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Baldwin denounces exclusion of LGBT people in 2020 census

U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., and U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., and Raúl M. Grijalva, D-Ariz., led 86 members of Congress in sending a letter expressing disapproval of the Census Bureau’s decision to remove data collection on LGBT individuals for consideration for the 2020 Census and the American Community Survey.

The letter was sent to U.S. Census Bureau director John Thompson and Office of Management and Budget director Mick Mulvaney.

The census director has said, “Our review concluded there was no federal data need to change the planned census and ACS subjects.”

The federal government, states, and local communities use census data to determine how to allocate resources to meet the needs of certain populations.

Yet no comprehensive federal population survey currently asks respondents to share their sexual orientation and gender identity, meaning that even the most basic of statistics — the number of people who identify as LGBT — is undeterminable.

In 2016, Grijalva and Baldwin introduced the LGBT Data Inclusion Act to require federal agencies to collect data on the LGBT population in federal surveys to ensure policymakers have the data necessary to address the communities’ needs.

Schiff led a letter for FY 2017 and FY 2018 to House appropriators requesting funding for the U.S. Census Bureau to conduct data collection on the LGBT community.

Here is the text of the lawmakers’ letter:

  Dear Directors Thompson and Mulvaney:

We write to express our strong disapproval of the Census Bureau’s decision to not include consideration of data collection on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals in the 2020 Census and American Community Survey. While the Subjects Planned for the 2020 Census and American Community Survey (ACS) report released on Tuesday, March 28th appears to have initially considered including sexual orientation and gender identity as a proposed subject, we are concerned that the finalized report does not include any reference to proposed inclusion of LGBT identities in the Census or ACS. Additionally, we are deeply troubled that in follow-up statements, Director Thompson claims that the rationale for excluding LGBT identities is that there is no federal need for such information.

 As you know, the Bureau routinely collects demographic information through the decennial census and the annual ACS. The federal government, states, and local communities rely on Census and ACS data to determine how resources should be allocated to meet the needs of certain populations. Despite this critical mission, neither of these assessments, nor any other major federal population survey, currently asks respondents to share their sexual orientation and gender identity. This means that even the most basic of statistics – the number of people who identify as LGBT – cannot be counted.

A number of pieces of federal legislation passed by Congress, implicitly or explicitly, include protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Countless programs implemented under these, and other laws, serve LGBT people; some to a distinctly disproportionate extent. There is no doubt that there is both a statutory benefit and a programmatic need to collect sexual orientation and gender identity data if we want federal agencies to undertake their work in the most efficient and effective manner possible.

Despite tremendous progress in the fight to secure equal recognition under the law, LGBT Americans continue to face discrimination in facets of everyday life such as in employment, housing, and even in the justice system. There is also compelling evidence that many, particularly transgender people, are at greater risk of being victimized by violence and experience significant health disparities and vulnerability to poverty. While the Census Bureau took an important step forward in 2013 by including the marital status of same-sex couples as part of ACS data on families, the fact remains that we know little else about the social and economic circumstances of the LGBT population at large.

Expanded data collection on LGBT people is needed to help policymakers and community stakeholders understand the full extent of these disparities, as well as identifying the needs of these communities so they can be better served. It is also crucial to our ability to respond with effective and sensible policy solutions that address the unique needs of this vulnerable population. For these reasons, we believe that the Census Bureau should advance plans to expand LGBT data collection in future national surveys and urge you to assist us in reaching this goal.

In your recent statement, you said that the Census Bureau’s goal is to conduct a “complete and accurate census.” If this is indeed the goal, then the availability of data on the size, location, and circumstances of the LGBT population should be taken into account. Therefore, the Bureau must acknowledge the concerns regarding the lack of reliable data on the LGBT population in the United States. We ask that you provide additional explanation as to why sexual orientation and gender identity were not included in the Subjects Planned for the 2020 Census and American Community Survey (ACS) report, including justification for stating there being no federal need for data on the LGBT population.

The Census Bureau’s data collection efforts have always played a significant role in our ability to understand the communities that we represent and how best to serve them. LGBT Americans – like every American – deserve to be counted and recognized in all federally-supported surveys. We appreciate your attention to this important matter and look forward to your response.

Trump administration omits LGBT people from 2020 Census

The Trump administration has submitted to Congress a report of the list of categories of data it plans to collect for the 2020 Census and the American Community Survey.

The administration’s report excluded lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people on the list of “planned subjects” for the nation’s decennial census and longer form survey.

“Sexual orientation” and “gender identity” were included as “proposed” subjects in the appendix, indicating that data collection on these categories may have been in the works in an earlier version, according to the National LGBTQ Task Force.

Last year, a number of federal agencies urged the U.S. Census Bureau to collect sexual orientation and gender identity data, explaining that the information was critical to their ability to carry out  and enforce the law.

“The Trump administration has taken yet another step  to deny LGBTQ people freedom, justice and equity by choosing to exclude us from the 2020 Census and American Community Survey,” said Meghan Maury, criminal and economic justice project director for the task force.

Maury continued, “Information from these surveys helps the government to enforce federal laws like the Violence Against Women Act and the Fair Housing Act and to determine how to allocate resources like housing supports and food stamps. If the government doesn’t know how many LGBTQ people live in a community, how can it do its job to ensure we’re getting fair and adequate access to the rights, protections and services we need?”

The task force said there are a series of administration directives to remove sexual orientation and gender identity questions from federal surveys  and also to stall assessment of programs targeting the LGBTQ community.

The census does collect data on same-sex couples through its “relationship to householder” question.

“We call on President Trump and his administration to begin collecting sexual orientation and gender identity data on the American Community Survey as soon as possible and urge Congress to conduct oversight hearings to reveal why the Administration made the last-minute decision not to collect data on LGBTQ people,” Maury said.

For more than a decade, the task force has encouraged the federal government to collect data and improve data collection to accurately show the country’s population of LGBTQ people

In 2010, the task force launched the “Queer the Census” campaign, calling on LGBTQ people to urge the Census Bureau to count them.

More than 100,000 LGBTQ people  placed a “Queer the Census” sticker on their 2010 Census envelopes.

Trump team rolling back data collection on older LGBT adults

Hardly two months into the Trump administration — and only one month after Congress confirmed notoriously anti-LGBT Tom Price as health secretary  — the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has eliminated questions about LGBT people from two critical surveys.

The administration is already rolling back data collection on LGBT people who receive certain federal programs, making it impossible to assess whether key programs for seniors and people with disabilities are meeting the needs of LGBT Americans.

Putting LGBT older adults at risk

The National Survey of Older Americans Act Participants is an annual, national survey of people who receive select services funded under the Older Americans Act, or OAA, the primary vehicle for delivering social support and nutrition programs to older adults in our country.

These essential programs include home delivered meals, congregant meals, transportation, caregiver support, and senior centers. The survey obtains performance outcome information, identifies service gaps, and supports program improvements. Policymakers and advocates rely on data to ensure OAA programs are meeting their goals without leaving anyone out.

The National Survey started collecting data on LGBT program recipients in 2014, and continued to do so in both 2015 and 2016 (available on file with CAP).

HHS’ proposed 2017 protocol, publicly announced on March 13, omits the survey’s only question about sexual orientation and gender identity. Despite the fact that LGBT people have been erased from the survey, the notice announcing the proposed survey alleges that “no changes” were made to the survey.

LGBT older adults face acute levels of economic insecurity, social isolation, and discrimination — including difficulty accessing critical aging services and supports. Data on LGBT program recipients would help HHS ensure its programs are meeting the need of LGBT seniors.

By rolling back data collection on LGBT people, HHS is giving up the tools it needs to ensure its effectively and equitably reaching all elders, including LGBT elders.

Ending data collection on LGBT people with disabilities

The Trump administration is also targeting LGBT individuals with disabilities, removing questions on LGBT identities from the Annual Program Performance Report for Centers for Independent Living.

A proposed redesign of the performance report was issued in January 2017 and did include questions about sexual orientation and gender identity; however, a revised version, issued in March 2017, omits these questions.

The Annual Report helps HHS evaluate the effectiveness and equity of programs designed to serve people with disabilities and ensure they can live independently in their homes and communities.

Available research suggests that LGBT people, especially LGBT older adults, face significant barriers to accessibility services. For this reason, it is particularly concerning that HHS is abdicating its responsibility to ensure the programs it funds equitably serve LGBT people with disabilities.

Why data matters

Data on LGBT program recipients could reveal disparities in how these HHS programs—which provide a critical safety net for to seniors and people with disabilities—serve LGBT people, potentially indicating discrimination or other barriers to access in the programs.

By rolling back data collection, the Department of Health and Human Services is throwing away the tools to ensure the department reaches vulnerable LGBT people in programs ranging from home delivered meals and senior center group meals, to transportation, caregiver support, and health promotion services.

Federal data collection on LGBT people is already scarce, but rolling back collection on crucial safety net programs is particularly disturbing. LGBT people experience overt and systematic discrimination across all areas of life—from education to housing, healthcare, employment, and the public square.

As a result, LGBT people face acute levels of income insecurity, making it particularly important that federal safety net programs meet the needs of the LGBT community.

By removing this data, the Department of Health and Human Services and Secretary Price risk erasing the experiences LGBT seniors and people with disabilities and making it impossible for HHS to identify and end disparities and discrimination in taxpayer-funded programs.

Sejal Singh is the Campaigns and Communications Manager for the LGBT Research and Communications Project at American Progress. Laura E. Durso is the Vice President of the LGBT Research and Communications Project at American Progress. Aaron Tax is the director of federal government relations for Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders.

Related resources

Where’s the sunshine? Trump’s actions raise fears about access to government data

Wondering who is visiting the White House? The web-based search has gone dark.

Curious about climate change? Some government sites have been softened or taken down.

Worried about racial discrimination in housing? Laws have been introduced to bar federal mapping of such disparities.

Since taking office, the Trump administration has made a series of moves that have alarmed groups with a stake in public access to information — historians, librarians, journalists, climate scientists, internet activists, to name a few. Some are so concerned they have thrown themselves into “data rescue” sessions nationwide, where they spend their weekends downloading and archiving federal databases they fear could soon be taken down or obscured.

Previous presidential transitions have triggered fears about access to government data, but not on this scope.

“What is unprecedented is the scale of networking and connectivity of groups working on this, and the degree it is being driven by librarians and scientists and professors,” said Alex Howard, deputy director of the Sunlight Foundation, a group that tracks transparency in government.

Moves by the Trump administration have helped stoke the fears. In February, the U.S. Department of Agriculture removed animal cruelty data from its website, prompting protests from animal welfare advocates, including the Humane Society, which has filed a lawsuit against the USDA.

Also in February, the Trump administration suspended an Obama regulation aimed at protecting whistleblowers who work for Department of Energy contractors. The regulation would have permitted civil penalties against contractors that retaliate against whistleblowers. Supporters of the rule say that its rescission will make it harder for contract workers at the government nuclear facilities to report waste, abuse and safety concerns.

Trump, Howard said, has made clear he will seek to prosecute leakers and has labeled the media an “enemy of the people.” He has dismissed climate change science and raised questions about the use of vaccines.

“The reaction we are seeing is driven by concerns unique to this administration,” Howard said.

During his eight years in office, President Barack Obama was hardly a darling of open government advocates. His Justice Department prosecuted nine cases against whistleblowers and leakers, compared to three by all other previous administrations.

But Obama also took some steps to increase transparency, including establishing a web-based log of visitors to the White House. That log allowed journalists and others to track lobbying at the White House, including links between the Obama administration and the pharmaceutical industry.

But easy access to the log disappeared after Trump was sworn in. The National Archives and Records Administration stopped paying a contractor to maintain an embedded web application for the Obama-era visitation records. They are still available at the Obama White House archive, but only on zip files that are difficult to download and analyze.

As of last week, the Trump administration had not built a web page with information about recent visitors to the White House, although it has said it will post such records “on an ongoing basis, once they become available.”

Other information of interest has also disappeared. The phone book for employees at the U.S. Department of Energy has been removed from the agency’s website. Several federal websites have been altered to eliminate or tone down evidence linking human activities to global climate change.

While all incoming administrations put their ideological stamp on federal websites, librarians and other professionals fear that previously accessible raw data could be put behind walls. They have started networking on how to salvage what they can.

Bethany Wiggin, founding director of the environmental humanities program at the University of Pennsylvania, and others started organizing dozens of “data rescue” sessions nationwide, in which activists were invited to bring their laptops and ideas for federal data sets deemed vulnerable.

Fearing that federal data on gun violence might also vanish under a president with close ties to the National Rifle Association, Dr. Garen Wintemute called together his partners in the Violence Prevention Research Program at the University of California, Davis.

Within minutes, the team was downloading a crime victimization survey from the Bureau of Justice Statistics. They scoured the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, gathering data on retail gun sales. They preserved mortality records from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which includes a field for deaths caused by firearms.

“I don’t think the CDC would do that of their own volition, but they might be directed to,” said Wintemute, an emergency room doctor. The data sets are now stored on a secure server at UC Davis.

Access to existing federal records is one concern of data rescuers. The other is whether the government will continue to collect information as it has in the past. Earlier this year, for example, a group of Republicans that included U.S. Sen Mike Lee of Utah, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona introduced legislation to undo a 2015 Obama regulation aimed at reducing past patterns of housing segregation.

How Trump may approach access to federal data is not entirely known, but one upcoming appointment will provide a signal. In coming weeks, the administration will appoint a director to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, which it is charged with guiding federal policy on information technology, information policy, privacy and statistics.

“That is going to be a key position in the federal collection of data going forward,” said Raphael Calel, an assistant professor of public policy at Georgetown University.

Truth and Consequence: Parsing lawmakers’ lingo on health law

 Dismayed by the results of the 2016 election, Meg Godfrey decided she needed to do more than vote, share social media posts and sign online petitions. So she went to the website of Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Missouri, and typed a note in support of the Affordable Care Act.

The email then gave a number of statistics to buttress Blunt’s position that the law is failing.

But something about the letter didn’t sit right with Godfrey, so she forwarded the email to ProPublica, asking us to fact check it. Our assessment: The note was misleading and lacked important context.

That led ProPublica to wonder about the accuracy of responses sent to constituents by other members of the House and Senate on the Affordable Care Act and its future.

Today, ProPublica is teaming with journalists at Kaiser Health News, Stat and Vox to gather those missives from our readers.

On Monday, House Republican leaders unveiled their official proposal to repeal and replace the law. As the legislative debate begins in earnest, we plan to look at the representations made by elected officials from both parties and share what we find.

ProPublica asked Timothy Jost, an ACA expert and emeritus professor at Washington and Lee University School of Law, to review Blunt’s email. “Some of this information is inaccurate, the rest of it is spin,” he concluded.

A spokesman for Blunt provided citations for the data in the senator’s note but did not respond to a follow-up email.

Jost helped us break down Blunt’s message:

Blunt’s email: “By the end of 2013, over 4.7 million Americans had their health care plans canceled.”

Analysis: The 4.7 million figure came from an Associated Press article from December 2013, Blunt’s office said. Subsequent analyses, however, showed that the figure was overstated. Two researchers from the Urban Institute, writing in the journal Health Affairs, estimated that the number was closer to 2.6 million. Moreover, Jost notes, the Obama administration said states could allow insurers to leave transitional plans in place after Jan. 1, 2014.  Missouri was one of the states that did so. “So if a plan was cancelled in Missouri, it was the decision of the insurer, not a federal requirement,” Jost wrote.

Blunt’s email: “This year, Missourians who purchase health insurance on the ObamaCare exchanges will see an average of a 25 percent increase on their premium.”

Analysis: The average premium for a Missouri plan did indeed increase by 25 percent this year, according to ACAsignups.net, a website that tracks the law and was cited by Blunt’s office. But that isn’t the entire story. First, the vast majority of marketplace enrollees in Missouri and nationwide receive hefty subsidies that reduce their cost.

Second, if you step out of the aggregate and look instead at a hypothetical person shopping for an affordable plan, the increase is lower. The Obama administration often compared monthly premiums for a 27-year-old in a benchmark plan (the plan upon which the government calculates subsidies). In Missouri, the premium actually decreased from $235 to $233 between 2014 and 2015. It increased 10 percent in 2016 and another 18 percent, to $305, for this year, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

But most enrollees aren’t paying the sticker price. Some 78 percent of Missouri marketplace consumers in 2016 could obtain coverage for $100 or less per month in 2017, after accounting for subsidies from the government, federal data shows.

Blunt’s email: “In addition to increased costs, families in Missouri and across the nation have lost the ability to choose a plan that best suits their health care needs.   Missourians in 97 of 114 counties and the city of St. Louis will only have one option on the exchange.”

Analysis: Blunt is technically correct, but again the statistic lacks context, according to Politifact Missouri. “According to the U.S. Census Bureau, of Missouri’s roughly 6 million residents, about 63 percent live in the 17 counties and one city that will continue to have at least two provider choices,” the fact checker wrote in February.

What’s missing: Blunt’s email did not mention that more than 200,000 Missourians receive coverage through the Affordable Care Act exchanges. It also didn’t mention that health insurance premiums routinely increased by large amounts before the law took effect and that many Missourians with preexisting conditions effectively had no insurers to pick from, Jost said.

The number of people without insurance has gone down under the ACA, falling from 13 percent in 2013 to 9.8 percent in 2015, the most recent year for which data is available, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Blunt spokesman Brian Hart declined to say how many people have written the senator about the ACA and what percentage of them were for or against the law.

Godfrey, who wrote to Blunt, is currently employed as a brand communications manager for a lighting manufacturer. She and her husband live in Northern California but are moving to St. Louis later this year. “I’m getting a head-start on my political activism in the state,” she wrote in an email to ProPublica. “We had planned to retire and get insurance on the exchange. Now we still plan to move but will, most likely, continue to work until we are eligible for Medicare.”

Godfrey, 62, said Blunt’s response to her was “infuriating.”

“I asked about what he was doing to take care of the people who elected him and he spouted misleading statistics,” she wrote. “I am surprised he didn’t bring up death panels [which do not exist]. I hate being treated like an idiot.”

Have you corresponded with a member of Congress or a senator about the Affordable Care Act? We’d love to see the response you received. Please fill out our form .

Charles Ornstein is a senior reporter at ProPublica, a nonprofit news organization based in New York City. This story was co-published with ProPublica, Stat and Vox. It is published here under a Creative Commons license in cooperation with Kaiser Health News.

Study: Doctors devoting more time to computers than patients

For every hour that some doctors devote to direct patient care they may spend about five hours on other tasks, often because they’re tied up with computer work, a new study suggests.

The results are based on observations of just 36 doctors-in-training at one hospital in Switzerland. But research dating back more than half a century has documented physicians dedicating a similar amount of their workdays to direct patient care, said Dr. Nathalie Wenger, lead author of the current study.

“It has not really changed in 50 years,” Wenger, a researcher at the University Hospital of Lausanne, said by email.

During the study period, the doctors spent an average of 1.7 hours per shift with patients, 5.2 hours using computers and 13 minutes doing both, Wenger and colleagues report in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Patient care might not necessarily be better if doctors had less screen time, but cutting back could still have some advantages, Wenger said.

“It will clearly improve satisfaction of physicians, reduce their stress and improve medical education by freeing up time for that,” Wenger said.

For the current study, Wenger and colleagues observed medical residents for a total of about 698 hours.

Teams of observers recorded the residents’ activities throughout their shifts at the hospital, sorting tasks into one of 22 different categories such as direct or indirect patient care, communication, academic or nonmedical work.

Day shifts typically lasted 11.6 hours, or 1.6 hours longer than scheduled, the study found.

During day shifts, doctors spent about 52 percent of their time on activities indirectly related to patients such as writing in medical records, collaborating with other clinicians, looking for information needed to treat patients and handing off care to other providers.

Physicians spent about 28 percent of their day shifts on direct patient care including clinical exams and medical procedures and rounds done as part of the residency program to review treatment with colleagues.

They spent only about 2 percent of their time communicating with patients and families, and about 6 percent of their time either teaching, receiving training or doing academic research.

During shifts, physicians spent up to about 45 percent of their time on computers, the study found.

Beyond its small size and single site, other limitations of the study include the fact that residents knew they were being observed and may have adjusted their work accordingly, the authors note.

It also wasn’t an experiment designed to prove how different uses of physician time influence patient outcomes.

Still, the findings add to a growing body of research documenting how much of doctors’ time is taken up by administrative tasks, said Dr. Susan Thompson Hingle, a researcher at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine in Springfield who wasn’t involved in the study.

“Having observed residents and talked with residents, I do not think the findings are unique to the Swiss,” Hingle said by email. “It seems as though the studies continue to confirm the enormous administrative tasks that physicians and physicians in training, regardless of level, clinical venue, or geographic location, are faced with.”

Patients often complain that doctors don’t spend enough time with them and that physicians spend more time focused on the computer than on them, Hingle said.

“When our attention is not on the patient, we miss important non-verbal cues; we are distracted and not actively listening; we miss opportunities to build a trusting, healing relationship with our patient,” Hingle added. “Without that trust, patient adherence is less which impacts patient outcomes, and patient satisfaction is less, which also impacts patient outcomes.”

Half world’s population online by end of 2016

By the end of 2016, almost half of the world’s population will be online as mobile networks grow and prices fall, but their numbers will remain concentrated in the developed world, a United Nations agency said.

In the world’s developed countries about 80 percent of the population use the internet. But only about 40 percent in developing countries and less than 15 percent in less-developed countries are online, according to a report by the U.N.’s International Telecommunications Union.

In several of Africa’s poorer and more fragile countries, only one person in 10 is on the internet. The offline population is female, elderly, less educated, poorer and lives in rural areas, said the union, a specialized agency for information and communication technologies.

Globally, 47 percent of the world’s population is online, still far short of a U.N. target of 60 percent by 2020. Some 3.9 billion people, more than half the world’s population, are not. ITU expects 3.5 billion people to have access by the end of this year.

“In 2016, people no longer go online, they are online. The spread of 3G and 4G networks across the world had brought the internet to more and more people,” the report said.

Telecoms and internet companies are expanding as more affordable smartphones encourage consumers to browse the internet, causing demand to grow for data-heavy services. However, less-developed countries – LDCs – still trail the rest of the world.

“Internet penetration levels in LDCs today have reached the level enjoyed by developed countries in 1998, suggesting that the LDCs are lagging nearly 20 years behind the developed countries,” the report said.

It blamed the cost of services and of extending infrastructure to rural and remote customers and the high price of mobile cellular use.

Trump wins presidency with lowest minority vote in 40 years

Donald Trump won the U.S. presidency with less support from black and Hispanic voters than any president in at least 40 years, a Reuters review of polling data shows, highlighting deep national divisions that have fueled incidents of racial and political confrontation.

Trump was elected with 8 percent of the black vote, 28 percent of the Hispanic vote and 27 percent of the Asian-American vote, according to the Reuters/Ipsos Election Day poll.

Among black voters, his showing was comparable to the 9 percent captured by George W. Bush in 2000 and Ronald Reagan in 1984. But Bush and Reagan both did far better with Hispanic voters, capturing 35 percent and 34 percent, respectively, according to exit polling data compiled by the non-partisan Roper Center for Public Opinion Research.

And Trump’s performance among Asian-Americans was the worst of any winning presidential candidate since tracking of that demographic began in 1992.

The racial polarization behind Trump’s victory has helped set the stage for tensions that have surfaced repeatedly since the election, in white supremacist victory celebrations, in anti-Trump protests and civil rights rallies, and in hundreds of racist, xenophobic and anti-Semitic hate crimes documented by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks extremist movements.

The SPLC reports there were 701 incidents of “hateful harassment and intimidation” between the day following the Nov. 8 election and Nov. 16, with a spike in such incidents in the immediate wake of the vote.

Signs point to an ongoing atmosphere of confrontation.

The Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, a white separatist group that vilifies African-Americans, Jews and other minorities, plans an unusual Dec. 3 rally in North Carolina to celebrate Trump’s victory.

Left-wing groups have called for organized protests to disrupt the president-elect’s Jan. 20 inauguration.

And a “Women’s March on Washington,” scheduled for the following day, is expected to draw hundreds of thousands to protest Trump’s presidency.

American politics became increasingly racialized through President Barack Obama’s two terms, “but there was an attempt across the board, across the parties, to keep those tensions under the surface,” says Jamila Michener, an assistant professor of government at Cornell University.

Trump’s anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim rhetoric “brought those divisions to the fore; it activated people on the right, who felt empowered, and it activated people on the left, who saw it as a threat,” she added.

That dynamic was evident last week.

When Vice President-elect Mike Pence attended the Broadway musical “Hamilton” in New York on Friday, the multi-ethnic cast closed with a statement expressing fears of a Trump presidency. A far different view was on display the next day as a crowd of about 275 people cheered Trump’s election at a Washington conference of the National Policy Institute, a white nationalist group with a strong anti-Semitic beliefs.

“We willed Donald Trump into office; we made this dream our reality,” NPI President Richard Spencer said. After outlining a vision of America as “a white country designed for ourselves and our posterity,” he closed with, “Hail Trump! Hail our people! Hail victory!”

DIVISION BREEDS CONFRONTATION

Though Trump’s election victory was driven by white voters, his performance even among that group was not as strong as some of his predecessors. Reagan and George H.W. Bush both won the presidency with higher shares of the white vote than the 55 percent that Trump achieved.

The historical voting patterns reflect decades of polarization in American politics, but the division surrounding Trump appears more profound, says Cas Mudde, an associate professor specializing in political extremism at the University of Georgia. These days, he adds, “people say they don’t want their children even to date someone from the other party.”

Indeed, voters’ opinions of those on the opposite side of the partisan divide have reached historic lows. Surveys by the Pew Research Center showed this year that majorities of both parties held “very unfavorable” views of the other party — a first since the center first measured such sentiment in 1992.

And the lion’s share of those people believe the opposing party’s policies “are so misguided that they threaten the nation’s well-being,” the center found.

That level of division has spurred activists on both sides of the political divide to take their activism in a more confrontational direction.

In the wake of Trump’s victory, protesters on the left took to the streets by the thousands in cities across the country, in some cases causing property damage.

Much of the agitation was motivated by a belief that Trump’s administration will foster racism and push the courts and other political institutions to disenfranchise minority voters, says James Anderson, editor of ItsGoingDown.Org, an anarchist website that has promoted mass demonstrations against Trump’s presidency, including a call to disrupt his inauguration.

Meanwhile, John Roberts, a top officer in the Ku Klux Klan affiliate planning the December rally to celebrate Trump’s election, says the group is committed to non-violent demonstrations, but he sees Trump’s election as likely to bring a new era of political conflict. And much of the strife, he says, will be centered around racial divisions.

“Once Trump officially takes office, there is going to be a boiling over at some point in time,” Roberts says. “Who knows when that’s going to be, but it’s not going to be pretty.”

Milwaukee ranks No. 4 among best cities for trick-or-treating

Milwaukee came in at No. 4 on the Trick-or-Treat Index for 2016, which identified the best cities and neighborhoods for trick-or-treating on Halloween.

The list, published by Zillow, put Philadelphia in the No. 1 spot.

How were the ratings compiled?

 

Zillow, in a news release, said it “set out to find the cities where kids can get the best and most candy in the shortest amount of time and have other kids to trick-or-treat with.”

Zillow assigned a team of economists to look at home values, single-family home density, crime rate and the share of the population under 10 years old to determine the list.

Single-family homes are especially dense in Philadelphia, pushing the city to the top of the list, up 12 spots from 2015. San Jose, California, San Francisco, Milwaukee and Los Angeles round out the top five.

“The national ranking is a fun way for trick-or-treaters and their parents across the country to assess how their city compares to others this Halloween season,” said Zillow chief economist Svenja Gudell. “But what’s really important are the local hot spots, which is why we also identified the five best neighborhoods for trick-or-treating in each of the top cities. For candy hunters in cities not on the list, look for areas with lots of decorated homes and neighborhoods with other kids running around in the holiday spirit.”

Other cities that made big jumps were Seattle, up nine spots, and Portland, up eight. Austin makes its first appearance on the list, while Baltimore and Washington, D.C., return after missing the list in 2015.

To see the complete rankings, including the best neighborhoods to trick-or-treat in each city, go to http://www.zillow.com/blog/trick-or-treat/.

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Best Cities for Trick-or-Treating in 2016:

  1. Philadelphia
  2. San Jose, Calif.
  3. San Francisco
  4. Milwaukee
  5. Los Angeles
  6. Phoenix
  7. Denver
  8. Portland, Ore.
  9. Seattle
  10. Columbus, Ohio
  11. Las Vegas
  12. Baltimore
  13. Dallas
  14. San Diego
  15. Charlotte, N.C.
  16. Austin, Texas
  17. Albuquerque, N.M.
  18. Chicago
  19. Nashville, Tenn.
  20. Washington, DC

Yahoo built secret software to scan customer emails for U.S. intelligence

Yahoo Inc. last year secretly built a custom software program to search all of its customers’ incoming emails for specific information provided by U.S. intelligence officials.

The company complied with a classified U.S. government directive, scanning hundreds of millions of Yahoo Mail accounts at the behest of the National Security Agency or FBI, said two former employees and a third person apprised of the events.

Some surveillance experts said this represents the first case to surface of a U.S. Internet company agreeing to a spy agency’s demand by searching all arriving messages, as opposed to examining stored messages or scanning a small number of accounts in real time.

It is not known what information intelligence officials were looking for, only that they wanted Yahoo to search for a set of characters. That could mean a phrase in an email or an attachment, said the sources, who did not want to be identified.

Reuters was unable to determine what data Yahoo may have handed over, if any, and if intelligence officials had approached other email providers besides Yahoo with this kind of request.

According to the two former employees, Yahoo Chief Executive Marissa Mayer’s decision to obey the directive roiled some senior executives and led to the June 2015 departure of Chief Information Security Officer Alex Stamos, who now holds the top security job at Facebook Inc.

“Yahoo is a law abiding company, and complies with the laws of the United States,” the company said in a brief statement in response to Reuters questions about the demand.

Yahoo declined any further comment.

Through a Facebook spokesman, Stamos declined a request for an interview.

The NSA referred questions to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which declined to comment.

The demand to search Yahoo Mail accounts came in the form of a classified directive sent to the company’s legal team, according to the three people familiar with the matter.

U.S. phone and Internet companies are known to have handed over bulk customer data to intelligence agencies. But some former government officials and private surveillance experts said they had not previously seen either such a broad directive for real-time Web collection or one that required the creation of a new computer program.

“I’ve never seen that, a wiretap in real time on a ‘selector,'” said Albert Gidari, a lawyer who represented phone and Internet companies on surveillance issues for 20 years before moving to Stanford University this year. A selector refers to a type of search term used to zero in on specific information.

“It would be really difficult for a provider to do that,” he added.

Experts said it was likely that the NSA or FBI had approached other Internet companies with the same demand, since they evidently did not know what email accounts were being used by the target.

The NSA usually makes requests for domestic surveillance through the FBI, so it is hard to know which agency is seeking the information.

Reuters was unable to confirm whether the 2015 demand went to other companies, or if any complied.

Alphabet Inc’s Google and Microsoft Corp, two major U.S. email service providers, did not respond to requests for comment.

CHALLENGING THE NSA

Under laws including the 2008 amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, intelligence agencies can ask U.S. phone and Internet companies to provide customer data to aid foreign intelligence-gathering efforts for a variety of reasons, including prevention of terrorist attacks.

Disclosures by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden and others have exposed the extent of electronic surveillance and led U.S. authorities to modestly scale back some of the programs, in part to protect privacy rights.

Companies including Yahoo have challenged some classified surveillance before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, a secret tribunal.

Some FISA experts said Yahoo could have tried to fight last year’s directive on at least two grounds: the breadth of the demand and the necessity of writing a special program to search all customers’ emails in transit.

Apple Inc made a similar argument earlier this year when it refused to create a special program to break into an encrypted iPhone used in the 2015 San Bernardino massacre. The FBI dropped the case after it unlocked the phone with the help of a third party, so no precedent was set.

Other FISA experts defended Yahoo’s decision to comply, saying nothing prohibited the surveillance court from ordering a search for a specific term instead of a specific account. So-called “upstream” bulk collection from phone carriers based on content was found to be legal, they said, and the same logic could apply to Web companies’ mail.

As tech companies become better at encrypting data, they are likely to face more such requests from spy agencies.

Former NSA General Counsel Stewart Baker said email providers “have the power to encrypt it all, and with that comes added responsibility to do some of the work that had been done by the intelligence agencies.”

SECRET SIPHONING PROGRAM

Mayer and other executives ultimately decided to comply with the directive last year rather than fight it, in part because they thought they would lose, said the people familiar with the matter.

Yahoo in 2007 had fought a FISA demand that it conduct searches on specific email accounts without a court-approved warrant. Details of the case remain sealed, but a partially redacted published opinion showed Yahoo’s challenge was unsuccessful.

Some Yahoo employees were upset about the decision not to contest the more recent directive and thought the company could have prevailed, the sources said.

They were also upset that Mayer and Yahoo General Counsel Ron Bell did not involve the company’s security team in the process, instead asking Yahoo’s email engineers to write a program to siphon off messages containing the character string the spies sought and store them for remote retrieval, according to the sources.

The sources said the program was discovered by Yahoo’s security team in May 2015, within weeks of its installation. The security team initially thought hackers had broken in.

When Stamos found out that Mayer had authorized the program, he resigned as chief information security officer and told his subordinates that he had been left out of a decision that hurt users’ security, the sources said. Due to a programming flaw, he told them hackers could have accessed the stored emails.

Stamos’s announcement in June 2015 that he had joined Facebook did not mention any problems with Yahoo. (http://bit.ly/2dL003k)

In a separate incident, Yahoo last month said “state-sponsored” hackers had gained access to 500 million customer accounts in 2014. The revelations have brought new scrutiny to Yahoo’s security practices as the company tries to complete a deal to sell its core business to Verizon Communications Inc for $4.8 billion.

A man walks past a Yahoo logo during the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain in this February 24, 2016 file photo. REUTERS/Albert Gea/File Photo
A man walks past a Yahoo logo during the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain in this February 24, 2016 file photo. REUTERS/Albert Gea/File Photo