• Come Out for Health Care!

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    Celebrate National Coming Out Day with Out2Enroll, a collaborate effort of the Center for American Progress, the Federal Agencies Project, and the Sellers Dorsey Foundation to educate the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender communities about the options now available under the Affordable Care Act. The educational campaign launches on October 11 to coincide with National Coming Out Day and will include a website specifically tailored to the LGBT communities and will include information on such topics as coverage available to transgender people, obtaining family coverage, applying for financial assistance with a same-sex spouse, finding LGBT-friendly health care providers in your area, and how to find help if you experience discrimination when applying for coverage or obtaining care.

    This focus on access to health care is grounded in the need to erase long-standing health disparities for the LGBT community. Research by the Center for American Progress has demonstrated that 1 in 3 LGBT persons in the US are uninsured, a major obstacle to ensuring equality for all. However, there are now options under the Affordable Care Act and as of October 1, Nevadans are able to shop online for health insurance plans at Nevada’s Health Link, an insurance marketplace created under the Affordable Care Act.

    For more information or to sign up for updates, please visit:

    Silver State Health Exchange

    HealthCare.gov

    The Center for American Progress

    Out2Enroll

    To find insurance coverage or to compare prices for individual or small business plans, please visit the Nevada Health Link.

  • Drag for DREAMs – Scholarship Application!

    On Thursday, May 16th the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada’s Uniting Communities program and the Gay and Lesbian Center of Southern Nevada hosted Drag for DREAMs, a drag show fundraiser for undocumented students in Nevada.
    Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is a program announced by President Obama last June. It allows undocumented students (known as DREAMers) to obtain a work permit and gives them reprieve from deportation.
    The cost of one DACA application is $465. We will be awarding two DACA scholarships to two lucky Nevada DREAMers!

    Complete this form to apply for a scholarship that will go towards your Deferred Action (DACA) application.
    Deadline to apply is Wednesday, June 5th 2013. Winners will be announced Tuesday, June 11th 2013.

     

  • Will ‘Stop and Swab’ Replace Stop and Frisk?’ DNA Profiling and Race

    Today is national DNA Day. It marks the day on which James Watson and Francis Crick along with Maurice Wilkins and Rosalind Franklin published their papers elucidating the structure of human DNA. 10 years ago today also marks the day that scientists working on the Human Genome Project announced that their efforts were nearly complete. That same day the U.S. Congress issued a proclamation declaring April 25th National DNA Day.  Having studied and worked in the field of genetics for two decades, this day has always passed with a sense of geeky pride for me. Pride in the work that I was a part of and pride in the fact that for one day many in the nation would share in the wonderment and potential of the human genome and experience what I felt almost every day. Nothing has changed for me in the excitement I feel or in my belief that research into our DNA will bring about great capacity to alleviate suffering, shatter long-held misconceptions about race and class, and help people live to their fullest potential. However, this year I cannot help but feel the technology I have always held in such high regard has been hijacked.

    You see, a person’s DNA reveals a lot about them. This is mostly information concerning discontinuous traits like your blood type or clearly-defined diseases like hemophilia or sickle-cell anemia. Your DNA can also provide information on your likelihood of developing other diseases such as cancers or diabetes. Medical genetics may soon give precise odds that a person will develop any given disease, provide information about continuous traits such as height, and will likely provide us with all the information necessary to plan out our health care needs, dietary requirements, and exercise regimes for our entire lives. Of course, our DNA will not reveal quite everything about us.  It will not reveal as socio-economic status or race. Sure, DNA may provide someone with an intellectual advantage to boost earning potential or specify how and to what extent differing pigments are carried, but this is actually quite a subtle and continuous trait. There is also research which now demonstrates genetic markers for propensity towards anger or having a predisposition to violence. Scientists carefully warn that this information should not be used to make assumptions about any person since many of us carry these genes or markers; they simply aren’t expressed for some reason. Your DNA may also be able to do one other thing, convince a court or jury of your guilt or innocence.

    It is this last item that is of particular concern to me on this National DNA Day.  Many in law enforcement have been working for more than a decade to expand laws authorizing the collection of samples from individuals taken into custody so that their DNA may be added to a national database and checked against DNA obtained at other crime scenes. After efforts to pass such a law in Nevada was unsuccessful two years ago, the legislature has again taken the issue up for consideration with Senate Bill 243, which passed the Senate last week by a unanimous vote.

    This seems a particularly strange use of government resources, since the use of genetic information as a criminal dragnet goes against everything that one is taught as a scientist. You should never set out to prove yourself right, but always strive to prove yourself wrong. I have always found it strange that we as a society are willing to spend so much on law enforcement and the penal system and so little on education, research, and health care. As citizens, we should be demanding that our government focus its attention and use this technology to cure diseases and understand some of the factors which cause people to become prone to acts of violence. Instead, our government is allowing the FBI, not scientists, to push states to enact punishment-based laws while eroding civil rights and liberties in the process. The United States now has a national DNA indexing system known as CODIS [Combined DNA Index System]. It is run by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and provides, among other things, support for the expansion of model legislation for arrestee DNA collection.

    Understandably, those in law enforcement want to be able to solve and prevent as many crimes as possible. And while most would agree that law enforcement should have the best tools available, I think people would rank the preservation of individual rights and liberties as an even higher priority. While many people question the use of the technology at all, others simply question the practice of collecting specimens from individuals prior to conviction and would be willing to overlook other issues if this additional precaution were taken. I myself have a number of concerns with the use of DNA profiling, ranging from the technological to the legal.  While some of my concerns could be lessened with changes to the bill, such as post-conviction sample collection and better regulations of the chain of custody and DNA lab, my concerns with racial equity and Constitutional rights cannot. There also seems to be unwillingness on the part of legislators sponsoring these types of bills to make any significant changes. The lack of compromise on the matter is puzzling. It was not until reading the Department of Justice report on the effectiveness of DNA profiling along with realizing that the FBI was pushing this model legislation did the unwillingness for change make sense.

    Several reports over the last decade are revealing in what they conclude; they are also revealing in what they omit. In all the reports, the top contributing factors leading to a DNA profile match are the quantity and quality of the sample taken from the crime scene for which a match is sought. Several other factors appear on these lists, including techniques, training, and chain of custody. The one thing you will not find in these reports is the efficacy of the sample size database. Don’t bother trying to find such numbers either; the government has refused to release them. Studies in countries that utilizing or have used similar databases show that the size of the database makes little difference to finding a profile match. These studies demonstrate that an extremely high number of DNA profiles would be required in order to be of much use and that law enforcement is better served investigating the crime rather than spending time and resources waiting on some miracle technology to do it for them. In other words, the only way to make the system work is to drastically increase the number of people required to submit a sample for profiling. This explains the unwillingness to drop pre-conviction sampling and also explains why there has even been a push for expansion in other states, which now include such violations as walking a dog in California with the wrong length of leash.

    As of the end of 2012, just over half of the states have enacted arrestee DNA collection laws. Nearly all of these laws are pre-conviction, and I for one do not find it to be a coincidence that 20 of those 28 states are at or below the Missouri Compromise Line. Oklahoma, Georgia, and Nevada are the exceptions. I mention this, because it brings me to my last and most important deal-breaker for these laws.

    If you are reading this blog, then it should also come as no surprise to you that black men are six times more likely to be stopped by police, more than three times as likely to be taken into custody as a result and twice as likely to have some sort of altercation resulting in additional, serious charges. Once introduced or reintroduced to the criminal justice system, people of color are far more likely to be convicted of crimes for which they are charged and more likely to receive a prison sentence. In fact, nearly two-thirds of the U.S. prison population is comprised of people of color and 1 in 10 black males in their thirties will be in jail on any given day. These disparities that exist in our criminal justice system will also be extended to the DNA profile databases, subjecting people of color to disproportionately high rates of what will amount to a form of electronic surveillance without probable cause and without warrant for the rest of their lives. I would hope that after decades of Jim Crow, segregation, the War on Drugs, the school to prison pipeline, and stop and frisk, we wouldn’t want to add additional measures to further exacerbate the this epidemic.

    Perhaps some in society are willing to accept a forfeiture of rights for those convicted of crimes. After all, it isn’t their rights they are willing to forfeit. But are people really willing to forfeit the rights to privacy, due process, and protection against unreasonable search and seizure for everyone?  There should be no debate regarding the violation of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, allowing defendants to access their own sample for the purposes of exoneration, and the disproportionate effects of racial profiling and the institutional racism of the criminal justice system. We should turn our eyes instead to the system that still struggles to confront and address the institutionalized racism that clouds much of today’s justice.

  • Nevada Mining Fact Sheet

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    Nevada Mining Fact Sheet

     

    Sweetheart Tax Deals

    • Senate Joint Resolution 15, which passed in the 2011 session, would allow Nevada voters to decide whether mining’s tax loopholes should continue to be chiseled in the stone of the state constitution. Currently legislators have no flexibility and cannot adjust the Net Proceeds on Minerals Tax based on a more equitable tax load compared to our non-extractive industries. S.J.R. 15, would allow the voters to decide whether legislators should have that flexibility.

     

    • Trans-national mining conglomerates took $8.76 billion in gold from Nevada in 2011, and paid a total of $104 million to the state general fund under the mining tax, an effective tax rate of 1.187%. In 2010, they mined $6.64 billion in gold, and paid $71.7 million in taxes, an effective tax rate of 1.079%. (Nevada Department of Taxation)

     

    •  Mining does pay sales tax and they pay certain property taxes—but not on the value of the mine or their mining claims. Renters, the unemployed, and minimum wage workers also pay sales and property taxes. But gold mining is different, so it should be taxed differently. Once that gold is gone, it’s gone forever. The money will be in Canada and other foreign countries, leaving Nevada with clean up costs and massive pits.

     

    •  Three of the five largest mines in Nevada are foreign-owned. The second largest mine in the world, and the most profitable mine in the world, is owned by Barrick corporation, based in Canada. This single mine will exceed $1 billion in profits in 2012, having reaped $500 million in the second quarter and $313 million in the third quarter of 2012 alone.

     

    •  Barrick pays next to nothing in taxes on the huge windfall profits from the world’s most profitable gold mine—paying a mere 1% on gross production value in taxes to Nevada’s General Fund in 2010, according to the state’s 2010-11 net proceeds of minerals tax (NPOM) bulletin.

     

    •  In 2011, Barrick didn’t pay any net proceeds tax on $120 million of gold produced at its Bald Mountain mine, and nor did Veris on the $105 million it produced at its Jerritt Canyon mine. The price of gold in 2011 $1920.70. But Jerritt’s special — it’s only paid net proceeds in one of the last six years, two of the last eight.

     

    • According to a 2011 report from the Fraser Institute, a highly respected international research firm, Nevada is one of the most stable, mineral-rich, least-taxed places to mine on the planet.  Making mining pay what they pay in other states or countries would not cause them to suffer or abandon operations here.

     

    • 111 times over ten years, one Nevada gold mine or another claimed that gold produced at that mine had no taxable value. As a result, more than $4.3 billion was produced at gold mines where the mines paid no mining taxes whatsoever.

     

    •  Some of mining’s sweetheart tax loopholes that were closed in 2011 will sunset unless the 2013 Legislature acts. Transnational mining conglomerates will again be able to double-dip and claim health deductions from both the Modified Business Tax AND the Net Proceeds on Minerals. As a result, the Economic Forum predicts that the general fund contributions from the mining tax will shrink from $117 million in 2012 to $95 million in 2015-in spite of increases in both production and the price of gold.

     

    • Barrick Mining gave more than $30,000 to the Keystone Corporation, one of the most strident anti-tax groups in the state, even while their lobbyists were saying they wanted to contribute to Nevada’s tax discussions.

     

    •  According to the Legislative Counsel Bureau, removing mining’s sweetheart tax status from the Constitution will in no way change how mining is currently taxed. The Net Proceeds on Mining Tax, which is contained in NRS 362.140, remains unchanged under SJR 15.

     

    •   Producers of oil, gas and coal on U.S. public lands might pay state severance taxes – effectively a tax on gross value – of as much as 6 or 7 percent, plus federal mineral royalties that might be as high as 16 percent, plus state corporate income taxes. In Wyoming, the total tax load on a mineral producer can be as high as 25 or 30% on the value of minerals.

     

    • In the Dominican Republic, Barrick can easily afford a 36.95% tax rate. In 2012 Barrick will start paying 3.2 percent of gross production, 25 percent for income tax and 8.75 percent from net earnings. This will amount to $11 billion in tax revenue from one mine.

     

    1872 Mining Law

     

    •  Thanks to federal law established during the administration of Ulysses Grant in 1872, Nevada gold producers pay no federal mineral royalties whatsoever. And of course, the corporations mining Nevada’s gold pay no Nevada state corporate income tax.

     

    Barrick paid $5 per acre when it patented approximately 1,000 acres of public land in Nevada that contained more than $10 billion in recoverable gold reserves, under the 1872 Mining Law.

     

    •  An estimated 424,000 acres of public land in Nevada – an area more than half the size of Yosemite National Park– have already been sold to private interests for either $2.50 or $5.00 per acre. This subsidized sale of public lands is allowed under the federal 1872 Mining Law.

     

    • The General Accounting Office reports that multi-national gold mining conglomerates refuse to provide figures for the amount of gold and other minerals they take from public lands belonging to all the people. But it is estimated that $2.4 billion hardrock metals alone are taken from public lands every year.

     

     

     

     

    Impacts on Great Basin Native American Communities

     

    •  The discovery of the Comstock lode in 1859 began the first chapter of mining’s extreme impacts on Native American people in Nevada, bringing new diseases, racism, displacement, loss of hunting and gathering areas, and other forms of violence. In one form or another, this continues into the 21st century.

     

    •  The Western Shoshone consider Mt. Tenabo in central Nevada a sacred place figuring back to their creation stories. Today, Barrick mining is tearing it down; it is the second-largest and most profitable gold mine in the world.

     

    •  One of the newest mines in Nevada, the Mt. Hope Molybdenum Mine, will result in the complete elimination of Mt. Hope and surrounding forests, a pine nut and food gathering source used by the Western Shoshone for millennia.

     

    •  Because of mining pollution, members of the Yerington Paiute Tribe cannot drink the water on their reservation; it could kill them.

     

    Land, Water and Wildlife Impacts

     

    • According to the US EPA, a total of 529 million pounds of toxic chemicals were dumped into Nevada’s land, water and air during 2011. Mining accounted for 98% of these releases. Seven of the10 biggest polluters in Nevada are mines owned by transnational mining conglomerates Barrick and Newmont.

     

    •  Nevada Department of Wildlife scientists and wildlife advocates are gravely concerned that Barrick’s fast-track expansion of its massive Bald Mountain Mine northwest of Ely will cut off the north-south migratory route for 23% of Nevada’s deer population. The decline in herd health and numbers from separating the deer from water and food sources in summer and winter seasons is unknown at this time, but thought to be significant. Yet, Barrick has been unwilling to accommodate mule deer corridors that would allow safe passage.

     

    •  Newmont’s Long Canyon Mine in the Pequop Range (which rivals Carlin Trend for the presence of smoke-particle sized gold) will wreak havoc with lands that should be designated wilderness, Another mine proposed for the South Pequops will detract from wilderness experience in the adjacent Wilderness Study Area.

     

    •  Massive pit lakes are being created in Nevada, almost all of which will have questionable water quality, and effectively none of these lakes are being planned for future public access and use.   These pit lakes represent a large loss of groundwater from surface evaporation, and that loss will affect water availability and spring water production for centuries.

     

    •  The massive quantities of earth moved for mining — and the exposure of elements and compounds once safely underground to air and water — starts a chemical chain reaction that is  known to pollute our streams, rivers and lakes over the long term for centuries.

     

    •  EPA estimates that more than 40 percent of western watersheds have been contaminated with mine waste. U.S. taxpayers took on $2.6 billion in Superfund and other federal cleanup of mines in the past decade — and are on the hook for an estimated $50 billion more.

     

    •  Meantime, every year the industry takes billions in gold and other hardrock minerals without compensating taxpayers as a whole, states like Nevada, or covering cleanup costs.

     

    Taxpayers Picking Up the Costs

     

    •  The General Accounting Office has expressed strong concerns about inadequate reclamation bonding in Nevada: “We determined that 57 hardrock operations (in 12 western states) had inadequate financial assurances—amounting to about $24 million less than needed to fully cover estimated reclamation costs.” GAO, Abandoned Mines: Information on the Number of Hardrock Mines, Cost of Cleanup, and Value of Financial Assurances, GAO-11-834T (Washington, D.C.: July 14, 2011).

     

    • Nevada’s share of that $24 million is $23,853,662 (more than 99.4% of the total of the 12 western states.)

     

    • Approximately 30-40% of mining in Nevada is on public lands, which belongs to the people of the United States.  And 75% Long Canyon mine pit area, the newest massive gold mine in Nevada, is on public land. gold discovery

     

    •  According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the cost for cleanup of abandoned hardrock mines could run as high as $54 billion. Much of that cost could ultimately be borne by U.S. taxpayers.

     

    Worker Safety Concerns

     

    • As reported in the Elko Daily Free Press, “three gold miners died in Nevada in 2008, compared with two miners in 2007 and a zero death toll in 2006. The highest number of deaths at Nevada mines in recent years occurred in 1999, when nine miners died.”

    •  At one Barrick mine alone (Meikle Mine in Carlin) a total of seven workers have died since 1994. In the most recent fatalities, which occurred August 12, 2010, Mine Safety and Health Administration faulted managers for negligence.

    •  In May, 2011, the US Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) ordered Barrick to pay a $70,000 fine for violating worker safety at its Goldstrike mine in Eureka County.

    •  In November, 2011, MSHA cited Jerritt Canyon Mill, finding that 13 of the 14 actions against the mill concerned “significant and substantial” violations that could result in serious injury or illness. MSHA issued orders to withdraw miners from certain areas of the mine.

     

    •  In spite of record profits by gold mining corporations, Nevada still lacks funds to pay for mine safety inspectors and top-educated and experienced mining tax auditors.

     

    •  Nevada has plenty of funds for 10 staff at the Division of Minerals, which exists to protect and advocate for mining corporations and which is overseen by a commission that includes mostly people on the payroll of extractive industries.

     

    Conclusion

     

    According to former Nevada State Archivist and historian Guy Rocha, the mining industry of Nevada Territory was so opposed to the level of mineral extraction taxation in the draft Nevada constitution of 1864, it compelled the constitutional delegates to draft new language that was much more favorable to the mining industry. Today, mining still bullies lawmakers in order to protect its unique and generous tax advantages.

     

    In Nevada, 90% of mining is from gold, and 90% of gold mined is from two transnational mining conglomerates, Barrick and Newmont.  Not surprisingly, their campaign contributions dwarf those of all other mining corporations combined. The Nevada Mining Association is the 3rd-largest contributor. They made big investments in lawmakers in 2012 and are now expecting to be repaid by having SJR 15 killed in the 2013 session.

     

    It’s time for mining’s free ride to end.

  • Nevada Home Owners Stand Up for Justice

    Legislative Town Hall Jan 30On Wednesday PLAN hosted a Legislative Town Hall for struggling home owners in Southern Nevada. Our own state happens to be home to one of the highest foreclosure rates in the country. Banks in America have often times (if not always) made the matter even worse. How many times have we heard the stories of underwater homeowners trying to work with their banks to fix their drowning mortgages, only to get the run around.

    That’s exactly what happened to Elizabeth of Sun Valley native in Northern Nevada. She has been trying to work with her bank since 2009 to no avail, including four failed attempts to fix her mortgage with her bank. They’ve even “lost” her paperwork. Elizabeth now fears that one day she won’t have a home to go to.

    It’s stories like Elizabeth that inspires me to organize for home owners.

    More than 40 members of the community turned out for PLAN’s legislative town hall. Included in the panel were Nevada State Senators Tick Segerblom & Justin Jones, along with Venicia Considine from Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada. Others in attendance included Leslie Lewis from Senator Harry Reid’s office who handed out flyers for their upcoming Housing Helpdesk event this Saturay, Christina Tetreault from Consumers Union, Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani, and Brian DeMarzio representing Congresswoman Dina Titus.

    Leg Townhall 2013-2

    As I welcomed everyone into the town hall, I pointed to the three story boards displayed around the room that highlighted many of the stories we collected from struggling home owners. The stories ranged from people seeking a principal reduction to people who have already had their house foreclosed. It was a chilling reminder of what Nevadans have gone through since the collapse of the market. The story boards had a real effect on the state senators; Senator Segerblom kept referencing back to them when he talked about his bill proposals.

    We were especially pleased to have Venicia explain the proposed Home Owners Bill of Rights (a more in depth post on the HOBOR to come later). Venicia is an invaluable resource and Nevada is really lucky to have someone like her fighting on behalf of the community.

    After Senators Segerblom and Jones & Venicia finished their opening remarks, the town hall was open for  Q&A from the audience. Teresa’s story is what brought the entire town hall into perspective. Teresa is a school teacher in Las Vegas, NV who has been living in her car for the past couple days. Her home is about to be foreclosed and she is a single mother of two. She tried asking then-Senator Ensign and Governor Sandoval for help but was told that Nevada “has no jurisdiction” on her bank. Which begs to ask the question: why were they doing business in the state of Nevada if they’re not even a registered business entity here? Emotions ran high and I don’t believe there was a dry eye in the room once she finished telling her story. I actually got a call from her an hour and a half before the town hall asking if she could attend even though she’ll be a bit late. Teresa just got done teaching a class before attending. Thankfully, Teresa was connected with people who might be able to help her out.

    Leg Townhall 2013-1

    I hope that we won’t have to hear stories Teresa’s; no one, especially an educator, should have to go through this. But until then, we’ll have to fight harder on behalf of home owners. The audience agree, legislation is just part of the solution. We have to do our part to make sure that the stories of people already affected by this housing crisis aren’t forgotten and serve as a reminder that the road to economic justice is a long one, but with the help of our fellow activists we will get there.

    -Christopher Preciado

    Organizer, PLAN