Video: Hidden Children Holocaust Survivors Speak Out on Border Separations!



Dear Commons Community,

The Anti-Defamation League issued a statement today on behalf of The Hidden Child Foundation, a group of ‘hidden children’ of the Holocaust who felt strongly compelled to oppose the Trump Administration’s expanded “zero tolerance” policy for migrants seeking to cross the border, which has led to thousands of children being separated from their parents.  The accounts of the two survivors in the above video say it all:

“Let’s get back to our values because this is not what America stands for.”

And the policy separating migrant children from parents is “unconscionable.”


Frustration Leads to Faculty Revolt at U. Mass Boston!

Dear Commons Community,

It has been a tumultuous year at the University of Massachusetts at Boston capped by a canceled search for a new chancellor.  As reported by The Chronicle of Higher Education:

“In April 2017, the sitting chancellor, J. Keith Motley, announced he was stepping down after a decade in the position. Motley had deep connections to the city, where he had lived since he studied at Northeastern University, in the 1970s.

He was widely credited with building the university’s reputation both in the city and nationally. During his tenure, money for research increased by 50 percent, the university earned a higher Carnegie Classification, and it drew 25 percent more students. Motley also led the university to develop an ambitious, $700-million construction plan that included a new science building and, for the first time, dormitories.

Sharon Lamb, a professor of counseling and school psychology, said Motley was trying to change the narrative about the university, from one that served only disadvantaged urban students into one with broader appeal and greater emphasis on research.

But by the time he stepped down, he was being blamed for a $30-million deficit in the university’s operating budget. An audit in November found that under Motley’s leadership, the university had provided sloppy oversight of spending and had treated its budget “as a ‘guideline’ and not an ‘operational reality.’”

A report by a group of unionized staff and faculty members, however, blamed the deficit primarily on faulty accounting by the system and on administrative bloat.

To replace Motley, Martin T. Meehan, the U. Mass system president  chose Barry Mills as interim chancellor. Mills was a former corporate lawyer in Manhattan and, from 2001 to 2015, was president of Bowdoin College, a small, selective, liberal-arts institution in rural Maine.

Faculty members were skeptical, at first, that Mills would fit in and understand the culture at a university so different from Bowdoin, said C. Heike Schotten, an associate professor of political science and the incoming chair of the Faculty Council’s executive committee. But his leadership style was more transparent than that of his predecessor, Schotten said, and he seemed to develop a real affection and respect for the college.

Not that all his decisions were popular. In Mills’s efforts to close the university’s budget deficit, he made unpopular cuts even as the costly campus face-lift continued. More than three dozen staff members were laid off, and dozens more faculty members took early retirement. In addition, Mills closed a day-care center that served the children of some staff members and students. The university also cut spending for 17 academic centers, such as the William Joiner Institute for the Study of War and Social Consequences.

Mills’s tenure has also been unexpectedly brief: Appointed in an interim capacity in July 2017, he announced in October that he would step down at the end of the spring semester to make way for a new permanent chancellor.

On top of everything else, in March the system’s flagship, in Amherst, announced that it was buying the 70-acre campus of Mount Ida College, just 10 miles from the Boston campus. To some faculty members on the Boston campus, the message was that the wealthy, majority-white flagship could spend money that wasn’t available to the urban campus that serves low-income students of color.

The announcement of the Mount Ida sale was the final straw for faculty members. On May 15 the faculty at Boston voted no confidence in Meehan and in the system’s Board of Trustees. Less than a week later, with the announcement of a new chancellor just days away, the faculty lashed out again, with a collective letter declaring that none of the finalists were up to the job.

“You have to view that action as part of the much larger context,” said Richard M. Freeland, who served for more than 20 years in various posts on the Boston campus. “The faculty were feeling neglected, ignored, and to some degree abused,” said Freeland, the state’s commissioner of higher education from 2008 to 2015.

While faculty dissatisfaction focused on the qualifications of the candidates for chancellor, an underlying concern was that the search process had excluded the concerns of faculty members, said Lamb, the counseling professor. Only two of the search committee’s 15 members were professors.

And the cuts in the staff and in programs made many people question whether the university was abandoning its mission to serve the community at the expense of meeting its bottom line, she said.

Lamb, who also serves on the Faculty Council’s executive committee, said she and others are now ready to put the chancellor-search backlash behind them, and look for ways to work with the new interim chancellor, Katherine S. Newman, who had been serving as the system’s senior vice president for academic affairs.

Meehan, too, is emphasizing cooperation, as he seeks to help the Boston campus pay for its building expenses. “We need to better coordinate our ask for more state money,” Meehan said in an interview.

Last week Meehan met with the executive committee of the Faculty Council, and sent a letter to state legislators detailing the construction costs that the state could pay. Those include $80 million to shore up the underground garage, which sits below three other buildings; $260 million to safeguard utilities; and $70 million for a new parking garage.

Schotten, who will be the committee’s chair in September, also says it’s time to move forward, But she sees the upheaval as a win.

“We dared to take our place at the table for shared governance and provide feedback,” said Schotten “That threw a wrench into the works. I think the faculty did all the right things, and we have gotten President Meehan to have the right priorities for our campus.”

The faculty were right to take the actions they did.  We hope that one of our great public urban univeristies can now move forward.


Laura Bush on Separating Children from Parents:  Calls Trump Policy “Cruel” and “Immoral”!

Dear Commons Community,

Former first lady Laura Bush criticized the Trump administration’s separation of children from their parents along the border in an op-ed yesterday in The Washington Post.  Mrs. Bush wrote:

“The reason for these separations is a zero-tolerance policy for their parents, who are accused of illegally crossing our borders. I live in a border state. I appreciate the need to enforce and protect our international boundaries, but this zero-tolerance policy is cruel. It is immoral. And it breaks my heart,”

As reported in the Business Insider:

“In April, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a “zero tolerance” policy towards migrants crossing the US border illegally, which leads to adults being tried as criminals and thus losing custody of their children. In that time, nearly 2,000 children have been separated from their parents leading to crowded facilities and devastating scenes.

In an op-ed published Sunday in The Washington Post, Laura Bush said the policy “breaks my heart.”

“Our government should not be in the business of warehousing children in converted box stores or making plans to place them in tent cities in the desert outside of El Paso.”

Bush then said the detention facilities being used to house thousands of children are “eerily reminiscent” of the internment camps that held 120,000 Japanese Americans during World War II, and are “now considered to have been one of the most shameful episodes in U.S. history.”

Bush highlighted how this internment affects individuals mentally and physically. Japanese Americans who were interned, half of whom were children, are now more than twice as likely to suffer cardiovascular disease and even die prematurely.

Separating children from caregivers can also cause irreversible harm that affects a child’s ability to cope and self-soothe, which can lead to depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 

“Americans pride ourselves on being a moral nation, on being the nation that sends humanitarian relief to places devastated by natural disasters or famine or war. We pride ourselves on believing that people should be seen for the content of their character, not the color of their skin. We pride ourselves on acceptance. If we are truly that country, then it is our obligation to reunite these detained children with their parents — and to stop separating parents and children in the first place,” Bush wrote.

After describing how some staff at detention centers have reportedly been ordered to not touch or comfort children, the former first lady also recalled the time in 1989 her mother-in-law and then-first lady Barbara Bush picked up and soothed a dying baby in a home for children with HIV/AIDS.

“She simply saw it as the right thing to do in a world that can be arbitrary, unkind and even cruel. She, who after the death of her 3-year-old daughter knew what it was to lose a child, believed that every child is deserving of human kindness, compassion and love,” she wrote.

“People on all sides agree that our immigration system isn’t working, but the injustice of zero tolerance is not the answer,” she added. “In 2018, can we not as a nation find a kinder, more compassionate and more moral answer to this current crisis? I, for one, believe we can.”

Well-stated, Mrs. Bush!


The Danger of JUUL and E-Cigarettes to Minors!

Dear Commons Community,

I missed this story reported on earlier this year, however, a segment on one of the network news channels yesterday alerted viewers to a growing problem among young people’s use of e-cigarettes.  It seems one brand, JUUL, is particularly popular.   Juul is an electronic device (pictured above)  that turns liquid — usually containing nicotine — into an inhalable vapor. It resembles a small computer flash drive and provides teenagers a discreet way to vape at school and in public. Parents, teachers and principals say they are struggling to control the booming trend.  Below is an article reporting on the issue courtesy of U.S. News and World Report.



FDA Warns Retailers Not to Sell Juul E-Cigarette to Kids

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is cracking down on underage use of a popular e-cigarette brand.

April 24, 2018

“Federal health officials on Tuesday announced a nationwide crackdown on underage use of a popular e-cigarette brand following months of complaints from parents, politicians and school administrators.

The Food and Drug Administration issued warnings to 40 retail and online stores as part of a month-long operation against illegal sales of Juul to children. Investigators targeted 7-Eleven locations, Shell gas stations and Cumberland Farms convenience stores as well as vaping shops.

FDA regulators also asked manufacturer Juul Labs to turn over documents about the design, marketing and ingredients of its product. The rare request focuses on whether certain product features are specifically appealing to young people.

Like other e-cigarettes, Juul is an electronic device that turns liquid — usually containing nicotine — into an inhalable vapor.

Thanks in part to its resemblance to a small computer flash drive, Juul has become popular with some teenagers as a discreet way to vape at school and in public. Parents, teachers and principals say they are struggling to control the booming trend.

“The bathroom is the main source of it,” said Maureen Byrne, the principal of Dublin High School near San Francisco. “As students become more comfortable, we have seen it in classrooms and on campus even out in the open.”

Health advocates have worried about the popularity of vaping products among kids and the potential impact on adult smoking rates in the future. A recent government-commissioned report found “substantial evidence” that young people who use e-cigarettes are more likely to try cigarettes.

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said the current “blitz” targeting Juul will continue through the end of the month, with additional actions in coming weeks.

“This isn’t the only product that we’re looking at, and this isn’t the only action we’re going to be taking to target youth access to tobacco products, and e-cigarettes, in particular,” Gottlieb said in an interview. He named several other brands of concern, including KandyPens and myblu.

Juul sales have exploded over the past two years, accounting for 55 percent of the U.S. market for e-cigarettes, according to recent industry figures. That’s up from just 5 percent of the market in 2016.

The San Francisco-based company said in a statement it agrees with the FDA that underage use of its products is “unacceptable.”

“We already have in place programs to identify and act upon these violations at retail and online marketplaces, and we will have more aggressive plans to announce in the coming days,” the statement read.

Juul Labs says it monitors retailers to ensure they are following the law. Its age verification system searches public records and sometimes requires customers to upload a photo ID.

E-cigarettes have grown into a $4 billion industry in the U.S. despite little research on their long-term effects, including whether they are helpful in helping smokers quit cigarettes.

That’s the sales pitch made by Juul and many other e-cigarette manufacturers: “Juul delivers nicotine satisfaction akin to a cigarette in a format that’s as simple and easy to use,” states the company’s website. A Juul “starter kit” can be ordered online for $49.99. The company’s website is intended to only sell to customers ages 21 and up.

Chaz Nuttycombe, an 18-year-old who has never tried vaping, says it’s prevalent at his school, Hanover High near Richmond, Virginia.

“They’re not doing cigarettes because that’s not really hip,” he said. “I think my generation has been educated on what’s in a cigarette, the poisons and whatnot.”

Research shows that many e-cigarettes contain trace amounts of chemicals like formaldehyde, but it’s unclear whether they exist at levels that can cause long-term health problems. Most researchers agree any risks of e-cigarettes do not approach the long-established harms of traditional cigarettes, which cause cancer, heart disease and lung disease.

The FDA gained authority to regulate e-cigarettes in 2016, but anti-smoking advocates have criticized the agency for not policing the space more aggressively to stop companies from appealing to underage users, particularly with flavors like mango, cool cucumber and creme brulee.

“These are very positive steps and demonstrate that FDA recognizes the problem of youth use is very serious,” said Matthew Myers, of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “But they don’t address the biggest issue that the FDA is not been enforcing its own rules.”

Myers’ group contends that Juul and several other e-cigarette companies have recently launched new flavors and varieties without seeking FDA authorization. That step is mandatory under the FDA regulations put in place during the summer of 2016.


Maureen Dowd:  Happy Father’s Day to the Psychos on the Potomac!

Dear Commons Community,

In her column this morning,  Maureen Dowd on this Father’s Day takes aim at President Trump and the other psychopaths who are running Washington, D.C. these days. Here are a couple of excerpts.

“Psychopathy is defined in the study as a “Temperamental and Uninhibited Region.” Which is the perfect description of the Trump reality distortion field where we all now dwell.

The study notes that “psychopaths are likely to be effective in the political sphere” and that “the occupations that were most disproportionately psychopathic were C.E.O., lawyer, media, salesperson, surgeon, journalist, police officer, clergyperson, chef, and civil servant.”

So if a chief executive, salesman and media personality becomes a politician, he’s hitting four of the highest-risk categories….”

… The week was capped, naturally, with a Giuliani aria — “When the whole thing is over, things might get cleaned up with some presidential pardons,” Rudy told The Daily News in New York — and by the usual torrent of whiny, delusional, deceptive, self-exalting tweets by President Trump…

… Jonathan Swift said, “A wise man should have money in his head but not in his heart.” The Trumps have green running through their veins.

They have succeeded in superseding conflicts of interest with confluences of interest. Ethics bore this crew. The White House is just another business opportunity…

… We knew Trump was a skinflint and a grifter. But the New York attorney general deeply documented just how cheesy he and his children are with a suit accusing the Trump charitable foundation of illegal behavior and self-dealing. It was just what Trump always accused the Clintons of doing.

The supposed nonprofit was little more than a Trump piggy bank used to settle legal claims and pay off political backers. The good news for Trump was that the prosecutor proposed that he be banned from charitable activities — a fine excuse for someone who obviously wants nothing to do with charity…

… Asked by a Fox anchor what he was going to be doing on Father’s Day, the president replied, “I’m going to be actually calling North Korea.”

It makes sense if you think about it: A wannabe dictator who took over the family business from a dictatorial father talking to a real dictator who took over the family business from a dictatorial father.”

Happy Father’s Day!


Attorney General Jeff Sessions JustifiesTearing Immigrant Families Apart:  “I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13 to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order.” 

Dear Commons Community,

The New York Times is reporting today that the Trump administration had separated 1,995 children from parents facing criminal prosecution for unlawfully crossing the border over a six-week period that ended last month.  On Thursday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions claimed that the Bible justifies his “zero-tolerance” immigration policy.

“Concerns raised by our church friends about separating families” are not “not fair or logical,” he said in a speech in Fort Wayne, Indiana. “I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13 to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order.”  White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders backed up Sessions’ claims later that day, calling it “very biblical to enforce the law.”  However, Christian leaders are pushing back against Sessions and Sanders for their reliance on the bible for their treatment of immigrant families.  Here are several comments compiled by the Huffington Post.

“While protecting our borders is important, we can and must do better as a government, and as a society, to find other ways to ensure that safety,” Cardinal Daniel Nicholas DiNardo, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said in a statement. ”Separating babies from their mothers is not the answer and is immoral.”

“Disgraceful,” the Rev. Franklin Graham, son of the late and influential Rev. Billy Graham and a supporter of President Donald Trump, said in a Tuesday interview. “It’s terrible to see families ripped apart, and I don’t support that one bit.”

“Tearing children away from parents who have made a dangerous journey to provide a safe and sufficient life for them is unnecessarily cruel and detrimental to the well-being of parents and children,” reads a statement signed by Bishop Kenneth Carter, president of the Council of Bishops of the United Methodist Church.

“It makes my blood boil,” said Matthew Schlimm, a professor of the Old Testament at the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary in Iowa. “Sessions has taken the passage from Romans 13 completely out of context. Immediately beforehand and afterwards, Paul urges readers to love others, including their enemies. Anyone with half an ounce of moral conviction knows that tearing children away from parents has nothing to do with love.”

Schlimm noted that people often misuse the Bible. In fact, the same passage Sessions cited has been used to justify slavery and Nazism.

“So, it’s not surprising that slave traders tore children away from their parents and tried to justify it with the Bible. Or that Nazis tore children away from their parents and tried to justify it with the Bible. Sessions follows the pattern of history,” he said. “What’s chilling is to think that we again live in such morally deranged times.”

Ian Henderson, an associate professor of New Testament studies at McGill University in Montreal, said that no matter how people want to read into Romans 13, it does not mean that Christian citizens should not protest against bad laws or bad government.

“It is perfectly reasonable, indeed a duty and part of ‘submission,’ for Christian citizens to express their ‘concerns’ about whether the law and/or its administration are ethically defensible or politically useful,” he said. “For conservative Christians, this would especially be so when the law of the State seems to be attacking the biblical authority of the family.”

Father James Martin, a Jesuit priest and the editor-at-large of the Jesuit magazine America, said Sessions’ actions are in fact the opposite of the Bible’s teachings about caring for the poor and being compassionate.

“I cannot imagine anyone in his or her right mind thinking Jesus would approve of ripping children from their parents,” Martin said in a Friday interview on MSNBC. “It goes against pretty much the entire Bible in the ethos of Jesus, and it’s deeply un-Christian.”

Glad to see members of the Christian hierarchy come out so clearly against Sessions.  

And Mr. Sessions and Ms. Sanders, let’s not forget to “Love thy neighbor as thyself!”


University of Chicago No Longer to Require SAT or ACT Scores!

Dear Commons Community,

The University of Chicago announced yesterday that it would no longer require applicants for the undergraduate college to submit standardized test scores.  While it will still allow applicants to submit their SAT or ACT scores, university officials said they would let prospective undergraduates send transcripts on their own and submit video introductions and nontraditional materials to supplement their applications.  As reported by the Chicago Tribune:

“We were sending a message to students, with our own requirements, that one test basically identifies you,” said Jim Nondorf, vice president and dean of admissions at U. of C. “Despite the fact that we would say testing is only one piece of the application, that’s the first thing a college asks you. We wanted to really take a look at all our requirements and make sure they were fair to every group, that everybody, anybody could aspire to a place like UChicago.”

The decision marks a dramatic shift for the South Side university and establishes it as the first top-ranked, highly selective school to do away with requiring test scores. It continues a yearslong effort by the university to make it easier for first-generation, low-income and minority students to apply and get into the school. The university also announced it would boost financial aid opportunities, including free tuition for families making less than $125,000 and four-year scholarships for first-generation students.

At issue is the value of standardized test scores and what role they should play in admissions. Proponents say the tests provide consistent metrics that help control for variances among states, schools and curricula. Critics say those tests, which some families spend thousands of dollars to prepare for, do not accurately measure a student’s qualifications. They have doubted how effective a no-test policy actually helps diversify campus populations.

U. of C. leaders have long wanted to increase diversity on campus and said they hoped a test-optional policy, at minimum, will prevent students from assuming that anything less than an outstanding test score automatically takes them out of the running.

Of the first-time freshmen students enrolling last fall, 25 percent recorded perfect or nearly perfect ACT and SAT scores in reading, writing and math, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Those scores, while impressive, gave pause to Undergraduate Dean John Boyer, who said he feared that such an intense focus on test scores skews admissions in favor of higher-income students from upper-echelon high schools.

“There’s a big industry of test prep, and the system as it’s existed serves them very well,” Boyer said. “We’re allowing ZIP codes to basically define the future of American life.”

Dozens of four-year institutions have embraced making SAT and ACT scores optional, according to a database maintained by the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, a Massachusetts-based proponent of test-optional admissions that has criticized standardized testing.

Among the recent adopters is DePaul University, which stopped requiring test scores in 2012.

“Once we looked at a student’s grades and transcripts, the SAT and ACT added very little to explain how well they were going to do in college,” said Jon Boeckenstedt, associate vice president of enrollment management and marketing. “Four years of high school is a better predictor than three hours in a testing room.”

Still, the vast majority, and most Illinois schools — including the state’s public universities — require SAT or ACT scores from applicants. Zach Goldberg, spokesman for the College Board, said more than 85 percent of college applications are sent to schools requiring either SAT or ACT scores, and that even test-optional schools still require the test of some students.”

Glad to see another major university stopping the standardized testing insanity that has overtaken education.



New York Attorney General Files Lawsuit Against Donald Trump and His Foundation!

Dear Commons Community,

Barbara Underwood, the New York State attorney general, gave Donald Trump a birthday present yesterday and filed a lawsuit against him alleging that “Mr. Trump used [the Trump Foundation’s] charitable assets to pay off the legal obligations of entities he controlled, to promote Trump hotels, to purchase personal items, and to support his presidential election campaign…”    For those of us in New York who have been hearing rumblings of this for at least two years, it is surprising that Ms. Underwood’s action has taken so long.  Below is an excerpt from a New York Times editorial on the matter.

Happy Birthday, Mr. President!



Donald Trump’s Charity Begins, and Ends, at Home

The Editorial Board

June 14, 2018

It’s long been clear that Donald Trump’s family foundation, the Trump Foundation, is not a generous and ethical charity, but just another of his grifts. He branded it the way he brands his buildings, using his name to generate income that he then has used largely for his own benefit. In 2016, The Washington Post reported that many of Mr. Trump’s boasts about his charitable giving could not be verified. Those that could be were often gifts to himself.

For instance, the largest reported donation the foundation has made — $264,631 — was used to refurbish the fountain in front of Mr. Trump’s Plaza Hotel in New York. He has not given any of his own supposed fortune to the foundation since 2008, relying instead on the beneficence of others, whether pro-wrestling mavens or simply Americans who thought they were supporting, say, veterans. And yet the Trump Foundation was repeatedly compared with the Clinton Foundation, which, despite justifiable concern about Bill and Hillary Clinton’s dual roles as philanthropic boosters and politicians, is a credible charitable enterprise that focuses on global health and has saved perhaps millions of lives.

A lawsuit filed by the New York State attorney general, Barbara Underwood, on Thursday morning confirms many of these facts and adds a few new ones, alleging that “the Trump Foundation was little more than a checkbook for payments from Mr. Trump or his businesses to nonprofits, regardless of their purpose or legality,” Ms. Underwood said in a statement.

In precise and damning detail, the suit catalogs Mr. Trump’s repeated violation of both state and federal laws by tapping the foundation’s funds for his own personal purposes, including paying out legal settlements, making political contributions and purchasing a portrait of himself to hang in one of his golf clubs.

The Trump Foundation is “an empty shell,” the suit says, with no employees and no oversight by its board of directors, which has not met for nearly 20 years. This has allowed Mr. Trump to run it “according to his whim, rather than the law.”

A couple of examples: In 2013, the foundation gave $25,000 to “And Justice for All,” a political organization supporting the re-election of Florida’s attorney general, Pam Bondi. But on its federal tax form, the foundation claimed that it did not contribute money to any political campaign, and that it had donated $25,000 to a Kansas-based nonprofit, Justice for All, even though it had not. The foundation later attributed the false report to an accounting error.

Days before the 2016 Iowa caucuses, Mr. Trump held a fund-raiser on behalf of military veterans, raising about $5.6 million, half of which went directly to his foundation. The money was then managed not by philanthropists but by top Trump campaign staff members, who handed it out to veterans’ organizations across Iowa just before the caucus — converting the donations into illegal campaign contributions.

“This is not how private foundations should function,” said Ms. Underwood in her statement about the suit. That’s the understatement of the day.

Mr. Trump lashed out at the lawsuit on Twitter, attacking “sleazy New York Democrats” and, in particular, Eric Schneiderman, the former state attorney general who aggressively pursued Mr. Trump but who resigned last month following reports that he had physically abused several women. Unfortunately for Mr. Trump, the suit was brought by Mr. Schneiderman’s replacement, Ms. Underwood, who is not a politician but a career prosecutor with sterling credentials. Ms. Underwood’s office has asked the court to order the Trump Foundation to pay $2.8 million in restitution and to bar Mr. Trump from serving as a director, officer or trustee of any nonprofit for 10 years. The lawsuit also seeks to bar Mr. Trump’s three eldest children, Donald Jr., Ivanka and Eric, from the boards of nonprofits based in New York or that operate in New York for one year.

That’s a start. But Ms. Underwood only has jurisdiction to file civil lawsuits in cases involving charities like the Trump Foundation. She cannot bring criminal charges against them for, say, violating campaign finance laws. So she also sent lengthy referral letters to the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Election Commission, detailing extensive conduct that could, and clearly should, trigger further investigation. In other words, Mr. Trump, who is already dealing with multiple federal inquiries into his campaign’s involvement with Russian efforts to swing the 2016 election as well as into possible crimes by his personal lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, may soon find himself in even deeper trouble.

Though they were fantasies in so many other ways, most of Donald Trump’s scams — from bankrupt casinos to phony universities — never really pretended to be in the public interest. But his foundation, like his presidency, does. And like everything else with the Trump name slapped on it, neither is remotely what it purports to be.


Rockefeller Institute Report: “For Many, Is College Out of Reach?”

Dear Commons Community,

The Rockefeller Institute of Government has just released a report entitled, For Many, Is College Out of Reach?, examining how innovative state programs can be scaled and replicated to help close the nation’s growing equity gaps in higher education.  Since the Great Recession, average state aid to higher education has decreased nationwide, resulting in greater reliance on tuition and increased student loan debt. Coupled with the recent fiscal uncertainty from the threat of federal higher education budget cuts and rising income inequality, college is now out of reach for many working- and middle-class families. The report reviews two state programs that show promise for reversing this trend — in Tennessee and New York — and outlines a roadmap for policymakers.  The report was written by Rockefeller Institute President Jim Malatras.   Below is an executive summary.



For Many, Is College Out of Reach?

Jim Malatras

If we are to close persistent equity gaps in our society, access to a quality education is the most critical opportunity we can offer. However, there is a widening college access gap in the United States. The ever-rising cost of higher education, coupled with diminished government financial support and growing income inequality, have put college out of reach for many at a critical juncture when postsecondary education is essential for enhancing career prospects — in addition to creating well-rounded citizens. As a result of the Great Recession in the mid-aughts, financial support for higher education has been reduced by nearly all states. The drastic cuts across the nation in most states are not back up to prerecession levels and it is unlikely that many states will ever “restore” general higher education spending to prerecession levels.

The situation has been exacerbated by additional factors, including recent proposed budget cuts by the federal government and increasing fiscal stress on state and local governments. As one colleague in state government said to me recently, “we’re on our own.” In higher education alone, the president’s proposed budget would have resulted in more than $200 billion over the next ten years in cuts to higher education programs including freezing Pell Grant awards, cutting federal work study, and educational opportunity programs. Even though the Congress restored virtually all the proposed cuts, given the constant threats from the federal executive branch to propose budget cuts, uncertainty in state and local tax revenue, and the nation’s mixed view of higher education generally, higher education has a steep hill to climb in expanding access and opportunity.

In this era of fiscal uncertainty and diminished public confidence in postsecondary education, what programs and models are effectively addressing the affordability gap and gaining support from policymakers to make greater investments in higher education?

There are five elements that could capture policymakers’ attention and drive greater resources into higher education as a way to close equity gaps:

  1. Provide direct benefits to the studentas opposed to block grant-like funding to the system.
  2. In any program, there must be targeted support for at-risk students.
  3. Open new access pointsby breaking down traditional education structures.
  4. Quality and success indicators are imperativein order to demonstrate value.
  5. Bend the total college cost curvefor as many students as possible.

Using comparative survey data and a comprehensive review of programs, particularly in New York and Tennessee, the paper will explore several states with replicable models to expand college access and success. New York has been on the forefront of opening the door to educational opportunity through nation-leading programs and the state’s approach could serve as a model. Likewise, Tennessee has been leading the charge on pioneering tuition programs on a statewide scale before they were largely in vogue. Given Tennessee’s longer history with programs like free tuition, the state has more data available to review what works and what does not.

The paper will examine how these states are addressing the affordability (and success) gap, how policymakers were convinced to make additional financial investment in higher education, the problems and pitfalls of the programs, and the ways other states could model similar efforts. Most importantly, the paper will explore how states are focused on quality and outcomes, not just access, in these programs.



Center for an Urban Future Report:  1.2 Million Jobs in New York State Will Be Transformed Using Technology in the Next Decade!

Dear Commons Community,

The Center for an Urban Future (CUF) has just issued a new report predicting that machine learning, robotics, and artificial intelligence are poised to bring about massive changes to a large swath of the economy in the years ahead.  In New York State more than 1.2 million could be affected.  This report provides a comprehensive look at the automation potential of many occupations statewide and in each of New York’s ten regions.

As stated in the report:

“… sweeping not just through factory floors but office towers, hospital wards, and main streets, automation has the potential to displace workers in a growing range of occupations, as varied as bookkeepers and x-ray technicians, paralegals and food prep workers. The result is that both traditional and emerging industries will be transformed, with significant effects on New York’s workforce.

…Our study finds that New York State is less susceptible to automation than the nation as a whole. But it also reveals that more than 1.2 million jobs in the state, about 12 percent of the state’s workforce, could be largely automated using technology that exists today. (These are jobs in which 80 percent or more of their associated tasks could be done by machines.)

To be clear, automation is not expected to eliminate all, or even most, of these jobs… As with other major economic transformations—such as the Industrial Revolution, the dawn of electricity, and the Internet age—some jobs will disappear, many will be created, and in the end, most will simply change.

There is immense potential for jobs across New York to be transformed. Statewide, the equivalent of 41.2 percent of all job tasks could be performed by machines in the coming decade. On this score, New York is actually better off than the nation, where 51 percent of all job tasks could be done by machines, according to an analysis by the McKinsey Global Institute on which this report is based. (This is not to suggest that 41 percent of jobs in the state will be eliminated; that is simply the scope of job responsibilities that could change as more of today’s work—whether taking orders, entering data, or even driving—is done by machines.)

The potential for automation is spread fairly evenly across the state. Of all regions, the automation potential is highest in Western New York, where 44.5 percent of all job tasks could be done using existing technology. Other regions with high automation potential include Central New York (44.4 percent), the North Country (44.3 percent), the Mohawk Valley (43.8 percent), and Long Island (43.7). New York City has the lowest potential for automation, as detailed by the Center in a January report; just 39 percent of jobs in the five boroughs stand a high likelihood of being automated. But other regions also have a comparatively lower potential for automation, such as the Capital Region (42 percent) and the Hudson Valley (42.2 percent).”

The entire report is a sobering read.  In the post 2030 period, many jobs will have been transformed and some eliminated due to automation.