims include a Korean student shot in Bloomington, Indiana, which becomes a hotbed of anti-racist organizing.

Matt Hale Tim Boyle/Getty Images

2002

ARA and a Boston anarchist group skirmish with white supremacists who turn out for a speech by Hale in York, Pennsylvania. (Hale is currently serving a 40-year sentence for soliciting the murder of a federal judge.)

Police clear out anti-racist protesters in Toledo, Ohio. J.D. Pooley/AP

2005

More than a dozen neo-Nazis try to march through a predominately African American neighborhood in Toledo, Ohio. Hundreds, including ARA members, shut down the march. Protesters throw bricks at cops, destroy police cars, and set buildings on fire.

2007

A 25-year-old man is beaten to death outside a punk show in Asbury Park, New Jersey, after reportedly refusing to take off a Confederate flag T-shirt. An alleged FSU member is arrested but not charged.

2009

Holocaust denier David Irving’s tri-state-area book tour is disrupted by ARA members. They also hack into and release Irving’s personal emails. In Chicago, an ARA member tries to infiltrate the National Socialist Front and is stabbed.

Mark Peterson/Redux

2011

Hundreds of protesters, including members of ARA and the New Black Panthers, clash with neo-Nazis in Trenton, New Jersey.

2012

Members of the Hoosier Anti- Racist Movement (HARM) and ARA attack white supremacists at a restaurant in Tinley Park, Illinois, leaving three people hospitalized. The Tinley Park Five are later convicted for their roles in the assault.

2013
Followers of a white nationalist group led by Matthew Heimbach protest a talk by an anti-racist author in Terre Haute, Indiana. They are allegedly beaten by HARM members wielding padlocks inside socks.

Feb. 2016

Ku Klux Klan members and antifas fight in Anaheim, California. Klansmen stab three people.

April 2016

The Bastards Motorcycle Club, an anti-racist motorcycle gang from South Carolina, confronts KKK members in Stone Mountain, Georgia.

June 2016

Antifas and anti-racists spar with white nationalists outside the California state Capitol in Sacramento. Fourteen people are injured, including seven with stab wounds.

“Alt-Right” godfather Richard Spencer is sucker punched on Inaguration Day Australian Broadcasting Cooperation

Jan. 20, 2017

White nationalist and “alt-right” godfather Richard Spencer is punched in the head by an unidentified man on the streets of Washington, DC, on Inauguration Day. He responds by suggesting alt-right vigilante squads for protection; the internet responds with “Nazi punching” memes. That night, an anti-fascist demonstrator is shot in Seattle by a Trump supporter during a protest of a speech by then-Breitbart troll Milo Yiannopoulos.

Feb. 1, 2017

Antifa and “black bloc” protesters violently shut down a talk by Yiannopoulos at the University of California-Berkeley.

Apr. 15, 2017

Pro-Trump supporters hold a “Patriots Day” rally in downtown Berkeley. They are confronted by antifascist counterdemonstrators and fighting breaks out. Police report 20 arrests and at least 11 injuries.

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Left Hook: A Brief History of Nazi Punching in America

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Trump is coming for your clean water.

A New Jersey startup called Bowery grows leafy greens stacked in columns five high under the watchful eyes of an AI system.

The operation, which officially launched last week, uses 95 percent less water than traditional methods and is 100 times more productive on the same footprint of land, according to the company.

Bowery calls itself “post-organic,” a label to describe its integration of tech and farming practices and its pesticide-free produce. That distinguishes it from large-scale organic farms, which do use pesticides — they’re just organic ones.

Bowery

Its AI system automates ideal growing conditions for crops by adjusting the lighting, minerals, and water, using sensors to monitor them. It can alter conditions to tweak the taste — emphasizing a wasabi-like flavor in arugula, for instance.

More than 80 crops are grown at the farm, including baby kale, butterhead lettuce, and mixed greens. The produce is delivered to New York stores within the day after harvest, and the greens go for $3.49 a box — on par with the competition.

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Trump is coming for your clean water.

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Foreclosure Victims Say They Were Mistreated by Trump’s Treasury Pick

Mother Jones

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After Donald Trump nominated longtime Goldman Sachs executive Steven Mnuchin to be secretary of the treasury, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the Democrats’ leading anti-Wall Street crusader, asked to include “victims of Mnuchin’s foreclosure machine” at his Senate confirmation hearing. According to Warren, Senate Republicans rebuffed her request. So on Wednesday, one day before Mnuchin goes before the Senate, Warren convened a panel of women who testified that OneWest Bank, under Mnuchin’s leadership, ruthlessly tried to take away their homes.

“If Steve Mnuchin become secretary of treasury, if he runs our country the way he ran OneWest Bank—cutthroat—this country is in trouble,” said Sylvia Oliver, a New Jersey woman whose home was scheduled to be foreclosed on by OneWest on Wednesday. According to Oliver, OneWest has refused to modify her mortgage, but she managed to stave off foreclosure with the assistance of Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), who was at Wednesday’s forum.

In early 2009, Mnuchin led a team of investors in purchasing failed home lender IndyMac from the federal government—after extracting a promise that the government would help pick up the tab for any losses—and took over as CEO of the bank, which changed its name to OneWest. During his tenure, which covered the time when the four women who testified ran into trouble with the bank, OneWest was known for its aggressive tactics in dealing with foreclosure. In 2015, Mnuchin sold OneWest to another California bank, CIT, for more than twice what he and his fellow investors had paid. Mnuchin, who had previously donated to Democratic candidates, joined Trump’s campaign fundraising team in May 2016, when Trump was still toxic to many Republicans, and he became one of Trump’s first announced Cabinet picks.

“The OneWest model was terrible for homeowners, but it was great for Mr. Mnuchin,” Warren said on Wednesday, claiming that Mnuchin pocketed more than $200 million from the sale to CIT. “At Thursday’s hearing, he will have the opportunity to explain why his years of grinding families into the dirt at OneWest Bank does not disqualify him from becoming the nation’s top economic official.” (A spokesman for Senate Finance Committee chairman Orrin Hatch did not respond to a request for confirmation that Warren had asked to include the foreclosure victims in Thursday’s hearing.)

Cristina Clifford, a California acupuncturist, told the panel that her business began to falter in 2009 and she struggled to make her mortgage payments to IndyMac. Clifford said the bank told her that she didn’t qualify for a mortgage adjustment because she had always made her payments on time. She said she stopped doing so, on the bank’s recommendation. But by the time she was approved for a mortgage modification and submitted the paperwork, the bank was under Mnuchin’s control. It cashed the check she sent with the paperwork, she said, but insisted it never received her application. This happened twice, Clifford said, and eventually the house was sold by the bank, even as she says her lawyer was attempting to work with OneWest to avoid a foreclosure.

“It was OneWest that saw a chance to make money,” Clifford told Mother Jones. “They could’ve kept me in the house and worked with me, or they could’ve sold the house and made a couple extra thousand dollars.”

Senate Democrats are expected to grill Mnuchin on OneWest’s business tactics tomorrow. The Hill obtained an advance copy of Mnuchin’s prepared statements and reported that he will defend OneWest as “an American success story.”

“My group had nothing to do with the creation of risky loans in the IndyMac loan portfolios,” Mnuchin reportedly plans to say. “We did this because we believed in our ability to rebuild and create a successful regional bank. We believed in recovery for the American economy.”

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Foreclosure Victims Say They Were Mistreated by Trump’s Treasury Pick

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A Guide To Donald Trump’s Huge Debts—and the Conflicts They Present

Mother Jones

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Donald Trump has announced that on December 15 he will hold a press conference to reveal to the world his plan to address the many conflicts of interest between his vast business empire and his new role as president. Trump has indicated that he will remove himself from the daily “business operations” of the Trump Organization—but not sell off his holdings or create a truly blind trust.

Ethics experts have criticized this approach because Trump would continue to own his properties, benefiting from their success and suffering from their losses. He would know when his policy decisions and actions—or those of others (including corporations and foreign governments)—could affect his assets. Consequently, he would not be separating his presidential decision-making from his own personal financial circumstances. Yet, arguably, the biggest conflicts he faces aren’t related to what he owns. Rather, they relate to what he owes.

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All of Trump’s top properties—including Trump Tower, the Trump National Doral golf course, and his brand new luxury hotel in Washington, DC—are heavily mortgaged. That means Trump maintains critical financial relationships with his creditors. These interactions pose a significant set of potential conflicts, for his creditors are large financial institutions (domestic and foreign) with their own interests and policy needs. Each one could be greatly affected by presidential decisions, and Trump certainly has a financial interest in their well-being.

Below is a list of all the financial players that Trump owes money to and how much Trump directly has borrowed from each one. This roster is based on publicly available loan documents. According to his own public disclosure, Trump, as of May, was on the hook for 16 loans worth at least $713 million. This list does not include an estimated $2 billion in debt amassed by real estate partnerships that include Trump. One of those loans is a $950 million deal that was cobbled together by Goldman Sachs and the state-owned Bank of China—an arrangement that ethics experts believe violates the Constitution’s emolument clause, which prohibits foreign governments from providing financial benefits to federal officials.

Deutsche Bank: $364 million

The troubled German bank is Trump’s top lender and has been for years. When the rest of Wall Street essentially abandoned Trump years ago, apparently frustrated by his business tactics, Deutsche Bank stuck by the celebrity developer. Well, not all of Deutsche Bank. In 2005, Trump borrowed $640 million from a group of banks, including Deutsche Bank, to build his Chicago tower. But by 2008, the real estate market had gone bad, and Trump was in financial trouble. Shortly before he was due to pay Deutsche Bank $40 million for a portion of the loan he had personally guaranteed, Trump filed a lawsuit against the German bank, demanding $3 billion to compensate him for the international economic turmoil that Trump claimed the bank had helped cause and that Trump now said was hurting his investment in Chicago.

The dispute was eventually settled, but Trump’s relationship with the division of the bank handling big commercial loans was done. Instead, he began working with what’s known as the “private bank” side of Deutsche Bank—the division that caters to high-net-worth individuals and which has significantly more leeway to lend money. His various corporations now have four outstanding loans from that part of Deutsche Bank, worth a combined $364 million.

Trump’s Deutsche Bank loans include:

$125 million for two mortgages on his Trump National Doral golf course in Miami. Both were taken out in 2012.
$69 million for a 2014 loan tied to the Chicago tower that Trump and Deutsche previously bickered over. This loan is listed within Cook County property records. Trump’s personal financial disclosure form lists a loan that appears similar but doesn’t match the official record. That document notes he has a 2012 loan for the Chicago tower valued at between $25 million and $50 million.
$170 million for a loan related to the Trump’s hotel in the Old Post Office in Washington, DC. Trump doesn’t own the building—he leases it from the federal government—but he borrowed the money to finance the building’s extensive renovation. It’s not clear when Trump borrowed the money, but it was likely after he announced his bid for the presidency.

Trump has an enormous conflict of interest on his hands with Deutsche Bank. As Trump himself noted in his 2008 lawsuit against the bank, Deutsche played a prominent role in the run-up to the 2008 financial crisis. The Obama administration has targeted Deutsche Bank and other banks for creating and repackaging bad mortgage products, and earlier this fall the Justice Department announced it was seeking to settle claims against the bank for about $14 billion. That was much more than Deutsche Bank was expecting to pay, and the news sent the bank into a tailspin. Its stock price plummeted amid speculation that it could not remain afloat if the Justice Department pressed the bank for such a big settlement.

Negotiations between the bank and the Justice Department over the size of the settlement are underway. But if they are not resolved by January 20, Trump’s administration will be in charge of handling this case. So a federal government run by Trump will have to decide how hard to push the bank that Trump owes so much to and that has been critical to Trump’s personal fortunes.

Ladder Capital: $282 million

Ladder Capital is not a traditional bank or a big name on Wall Street, but in the last several years it has joined Deutsche Bank as a main source of financing for Trump. In fact, since 2012, these two outfits have been the only ones to lend Trump money. Ladder Capital is a small Wall Street firm that specializes in loaning money for commercial real estate projects and, with the help of the big Wall Street banks, combining pieces of these loans into bigger packages that it then sells to investors.

One big issue with Trump’s loans from Ladder Capital is that he appears to be personally liable for at least $26 million of the debt. So if a problem with the loan emerges, Ladder Capital could ask Trump, not his business, to cover this amount personally. Even if Trump does remove himself from the operations of the Trump Organization and lets his adult children run the business, this conflict of interest would not be addressed. The man in the Oval Office would still be in hock to this financial institution.

There’s another major issue with the Ladder Capital loans. As was reported last week, Ladder Capital has hired Citibank to help organize a possible sale. Sources at the firm told Reuters that new federal regulations covering the repackaging of loans were making the company’s core business more complicated.

It’s possible then that if the firm does go on the block, Trump’s loans could end up being bought by another party. It could be an investor or a financial institution based in the United States or overseas. Imagine, say, a Russian bank owning the debt of an American president. In any event, another troubling conflict of interest could exist—and the public might not even know about this at first, for Trump would be under no obligation to update the personal financial disclosure until it was time to file his annual disclosure report.

Trump’s loans with Ladder Capital include:

$160 million for a loan related to Trump’s 40 Wall Street office tower. Trump took out the mortgage in 2015 to replace a similar loan he had from Capital One with a higher interest rate.
$100 million for a mortgage on Trump Tower. This is Trump’s most prized possession and the possible “White House North,” but he only owns a small portion of the property. (Most of the condo units were sold years ago.) This mortgage provides Trump a line of credit secured by the building.
$7 million for a mortgage on several commercial condo units in the Trump International Hotel Tower on New York City’s Columbus Circle. This loan doesn’t appear on Trump’s most recent personal financial disclosure. He filed that document in May, and he borrowed this money in July. The loan replaced an earlier one of the same amount that Trump had obtained from Swiss bank UBS Capital.
$15 million for a mortgage on three condo units in the Trump Plaza apartment building on New York’s upper East Side.

Investors Savings Bank: $23 million

In 2010, Trump combined an earlier mortgage on his Westchester County golf course into a much larger $23 million mortgage that also leveraged his ownership of condo units in the Trump Park Avenue building in New York City.

Amboy Bank: $16 million

In 2010, Trump took out a mortgage on his Trump National Golf Club-Colts Neck in Monmouth County, New Jersey, for $16 million from Amboy Bank, a tiny New Jersey bank.

Chevy Chase Trust Holdings: $10 million

In 2009, Trump purchased a golf course in Loudon County, Virginia, for $13 million. To make the deal happen, he borrowed $10 million from the land development company that previously owned the property.

Bank of New York Mellon Trust: $9.25 million

Trump’s personal financial disclosure lists bonds, first issued in 1996, against a commercial property on New York’s East 56th Street. Paperwork filed with the State of New York shows the due date on the bonds has been extended to 2020.

Royal Bank of Pennsylvania: $8 million

In 1995, Trump purchased a lavish estate in Westchester County, New York, and in 2000 he refinanced that purchase with an $8 million mortgage from the Royal Bank of Pennsylvania. Trump originally planned to turn the large estate into a golf course, but opposition from local residents blocked the project. The property has been used as a family retreat and a playground for Trump’s two oldest sons. Trump has long had a personal relationship with the bank’s founder, and he allowed the banker’s 10-year-old grandson to perform magic tricks at Trump’s Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City.

Merrill Lynch: Less than $750,000

In the early 1990s, Trump purchased two houses next to his Mar-A-Lago estate, borrowing about $2 million from Merrill Lynch for these purchases. The loans, which were taken out in 1993 and 1994 and come due in 2019, are now worth between $350,000 and $750,000.

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A Guide To Donald Trump’s Huge Debts—and the Conflicts They Present

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How One Plan to Bring Undocumented Immigrants out of the Shadows Could Get Them Deported

Mother Jones

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Since 2015, California has issued about 800,000 licenses to drivers who lack proof of legal residence. In Illinois, more than 212,000 people have received what are known as temporary visitor driver’s licenses. Connecticut has approved around 26,000 drive-only licenses for undocumented immigrants, and nine more states plus the District of Columbia have similar programs.

To date, these initiatives have been widely hailed as a reasonable way to try to improve public safety, by helping make sure that everyone behind the wheel was a competent driver. But now, with the incoming Trump administration seemingly committed to deporting undocumented individuals, there is worry among immigration advocates that the identifying data collected as part of these programs—names, addresses, copies of foreign passports—could be used by federal authorities looking to send people back to their home countries.

Last month, Trump said he would deport or incarcerate as many as 3 million undocumented immigrants who have criminal records. A 10-point immigration plan on Trump’s transition website lists “zero tolerance for criminal aliens,” along with a promise to “ensure that other countries take their people back when we order them deported.” The plan also calls for blocking funding for so-called “sanctuary cities” that historically have limited their cooperation with federal immigration agents.

“The discussion up to this point has been hypothetical or theoretical, and now it’s feeling very real,” said Jonathan Blazer, advocacy and policy counsel for the ACLU. “People start to think, ‘Are things going to look completely different than they’ve ever looked before, in terms of what the federal government might try to do?'”

Nothing in federal law specifically entitles immigration agents access to state data on drivers who may be in the country illegally, according to Blazer. To get states to produce a list of these drivers, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement—which includes the federal government’s deportation arm—might have to rely on its administrative subpoena power. Even then, states could refuse to provide the information, thereby forcing the federal government to sue for the driver data or narrow its request, Blazer and other legal experts said.

“If ICE just came and said, ‘Hey, give me all your driving privilege card holders, ‘I would say, ‘No,’ and they would have to take some sort of different legal action that is beyond my control,” said Scott Vien, the director of Delaware’s Division of Motor Vehicles, which has so far issued about 3,500 driving credentials to undocumented immigrants. Some of the records they maintain include copies of birth certificates, foreign passports and consular identification cards.

Uncertainty already surrounds the fate of more than 700,000 undocumented immigrants who first arrived in the United States as children, and who obtained temporary reprieves from deportation through a 2012 executive action of President Barack Obama. In applying to the program, these individuals submitted all sorts of personal information to the federal government, including home addresses and the names of family members. Immigrants and their advocates now fear that this information could be turned over to federal immigration officials after Obama leaves office, for use in tracking down undocumented individuals.

Driving records, it is now clear, constitute another vast store of data on US residents who may not be residing in the country legally. In all, more than 1 million licenses meant for people without proof of legal immigration status have been issued across the country.

There have already been some instances of ICE seeking to get and use driver’s license information in bulk from states that do not have the special programs for the undocumented—New Jersey among them. In 2012, ICE’s Newark field office obtained from the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission a list of people who had applied for restricted licenses using valid but temporary immigration documents. An initial review “resulted in the identification of numerous foreign-born individuals who fall under ICE priorities,” according to an April 2012 letter from the field office director, who also requested that New Jersey continue to supply updated lists.

That same year, the Atlanta field office proposed gaining access to the names of foreign-born residents with temporary driver’s licenses, as well as lists of rejected license applications, as part of its efforts to achieve that year’s “criminal-alien removal target.” That DMV project was not implemented, according to an ICE official’s email from 2014, which was obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by the National Immigration Law Center.

The Illinois secretary of state’s office has said it cannot guarantee the safety of temporary license applicants’ information from federal immigration authorities. If the office receives a “legally valid request” for information on license applicants who lack proof of legal residence, it will comply, according to an FAQ published by the state earlier this year.

“If ICE did come to us with a subpoena, we’d probably have to go and get a legal opinion, from the attorney general,” said Dave Druker, a spokesman for the Illinois secretary of state’s office. “It hasn’t happened yet.”

The state has had a problem with protecting applicant information before. About three years ago, an employee of the secretary of state’s office alerted ICE about an undocumented immigrant who had applied for a temporary license. The applicant was then apprehended upon showing up at a state office for an appointment in February 2014. Due in part to outcry from immigrant rights advocates following the incident, the state has said it will no longer proactively volunteer information to ICE about temporary license seekers, as long as they do not have any records of felony criminal activity or appear on any terrorism watch list.

“In order to find out the legality, someone needs to be willing to sue, and because of data sharing and how it operates, a lot of times it’s going to require a political actor to do that—a state, a locality,” said Mark Fleming, the national litigation coordinator for the National Immigrant Justice Center. “That’s often a political decision for a lot of elected officials.”

ICE already enjoys limited access to basic state driver’s license information through a law enforcement data exchange network called Nlets. However, the information ICE can see wouldn’t necessarily give away someone’s immigration status.

In California, any driver’s license information that the state makes available to law enforcement agencies through data-sharing systems does not indicate whether the driver provided evidence of legal immigration status, according to Artemio Armenta, a spokesman for the California Department of Motor Vehicles.

In the Illinois system, however, there’s a potential giveaway: Driver data for a regular license includes a Social Security number, whereas temporary license records will list a consular card or foreign passport number instead.

Other states that offer driving privileges to undocumented individuals include Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, and Vermont. In Washington state, no resident has to provide evidence of legal presence or citizenship to obtain a standard license. Even so, many immigrants who lack proof of legal residence face a dilemma in deciding whether or not to take advantage of these programs and apply for driving credentials.

“People can’t be afraid to get the license that would enable them to learn the rules of the road and hold them accountable for driving,” said Tanya Broder, a senior staff attorney with the National Immigration Law Center. At the same time, “we’ve told people that if they’re at high risk, if they don’t want to be seen or found, that the DMV database makes them easier to find.”

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How One Plan to Bring Undocumented Immigrants out of the Shadows Could Get Them Deported

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After the Election, Trump Maintains His Bizarre Relationship with Conspiracy-Pushing Website

Mother Jones

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On the Sunday after Thanksgiving, as part of a multi-tweet rant against Green Party candidate Jill Stein’s recount effort in Wisconsin (and perhaps Michigan and Pennsylvania), President-elect Donald Trump questioned the integrity of the 2016 election.

Trump won 306 Electoral College votes to Clinton’s 232 (Michigan’s 16 were called for him today); so his victory was not exactly a landslide. But the bigger lie was that “millions” of people voted illegally, for which there is no evidence. Clinton’s lead of more than 2 million votes in the popular vote, and her campaign’s recent announcement that it would participate in the recount organized by Stein, seemed to have inspired yesterday’s tweet. But its origins trace back to a right-wing conspiracy theory that began to take hold shortly after the election.

According to the Washington Post, on November 13 Gregg Phillips, a former Texas Health and Human Services Commission deputy commissioner, tweeted that he had “verified more than three million votes cast by non-citizens.” He wrote that he was joining with True the Vote, a conservative group, “to initiate legal action.” The day after Phillips’ tweet, his claim was picked up by Infowars and a series of right-wing commentators and websites. True The Vote issued a statement Monday saying it “absolutely supports” Trump’s “recent comment about the impact of illegal voting, as reflected in the national popular vote.” In an email to Mother Jones on Monday, Catherine Engelbrecht, the founder of True the Vote, said a study of data was forthcoming. “We do have evidence that non-citizens are being registered and are voting,” she added, but she wouldn’t elaborate.

If Trump got his information for this weekend’s tweet from Infowars, it wouldn’t be the first time Team Trump cited this bizarre and unreliable source. Infowars, a conspiracy theory website run by Alex Jones, has been one of the Trump campaign’s go-to sources of information. On September 8, the candidate’s son Donald Trump Jr. tweeted the Infowars story “Was Hillary Wearing an Earpiece During Last Night’s Presidential Forum?” Trump himself has used the site’s work to bolster way-out claims, including his references to Clinton’s alleged poor health and his false assertion that “thousands and thousands” of American Muslims were celebrating the 9/11 attacks in New Jersey. Trump appeared on Jones’ internet-based talk show in December 2015 and told him, “Your reputation is amazing. I will not let you down.” Roger Stone, a longtime Trump adviser and a conspiracy theorist who claims LBJ killed JFK, has often appeared on Infowars, and he held joint events with Jones at the Republican convention in Cleveland in July. At that convention, Jones had “special guest” credentials.

Following the election, Jones claimed that Trump called to thank him and his listeners “for fighting so hard for Americans, and for Americanism.” A spokeswoman for Trump did not respond to a request for comment.

The Trump relationship to Jones and Infowars is one of the weirdest aspects of the 2016 election. Jones’ Infowars site offers up a steady stream of red meat for the conspiratorial far right. It claims that the US government was complicit in the 9/11 attacks and that the Sandy Hook massacre was “completely fake.” (It claims those children weren’t killed, and the whole thing was a ruse to make it easier for the government to push gun control.) On Monday, the site promoted Jones’ theory that the Stein recount is a means for Democratic donors to make Trump “illegitimate to cause a civil war in this country.” Another post titled “HUGE #PIZZAGATE NEWS COMING” hyped a discredited story about a Washington, DC-based pedophilia ring connected to Clinton operating out of a pizzeria. A third story maintained that Clinton has a plan to overturn Trump’s win.

Put simply, the president-elect is calling into doubt the election because of a conspiracy theory website known for pushing the most outlandish claims. Trump’s connection to Jones did not gather much attention during the campaign. But with this latest tweetstorm, Trump has indicated that he is still hobnobbing with these dark and paranoid forces—one sign that the conspiracy peddlers of Infowars will require close watching in the Trump years ahead.

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After the Election, Trump Maintains His Bizarre Relationship with Conspiracy-Pushing Website

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Even More Proof That Gun Laws Work

Mother Jones

The rates of gun violence in the 10 states with the weakest gun laws are more than 3 times higher than those in the 10 states with the strongest gun laws. That’s one of the major findings of a new report from the Center for American Progress (CAP) that analyzes 10 indicators of firearm violence—including suicide, murder, fatal gun accidents, and mass shootings—in all 50 states and finds a “strong” correlation between gun violence and weak gun laws.

The states with the highest levels of gun violence include Louisiana, Alaska, Mississippi, West Virginia, and Alabama, which also have some of the weakest gun laws in the nation, according to CAP. States with relatively strict gun laws, such as Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts, experience significantly lower levels of gun violence. While the report does not assess the impact of specific laws, it does note previous examples of how specific laws have affected gun crime. For example, when Connecticut implemented laws requiring a permit to purchase a gun and mandated background checks, gun-related homicides dropped 40 percent. In contrast, when Missouri eliminated the same requirements, its gun homicide rate increased by 25 percent.

Center for American Progress

“If you have good gun laws, the people in your state will in fact be safer, and if you have bad gun laws, people in your state—and people in other states—will be at risk,” Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy said in a press call about the study. “In many of the cases where violence plays out in Connecticut, we discover that the gun was purchased in a state that had loopholes that we don’t have in our own state.” Since the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre, Connecticut has mandated background checks for all gun sales, required safer gun storage, limited the types of guns that can be sold, and required that all guns in the state be licensed. “In the two completed years that have been analyzed since we passed our updated gun laws, Connecticut has seen the sharpest drop in violent crime of any of the 50 states,” Malloy, a Democrat, said.

Meanwhile, “Florida has taken the exact opposite approach to dealing with gun violence,” said Mayor Andrew Gillum of Tallahassee, Florida. In the same call with reporters, Gillum noted that in response to an attempted mass shooting at a Florida University in 2015, the state legislature introduced a proposal to allow concealed carry on college campuses. He added that the legislature and governor “have taken affirmative steps to prevent local governments like mine from trying to take action” to address gun violence.

Under Florida law, local governments cannot regulate the use of weapons. “In my very own city, we have a gun law that says you can’t fire off weapons in city parks where kids play and our families picnic,” Gillum explained. In response, Tallahassee was sued by pro-gun groups including the Second Amendment Foundation and the National Rifle Association, as well as the state’s attorney general. “It’s extremely frustrating to try to work to keep our communities safe in a state when the legislature is actively working against you, and is beholden unfortunately to the powerful gun lobby,” Gillum said.

The new study builds on a growing body of research that has reached the same conclusion: Stricter gun laws are linked to lower rates of gun violence. The NRA has long rejected these findings. Speaking to the New York Times about the new report and those with similar findings that came before it, an NRA spokeswoman claimed that the research “cherry picked” evidence. As a counterpoint, she cited the work of the controversial researcher John Lott, whose widely discredited theory is summed up in the title of his best-known book: More Guns, Less Crime.

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Even More Proof That Gun Laws Work

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Trump Spent All Day Pushing for Racial Profiling and Refugee Crackdowns

Mother Jones

Donald Trump claimed on Monday that the terrorist attacks in New York, New Jersey, and Minnesota over the weekend were caused by “extremely open immigration” and again falsely accused Hillary Clinton of supporting open borders.

“These attacks and many others were made possible because of our extremely open immigration system, which fails to properly vet and screen the individuals or families coming into our country,” Trump said at a rally in Fort Myers, Florida. “We have seen how failures to screen who is entering the United States puts all of our citizens…in danger.”

The GOP nominee has long supported cutting off Muslim immigration into the United States and ending the Syrian refugee program until “extreme vetting” can be put in place, and he renewed those calls during Monday’s rally. He has not yet explained how this proposed system would be an improvement over the current vetting process for Syrians, which immigration officials call the toughest and lengthiest immigration screening currently carried out by the US government.

Trump also seemed to suggest that Ahmad Khan Rahami, who planted the bombs in New York and Seaside, New Jersey, on Saturday, should face trial as a “foreign enemy combatant,” despite the fact that Rahami is an American citizen who was captured on US soil. Rahami was apprehended on Monday after a firefight with police in Linden, New Jersey. Trump complained extensively about the treatment Rahami will supposedly receive while in custody.

“We will give him amazing hospitalization. He will be taken care of by some of the best doctors in the world…And on top of all of that, he will be represented by an outstanding lawyer,” Trump said. “What a sad situation.”

Trump attacked Clinton as weak on immigration and terrorism, saying the Democratic nominee “has the most open borders policy of anyone ever to seek the presidency.” He also falsely claimed that ISIS prefers that Clinton win the election. “They want her so badly to be your president, you have no idea,” Trump said. In fact, Trump’s comments have been included in an ISIS propaganda video in the past, and ISIS fans on the chat app Telegram have cheered Trump’s candidacy. “I ask Allah to deliver America to Trump,” said an ISIS spokesman on the app in August.

The speech followed a day in which Trump also called President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton “weak” and demanded more racial profiling. He claimed that police officers are “afraid” to confront potential terrorists because they might be accused of profiling. “If somebody looks like he’s got a massive bomb on his back, we won’t go up to that person,” he said on Fox and Friends on Monday morning. “Because if he looks like he comes from that part of the world, we’re not allowed to profile. Give me a break.” He even seemed to suggest a ban on all immigration, saying, “We can’t let any more people come into this country.” Later in the day, the Trump campaign issued a statement that called again for “extreme vetting” of refugees and keeping the number of Syrian refugees in the United States at their current low levels.

Trump also bragged during the Fox and Friends interview that he had described the explosion in New York as a bombing on Saturday night, when he told the crowd at a rally in Colorado that a bomb had gone off in Manhattan before police had confirmed what the explosion was. “I should be a newscaster because I called it before the news,” he said.

Clinton in turn attacked Trump for playing into the clash-of-civilizations rhetoric used by ISIS and other terrorist groups. “We know that a lot of the rhetoric we’ve heard from Donald Trump has been seized on by terrorists, in particular ISIS, because they are looking to make this into a war against Islam rather than a war against jihadists,” she said to reporters in White Plains, New York.

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Trump Spent All Day Pushing for Racial Profiling and Refugee Crackdowns

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