WASHINGTON, Feb. 26, 2018 – U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced the appointment of 30 members to serve three-year terms on the National Potato Promotion Board beginning March 1, 2018.
Newly appointed producer members are:
Jared B. Smith, Alamosa, Colo.
Wes Pahl, Aberdeen, Idaho
Tyson Ruff, Aberdeen, Idaho
Kasey Poulson, American Falls, Idaho
Eric Searle, Burley, Idaho
Mike Larsen, Declo, Idaho
Ryan Christensen, Grace, Idaho
Jeff Blanksma, Hammett, Idaho
Steve Elfering, Idaho Falls, Idaho
P.J. Stevens, Idaho Falls, Idaho
Blake Matthews, Oakley, Idaho
Blake Thorlund, Greenville, Mich.
Jeffrey B. Jennings, Camden, N.C.
John Coombs Jr., Elmer, N.J.
Kyle Michael, Urbana, Ohio
Adam W. Weber, Moses Lake, Wash.
Reappointed producer members are:
Dan Moss, Declo, Idaho
Jeff Harper, Mountain Home, Idaho
Kent Bitter, Shelley, Idaho
Kyle Lennard, Sturgis, Mich.
Jeff J. Edling, Becker, Minn.
Gary H. Gray, Clear Lake, Minn.
Chris Hansen, Bliss, N.Y.
Jeff Van Ray, Pingree, N.D.
Tyler P. Young, Little Compton, R.I.
E. Phillip Hickman, Horntown, Va.
Randi Renee Hammer, Pasco, Wash.
Molly Connors, Richland, Wash.
Heidi Alsum-Randall, Cambria, Wis.
Marilyn Freeman Dolan, Atwater, Calif., is reappointed as the public member.
“The United States is recognized as the world leader in potato production with products that offer high-quality, consistency and variety,” said Perdue. “Representing nearly 2,500 American commercial potato growers and 450 importing companies, the work of the members of the National Potato Board provides an invaluable service for the U.S. farm sector and the American economy as a whole.”
The National Potato Promotion Board consists of producers, importers, and one public member. The board is authorized by the Potato Research and Promotion Act and the Potato Research and Promotion Plan. Since 1966, Congress has authorized 22 industry-funded research and promotion boards to provide a framework for agricultural industries to pool their resources and combine efforts to develop new markets, strengthen existing markets and conduct important research and promotion activities. The Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) provides oversight, paid for by industry assessments, which helps ensure fiscal accountability and program integrity.
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Agriculture today announced that it is looking for innovative ideas to promote work and self-sufficiency among able-bodied adults participating in the department’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
The public is invited to provide input through a notice in the Federal Register. Comments can be submitted on the web through the Federal Register tomorrow. USDA intends to use the input received to find improvements to SNAP policy and related services that can best assist SNAP participants return to self-sufficiency.
“Long-term dependency has never been part of the American dream,” said U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. “USDA’s goal is to move individuals and families from SNAP back to the workforce as the best long-term solution to poverty. Everyone who receives SNAP deserves an opportunity to become self-sufficient and build a productive, independent life.”
Federal law limits the amount of time an able-bodied adult without dependents (ABAWD) can receive SNAP benefits to three months in a 36-month period, unless the individual is working and/or participating in a work program half-time or more, or participating in workfare. The law exempts individuals from the time limit for several reasons, including age, unfitness for work, or having a dependent child. The law also provides state agencies with flexibility to request a waiver of this time limit if unemployment is high or the area does not have a sufficient number of jobs to provide employment.
“Too many states have asked to waive work requirements, abdicating their responsibility to move participants to self-sufficiency. Past decisions may have been the easy short-term choice, but USDA policies must change if they contribute to a long-term failure for many SNAP participants and their families,” Perdue said.
The President’s Fiscal Year 2019 Budget Proposal, released on Feb. 12, proposes to limit waivers of the time limit for ABAWDs to counties with 10 percent unemployment over 12 months.
“The SNAP safety net must be there for those unable to work due to disability or another legitimate reason,” Perdue said. “But for the able-bodied, we must reduce barriers to work, and hold both individuals and states accountable for participants getting and keeping jobs.”
Starting tomorrow, the public is invited to submit comments or ideas on helping able-bodied SNAP participants find work and become self-sufficient through federalregister.gov. The comment period will be open through April 9, 2018.
Since 20 children were gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012, we’ve seen public calls for the release of crime scene photos – the idea being that the visceral horror evoked by images of young, brutalized bodies could spur some sort of action to combat the country’s gun violence epidemic.
The day after the Parkland, Florida, high school shooting, a Slate article echoed the demand for crime scene photos to be released, arguing that if Americans could actually see the bloodshed, we might finally say, “Enough is enough.”
As a scholar who specializes in photojournalism ethics, I’ve thought extensively about how journalism can responsibly cover gun violence, balancing the moral imperatives of seeking truth while minimizing harm. I’ve also studied how images can galvanize viewers.
Fundamental questions remain: What is the line between informing audiences and exploiting victims and their families? Should the media find a balance between shocking and shielding audiences? And when it comes to mass shootings – and gun violence more broadly – if outlets did include more bloody images, would it even make a difference?
The limitations of a photo
On the same day of the Parkland shooting, my research on news images of mass shootings was published. Given the intense yet fleeting nature of media coverage, I wanted to examine how news outlets cover these crimes, specifically through the lens of visual reporting.
The study analyzed nearly 5,000 newspaper photos from three school shootings: Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook and Umpqua Community College. Of those images, only 5 percent could be characterized as graphic in nature.
Most depicted the shock and grief of survivors, family and friends. These elements certainly make up an important part of the story. Nonetheless, they create a narrative where, as the Slate article put it, “mass shootings are bloodless.”
Does that matter?
Research has shown that when audiences feel emotionally connected with news events, they’re more likely to change their views or take action. Photographs of violence and bloodshed can certainly serve as a conduit for this emotional connection. Their realism resonates, and they’re able to create a visceral effect that can arouse a range of emotions: sorrow, disgust, shock, anger.
If a graphic image can inspire some action – even it’s minimal and fleeting – do media outlets have an obligation to run more photos of mass shooting victims?
Perhaps. But other concerns need to be weighed.
For one, there are the victims’ families. Widely disseminated images of their massacred loved ones could no doubt add to their already unthinkable grief.
Moreover, we exist in a media landscape that overwhelms us with images. Individual photographs become harder to remember, to the point that even graphic ones of bloodshed could fade into ubiquity.
Another concern is the presentation of these images. As media consumers, so much of what we see comes from manipulated, sensationalized and trivialized social media feeds. As a colleague and I wrote last year, social media “begs us to become voyeurs” as opposed to informed news consumers. In a digital environment, these images could also be easily appropriated for any number purposes – from pornography to hoaxes – and spread across social media, to the point that their authenticity will be lost.
There’s another unintended consequence: Grisly images could inspire another mass shooting. Research indicates that news coverage of mass shootings – and in particular the attention given to body counts and the perpetrators themselves – can have a contagious effect on would-be mass killers.
Journalism has a responsibility to inform audiences, and sometimes a graphic image does that in a way that words can’t.
The extent to which graphic images should be present in our news media is an ongoing debate. And it’s one that must continue.
A new image emerges
Following mass shootings, there’s a predictable pattern of news media coverage. There are the breaking news reports filled with speculation. Then details of the perpetrator emerge. Reporters and pundits question whether or not it was an act of terrorism. Elected officials respond with “thoughts and prayers,” and debates about mental health and gun control rage. Finally, there’s coverage of the vigils and funerals.
But this time, there’s something new: images of resistance.
Students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are stepping up and demanding action from the country’s elected leaders.
In an impassioned speech, senior Emma Gonzalez chastised lawmakers, stating, “We are up here standing together because if all our government and president can do is send thoughts and prayers, then it’s time for victims to be the change that we need to see.”
This, in the end, may prove to be more effective than any images of bloodshed or grief. Fanning across the news outlets and social media networks, these images of resistance seem to be spurring action, with school walkouts and nationwide protests against gun violence in the works.
Illustrations of protest, courage and resilience – from high school students, no less – might have the power to sink in.
Perhaps it will be these images – not those of bloodied victims – that will stir people from complacency and move them to action.
Free and fair elections are a vital part of our democracy. Being able to cast a ballot, beginning at the age of 18, gives us a voice in the decisions being made at all levels of government. With the U.S. midterm elections coming up in November, it’s important to uphold our democratic election process by preventing interference from outside actors.
In the 2016 election, there was clear evidence that Russia attempted to undermine our elections by hacking political entities and manipulating social media platforms to spread misinformation, or ‘fake news.’ While there is no evidence that the Russians were effective in manipulating the outcome of the 2016 election, their attempts served as a wake-up call to our cyber vulnerabilities.
As the Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee’s Cybersecurity Subcommittee, one of my top priorities is to increase and improve the defensive and offensive cyber capabilities of the Department of Defense (DoD) to make sure it is fully able to defend against cyberattacks whether on military or non-military entities. The DoD has a critical role to play in challenging and influencing the mindset of our cyber adversaries and defending the homeland from attacks—attacks that could include cyber-attacks by other nations against our election infrastructure. We want to be sure DoD has all the tools it needs to do this, particularly as we enter another election year. We recently held a subcommittee hearing focusing exclusively on the DoD’s role in protecting democratic elections.
Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats recently warned that he has already seen signs that Russia is targeting our November 2018 election process. During a Congressional hearing, Coats said that “there should be no doubt that Russia perceives its past efforts as successful and views the 2018 U.S. midterm elections as a potential target for Russian influence operations.” There is also evidence of Russian meddling in the 2018 Mexican presidential campaign. And all of this comes after confirmed attempts by Russia to influence the elections in France and Germany last year.
We must have a plan to seize the strategic high ground in cyberspace. We need a strategy that moves out of the trenches and imposes meaningful, devastating costs on our adversaries. The lack of consequences for the countless cyber-attacks by those who wish to do us harm has not only emboldened our adversaries, it has left us even more heavily targeted by their emboldened behavior. As long as our adversaries feel that they can act with impunity they will press further.
At our recent subcommittee hearing, the panel of witnesses confirmed that we must tailor our strategies to the uniqueness of the cyber domain if we are to prevent our adversaries from exploiting us. The attack attempts we experienced during the 2016 election are just the latest rung on an escalation ladder of cyber-attacks.
As the 2018 election gets closer, my colleagues and I will continue doing our part to help make sure we protect a free and fair election process. As Chairman of the Cybersecurity Subcommittee, I will also continue to work with the administration, to include its military and intelligence community leaders, to craft and implement a strong, clear strategy to deter bad actors from attacking us in cyberspace.
The Second Amendment is one of the most frequently cited provisions in the American Constitution, but also one of the most poorly understood.
The 27 words that constitute the Second Amendment seem to baffle modern Americans on both the left and right.
Ironically, those on both ends of our contemporary political spectrum cast the Second Amendment as a barrier to robust gun regulation. Gun rights supporters – mostly, but not exclusively, on the right – seem to believe that the Second Amendment prohibits many forms of gun regulation. On the left, frustration with the lack of progress on modern gun control leads to periodic calls for the amendment’s repeal.
Both of these beliefs ignore an irrefutable historical truth. The framers and adopters of the Second Amendment were generally ardent supporters of the idea of well-regulated liberty. Without strong governments and effective laws, they believed, liberty inevitably degenerated into licentiousness and eventually anarchy. Diligent students of history, particularly Roman history, the Federalists who wrote the Constitution realized that tyranny more often resulted from anarchy, not strong government.
Consider these five categories of gun laws that the Founders endorsed.
Today American gun rights advocates typically oppose any form of registration – even though such schemes are common in every other industrial democracy – and typically argue that registration violates the Second Amendment. This claim is also hard to square with the history of the nation’s founding. All of the colonies – apart from Quaker-dominated Pennsylvania, the one colony in which religious pacifists blocked the creation of a militia – enrolled local citizens, white men between the ages of 16-60 in state-regulated militias. The colonies and then the newly independent states kept track of these privately owned weapons required for militia service. Men could be fined if they reported to a muster without a well-maintained weapon in working condition.
The American colonies inherited a variety of restrictions that evolved under English Common Law. In 18th-century England, armed travel was limited to a few well-defined occasions such as assisting justices of the peace and constables. Members of the upper classes also had a limited exception to travel with arms. Concealable weapons such as handguns were subject to even more stringent restrictions. The city of London banned public carry of these weapons entirely.
The American Revolution did not sweep away English common law. In fact, most colonies adopted common law as it had been interpreted in the colonies prior to independence, including the ban on traveling armed in populated areas. Thus, there was no general right of armed travel when the Second Amendment was adopted, and certainly no right to travel with concealed weapons. Such a right first emerged in the United States in the slave South decades after the Second Amendment was adopted. The market revolution of the early 19th century made cheap and reliable hand guns readily available. Southern murder rates soared as a result.
In other parts of the nation, the traditional English restrictions on traveling armed persisted with one important change. American law recognized an exception to this prohibition for individuals who had a good cause to fear an imminent threat. Nonetheless, by the end of the century, prohibiting public carry was the legal norm, not the exception.
#3: Stand-your-ground laws
Under traditional English common law, one had a duty to retreat, not stand your ground. Deadly force was justified only if no other alternative was possible. One had to retreat, until retreat was no longer possible, before killing an aggressor.
The use of deadly force was justified only in the home, where retreat was not required under the so-called castle doctrine, or the idea that “a man’s home is his castle.” The emergence of a more aggressive view of the right of self-defense in public, standing your ground, emerged slowly in the decades after the Civil War.
#4: Safe storage laws
Although some gun rights advocates attempt to demonize government power, it is important to recognize that one of the most important rights citizens enjoy is the freedom to elect representatives who can enact laws to promote health and public safety. This is the foundation for the idea of ordered liberty. The regulation of gun powder and firearms arises from an exercise of this basic liberty.
In 1786, Boston acted on this legal principle, prohibiting the storage of a loaded firearm in any domestic dwelling in the city. Guns had to be kept unloaded, a practice that made sense since the black powder used in firearms in this period was corrosive. Loaded guns also posed a particular hazard in cases of fire because they might discharge and injure innocent bystanders and those fighting fires.
#5: Loyalty oaths
One of the most common claims one hears in the modern Second Amendment debate is the assertion that the Founders included this provision in the Constitution to make possible a right of revolution. But this claim, too, rests on a serious misunderstanding of the role the right to bear arms played in American constitutional theory.
Gun regulation and gun ownership have always existed side by side in American history. The Second Amendment poses no obstacle to enacting sensible gun laws. The failure to do so is not the Constitution’s fault; it is ours.
PIERRE, S.D. – The President has called for flags at half-staff as a mark of solemn respect for the victims of the terrible act of violence perpetrated at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on Wednesday, February 14.
In accordance with the President’s order, Gov. Dennis Daugaard asks that flags across the state be lowered immediately and remain at half-mast until sunset on Monday, February 19.
PIERRE, S.D. – Millions of novice and accomplished bird watchers can make their love of nature count for science during the 21st Annual Great Backyard Bird Count.
On Feb. 16-19, anyone can count birds wherever they are and enter their results online. These reports create a real-time picture of where birds are across the continent and contribute valuable information for science and conservation.
“During the count, bird watchers tally up birds for as little as 15 minutes, or for as long as they like, keeping track of the highest number of each bird species they see together at one time,” said Eileen Dowd Stukel, wildlife diversity coordinator for South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks (GFP). “People are encouraged to report birds from public lands, local parks and their own backyards.”
That was almost 50 years ago. Back then, the wholesale racial integration required by the 1964 Civil Rights Act was just beginning to chip away at discrimination in education, jobs and public facilities. Black voters had only obtained legal protections two years earlier, and the 1968 Fair Housing Act was about to become law.
African-Americans were only beginning to move into neighborhoods, colleges and careers once reserved for whites only.
I’m too young to remember those days. But hearing my parents talk about the late 1960s, it sounds in some ways like another world. Numerous African-Americans now hold positions of power, from mayor to governor to corporate chief executive – and, yes, once upon a time, president. The U.S. is a very different place than it was 50 years ago.
Or it is? As a scholar of minority politics, I know that while some things have improved markedly for black Americans since 1968, today we are still fighting many of the same battles as Dr. King did in his day.
A year before his death, Dr. King and others began organizing a Poor People’s Campaign to “dramatize the plight of America’s poor of all races and make very clear that they are sick and tired of waiting for a better life.”
Ralph Abernathy, an African-American minister, led the way in his fallen friend’s place.
“We come with an appeal to open the doors of America to the almost 50 million Americans who have not been given a fair share of America’s wealth and opportunity,” Abernathy said, “and we will stay until we get it.”
This is now
So, how far have black people progressed since 1968? Have we gotten our fair share yet? Those questions have been on my mind a lot this month.
Financial security, too, still differs dramatically by race. Black households earn $57.30 for every $100 in income earned by white families. And for every $100 in white family wealth, black families hold just $5.04.
Another troubling aspect about black social progress – or should I say the lack thereof – is how many black families are headed by single women. In the 1960s, unmarried women were the main breadwinners for 20 percent of households. In recent years, the percentage has risen as high as 72 percent.
Black Americans today are also more dependent on government aid than they were in 1968. Currently, almost 40 percent of African-Americans are poor enough to qualify for welfare, housing assistance and other government programs that offer modest support to families living under the poverty line.
Depending on who you ask, then, black people aren’t much better off than in 1968 because either there’s not enough government help or there’s way too much.
What would MLK do?
I don’t have to wonder what Dr. King would recommend. He believed in institutional racism.
In 1968, King and the Southern Christian Leadership Council sought to tackle inequality with the Economic Bill of Rights. This was not a legislative proposal, per se, but a moral vision of a just America where all citizens had educational opportunities, a home, “access to land,” “a meaningful job at a living wage” and “a secure and adequate income.”
To achieve that, King wrote, the U.S. government should create an initiative to “abolish unemployment,” by developing incentives to increase the number of jobs for black Americans. He also recommended “another program to supplement the income of those whose earnings are below the poverty level.”
Those ideas were revolutionary in 1968. Today, they seem prescient. King’s notion that all citizens need a living wage portends the universal basic income concept now gaining traction worldwide.
King’s rhetoric and ideology are also obvious influences on Sen. Bernie Sanders, who in the 2016 presidential primaries advocated equality for all people, economic incentives for working families, improved schools, greater access to higher education and for anti-poverty initiatives.
Progress has been made. Just not as much as many of us would like. To put it in Dr. King’s words, “Lord, we ain’t what we oughta be. We ain’t what we want to be. We ain’t what we gonna be. But, thank God, we ain’t what we was.”
Olga Shvetsova, Binghamton University, State University of New York and William B. Heller, Binghamton University, State University of New York –
Republicans Can’t Agree On A Budget
That lack of agreement has made it necessary for Congress to pass a series of continuing resolutions to keep the government open.
There’s no budget agreement because factions within the GOP hold contradictory policy positions on almost every issue. James Madison, an author of the Federalist Papers might have framed the problem this way: The party draws on votes from – and is accountable to – diverse groups of citizens with conflicting interests. That conflict within the Republicans’ voting base means that any policy they propose would hurt at least some of the members’ key constituents.
In an era of hyper-accountability, swift electoral punishment from any negatively impacted constituency is all but inevitable. Every vote and utterance by a political incumbent is scrutinized on Facebook and Twitter. The personal electoral costs of following the party line are prohibitive for enough to break down compromise within the party and preclude any significant policy change.
The recent tax bill was a happy exception for the Republicans. It lowered – or, at least, did not raise – federal taxes for practically everyone who mattered to Republicans. In essence, it handed out money to majorities in all categories of supporters without specifying who would bear the costs.
Now with the budget, the time has come to clarify – to agree on where and for whom to cut expenditures. It is no surprise that there is about as much internal consensus within the GOP as they had on cutting expenditures on Obamacare – none. It is the practical reality of unified Democratic opposition that in order to legislate, the Republicans would have to agree on something.
What once was, arguably, a party united by fiscal responsibility and economic and social laissez-faire is now committed to a wide variety of causes. Disparities among constituencies that vote Republican across the country have been growing since the mid-1990s. Because this lack of unity is electoral in nature, the inability to formulate policies will remain a problem for the long run.
When key decision-makers disagree, the result is that they cannot change the policy status quo. Republican failure to move the policy status quo on health care, or to reach a consensus on the budget is caused not by poor Republican strategies. It is caused by contradictions within Republican rank-and-file members because of who their voters are and what they want.
This article was originally published on The Conversation.