Putin suspends Russian obligations under key nuclear pact
By VLADIMIR ISACHENKOV
Monday, March 4
MOSCOW (AP) — President Vladimir Putin on Monday suspended Russia’s participation in a key nuclear arms treaty, in response to Washington’s decision to withdraw.
In a decree, Putin suspended Russia’s obligations under the terms of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty and said it will continue to do so “until the U.S. ends its violations of the treaty or until it terminates.”
Putin’s order came as Gen. Valery Gerasimov, the head of the Russian military’s General Staff, met in Vienna with U.S. Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for talks on strategic stability. The INF treaty was one of the issues discussed in what the Russia’s Defense Ministry described as “constructive” talks.
The U.S. gave notice of its intention to withdraw from the INF a month ago, setting the stage for it to terminate in six months unless Moscow returns to compliance. Russia has denied any breaches, and accused the U.S. of violating the pact.
The U.S. has accused Russia of developing and deploying a cruise missile that violates provisions of the pact that ban production, testing and deployment of land-based cruise and ballistic missiles with a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers (310 to 3,410 miles).
The move also reflected President Donald Trump’s administration’s view that the treaty was an obstacle to efforts needed to counter intermediate-range missiles deployed by China, which isn’t part of the treaty.
Russia has charged that the U.S. has breached the pact by deploying missile defense facilities in eastern Europe that could fire cruise missiles instead of interceptors — a claim rejected by the U.S.
The collapse of the INF Treaty has stoked fears of a replay of a Cold War-era Europe missile crisis, when the U.S. and the Soviet Union both deployed intermediate-range missiles on the continent during the 1980s.
Such weapons take shorter time to reach their targets compared to intercontinental ballistic missiles, and their deployment was seen as particularly destabilizing, leaving no time for decision-makers and raising the likelihood of a global nuclear conflict over a false launch warning.
Putin has warned the U.S. against deploying new missiles in Europe, saying that Russia will retaliate by fielding new fast weapons that will take just as little time to reach their targets.
House Judiciary panel launches sweeping Trump probe
By MARY CLARE JALONICK
Monday, March 4
WASHINGTON (AP) — The House Judiciary Committee is launching a sweeping new probe of President Donald Trump, his White House, his campaign and his businesses, sending document requests to 81 people linked to the president and his associates.
Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler said Monday the investigation will be focused on possible obstruction of justice, corruption and abuse of power. The aggressive, broad investigation could set the stage for an impeachment effort, although Democratic leaders have pledged to investigate all avenues and review special counsel Robert Mueller’s report before trying any drastic action.
Nadler said that the document requests, with responses to most due by March 18, are a way to “begin building the public record” and that the committee has the responsibility to investigate and hold public hearings.
“Over the last several years, President Trump has evaded accountability for his near-daily attacks on our basic legal, ethical, and constitutional rules and norms,” Nadler said in announcing the beginning of the probe. “Investigating these threats to the rule of law is an obligation of Congress and a core function of the House Judiciary Committee.”
Now that Democrats hold a majority in the House, the new probe is a sign that Trump’s legal and political peril is nowhere near over, even as the special counsel’s Russia investigation winds down. The move all but guarantees that potentially damaging allegations will shadow Trump for months to come as Democrats try to keep them in the public eye.
Nadler’s announcement comes after the House intelligence panel has already announced a separate probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election and Trump’s foreign financial interests. The House Oversight and Reform Committee has launched multiple investigations. Several other committees are probing related matters as well, and while many might overlap, the committee chairmen and chairwomen say they are working together on the investigations.
The list of 81 names touches on all parts of Trump’s life — his businesses, his campaign, the committee that oversaw the transition from campaign to the White House and the White House. There are also people connected to Russian interference in the 2016 campaign, including participants in a meeting at Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer before the election.
In a letter to the White House, the committee asks for information surrounding former FBI Director James Comey’s termination, communications with Justice Department officials, the Trump Tower meeting and multiple other matters. White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said Monday the White House had received the letter and that “the counsel’s office and relevant White House officials will review it and respond at the appropriate time.”
The list includes two of the president’s children, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, and many of his current and former close advisers, including Steve Bannon. It also includes his embattled charitable foundation, which he is shutting down after agreeing to a court-supervised process, and officials at the FBI and Justice Department.
The committee is expected to use the information to amass information that officials can then comb through, according to a person familiar with the investigation. The person declined to be named to discuss the committee’s internal process. The committee expects some people to produce right away, and others may eventually face subpoenas, the official said. It is unclear how many will eventually be called in for interviews.
The announcement of the new investigation follows a bad political week for Trump. He emerged empty-handed from a high-profile summit with North Korea leader Kim Jong Un on denuclearization, and Trump’s former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, in three days of congressional testimony, publicly characterized the president as a “con man” and “cheat.”
Nadler previewed the announcement on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday, contending it’s “very clear” that Trump obstructed justice. He said House Democrats, now in the majority, are simply doing “our job to protect the rule of law” after Republicans during the first two years of Trump’s term were “shielding the president from any proper accountability.”
“We’re far from making decisions” about impeachment, he said.
In a tweet on Sunday, Trump blasted Mueller’s Russia investigation, calling it a partisan probe unfairly aimed at discrediting his win in the 2016 presidential election. “I am an innocent man being persecuted by some very bad, conflicted & corrupt people in a Witch Hunt that is illegal & should never have been allowed to start – And only because I won the Election!” he wrote.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., on Sunday accused House Democrats of prejudging Trump as part of a query based on partisan politics.
“I think Congressman Nadler decided to impeach the president the day the president won the election,” McCarthy said. “Listen to exactly what he said. He talks about impeachment before he even became chairman and then he says, ‘you’ve got to persuade people to get there.’ There’s nothing that the president did wrong.”
“Show me where the president did anything to be impeached,” he said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has kept calls for impeachment at bay by insisting that Mueller first must be allowed to finish his work, and present his findings publicly — though it’s unclear whether the White House will allow the full release.
Associated Press writers Chad Day and Jill Colvin contributed to this report.
Follow all of AP’s Trump Investigations coverage at https://apnews.com/TrumpInvestigations
Abortions rise worldwide when US cuts funding to women’s health clinics, study finds
March 4, 2019
Author: Yana Rodgers, Professor of Labor Studies, Rutgers University
Disclosure statement: Yana Rodgers does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Fulfilling Republican efforts to “defund Planned Parenthood,” the Trump administration announced on Feb. 22 it would end federal funding to health providers that perform abortions.
This new ruling is the domestic version of the “global gag rule” that Trump imposed in 2017. It cuts U.S. global health funding from organizations abroad that perform – or even talk about – abortions, including the International Planned Parenthood Federation.
First implemented under Ronald Reagan in 1984, the global gag rule has been rescinded by every Democrat and reinstated by every Republican to occupy the Oval Office, reflecting the partisan nature of abortion.
Supporters of the global gag rule say defunding abortion providers will reduce abortions. However, researchers from Stanford University in 2011 found that this U.S. policy actually made women in sub-Saharan Africa twice as likely to have an abortion.
Gag rule increases abortions in Latin America and Africa
My new study, published in November 2018, confirms those findings in Africa and shows that the global gag rule had an even greater effect in Latin America.
Analyzing abortion data from 51 developing countries between 2001 and 2008 – which encompassed the reproductive decisions of about 6.3 million women – I found that women in Latin America were three times more likely to have an abortion while the global gag rule was in effect.
Reflecting this impact, the percentage of pregnancies in Latin America that ended in abortion rose from 23 percent in 1994, under the Clinton administration, to 32 percent by 2010, after two terms of the Bush administration.
In the United States, where abortion is legal nationwide, about 18 to 23 percent of pregnancies end in abortion.
How a US law hurts women abroad
Funding cuts under the global gag rule cause health care staff reductions, clinic closures and contraceptive shortages. Without family planning counseling and birth control, there are more unintended pregnancies – and, consequently, more abortions.
Numerous studies confirm that making abortions harder to get doesn’t stop them from happening. It just makes them less safe, because the procedure is not necessarily performed in sterile facilities by qualified doctors.
Latin America, a heavily Catholic region, has the world’s most restrictive abortion laws. Six countries, including Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador, completely ban abortion. Others permit it only in extreme cases like rape, incest or maternal health.
Latin America also has the world’s highest rate of illicit abortions, according to a 2017 study in The Lancet. Seventy-five percent of all abortions in Latin America are performed illegally.
Since Trump reinstated the global gag rule in 2017, health workers in developing countries have reported drastic reductions in the availability of contraception, teen sex education and family planning services.
If the U.S. follows this trend, the domestic gag rule will soon push abortion rates up domestically, too.
Teacher unions say they’re fighting for students and schools – what they really want is more members
March 4, 2019
Bradley D. Marianno, Assistant Professor of Educational Policy & Leadership, University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Katharine O. Strunk, Professor of Education Policy and Economics, Michigan State University
Disclosure statement: The authors do not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and have disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Partners: Michigan State University provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation US. University of Nevada, Las Vegas provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.
When schoolteachers in Los Angeles went on a weeklong strike in January, the head of the local teachers union described it as a “battle for the soul of public education.” When Denver public school teachers went on a three-day strike in February, they did it in the name of “schools Denver students deserve.”
When teachers began their strike in Oakland on Feb. 26, the local teachers union repeated this message, voicing that they were “fighting for the schools Oakland students’ deserve” and in a struggle for the “soul of public education.” The Oakland teachers’ strike ended on March 1.
It’s true, many of the demands the unions are making will likely benefit students. But beneath the rallying cries, unions in the public sector are facing a new reality that suggests they are actually fighting for something else.
Ever since the Supreme Court ruled in Janus v. AFSCME in 2018 that workers are free to choose whether to join a union, we’d argue that the teacher strikes have been as much a fight for the soul of the union as they are for the soul of public education. What the teachers’ unions really want and need is membership. As one political science professor told The New York Times: “Members and money are power in politics.”
The deals that teachers’ unions negotiate with school districts matter more than ever for maintaining their membership and political power in the post-Janus world. As education policy scholars who have studied teachers’ unions and teacher collective bargaining for over a decade, we have read thousands of agreements like the ones just negotiated in Los Angeles, Denver and Oakland.
Negotiating for numbers
The agreements that unions are securing establish teacher salaries, restrictions on the length of the workday, performance evaluation procedures and other important working conditions. But they also set staffing levels for teachers, librarians and counselors. In short, if unions can win at the bargaining table they can increase staffing. And if they can increase staffing, they can increase membership and ensure their future.
Consider the deal that the teachers’ union secured in Los Angeles. Along with a 6 percent salary increase – basically the school district’s offer long before the final contract was signed – the deal includes numerous staffing guarantees that equate to more membership for the Los Angeles teachers’ union: 300 nurses, 82 librarians, 77 counselors. The contract reduces class size by four students in grades 4 through 12 over the duration of the contract, requiring the school district to add new teachers.
The Oakland teachers’ union used a similar playbook. The union secured an 11 percent raise over the next four years and a modest reduction in class size by the 2021-22 school year. Additionally, the new contract lowers the counselor-to-student ratio, establishes new caseload limits for school psychologists and speech and language pathologists, and increases staffing levels at schools with 50 or more students who are new to the country – all provisions that will require the district to add more educators. Finally, the union secured a five-month pause on school closures and consolidations, which will maintain current teaching and support staff positions at those schools.
Strategy for charter schools
Not only are teachers’ union fighting for increased staffing levels, but they are also using contract negotiations to limit the transfer of teachers to non-union schools that pose a threat to their membership levels. Both teachers’ unions took a hard stance on charter schools in their negotiations. In Los Angeles, the teachers’ union called for an eight- to 10-month moratorium on new charter schools, something the Los Angeles Unified School District board cannot provide. However, the Los Angeles Unified School District agreed to endorse such a moratorium and lobby California’s governor to that end.
The Oakland teachers’ union secured a nearly identical commitment from the school district to also lobby the state legislature for the same moratorium.
Even while they attempt to limit charter school growth, the unions are also seeking to organize charter school teachers. Of the 277 charter schools in Los Angeles, 65 of them – or 23 percent – are organized by the Los Angeles teachers’ union. In addition, the new LA contract provides union leaders the opportunity to pick a “coordinator” to work with staff at charter schools that share a campus with a traditional public school. This is essentially a foot in the door to draw membership from the charter sector. In Oakland, only two of the 44 charters – or 5 percent – are unionized and are represented by the parent organization of the Oakland teachers union, the California Teachers Association.
All in all, our rough calculations suggest that the staffing provisions in the new Los Angeles contract could add over 1,500 members to the the Los Angeles teachers’ union’s membership. This equates to about a 5 percent increase in the union’s ranks of over 30,000 educators. The Oakland teachers’ union could get a similar boost.
In a post-Janus world, unions are showcasing the viability of the picket line as a way to win contracts that bolster membership. Not only that, because only union members can vote to authorize a strike, union leadership can leverage strike votes to petition – or pressure – non-union members to join the movement. The Los Angeles union reports adding over 1,000 members during their strike vote. The Denver union reports adding 250 of its 3,800 members during its authorization vote.
So why are teachers’ unions striking with increased frequency? Teachers’ unions are striking to fight for benefits their students need. But also – and perhaps more so – they are striking for membership they need to stay viable after Janus. Unions are fighting for their survival.