Blog Posts by Liz Goodwin

  • How the Koch brothers became criminal justice reformers

    When Koch employees were charged with environmental crimes, the brothers teamed up with defense lawyers

    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.

    “They have

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  • Marijuana legalization movement declares Election Day victory

    Oregon, D.C. voters decide in favor of legal pot

    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.

    Oregon joins Washington and Colorado in permitting the

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  • Scott Brown jokes his daughter got 'soft'

    Senate candidate teases daughter on trail

    New Hampshire Senate candidate Scott Brown joked at a last-minute campaign event Tuesday that his daughter, Ayla, has put on weight. "She's gotten a little soft," he said of the former "American Idol" contestant, and appeared to pat her belly. "She's still got sharp elbows." The video was taken by Guardian reporter Jon Swaine.

    Brown is neck-and-neck with Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen in the Granite State. Brown's daughters are used to their dad teasing them on the campaign trail. In 2010, before he won the Massachusetts Senate seat in an upset, Brown joked in front of a political rally that both of his daughters were "available" in case anyone wanted to date them.
  • Marijuana legalization and minimum wage hikes: The election’s liberal ballot propositions

    4 red states may raise hourly pay; Oregon and Alaska weigh legal pot

    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

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  • Georgia governor courts black voters, testing larger GOP strategy

    Nathan Deal is touting his criminal justice reform record, but black voters remain skeptical

    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.

    “Well, considering the fact that a majority of the inmates in the prison system are

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

    Infectious disease chief criticizes ‘blanket restrictions’ as Maine judge strikes down nurse’s quarantine

    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

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

    Test would cut down on days-long wait for diagnosis

    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

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  • Why New York’s Ebola case won’t be a rerun of Dallas's

    City officials say they watched Duncan’s case closely — and won’t make the same mistakes

    NEW YORK — Craig Spencer, a 33-year-old Doctors Without Borders physician who recently returned from Guinea, became the fourth person ever diagnosed with Ebola on U.S. soil on Thursday night. He was rushed to Bellevue Hospital Center by paramedics in hazmat suits and placed in the site’s isolation ward.

    But New York officials quickly insisted that the city’s first Ebola case will be handled completely differently than Liberian Thomas Eric Duncan’s in Texas.

    Duncan was turned away from Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas when health care workers failed to connect his West African travel history and high fever to the deadly virus that’s killed nearly 5,000 people so far. He returned a few days later in a regular ambulance to be treated by doctors and nurses who did not have their skin fully covered by protective gear. Duncan died and two of the nurses who cared for him also fell ill with Ebola.

    Local and national officials were criticized for bungling the response — not getting

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  • CDC debuts new safety steps in Ebola training for thousands

    At New York event, agency attempts to correct past missteps

    Thousands of New York City health care workers — from nurses to janitors — learned how to safely put on and take off a full suit of protective equipment to treat a patient with Ebola at an upbeat Centers for Disease Control and Prevention event in Manhattan on Tuesday.

    The CDC debuted its new safety standards for health care workers on Monday — recommending that everyone treating an Ebola patient be fully covered and wear two pairs of gloves and a special mask. The agency has been under fire since two nurses in Dallas fell ill with the disease while treating an Ebola-infected Liberian man, Thomas Eric Duncan, who became the first person to die from the deadly disease in the United States.

    “All of us are scared,” Arjun Srinivasan, a CDC official, told the New York health care workers. “It’s OK to be afraid.”

    Barbara Smith, a nurse at Mount Sinai hospital, practiced putting on and taking off the new safety equipment as her image was magnified on several large screens. Many of the

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  • CDC rethinking Ebola guidelines after criticism they left nurses unprotected

    Some hospitals considered group’s safety recommendations flimsy

    Now that at least two Dallas nurses who cared for Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan have themselves been diagnosed with the virus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is facing criticism that its initial recommendations to health care workers to protect themselves was inadequate. 

    The day after Duncan was diagnosed with Ebola, CDC Director Thomas Frieden told the public that it’s “easy” to prevent the spread of the disease if a person uses “gloves and barrier precautions,” because the only way to contract the virus is if an infected person’s body fluids enter the mucous membranes or an open wound of another person. He said health care workers at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas were taking “all of the precautions they need” to prevent infection.

    Since then, Duncan has died and two of the nurses at Texas Health Presbyterian who cared for him have tested positive for the disease. On Wednesday, Texas officials admitted that more of the 76 hospital workers who had

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Pagination

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