Author: Dana Liebelson

Aaron Hernandez’s Death Highlights A Serious Problem

THE HUFFINGTON POST WASHINGTON ― It’s a familiar story: An inmate takes his or her life inside a prison or jail, and family and loved ones are left wondering how the incident possibly could have happened. This time, the public interest is even higher ― one of the most famous prisoners in America, former NFL star Aaron Hernandez, was found dead in his cell on Wednesday morning, according to the Massachusetts Department of Correction. Hernandez, 27, was serving a life sentence for the 2013 murder of Odin Lloyd, a semi-professional football player who was dating the sister of Hernandez’s fiancee....

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LGBTQ Advocates Horrified By Trump Administration’s Civil Rights Health Pick

THE HUFFINGTON POST WASHINGTON ―While the nation was fixated on the meltdown of Trumpcare, the Donald Trump administration quietly appointed a former conservative think-tank staffer to head the Civil Rights Office at the Department of Health and Human Services, a move LGBTQ advocates fear will undermine the same civil rights protections the office is supposed to enforce. The civil rights advocates are condemning the appointment of Roger Severino, a former Heritage Foundation staffer, who has argued that same-sex marriage threatens religious liberty and that civil rights protections should not extend to transgender patients. “This appointment is horrifying,” said Jennifer Pizer, law and policy director for Lambda Legal, which...

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Inspector General: Customs Officials May Have Violated Court Order While Enforcing Trump’s Travel Ban

  WASHINGTON ― Customs officials violated a federal court order if they intentionally blocked lawyers from reaching detainees while enforcing President Donald Trump’s temporary travel ban last month, the top watchdog for the Department of Homeland Security said Wednesday. If U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers knowingly violated a court order, that “would be, in my view, misconduct,” said DHS Inspector General John Roth, a former federal prosecutor who assumed his post under the Obama administration. On Jan. 28, a federal judge in Virginia ordered CBP officers at Washington Dulles International Airport to allow legal permanent residents they were holding under Trump’s order to access attorneys. But border protection officials did not admit the lawyers who showed up. Detainees reportedly received contact information for other attorneys, but it’s unclear whether they could reach them. And when members of Congress showed up to enforce the court order, they couldn’t speak with CBP officials. This decision risked triggering a constitutional crisis. Government officials are supposed to obey lawful court orders from judges, even if they don’t agree with them. Roth was responding to a description of events provided by Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), who went to Dulles airport after the court issued the order. CBP officials turned members of Congress away, The Daily Beast and The Huffington Post confirmed. DHS did not immediately respond to a request for comment. At the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation hearing on Wednesday,...

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Trump Order Stops Young Woman From Coming To the U.S. To Do Alzheimer’s Research

  WASHINGTON ― Esmat Fathi, 28, thought she had done everything she needed to do to start researching Alzheimer’s disease at the University of Memphis in Tennessee this week: She earned a master’s degree, resigned from her job to do applications, got into a Ph.D. program, secured a visa, arranged for a place to stay and bought a flight. But when she checked her cellphone on Monday, she had a message from her friends: Don’t go. Three days earlier, President Donald Trump had signed an executive order banning nationals of seven Muslim-majority countries, including Iran, from entering the United States for the next 90 days. It was done under the guise of keeping America safe from potential terrorist attacks. But the earliest visible impacts of the policy were felt in the worlds of academia, medicine, business and tech. Fathi, who is Iranian, watched her career arc change abruptly. “Every morning I wake up and wish it was a bad dream,” she told The Huffington Post. Fathi was slated to join a lab run by Dr. Ramin Homayouni, whose research is focused on understanding the mechanism underlying Alzheimer’s disease, with the hope of contributing to new therapeutics. Her academic background is perfectly aligned with this work: She did her master’s thesis on Alzheimer’s at the University of Tehran, and results from her research were published in a peer-reviewed journal called NeuroMolecular...

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Trump’s Small Business Pick Defended Wrestling Empire Against Teen Sex Abuse Allegations

WASHINGTON ― President-elect Donald Trump has touted Linda McMahon’s former company, World Wrestling Entertainment, as evidence that she is prepared to lead the Small Business Administration. But decades ago, the organization was mired in a sexual harassment scandal that included multiple allegations of abuse against minors. No evidence has surfaced that McMahon had direct knowledge of the alleged abuse before the victims came forward. She and her husband, Vince McMahon, sought to portray themselves as swiftly responding to the claims. In a 1992 television appearance, soon after some of the allegations surfaced, Vince McMahon said that the organization had launched “an independent investigation on our own to get to the bottom of all of this.” But the extent to which the allegations were known throughout the wrestling community ― as well as Linda McMahon’s direct role in settling at least one of the lawsuits ― is an unusual chapter for a businesswoman seeking a mundane government post. In 1992, Tom Cole, then 21, sued the World Wrestling Federation, which later became WWE, and three men who worked for the organization. Cole had spent about five years working as a “ring boy,” a job that included setting up wrestling rings and running errands for $30 to $150 a night.  He alleged that when he was between 13 and 16, one of the men, Mel Phillips, would “frequently caress” his feet and “rub...

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Trump Turned Away Intel Briefings But Spread A Rumor Made Popular By One Guy On Twitter

WASHINGTON ― President-elect Donald Trump falsely claimed on Sunday that “millions of people” voted illegally in the 2016 presidential election. In a conference call with reporters on Monday, Trump’s campaign team did not produce any evidence to support that allegation. But the strangest thing about the president-elect’s claim isn’t that there is zero evidence to support it — it’s that Trump, who has turned away daily intelligence briefings since winning the election, took time out of his day to repeat a rumor that initially spread because of one guy on Twitter. (Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s former campaign manager, has said the president-elect is receiving information “from a number of sources.”) Gregg Phillips, a board member of the conservative anti-voter fraud group True the Vote, tweeted on Nov. 13 that he had “verified more than three million votes cast by non-citizens.” Phillips, who did not respond to a request for comment on Twitter, has not released any data to back up his claims. Snopes, a website that debunks conspiracy theories, reported that its inbox “exploded with messages” asking them to investigate this issue the day after Phillips made that claim. Phillips’ assertion didn’t spread because of compelling evidence ― he didn’t provide any. And covering up millions of illegal votes would require a massive conspiracy of the sort never seen before. But the internet’s relentless rumor mill amplified Phillips’ claim anyway. Conservative websites like Drudge Report and...

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Man Who Held “Better to Grab a P***y Than To Be One” Sign At Pro-Trump Rally Has Ties To White Nationalists

WASHINGTON ― When Donald Trump supporters protested outside the headquarters of the Republican National Committee earlier this week in Washington, D.C.,  one sign made headlines for its vulgarity: “Better to Grab a P***y Than To Be One.” The man holding the sign, which makes light of Trump’s boast that he can grope women with impunity, has ties to white nationalist groups. Devin Saucier has attended events with prominent “suit-and-tie” white nationalists; is associated with a Virginia-based group that the Daily Beast described as “white-power wolf cult”; and co-founded a controversial student group at Vanderbilt University that fought against diversity. In a YouTube video posted on Oct. 10 from a pro-Trump rally, the man holding the sign says he’s from Fairfax, Virginia, and identifies himself as Devin Saucier, spelling his first and last names. His appearance in the footage resembles photographs and video of the same Devin Saucier who co-founded the Vanderbilt student group and has been linked to white nationalists. Saucier did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has painted many Trump supporters as “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic — you name it.” Although many conservatives took issue with her description of Trump supporters as a “basket of deplorables,” members of the so-called alt-Right, a group that seeks to distinguish itself from mainstream conservatism by openly supporting racist and anti-Semitic policies, have openly embraced the...

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