07 30 2016
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The Wake of Vanport
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  • Russian hackers likely responsible for hacking attack on Clinton HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Giddy if exhausted, Hillary Clinton embarked on a post-convention Rust Belt bus tour just hours after becoming the first female presidential nominee of a major political party. The celebratory mood quickly evaporated amid fresh revelations that hackers had breached a program used by her campaign and Republican nominee Donald Trump promised to sharpen his barbs. "Remember this," Trump said during a rally Friday in Colorado Springs, Colorado. "Trump is going to be no more Mr. Nice Guy." And for the first time he encouraged his supporters' anti-Clinton chants of "lock her up." "I've been saying let's just beat her on Nov. 8," Trump said, "but you know what? I'm starting to agree with you." About an hour later, Clinton aides acknowledged that a hacking attack that exposed Democratic Party emails also reached into a computer system used by her own campaign. The FBI said it was working to determine the "accuracy, nature and scope" of the cyberattacks. Campaign spokesman Nick Merrill said the newly disclosed breach affected a Democratic National Committee data analytics program used by the campaign and other organizations. Outside experts found no evidence that the campaign's "internal systems have been compromised," Merrill said, but he gave no details on the program or nature of the attacks. Partnerships with modern e-commerce companies can allow sophisticated tracking, categorization and identification of website visitors and voters. President Barack Obama and cybersecurity experts have said Russia was almost certainly responsible for the DNC hack. The House Democratic campaign committee reported Friday that its information had been accessed. The developments followed the leaking of DNC emails earlier in the week that pointed to a pro-Clinton bias by party officials during her primary contest against Bernie Sanders. In the furor that followed, party chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Shultz resigned just as Democrats launched their convention. Clinton and her running mate, Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, will attempt to return attention to their positive economic message on Saturday, with campaign stops through economically struggling areas of Pennsylvania and Ohio. "When we take that oath of office next January, we know we can make life better. We know we can create more good jobs," she told voters gathered at an outside market in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Clinton cited an economic analysis by economist Mark Zandi, a former economic adviser to 2008 Republican presidential nominee John McCain, that found more than 10 million jobs could be created in her first term if her economic proposals were put in place. Zandi's analysis of Trump's plans found they would cost the country 3.5 million jobs and lead to a "lengthy recession." Joined on the bus tour by her husband, Bill Clinton, Kaine and his wife, Anne Holton, Clinton stopped at a toy and plastics manufacturer in Hatfield, Pennsylvania, where she and Kaine cast Trump as a con artist out for his own gain. "We don't resent success in America but we do resent people who take advantage of others in order to line their own pockets," Clinton said. Trump is also focusing on Ohio and Pennsylvania, two states where he might make headway with blue-collar white men. That group of voters has eluded Clinton and may be a hard sell after a Democratic convention that heavily celebrated racial and gender diversity. Clinton is playing up economic opportunity, diversity and national security. Democrats hammered home those themes this week with an array of politicians, celebrities, gun-violence victims, law enforcement officers and activists of all races and sexual orientation. Their goal is to turn out the coalition of minority, female and young voters that twice elected Obama while offsetting expected losses among the white men drawn to Trump's message. Democrats continued contrasting their optimistic message with the more troubled vision of the state of the nation presented by Trump and others at the GOP convention a week earlier. Kaine called the "very dark and negative" event a "journey through Donald Trump's mind." "That's a very frightening place," he told thousands of supporters in Philadelphia. Clinton told voters that they faced a "stark choice," calling the coming election the most important one in her lifetime. "This is a moment of reckoning for our country. I don't recognize the country that Donald Trump describes," she said.___Lemire reported from Colorado Springs, Colorado. Associated Press writer Eric Tucker in Washington contributed to this report.
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  • SEATTLE (AP) — Genetically modified wheat not approved for sale or commercial production in the United States has been found growing in a field in Washington state, agriculture officials said Friday, posing a possible risk to trade with countries concerned about engineered food. The Food and Drug Administration says genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, are safe and little scientific concern exists about the safety of those on the market. But critics say not enough is known about their risks, and they want GMOs labeled so people know what's in their food. Several Asian countries temporarily banned U.S. wheat imports after genetically modified wheat was found unexpectedly in a field on an Oregon farm in 2013. It also popped up in a field at a university research center in Montana in 2014. It wasn't immediately clear how altered wheat cropped up in Washington. But the U.S. Agriculture Department said there is no evidence it has entered the market. If it did, the FDA concluded that "it is unlikely that the wheat would present any safety concerns if present in the food supply," the department said. A farmer discovered 22 plants in an unplanted field, and the wheat was developed to be resistant to the herbicide known as Roundup, created by seed giant Monsanto, the USDA said. An agency spokeswoman did not know where in the state it was found. Federal officials said they were working with the farmer to ensure that none of the modified wheat is sold. Out of caution, the agency said it is holding and testing the farmer's full wheat harvest, but so far it has not found GMOs. The plants are a type of wheat that had been evaluated in limited field trials in the Pacific Northwest from 1998 to 2001 but never commercialized, Monsanto said in a statement. It said the type found in Washington state is similar to the one discovered in Oregon three years ago; it has the same inserted DNA but in a different location. No variety of genetically engineered wheat has been approved for commercial use or production in the U.S. GMOs are plants or animals that have had genes copied from other plants or animals inserted into their DNA. Most genetically engineered crops are corn and soybeans eaten by livestock or made into popular processed food ingredients like cornstarch, soybean oil or high fructose corn syrup. Only a handful of modified fruits and vegetables are available, including Hawaiian papaya, some zucchini and squash and a small percentage of sweet corn. The FDA also has approved for consumption a genetically engineered salmon that would grow faster than traditional salmon, but it's not yet available in grocery stores. South Korea said Friday that it will inspect U.S. wheat imports for genetically modified wheat, the Yonhap News Agency reported. The Ministry of Food and Drug Safety said it has asked the USDA for information on the unapproved wheat and inspection methods. The USDA said it has validated a test that Monsanto developed for the herbicide-resistant wheat, which would be available to trading partners. "Trading partners will get the tests. I believe that once they have those in place, they'll continue buying," said Glen Squires, CEO of the Washington Grain Commission, a state agency that represents wheat farmers. "We don't anticipate any major disruptions." The USDA also said it has beefed up oversight of genetically engineered field trials and now requires developers to apply for a permit for those involving GMO wheat starting this year. In 2014, genetically modified wheat plants were found at a university research center in Huntley, Montana, where it was legally tested by Monsanto in the early 2000s. The plants in eastern Oregon were found in a field that had never conducted such tests, and the USDA closed its investigation two years ago unable to determine how the wheat got there. Different strains were found in each state. The Washington Association of Wheat Growers and the Washington State Agriculture Department referred questions to federal authorities.
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  • Six current or former state employees were charged Friday with misconduct and other crimes in the Flint water crisis 
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  • Hillary Clinton cast herself as a unifier for divided times, an experienced leader steeled for a volatile world 
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Supporters of Proposition 36 are optimistic that changing attitudes toward prison reform, coupled with economic considerations, will have Californians voting in favor of tempering their state's controversial repeat offender law, known as "Three Strikes and You're Out," in the upcoming November election.

"Popular support has always been high for reforming Three Strikes," says Prop. 36 advocate Geri Silva, director and co-founder of the Los Angeles-based Families to Amend California's Three Strikes. "People realize that sending someone to prison for life for stealing a donut is absurd."

Backers of Prop.36 had no trouble gathering the 504,760 signatures required by law to get their measure on the state ballot – about 800,000 people signed the petition -- and a recent statewide survey conducted by Pepperdine University's policy school shows 78.1 percent of likely voters supporting it.

The sense of urgency among voters to reform Three Strikes, suggests Silva, can be attributed to prison overcrowding and soaring state spending on incarceration in the midst of a historic budget crisis.

The political climate in California and public attitudes toward prison reform were very different in 1994 when the Three Strikes Initiative, Proposition 184, passed in a landslide with 72 percent of the popular vote. The initiative benefited in part from public fear and anger over the highly publicized kidnapping, rape and murder of 12 year-old Polly Klaas the previous year.

Proposition 184 imposed a mandatory 25 years to life prison sentence for anyone in the state convicted of a third felony, including non-violent offenses like drug possession and theft.

Today, twenty-six other states have similar sentencing laws on the books, but California's Three Strikes law is widely considered one of the most severe.

In one infamous 1995 case, Jerry DeWayne Williams received a sentence of 25 years to life for snatching a slice of pizza from a group of kids.  Although Williams later convinced a judge to reduce his sentence to five years, the case became a flashpoint for prison reform advocates seeking to characterize Three Strikes as absurd.

While proponents of Three Strikes argue the intent is to keep murderers, rapists and child molesters behind bars, today roughly 4,000 inmates serving mandatory life sentences in California were convicted for nonviolent offenses.

Today, 18 years after Three Strikes was enacted, public perception of the law appears to have shifted. A Field Poll conducted last year found widespread disapproval of Three Strikes in its current form -- 74 percent of voters polled were in favor of changing Three Strikes and giving judges and juries more discretion in sentencing.

"People realize that the result of the current Three Strikes law isn't what they voted for," says Dan Newman, strategist for the 3 Strikes Reform Act campaign.

Proposition 36 would amend Three Strikes by imposing a 25 years to life sentence only if the third conviction is for a serious or violent felony.

The mandatory 25 to life sentence would still be invoked, however, for any third felony conviction if the individual also has a previous conviction for murder, rape or child molestation.

Under Prop.36, those with two strikes would be sentenced to twice the usual time for their third conviction for a non-serious felony, in lieu of the life sentence. Some 3,000 California inmates currently serving a 25 to life term for non-serious or nonviolent third strikes would become eligible to petition judges for re-sentencing, if the measure is approved.

A 2011 California Department of Corrections report showed 40,998 Californians were in prison for offenses classified as "srikes." Of these, 8,727 were for third strikes, but an estimated 40 percent of the third strikes were for nonviolent offenses.

The fair application of Three Strikes has also been called into question. Ten years after passage of the law, 45 percent of all inmates in California serving life sentences under the Three Strikes law were African American and about 30 percent were Latino, according to a Justice Policy Institute study.

Supporters of Prop.36 believe the economy will be a big factor in how people vote this November. California spends an average of $46,700 per inmate annually, according to a Legislative Analysts Office report released last year.

The current third-strike population will cost the state about $10 billion dollars over the next 25 years, says a Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice study. Meanwhile, proponents of Prop.36 say the measure could save the state up to $100 million a year in reduced prison costs.

Prop.36 is not the first measure that seeks to lessen the impact of Three Strikes -- its predecessor, 2004's Proposition 66, lost by a slim margin with 52.7 percent voting against – but its supporters believe this time will be different.

"Prop.36 itself is better written and clearer about going after the super-criminals," says Newman.

The care taken in crafting the language of Prop.36 is clearly a result of what happened in 1994, when opponents of Prop.66 zeroed in on ambiguities in the ill-fated proposition and boldly claimed that it would release 26,000 murderers and rapists into the streets, which Silva says was a "ridiculous and false claim."

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger used the claims to attack the measure in last-minute television ads, and the anti-Prop.66 campaign also garnered support from former governors, including Democrats Jerry Brown and Gray Davis.

Not wishing to see history repeat itself, lawyers from Stanford Law School crafted the language of Prop.36, together with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

Because the measure is now written more clearly, explains Newman, "a broader, bipartisan coalition is behind Prop.36 this time."

Endorsers of Prop.36 include liberal philanthropist George Soros, conservative anti-tax advocate Grover Norquist, and a number of law enforcement officials. Investor David Mills gave $953,000 to the campaign, and Soros added $500,000 to the Prop.36 war chest – nearly $2 million to date.

So far, the opposition has raised $100,000, all coming from the Peace Officers Research Association of California, Political Issues Committee.

Three Strikes advocate Mike Reynolds, author of the 1994's Prop.184, contends that the law deters crime and should not be modified. Crime in the state has declined by 50 percent "in every category" since the law's passage, he states in a recent San Francisco Chronicle op-ed.

Critics point out crime had been declining even prior to Three Strikes. Moreover, a study by the Justice Policy Institute found that California's declining crime rates were no different from states without a Three Strikes law. And counties that used the law the least (San Francisco and Contra Costa) experienced slightly larger reductions in violent crime compared with counties that used it the most (Kern and Sacramento), according to the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice.

Three Strikes' dubious impact on crime prevention, in addition to the steep cost of implementing it, has swayed even some law-and-order conservatives to support its amendment. One is Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley, who was among those opposed to changing Three Strikes in 2004. Today, he is a vocal supporter of Prop. 36.

Although unsure of what the opposition has up their sleeve as the November election draws near, Prop. 36 campaigners are confident they have a better chance of winning this time around.

"Prop. 36 is a conservative measure," says Silva. "Unlike in 2004, this measure has fewer, if any, vulnerable attack points for the opposition to use."

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