Off the Charts Blog | Center on Budget and Policy Priorities | Senator Vitter Offers — and Senate Democrats Accept — Stunning Amendment With Racially Tinged Impacts

In today’s Senate debate on the farm bill, Senator David Vitter offered — and Senate Democrats accepted — an amendment that would increase hardship and will likely have strongly racially discriminatory effects.

The amendment would bar from SNAP (food stamps), for life, anyone who was ever convicted of one of a specified list of violent crimes at any time — even if they committed the crime decades ago in their youth and have served their sentence, paid their debt to society, and been a good citizen ever since.  In addition, the amendment would mean lower SNAP benefits for their children and other family members.

So, a young man who was convicted of a single crime at age 19 who then reforms and is now elderly, poor, and raising grandchildren would be thrown off SNAP, and his grandchildren’s benefits would be cut.

Given incarceration patterns in the United States, the amendment would have a skewed racial impact.  Poor elderly African Americans convicted of a single crime decades ago by segregated Southern juries would be among those hit.

The amendment essentially says that rehabilitation doesn’t matter and violates basic norms of criminal justice.

It’s also possible that the amendment could contribute to recidivism.  Ex-offenders often have difficulty finding jobs that pay decent wages.  The amendment could pose dilemmas for ex-offenders who are trying to go straight but can neither find jobs nor, as a result of the amendment, obtain enough food to feed their children and families.

Senator Vitter hawked his amendment as one to prevent murderers and rapists from getting food stamps.  Democrats accepted it without trying to modify it to address its most ill-considered aspects.

The farm bill is still on the floor, and the amendment can still be modified.  Senators should gather the courage to step up to the plate and address this matter forthwith.

via Off the Charts Blog | Center on Budget and Policy Priorities | Senator Vitter Offers — and Senate Democrats Accept — Stunning Amendment With Racially Tinged Impacts.

Police Chief – police expected to clear homeless, not catch criminals

sigh – so swells can feel swell and not touched by those who are not so swell…

Pride's Purge

(not satire – it’s UK policing today!)

Police swooped on a group of homeless men on Thursday night in London, confiscating their sleeping bags and even food parcels donated to them by the Salvation Army.

As if the police wasting time on attacking homeless people instead of catching real criminals is not bad enough – the explanation for the action from the Chief Inspector of Ilford, John Fish, is even more amazing.

He said the public rely on police “to reduce the negative impact of rough sleepers” – including confiscating their belongings.

Now maybe there is zero percent crime in Ilford. Maybe there are no murders, rapes, burglaries, muggings and violence there or in the surrounding areas – in which case I offer my sincerest apologies to C.I Fish for this article and congratulate him on his good fortune for being able to allocate so much of his officers’ time on matters…

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Roma union targets inclusion issues (SETimes.com)

Representatives in the parliaments of Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia, Serbia and Slovakia created the Roma Inter-Parliamentary Union in order to resolve the lack of institutional state support for Roma communities in the region.

The union aims to initiate Roma inclusion in all life areas, support governments in resolving Roma issues and foster better co-operation with international organisations.

via Roma union targets inclusion issues (SETimes.com).

Niger suicide bombings reported to be work of Mokhtar Belmokhtar | World news | guardian.co.uk

UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon condemned the attacks and called on the international community to strengthen security in the region.

“The secretary general reiterates the support of the UN to the efforts of the government of Niger and other countries in the Sahel region to combat the scourge of terrorism and transnational crime, in close collaboration with the African Union, the Economic Community of West African States and the Economic Community of Central African States,” said a statement issued Ban’s spokesperson.

“He stresses the need for the international community to continue to strengthen its co-operation to address these serious threats to the stability of the sub-region and beyond,” it added.

The attacks draw further attention to the troubled Sahel, where the war in Mali and the events in Libya have compounded a decade of growing jihadist activity and drug trafficking.

“The problem is Niger is a large country, with instability on three fronts – we have rebels in Libya, the war in Mali and Boko Haram in Nigeria,” said Akfar. “The borders are completely porous and these groups have made it clear they plan to carry out further attacks.”

via Niger suicide bombings reported to be work of Mokhtar Belmokhtar | World news | guardian.co.uk.

Greece’s Jews take on neo-Nazi party (SETimes.com)

Hundreds of Jews march in Thessaloniki on March 16th to the railway station where the first train left for the Auschwitz concentration camp in 1943. Amid worry about the rise of Greek neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn, Jewish leaders from around the world have arrived in Thessaloniki to commemorate the event. [AFP]

via Greece’s Jews take on neo-Nazi party (SETimes.com).

FEMA Blog: Oklahoma Tornadoes – Update & Photos from the Ground

As we often say at FEMA, responding to emergencies takes a team effort.  Minutes after the tornadoes struck, this team moved into action, including first responders, federal, state, local, and tribal governments, first responders, non-profit organizations, volunteer groups, and members of the public.  There have been a lot of stories of heroism amidst this tragic tornado, so I wanted to share a few visuals and updates from how the emergency management team is helping on the ground.

via FEMA Blog: Oklahoma Tornadoes – Update & Photos from the Ground.

Second Look Behind the Headlines

Culture War, Class War

Culture War is Class War disguised. The Wealthy Elite--the "Filthy Rich"--foment Culture War in society to distract and cover their real economic motives. Culture War, Class War explores the resulting cultural divide--how it was instigated and kept alive for fifty years in America by certain elite powers and how and why they choose to benefit while tearing families in two and keeping America paralyzed.

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