- Created on 05 April 2013
In February, we celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which was the first bill President Clinton signed into law. President Obama hailed the law, as did current and former lawmakers from both sides of the political aisle. Indeed, it was a singular accomplishment for the nation – the first national law ever to help workers balance the dual demands of job and family.
That law is making a huge difference for the country.
Most directly, the FMLA allows about 60 percent of workers to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a newborn, newly adopted or foster child, to recover from serious illness, or to help a close family member facing a serious health problem. When workers take leave under the FMLA, their health insurance continues and a job is waiting for them when they return.
In the 20 years since the FMLA became law, workers have used the law to take leave more than 100 million times.
The FMLA had indirect benefits, too, changing the culture by embedding in law that workers have family as well as job responsibilities. It helped create a climate in which work/family responsibilities became part of a national conversation. This has meant support for families from all communities, men as well as women, parents providing childcare as well as children providing eldercare.
It's made our workplaces more humane and family friendly.
In these times when there is so much rancor and so little consensus, it's important to keep in mind that passage of the FMLA did not come quickly or easily. It was a nine-year battle to get both houses of Congress to pass it at a time when we had a president who would sign it into law. It took an extraordinary coalition that included women's, civil rights, children's, health, labor, aging and other groups. The National Partnership led that coalition and the NAACP contributed mightily to its success. We proved that progress is possible, even in contentious times.
But for all we accomplished, it's important to remember that the FMLA was always intended to be the first step on the road to a family-friendly nation. And 20 years later, the country has not taken the next step. That's a real disappointment and a painful one, because workers in our communities are being cheated out of the policies they urgently need.
The good news is that a broad coalition continues to work for family friendly policies, because we recognize that the FMLA's unpaid leave is not sufficient to meet the needs of workers and families. Low-wage workers suffer the most. According to the Department of Labor's 2012 survey, most often workers who forgo leave do so because they can't afford to take leave without pay. That survey shows that, for every two workers of color who took FMLA leave, one needed leave but could not take it.
It's time – past time – to rectify that. The next step needs to be improving the law so it covers more workers who need to take leave for more reasons, and adopting a national paid leave insurance system that provides some wage replacement, so low-wage and part-time workers, too, can take family and medical leave when they need it most.
The country is ready. A bipartisan poll taken in November showed that, across all demographic lines, workers are struggling to balance their work and family responsibilities, and they want Congress and the president to consider new laws like paid family and medical leave insurance. African Americans, Latinos, women and young people — the very voters that decided the last election — felt strongest about the importance of congressional and presidential action: 77 percent of African Americans, 79 percent of Latinos, 69 percent of women and 68 percent of people under 30 considered it "very important."
They are right.
It's time to take the next step. In February, we celebrated. But now it's April, and 40 percent of the workforce still isn't covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act, and tens of millions of workers, many of them low-wage, still can't afford to take the unpaid leave the law provides. When babies are born, illness strikes, or relatives need care, they either show up at work or risk losing their jobs.
We can do better. It's time to rededicate ourselves to this issue, deepen our resolve, make some noise, and demand that lawmakers take the next step. Making the nation more family friendly is the unfinished business of our time.
Shelton is Washington bureau director and senior vice president of policy and advocacy for the NAACP; Ness is president of the National Partnership for Women & Families.
- Created on 04 April 2013
Editor's note: Peter Bergen is CNN's national security analyst, the author of "Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for bin Laden -- From 9/11 to Abbottabad" and a director at the New America Foundation.
(CNN) -- On the evening of March 19, Tom Clements, the director of Colorado's prison system, was shot and killed when he answered the door of his home near Colorado Springs.
The slaying sparked a police chase that ended a few days later in Texas, with authorities finally killing the suspect, 28-year-old Evan Ebel, in a shootout. It was soon discovered that Ebel had been part of a violent white supremacist gang during the eight years he spent in Colorado prisons.
Clements was the latest victim of increasingly active violent right-wing extremists. While American politicians and the U.S. public continue to focus on the threat from jihadist extremists, there seems to be too little awareness that this domestic form of political violence is a growing problem at home.
From 2002 to 2007, only nine right-wing extremists were indicted for their roles in politically motivated murders and other types of violent assaults. But between 2008 and 2012, the number mushroomed to 53, according to data collected by the New America Foundation.
Fifteen right-wing extremists were indicted in 2012 -- including six who were involved in a militia in Georgia that accumulated weapons, plotted attacks on the government and murdered a young U.S. Army soldier and his 17-year-old girlfriend, who they suspected were planning to rat out the group to authorities. Seven claimed membership in the anti-government Sovereign Citizens movement and allegedly murdered two policemen in Louisiana. And two had gone on a murderous rampage the previous year, killing four people before they were arrested in California, where they told police they were on their "way to Sacramento to kill more Jews."
By comparison, in 2012, only six people who subscribed to al Qaeda's ideology were indicted on terrorism-related charges in the United States, confirming the trend of the past four years, which is a sharp decline in such cases that has been documented by the authors in previous pieces for CNN.com.
It's about time that politicians who are quick to talk about the threat posed by al Qaeda began paying attention to the shifting nature of the threats.
In comparing the two sources of domestic terrorism, it's striking that the jihadists charged with crimes were much less likely to have actually carried out a violent attack before they were arrested.
According to data gathered by the New America Foundation, 207 people motivated by al Qaeda's ideology of violence against American targets have been indicted in the U.S. on terrorism-related charges since 9/11. But only about 5% of those were indicted for their roles in violent incidents, whereas of the 139 right-wing militants indicted in the United States since 9/11, just under half had engaged in a violent attack before they were arrested.
The word "terrorism" is not often used in the charges leveled against these right-wing militants, simply because laws in the United States primarily define terrorism as the work of a designated foreign terrorist group.
But the New America data shows that domestic terrorists motivated by non-jihadist ideologies now pose a similar or even greater threat than those who admire al Qaeda. We define non-jihadist terrorists to be those who carry out or aspire to carry out acts of politically motivated violence, and who fall into the following categories: right-wing extremists who oppose the government, subscribe to a neo-Nazi ideology, or oppose homosexuality or abortion; left-wing extremists; violent animal rights activists; and violent environmental activists.
Over the past several years, acts or plots of non-jihadist terrorism have derived almost entirely from right-wing extremists like the soldiers' militia in Georgia and the anti-government group in Louisiana. Of the 54 non-jihadist terrorists indicted between 2010 and 2012, 47 were right-wing extremists.
Seven were leftists or animal rights extremists. For instance, three were participants in Occupy Chicago, a leftist political movement, and were indicted on terrorism charges last June for plotting to throw Molotov cocktails at President Barack Obama and other officials during a NATO summit in Chicago. Their lawyers say an undercover government agent had urged them to plot the attacks and build the firebombs.
Since 9/11, at least 29 people living in the United States have been killed by right-wing extremists, while 17 have been killed by jihadist extremists, the majority of whom died in one incident: the 2009 massacre at Fort Hood, Texas. Of course, this story would be much different if al Qaeda recruit Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab had detonated a bomb hidden in his underwear aboard Northwest Flight 253 on Christmas Day 2009.
But it would also be much different if city workers hadn't spotted a suspicious backpack left on the route of a Martin Luther King Jr. parade in Spokane, Washington, in January 2011, in which white supremacist Kevin Harpham had hidden a bomb packed with fishing weights coated in rat poison. Or if police hadn't discovered a napalm bomb and several other live, wired explosives in the suburban Cleveland home of right-wing extremist Matthew Fairfield in April 2010.
And of all the people indicted on terrorism charges in the United States since 9/11, no jihadist suspect has ever acquired or attempted to acquire chemical, biological or radiological weapons, while at least 11 right- and left-wing terrorists either obtained such materials or made serious attempts to do so.
In 2003, federal agents discovered "nearly two pounds of a cyanide compound and other chemicals that could create enough poisonous gas to kill everyone inside a space as large as a big-chain bookstore or a small-town civic center" at the home of Judith Bruey and her husband, William Krar, according to an Associated Press report. Alongside the arsenal of chemical weapons were about 60 pipe bombs, several machine guns, remote-controlled bombs disguised as briefcases, and anti-Semitic, anti-black, and anti-government literature, the report said.
Although the feds had been tracking Bruey and Krar in the mid-90s, their case fell through the cracks when the events of 9/11 turned law enforcement's attention to jihadist terrorism. The couple was only found out when Krar tried to mail a package of counterfeit birth certificates to an anti-government militia member in New Jersey, but got the address wrong. That mistake resulted in a tip to local police.
A report from the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point released in January found that, "In the last few years, and especially since 2007, there has been a dramatic rise in the number of attacks and violent plots originating from people and groups who self-identify with the far-right of American politics."
In a report that was much criticized at the time, the Department of Homeland Security predicted in 2009 that the nation's election the previous year of its first black president, along with a severe economic downturn that created disenchantment with the government among poorer populations, had the potential to radicalize greater numbers of right-wing terrorists. The same report warned that increasing numbers of returning military veterans as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wind down provided those on the far right with a vulnerable population to target for radicalization.
The New America Foundation data shows that about 20% of the right-wing extremists indicted since 9/11 had spent time in the military.
The New America data supports the Department of Homeland Security's assessment of the growing threat of right-wing extremist groups. American politicians and the public should become more aware of the fact that while the threat from al Qaeda-inspired terrorists is much diminished at home, the threat from right-wing militants continues to rise.
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David Sterman assisted with research for this report.
- Created on 04 April 2013
I was first introduced to the court proceeding called “probate” as a result of a frantic call I received soon after I began practicing law.
The caller, a real estate agent, was handling an escrow and found that the sale couldn’t be completed because the seller (his client) didn’t have title to the property. Unfortunately, the property in question was still in the name of the seller’s mother who had died several years earlier. Because the seller didn’t have title, the escrow couldn’t be completed, the real estate agent lost his commission, and the matter had to be taken to court before any further action could be taken with respect to the property.
Many people who have inherited real estate are surprised to learn that they must go through probate in order to legally transfer the property into their name. They usually learn of their need for probate only after they have decided to sell the property or borrow against it. When they find out that the average probate takes 15 months to complete, they are disappointed that their plans have to be put on hold. Then, when they find out what probate costs, they are shocked. For the average home in Los Angeles County, now valued at $350,000, probate costs can exceed $25,000!
Even those that are aware that they must go through probate put it off for various reasons — primarily the cost, time, and/or “hassle” involved in a court proceeding. However, procrastination can lead to unforeseen problems down the road. For example, a person who inherits a piece of property might think that the property is worth a certain amount and has made big plans for the future based on the anticipated inheritance. However, the individual may not be aware of creditors or other heirs that have a legitimate claim to the property until their claim is revealed through the probate process. In one case I know about, a person was sharing in the rental income from the property for years, but when the probate was completed it revealed that the person sharing in the rental income had no legal claim to the property at all.
When probate procrastination goes on for years, it becomes a huge problem to sort out the various interests in the property. Many of us have heard of instances where a family inherited property “down South” a long time ago, never went through probate and now there are so many relatives involved that it seems hopeless and not worth any one person’s time and effort to get the title issues resolved.
Of course the best solution to probate problems is to avoid probate altogether through a living trust. A forward-thinking property owner would do well to save his or her heirs the time, expense and “hassle” of probate. If, on the other hand, you are that unfortunate heir who is faced with probate, it is best do it sooner rather than later.
- Created on 04 April 2013
Anna Brown, a St. Louis-based homeless woman, needed treatment for a sprained ankle. She went to three emergency rooms seeking treatment. In the third hospital, St. Mary’s Health Center, Brown was emphatic about needing care. Instead of being treated, she was arrested for trespassing, and died in a jail cell. Was she ill-treated because she was homeless? Black? Broke? All three? It really doesn’t matter. What matters is the hospital that failed to treat her may have contributed to her death.
Too many African Americans are treated in emergency rooms as criminals, not people in need of health services. After learning of the Anna Brown case, a sisterfriend shared that she had such an extreme anxiety attack that her 10-year-old son called 911. When she got to the emergency room (with health insurance, thank you), she was queried about her use of drugs and alcohol, not her health condition. It was only after her blood was tested that she was treated. So she spent four agonizing hours on a hospital bed with raspy breath, a frightened son, and no medical care.
She isn’t the only one who was mistreated. African American and Latino men with broken bones are less likely to get pain medication than others. Even children of color are less likely to receive painkillers than White children, because some physicians think they are faking the severity of their pain. When we look at health disparities and wonder why African Americans are more likely to have diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney failures, breast cancer, AIDS and other diseases, one might point to the many ways that doctors, especially those in emergency rooms, signal that Black pain is not worth treating. The result is that someone who is really hurting chooses to forgo medical care instead of dealing with medical condescension and arrogance.
To our society’s shame, emergency rooms often become the health providers of last resort. Those without a regular physician are stuck going to an emergency room when all else fails. A cold becomes the flu and the flu becomes pneumonia and only when a patient is struggling for breath does she seek treatment in an emergency room. I can understand a doctor’s frustration because the patient did not deal with her challenges earlier. But well-paid emergency room doctors need to do their work without judgmental attitudes getting in their way.
Anna Brown deserved to be treated as a human being. She deserved to be treated as someone who was struggling with pain. Instead, she was treated as a criminal because she insisted on care. Thus, she was accused of trespassing, instead of being treated as someone who was hurting.
While many would describe our society as post-racial that is a specious and inaccurate description of the world in which we live. Racism muddies the water that we all swim in, and physicians are not exempted. Those who swim in muddy water reflect the muddy attitudes that are prevalent in our society. Many doctors consider themselves “culturally sensitive” but they have come to certain conclusions about poor folks, Black folks, and others that they treat. It is easier to write off a woman like Anna Brown than it is to find out what is really wrong with her.
The Hippocratic oath that physicians swear to says “first, do no harm.” From the facts that have been published about Anna Brown though, this homeless 29-year-old mother of two was harmed by a medical indifference that landed her in a jail cell instead of a hospital bed. The tragedy is that Anna Brown is not the only one who has been treated this way.
We have health disparities because people are treated differently in our health care system. We cannot talk about closing gaps without talking about the ways that medical attitudes shape the medical experience for those who are so underserved that they come to emergency rooms for help. While the jury is out on the ways that Obamacare will reform our health care system, the intent of health care reform is to eliminate tragedies like Anna Brown’s.
Julianne Malveaux is a Washington, D.C.-based economist and writer. She is President Emerita of Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, N.C.
- Created on 03 April 2013
Several of my readers of have questioned why I am writing positive articles about my Republican Party. The simple answer is that they deserve it. In the past, I have been very critical of my party because they have ignored the Black community, disrespected our current president with incendiary language, and strayed away from our core principles and values.
Since last November’s elections, my party has seemed to have reflected on what happened during last year’s elections and have been open to positive criticism on how to best learn from the past. So, it’s not so much that my writing has changed as the facts have changed.
Current party chair, Reince Priebus has begun to change the makeup of the party by beginning to hire minorities throughout the Republican National Committee (RNC). My writings have reflected my support for some of these changes and a continued willingness to work with the party to help it get back on track.
People need to remember that Priebus and the RNC are not policy making entities. Rather, they are responsible for the execution of the principles advocated by the members of the RNC board and GOP members of Congress. The Congressional side of this equation leaves a lot to be desired, but one person on the Congressional side who really understands this issue is House Majority Leader, Eric Cantor.
I was happy to receive a phone call from Cantor two weeks ago to discuss some of his recent activities to engage with the minority community, specifically the Black community. I have known Cantor for many years and we have always enjoyed stimulating, honest conversations.
Last month, Cantor accepted the opportunity to go with Civil Rights icon and fellow Congressman John Lewis, to attend the annual march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala. Cantor grew up in segregated Richmond, Va. during the 60s. Somehow the hatred of Blacks in the 60s didn’t seep into him and his family.
I hope Cantor will let me put together a town hall meeting with him to give him a forum to share with the public his reflections from Selma. He brought his son along with him and there is a fascinating event that happened as a result of this trip, but I will let Cantor share that story.
What is fascinating and embarrassing at the same time is that Cantor has come to understand that education is the Civil Rights of the 21st century for the Black community; not homosexual marriage as claimed by Al Sharpton, Ben Jealous, and Marc Morial.
I find it astonishing that a White, southern Congressman is more in tune with my community than the media appointed Black leaders. Cantor is working through a series of policy issues that I hope will lead to legislation that will benefit the Black community.
Cantor is a man that deserves, at a minimum, more engagement from within the Black community and I plan on working with him to make that happen. As Ronald Reagan once said, “My 80 percent friend is not my 20 percent enemy.” It’s not necessary for you to agree with everything Cantor believes in or accept the party that he represents. But if he is trying to create a better future for us and our kids, why would you not support and work with him?
If you agree with the media appointed Black leaders that homosexuality is the new Civil Rights, then continue to support them. However, if you believe that the new Civil Rights is education, then please reach out to Congressman Cantor and let’s help create a better future together.
Cantor has shown the Republicans in the House a pathway to the Black vote. The question is, will they follow his example? Cantor is doing his part by reaching out to the Black community, now will we return the favor? I await my community’s response.
Raynard Jackson is president & CEO of Raynard Jackson & Associates, LLC., a Washington, D.C.-based public relations/government affairs firm. He can be reached through his Web site, www.raynardjackson.com. You can also follow him on Twitter at raynard1223.