Texas has been experiencing really bad weather for the past few days. From the Houston Chronicle:
Recovery teams were resuming the search early Tuesday for 12 members of two families who are missing after a rain-swollen river in Central Texas carried a vacation home off its foundation, slamming it into a bridge downstream.
The hunt for the missing picked up after a holiday weekend of terrible storms that dumped record rainfall on the Plains and Midwest, caused major flooding and spawned tornadoes and killed at least eight people in Oklahoma and Texas. More than 1,000 homes have been damaged or destroyed in Texas, and thousands of residents are displaced.
Authorities were also searching for victims and assessing damage just across the Texas-Mexico border in Ciudad Acuna, where a tornado Monday killed 13 people and left at least five unaccounted for.
More on the flooding in Houston from the Chronicle: Heavy rains flood freeways, close schools, delays bus service.
Houston motorists woke Tuesday morning to swamped freeways and closed roads as heavy thunderstorms raked the region overnight, making the morning commute dangerous and even impossible for most.
The 610 Loop as well as Katy, North and South freeways were underwater in spots throughout the area. Other major roads blocked by high water include Memorial Drive and Allen Parkway near downtown.
No injuries have been reported, but dozens of vehicles were stranded in high water throughout the city. In many cases, the water came up to to the driver’s side windows of the abandoned cars, Other vehicles are almost submerged.
Firefighters with the Houston Fire Department were dispatched to several water rescues throughout the city. Areas along Brays Bayou near the 610 Loop were particularly hard hit with several rescues during the early morning hours Tuesday. Memorial Drive and Allen Parkway are closed.
According to the National Weather Service homes were reportedly flooded in the Larchmont subdivision about six miles southwest of the city early Tuesday morning. Some homes in Rosenberg were threaetened as more than three feet of water rose in the Greenwood subdivision a few hours before dawn Tuesday.
See some amazing photos posted on Twitter at News.Mic: 17 Photos of the Devastating Floods That Hit Houston. More photos at ABC 13. The Weather Channel is providing live updates.
NBC News reports that other states could be affected by the storms: Houston, Texas, Hit by Unprecedented Flooding; Seven States At Risk.
Flash-flood watches and warnings were issued across seven states early Tuesday as an unprecedented downpour of torrential rain triggered “extremely dangerous and potentially life-threatening” conditions in Houston.
More than 30 million Americans were told to brace for dangerous thunderstorms — including flooding, hail and possible tornadoes — as meteorologists warned the weather that has centered on Texas and Oklahoma since Saturday could expand to other areas.
At least 12 people were still missing, eight people have been killed, and countless more evacuated amid the deluge that has inundated Texas and Oklahoma with record-breaking floods since Saturday.
In Houston, more than 80,000 people were without power and the flood waters closed roads including Interstate 10 and Interstate 45. Houston was among 24 counties where Texas Gov. Greg Abbott declared a state of disaster on Monday.
I hope RalphB and his family are safe. Dakinikat could also be in the path of the damaging weather. New Orleans is expecting thunderstorms for the next few days.
In other news, there has been a shooting at a Walmart in Grand Forks, North Dakota–where the University of North Dakota is located. My Dad got his Masters degree there.
The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports: 2 fatally shot inside Grand Forks Wal-Mart; Air Force member involved.
The shooting occurred shortly before 1:05 a.m. in the supercenter store on 32nd Avenue, just east of Interstate 29, according to the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI) near Grand Forks.
Grand Forks police said officers discovered “multiple victims” inside the store and one of them was taken to Altru Hospital in Grand Forks for injuries that are not considered life-threatening.
The AFOSI said there were three people involved and one was an airman. The base is about 20 miles west of the store.
Neither police nor Air Force personnel released details about whether the airman was the shooter or one of the victims. There is also no immediate information about what prompted the violence, but Deputy Police Chief Mike Ferguson added, “the Police Department does not believe there is any further on-going immediate public safety risk at this time.”
There isn’t a lot of information about the incident as yet. From the Fargo Forum:
In a press conference at the Grand Forks Police Department, Zimmel said there was no active shooting when officers arrived on scene.
Zimmel said at this time, police believe the shooter is among the dead. Only one person involved in the incident is believed to have had a gun, Zimmel said.
Police are still investigating the motive behind the shooting, whether it was targeted or random….
Andy Legg, who was in the store at the time, told a WDAZ reporter he heard “popping sounds” going off in the store and that he and a group of customers were herded to a section of the store by authorities. Legg said he and the group later exited the building passing a Walmart employee covered in blood. Legg says he’s not sure of the person’s condition but that it “didn’t look good.”
Shortly after 4 a.m., a police SWAT team, using a special robot, began searching a car in the parking lot.
Remember Charles C. “Chuck” Johnson, the right wing a-hole and twitter troll? His account has once again been suspended by Twitter after he threatened activist Deray Mckessen. From re/code:
Notorious Twitter troll Chuck Johnson was placed in time-out Sunday — at least temporarily — and it looks as though the company’s new policy on violent threats was the reason.
Twitter suspended Johnson, who has a long history of Internet trolling, for what appears to be a threat against civil rights activist DeRay McKesson. Johnson tweeted this morning asking people to donate money for “taking out” McKesson, who responded, saying that he took Johnson’s comments as a “serious threat.”
The account suspension is nothing new for Johnson. But what’s worth noting is that this appears to be an example of Twitter’s new policy on threats coming into play. The company changed the policy’s wording last month so that it no longer included phrases like “direct” and “specific.” Essentially, those qualifiers were limiting the types of tweets Twitter could act upon.
Not anymore. This looks like the kind of threat that may have slipped through the system a few months back. So this is good for Twitter, a company that has struggled mightily when dealing with bullying and threats.
A Twitter spokesperson declined to comment on Johnson’s suspension, so there’s no way of knowing how long he’ll be blocked from the service.
In a statement to Re/code, Johnson accused Twitter of “censorship.”
“I was speaking metaphorically about exposing DeRay in much the same way Slate was speaking metaphorically when they talked about ‘taking out’ a Supreme Court justice,” he wrote.
But in an interview with CNN on Monday, Mckesson said that Johnson should have known better.
“For someone who considers themselves a journalist, I firmly believe that he understands the power of his words,” Mckesson explained. “And his words are his words. ‘Take out’ functions in a certain way. And if I got on any media outlet and said something to the effect of ‘take out the police,’ nobody would think that I was talking about an exposé.”
“I was proud that Twitter took the action to move so quickly, and remember that racism doesn’t exist only in the extremes,” he continued. “It’s not just slavery and the n-word. It functions in these subtle ways too. He, again, knew very clearly what he was doing by using this language.”
And from Pando Daily’s David Holmes: Here’s the remarkable letter Chuck Johnson’s attorney sent to Twitter threatening legal action.
For at least the fourth time in his sad, shameful, misogynist, racist career, Twitter has suspended the rightwing blogger Chuck Johnson….
…Johnson is outraged over the suspension, tweeting under a new account @citizentrolling– which a few minutes prior to my writing this sentence has now also been suspended — that Twitter is guilty of “censorship” and writing that the company’s enforcement of its policies exhibits a clear political bias against rightwingers like himself.
“Twitter doesn’t seem to have a problem with people using their service to coordinate riots,” Johnson wrote. “But they do have a problem with the kind of journalism I do.”
I’m struggling to know where to begin in describing the lunacy of Johnson’s argument. Under normal circumstances I wouldn’t engage at all with Johnson who has failed to build a career through producing quality journalism or analysis and instead — in what must be an overwhelmingly sad discovery — has found that the only thing anyone will pay him for anymore is to spew hatred at the most vulnerable members of society, in particular rape victims. But his complaints raise some important misconceptions about Twitter, free speech, and who controls what can or can’t be said in the new digital content paradigm.
Now it appears that Johnson is threatening legal action against Twitter for loss of income that would otherwise be generated by his hateful tweets. Johnson emailed me the letter his attorneys sent to Twitter demanding the reinstatement of his accounts, attached in full below. What makes it so absurd is the notion that Twitter is somehow guilty of “censorship” or that the company owes him a living.
Read the letter at the Pando link.
Sigh . . . When will “journalists” finally figure out that Hillary Clinton is a separate person from her husband and there is no reason for her to feel bound by decisions Bill Clinton made back in the 1990s?
Melinda Henneberger at Bloomberg Politics: Will Hillary Clinton Run Against Her Husband’s Welfare Legacy? I’m not even going to quote from the article. It’s just a rehash of 20-year-old events. Get a clue, Melinda. Hillary is not Bill, and over the past 20 years there has been a lot of water under the bridge. Hillary is not bound by things she or her husband said and did in the distant past.
Some Duggar updates:
State Sen. Bart Hester (R-Cave Springs) told KSFM-TV that Kathy O’Kelley, chief of the Springdale police, had harmed Duggar’s sisters and other girls he admitted to fondling as they slept in 2002, when he was 14 years old.
“The law to protect minors’ identities is not a suggestion,” Hester said. “So sad to see the person charged with protecting the community being so reckless and irresponsible. I believe it is unavoidable that the Springdale police chief should be terminated. She has re-victimized these young ladies.”
I guess Hester hasn’t heard of the Freedom of Information Act.
“From every indication I have, the chief and city attorney reluctantly did what they had to do to comply with the state (freedom of information) law,” said Dough Sprouse, the Springdale Mayor.
Hester, sponsor of an Arkansas bill similar to Indiana’s anti-LGBT “Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” wondered whether other sex abuse victims should worry that O’Kelley would publicize their identities.
Like he cares even an iota about abuse victims. Give me a break!
Days before news broke of Josh Duggar allegedly molesting five girls back when he was a teen, the 19 Kids and Counting star’s pregnant wife Anna Duggar shared a cryptic quote about forgiveness with her Instagram followers.
“The three most beautiful and liberating words in the English language are these,” the mother of three wrote on May 17, quoting pastor Lon Solomon on her page. “‘I forgive you.'” (Solomon, a senior pastor at a Virginia megachurch, is the author of a book titled Brokenness: How God Redeems Pain and Suffering.)
Well, she apparently knew all about Josh’s history and still decided to have children with him.
Finally, from TMZ: Josh Duggar Cracks Molestation Joke. Dating Family Is What We Do!
Back in 2008 — long before Duggar’s molestation past came to light — he made a quip during an episode of what was then called “17 Kids and Counting.”
Josh describes a double date scenario with his then-fiancée Anna … he ended up going with 2 of his siblings.
Josh explains, “We chose Jana and John David. We thought why not, have a double date … We are from Arkansas!”
He then broke out in laughter.
Not so funny now …
Not funny then either, IMHO.
So . . . what else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread and have a terrific Tuesday!
I attended a forum with my city councilwoman, congressman and democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi yesterday. It’s evident that part of the Democratic Party election strategy for these midterm elections is to turn out women, but I did find much of the forum very compelling and inspiring despite knowing the underlying motive.
Each of these forums showcase women that speak to issues that have framed their lives–be it pay inequality, the lack of child care or the lack of benefits like paid medical and parenting leave and medical insurance. Enabling women to better participate in the economy is part of the policy initiatives to revive the struggling American Middle Class. The other pillars are to use Buy America Bonds to modernize infrastructure and reduce student loan interest rates to that paid by banks.
Single and minority women overwhelmingly vote Democratic. So do people with graduate degrees and nearly every minority. Chuck Todd, who is succeeding at keeping MTP at the bottom of the ratings, refers to this phenomenon as the Chick-Fil-A Nation vs. Starbucks Nation. But really, how do so many folks that are struggling to make ends meet fall into the category of Starbucks customers?
“Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd on Sunday described the 2014 midterm elections as a battle between “Starbucks nation” and “Chick-Fil-A country.”
He split the U.S. into the Democratic urban areas that drink Starbucks and the Republican rural areas that eat Chick-Fil-A.
According to Todd, there are a few Senate seats up for grabs in Chick-Fil-A-loving states like Montana, South Dakota and West Virginia, giving Republicans the advantage. And he said that the major battlegrounds are Colorado and Iowa.
He said that Democrats will need to deploy major get-out-the-vote efforts in urban centers. Perhaps at Starbucks?
Much of the Democratic party base are those folks that are unlikely to get time off to vote. They are struggling with being underpaid and basically aren’t given paid time off for anything. And, there’s a whole lot of assholes on the internet that will tell them they are horrible people. But, guess what? Studies show that it’s internet trolls that are the horrible people. They test as sadists, sociopaths, and narcissists.
In this month’s issue of Personality and Individual Differences, a study was published that confirms what we all suspected: internet trolls are horrible people.Let’s start by getting our definitions straight. An internet troll is someone who comes into a discussion and posts comments designed to upset or disrupt the conversation. Often, it seems like there is no real purpose behind their comments except to upset everyone else involved. Trolls will lie, exaggerate, and offend to get a response.
What kind of person would do this?
Canadian researchers decided to find out. They conducted two internet studies with over 1,200 people. They gave personality tests to each subject along with a survey about their internet commenting behavior. They were looking for evidence that linked trolling with the Dark Tetrad of personality:narcissism, Machiavellianism, psychopathy, and sadistic personality.
[Edit to add: these are technical terms with formalized surveys to measure them. You can find lots more information about their formal definitions online]
They found that Dark Tetrad scores were highest among people who said trolling was their favorite internet activity.
The greatest thing that I found attending this forum was the number of young women who were truly committed feminists. Here’s a great speech given by the actress best known as the nerdy wizard girl of the Harry Potter Series. She’s a committed young feminist too.
Earlier this summer, fresh from college graduation, Emma Watson, was named a U.N. Women Goodwill Ambassador. Though the ripples of her involvement over the past six months can be seen online (crashing the U.N. website, using Twitter to denounce a sexist politician in Turkey or respond to the gender politics of the recent celebrity nude photo hack), Watson’s power in person is an entirely different matter.
The actress gave an impassioned speech on feminism and gender at the U.N. Headquarters in New York this weekend to launch the “HeForShe” campaignwhich aims to galvanize one billion men and boys as advocates for ending the inequalities that women and girls face globally.
I decided that I was a feminist. This seemed uncomplicated to me. But my recent research has shown me that feminism has become an unpopular word. Women are choosing not to identify as feminists. Apparently, [women’s expression is] seen as too strong, too aggressive, anti-men, unattractive.
Why has the word become such an unpopular one? I think it is right I am paid the same as my male counterparts. I think it is right that I should make decisions about my own body. I think it is right that women be involved on my behalf in the policies and decisions that affect my life. I think it is right that socially, I am afforded the same respect as men.
Watson is pushing back against recent campaigns like Women Against Feminism. As Watson puts it elsewhere in her speech, these campaigns portray the feminist cause as “man-hating.” By involving both genders in the “HeForShe” campaign, Watson hopes to abolish the “us vs. them” mentality.
Watson is potentially in an even better position than many of her peers to do so. Her role as Hermione Granger, the universally-adored heroine of the Harry Potter series, gives her an automatic in with male and female Millenials. This is a rare case where an actor being conflated with their role might be a good thing. In this way, her wide-spread influence on young minds (still forming their opinions on gender roles and advocacy) is even stronger than other high-profile defenders of the f-word like Beyoncé.
But, the world has changed and not always for the better. Not only are there tales of women who get sick with no health care and no paid medical leave. There is the ever decreasing disrespect shown to teachers and the way universities are saving their money to pay their highest administrators by using professors as adjuncts. It’s not only home health care workers, fast food workers, and retail workers that can’t live on the wages paid.
You’ve probably heard the old stereotypes about professors in their ivory tower lecturing about Kafka while clad in a tweed jacket. But for many professors today, the reality is quite different: being so poorly paid and treated, that they’re more likely to be found bargain-hunting at day-old bread stores. This is academia in 2014.
“The most shocking thing is that many of us don’t even earn the federal minimum wage,” said Miranda Merklein, an adjunct professor from Santa Fe who started teaching in 2008. “Our students didn’t know that professors with PhDs aren’t even earning as much as an entry-level fast food worker. We’re not calling for the $15 minimum wage. We don’t even make minimum wage. And we have no benefits and no job security.”
Over three quarters of college professors are adjunct. Legally, adjunct positions are part-time, at-will employment. Universities pay adjunct professors by the course, anywhere between $1,000 to $5,000. So if a professor teaches three courses in both the fall and spring semesters at a rate of $3000 per course, they’ll make $18,000 dollars. The average full-time barista makes the same yearly wage. However, a full-time adjunct works more than 40 hours a week. They’re not paid for most of those hours.
“If it’s a three credit course, you’re paid for your time in the classroom only,” said Merklein. “So everything else you do is by donation. If you hold office hours, those you’re doing for free. Your grading you do for free. … Anything we do with the student where we sit down and explain what happened when the student was absent, that’s also free labor. Some would call it wage theft because these are things we have to do in order to keep our jobs. We have to do things we’re not getting paid for. It’s not optional.”
We have a long way to go before all of us achieve life, liberty, and happiness. This is especially true since a huge portion of one of the two parties is more interested in ideological grandstanding and magical thinking than governance.
Two occupations make up the home care aide profession: personal aides who provide clients with self-care and help them with everyday tasks, and home health aides who assist the disabled, chronically ill, or cognitively impaired and may administer medication or check clients’ vial signs. Put together, about 2 million Americans hold these jobs. (The PHI estimates that there are likely hundreds of thousands of uncounted aides employed by individuals and families.)
The wages these workers earn are painfully low: the median salary for a personal care aide is $19,910 annually, or $9.57 an hour; a home health aide earns $20,820 or $10.01 per hour. As America’s population ages, these professions are expected to grow by 49% and 48%, respectively, from 2012 to 2022, eclipsing the average growth for all occupations: 11%. They are the second- and third-fastest growing occupations in the nation—behind only industrial-organizational psychologist, a job that brings in median annual wages of $83,750. On the BLS’s list of 30 fastest-growing jobs, personal and home care aides are the worst paid.
It’s no surprise, then, that the home care industry is plagued by high turnover rates, which the Institute for the Future of Aging Services pegged at between 40% and 60% for a home health aide who has been on the job for less than a year.
Take all these factors into account and you’ve got the makings of a public health crisis, says Ai-Jen Poo, director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, an advocacy group. “In light of the Age Wave—the Silver Tsunami—the high rates of burnout, and poverty wages that no one wants to work for—it’s not good for the general public,” she says.
Home care workers, who are employed by third-party agencies or by clients directly, have long been exempt from minimum wage and overtime laws. That will finally come to an end in January, when a Department of Labor regulatory change will grant most home care workers wages of at least $7.25 per hour and overtime.
The ramifications of the new rule illustrate, as Poo puts it, “the pattern and practice of discrimination” against home care workers. At the time of the rule’s announcement, it promised to give home care workers in 29 states minimum wage and overtime protections for the first time, according to the National Employment Law Project. Many of these states have minimum wage and overtime laws for other workers, of course, but some of them have over the course of their history carved out exemptions for in-home care providers. That means that in some states home care workers will earn the federally mandated $7.25 an hour for the first time in January, but if their state has a higher minimum wage that excludes in-home workers, they won’t be eligible for the higher rate. Alaska, for instance, enforces a minimum wage of $7.75 but it also has an exemption for “domestic service” employees, so most home care workers in that state will be subject to the federal $7.25 rate come January, not the state’s higher wage.
At the federal level, home health care workers aren’t covered by the Occupational Safety and Health Act, which only covers “facility” workers, according to PHI. And anti-discrimination laws, such as the Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, generally only cover employers with multiple employees, says the Economics Policy Institute, meaning some in-house workers are excluded.
Home health workers employed by individual households aren’t eligible for workers’ compensation, family and medical leave, and can’t enroll in a 401(k), PHI says.
In the hierarchy of workers, home health care workers are at the bottom, below even low-paid fast-food workers,whose recent strikes and protests have drummed up public empathy. This is by no means a new development.
It seems that these jobs really, really need unions. One woman who spoke from the audience said she was terminated after she asked to be removed from her contractor’s constant emails about who to vote for in upcoming elections. Evidently, they didn’t appreciate the fact she didn’t want to vote for the people who are making decisions that keep her from a living wage with benefits that ensure her well-being.
Here is another compelling story about a woman supporting her family at Burger King while attending university. She wrote an essay that went viral and has been turned into a book.
After the initial fuss, some journalists began muck-raking, trying to prove that you weren’t what you said you were. How did that feel?
I’m not going to recommend it as a lifestyle choice. I lost a ton of weight in three weeks. If you need a crash diet, go viral. Whatever it was I managed to capture had enough power truly to upset some people. A lot of them hoped I was a poor little rich girl, living in a McMansion. Emotionally, it would have been easier to deal with. But I’ve never claimed to be anything that I’m not. Guys, I called the thing “Why I make terrible decisions”.
So, I gave my welfare records to the Washington Post. Those things, and the teeth video, closed it down [in her essay, Tirado wrote that her teeth had rotted because she could not afford dental care, and that this made her unsuitable for working front-of-house in restaurants and offices; when this was disputed she posted a video online in which the ugly gaps in her teeth can clearly be seen].
The trouble is that a lot of people simply don’t understand the stratification in the lower classes. I wasn’t born in Appalachia with no running water. At Burger King I made $28,000 a year. Yes, you can survive on that money. But that’s not the point. It’s a 90-hour week. What is your life like while you’re surviving? Can you keep a family on it?
I have one more thing to ask you today besides begging you to vote for candidates that support the rights of all. It’s that time of year when we ask you to help us renew our domain name and gadgets that help us maintain the blog. Please click the donate button. Our bills are coming due for early October and we need help! Thanks so much!
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?