Blog Posts by Liz Goodwin

  • White House to Justice Kennedy: No thanks to birth control advice

    Justice Anthony Kennedy had some helpful advice for the White House about how it could still provide birth control to women even after the Supreme Court dealt a blow to the law on Monday.

    But the problem is, the Obama administration isn’t interested.

    The swing-vote justice sided with the conservative majority on Monday, which ruled 5-4 that craft chain Hobby Lobby and other “closely held” for-profit companies do not have to provide contraceptives to their employees if doing so violates their religious beliefs. The decision means that thousands of the company’s female employees will not have access through their insurance to intrauterine devices and other forms of contraception their bosses object to. The case is the first to uphold a religious freedom right of a for-profit corporation.

    But the justice, who is known for “splitting the baby” in big decisions in which he is often the deciding vote, suggested the government could still provide birth control to those employees by expanding

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  • Criminal courts tailored to veterans multiply as wars wind down

    Special vets-only justice system gives second chances to those who served

    Jaime Pagan, 33, sits on the stoop of his apartment building in the Bensonhurst neighborhood of Brooklyn last week. Pagan is about to finish veterans court-mandated rehab. (Photo by Gordon Donovan/Yahoo News)Jaime Pagan, 33, sits on the stoop of his apartment building in the Bensonhurst neighborhood of Brooklyn last week. Pagan is about to finish veterans court-mandated rehab. (Photo by Gordon Donovan/Yahoo News)
    The first time Jaime Pagan got arrested, he was lost and alone.

    He had been out partying with his buddies from childhood, something he was doing more and more often to delay the dreaded hours spent alternating between trying to sleep and enduring vivid nightmares about being redeployed to Mosul, Iraq, with his unit.

    Pagan was speeding around Long Island at 4 a.m., wondering how he could have driven so far off course from Brooklyn, when he saw police lights in his rearview mirror. The officer pulled him over and tested his blood alcohol level, which was nearly twice the legal limit.

    For the first time in his life, Pagan was in real trouble. He was arrested, fingerprinted and thrown in the county jail overnight. The next day, he waited in a long line of offenders before a judge sentenced him to a rigorous six-month alcohol treatment program, cutting him a break since he was a first-time lawbreaker. Each time Pagan appeared in court for his monthly checkup, a new prosecutor, judge and

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  • Charlie Rangel rebuffs primary challenger to win 23rd House term

    Harlem congressman eked out close victory over Espaillat

    Spend more than 40 years running for office, and you get pretty good at it.

    Rep. Charlie Rangel of New York likely won himself a 23rd term in Congress Tuesday night, despite an ethics scandal that’s caused some Democratic politicians to keep their distance, and a recent shake up of the boundaries of his district that has shifted his constituency to be majority Hispanic, instead of African American.

    The 84 year-old Harlem powerhouse beat his main primary challenger, state senator Adriano Espaillat by 3 percentage points, the AP reported Wednesday afternoon. The city will continue to count outstanding absentee ballots next week, but it appears Espaillat cannot win even if they go his way. (The state senator says he won't concede until every vote has been counted.) The pair was at times neck and neck in polls in the 13th district, and Rangel appeared to sweat it on the campaign trail. He told reporters Monday that he would cry himself to sleep if Espaillat pulled off a victory.

    But no

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  • As wars wind down, small-town police inherit armored vehicles

    Hundreds of counties have MRAPs — and more are on their way

    (Department of Defense/Yahoo News)(Department of Defense/Yahoo News)
    Robert Shellmyer was relieved to see last week at his hometown’s 175th anniversary celebration that the local police department’s new prized possession was not driving alongside the tractors and floats in the parade.

    That’s because a 45,000-pound, explosion-resistant vehicle from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan might spoil the mood.

    Shellmyer, a 78-year-old city councilman for the small town of Washington, Iowa, was the sole local politician to vote against the department of 12 police officers getting the free MRAP — short for mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicle — from the Defense Department three months ago. Washington is one of hundreds of towns and cities to get a recycled MRAP from the Pentagon over the past year and a half.

    “Here’s the thing,” Shellmyer says. “Washington, Iowa, has 8,000 people. We have an MRAP now. We have a SWAT team. We have [police] dogs, and we have a SWAT team transportation vehicle that’s not armored.”

    The city councilman began to think: “Goodness,

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  • Another Obama administration reform plan: Shorter sentences for 20,000 drug inmates

    Just a few months after announcing sweeping clemency program.

    Just a few months after announcing a sweeping presidential clemency program for drug offenders, the Obama administration has backed another sentencing plan that would shave off an average of two years of prison time for as many as 20,000 federal inmates.

    For this program, the Justice Department, led by Eric Holder, doesn’t need the presidential pardon power or Congress. It only needs the U.S. Sentencing Commission, which controls advisory sentencing guidelines for federal judges.

    Last April, the independent agency voted to dramatically reduce the amount of prison time judges are told to mete out to defendants based on the amount of drugs they had on them when they were arrested. Now, the independent agency is weighing whether to make its earlier reductions for drug crimes retroactive. If it votes to do so, inmates serving time for dealing or possessing drugs can apply through a public defender for a reduction in his or her sentence. Judges would decide whether to grant the reduction or

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  • Obama has tough love for young people in Tumblr student loan chat

    'You know, work is not always fun'

    President Barack Obama had some tough love for young people in a discussion on student loans hosted by Tumblr on Tuesday afternoon, warning them not to waste their time while in college and reminding them that they might have to take a job they don’t like to pay off their debts.

    Obama told the audience of Tumblr users gathered at the White House that despite skyrocketing tuition costs, college is still worth it for most people.

    “Is this a good investment? It absolutely is,” the president said in response to a question from a Tumblr user about sky-high loans. “It continues to be a very smart investment for you to go to college.”

    But the president also added that college is not for everyone and suggested that some young people might prefer to try trade school. He also said they should remain “practical” about choosing a career that will actually pay off their loans.

    “I worked for a year in a job I wasn’t interested in, because I wanted to pay off my loans,” he said of his time at a law

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  • Obama answers Tumblr questions on college loans

    President Barack Obama stressed that he believes paying for college is worth it Tuesday afternoon in a discussion with Tumblr users on student loans and skyrocketing college costs. 

    “Is this a good investment? It absolutely is,” the president said in response to a question from a Tumblr user. “It continues to be a very smart investment for you to go to college.”

    But the president also stressed that college isn't for everyone: encouraging students to look into trade schools and be practical about making sure they are studying for a profession that there is actually demand for.

    The discussion is moderated from the White House by the microblogging site’s 27-year-old founder David Karp. (Karp skipped college in favor of the startup world.) Tumblr solicited questions from its users — 40 percent of whom are between 18 and 34 years old — beginning last Thursday. Yahoo acquired Tumblr on May 20, 2013.

    Ahead of the chat, the president expanded a program so that millions more borrowers can

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  • President Obama to field college debt questions on Tumblr

    Moderated by founder David Karp

    Mad about your college loans? You have a chance to take your frustrations straight to the president on Tuesday.

    President Barack Obama will take questions on Tumblr about college affordability and student debt in a discussion to be moderated by the site’s 27-year-old founder, David Karp, at the White House. The town hall-style live event is part of the president’s social media strategy to reach younger voters. More than 40 percent of the microblogging site’s audience is between the ages of 18 and 34, according to Tumblr.

    The president has held similar "White House Socials" on Facebook, Twitter and Reddit—this will be his first time using Tumblr for such an event. Administration officials have long used the platform to share GIFs and light-hearted photos of the White House as part of their larger strategy of bypassing the media and getting their message directly to voters.

    Obama has said he wants the United States to lead the world in the share of citizens who have graduated from

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  • Thousands of prisoners apply for Obama’s drug-clemency program

    Offer a chance at presidential mercy, and inmates will line up.

    That’s what the federal government found out last month when more than 18,000 prisoners filled out electronic surveys to apply for reduced sentences from President Barack Obama in a new program designed to clear federal prisons of nonviolent offenders, Yahoo News has learned.

    Federal prisoners are always able to petition the president to have their sentences commuted. But in April, the Justice Department announced a sweeping new initiative that actively solicits these petitions from inmates who have served more than 10 years for a nonviolent crime; most of the crimes are drug-related. The program is intended to give a break to prisoners who were sentenced under now-defunct draconian drug laws that locked up people for decades for nonviolent crimes. 

    The response to the president’s clemency program is staggering. Before this program, about 18,000 federal prisoners had applied for commutations over the previous 12 years

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  • Ancient warrior myths help veterans fight PTSD

    Greek heroes struggled with battle stress, too

    Ajax Defending Greek Ships Against Trojans (Bettmann/CORBIS)
    A soldier returns home from battle but has brought the war with him. He stares off into the distance, unable to take joy in his family or friends, still hyperalert to threats he no longer faces. Unable to heal his invisible wound, he takes his own life. 

    This isn’t a tragic news story about a veteran coming back from Afghanistan with a case of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It’s a summary of the Greek play "Ajax," which is more than 2,000 years old. 

    The Greeks didn’t call it PTSD. But they understood that war brought trauma (from the Greek word meaning “wound”), which left some warriors with a thousand-yard stare long after they returned home. Advocates and the military itself have found that ancient myths and stories like “Ajax” can help veterans and active-duty soldiers cope with the overwhelming psychological stress that the country’s longest war has put on its relatively small volunteer force. 

    The VA estimates that about 1,000 veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are

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