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Social Issues

Jim Webb: Sandra Bland's Death Shows Why Criminal Justice Reform "must be a top priority"

by: lowkell

Sat Jul 25, 2015 at 10:33:14 AM EDT

Anyone reading this blog the past few years knows that I won't be supporting Jim Webb for President, for a variety of reasons, first and foremost his refusal to confront the existential threat of global climate chaos in a serious way. However, when it comes to desperately-needed reform of our criminal justice system, I'm very much on the same page as Webb. For instance, see his Facebook post this morning (bolding added by me), which I enthusiastically endorse. Thank you to Jim Webb for his continued leadership on this issue; now Congress needs to act!
I have great respect for the professionals in our law enforcement community who work tirelessly, day in and day out, to maintain order in our communities and to ensure our safety. This is often dangerous, thankless work. At the same time it is clear that prison administration is in dire need of greater training and skill methods to address the needs of those who are mentally ill.

I don't like to categorize, but we can put the entire population into two groups: Those who think the criminal-justice system desperately needs to be fixed, and those who haven't been paying attention. Hopefully, through highlighting the tragic loss of Ms. Sandra Bland, the first group will grow.

We must face the fact our prison systems are becoming warehouses for the mentally ill, without providing adequate training for those who are required to administer the systems.

Despite improvements in many systems nationwide, America's criminal justice system has deteriorated to the point that it is a national disgrace. Its irregularities and inequities cut against the notion that we are a nation of fundamental fairness.

Ms. Bland's death while in custody is another example of why reform of our entire criminal justice system must be a top priority for the next administration. I am speaking of reform from the point of apprehension all the way through how we release people from prison.

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Remote Area Medical Expands Virginia Coverage

by: Dan Sullivan

Sat Jul 18, 2015 at 11:02:22 AM EDT

 photo 150617 RAM Wise parking lot at dawn_zpslne2q2rv.jpgThough the clinic in Wise is Virginia's anchor, it is only one of four this year; even more in the future if Dr. Vicky Weiss has her way. This weekend's iteration drew attention for a drone demonstration but the primary purpose remained providing care to persons with limited access to health care.

The need is underlined by the flood of participants at every event. Here you see the very last open space in the parking area of the Wise County Fair Grounds being filled just as the gates opened yesterday for this weekend's clinic. The first arrival had been at around 2pm Wednesday, two days before. By 9pm Thursday there were some 800 staged with tickets in hand; at 4:30am Friday over 1,250. By noon the equivalent of about half the population of Wise had passed through the gates for care.

Remote Area Medical (RAM) was initiated by its founder, Stan Brock, to provide service to the world's inaccessible areas. Upon the realization that barriers to access are not just geographical, he began delivery of care to rural and underserved populations in the United States; eventually into urban centers. Now more than 90% of RAM operations are within the United States.

RAM of Virginia was launched in April 2014 on the steps of the state's Capitol Building to alleviate the growing need of affordable health care for thousands of underserved Virginians. Headed by Dr. Victoria Molnar Weiss, the affiliate hopes to expand its operations to host many mobile clinics throughout the state yearly.  

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On the Question of God or gods, on the Contrast Between the Hebrews and the Greeks

by: Andy Schmookler

Sun Jul 05, 2015 at 14:31:11 PM EDT

I find myself wondering something about the idea of God. It grew out of my noticing the strangeness of the contrast between two important cultures in the millennium before the birth of Jesus: the culture of the ancient Greeks and that of the ancient Hebrews.

Here's the thing. These two peoples/cultures inhabited basically the same world - empires, metals, lots of war, slavery, annihilation-but despite that sameness they can to very different conclusions about a question of a matter most fundamental to worldview: the question of having God or the gods at the center of the cosmic order

Which is it, and what might be the fundamental difference between the cultures that would account for such different ways of seeing the fundamental order of the world.

The Greeks saw the world of the divine beings as a plurality, a whole diversity of gods having dealings (not always admirable) among each other. A many-ness, and a strong flavor of amorality.

The Hebrews saw the world of the divine as inhabited by ONE GOD -- and indeed from Abraham onward that was THE defining feature of the Hebrew religion, and is still at the center of the basic Jewish prayer, the Shema Yisrael: "Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God, the LORD is one"

So it looks like the Hebrews at least would have said that the difference between believing in One God or in many gods was of the utmost importance.

Which is what leads to the question:

Is it a really fundamental matter about how to perceive reality, and if so, what can account for how these two cultures living choosing so differently on this matter despite inhabiting the same basic world?

Did their cultures give them basically different ways of thinking? If so, what was that difference? Or did they come to have different needs, or different senses of the nature of life, growing perhaps out of different historical experiences?

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George Takei Apologizes for "Clown in Blackface" Criticism of Justice Clarence Thomas

by: lowkell

Sat Jul 04, 2015 at 08:24:20 AM EDT

I'm a huge George Takei fan for his acting on Star Trek, but far more so for the great, courageous work he's done fighting for human equality and dignity over the years. That's why I think he was right to apologize (see below) for his "clown in blackface" comment about Justin Clarence Thomas. Even if Takei didn't mean it as racist, which I'm confident is the case (given that he's never shown the slightest evidence of being racist; in fact, quite the opposite), it's still preferable to leave language like that to haters like Donald Trump, Rush Limbaugh, Ted Nugent, and many others on the right wing of the political spectrum. Other than being inappropriate and wrong, using language like "blackface" distracts from Takei's main points about Thomas, which were absolutely accurate: that Clarence Thomas holds some pretty horrifying views on human dignity ("Slaves did not lose their dignity (any more than they lost their humanity) because the government allowed them to be enslaved," Thomas said. "Those held in internment camps did not lose their dignity because the government confined them. And those denied governmental benefits certainly do not lose their dignity because the government denies them those benefits. The government cannot bestow dignity, and it cannot take it away."). Thomas is also unethical and deserves to be impeached, not to mention one of the worst Supreme Court Justices (along with Antonin Scalia and several others) in U.S. history. So yes, Thomas deserves all the criticism he gets - and more! - just not by using words that have racist connotations.

I owe an apology. On the eve of this Independence Day, I have a renewed sense of what this country stands for, and how I personally could help achieve it. The promise of equality and freedom is one that all of us have to work for, at all times. I know this as a survivor of the Japanese American internment, which each day drives me only to strive harder to help fulfill that promise for future generations.

I recently was asked by a reporter about Justice Clarence Thomas's dissent in the marriage equality cases, in which he wrote words that really got under my skin, by suggesting that the government cannot take away human dignity through slavery, or though internment. In my mind that suggested that this meant he felt the government therefore shouldn't be held accountable, or should do nothing in the face of gross violations of dignity. When asked by a reporter about the opinion, I was still seething, and I referred to him as a "clown in blackface" to suggest that he had abdicated and abandoned his heritage. This was not intended to be racist, but rather to evoke a history of racism in the theatrical arts. While I continue to vehemently disagree with Justice Thomas, the words I chose, said in the heat of anger, were not carefully considered.

I am reminded, especially on this July 4th holiday, that though we have the freedom to speak our minds, we must use that freedom judiciously. Each of us, as humans, have hot-button topics that can set us off, and Justice Thomas had hit mine, that is clear. But my choice of words was regrettable, not because I do not believe Justice Thomas is deeply wrong, but because they were ad hominem and uncivil, and for that I am sorry.

I often ask fans to keep the level of discourse on this page and in comments high, and to remember that we all love this country and for what it stands for, even if we often disagree passionately about how to achieve those goals. I did not live up to my own high standards in this instance.

I hope all of you have a wonderful, safe and joyously free July 4th, the first where all married couples in the U.S. can enjoy the full liberties of matrimony equally. It is truly a blessing to be an American today.

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Video: Attorney General Loretta Lynch speaks on Charleston, S.C. shooting

by: lowkell

Thu Jun 18, 2015 at 12:04:14 PM EDT

Bottom line: as long as there are racists and violent people out there with access to guns, this type of thing will keep happening. So what are we going to do about it? I mean, when a mass murder using guns happened in Australia, they took highly effective action; since then, mass shootings stopped, gun homicides and suicides plummeted. So what about our country? How many more times do we have to watch, helplessly, as kids are gunned down at school, worshippers are gunned down at church, people are gunned down in movie theaters, women are gunned down by their violent male stalkers, etc., etc? One time is too many. Oh, and for anyone who delusionally claims there's no racism in this country, here's more evidence that they are absolutely wrong.

Discuss :: (5 Comments)

FACT SHEET: Health Care in Virginia

by: lowkell

Tue Jun 09, 2015 at 06:47:07 AM EDT

From the White House: 

FACT SHEET: Health Care in Virginia

What the Affordable Care Act is doing for Virginia families

The Affordable Care Act has already covered one in four uninsured Americans – more than ten million – and improved coverage for virtually everyone with health coverage. Insurers can no longer discriminate against preexisting conditions, charge women more just for being women, or put caps on the care you receive. Hospitals, doctors and other providers are changing the way they operate to deliver better care at lower cost. In the years to come, the ability to buy portable and affordable plans on a competitive marketplace will allow countless Americans to move, start businesses, and dream big American dreams -- without worrying if an illness will bankrupt them. Here is how the Affordable Care Act is working for families in Virginia:

 

After Health Reform: Improved Access to Care 

·         And Gallup recently estimated that the uninsured rate in Virginia in 2014 was 13 percent, down from 13.3 percent in 2013. 

·         Prohibits coverage denials and reduced benefits, protecting as many as 3,491,076 Virginians who have some type of pre-existing health condition, including 437,558 children.

·         Eliminates lifetime and annual limits on insurance coverage and establishes annual limits on out-of-pocket spending on essential health benefits, benefiting 2,974,000 people in Virginia, including 1,121,000 women and 817,000 children. 

·         Expands Medicaid to all non-eligible adults with incomes under 133% of the federal poverty level.  If Virginia expands Medicaid, an additional 180,000 uninsured people would gain coverage. 

·         Establishes a system of state and federal health insurance exchanges, or marketplaces, to make it easier for individuals and small-business employees to purchase health plans at affordable prices through which 335,033 people in Virginia were covered in March 2015. 

·         Created a temporary high-risk pool program to cover uninsured people with pre-existing conditions prior to 2014 reforms which helped more than 3,252 people in Virginia. 

·         Creates health plan disclosure requirements and simple, standardized summaries so 4,969,900 people in Virginia can better understand coverage information and compare benefits. 

 

After Health Reform: More Affordable Care

 

·         Creates a tax credit to help 285,938 people in Virginia who otherwise cannot afford it purchase health coverage through health insurance marketplaces. 

·         Requires health insurers to provide consumers with rebates if the amount they spend on health benefits and quality of care, as opposed to advertising and marketing, is too low.  Last year, 104,774 consumers in Virginia received $8,913,605 in rebates. 

·         Eliminates out-of-pocket costs for preventive services like immunizations, certain cancer screenings, contraception, reproductive counseling, obesity screening, and behavioral assessments for children.  This coverage is guaranteed for more than 3,902,716 people in Virginia including 1,587,663 women. 

·         Eliminates out-of-pocket costs for 943,647 Medicare beneficiaries in Virginia for preventive services like cancer screenings, bone-mass measurements, annual physicals, and smoking cessation. 

·         Phases out the “donut hole” coverage gap for 111,997 Medicare prescription drug beneficiaries in Virginia, who have saved an average of $914 per beneficiary. 

 

·         Creates Accountable Care Organizations consisting of doctors and other health-care providers who share in savings from keeping patients well while improving quality, helping 279,319 Medicare beneficiaries in Virginia.

 

·         Phases out overpayments through the Medicare Advantage system, while requiring Medicare Advantage plans to spend at least 85 percent of Medicare revenue on patient care.  Medicare Advantage enrollment has grown by 88,201 to 237,689 in Virginia since 2009.

 

After Health Reform: Improved Quality and Accountability to You

 

·         Provides incentives to hospitals in Medicare to reduce hospital-acquired infections and avoidable readmissions.  Creates a collaborative health-safety learning network, the Partnership for Patients, that includes 69 hospitals in Virginia to promote best quality practices. 

 

We're not done.  Other legislation and executive actions are continuing to advance the cause of effective, accountable and affordable health care.This includes:

 

·         Incentive payments for doctors, hospitals, and other providers to adopt and use certified electronic health records (EHR).  In Virginia more than 65.2 percent of hospitals and 51.2 percent of providers have electronic health records systems. 

·         A new funding pool for Community Health Centers to build, expand and operate health-care facilities in underserved communities.  Health Center grantees in Virginia now serve 286,604 patients and received $173,538,756 under the health care law to offer a broader array of primary care services, extend their hours of operations, hire more providers, and renovate or build new clinical spaces. 

·         Health provider training opportunities, with an emphasis on primary care, including a significant expansion of the National Health Service Corps.  As of September 30, 2014, there were 108 Corps clinicians providing primary care services in Virginia, compared to 52 clinicians in 2008. 

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5 Death Penalty Questions

by: lowkell

Fri May 15, 2015 at 17:08:31 PM EDT

First off, let me just say that I despise what Dzhokhar Tsarnaev did - the tremendous damage and pain he (and his evil brother) caused, the innocent lives he took and/or severely harmed, etc. There's no excuse for any of it whatsoever, and society is 100% correct to make sure he never harms anyone again. Having said that, I have serious problems with the death penalty, and also a bunch of questions about why people support it. Here are five that spring to mind.

1. Many on the political right say they are "pro life," yet they simultaneously support the death penalty. How, if at all, can they logically reconcile that? Got me, other than they are really against a woman's right to choose whether or not to carry a pregnancy to term, and that this has very little to do with being "pro life" in any blanket sense.

2. Many/most on the political right (including some "libertarians") say they don't trust the government to do much of anything, yet a lot of them appear to be fine with giving the government the ultimate power of life and death. Again: how, if at all, can they logically reconcile that? Again, got me.

3. What is worse, life in Supermax hell or a quick, painless (that is, if the execution drugs or electric chair works properly) death? Clearly, the former, by all accounts I've read or otherwise heard of. So then why wouldn't people interested in vengeance favor the former over the latter for the Tsarnaevs of the world? Seems like they'd suffer worse there, so wouldn't that be "better" from a vengeance standpoint? Just sayin'...

4. Most on the political right want the government to spend less, so then why do they support capital punishment, when it costs more than life in prison? Hmmmm.

5. Given zero evidence that the death penalty is a deterrent to crime, plus the fact that it costs more, is applied inconsistently and in a racially biased manner, etc, etc., what's the public policy argument for using it? Got me.

Thoughts?

Discuss :: (10 Comments)

Video: Courageous Parent Takes on Tea Partiers' Bigotry Against 4th Grade Transgender Student

by: lowkell

Fri Mar 27, 2015 at 08:58:55 AM EDT

Tuesday night, the Stafford County (Virginia) School Board, prior to voting on whether or not to abide by federal law, took public feedback on a debate over transgender students' bathroom access. For some background,  see Think Progress, which explains:

Hartwood Elementary School, part of the Stafford County school system, started by accommodating the student's identity. She was allowed to use the girls' room per her gender identity and in consultation with her parents. When another parent complained, the district's Executive Director of Human Resources, Rick L. Fitzgerald, released a message on behalf of the district referring to recent guidance from the Department of Justice that indicates that the "sex" protections under Title IX protect transgender students' use of facilities that match the gender with which they identify. Allowing the fourth-grader to use the girls' room was simply the district complying with the law.

...The transgender student's father, Jonathan Adams, also testified. He admitted to having some of the same misconceptions when the child he thought was his son insisted she was a girl. "And then I watched my little girl grow up," he said. Adams proclaimed that he was "very proud to have a special little girl," and implored others "not to trade understanding for fear or trade misconceptions for hate."

Later in the evening, however, the school board voted 6-0 to direct the superintendent to restrict the girl's bathroom use.

Also interesting were the comments by the public. For the entire debate, most of which involved parents opposed to allowing the transgender student (who identifies as female) to use the girls' bathroom, see here. The above video is of a courageous parent of two students in the Stafford County school system, delivering an impassioned plea for respect and tolerance for the transgender student. Sadly, her pleas feel on deaf ears...and a cowardly School Board.  

Also note that this courageous woman was outnumbered probably 10:1 by Tea Party/Fox/Rush-style speakers (sporting Orwellian "Save Our Schools" stickers - save them from WHAT? a fourth-grade transgender girl who's not a threat to anyone?!?) at the event. For "highlights" of their ignorant, bigoted, hysteria-infused remarks, see the "flip."

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Video: Courageous Stafford County Parent Gives Impassioned Plea for Respect of Transgender Student

by: lowkell

Wed Mar 25, 2015 at 17:36:24 PM EDT

Last night, the Stafford County School Board, prior to voting, took public feedback on a debate over transgender students' bathroom access. For some background,  see Think Progress, which explains:
Hartwood Elementary School, part of the Stafford County school system, started by accommodating the student's identity. She was allowed to use the girls' room per her gender identity and in consultation with her parents. When another parent complained, the district's Executive Director of Human Resources, Rick L. Fitzgerald, released a message on behalf of the district referring to recent guidance from the Department of Justice that indicates that the "sex" protections under Title IX protect transgender students' use of facilities that match the gender with which they identify. Allowing the fourth-grader to use the girls' room was simply the district complying with the law.

...The transgender student's father, Jonathan Adams, also testified. He admitted to having some of the same misconceptions when the child he thought was his son insisted she was a girl. "And then I watched my little girl grow up," he said. Adams proclaimed that he was "very proud to have a special little girl," and implored others "not to trade understanding for fear or trade misconceptions for hate."

Later in the evening, however, the school board voted 6-0 to direct the superintendent to restrict the girl's bathroom use.

Also interesting were the comments by the public. For the entire debate, most of which involved parents opposed to allowing the transgender student (who identifies as female) to use the girls' bathroom, see here. The video I've included is of a courageous parent (of two students in the Stafford County school system) delivering an impassioned plea for respect and tolerance for the transgender student. Sadly, her pleas feel on deaf ears...
Discuss :: (3 Comments)

Video: Bob Marshall Rants Against Women's Health Clinics; Atif Qarni, Brian Devine Speak in Support

by: lowkell

Wed Mar 18, 2015 at 15:13:07 PM EDT

The following video is from the Manassas City Council meeting on Monday, March 16, in which dozens of speakers expressed their opinions about zoning requirements for women's health and reproductive clinics in Manassas City. Among the speakers was our old friend Del. "Sideshow Bob" Marshall (R-Manassas), who claimed that women's health and reproductive clinics should be treated more harshly than other medical facilities, because "no other business routinely leaves half of the persons who enter the premises unable to leave." Marshall also claimed that harassment of women's health clinics by anti-abortion protestors reflects "established rights and legitimate concerns of communities," and justifies regulating women's health clinics more strictly. Seriously. Yeah, I know, the guy's an extremist, but still...

For his part, Democratic State Senate candidate Atif Qarni, who barely lost an election to "Sideshow Bob" in 2013, argued (correctly) that blatantly "attack[ing] women's health clinics and "suppress women's rights" is "not good for business." Instead, Qarni asserted (again correctly) that Manassas City should be working to create an open and welcoming culture of the city."

P.S. See the "flip" for video of Progress Virginia's Brian Devine, who argued that the "current zoning update is still an attack on women's health, same as it was in January of last year." Devine further argued that singling out women's health clinics for stricter zoning treatment is "discriminatory towards women's health centers that provide crucial preventitive care, birth control, STD and cancer screenings, and safe and legal abortion." Devine urged that "Manassas zoning regulations be based on science and prioritize medicine over politics," but sadly, "today they still are not."

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Virginia Ranks #7 for "Criminal's Choice" Due to Super-Weak Gun Laws

by: lowkell

Tue Mar 17, 2015 at 14:50:53 PM EDT

According to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, Virginia is one of the top places in the country for criminals looking for the "perfect getaway" due to the following "highlights": 1) In Virginia, you can "get a gun with no background check;" 2) It's "easy to get a permit to pack heat in public" in Virginia; 3) You can "buy guns in bulk and load up the van for a roadtrip" in Virginia; and 4) Virginia is a "great state for trafficking guns!" Wonderful, huh? For more, check out the video below as well as the Virginia page of crimadvisor.com.

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We're Number Five! We're Number Five! Seriously, Some Good Virginia ACA News

by: EstherF

Sat Feb 21, 2015 at 18:06:23 PM EST

( - promoted by lowkell)

On an icy/snowy Saturday, some additional, and positive, Virginia-oriented info on the excellent 2015 Affordable Care Act (ACA) enrollment numbers through February 15, taken from a recent post on Charles Gaba's ACASignups blog. Full disclosure: I volunteer for ACASignups, and for that matter, I buy my health insurance on healthcare.gov. Plus, as a bit of final info comes in from a couple of remaining states, the following "rankings" could slightly change.

The bottom line: both compared to other states, and compared to our own numbers last year, Virginia's doing great on ACA enrollment on healthcare.gov. I have no idea why. Is it that enrollment outreach grant that Gov. McAuliffe got from HHS? More generally, is it because we have a pro-ACA governor who loves to beat numerical benchmarks, as opposed to last year, when we were busy changing governors in the middle of the October-March enrollment period?

Note, btw, that none of this affects the shame of the lack of Medicaid expansion. This is about the other part of the ACA, the on-exchange signups for health insurance. You know, the part that the Supreme Court case with all-Virginia plaintiffs, King vs. Burwell, may destroy.

How well did Virginia do in the 2015 enrollment period vs. how it did in the 2014 enrollment period?

Virginia comes in fifth in the nation in year-over-year improvement. Last year's Virginia enrollment on the exchange was 216,356; this year's 384,612 is 177.77 percent of the prior number.

How well did we do vs. the HHS projection? And against ACASignups's own projections for Virginia?

Here, Virginia's performance is sixth compared to other states. We came in at 139.86 percent of our HHS projection of 275,000.  

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AG Mark Herring Urges Virginians to Be Vigilant in Wake of Massive Anthem Data Breach

by: lowkell

Thu Feb 05, 2015 at 11:38:48 AM EST

From AG Herring's office:

~  Breach affects 80 million Anthem subscribers nationally  ~

 

RICHMOND (February 5, 2015) - Attorney General Mark R. Herring today warned Virginians to be extremely vigilant with their financial accounts, credit reports, and other personal information in light of a massive data breach reported by Anthem, Inc., the second-largest health insurance provider in the nation and the largest insurer in the Commonwealth of Virginia. According to Anthem, hackers breached the company's computer systems and gained access to the names, birthdays, medical ID's, Social Security numbers, email addresses, and employment information of 80 million customers across the nation. It is not yet known how many Virginians may be affected, but Anthem has previously stated they have more than 3 million members in the Commonwealth.

 

"This is one of the largest data breaches we've ever seen and given the sensitivity of the financial and personal information contained in medical records, it's extremely important that Virginians closely monitor their financial information in the days and weeks ahead," said Attorney General Herring. "These kinds of breaches can lead to an increased risk of identity theft, and criminals may utilize the stolen information to send scam and phishing emails posing as legitimate companies in an attempt to commit fraud or identity theft. If you notice irregular or suspicious financial activity, contact your bank or the business immediately. Never open emails or click links you don't trust, and take proactive steps to keep your information secure online."

 

The Attorney General's Office received 305 database breach notifications in 2014 and works to ensure that companies experiencing database breaches comply with Virginia law by notifying affected Virginians.  Because data breaches lead to an increased risk of identity theft and fraud, all Virginians should regularly monitor their financial accounts and credit reports.  Free credit reports may be obtained at www.annualcreditreport.com.

 

In addition to the above advice, citizens should heed the following:

 

  • Use strong passwords for your email, computer, and financial accounts, including variations of capital and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols of at least 8 characters
  • Install anti-virus programs on your computer and scan files and emails regularly
  • Never download software programs from unknown publishers
  • Check for regular updates to your operating system
  • Install and activate a software and hardware firewall on your computer
  • Back-up all of your data regularly using a USB drive

The Attorney General's Computer Crimes section and Victim Notification program are dedicated to empowering Virginians to protect themselves from identity crime and financial crimes, and works with Virginians who find themselves victims to this increasingly common crime. The office publishes the informational resource, "How to Avoid Identity Theft - A Guide for Victims of Identity Theft." 

 

Additionally, the office offers an Identity Theft Passport, a wallet-sized card that you can carry and present to law enforcement or other individuals who may challenge you about your identity if you have been a victim of an identity crime.  The Identity Theft Passport is available to any Virginian who has filed a police report claiming they are a victim of an identity crime or who has obtained a court order expunging their record as a result of an identity crime. The Attorney General's Office conducts investigations to confirm the legitimacy of all passport applications.  You may download the Identity Theft Passport from the Attorney General's website at http://www.ag.virginia.gov/files/IDTPASSPORTI.pdf or contact the Victim Notification program at 804-786-2071.

 

For additional information and resources regarding computer crimes and other consumer issues, please visit Attorney General Herring's website at http://www.ag.virginia.gov/. 

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The True Cost of Gun Ownership: Dr. Michael Davidson

by: Quizzical

Sun Feb 01, 2015 at 20:20:24 PM EST

(Yeah, but, but, but...FREEDOM! And stuff. (deep sarcasm) - promoted by lowkell)

Lately I've seen a bunch of blog posts about the true cost of various things, such as the true cost of carbon, the true cost of commuting, the true cost of student loans, or the true cost of free parking in the city.  Usually, the gist of such articles is that if you understand the true cost of something, you might decide you don't want to pay that cost, or that the people who engage in or profit from that activity should bear the costs. It is not infrequent that an entire industry will fight against exposure of the true cost of their product, precisely because they don't want to be forced to shoulder the cost of their product.  Asbestos and cigarettes are good examples of those.

So lately, following the shooting murder of a prominent cardiac-thoracic surgeon, Dr. Michael Davidson, M.D., at Brigham and Womens Hospital in Boston, I've been wondering, what is the true cost of gun ownership?

Dr. Davidson, age 44, was gunned down in one of his own hospital's examining rooms.  The shooter was a 54 year old accountant, who apparently was angry because Dr. Davidson operated on his mother, and his mother had complications after the surgery, supposedly due to some of the medications she was taking, and died. That happens sometimes after surgery; there is always the risk of a bad outcome, no matter what the doctors and nurses do.

Afterwards, one of Dr. Davidson's peers said:

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Shooting in Idaho Walmart puts focus on gun safety

by: Quizzical

Fri Jan 02, 2015 at 07:50:05 AM EST

There has been a fair amount of discussion of gun safety following the incident in Idaho in which a 2 year old accidently shot his mother with her own 9 mm pistol in a Walmart.
http://jonathanturley.org/2014...

One statement in the Jonathan Turley post caught my attention:

It is not clear if the safety was on the weapon, though as an experienced gun owner I assume that Rutledge had the safety on. However, it is not difficult for a child to switch of a safety.

About a year ago, I was surprised to learn that there are 9 mm semiautomatic pistols on the market which do not have a safety, unless I missed it in the manufacturer's manual and schematic diagrams.  Specifically, I am talking about the Smith & Wesson SD9 VE.  

Before that, I never heard of a handgun that didn't have a safety.  What is the thinking that lead to this "feature?"  Is the pistol safer to use without a safety?

From what I've been reading on the internet, the logic frequently used by "concealed carry" advocates goes something like this:  

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"Our trust was misplaced." Or, as anti-rape advocates call it: Doomsday

by: FisherShannon

Sat Dec 06, 2014 at 14:05:39 PM EST

( - promoted by lowkell)

Yesterday, I posted what now seems like a rather ironic tweet: "If you're tired of seeing SexualAssault cases in the news, GOOD! News of this epidemic is finally reaching people! UniteAgainstRape" I tweeted it proudly, thinking maybe I in some small way helped to raise public awareness of the epidemic of sexual assault in our society through UniteWomen.org's Unite Against Rape program, which I co-founded. The fact that reports of sexual assault are rising is welcome news to those of us who work to fight sexual assault. Instances of rape aren't increasing, but rates of reporting it are, which means we are making progress.

Then, I signed onto my computer today to find a retraction of the Rolling Stone story about an alleged gang rape at the University of Virginia due to what Rolling Stone editors now believe are discrepancies in the victim's story. My first thought was, "Oh, sh!t!"

Just when we have finally reach a spot where sexual assault is out from behind a veil of shame and secrecy - and it seems we are finally shedding a light on a problem that plagues our society - one of the most high-profile victims of collegiate rape in recent history has (rightly or wrongly) now been publicly deemed untrustworthy. Whether trust was or was not "misplaced" in her by Rolling Stone is beside the point; either way, the legacy that will linger from this story is that women lie about rape.

The perception that "crying rape" is a common occurrence largely thwarts our efforts to stave sexual assault. In most cases, the assumption is that the victim is lying or seeking attention, as was suggested by George Will who asserted that being a rape victim is a "coveted status" on college campuses (to which I had a very strong retort).

Following Rolling Stone's retraction, Mother Jones published an almost immediate "let's-not-lose-sight-of-the-bigger-issue" piece that is filled with staggering statistics about sexual assault on college campuses.

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A Journey Into Intimate Power and Abuse

by: Dan Sullivan

Fri Oct 31, 2014 at 17:53:36 PM EDT

Wahoo Way and 5th Street Charlottesville photo WahooWayand5thStreet_zps71a7cc7f.jpgLast Friday I traced the route Hannah Graham took to the place she was discovered, curious to know, among other things, how long the drive had taken. I also wondered if a former residence of Matthew's along the route that hadn't been mentioned in the news had been searched.

My interest in any of this is part of a broader curiosity about the relationship between power and behavior that began with an attempt to better understand how sexual harassment, abuse, assault, and rape should be approached by the military leadership. I am certain that the initiatives taken to curb these issues in the military are aimed at the wrong targets and will falter. But I digress. October has been National Bullying Prevention Month. There was an eye-opening, at least for me, and gut wrenching series of presentations at the Charlottesville Shelter for Help in Emergency. And though Hannah Graham was not a known acquaintance of her alleged assailant, the motivations and social skills of this sort of assailant are strikingly similar. It is really their signatures that distinguish them. They are rarely insane, by the way.

Though I am not a psychiatrist or sociologist, I am going to dare to discuss the social pathology involved in behaviors that probably should not always be stove piped into various categories like bullying, domestic abuse, intimate partner abuse, elder abuse, child abuse, hazing, rape, murder, etc. You may recall that when Hannah Graham went missing, I suggested that she would not have been her assailant's only victim. What I have come to recognize through a lot of study recommended by old friends who are experts is that these are varying manifestations of power and most of those who wield power in those ways do not perceptibly look or act differently from you or I unless they are among peers or bystanders under their influence. Their "success" is shaped by knowing what others perceive as right or wrong and only acting wrong in the presence of their victims or reliable bystanders. Often they count on their victims' and any witnesses' shame to provide leverage that avoids consequences for their actions.

So, before I go below the fold, I want to repeat what I know is easier for me to say than for others to do: if you are or know a victim of any of these trespasses, report, report, report...do not stand by, get help; help others.

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Did You Know this is "The Day of the Girl"?

by: Dan Sullivan

Sat Oct 11, 2014 at 10:52:32 AM EDT

Day of the Girl photo 141011DayoftheGirl_zps9d39c4b7.jpgProbably not. Yesterday a 17 year old girl, Malala Yousafzai, shared the Nobel Peace Prize; the winners cited "for their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education." How many girls in America struggle?  Far too many.
"Empowerment of and investment in girls are key in breaking the cycle of discrimination and violence and in promoting and protecting the full and effective enjoyment of their human rights" - United Nations Resolution 66/170
A simple truth is that gender inequality begins at conception. Is it simply culture? No, I don't believe so...it is rooted in physiological differences and procreation roles; these are natural facts that have influenced the paths of social Darwinism. Where there has been philosophical advancement, social enlightenment has neglected the value and role of women for the sole purpose of maintaining a dominance that serves the interests of the "haves." Somehow, somewhere, long, long ago, women became chattel. And the luster of that property is diminished by the exercise of "ownership rights" by men.

Women are diminished by patriarchal attempts to protect that ownership. These are clearly manifest in laws restricting women's sovereignty over their own bodies. This would be comical if it were not so tragic. While those who would protect the status quo focus on the emotional issue of abortion, they refuse to effectively ameliorate the more pervasive crimes and trespasses against girls and women, most of which create the circumstances that force the tragic choice they would not allow.

That the abuses of girls and women in other cultures and countries are often far worse than the general condition in America does not excuse their social position and condition here.

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If Hannah Graham Had Made It Home

by: Dan Sullivan

Mon Sep 29, 2014 at 06:41:30 AM EDT

Hannah Graham photo HannahGraham_zps2d45ea79.jpgPossibly only because Hannah Graham disappeared did we learn she was a victim of foul play. Statistically, 1,137 other American undergraduates were raped that day. Why aren't they in the headlines? Bet you if four UVA football players had gone missing in five years, those cases would have been solved.

There is every disincentive for victims of rape to report their assaults. When they do, they invariably become victimized again. The deck is stacked in favor of assailants. You'd think that in the enlightened environs of college campuses this would not be so. When will the discussion about violence against women change from women avoiding potential danger to men behaving with respect?

There is nothing positive about this to learn from the leadership on Virginia's campuses. And there seems no accountability for leadership failures. The President of James Madison University (JMU), at a minimum, provided cover for the malfeasance in his administration's handling the Sarah Butters sexual assault, deflecting blame onto the victim. Governor McAuliffe plastered over the scandal of Title IX investigations across Virginia by appointing a task force to conduct a "top-to-bottom" review of procedures for investigating sexual assaults and resolving complaints at public colleges and universities. You can conduct the tightest investigations in the universe and it won't prevent the next broken life. Nice try Governor, but this won't change the climate on campuses. You want Presidents of Virginia's universities and colleges to be invested? Fire one; start with JMU President Alger who allowed Sarah Butters' dignity to be trampled upon.

The overuse of football as a metaphor for life can be irritating but sadly in the area of leadership, some college coaches are way ahead of their "bosses." Last July after Coach Charlie Strong started kicking players off of his team for their behavior toward women, ESPN commentator Rod Gilmore was asked about football players' violence against women. Gilmore, a former Stanford football player, accomplished attorney, and ESPN analyst praised Strong for doing the right thing.

"He's one of the few people who takes a strong stand against violence against women. I mean he comes out on day one and says that if you don't treat women with respect, you cannot play for him. And he's new at Texas and he backed that up today. But seriously, across the landscape of college football, we don't take it seriously enough." - Rod Gilmore on ESPN
 
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"Conservatives" Want a Piece of Your Healthcare Money

by: Dan Sullivan

Mon Sep 15, 2014 at 10:06:48 AM EDT

RAM Dental Clinic Assembly photo DentalClinicAssembly_2_zpsb2bfb5d1.jpgThere's always a story behind the story and sometimes one belies the other. Remote Area Medical (RAM) is a godsend; make no mistake about it. But like any private sector organization, the transparency or accountability we demand from government is not always evident. Today's "conservatives" would never acknowledge that.

Watching and taking part in the transformation of a rural air terminal into expeditionary specialty clinics, dental and vision, is not an immersion in military precision. It almost can't be when much of the labor is borrowed. The effort resulting when organization is flattened results in stove-piping. The raw volunteers care about pitching in and recognize the limits of their ability to contribute to technical assembly of the equipment. There are enough seasoned volunteers that as long as the boxes and bags are lined up at their assigned places, they can readily and efficiently assemble and order materials; in their areas. The lack of organization and efficiency among the unguided volunteers is more than compensated for by their numbers and camaraderie. From pitching tents (probably the most organized effort), to setting up tables and chairs, to moving crates and boxes, the unbridled activity ends in mission accomplishment.

This is at the tactical delivery end. Strategically there is always another view that is masked by the appearance if not the reality of good intentions. My father had no time for the American Red Cross. After raging battles on isolated Pacific islands during World War II, the Red Cross sold donuts to the Marines and sailors ashore; the Salvation Army was there handing out goods gratis. Guess which organization he favored. My wife cannot turn down a request for a donation from Saint Jude's in Memphis despite having no clue who Danny Thomas was; it's those children. On the other hand, when I see anyone collecting donations to benefit our military service members or veterans, I challenge their credentials on the spot. I wasn't as discerning with RAM until I saw the DC-47 (a WWII DC-3 configuration) touch down in Lee County. After all, RAM had been endorsed via association by both of Virginia's United States Senators, our current Governor, and General Assembly members from both sides of the aisle.  

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The purpose of Blue Virginia is to cover Virginia politics from a progressive and Democratic perspective. This is a group blog and a community blog. We invite everyone to comment here, but please be aware that profanity, personal attacks, bigotry, insults, rudeness, frequent unsupported or off-point statements, "trolling" (NOTE: that includes outright lies, whether about climate science, or what other people said, or whatever), and "troll ratings abuse" (e.g., "troll" rating someone simply because you disagree with their argument) are not permitted and, if continued, will lead to banning. For more on trolling, see the Daily Kos FAQs. Also note that diaries may be deleted if they do not contain at least 2 solid paragraphs of original text; if not, please use the comments section of a relevant diary. For more on writing diaries, click here. Thanks, and enjoy!

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