Lunch Links

justice2We open today’s Lunch Links with an important public service announcement, particularly in light of the report out this week showing North Carolina still woefully behind other states in providing legal assistance to those who can’t afford an attorney — a number that unfortunately continues to grow.

Tomorrow, March 7, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., the state Bar Association will host its annual “Ask a Lawyer Day,” during which callers can get free answers to legal questions and problems.  Here’s more information:

Statewide, there will be eight call centers filled with lawyers answering callers’ legal questions. Locally, lawyers will be manning the phones at the Volunteer Center, and Greensboro’s WFMY News 2 will be covering the event live. Anyone with legal questions may call the local call center by dialing 877.391.6179 and speak directly to a lawyer. A call center for Spanish speakers is available at 855.455.4255 between 8:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. All calls are free and confidential– callers will not be asked for their name or contact information.

The event is part of the Bar Association’s “4ALL” campaign to raise support for Legal Aid.   Last year, close to 500 lawyers, paralegals, law students and other volunteers answered questions from nearly 10,000 callers.

Click here for the event announcement. Click here if you’d like to participate.

* * *

Speaking of justice, and injustice, the U.S. Senate yesterday refused to confirm President Obama’s nominee for assistant attorney general of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, Debo Adegbile.  The reason?  Adegbile did his job as an attorney  when he was litigation director of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, representing Mumia Abu-Jamal on an appeal of his death sentence for killing a Philadelphia police officer decades ago.

That vote should be cause for concern for most attorneys, as well as for anyone who understands and believes that  “a fundamental tenet of our justice system and our Constitution is that anyone who faces loss of liberty has a right to legal counsel,” as the president of the American Bar Association, James R. Silkenat, explained to the Senate Judiciary Committee. “Lawyers have an ethical obligation to uphold that principle and provide zealous representation to people who otherwise would stand alone against the power and resources of the government—even to those accused or convicted of terrible crimes,” he added

As Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick says in this blistering critique of the Adegbile vote:

To be clear, then: Adegbile was not himself a cop-killer. He didn’t help a cop-killer get off and roam free with false claims of innocence. What he did do—which fits pretty readily within the historic mandate of the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund—was to help ensure that the American criminal justice system, and especially the death penalty, is administered fairly and constitutionally. As a representative of an organization that is institutionally dedicated to ensuring that justice is administered fairly, he fought for fairness and judges agreed that unfairness occurred.

Once upon a time in America this was called advocating for justice. But in today’s America, it’s deemed a miscarriage of justice. And so the fact that Adegbile has long been one of the most skilled and principled civil rights attorneys in the country is cast by Senate Republicans as a kind of catastrophic public scam.

Lithwick was not alone in her attack on all Senate Republicans and the seven Democrats who voted no on Adegbile. Editorials across the country derided the vote, and Ari Berman at The Nation likened the Republican pre-vote smear campaign — labeling Adegbile a “cop killer” — to George Bush’s Willie Horton ad, proof that “race-based gutter politics are still not a thing of the past.”

Berman added:

In disqualifying Adegbile, senators are establishing a very dangerous precedent that attorneys are responsibile for all of the actions of their clients. “LDF’s advocacy on behalf of Mr. Abu-Jamal does not disqualify Mr. Adegbile from leading the Civil Rights Division,” prominent members of the Supreme Court bar wrote to the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this year. “To conclude otherwise would send the wrong message to any lawyer who is affiliated, or might be asked to become involved, with a difficult, unpopular case for the purpose of enforcing and preserving important constitutional principles.”

* * *

On a lighter note, Full Frame Documentary Festival — on its way to Durham in April — released its lineup of films, with plenty of variety. Here’s just a few:

112 Weddings (Director: Doug Block)
Documentary filmmaker and part-time wedding videographer Doug Block tracks down couples he’s filmed over the years, contrasting past with present to see how love and life have unfolded after vows. World Premiere

Alive Inside: A Story of Music & Memory (Director: Michael Rossato-Bennett)
When a social worker discovers that music can unlock the memories of patients whose minds are clouded by dementia, he embarks on a mission to transform lives one iPod at a time.

The Battered Bastards of Baseball (Directors: Chapman Way, Maclain Way)
A celebratory portrait of the Portland Mavericks, who joined the minor leagues in 1973 as the lone single-A team without a major-league affiliation.

Freedom Summer (Director: Stanley Nelson)
Remarkable archival footage and unforgettable eyewitness accounts take us back to the summer of 1964, when hundreds of civil rights activists entered Mississippi to help enfranchise the state’s African American citizens.

The Case Against 8 (Directors: Ben Cotner, Ryan White)
This behind-the-scenes film, shot over five years, follows the unlikely team who fought to overturn California’s ban on same-sex marriage, and won.

WHITEY: United States of America V. James J. Bulger (Director: Joe Berlinger)
This true-crime doc examines the sensationalized trial of a notorious South Boston gangster and brings new allegations of law-enforcement corruption to light.

Sunday’s spring-like forecast seems like a distant memory as we’re watching temperatures drop this lunch hour and the water cooler talk is more about the next ‘snowpocalypse’ than last night’s Oscars.

So keep one eye on the radar and we’ll run through a couple of quick lunch links to dCoalAsh_NYTivert your attention away from the wet, icy mix that’s upon us.

First, if you missed it over the weekend, North Carolina once again made the front page of the New York Times. The headline alone – Ash Spill Shows How Watchdog Was Defanged -  paints a very worrisome picture about recent changes within the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources. Here are two short excerpts from Trip Gabriel’s article:

Current and former state regulators said the watchdog agency, once among the most aggressive in the Southeast, has been transformed under Gov. Pat McCrory into a weak sentry that plays down science, has abandoned its regulatory role and suffers from politicized decision-making.

A second supervisor, also speaking on the condition of anonymity, said: “A lot of us never considered ourselves political creatures. What’s happened here has really blown us out of the water. People speak in hushed tones in the hallway to each other. We go offsite to talk. It’s totally changed the culture of this organization.”

Mr. Skvarla said in an interview that he was “speechless” to hear such a sentiment, adding, “I think we have taken politics out of this agency.”

While on the subject of our environment Mother Jones magazine offers a frightening field guide to common plastics, that will have you thinking about how your food and medicine are packaged.

WUNC reports on a new study out of Duke University that indicates retaining students means more discipline problems in other students:

The findings come at a time when educators and policymakers are debating a new North Carolina law that could increase the number of older retained students. The “Read to Achieve” program, which went into effect this year, requires all third-grade students to read at grade level or risk being held back.

Matt Ellinwood, a policy analyst with the NC Justice Center’s Education and Law project, also discussed some of the flaws with the “Read to Achieve” program over the weekend on News & Views with Chris Fitzsimon. You can watch a portion of that radio interview below:

YouTube Preview Image

The Huffington Post reports that MoveOn.org is launching a new ad campaign this week targeting Republican governors who have rejected Medicaid expansion under Obamacare. Their campaign will begin with billboards popping up in Texas, Louisiana, Florida, Wisconsin, Nebraska, and Virginia.

Think Progress reports that the Supreme Court will hear today what could be the biggest death penalty case in nearly a decade.

The Hill has the latest on the push to enroll more Americans in Obamacare before this month’s deadline.

The Washington Post has the skinny on the latest well-being index, and why West Virginia  may be the most miserable state in the country.

selfie2On the lighter side even if you missed the Oscars chances are you didn’t miss the Ellen DeGeneres selfie – now the most retweeted  tweet of all time, according to Buzzfeed.

And of course, that has lots of folks creating their own celebrity selfies and sharing those online. (Why yes, that is me on the left, no need to make a big fuss about it. And yes, Kevin Spacey was just as charismatic as Frank Underwood.)

Happy Monday…time to get back to work!

 

 

The quick and dirty lunch links for the day.

LGBTQ issues — The shifting tide:

Entertainment — On diversity… and lack thereof:

Going to space:

Days of future past?

“As all Americans, we need to be vigilant for whatever liberties and rights we have. If you take those away from someone else, you’re taking it away from yourself too.”

— Jim Matsuoka, former internee at the Manzanar detention/prison camp during the 1940s.

“You are kidding yourself if you think the same thing will not happen again.”

— U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

btc_foodNorth Carolina’s “food deserts” take center stage this afternoon as legislators hold their second meeting to discuss how to make healthy, fresh food more available in rural areas and in communities where transportation is a barrier.

Among those testifying is Demetrius Hunter, who runs Grocers on Wheels. Hunter is profiled in today’s News and Observer where he discusses how mobile produce markets may be one solution for low-income residents in Wake County.

Rep. Yvonne Holley is hoping these hearings build support for her proposal that would offer tax credits to businesses that open or expand operations that sell nutritious food in the state’s food deserts zones.

Do you live in one of these desert? To find out, check out the recent graphic (above) by the good folks at the NC Budget & Tax Center.

Also on the subject of food insecurity, visit PBS News Hour for an eye-opening photo essay: Picturing Hunger in America.

Finally, we have two additional infographics  for you to digest today.  First, Mother Jones explains why California’s drought is quickly becoming everyone’s problem.  And we’ll leave you with this fascinating graphic from Yes! Magazine on Why Corporations Want Our Public Schools. (Click on either image below to see the full-size original.)

Mother_Jones2yes_info2

As you sit down to lunch today, here’s some food for thought: Military families’ reliance on food stamps hit a record high last year.

Think Progress reports that food stamp spending by servicemen and women exceeded $100 million in 2013:

‘Food stamp usage at the stores has more than quadrupled since 2007 as the recession compounded the already difficult financial situation faced by military families. New soldiers with a child and a spouse earn $20,000 per year in pay, according to CNN Money, and the frequent relocations and disruptions inherent to the lifestyle of a military family make it harder for military spouses to find jobs and bring in supplementary income. The unemployment rate for young military spouses was 30 percent in 2012. Retired military servicemen and women who joined up after 9/11 have a 10 percent unemployment rate, which also contributes to the elevated food stamp figures at DOD commissaries, and nearly a million working-age veterans lived in poverty in 2010.’

And the recent cuts to food stamps have impacted more then just veterans. Alan Briggs, executive director of the NC Association of Food Banks, tells Policy Watch prolonged unemployment, reduced hours, and stagnant wages have more North Carolinians turning to the state’s food pantries to make ends meet.

You can hear Briggs’ full radio interview here with Chris Fitzsimon, or watch a short video excerpt of that segment below:
YouTube Preview Image

One step forward, one step back? WRAL.com reports that the number of backlogged food stamp cases is on the up-tick again, just a week after the first federal deadline to clear the majority of delayed cases. The NC Department of Health and Human Services is facing an additional March 31 deadline to clear its remaining backlog of cases.

While we’re on the subject of struggling families, be sure to join the NC Justice Center this evening for a free screening of Inequality for All, a new documentary addressing widening income inequality in the United States presented by American economist and former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich.

Reich takes on the enormous question of what has been happening to our economy – distilling the story through the lens of widening income inequality. He explores what effect this increasing gap has not only on our economy but our democracy itself.

Tonight’s doc will be shown from 6:00-8:30 p.m. at William Peace University’s Browne-McPherson Music Building in Raleigh.

Finally we’ll close out today’s lunch links with Scott Bradlee and Postmodern Jukebox. Their rendition of Sweet Child O’ Mine has gone viral over the past few days.  All we can say is step aside Axl Rose, blues diva Miche Braden steals the show:
YouTube Preview Image