07 30 2016
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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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Staff and volunteers at Better People's fundraising walk

PHOTO: Dozens of volunteers turned out to walk and raise funds for Better People at an event in downtown Portland last year.

 

Better People, the Portland nonprofit that helps former inmates find work and stability in the community, has laid off its staff and closed its office on NE Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. But board chair Judith Belk, PhD. says the plan is to return in early 2015 with a revised program and a stronger long-term plan.

“The board voted unanimously to keep Better People open,” Belk said.

 “We will go quiet for a while to give us time to look at how we are valued and how we fit into the community. We want to get a bigger picture, but also a more precise picture of what’s needed and how do we expand our services.”

Better People lost a Multnomah county contract last year after its completion numbers dropped. And Belk, who is president of the Center for Communication and Learning Skills in Lake Oswego, says it has struggled to find grant and private funding during the economic downturn.

“Because Better People offers a program that does not charge clients tuition, our ability to deliver services depends on our funding,” she said. “So we are caught in this horrible dilemma of knowing we provide a very valuable service but we’re not able to pay staff.  When people have economic difficulties, so do nonprofits.”

Better People opened in 1998 to help former inmates overcome barriers to becoming productive stable members of society. People with a criminal history face barriers to finding work and housing when they are released. And people who have a felony in their background are banned from numerous work and housing opportunities.

 Better People’s program combines Moral Reconation Therapy—which seeks to help former inmates change negative thinking patterns and behavior – with employment assistance and support. The nonprofit helped persuade employers to give their clients a chance, and held events that raised community awareness about those barriers to success for former inmates.

Program graduates say they gained new understanding and confidence. 

"This program gave me more than just a shot at some dead-end job,” said program graduate Jason W.  “It gave me freedom from the shame I was carrying. It gave me the chance to set down the burden of what other people thought of me. It gave me the opportunity to see myself in a new light. It also gave me the chance to look at how I was treating the people around me on an everyday basis."

According to the Mental Health and Substance Abuse Administration, Moral Reconation Therapy is based on solid research and has been successfully used as a 3-6 month program inside prison systems across the country.  However, SAMHSA also found the program has struggled to find a niche within the criminal justice system.

In recent years Better People has been competing with some larger nonprofits that include prisoner re-entry programs among their services.

Volunteers of America, for example, serves thousands of people every year, offering everything from housing and addictions treatment to domestic violence support services.  Working with prisoners before, during and after their release from jail or prison, VOA claims a 70 percent success rate for its Inact reentry program which served 109 adults in 2013. And its CPR program has had similar success with young men incarcerated as teens.
Mercy Corps has re-entry contracts with the state's Department of Corrections and helps about 135 people a year find work.  
Pathfinders of Oregon offers a behavior change program similar to Better People's Moral Reconation Therapy.  The agency also offers parenting classes, substance abuse treatment and youth and family counseling programs. But Pathfinders works with inmates before they are released from prison, which may make it easier for people to complete the program.
Board members and former executive director Clariner Boston say they will be talking to other nonprofits and experts to get a clearer view of the big picture, as well as an idea of where to steer the program so it can be successful. And Belk says the board has not ruled out merging or partnering with other programs.

Mercy Corps has donated office space so Boston can continue to work with the agency’s remaining clients on a volunteer basis until they can complete the program and graduate.  A board member with a job development business also has offered program space.

“It is to Clariner Boston’s credit as such an ethical dedicated person, that she will make sure that these folks in the program—about eight or nine people –will finish,” Belk said.

The brainchild of Sen. Chip Shields, Better People opened its doors in 1998 after raising $80,000 and gaining the support of The Black United Fund, the Urban League of Portland and the Oregon Community Foundation as well as prominent community members, including: Annette Jolin, Ph.D, of PSU’s Administration of Justice program;  Bob Warren, Jr., CEO of Cascade Corporation; and Bob Kingery, founder of Nextlink Interactive.

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