Posts by Liz Goodwin

  • Legal experts: How Congress can fight Obama’s immigration order

    Liz Goodwin at Yahoo News 4 days ago

    Nearly 60 House Republicans signed a letter to the president threatening to defund his efforts to executively offer relief to the immigrants. But the agency that would be in charge of the effort is self-funded, the House Appropriations Committee announced Thursday, making cutting off funding nearly impossible. A full government shutdown, meanwhile, would most likely blow up in Republicans’ faces, sparking charges of partisan bickering and raising economic anxieties right before the holidays. 

    Others, such as Texas Gov. Rick Perry, have threatened to contest Obama’s move in the courts. But legal experts say any lawsuits against Obama will face an uphill battle in a court system that’s repeatedly backed presidents’ broad latitude in setting law enforcement priorities.

    Congress does have one option that could work, though — exercising a muscle that’s withered with disuse by passing an actual law.

    But the legislative body never set a limit on the permits in the first place, which is what gave the president the freedom to do this, according to legal scholars.

  • A third of Fortune 500 companies now cover transgender health care

    Liz Goodwin at Yahoo News 5 days ago

    The number of Fortune 500 companies willing pay for sex reassignment surgeries and other transgender-related healthcare has gone from zero in 2002 to 169 this year, according to a new report from the Human Rights Campaign.

    The report, which ranks corporations on their treatment of gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans employees, also found that more than half of corporations with more than 500 employees that participated in the survey now cover the procedures. That’s 418 firms.

    Some of the biggest names in corporate America are among those who have signed up to cover the procedures, at up to $75,000 per employee. Facebook Inc., Visa, Starbucks Corp., CVS Health Corp. and Anheuser-Busch Companies Inc. are just some of the firms that decided this year to begin covering the procedures for their workers for the first time.

    “The jump in terms of employers adopting transgender benefits has been the most dramatic of any single aspect of the Corporate Equality Index in its entire history,” said Deena Fidas, the director of the Human Rights Campaign’s Workplace Equality Program, which has been producing the report for more than a decade.



  • Justice Department prods Ferguson police to improve

    Liz Goodwin at Yahoo News 9 days ago

    A small corner of the Justice Department led by a gregarious former police chief has spent months prodding local police in St. Louis and Ferguson, Mo., to change the way they view their citizens and to respond to protests with the intention of upholding people’s First Amendment rights, not shutting them down. 

    The effort is just one prong of an unusually involved response from the Justice Department to the Aug. 9 police shooting of an unarmed black teen named Michael Brown, which sparked weeks of occasionally violent protests in the area. A county grand jury is expected to decide any day now whether to indict Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson, who is white, in Brown’s death, and initial leaks from the proceedings suggest Wilson may not be charged.

    Protesters have vowed to shut down the town of Clayton, where the grand jury meets, when the decision is announced, and local and federal officials are bracing for the possibility of violence.

    He's stressed that the job is to protect the civil liberties of protesters.

    “In some areas we’ve seen some changes,” Davis said. “In many areas we have not. And probably more importantly, in those areas those changes will be yet to come.”

  • How the Koch brothers became criminal justice reformers

    Liz Goodwin at Yahoo News 12 days ago

    Billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch have used their fortune to back Republican candidates who support rolling back corporate regulations, slashing taxes and shrinking government.

    But the tea party benefactors have another cause close to their heart, one that’s shared with many tree-hugging liberals who vilify the brothers’ politics and business practices. They want to reform the U.S. criminal justice system, which locks away a higher percentage of citizens than any other country in the world at a staggering cost.

    Since 2004, the Kochs have quietly made substantial six-figure donations every year to a group representing criminal defense lawyers. The money has gone to training programs for court-appointed defenders, who predominantly represent poor and minority people who can’t afford their own lawyer, campaigns to reform the grand jury system and other causes. The Kochs haven’t attached strings to how the money must be used or sought recognition for the donations.

    “Everybody across the ideological spectrum recognizes that the ... system is a tragedy,” Reimer said. 

    Reimer says the partnership with Koch, which began in 2004, has been led by the NACDL from the beginning.

  • Marijuana legalization movement declares Election Day victory

    Liz Goodwin at Yahoo News 19 days ago

    Oregon became the third state to fully legalize marijuana Tuesday, while Washington, D.C., residents will soon be allowed to grow and possess pot without fear of legal repercussions. Despite a loss in Florida for medical marijuana, the twin victories prompted pot boosters to celebrate.

     “It’s always an uphill battle to win a marijuana legalization initiative in a year like this when young people are so much less likely to vote, which makes today’s victory all the sweeter,” Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, said. Pro-marijuana lobby groups significantly outspent opponents in Oregon, helping them win over voters who rejected a similar proposal in 2012.

    The pro-pot lobby even celebrated a victory in the unlikely tropical locale of Guam, a U.S. territory that voted to allow medical marijuana on Tuesday. And a legalization measure in Alaska similar to Oregon's looked likely to pass as of Wednesday morning.

    "We won tonight because of the hard work of Oregon voters," Oregon pot organizer Anthony Johnson said in a victory speech. "It's a policy whose time has come." 

  • Marijuana legalization and minimum wage hikes: The election’s liberal ballot propositions

    Liz Goodwin at Yahoo News 20 days ago

    While many pollsters are predicting Tuesday will be a big night for Republicans, some of the most high-profile ballot initiatives voters will weigh in on are decidedly liberal. Among the 146 ballot proposals and initiatives voters in 41 states will consider Tuesday are nine that would legalize marijuana and raise the minimum wage.

    Four red states — Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota — have measures on the ballot to lift their minimum wage above the federal level of $7.25, a key priority of President Barack Obama's that he has failed to push through Congress. In Illinois, a nonbinding ballot initiative will solicit voters’ opinions on raising the minimum wage to $10.

    Earlier this year, Obama lifted the minimum wage for all federal contract workers to $10.10 an hour, hoping to build momentum for a national law. Thirteen states and the District of Columbia raised their minimum wage in the past two years, but the national rate remains at $7.25, where it’s been since 2009. Someone working 40 hours a week at that rate would make $15,080 in annual gross earnings. Many Republicans argue that raising the minimum wage would stifle growth. 

  • Georgia governor courts black voters, testing larger GOP strategy

    Liz Goodwin at Yahoo News 21 days ago

    Nathan Deal, the 72-year-old Republican governor of Georgia, is fighting for his political life against former President Jimmy Carter’s grandson, two-term state Sen. Jason Carter. And in the process, he’s providing a cautionary tale to national Republicans about how hard it is to win over the black and other nonwhite voters they increasingly need to survive.

    Deal has reached out to the state’s growing share of African-American voters — about 30 percent of the electorate and growing — by touting his ambitious overhaul of Georgia’s criminal justice system, which has slashed spending on prisons, given young, nonviolent offenders a chance to avoid permanent criminal records and reduced the number of black men incarcerated in the state by 20 percent in five years. Deal knows how high the stakes are for Georgia Republicans, as fast-moving demographic changes appear to be pushing the long-red state purple.

    “This is huge stuff,” Leo Smith, the state Republican Party’s director of minority engagement, told Yahoo News. “The black community is excited about this."

    “This would lead to even more apathy,” he said.

    --Yahoo News’ Jon Ward contributed to this report.

  • Fauci says quarantines a ‘disincentive’ for health care workers battling Ebola

    Liz Goodwin at Yahoo News 24 days ago

    Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, told Yahoo News Friday that “blanket restrictions” on health care workers returning from West Africa could worsen the Ebola epidemic in the region.

    “The best way to protect Americans here is to completely suppress the epidemic in West Africa, and one of the important ways of doing that is getting these very brave and very self-sacrificing volunteers to give up their time and go there,” said Fauci, who’s helped lead the national response to Ebola.

    Over the past week, several states, including New York, New Jersey and Maine, have instituted or moved toward enforcing mandatory, 21-day quarantines for doctors and nurses returning from West Africa, defying federal guidelines.

    Fauci said enforcing mandatory quarantines on all health care workers could create a “disincentive” for people to help the effort, since they’d need to include another three weeks they could not spend with their families or at work in addition to the time they volunteered with patients. “We don’t want an unintended consequence of weakening our own effort,” he said.

  • Simple new test finds Ebola in 15 minutes, could be ‘game changer’

    Liz Goodwin at Yahoo News 26 days ago

    Tulane University scientists have created an Ebola diagnostic device that they say is as easy to use and nearly as fast as a home pregnancy test.

    The potentially game-changing device, which takes only a drop of blood and 15 minutes to identify the disease, is awaiting federal approval before it can be used in West Africa. Doctors there say it is sorely needed to prevent people from spreading the deadly virus while they wait days for lab results.

    Robert Garry, a professor of microbiology at Tulane, has teamed up with Corgenix, a Colorado-based company, to create the device with nearly $3 million in federal funds. They are awaiting a green light from the Food and Drug Administration to fast-track approval for its use in West Africa. Another company, Genalyte of San Diego, says it has developed a test that takes just 10 minutes and also needs only one drop of blood to diagnose.

    The tests “would really be a game changer,” said Ranu Dhillon, a doctor who is advising the president’s office in Guinea on its national response to Ebola.

    “Even if you vaccinate everyone, it takes you a while to get 100 percent coverage,” Dhillon said. “You’re still going to have cases happening.”