“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.” ― Isaac Asimov

Category: Crime

New Report Reveals How Food Instability Impacts Teens

Approximately 6.8 million young adults between the ages of 10 and 17 are food-insecure, the report points out.

Food insecurity is pushing many low-income teenage girls to exchange sex for food and other goods, the authors explain.

Researchers from the Urban Institute and Feeding America surveyed 193 teenagers in 20 focus groups in ten different communities. In each location and 13 out of 20 focus groups, teenagers discussed using sex to pay for food. The survey included major cities like Los Angeles, Chicago, and Washington, D.C. as well as rural areas in North Carolina and Oregon.

Teens Across America Are Turning to Sex Work for a Devastating Reason

As policymakers have focused on tackling hunger among young children, its devastating impact on teenagers has gone somewhat unacknowledged, according to a new report from the Urban Institute, a think-tank devoted to economic and social issues. Approximately 6.8 million young adults between the ages of 10 and 17 are food-insecure, the report points out.

Fully Loaded

Inside the Shadowy World of America’s 10 Biggest Gunmakers

Gunmakers_Beretta_630[1]They are all white, all middle-aged, and all men. A few live openly lavish lifestyles, but the majority fly under the radar. Rarely is there news about them in the mainstream media or even the trade press. Their obscurity would seem unremarkable if we were talking about the biggest manufacturers of auto accessories or heating systems. But these are America’s top gunmakers—leaders of the nation’s most controversial industry. They have kept their heads down and their fingerprints off regulations designed to protect their businesses—foremost a law that shields gun companies from liability for crimes committed with their products.

With this investigation, Mother Jones set out to break through the opacity surrounding the $8 billion firearms industry and the men who control it.

Many of these companies’ top executives have donned the jacket bestowed to members of the Golden Ring of Freedom, an exclusive club for $1 million-plus donors to the National Rifle Association. Several have been the focus of criminal investigations and lawsuits over everything from arms trafficking and fraud to armed robbery and racketeering.

As the debate over gun laws has grown louder, sales have soared. In the year following the massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, the three largest gunmakers—Sturm Ruger, Remington Outdoor, and Smith & Wesson—netted more than $390 million in profits on record sales. Shares in publicly traded Sturm Ruger and Smith & Wesson jumped more than 70 percent that year, benefiting institutional investors such as Vanguard, Blackrock, and Fidelity. The hedge fund that owns Remington Outdoor—maker of the assault rifle used in Newtown—saw the annual return on its investment grow tenfold.

Read more at MOTHER JONES

Democratic Leadership Is Missing In Action on Mass Incarceration

The Republicans are set to vote on an RNC resolution to reduce mass incarceration. The measure asks for “reforms for nonviolent offenders at the state and federal level” and urges “state legislators and Congress to…provide substance abuse treatment to addicts, emphasize work and education, and implement policies that cut costs while obtaining better outcomes.”

Finally, Democrats may say, Republicans have woken up to mass incarceration as a 21st-century civil-rights struggle, joining what has for years been a progressive fight. Not so fast. If the Republican Party makes criminal justice reform a priority, they’ll be the first major party to do so, ever. Democrats need to catch up. Adding ending mass incarceration to their own platform would mark a significant step, boldly breaking with their past politics.

Criminal justice reform should be a simple step for a party that believes in progress, equality, and inclusion. It was the Democrats who fought for civil rights in the last century. If the Democrats do not raise their voice, history will record that it was the Republicans who led the civil-rights struggle in this one.

Recent Democratic platforms haven’t merely been silent; they have actually called for policies creating more imprisonment, and then applauded the result. Mentions of progressive alternatives are hard to find.


The Legal System Uses an Algorithm to Predict If People Might Be Future Criminals. It’s Biased Against Blacks.

Josh Ritchie for ProPublica

Josh Ritchie for ProPublica

Scores like this — known as risk assessments — are increasingly common in courtrooms across the nation. They are used to inform decisions about who can be set free at every stage of the criminal justice system, from assigning bond amounts — as is the case in Fort Lauderdale — to even more fundamental decisions about defendants’ freedom. In Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Kentucky, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin, the results of such assessments are given to judges during criminal sentencing.

Rating a defendant’s risk of future crime is often done in conjunction with an evaluation of a defendant’s rehabilitation needs. The Justice Department’s National Institute of Corrections now encourages the use of such combined assessments at every stage of the criminal justice process. And a landmark sentencing reform bill currently pending in Congress would mandate the use of such assessments in federal prisons.

In 2014, then U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder warned that the risk scores might be injecting bias into the courts. He called for the U.S. Sentencing Commission to study their use. “Although these measures were crafted with the best of intentions, I am concerned that they inadvertently undermine our efforts to ensure individualized and equal justice,” he said, adding, “they may exacerbate unwarranted and unjust disparities that are already far too common in our criminal justice system and in our society.”

The sentencing commission did not, however, launch a study of risk scores. So ProPublica did, as part of a larger examination of the powerful, largely hidden effect of algorithms in American life.

Learn more at MOTHER JONES

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