Trump attacks California homeless crisis, picking new fight with state

Trump officials look to fix California homeless problem, state officials say back off

Marco della Cava, Michele Chandler and John Fritze

Published 8:36 PM EDT Sep 10, 2019

SAN FRANCISCO — Trump administration officials confirmed Tuesday they are on the ground in California looking at ways to intervene in the state’s mounting homelessness issue, which President Donald Trump has criticized as “disgusting” and a “disgrace to our country.”

But many elected officials and homelessness experts in the Golden State said any White House assistance would be disingenuous given federal housing cuts have helped exacerbate the problem. Some also accused Trump of using the homelessness issue to win over conservative supporters ahead of the 2020 election. 

“We need federal support and resources to build more housing for people living on the streets,” San Francisco Mayor London Breed said in a statement. “But simply cracking down on homelessness without providing the housing people need is not a real solution.”

In this 2016 file photo, a man stands outside his tent on Division Street in San Francisco. California Gov. Gavin Newsom, outlined his plans in his proposed budget to spend $1.75 billion on housing in a state that is woefully short on units and $500 million on homelessness. In Newsom’s first 100 days as governor, he’s placed a moratorium on the death penalty, set aggressive goals to increase housing and battled with the Trump administration on immigration.
Eric Risberg, AP

Nathan Click, chief spokesman for California Gov. Gavin Newsom, also in part blamed the president for the state’s poverty woes. “If the president is willing to put serious solutions, with real investment, on the table, California stands ready to talk. He could start by ending his plans to cut food stamps, gut health care for low-income people and scare immigrant families from accessing government services,” he said.

State Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) was even more blunt.

“Trump needs to back off and focus on his own mess of an administration,” Wiener said. “Rounding up homeless people into federal facilities won’t solve the problem. We need to get people the help they need, including shelter, housing, and other services.”

Trump plans still unclear

Trump officials have not specified what kinds of actions or solutions they would implement in California. 

A senior administration official speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations confirmed to USA TODAY that a team of federal officials was on the ground in California assessing local homeless camps. The official said the team was conducting a fact-finding mission to learn more about the crisis.

The news was first reported by The Washington Post, which cited unnamed officials describing a coming crackdown, particularly in cities such as Los Angeles and San Francisco, which have some of the nation’s largest homeless populations.

In this May 9, 2019, file photo, California Gov. Gavin Newsom gestures towards a chart with proposed funding to deal with the state’s homelessness as he discusses his revised state budget during a news conference in Sacramento, Calif.
Rich Pedroncelli, AP

The report did not specify what actions officials planned to take, but suggested that camps could be razed with homeless individuals moved into either new facilities or refurbished buildings.

According to last year’s survey by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, some 130,000 Californians were homeless, or nearly a quarter of the national total.

Officials said Los Angeles’ “Skid Row” was a particular priority. The area has seen a growing number of homeless as housing prices there and in most California cities continue to skyrocket. Los Angeles County saw nearly 59,000 homeless residents during a June count, up from approximately 55,000 people in 2017. 

Late Tuesday, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti released a letter written to Trump that outlined a number of things his administration could do to help the homelessness issue in Los Angeles, which with some 79,000 homeless residents, trails only New York City. 

Garcetti, who recently led administration officials on a tour of a range of homeless shelters and housing complexes, said that although “this crisis is decades in the making,” solutions could include protecting existing fair-housing laws, rescinding proposed HUD rules to evict mixed-status immigrant families from assisted housing, and supporting measures that would expand the housing safety net for veterans and the poor.

No where in Garcetti’s letter did he address the prospect of L.A. homeless encampments being razed and its population’s moved to federal housing projects.

White House spokesman Judd Deere said in a statement Tuesday that “like many Americans, the president has taken notice of the homelessness crisis, particularly in cities and states where the liberal policies of overregulation, excessive taxation and poor public service delivery are combining to dramatically increase poverty and public health risks.”

Deere added that Trump has “directed his team to go further and develop a range of policy options for consideration to deal with this tragedy.”

First reaction: ‘Internment camps’

But critics are far from eager for the president’s help.

Bob Erlenbusch, executive director of the Sacramento Regional Coalition to End Homelessness, fretted that president was looking to round homeless people up.

“My first reaction is that it felt like internment camps for people experiencing homelessness,” he said. “The president doesn’t seem to have any grasp of the homeless crisis not only in California but around the country.”

Some, however, welcomed the possibility of federal intervention.

When asked about whether razing homeless camps could be seen as a violation homeless peoples’ civil rights, U.S. Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-Richvale) said Democrats across the state might be overreacting.

“Civil rights based on people squatting on land that isn’t theirs, that is a bit of a reach there,” he said.

A meeting held this earlier this year on homelessness in California seemed to presage the administration’s interest in potentially stepping in.

Jonathan Anderson, executive director of the Redding-based Good News Rescue Mission, the only homeless shelter in Shasta County in northern California, said that during a national homelessness conference in April, officials from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development asked to meet with the 30 executive directors of rescue missions from California, Washington and Oregon about possible future partnerships.

The discussions touched on “how could these faith-based nonprofits co-locate and partner and bring the government agencies into sharing the workload that we’re doing. That was very encouraging. No decisions were made. It was just very open dialogue,” he said. 

“They did say,” Anderson added, “that no matter what happens, the majority of this is going to be focused around the L.A. region.”

Trump has had a long running feud not only with California’s governor, but also with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who represents San Francisco. California has filed roughly 50 lawsuits against the Trump administration in the past two years over matters ranging from immigration to the U.S. Census.

The president has not hesitated to blast the largely liberal state, whose importance in the 2020 election has grown since its primary was moved to March.

A homeless man sits at his tent along the Interstate 110 freeway in downtown Los Angeles. California Gov. Gavin Newsom met with the mayors of some of California’s largest cities to discuss the homeless situation last month.
Richard Vogel, AP

“Nearly half of all the homeless people living in the streets in America happen to live in the state of California,” Trump said during a rally in Ohio last month. “What they are doing to our beautiful California is a disgrace to our country. It’s a shame.”

Newsom ran for governor on a range of liberal platforms, including addressing homelessness, which in Newsom’s hometown of San Francisco has led to needles and feces being strewn along main business and tourist thoroughfares such as Market Street. 

The governor has pledged $1 billion from his budget to tackling homelessness, including allocating $650 million to local governments to deal with emergency homelessness aid and shelter, and $265 million for mental health support.

It’s unclear how much authority a federal entity might have in trying to implement anti-homelessness measures in California. 

“If you’re not doing anything illegal, authorities can’t just pick you up to tell you where to go,” says Steve Berg, vice president for programs and policy with the National Alliance to End Homelessness in Washington, D.C., a non-profit that works with communities to tackle homelessness.

“Having people at all levels pay attention to this issue is good,” he says. “But only if you’re approaching it in a solution-oriented way.”

Feds can help — with money

David Garcia, policy director at the University of California, Berkeley’s Terner Center for Housing Innovation, said he was skeptical about the Trump administration’s aims. 

“Any strategy that focuses on removing homeless camps and displacing the homeless lacks compassion at best, and at worst exacerbates the challenges,” says Garcia. “Based on this administration’s rhetoric, they don’t seem to be focused on really solving the homelessness crisis.”

Nine months after Robert Pruitte was evicted from the Coachella encampment, a new shack he was staying at was similarly demolished. Pictured here is the third makeshift shack that he has called home since the Caltrans eviction.
Jay Calderon/The Desert Sun

Garcia notes that the administration’s increasing pressure on immigrant populations within the U.S. has only added to the growing legions of homeless, as federal assistance continues to dry up and immigrants fear applying for aid.

“If the federal government is interested in helping, that’s great,” says Margot Kushel, a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco and director of the Benioff Homelessness and Housing Initiative, a research center founded by a donation from Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff and his wife Lynne.

“What they can start with is dramatically increasing their financial support for affordable housing,” says Kushel.

Since Trump entered office, the White House budget has proposed slashing funding for the Department of Housing and Urban Development in each year’s budget. The White House’s 2020 budget proposes slashing the department’s funding by $9.6 billion.

Amid these cutbacks, the Trump administration has expanded grant programs for local agencies working to help individuals experiencing homelessness. The 2020 budget proposed increasing funding for services for people experiencing homelessness by 9% to $2.6 billion.

Despite widespread skepticism over the Trump administration’s potential plans for homeless people in California, some officials acknowledged that the problem may well now be beyond the scope of local and even state officials.

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, a Republican, has been critical of the Trump administration and said he didn’t vote for the president in 2016. But like Trump, the San Diego Mayor also says California politicians have largely failed to address the state’s homelessness crisis. In 2018,  the homeless population in San Diego dropped to 8,576 people, down by 600 people from the year before. 

Nora Soliz and David Rodriguez lived under a bridge on Golf Center Drive in Indio in 2014 after both lost their jobs.
Jay Calderon/The Desert Sun

“San Diego has taken significant action over the last few years to reduce homelessness, but cities can’t do it alone,” said Faulconer, who has funded shelters and storage facilities for individuals experiencing homelessness and implemented policies to curb tent encampments and people sleeping in their cars. “We welcome additional federal resources to help us move more individuals off the streets and into housing.”

In nearby Palm Springs, City Councilwoman Christy Holstege said the president was likely attacking state lawmakers for political gain as the 2020 election creeps closer. 

“He’s using talking points to rally his base,” said Holstege. “That’s what he’s doing here, trying to shame California about our homelessness crisis.”

The number of individuals experiencing homelessness in Palm Springs has skyrocketed in recent years, growing to 196 homeless people earlier this year. On Monday, state lawmakers earmarked $10 million to be used to fund homelessness services and infrastructure in the city.

“My question to the president would be if he’s going to raze camps, then where will those people go,” Holstege said. “The reason there are tent camps is because there isn’t sufficient housing.”

Contributing: Samuel Metz, Palm Springs Desert Sun

Follow USA TODAY Network reporters @marcodellacava @michele408 @jfritze

4 Pro-Tips To Be The Best VCSO Mom You Can Be (You’re Welcome!)

If you have a teenage girl, you’ve probably heard it a thousand times, but you can’t figure out the sounds coming out of their mouths …

What. Are. They. Saying???

Then they say it again “… and I oop sksksksk.” Followed by giggling and something about being a … vis-co girl?? What the hell are they even talking about? So you ask. BIG MISTAKE.

You are now met with eye-rolling and sighing and then a loudly whispered “She doesn’t even know what that is?!” to her friend…and more giggling.

If you’re raising a teen or tween girl, welcome. You are completely uncool and unable to understand anything going on in the life of a teenager. Just like our parents never understood “Cool Beans” you will never understand “… and I oop sksksksk

But I am here to try and help. First of all, it’s VSCO (pronounced vis-co) and refers to the VSCO Photo App that has become increasingly popular for creating a filtered aesthetic specific to each user. The user can create their own custom filter to apply to their photos, giving them their very own VSCO style. They can then share their VSCO link on their Instagram bio … and basically filter life. VSCO Girl refers to girls that embody this filtered, aesthetic VSCO vibe.

Aren’t you glad you asked?

According to the Urban Dictionary, a VSCO Girl is the Tumblr girl of today. A girl that wears oversized shirts, Nike shorts, Crocs, Birkenstocks and Vans, wears puka shell necklaces, messy buns, and always has an extra scrunchie on her wrist (hello, wasn’t that most of us in the ’90s?!). They have Fjallraven Kanken backpacks and LOOOOVVVEEE Jeeps. They quench their thirst with their Redbubble sticker-covered Hydroflasks, have their AirPods at the ready and love saving the sea turtles. Oh, they also shame us when we dare to use plastic straws.

If you’re nodding your head as you read this and experiencing a slight ‘90s flashback … you might have a VSCO Girl. 

In other words: they are basic teenage girls.

With all these “basic” girls being called VSCO Girls it stands to reason we would also have a bunch of “basic” moms out there as well, right? So let’s call them: VSCO Moms.

If you’re starting to feel a little nervous that you fit into this VSCO Mom thing and you have no idea how to live up to your role, this next part is for you!

Pro tips for being the best damn VSCO Mom you can be:

VSCO Mom Pro-Tip #1:

While a VSCO Girl envisions her first car being a Jeep and driving in the sunshine with the top off and the breeze blowing through her hair, a VSCO Mom doesn’t drive a Jeep. We have too many kids, kids’ friends, sports, and activities that revolve around driving our kids back and forth across town … over and over again. We are too damn concerned with gas mileage and having seats for all these kids to drive a Jeep.

So what do we drive?

A Minivan.

More specifically, the Honda Odyssey EX-L. This particular minivan and trim delivers leather, heated seats, sliding doors, and the piece de resistance: a moonroof. Oh yes, if we’re driving a minivan it had better be a kickass minivan with a moonroof—and a hella good sound system!

(Maybe you just breathed a sigh of relief; you don’t drive a minivan, whew! You drive a SUV… with a THIRD ROW! Amiright? Then yes, you are one of us. Trying to hide with your cool SUV… well, you can’t. I see you over there, because once you have that third-row, all coolness is gone. You’re basically driving a minivan, you just have less cargo room when that third row is up and lower MPGs. You are still in this my friend … so keep reading!)

Rest assured, we don’t see ourselves as minivan (or SUV with a third-row) moms. Deep down, we see ourselves as Jeep moms! We’re just stuck in a minivan shell. We are way too cool for a minivan, and yet…

If you’re driving a minivan (or an SUV with a third-row) but you don’t “look” like a minivan mom … you might be a VSCO Mom.

VSCO Mom Pro-Tip #2:

Let’s talk about the look of a VSCO Mom. Yes, there’s a look. We don’t want to be the mom that’s dumpy and frumpy, we want to look hip and cool! But not like we’re trying to be hip and cool. Sometimes we pull it off…and sometimes we don’t. But you can probably relate to what a VSCO mom looks like—or at least tries to look like.

Photo by Rosalind Chang on Unsplash

– Messy buns that take waaayyy too long and are anything but “effortless.”

– We may possibly—maybe sometimes—wear a scrunchie on our wrist… just maybe…you know, for emergencies.

– Dry shampoo is our best friend. ‘Nuff said.

– Our daughters are teaching us how to apply makeup, and we can’t figure out why a hunk of foam calling itself a beauty blender for $20 bucks does any better than our fingers. Doesn’t it just soak up the makeup instead?

– Ripped jeans—OK, ripped jeans are just cool, no matter your age.

– Fake Birks. Because our kids have the real ones and we can’t justify spending $120 on a pair of sandals for ourselves.

– Oversized t-shirts—to hide our imperfect parts, not because oversized shirts are cool.

– Necklaces with our kid’s initials or birthstones. We’ve moved up from the puka shell chokers of our youth, and birthstone “mom” rings are soooo 2000s!

– A Coach purse we bought five years ago from the outlet stores. We don’t get a new one because we have spent all our money on the Fjallraven Kanken backpacks for our kids… yeah, try pronouncing that correctly! Ha!

– Converse or Vans. Hell, they were the shoes we wore when we were kids … you know, back when they weren’t cool, they were just what we got. Now we’re spending $60 a pair for uncomfortable, unsupportive shoes. So, nostalgia for the win, because you’re not wearing them for comfort!

– You carry a Hydroflask of water with you everywhere you go, covered in stickers from coffee stands and breweries. Because, well, hydration is important, stickers are cool, and we drink coffee and appreciate a good craft brew!

If you can relate to two or more of the above items … you might be a VSCO Mom.

VSCO Mom Pro-Tip #3:

Essential oils. Yes, we have taken a tiny sliver of ancient Ayurvedic medicine and made it the go-to in the basic-mom arsenal of medicine to cure whatever ails you.

If you’ve got an ailment, there’s an oil for that!

Headache? Peppermint

Cold or Flu? OnGuard™ or Thieves® (depending on your EO Brand of choice, of course!)

Don’t like plain water? Lemon, Lime or Grapefruit

Cut or scrape? Tea Tree oil

Tummy Ache? Peppermint

Can’t Sleep? Lavender

Anxiety? Lavender

Stress? Lavender

Trouble Focusing? Lavender

See a pattern here? Yes, lavender cures everything!

We have diffusers in our living room, kitchen and each of our bedrooms to spread essential oil goodness into every corner of our loving and peaceful home.

We just want to spread peace, serenity, and harmony to our loved ones. And when cold and flu season strikes, we will be boosting immunities—one little drop at a time!

Does it work? I’m not sure, but if it makes you feel better to spread your love of basic-mom-hippie-oils throughout your happy home … you might be a VSCO Mom.

VSCO Mom Pro-Tip #4:

Ahhhh … suburban life at its finest. VSCO moms live in nice suburban neighborhoods. You know, the ones that half the town comes to for Halloween because all the houses decorate, and some even give out full-sized candy!

Photo by Wynand van Poortvliet on Unsplash

These are the neighborhoods that always have a plethora of kids out riding their bikes, people jogging or walking their dogs and a neighborhood Facebook page to post about the rude ass person that let their dog shit in someone’s front yard and didn’t pick it up…

Karen Jackson posted to >>> Summer Park Neighborhood Group:

“Who has cameras on the corner of Wildwood and Cascade Park Dr? If so, we need to see who didn’t pick up after their dog between 4:07-4:43 pm on Friday… grrrrr If you can post a link of the video in the comments so we all know who to publicly shame, that would be great! Thanks!”

Yes. We live in THAT type of neighborhood.

We also have kids that congregate on the corners waiting for the bus.

Dogs that bark incessantly when you walk past their house.

A trampoline in every yard (perfect for sleepovers!)

Nicely manicured lawns (except that one house—yeah, you know the one—unless you don’t, in which case it’s probably you … and then you’re definitely not a VSCO Mom!)

If this sounds like your neighborhood or you’ve ever posted on the neighborhood FB page about dog shit in your yard, you might be a VSCO Mom.

Is this your life? (You’re nodding, I know you’re nodding!) Maybe it is, or maybe you’re wondering who the hell these people are!

Either way, you now know if you’re a VSCO Mom … or if you’re not. And now that you know, please take your newfound title of VSCO Mom and use it to its full potential:

Proudly tell your VSCO Girl—and her friends—that you’re a VSCO Mom!

*Watch them cringe*

Be prepared for your daughter to say “Eww … mom. NEVER, EVER say that again. I will literally die if you say it again!”  To which I would reply, in my sweetest voice possible, “Yes honey, we’ll all die … someday.

This will be followed by much eye-rolling and strange groaning sounds of embarrassment and another “Mommmmmm!

And if you really want to live up to your VSCO Mom status and elicit the best reaction ever—just practice saying “…and I oop, sksksksk” a few times in front of your kids (bonus points if their friends are there too!) Your daughter, while dying of embarrassment, will tell you “Mom, you’re soooo cringy … that is literally the grossest thing you can say … and you can’t even say it right!” Again, followed by more eye-rolling.

You’ll swear you’re saying it right … but we all know the truth; you aren’t and you can’t.

Why? Because you’re not a VSCO Girl. You’re just a VSCO Mom.

So now is the time to own it, my friend. We’re all in this together!

… Oh hey, can I borrow that scrunchie?

P.S. No VSCO Girls were harmed in the writing of this article, however, one was “totally ready to die” and may never quite be the same.

The post 4 Pro-Tips To Be The Best VCSO Mom You Can Be (You’re Welcome!) appeared first on Scary Mommy.

Pennsylvania state Sen. Mike Folmer arrested on child porn charges

A Pennsylvania state senator was busted Tuesday on child porn charges, the state Attorney General announced.

Republican Sen. Mike Folmer, 63, was charged with sexual abuse of children, possession of child pornography, and criminal use of a communication facility after law enforcement found images of child pornography on Folmer’s cellphone when they executed a search warrant at his Lebanon home.

Officials said an investigation into the matter began after authorities received a tip that a user of the microblogging site Tumblr uploaded an image of child pornography to the site.

The investigation led officials to Folmer’s home.

“This defendant serves as a state Senator and was entrusted to honor and represent his community in the Pennsylvania Capitol,” said Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said in a statement announcing the charges against Folmer.

“I will continue to say it — no one is above the law, no matter what position of power they hold. I will continue to work to protect children and hold those who abuse them accountable,” Shapiro said.

Folmer, who was elected to the Pennsylvania senate in 2006, was reelected to his fourth term last November.

The lawmaker played a key role in the passage of a bill that legalized medical marijuana in the state in 2016.

Folmer did not immediately return a request for comment Tuesday.

Meanwhile, state Senate leadership spoke out on the arrest, and said that Folmer would immediately be removed as Chair of the Senate State Government Committee.

Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati and Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman said in a joint statement: “We are shocked to learn tonight of the allegations made against Senator Folmer. We will fully cooperate with law enforcement regarding this deeply disturbing matter.”

“Given the severity of these charges, Senator Folmer is immediately being removed as Chair of the Senate State Government Committee. Further action in response to these charges will be taken by Senate Leadership in the coming days.”

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‘Angel Mom’ Booed While Testifying About Son Killed By Illegal Immigrant | Daily Wire

Last week, Boston mother Maureen Maloney was booed while testifying about the death of her son Matthew Denice, who was killed in 2011 by a drunk-driving illegal with a criminal history. Maloney was testifying at the State House in opposition to a bill seeking to grant driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants.

“At the start of her testimony, Maloney held up a photo of Matthew and recalled how he was killed by an illegal immigrant drunk behind the wheel. About halfway into her 3 minutes of testimony, a man behind Maloney booed the grieving mother,” the Boston Herald reported.

“It just made me more determined,” Maloney told the outlet. “I don’t want other people to lose their lives like Matthew did. I don’t want other families to go through the heartache that my family deals with. And that’s where I get the strength and the stamina to keep doing this.”

This was not the first time the “Angel Mom” has been booed while discussing the tragic death of her son. “A few years ago, Maloney spoke out against a similar proposal, and a senator had given her his additional three minutes to testify. When Maloney went over the three minutes, she said people in the audience began booing and hollering that her time was up,” the Herald reported.

“You get used to it over time,” the mother said.

Maloney spoke at a Bostonians Against Sanctuary Cities event in May 2017, where she detailed the death of her son by illegal immigrant Nicolas Dutan Guaman.

“On August 20, 2011, my son Matthew Denice was tragically killed less than two miles form our home. Matthew was riding his motorcycle in a residential area with a 20 mile per hour speed limit. Nicolas Guaman, an illegal alien with a criminal record, ran a stop sign, colliding with Matthew’s motorcycle. Matthew landed on the hood and the windshield of Guaman’s truck and rolled off into the street. Witnesses saw Matthew getting up out of the road.

During the trial, the Boston medical examiner and the forensic experts testified that Matthew survived the initial collision with just scrapes and bruises. … By all accounts, he should have lived.

But Nicolas Guaman, who was an illegal alien did not have a diver’s license and had spent his day drinking beer made a fatal decision. He ran over Matthew, causing Matthew to be lodged in the front, right wheel well. He dragged Matthew a quarter mile to this death while horrified witnesses yelled for him to stop and banged on his truck. Witnesses heard Matthew’s bloodcurdling screams as his body was torn apart over the course of that quarter of a mile. Matthew’s body was impeding the forward motion of that front wheel of the truck. Nicolas Guaman knew he was dragging my son but he continued to flee the police. Eventually Guaman was run off the road and Matthew’s body became dislodged. Guaman then backed up over Matthew, and then continued to flee. And he had his six-year-old son in the truck during all this.”

Maloney said she prayed to her son for strength before giving her testimony last week, the Herald noted. “I was just asking him to guide me with my testimony and help me to not have anger in my heart towards the other side,” she said. “Just do some work through me, use me to try to save other lives.”

“Going to hearings like this, talking about it, opens up the wounds and it’s painful,” Maloney added. “And hearing them talk about their fear of separation and I’m sitting there thinking, ‘I have been permanently separated. This is the ultimate permanent separation.’ They’re afraid they’ll be deported but they can take their kids with them or their kids can go visit them. I don’t have that option.”

Guaman is currently serving out a 12 to 14-year sentence for the murder of Denice.

Charles Koch Is Funding a Campaign to Kill Food Stamps and Medicaid

Last December, an innocuously named nonprofit, the Foundation for Government Accountability (FGA), wined and dined Republican politicians and White House staffers at a Walt Disney World resort, according to a new report from the Center for Public Integrity. The pitch: make it harder for poor Americans to access government programs meant to help them get on secure financial ground, especially the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as food stamps, and Medicaid.

The group has already achieved some victories, as states including Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, and West Virginia have imposed work requirements on SNAP recipients, sometimes using FGA model legislation. A nationwide version of work requirements proposed by the Trump administration is expected to kick hundreds of thousands of poor Americans off of SNAP.

A Sludge investigation has found that FGA is heavily financed by a powerful Wisconsin foundation birthed by the wealthy, conservative Bradley brothers, multiple nonprofits affiliated with rightwing billionaire industrialist Charles Koch, and two dark money vehicles funded by Koch and Bradley charitable nonprofits. A number of FGA executives and board members work or have worked for other connected Bradley- and Koch-funded think tanks and political groups.

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FGA and its connected lobbying arm, the Opportunity Solutions Project, are employing a common tactic among conservative economists, policy writers, and free-market ideologues, recasting cuts to public welfare benefits as encouraging “the redeeming power of work.”

This PR approach to welfare cuts comes out of the playbook of some of FGA’s funders, including the libertarian Koch, CEO of manufacturing conglomerate Koch Industries and one of the richest men in the world. The Koch political and academic networks have adopted the phrases “human flourishing” and “well-being” to characterize harsh cuts to public assistance that many poor people depend on. Regardless of the Koch network’s claims, these kinds of welfare cuts mean more money that the billionaire class gets to keep from the Internal Revenue Service.

FGA represents one of many investments that wealthy American conservatives have made in order to weaken the American majority — working class Americans — and institutions meant to benefit them in favor of the private property ownership of a small but powerful minority.

The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation has donated nearly $2.3 million to FGA since 2013, according to its annual reports. Based in Wisconsin and named after two brothers, Lynde and Harry, whose factory automation business made them a fortune, the foundation is led in part by its president, Art Pope, a wealthy North Carolinian political donor and close Koch ally. On its board are current and former business executives including GOP megadonor Diane Hendricks, owner of building company ABC Supply. The Bradley Foundation was established in 1942, the year that Lynde Bradley died, and funded schools, hospitals, and other local initiatives in its early days. Harry Bradley, who was a “fierce anti-Communist” and supported the far-right John Birch Society, died in 1965. Twenty years later, the family business was sold to Rockwell International for nearly $1.7 billion, and with a huge influx of cash, the Bradley Foundation massively expanded its work to promote the conservative values of its namesakes.

The foundation is deeply committed to state political efforts around the country, and hacked records show the extent of its powerful political operation. The foundation finances think tanks, bill-writing groups, legal centers, and conservative media in states such as Colorado, North Carolina, Washington, and Wisconsin to promote stricter welfare work requirements, anti-union policies, school privatization, and climate change skepticism.

Its 2013 donation of $25,000 went towards FGA’s general operations, according to tax documents reviewed by Sludge. Then, in 2014, the Bradley Foundation donated $200,000 for “public education about Medicaid.” The following year, it upped its annual contribution to $350,000, and in 2016 it funded FGA’s “welfare and work” project. In 2017, it began funding FGA’s Restore the Working Class initiative, “a project which created a set of 21 model reforms for states to reduce the welfare state and restore the working class.” Last year, the foundation increased its donation to $500,000, which financed “reducing the welfare state and restoring the working class,” as did another half million dollars in 2019.

Koch’s foundations haven’t give much to FGA directly. In 2017, the Charles Koch Foundation gave $3,300 to the group, and the Freedom Partners Institute, an affiliate of the central funding operation of Koch’s political network, donated $30,000 in 2016. FGA has been a host organization for Charles G. Koch summer fellows. But dark money groups that Koch heavily funds via his foundations are FGA’s biggest benefactors. Donors Trust, a nonprofit popular with far-right millionaire and billionaire donors, gave over $2.8 million to FGA from 2015 to 2017. Its affiliate, Donors Capital Fund, gave FGA more than $2.3 million from 2015 to 2016. Both organizations are donor-advised fund sponsors, meaning they manage the money of individual donors who tell them where to contribute the funds, masking the donors’ names from the recipient organizations’ public records. (Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund will be referred to as “the Donors groups” in this article.)

Several FGA executives and board members are closely linked to a host of conservative nonprofit political networks and think tanks that are also funded by the Koch and Bradley family foundations. This tight network of funders and nonprofits is an example of just one carefully organized wing of the Koch-backed political and educational network.

Tarren Bragden, CEO of FGA, was previously CEO of Donors Trust- and Donors Capital Fund-supported Maine Heritage Policy Center, which is a member of the State Policy Network (SPN), a web of conservative, state-based think tanks funded by the Koch and Bradley foundations. FGA is an SPN member, and SPN has donated to FGA.

SPN is an associate member of another umbrella group of conservative organizations, the Atlas Network, which has donated to network partner FGA. Atlas has promoted Bragden’s praise of Kansas’ SNAP work requirements.

Kristina Rasmussen, the top lobbyist at FGA’s Opportunity Solutions Project, was previously executive vice president of the Illinois Policy Institute, a think tank and SPN member that has received funding from the Atlas Network, the Bradley Foundation, the Charles Koch Institute, and the Donors groups. The Institute’s former director of health policy and pension reform, Jonathan Ingram, is now FGA’s vice president of policy and research.

FGA chief operating officer and general counsel Jonathan Bechtle was previously CEO of the Freedom Foundation, a nonprofit funded by the Charles Koch Foundation and Donors Capital Fund. The Freedom Foundation is an Atlas Network partner, an SPN affiliate, and a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a corporate bill mill that produces conservative model legislation for state legislators and is funded in part by two Koch Foundations, the Bradley Foundation, and Donors Capital Fund. Koch Industries is a corporate board member of ALEC. ALEC promotes state bills to block Medicaid expansion and backs Medicaid work requirements.

FGA board member Robert Levy is chairman of the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank co-founded by Koch and funded by multiple Bradley, Koch, and the Donors groups, as well as by the Atlas Network. Levy is also a board member of George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School, which received its current name as part of a $10 million donation from the Charles Koch Foundation, which accompanied $20 million from an anonymous donor.

Bridgett Wagner, another FGA board member, is the Heritage Foundation’s vice president of policy promotion and a board member at SPN. Heritage is funded by the Bradley, Koch, and the Donors groups and is an SPN member.

Use the interactive graphic to explore these numerous connections between FGA, its officers, and Bradley- and Koch-funded organizations.

Having an afternoon nap twice a week ‘lowers your risk of a heart attack’ | Daily Mail Online

Grabbing 40 winks in the afternoon halves your chances of suffering a heart attack or stroke, a study suggests.

Researchers found people who take a daytime nap once or twice a week are almost 50 per cent less at risk compared with those who never snooze during the day.

But napping any more than twice a week had no further benefits on heart health, the study found.  

Lack of sleep raises the risk of atherosclerosis, which is a build-up of plaque in the body’s arteries that causes them to narrow and harden.

Scientists say the sweet spot for sleep is eight hours per night. Napping can be a tool to help people get to that number if they missed it the night before. 

Grabbing a siesta halves your chances of suffering a heart attack or stroke, a study suggests

The research team from the University Hospital of Lausanne in Switzerland monitored 3,400 people aged 35 to 75 for an average of five years.   

They looked at the association between napping frequency and average nap duration, and the risk of a heart attack or stroke. 

During the five years there were 155 heart attacks or strokes. Napping once to twice weekly was associated with an almost halving the risk (48 per cent) compared with those who didn’t nap at all.

Study author Dr Nadine Hausler said the team accounted for potential factors which could influence the study.


Insomnia means you regularly have problems sleeping. It usually gets better by changing your sleeping habits.

You have insomnia if you regularly: find it hard to go to sleep, wake up several times during the night, lie awake at night, wake up early and can’t go back to sleep, still feel tired after waking up

Everyone needs different amounts of sleep. On average, adults need 7 to 9 hours, while children need 9 to 13 hours.

You probably don’t get enough sleep if you’re constantly tired during the day.

The most common causes of insomnia are: stress, anxiety or depression, excessive noise, an uncomfortable bed or alcohol, caffeine or nicotine.

Insomnia usually gets better by changing your sleeping habits. For example, going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, and only going to bed when you feel tired.

Source: NHS

Dr Hausler, of the University Hospital of Lausanne, said: ‘This association held true after taking account of potentially influential factors, such as age, and night-time sleep duration, as well as other cardiovascular disease risks, such as high blood pressure and cholesterol.

‘And it didn’t change after factoring in excessive daytime sleepiness, depression, and regularly sleeping for at least six hours a night.’

She said only people aged over 65 and severe sleep apnoea were still at high risk of a heart attack or stroke if they were regular nappers. 

Naveed Sattar, Professor of Metabolic Medicine at the University of Glasgow, said those who nap frequently during the week tend to be healthier overall.

He added: ‘Those who nap one to two times per week have healthier lifestyles or organised lives that allow them to have these naps, whereas those who nap nearly every day are likely to be more sick.

‘This means the former pattern of occasional napping is intentional and the latter of more regular napping likely represents sub-clinical illness linked to poorer lifestyle. This would then explain the differential risks.

‘I don’t think one can work out from this work whether ‘intentional’ napping on one or two days per week improves heart health so no one should take from this that napping is a way to lessen their heart attack risk – to prove that would require proper trials but I’m not sure how feasible these would be. 

‘For now, far better to aim for regular good night’s sleeps and to follow usual lifestyle advice of good diets and decent activity levels.’   

The findings are published in the British Medical Journal, Heart

Having an afternoon nap twice a week ‘lowers your risk of a heart attack’

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Trump administration plans to ban sale of flavored electronic cigarettes

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration said Wednesday it plans to ban the sale of non-tobacco-flavored electronic cigarettes amid a vaping crisis.

“The Trump Administration is making it clear that we intend to clear the market of flavored e-cigarettes to reverse the deeply concerning epidemic of youth e-cigarette use that is impacting children, families, schools and communities,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement. “We will not stand idly by as these products become an on-ramp to combustible cigarettes or nicotine addiction for a generation of youth.”

Speaking to reporters following an Oval Office meeting with Azar and Ned Sharpless, the FDA’s acting commissioner, President Donald Trump said vaping has been very profitable and has become a giant business in a very short period of time.

Download the NBC News app for breaking news and politics

“A lot of people think vaping is wonderful, is great … It’s really not,” Trump said. “We have to find out the extent of the problems… it’s so new … but we’re going to find out.”

Trump pledged “strong rules and regulations” and said he would be report back in the next couple of weeks.

The American Vaping Association said it was disappointed in the president’s decision to take direction from “anti-vaping activists,” such as former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

“A ban will remove life-changing options from the market that have been used by several million American adults to quit smoking,” the association said.

The governor of Michigan, which last week became the first state to prohibit sales of most flavored e-cigarettes to curb the underage vaping epidemic, applauded the administration for following its lead, calling it “a bold step.”

“This is great news for our kids, our families, and our overall public health,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in a statement. “Right now, companies are getting our kids hooked on nicotine by marketing flavors like apple juice, bubble gum, and candy.

The ban in Michigan, which will take effect in a few weeks, will cover both online and in-store sales of all e-cigarette flavors except tobacco.

San Francisco was the first major U.S. city to ban e-cigarettes, in a measure city supervisors passed unanimously in June.

Federal health authorities have reported an outbreak of mysterious illnesses tied to the popular devices.

The number of vaping-related illnesses jumped to at least 450 cases in 33 states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which cautioned people against using e-cigarettes, especially those bought off the street in a warning Friday.

At least six deaths linked to the vaping-related respiratory illness have been reported.

The administration meeting comes as members of Congress and lawmakers are calling for strong action.

On Tuesday, Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration should consider recalling e-cigarettes as it continues to investigate recent deaths and illnesses related to vaping.

“I’m increasingly concerned that a generation of young people has been deceived into thinking e-cigarettes are safe,” he tweeted.

In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said he will advance legislation to ban flavored e-cigarettes and other vaping devices.

“The rise in vaping-associated illnesses is a frightening public health phenomenon,” Cuomo said on Monday.

First lady Melania Trump also weighed in on the matter in a statement this week.

“I am deeply concerned about the growing epidemic of e-cigarette use in our children,” she wrote. “We need to do all we can to protect the public from tobacco-related disease and death, and prevent e-cigarettes from becoming an on-ramp to nicotine addiction for a generation of youth.”

Welker and Jackson reported from Washington, Griffith reported from New York.

The Trump administration plans to gut food stamps, hitting red states hardest – ThinkProgress

President Donald Trump’s latest attack on working families will hit especially hard in the states that voted for him: More than half of the people who are set to lose access to food stamps under regulations proposed this summer live in states that went for Trump in 2016.

One in every twelve people who receives food stamps nationwide will lose them under the policy — some 3.6 million people, according to new analysis by Mathematica, the private policy analysis firm the Department of Agriculture (USDA) has relied upon for the past 40 years.

“I was surprised by the extent of the impact in some of the southern states, such as Texas,” Mathematica senior research programmer Sarah Lauffer said. The impact was always going to be severe in states that apply the current rules in the most generous fashion, but southern states have generally not extended their eligibility lines quite as far. Despite that, Lauffer said, her team found “34% of elderly Texans receiving benefits will lose them through this rule.”

Almost 400,000 people in Texas currently receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits would lose them. Another 328,000 in Florida, 200,000 in New York, 97,000 in Georgia, and 176,000 in Washington state face cuts, to name just a few standouts.

Almost one in five Wisconsin households currently getting help with their groceries will lose the benefit, as well as 16% of such households in Oregon, Nevada, Iowa, and Delaware. Two of every 13 SNAP households in Minnesota and Texas will have to find food money elsewhere.

The administration plans to slash benefits by ending a popular, bipartisan policy known as broad-based categorical eligibility (BBCE). That policy protects low-wage workers from a quirk of poverty-assistance law known as the “benefits cliff,” whereby earning or saving slightly too much money can trigger a low-income family’s eviction from public assistance programs.

Ending the expanded eligibility system for SNAP will also boot roughly half a million kids out of free school meal programs nationwide. The administration has insisted those kids could all hop right back in by filling out application forms currently mooted by the BBCE system, but experts have warned it doesn’t necessarily work that way.

The administration forecasts a $10 billion total draw-down in SNAP spending over the next five years once the policy is enacted. It didn’t estimate the long-term costs of making families hungrier and more desperate.

“Allowing families whose gross income is a little over the poverty level to receive food assistance helps make sure that both the kids and adults in the family are able to eat,” said Lisa Davis, Senior Vice President at the poverty policy center No Kid Hungry. “Children that don’t get the nutrition that they need end up with worse health-care outcomes, worse physical and cognitive development, they have poorer outcomes in school, they find it harder to concentrate, they don’t do as well on tests, there are more behavioral issues.”

The administration has always known it would be yanking food assistance away from millions. Department of Agriculture (USDA) officials said as much when they announced the new regulations in August.

“It doesn’t make any sense to us,” Food Research Action Center’s Ellen Vollinger said. “Taking food away from people is just going to make their food security situation worse, make them hungrier. It will have a negative effect on the economy at a time when some economists are warning us we would be in for another downturn.”

Non-profit groups across the country are dutifully filing public comments criticizing the rule and pointing out all the ways the USDA appears to have ignored evidence, congressional intent, and practical facts in issuing its proposal. The 60-day window for such comments closes later in the fall, and the administration will likely face legal challenges if it attempts to handle the objections with a pro-forma sweep of the hand.

But USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue has been determined to kill BBCE for months, ever since Congress decided to retain the policy in last year’s Farm Bill. There’s a strong chance the cut – in some form – will have kicked in by this time next year.

These families earn a little more than the statutory maximum income for SNAP eligibility. But that doesn’t mean they can afford to see even the modest food assistance they currently receive disappear from their monthly budgets.

“They’re making trade-offs between what bills to pay. Do they pay the rent, or get a car fixed so they can keep going to work, or keep the lights on?” Davis said. “We see those families cut back on food first. [BBCE] helps make sure that both the kids and adults in the family are able to eat.”

Trump’s policies hit barely-red states hardest

As Thursday’s state-level figures suggest, the categorical eligibility smackdown is going to hit especially hard in four states where very narrow Trump wins in 2016 tilted the electoral college irrevocably in his favor.

Trump won Wisconsin by less than 23,000 votes last time. He’ll have dumped 118,000 Wisconsin residents off of food stamps by Election Day if the rule goes through as planned.

One in every nine people currently benefiting from SNAP in Michigan will be booted under the rule – roughly 165,000 men, women, and children in total. Trump won the state by just 10,704 votes last go round.

In Pennsylvania, which Trump carried by just under 47,000 votes, his food stamps cut will dump more than five times that many people off the food-aid rolls.

The potential economic and electoral self-sabotage is particularly striking given that bipartisan majorities in Congress have repeatedly rejected this precise policy, as recently as last year. The right-wing crusade against broad-based categorical eligibility has never won a majority of Republican hearts and minds. Like the vast majority of voters who oppose cutting food stamps, the rump of GOP elected understand that BBCE is an effective investment in children’s long-term futures, local economies’ short-term health, and working families’ progress up the income ladder.

“For the most part the attacks on SNAP in recent years have not been successful. Congress has decided not to weaken snap in the 2018 farm bill, rejected multiple crazy assaults on it,” Vollinger said.

“We’re hopeful that there will be enough comment and insight brought to bear during this comment period that the administration would reconsider.”

Hunger’s ripple effect

It’s not just SNAP recipients who will feel the impact: The suffering the administration plans to inflict on working-poor families will likely also be felt in higher-income households, too, in the form of a broader economic slowdown. Consumer spending drives the whole economy. Cutting SNAP benefits means consumers have less to spend.

USDA staff issued updated estimates on the economic multiplier effects of SNAP spending earlier this summer. Though the Trump administration team’s official guesstimate is slightly lower than past multipliers, the report includes a variety of models. Each additional dollar of SNAP benefit paid out generates between $1.50 and $1.80 in total economic activity when the economy is struggling, their tables show.

The agency also broke the economic impacts out by sector, with some surprising results. The trade and transportation industry takes the largest hit from SNAP cuts. But across nine major industrial sectors the agency analyzed, the level of cuts to be imposed by the new eligibility restrictions stand to kill between 27,000 and 32,000 jobs per year over the next half-decade.

Forecasters who make their livings predicting what the economy will do next are already starting to worry that a nationwide recession looms. Multiple states have experienced recessions within their own borders in the past two years, and at least two appear to be on the brink of entering new contractions based on sudden jumps in local unemployment rates.

The national economy is still growing, but at a slower pace over the past two quarters than previously. The investor class is souring on long-term U.S. government bonds, producing the dreaded yet tediously named a “yield-curve inversion” – a phenomenon that does not guarantee a recession, but which has occurred prior to every U.S. recession in the last half-century.

The country’s manufacturing sector had been expanding for three straight years, but in August, it contracted – again, not a surefire sign of an overall downturn, but certainly an unhealthy indicator.

Presidents almost always get too much credit for good economies and too much blame for bad ones, as the financier and policy expert Barry Ritholtz noted in a recent column.

But Trump is doing more to actively poke the markets in the eye than your average president. And while the economist and investor classes grow alarmed about the sorts of sophisticated technical indicators that make the business pages, the administration is also planning to jab the working poor with a sharp stick.

Whether the SNAP cuts Trump seeks would help tip the country into a recession or not, they are certain to make life harder for people ill-positioned to absorb such a pinch. Presidents seeking re-election generally rise or fall with the health of the economy they’re credited – fairly or unfairly  with creating.

An Army First: Two sisters become generals

An Army first: Two sisters attain general’s rank

Tom Vanden Brook

Published 1:04 PM EDT Sep 5, 2019

WASHINGTON – Their brother Rus Lodi calls them “leadership junkies.”

If you’re a soldier, you’d better just call them ma’am and salute. 

Maj. Gen. Maria Barrett and younger sister Brig. Gen. Paula Lodi are each accomplished in their own fields. But together they have become the first two sisters, the Army believes, to attain the general’s rank in the service’s 244-year history.

“Maj. Gen. Maria Barrett and Brig. Gen. Paula Lodi represent the best America has to offer,” said Acting Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy. “However, this comes as no surprise to those who have known them and loved them throughout this extraordinary journey. This is a proud moment for their families and for the Army.”

Maj. Gen. Maria Barrett and her sister, Brig. Gen. Paula Lodi pose for a family photo after, then Col. Lodi’s outgoing Change of Command for the 44th Medical Brigade, Fort Bragg, N.C. in July 2018.

Fathers and sons have risen to general, including Gen. George Casey, who retired as Chief of Staff of the Army; his father, Maj. Gen. George Casey, Sr., was killed in action in Vietnam. Then there’s the Brooks family. Leo Brooks retired as a brigadier general, and his sons Leo, Jr., and Vincent, went on to become a one- and a four-star general respectively. There is even a wife-and-husband team of three-stars: Laura and James Richardson.

Sisters would have to wait.

The military didn’t officially accept women into its ranks until the Army Nursing Corps was established in 1901. Women, of course, served unofficially before that, some in disguise since the Revolutionary War, according to the U.S. Army Women’s Museum.

The Pentagon and Congress had limited the role of women in combat until opening all fields in 2015.

Since then, more than a dozen women have graduated from the Army’s Ranger School, its proving ground for elite infantry soldiers. Command of combat units is key to ascending to the highest ranks in the military.

Overall, women make up more than 16% of the military’s active-duty force of 1.3 million. Women account for 69 of the 417 generals and admirals.

The sisters’ achievement is a remarkable milestone for women in the military, said Melissa Dalton, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a former Defense Department official. She put it in the class of retired Army Gen. Ann Dunwoody, the first woman in any service to attain four stars.

“For both men and women increasingly normalizing women in leadership positions matters,” Dalton said. “The fact that it comes from same family is an incredible accomplishment.” 

A Silver Star role model at home

Barrett and Lodi didn’t need to look far for role models. Their father, Ruston, an Italian immigrant, was a World War II veteran and recipient of the Silver Star, although he rarely spoke about his service, his children said. Just as important, Rus Lodi and Barrett said, their father and mother Clara were educators who stressed public service to their five children.

Maj. Gen. Maria Barrett and her mother,

Clara Lodi, pin 2d Lt. rank on Paula Lodi during a commissioning ceremony at Rutgers University, 1990. A mother’s wish finally come true as the fifth of five

children is fully in control of her destiny. [Via MerlinFTP Drop]

U.S. Army

“Both of my parents were school teachers,” Barrett said. “When my mother started having children, she got out, but she continued to be active in the community. So I do think probably underlying everything is that service component to it.”

Rus recalls his kid sisters as the focus of family dinners decades ago in Franklin, Massachusetts, each topping the other’s exploits in sports or school. 

“They were two just beautiful girls growing up,” said Rus, 63. “Maria would do something academically that just blew us away, while Paula was doing something athletically, flipping off a diving board, before anybody else. They have just been a great source of pride and admiration our entire life.”

The sisters shared a bedroom, if not the same interests, growing up. “She was a great athlete,” Barrett said. “I was probably more of a student.”

Barrett, 53, recalls a key reason for joining the Army was largely practical: paying for school. She was interested in joining the foreign service. So, she enrolled in the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) at Tufts University and was commissioned a second lieutenant in 1988.

Another military branch?: Trump moves closer to launching Space Force

Maj. Gen. Maria Barrett, then Cadet Barrett, receives guidance from an instructor at the M16 range, during training, Fort Devens, Mass. sometime in the late 1980’s.

A funny thing happened on her way to a career at the State Department. Barrett found the Army a better fit. She had a great battalion commander, found the signal corps and discovered her passion for leading soldiers. Barrett moved steadily up the ranks, commanding at the company, battalion and brigade level. As a two-star general, she commands NETCOM, placing her in charge of managing and defending the Army’s information networks.

“When I talk to younger officers, I tell them the reason I joined is not the reason why I stayed,” Barrett said. “Our democratic experiment, even on its most imperfect day, is worth defending.”

‘Always on Duty’ (affectionately called by the family) is a photo of Army Maj. Gen. Maria Barrett and her Sister, Army Brig. Gen. Paula Lodi, checking their Smartphones the night before the Army Navy football game in Baltimore after Lodi and family drove up from Fort Bragg, N.C. in the fall of 2016. Interesting fact is the Army Navy game was one of the few times played in Baltimore and Army defeated Navy in the final six minutes with a touchdown, ending Navy’s 14-year win streak.

Paula Lodi remembers watching a documentary on the first women at West Point. That sealed it. She was 8, maybe 10 years old, and she announced to her father that she wanted to attend the school. He encouraged her.

“If you’re a little girl, and your father responds positively to something that you want to do with your life,” Paula Lodi said, “you tend to grab ahold of it.”

Instead of West Point, she graduated from the Rutgers University ROTC program. 

“My dad passed away when I was a senior in high school, so I may not have been on the most solid footing after high school,” Lodi said. “And I knew the army was the end state. So I would say going through ROTC, staying focused on that end state was really what kind of pulled me through college.”

She received her commission in the medical services corps and planned to be a dietitian as a civilian. Ten years and out of the service. That was the plan. 

“I don’t know at what point probably four, maybe five years in, it just occurred to me, I absolutely loved what I was doing in the medical service corps,” Lodi said. 

Climbing the ranks in separate fields

Up the ranks she climbed, like her sister, but in a separate field, the medical service corps. She has risen to become deputy chief of staff for operations in the Army’s Surgeon General’s office.

“The fact that we’re sisters, not brothers, I think it’s a huge illustration of how far we’ve come as a service,” said Lodi, 51. 

Gen. James McConville, the Army’s chief of staff and top officer, has taken note of the sisters’ success.

“Maj. Gen. Maria Barrett and Brig. Gen. Paula Lodi are exceptional, proven leaders who’ve distinguished themselves over the course of their careers at various levels of command and during multiple combat tours,” McConville said. “These officers serve in critical career fields and lead organizations essential to the Army mission. Their success showcases how talented people can find multiple pathways to success serving in the Army.”

Neither sister said they started out with the goal to be general officers, and both express pride in the other’s accomplishments.

Barrett, then Cadet Barrett, rappels with other MIT Army ROTC cadet colleagues somewhere in Western Mass. sometime in the late 1980’s.

“I don’t think either one of us told us back in high school when we were both playing soccer together, that this is where we would be 27, 30 years from now,” Barrett said. “I don’t think either one of us would have told you that this is how the story would end.”

Their brother said he isn’t surprised. Over the years, he said, he’s noticed the way his younger sisters were “always talking about leadership, right way of leading, right way of motivation.”

Those were the very lessons their parents stressed, he said. He called Paula’s promotion to general the “closing chapter on a job well done by my parents.”

After 3 deaths, CDC says to stop using e-cigarettes | PBS NewsHour

Americans should not smoke e-cigarettes, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Friday, as they investigate how hundreds of people became sick, and at least three people died, after using them.

“While this investigation is ongoing, people should not use e-cigarette products,” Dana Meaney-Delman of the CDC said in a call Friday. That broad recommendation is because “there is a diversity of products” related to e-cigarettes, some containing THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, marijuana’s primary psychoactive component, and some containing nicotine, she said.

As many as 450 people, including 215 cases formally reported to the CDC, in 33 states have reported possible pulmonary disease after using e-cigarette devices, liquids, refill pods and cartridges. Symptoms of this pulmonary disease include shortness of breath, fatigue, fever and nausea or vomiting. Investigators must eliminate other causes of illness, aside from e-cigarette use, Meaney-Delman said. She is the incident manager who is overseeing efforts to track, understand and respond this pulmonary disease for the CDC.

“While this investigation is ongoing, people should not use e-cigarette products.”

The medical community is gathering more information to understand why people are getting sick and dying, and “no definitive causes have been established,” Meaney-Delman said.

Many chemicals and additives are present in e-cigarettes, according to officials on the call. They do not know what chemicals, or combination of chemicals, could lead to getting sick and dying.

The findings are preliminary, said Jennifer Layden, chief medical officer and state epidemiologist for the Illinois Department of Public Health where one of the confirmed deaths has occurred. She said an increase of cases began to appear in May and June, compared to the previous year, suggesting something new is happening. In Illinois, X-rays revealed abnormalities in patient lungs, and nearly all patients were hospitalized, Layden said.

It’s premature to know what is causing these illnesses, Meaney-Delman said, and that is why public health officials from the CDC, the Food and Drug Administration and local and state health departments “are working around the clock” to understand what is happening.

So far, officials have collected more than 120 samples, and researchers in FDA laboratories are testing these samples for a broad range of chemicals, including nicotine, THC, opioids, poisons and toxins, said Mitch Zeller, who directs the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products. He said “no one compound” has been tied to all of these illnesses.

“We’re at a critical fact-gathering stage,” Zeller said.

CDC officials on Friday released criteria to help physicians identify cases of pulmonary disease linked to e-cigarette use. Patients who used e-cigarettes in the last 90 days, had abnormalities in chest x-rays but showed no sign of infection, along with no medical record of other possible diagnoses, could be considered confirmed cases, according to the latest CDC guidance. Some patients reported that symptoms developed after a few days, while others said they noticed symptoms weeks after, the CDC said.

At least 10.8 million adults are estimated to use e-cigarette products in the U.S., according to 2016 data reported in the Annals of Internal Medicine. Of those, 15 percent said they had never smoked cigarettes.

E-cigarettes are the most common way U.S. teens use tobacco, according to a 2018 study by the Department of Health and Human Services.

In recent years, teen use has climbed dramatically, the National Institute on Drug Abuse reported in its Monitoring the Future survey, released in 2018. Among 12th graders, 37 percent of respondents said they had vaped in the last year–up from nearly 28 percent who said they had a year earlier.

The FDA encourages people to submit reports of illnesses that may be related to this disease to FDA Safety Reporting Portal at