06 26 2016
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  • ST. LOUIS (AP) — A draft of the Democratic Party's policy positions reflects the influence of Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign: endorsing steps to break up large Wall Street banks, advocating a $15 hourly wage, urging an end to the death penalty. Hillary Clinton's supporters turned back efforts by Sanders' allies to promote a Medicare-for-all single-payer health care system and a carbon tax to address climate change, and freeze hydraulic fracking. While the platform does not bind the Democratic nominee to the stated positions, it serves as a guidepost for the party moving forward. Party officials approved the draft early Saturday. The Democratic National Convention's full Platform Committee will discuss the draft at a meeting next month in Orlando, Florida, with a vote at the convention in Philadelphia in late July. Sanders said Friday he would vote for Clinton, the presumptive nominee, in the fall election, but so far has stopped short of fully endorsing the former secretary of state or encouraging his millions of voters to back her candidacy. The Vermont senator has said he wants the platform to reflect his goals — and those representing him at a St. Louis hotel said they had made progress. "We lost some but we won some," said James Zogby, a Sanders supporter on the committee. "We got some great stuff in the platform that has never been in there before." Added Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., a Sanders ally: "We've made some substantial moves forward." Deliberating late into Friday, the group considered language on the Israel-Palestinian conflict, an issue that has divided Democrats. The committee defeated an amendment led by Zogby that would have called for providing Palestinians with "an end to occupation and illegal settlements" and urged an international effort to rebuild Gaza. The draft reflects Clinton's views and advocates working toward a "two-state solution of the Israel-Palestinian conflict" that guarantees Israel's security with recognized borders "and provides the Palestinians with independence, sovereignty, and dignity." In many cases, Clinton's side gave ground to Sanders. The document calls for the expansion of Social Security and says Americans should earn at least $15 an hour, referring to the current minimum wage of $7.25 an hour as a "starvation wage," a term often used by Sanders. Sanders has pushed for a $15-an-hour minimum wage. Clinton has supported efforts to raise the minimum wage to that level but has said states and cities should raise the bar as high as possible. Sanders' allies wanted the draft to specify calls for a $15 per hour minimum wage indexed with inflation. Clinton's side struck down a direct link, noting the document elsewhere included a call to "raise and index the minimum wage." The committee also adopted language that said it supports ways to prevent banks from gambling with taxpayers' bank deposits, "including an updated and modernized version of Glass-Steagall." Sanders wants to reinstate the Depression-era Glass-Steagall Act, which prohibited commercial banks from engaging in investment banking activities. Clinton does not, but says her proposed financial changes would cast a wider net by regulating the banking system. Also in the draft is a call for the abolition of the death penalty. Clinton said during a debate this year that capital punishment should only be used in limited cases involving "heinous crimes." Sanders said the government should not use it. Sanders, a vociferous opponent of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, was unable to get language into the document opposing the trade deal. As a result, the party avoided an awkward scenario that would have put the platform at odds with President Barack Obama. Clinton and Sanders have opposed the deal. Committee members backed a measure that said "there are a diversity of views in the party" on the pact and reaffirmed that Democrats contend any trade deal "must protect workers and the environment." In a setback for Sanders, the panel narrowly rejected amendments that would have imposed a tax on carbon and imposed a national freeze on fracking. The panel deliberated for about nine hours following several late nights and long hours of policy exchanges between the two campaigns and the Democratic National Committee. Sanders, in a statement, said he was "disappointed and dismayed" that the group voted down the measure opposing the TPP. But he was pleased with the proposals on Glass-Steagall and the death penalty — and vowed to fight on. "Our job is to pass the most progressive platform in the history of the Democratic Party," he said.
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  • VIDEO: Vermont senator says he will vote for Clinton if she wins nomination                  
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Joy, tears and excitement were on display at Multnomah County last Thursday, when the Londer Learning Center held a graduation ceremony for its GED class of 2013. 

This year the center celebrates its 20th year of helping corrections clients pass the GED exam and go on to build careers and attend college.  And, for the first time ever, the graduates wore caps and gowns, thanks to a fundraising effort by Ezekiel Stroschein, a former inmate who worked as a GED tutor for other inmates while serving time in an Oregon prison.

Ezekiel Stroschein and Michele Dishong McCormack at the Londer Center graduation

Judge Henry Kantor

In 2011, Stroschein saw an article on the Londer Learning Center graduation.

"It caught my eye, but it really caught my eye because they didn't have caps and gowns," Stroschein says. "And our department didn't have the funds available for caps and gowns either. It brings such meaning to the graduation to have them, so I wondered if there was a way we could get caps and gowns."

Stroschein was studying for his associate's degree from Chemeketa College through the College Inside program. In one of his final classes, communications instructor Michele Dishong McCormack asked students to complete a service learning project.

Stroschein proposed raising money for caps and gowns for inmate GED graduates and Londer students. Within a month, his group had raised close to $1,300, most of it from inmates. The group donated 40 caps and gowns to Londer graduates and 21 to graduates from Oregon State Correctional Institution.

"It really touched my heart because the guys who gave weren't in school, and they didn't have much money. But they really wanted to help and support the graduates," Stroschein says.

The ceremony brought families, friends, supporters and county staff to honor the graduates for their achievement in passing the seven-hour GED exam. All the graduates had to overcome steep barriers to achieve academic success.

Many students brought children and families, who watched with pride as their parents received diplomas.

Graduate Myldred Sylvia urged her fellow students to continue their journeys toward success. Graduates are eligible for a free year of college.

"Go out there and live lives of impeccable rectitude and integrity," Sylvia said.

Stroschein says that's exactly what he is trying to do.

"When I got incarcerated, I told myself I really wanted to be a better man when I came out so I wouldn't make the same mistakes," he said. "So it means a lot to me to get my degree and get my life back on track to become a pro-social member of society instead of a menace."

Released from prison on April 26, Stroschein spoke at his own graduation from Chemeketa, Tuesday evening. Now, he's working as an assistant to criminal defense attorney Jeffrey Dickey, his partner of 10 years. But he made sure to take time to attend the Londer Learning Center graduation, where he shared his story with the graduates.

The GED exam will be changing at the end of 2013, so anyone working toward a GED should aim to finish it this year, to avoid losing any credit they already have earned. Contact staff at Londer for referral to one of many special programs across the city available this summer to help you pass the test this year. For more information, contact Londer Learning Center at  503-319-1899

Other speakers at the graduation included: Judge Henry Kantor; Truls Neal, assistant director of the Department of Community Justice, Multnomah County Chair Jeff Cogen; Multnomah County Commissioners Deborah Kafoury and Loretta Smith, Carl Goodman, retiring assistant director in the Department of Community Justice, and Londer Center manager Carole Scholl.

Judge Kantor spoke about the value of education and what he'd learned from his mentor, attorney John Ryan, who co-founded the Londer Learning Center with Judge Donald H. Londer.  He said Ryan's love of books and reading influences him to this day. Ryan's widow, Virginia Ryan, also was at the ceremony and helped present the awards.

Jaymes Young-Liebgott, Christopher Walker and Nikki Callahan received honors awards for scoring 650 or higher on average across the test.  Jim James  and Myldred Sylvia were honored for excellence in attendance and for putting in more than 300 hours to prepare for the test.

Center photos of the graduates are: Nicholas Wright, Amber Bertrand and Sandra Morrow.

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