Sometimes it feels that just one more problem will overwhelm us, but there is one that needs immediate exposure and urgent attention: the growing problem of human trafficking, defined as the illegal trade of humans for purposes of reproductive slavery, sexual exploitation, forced labor or other modern-day forms of slavery.
Trafficking has become one of the fastest growing and most lucrative crimes, estimated to generate $32 billion per year in the United States.
Women, men and children, most often from foreign countries, respond to promises of an education or jobs through the Internet or social media, only to discover they are forced into servitude; unable to leave. If they try to escape, they are told and believe either they or their families will be killed. Of these, 80 percent are females and 50 percent are children.
It hasn’t received much attention with all the shenanigans in General Assembly lately, but May has not been a very good month for Gov. Pat McCrory.
It started promisingly enough with McCrory chosen to give the national Republican weekly radio address, though his remarks were a reworked version of the now stale campaign talking points about customer service and energy policy and leadership
As the nation's top law enforcement official, Eric Holder is privy to all kinds of sensitive information. But he seems to be proud of how little he knows.
Why didn't his Justice Department inform The Associated Press, as the law requires, before pawing through reporters' phone records?
"I do not know," the attorney general told the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday afternoon, "why that was or was not done. I simply don't have a factual basis to answer that question."
A bill to improve campaign finance disclosure in North Carolina cleared a major hurdle recently when it passed out of the N.C. House with near-unanimous support, 115-1. The proposed legislation is a big step forward for open government and, if signed into law, would provide significantly easier access to information on political spending during campaign season.
House Bill 919 would require candidates and campaign committees to file campaign finance reports electronically once they reach a certain threshold.
For statewide candidates or any political committee hoping to influence a statewide contest, once the $5,000 level is reached in contributions or expenditures electronic, filing would be required. For all other political committees, the threshold would be $10,000.
Remember the 1996 movie, "A Time to Kill?”
An adaptation of John Grisham's 1989 legal thriller, it stars Matthew McConaughey as a small-town lawyer in Mississippi who defends a black man who killed the two white racists who had raped his 10-year-old daughter.
In his closing arguments McConaughey asks the jury to close their eyes and listen to the painful details of a story about the brutal rape of an innocent little girl.
Then he ends his gripping story with a powerful request to the jury -- "Now imagine she's white."
I was reminded of that powerful scene in "A Time to Kill" as I watched the raggedy parade of scandals coming out of Obama's Washington last week.
Well, this is a fine mess.
After years of moaning about various “conspiracies” against them, conservative activists finally have a real (i.e., not manufactured by Fox or inflated by Limbaugh) piece of evidence to take before the court of public opinion.
Meaning, of course, last week’s revelation that the Internal Revenue Service has been giving extra scrutiny to groups with the words “tea party” or “patriot” in their names. Extra scrutiny from the IRS is about as welcome as extra scrutiny from the proctologist, so one can hardly blame conservative groups for complaining, as they’ve done since last year. Unfortunately, those complaints got no traction until last Friday, when the IRS admitted the practice. Lois Lerner, director of the IRS division in charge of tax exemption, was speaking at an American Bar Association conference in response to a question about whether the conservative groups had been singled out. She admitted they were.
"What if the government starts enforcing the espionage statute whenever there's a leak?" Steve Roberts, a former New York Times journalist who teaches at George Washington University, observed to the Baltimore Sun. "It's going to have a tremendously chilling effect on this interplay between sources and reporters."
But Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Tex.) insisted that stopping leaks should be a very high priority. "When national security secrets leak and become public knowledge," he wrote in a letter to the president, "our people and our national interests are jeopardized. And when our enemies know our secrets, American lives are threatened."
As it happens, these two quotations are separated by seven years. Roberts was speaking in 2005 about the furor over Dana Priest's important story in The Washington Post revealing that the CIA was maintaining a series of "black sites" abroad where terrorism detainees were interrogated. For this, Priest came under searing attack from allies of the George W. Bush administration.
Folks, deep breath time. This is not the end of the Obama presidency. It's a bad stretch with an unfortunate confluence of unfortunate events. None of which will make the first paragraph -- not even the first page -- of the account of the Obama administration in the history books.
Let's tick through the trifecta of scandals and what they tell us -- about the foibles of this administration, about the hidden operations of bureaucracies, about the modern practice of politics.
So, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration has investigated the IRS investigation of conservative groups. And the FBI has launched a criminal investigation of the IRS. And the State Department's Office of Inspector General is investigating the Accountability Review Board that investigated the administration's response to the Benghazi terror attack. And House committees including Armed Services, Foreign Affairs, Judiciary, Oversight and Government Reform, Ways and Means and the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence are variously investigating the Benghazi matter, the IRS and the Justice Department investigation of The Associated Press.
And all the lawyers rejoiced.
"He has, acting personally and through his subordinates and agents, endeavored to ... cause, in violation of the constitutional rights of citizens, income tax audits or other income tax investigations to be initiated or conducted in a discriminatory manner."
-- Article 2, Section 1, Articles of Impeachment
-- Adopted by the House Judiciary Committee, July 29, 1974
WASHINGTON -- The burglary occurred in 1972, the climax came in 1974, but 40 years ago this week -- May 17, 1973 -- the Senate Watergate hearings began exploring the nature of Richard Nixon's administration. Now the nature of Barack Obama's administration is being clarified as revelations about IRS targeting of conservative groups merge with myriad Benghazi mendacities.
This administration aggressively hawked the fiction that the Benghazi attack was just an excessively boisterous movie review. Now we are told that a few wayward souls in Cincinnati, with nary a trace of political purpose, targeted for harassment political groups with "tea party" and "patriot" in their titles. The Washington Post has reported that the IRS also targeted groups that "criticized the government and sought to educate Americans about the U.S. Constitution." Credit the IRS operatives with understanding who and what threatens the current regime. The Post also reports that harassing inquiries have come from other IRS offices, including Washington.
Breaking news: Conservative organizations suddenly have found common cause with one of their favorite objects of contempt -- the benighted Mainstream Media.
Or as the tea party queen and former Alaska governor likes to put it, the "lamestream media."
In a twist of irony, the two groups have coalesced around a common enemy: the U.S. government.
The carbon dioxide level in our atmosphere recently went above 400 parts per million (ppm). This should concern all of us.
For all of human history prior to 1900, the level never exceeded 280 ppm, according to data published by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. There is no disagreement that burning fossil fuels contributes to the rise in carbon dioxide (CO2) levels, and that rising CO2 levels cause a rise in the average global temperature, by the “greenhouse effect.”
The warming atmosphere leads to more intense storms, floods and droughts, melting of polar ice and rising sea levels. The impact on humans will be devastating if this continues unchecked. One example: a 2007 study found that about a tenth of the world’s population live at elevations less that 30 feet above sea level.
For those of you who still have some doubt about whether we humans are contributing to global climate change, I would ask you this: What if it is true that climate change is real, and what if we are making it worse? Do you need 100 percent certainty to act?
Donald Trump thinks it's a no-brainer that so many American servicewomen are raped by their fellow soldiers. Last week, when the increase in these crimes was the subject of a Senate hearing, Trump tweeted: "26,000 unreported sexual assults (sic) in the military-only 238 convictions. What did these geniuses expect when they put men & women together?"
I normally ignore The Donald as a publicity-hound half-wit celebrity shill. But now that he's a rape apologist, he deserves a response:
The natural product of men and women together is not sexual assault. Rape is not an eventuality. It's not a method of conception as (thankfully still-a-Congressman) Paul Ryan likes to refer to it. It's not a means of god "gifting human life" like former Senator Rick Santorum believes. There's not illegitimate rape and legitimate rape as former Congressman and 2012 senatorial candidate Todd Akin felt the need to clarify.
There's just consensual sex and a felony.
Rape is a crime.
Here are some important new books you will not learn about on UNC-TV’s North Carolina Bookwatch.
Before I explain, let me tell you a little bit about the books.
It should’ve been the shot heard around the world. Chances are, you didn’t hear it.
An ominous sort of history was made last week near Austin, Texas, but it seems to have largely escaped notice. There was some media coverage, yes, but less than, say, Lindsay Lohan’s latest stint in rehab, certainly less than you’d think for something whose ramifications will likely shadow us for years.
On May 2, you see, a group called Defense Distributed, led by law student and self-described anarchist Cody Wilson, accomplished what was apparently the first successful firing of a gun “printed” entirely by a 3-D printer. According to Forbes reporter Andy Greenberg, who witnessed the test, the gun is made almost entirely of plastic, the only metal in it being the nail that served as a firing pin and the bullet it fired.