Tag Archives: americans

‘Resist Trump Tuesday’ actions planned across the country

More than 100 “Resist Trump Tuesday” actions are planned for Jan. 24, with the focus on urging  senators to oppose Donald Trump’s cabinet picks and agenda.

People’s Action, MoveOn.org, Working Families Party and other groups will hold actions at the offices of Democratic and Republican senators with a clear message: “Stop the Swamp Cabinet.”

As a candidate, Trump riled up supporters vowing to “drain the swamp” and chase corruption out of Washington, D.C.

Thus far, he’s moved to fill his administration with billionaires, bankers and Wall Street insiders.

Donald Trump’s “politics have only furthered a culture of corruption, and nowhere is that clearer than in the greed and hate embodied by the nominees to his swamp Cabinet,” said MoveOn.org organizing director Vicki Kaplan.

“Millions of Americans are taking action — meeting, marching, and organizing — to ensure Trump and the GOP don’t take away our health care, destroy public education, pollute our air and water, and put in charge billionaires and racists who look out for only themselves at the expense of the rest of us,” Kaplan added.

On the web

Check the action website for event listings coordinated by MoveOn.org, People’s Action, Working Families Party.

In Milwaukee

An action is planned at noon Jan. 24 at the Milwaukee office of U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson.
The details:  Participants will meet at the SEIU Local 1 office and walk to Johnson’s office at 250 E Wisconsin Ave.  The action is being coordinated by Citizen Action of WI, SEIU and WI Federation of Nurses & Health Professionals. Sign up to attend here.

Surgeon general report: ‘Addiction is not a character flaw’

In what may be his last significant act as President Barack Obama’s surgeon general, Dr. Vivek Murthy released a report calling for a major cultural shift in the way Americans view drug and alcohol addiction.

The report, “Facing Addiction in America,” details the toll addiction takes on the nation — 78 people die each day from an opioid overdose; 20 million have a substance use disorder — and explains how brain science offers hope for recovery. While its findings have been reported elsewhere, including by other federal agencies, the report seeks to inspire action and sway public opinion in the style of the 1964 surgeon general’s landmark report on smoking.

With President-elect Donald Trump taking office, it’s uncertain whether access to addiction treatment will improve or deteriorate. Trump and the Republican-led Congress are pledging to repeal and replace the 2010 Affordable Care Act, which made addiction treatment an essential health benefit.

In an interview this week, Murthy said he hasn’t spoken to Trump but looks forward to working with his administration to save lives with expanded access to treatment.

“We have made progress,” Murthy said. “How do we keep that progress going? A key part is making sure people have insurance coverage.”

The Associated Press reviewed the report ahead of its official release. Here’s a look at what’s in it and some early reaction:

 

MEDICATION MYTHS

The surgeon general’s report refutes abstinence-only philosophies as unscientific and supports medications such as buprenorphine and methadone that are used to treat opioid addition. That may annoy supporters of traditional 12-step programs who see medications as substituting one addiction for another.

Medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction can take time. “One study suggested that individuals who receive MAT for fewer than 3 years are more likely to relapse than those who are in treatment for 3 or more years,” the report states.

 

TV-STYLE INTERVENTIONS

Staged interventions, like those depicted on TV, may backfire. Planned surprise confrontations “have not been demonstrated to be an effective way to engage people in treatment,” the report says. The trouble with the approach? According to the surgeon general’s report, it can heighten resistance and attack the self-worth of the addict.

 

ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

Alcoholics Anonymous was founded in 1935 because mainstream medicine wasn’t treating alcohol disorders. That started a legacy of separating addiction treatment from the rest of medicine.

The report makes room for AA and other recovery support services, noting they don’t require health insurance and are free, but it also says they “are not the same as treatment and have only recently been included as part of the health care system.”

AA gets praise for adaptability. American Indians, for instance, have incorporated Native spirituality and allowed families to attend meetings. Research shows AA to be “an effective recovery resource,” the report concludes.

 

HIGHER ALCOHOL TAXES

Alcohol tax policies get a nod in a section on evidence-based prevention: “Higher alcohol taxes have also been shown to reduce alcohol consumption.” Other policies suggested by research include limiting the density of stores selling alcohol, banning Sunday sales and holding bars liable for serving minors.

 

WHAT ABOUT MARIJUANA?

The report suggests learning from alcohol and tobacco policies to find out what works to minimize harm as marijuana becomes legal.

Voters in eight states have approved adult use of recreational marijuana and more than two dozen states have medical marijuana laws. The report cites “a growing body of research” suggesting marijuana’s chemicals can help with “pain, nausea, epilepsy, obesity, wasting disease, addiction, autoimmune disorders, and other conditions.”

Murthy supports easing existing barriers to marijuana studies, but said that he’s worried the legalization movement is moving faster than research. “Marijuana is in fact addictive,” he said.

 

NOT A MORAL FAILING

Addiction is a chronic illness, not a character flaw or a moral failing, the report says. Stigma and shame have kept people from seeking help and weakened public investment.

Murthy issues a call to action in the preface: “How we respond to this crisis is a moral test for America. Are we a nation willing to take on an epidemic that is causing great human suffering and economic loss?”

 

RED STATE-BLUE STATE ISSUE

Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman, co-sponsor of bipartisan legislation passed this year that creates grants to expand treatment programs, said he hopes the report raises awareness.

“We have to change the way we talk about addiction and break the stigma to help more Americans suffering from this disease get the treatment and recovery they need,” Portman said.

Addiction should be a bipartisan issue, said Democratic former U.S. Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy, an addiction treatment advocate.

“This affects all of America, but it really affects the Trump voter,” Kennedy said. Red states such as West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky have the highest overdose rates, Kennedy said. Enforcing laws that require insurers to cover addiction treatment will be a test of Trump’s “promise to put average Americans ahead of corporate interests,” said Kennedy.

Ill omens: Hate crimes, voter suppression, appointment of Bannon

As civil rights leaders working for racial justice and economic opportunity, we join much of the nation in our apprehension about the incoming administration.

We cannot ignore that the campaign was characterized by divisive racial rhetoric and has emboldened white supremacists across the country.  The wave of hate crimes sweeping the country, with perpetrators invoking the name of the President-elect, is an ill omen, as is the appointment of a chief strategist with an appalling record of promoting racial, anti-Semitic and anti-woman rhetoric.

We were appalled by the calls for intimidation of voters at urban and rural polling places and will not forget.

Voter suppression had a measurable effect on elections in a number of states. While racial voter suppression was widespread, voter suppression was generational as well. Millennials, as a multiracial demographic, also were targeted by strict ID laws and poll closings affecting millions of youth, college and high school students, as well as young professionals. Addressing this  threat to our most vulnerable citizens and our still young democracy will be a top priority for our organizations in the coming weeks and months.

We have a responsibility to vigorously oppose any policies or actions which are inconsistent with our agenda or would serve to turn back the clock on hard-fought gains.  America’s advance toward diversity is not interrupted by the results of the election.

We will continue to battle discrimination, racial injustice and barriers to equal opportunity as we have done for decades. As always, we will advocate for the next President of the United States to honor and prioritize the Constitutional guarantee of equal protection, due process and full citizenship for every American. The President-elect needs to begin by repudiating hate crimes and attacks undertaken in his name and by announcing a commitment to abandon the divisive rhetoric and policy proposals of his campaign that are inconsistent with equality and opportunity for all.

Having earned a minority of the popular vote, elected with the support of only about a quarter percent of the adult population, the President-elect must recognize the challenge of his extremely narrow appeal to the American people. His obligation is to be President for All Americans.

Other important races on the ballot were significant for the advancement of the nation.

While Congress remains in control of leaders with a demonstrated history of obstructionism, we take encouragement from the election of the most diverse Congress in United States history.  When the 115th United States Congress is seated in January, it will include 100 women — notably Kamala Harris among the 23 elected to the Senate — and the largest-ever Congressional Black Caucus, Congressional Hispanic Caucus and Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus.

We encourage every American to stand firm in the fight for the protection of civil rights and in opposition to racism and hate.

The statement was issued jointly by the following:

Cornell William Brooks, President and CEO of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)

Melanie Campbell, President and CEO, National Coalition on Black Civic Participation and Convener, Black Women’s Roundtable

Kristen Clarke, President and Executive Director, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law

Wade Henderson, President and CEO, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.

Marc H. Morial, President and CEO, National Urban League

The Rev. Al Sharpton, Founder and President, National Action Network

15 years after Sept. 11: How the unity we forged broke apart

For a time, it felt like the attack that shattered America had also brought it together. After Sept. 11, signs of newfound unity seemed to well up everywhere, from the homes where American flags appeared virtually overnight to the Capitol steps where lawmakers pushed aside party lines to sing “God Bless America” together.

That cohesion feels vanishingly distant as the 15th anniversary of the attacks arrives Sunday. Gallup’s 15-year-old poll of Americans’ national pride hit its lowest-ever point this year. In a country that now seems carved up by door-slamming disputes over race, immigration, national security, policing and politics, people impelled by the spirit of common purpose after Sept. 11 rue how much it has slipped away.

Jon Hile figured he could help the ground zero cleanup because he worked in industrial air pollution control. So he traveled from Louisville, Kentucky, to volunteer, and it is not exaggerating to say the experience changed his life. He came home and became a firefighter.

Hile, who now runs a risk management firm, remembers it as a time of communal kindness, when “everybody understood how quickly things could change … and how quickly you could feel vulnerable.”

A decade and a half later, he sees a nation where economic stress has pushed many people to look out for themselves. Where people stick to their comfort zones.

“I wish that we truly remembered,” he says, “like we said we’d never forget.”

Terrorism barely registered among Americans’ top worries in early September 2001, but amid economic concerns, a Gallup poll around then found only 43 percent of Americans were satisfied with the way things were going.

Then, in under two hours on Sept. 11, the nation lost nearly 3,000 people, two of its tallest buildings and its sense of impregnability. But out of the shock, fear and sorrow rose a feeling of regaining some things, too _ a shared identity, a heartfelt commitment to the nation indivisible.

Stores ran out of flags. Americans from coast to coast cupped candle flames and prayed at vigils, gave blood and billions of dollars, cheered firefighters and police. Military recruits cited the attacks as they signed up.

Congress scrubbed partisanship to pass a $40 billion anti-terrorism and victim aid measure three days after the attacks, and approval ratings for lawmakers and the president sped to historic highs. A special postage stamp declared “United We Stand,” and Americans agreed: A Newsweek poll found 79 percent felt 9/11 would make the country stronger and more unified.

“I really saw people stand up for America. … And I was very proud of that,” recalls Maria Medrano-Nehls, a retired state library agency worker in Lincoln, Nebraska. Her foster daughter and niece, Army National Guard Master Sgt. Linda Tarango-Griess, was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq in 2004.

Now, Medrano-Nehls thinks weariness from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and combative politics have pried Americans apart, and it pains her to think of the military serving a country so torn.

Larry Brook can still picture the crowd at a post-9/11 interfaith vigil at an amphitheater in Pelham, Alabama. The numbers seemed a tangible measure of an urge to come together.

Now? “I don’t think we’re anywhere close,” says Brook, who publishes Southern Jewish Life magazine. To him, political partisanship and clashes over Middle East policy are walling off middle ground.

Three days after 9/11, Joseph Esposito was at smoldering ground zero as Republican President George W. Bush grabbed a bullhorn and vowed the attackers “will hear all of us soon.” The moment became an emblem of American strength and resolve, and Esposito, then the New York Police Department’s top uniformed officer, was struck by “the camaraderie, the unity” of those days.

He remembers the support police enjoyed then, and how much the tone had changed by the time of the Occupy Wall Street protests in 2011, when police arrested hundreds of demonstrators, many of whom said cops unjustly rounded and roughed them up. Now the city’s emergency management commissioner, Esposito has watched from the sidelines as a national protest movement has erupted in recent years from police killings of unarmed black men, and as police themselves have been killed by gunmen claiming vengeance.

These days, Esposito hopes his job can be unifying. He wants people to feel that the city helps neighborhoods equally to handle disaster. “The 1 percenters should not be better prepared than the 99 percent,” he says.

“If everyone feels they’re getting their fair share,” he adds, “it fosters better feelings toward one another.”

For all the signs of kinship after Sept. 11, the first retribution attack came just four days later, authorities said.

Balbir Singh Sodhi was shot dead while placing flowers on a memorial at his Mesa, Arizona, gas station. Prosecutors said the gunman mistook Sodhi, an Indian Sikh immigrant, for an Arab Muslim.

Seeing hundreds of people gather in solidarity on the night of his brother’s death showed me “the greatness of unity,” says Rana Singh Sodhi, of Gilbert, Arizona. But in the last two years, he’s felt a “change toward hatred again.” He worries politicians are stirring animosity toward immigrants and minorities.

So does Imam Abdur-Rahim Ali.

After 9/11, he invited first responders for tea and coffee at the Northeast Denver Islamic Center to show appreciation and emphasize that Muslims “are regular Americans.” Now, Ali, who is African-American, believes Muslims and people of color are being demonized with “incendiary and divisive” remarks.

“We can’t act like racism hasn’t been a part of all this,” he says.

Can the United States feel united again?

Some Americans fear it will take another catastrophe, if even that can shift the climate. Others are looking to political leaders to set a more collaborative tone, or to Americans themselves to make an effort to understand and respect one another.

When Sonia Shah thinks about the push and pull of American unity since the attacks that killed her father, Jayesh, at the World Trade Center, she pictures a rock hitting a pond.

The innermost ripple, that’s the tight circle of support that came together around the people most directly affected by tragedy. Outside it, bigger and more diffuse, are bands of debate over policies and politics in the wake of 9/11.

“We usually see the outer rings of the arguments,” says the Baylor University senior. “But I think there always is a current of unity that goes underneath things.”

 

Contributing to this report were Associated Press journalists P. Solomon Banda in Denver; Nati Harnik in Lincoln, Nebraska; Mike Householder in Farmington Hills, Michigan; Dylan Lovan in Louisville, Kentucky; David R. Martin in New York; Jay Reeves in Pelham, Alabama; and Brian Skoloff in Gilbert, Arizona.

WHY IT MATTERS: Income inequality in America

Income inequality has surged near levels last seen before the Great Depression. The average income for the top 1 percent of households climbed 7.7 percent last year to $1.36 million, according to tax data tracked by Emmanuel Saez, an economics professor at the University of California, Berkeley. That privileged sliver of the population saw pay climb at almost twice the rate of income growth for the other 99 percent, whose pay averaged a humble $48,768.

But why care how much the wealthy are making? What counts the most to any family is how much that family is bringing in. And that goes to the heart of the income-inequality debate: Most Americans still have yet to recover from the Great Recession, even though that downturn ended seven years ago. The average income for the 99 percent is still lower than it was back in 1998 after adjusting for inflation.

Meanwhile, incomes for the executives, bankers, hedge fund managers, entertainers and doctors who make up the top 1 percent have steadily improved. These one-percenters account for roughly 22 percent of all personal income, more than double the post-World War II era level of roughly 10 percent. One reason the income disparity is troubling for the nation is that it’s thinning out the ranks of the middle class.

 

WHERE THEY STAND

Hillary Clinton has highlighted inequality in multiple speeches, with her positions evolving somewhat over the past year. Bernie Sanders held her feet to the fire on that subject in the primaries. Clinton hopes to redirect more money to the middle class and impoverished. Clinton would raise taxes on the wealthy, increase the federal minimum wage, boost infrastructure spending, provide universal pre-K and offer the prospect of tuition-free college.

Donald Trump offers a blunter message about a hollowed-out middle class and a system “rigged” against average Americans. Still, he has yet to emphasize income inequality in the campaign. To bring back the factory jobs long associated with the rise of the middle class, Trump has promised new trade deals and infrastructure spending. But Trump has also proposed a tax plan that would allow the wealthiest Americans to keep more of their earnings.

 

WHY IT MATTERS

President Barack Obama has called rising inequality “the defining challenge of our time.” And experts warn that it may be slowing overall economic growth. Greater inequality has created a festering distrust of government and of corporate leaders whose promises of better times ahead never fully materialized.

The result has been a backlash against globalization that many Americans feel tilted the economy against them. For the top 1 percent, the ability to move money overseas and reach markets worldwide concentrated pay for “superstars,” according to economists. At the same time, factory workers now compete with 3 billion people in China, India, Eastern Europe and elsewhere who weren’t working for multinational corporations 20 years ago. Many now make products for Apple, Intel, General Motors and others at low wages. This has depressed middle-class pay. These trends have contributed to a “hollowed out” labor market in the United States, with more jobs at the higher and lower ends of the pay scale and fewer in the middle.

Social factors have amplified the trend as well. Single-parent families are more likely to be poor than other families and less likely to ascend the income ladder. Finally, men and women with college degrees and high pay are more likely to marry each other and amplify income gaps.

 

This story is part of AP’s “Why It Matters” series, which will examine three dozen issues at stake in the presidential election between now and Election Day. You can find them at: http://apnews.com/tag/WhyItMatters.

Most Americans support torture of suspected terrorists

Nearly two-thirds of Americans believe torture can be justified to extract information from suspected terrorists, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll, a level of support similar to that seen in countries like Nigeria where militant attacks are common.

The poll reflects a U.S. public on edge after the massacre of 14 people in San Bernardino in December and large-scale attacks in Europe in recent months, including a bombing claimed by the militant group Islamic State last week that killed at least 32 people in Belgium.

Donald Trump, the front-runner for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, has forcefully injected the issue of whether terrorism suspects should be tortured into the election campaign.

Trump has said he would seek to roll back President Barack Obama’s ban on waterboarding – an interrogation technique that simulates drowning that human rights groups contend is illegal under the Geneva Conventions. Trump has also vowed to “bring back a hell of a lot worse” if elected.

Trump’s stance has drawn broad criticism from human rights organizations, world bodies, and political rivals. But the poll findings suggest that many Americans are aligned with Trump on the issue, although the survey did not ask respondents to define what they consider torture.

“The public right now is coping with a host of negative emotions,” said Elizabeth Zechmeister, a Vanderbilt University professor who has studied the link between terrorist threats and public opinion. “Fear, anger, general anxiety: (Trump) gives a certain credibility to these feelings,” she said.

The March 22-28 online poll asked respondents if torture can be justified “against suspected terrorists to obtain information about terrorism.” About 25 percent said it is “often” justified while another 38 percent it is “sometimes” justified. Only 15 percent said torture should never be used.

Republicans were more accepting of torture to elicit information than Democrats: 82 percent of Republicans said torture is “often” or “sometimes” justified, compared with 53 percent of Democrats.

About two-thirds of respondents also said they expected a terrorist attack on U.S. soil within the next six months.

TERRORISM TOP CONCERN

Surveys by other polling agencies in recent years have shown U.S. support for the use of torture at around 50 percent. A 2014 survey by Amnesty International, for example, put American support for torture at about 45 percent, compared with 64 percent in Nigeria, 66 percent in Kenya and 74 percent in India.

Nigeria is battling a seven-year-old insurgency that has displaced 2 million people and killed thousands, while al Shabaab militants have launched a series of deadly attacks in Kenya. India is fighting a years-old Maoist insurgency that has killed hundreds.

In November, terrorism replaced economy as the top concern for many Americans in Reuters/Ipsos polling, shortly after militants affiliated with the Islamic State killed 130 people in Paris.

At the same time, Trump surged in popularity among Republicans, who viewed him as the strongest candidate to deal with terrorism. Besides his advocacy of waterboarding, Trump said that he would “bomb the hell out of ISIS,” using an alternative acronym for Islamic State.

“You’re dealing with people who don’t play by any rules. And I can’t see why we would tie our hands and take away options like waterboarding,” said Jo Ann Tieken, 71, a Trump supporter.

Tieken said her views had been influenced by the injuries suffered by her two step-grandsons while serving in the military four years ago in Afghanistan.

The Reuters/Ipsos poll included 1,976 people. It has a credibility interval, a measure of accuracy, of 2.5 percentage points for the entire group and about 4 percentage points for both Democrats and Republicans.

Reporting by Chris Kahn; Editing by Richard Valdmanis and Ross Colvin. 

terror, torture
Marines at Camp X-Ray at the Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba escort a newly arriving detainee into a processing tent after being showered in this February 7, 2002 file photo. — PHOTO: REUTERS/Marc Serota/Files

Chlorine bleach plants threaten 63 million people in U.S.

Eighty-six facilities in the United States continue to use huge quantities of chlorine gas in their manufacturing process and endanger more than 63 million people living in nearby areas.

Earlier this week, Greenpeace released a new report on the hazards posed by chlorine bleach plants across the United States.

“In spite of the evident risks and availability of safer alternatives, our latest report on the industry shows that some chlorine bleach manufacturers continue to use chlorine gas, putting almost one in every five Americans in danger of a potential release from a substance so toxic it has been used as a chemical weapon in the past” said Rick Hind, legislative director at Greenpeace.

The environmental group said the hazard goes beyond the use of the chlorine gas in the manufacturing process, as chlorine bleach manufacturers frequently ship and receive their supply in 90-ton rail cars vulnerable to accidents and acts of sabotage.

“Every day, rail cars crisscross the country delivering hundreds of tons of chlorine gas and endangering the communities through which they travel. Just one of such rail car can put much of an entire city in danger” Hind said.

To All Candidates Running for President: Reject Bigotry

Since the tragic attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, the world has watched some American politicians react with hatred, bigotry and vile untruths. They have exploited the politics of nativism and fear, using the atrocities committed by a few individuals to cast blanket suspicion on whole nations and all Muslims.

America must be better than this.

We are a nation of immigrants founded on the principles of justice, equality, and democracy. Our commitment to these ideals has not always been perfect, and it is horrifying to hear politicians use past examples of national shame, such as the internment of Japanese Americans, to justify discrimination today.  Our nation and political leaders should instead set an example for people around the world with resilience and hope. Equality and religious freedom are principles enshrined in our founding documents and reflected in our laws. They are not mere concepts to be discarded in difficult times.

Calls to ban Muslims from entering the United States and prohibit the resettlement of refugees fleeing the Islamic State in Syria undermine core American principles by fomenting hate, division, and discrimination. Such hateful rhetoric has given rise to a tide of racism, hatred, and violence against law-abiding American Muslims. It is deeply distressing that hate crimes against American Muslims — and those who appear to be Muslim — are up when all kinds of hate crimes are down. This terrible fact cannot be divorced from the dangerous rhetoric that has seeped into the mainstream in recent weeks.

American Muslims are our neighbors, friends, and colleagues. They are us.

Our political leaders not only set the tone for our nation. They also are the primary messengers to the rest of the world.  When they call for compassion, dignity, and equality, the world listens. When they call for exclusion and defend bigotry, the world also listens. In a time of global uncertainty, American leaders must do the right thing by projecting the America we have always aspired to be.

We challenge every candidate for the presidency of the United States to stand up against bigotry and division, to oppose the exclusion of individuals from the United States on the basis of religion or nationality, and to affirm a commitment to equality for Americans of all races and of all faiths.

The future of America — and the world — is in your hands. Do the right thing. The whole world is watching.

Poll shows majority says clerks should issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples

Linda Massey opposes gay marriage. But she was incensed last summer to see that Kim Davis, a Kentucky county clerk, was refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples.

“If the government says you have to give out those marriage licenses, and you get paid to do it, you do it,” says the 64-year-old retiree from Lewiston, Michigan. “That woman,” she said of Davis, “should be out of a job.”

Americans like Massey are at the heart of a shift in public opinion, an Associated Press-GfK poll has found. For the first time, most Americans expect government officials to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, even over religious objections.

It’s partly a matter of expecting public servants to do their jobs. But more broadly, the issue touches on a familiar dispute over which constitutional value trumps which: religious freedom, or equality under the law?

The question in recent months has entangled leaders with political sway, among them Pope Francis and the 2016 presidential contenders. But it’s not a new conflict for a nation that has long wrestled with the separation of church and state.

Where Davis’s answer was the First Amendment’s protection of religious freedom — and she served jail time to back it up — a majority of respondents don’t buy that argument when it comes to public officials issuing marriage licenses. That’s a shift since an AP-GfK survey in July, when Americans were about evenly split. Then, 49 percent said officials with religious objections should be exempt from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples and 47 percent said they should be required to issue them.

Now, just 41 percent favor an exemption and 56 percent think they should be required to issue the licenses.

That shift was especially stark among Republicans. A majority of them — 58 percent — still favor religious exemptions for officials issuing marriage licenses, but that’s down 14 points since 72 percent said so in July.

The timing of the surveys is important, coming during rapid developments in the politics of gay rights and religious freedom.

Public opinion has favored same-sex marriage in recent years and some politicians – President Barack Obama, 2016 presidential contender Hillary Rodham Clinton and some members of Congress among them – have come around to that view. In June, the Supreme Court effectively legalized gay marriage nationwide.

The cultural change has influenced the governing bodies of some of the most conservative religions, including the Catholic Church under Pope Francis and the Mormon Church, which last week called for compromises between protecting religious liberties and prohibiting discrimination. Both institutions are trying to accommodate society’s shifting views while keeping a firm grip internally on their own doctrines against gay marriage and homosexual activity. And both churches steered clear of the appearance of backing Davis. The Vatican said the pope’s brief meeting with her in Washington should not be construed as a sign of support.

Mormon leader Dallin H. Oaks last week told a closed gathering of judges and clergy in Sacramento, California, that when conflicts between religion and law rise and are decided, citizens of a democracy must follow court rulings.

Davis, a Democrat, Apostolic Christian and clerk of Rowan County, Kentucky, became the face of religious Americans who bristle at government requirements that conflict with their beliefs, whether those mandates cover gay marriage, contraception or abortion referrals. On June 27 — the day after the high court ruling — avis refused to issue same-sex marriage licenses. In September she spent five days in jail for defying a court order to issue the licenses. Affixing her name to the certificate, she wrote in a statement, “would violate my conscience.” After serving her jail sentence, Davis returned to work – but her name no longer appears on marriage licenses for gay couples.

More generally, the poll offers evidence that Americans remain slightly more likely to say that it’s more important for the government to protect religious liberties than the rights of gays and lesbians when the two come into conflict, 51 percent to 45 percent. But that, too, is a slight shift since July, when 56 percent said it’s more important to protect religious liberties.

The AP-GfK Poll of 1,027 adults was conducted online Oct. 15 to Oct. 19, using a sample drawn from GfK’s probability-based KnowledgePanel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 3.3 percentage points.

Respondents were first selected randomly using telephone or mail survey methods, and later interviewed online. People selected for KnowledgePanel who didn’t otherwise have access to the Internet were provided access at no cost to them.

Sanders moves debate left

With competition for the 2016 presidential election growing fiercer every day, one can be energized or disgusted by the candidates and the media coverage. But it’s hard to be bored.

I was glad for the first Democratic candidates’ debate because it took the focus off the Republicans for a while. It gave U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders a chance to introduce himself and his ideas to an audience of millions and Hillary Clinton a chance to remind Americans why she has been such a forceful figure in U.S. politics for more than two decades.

Clinton captured the contrasts between the parties best for me when she noted that in the Democratic debate, no one bashed immigrants, denigrated women, name-called, blamed others, lied a blue streak or indulged in an ego trip. She made clear the choice in this presidential race: elect a bullying, uninformed talk radio jock clone who will further divide the country (OK, those are my words) or choose a statesman or woman who has put careful thought into policies that will improve the lives of all Americans.

Clinton has always impressed me with her campaigns to ensure health care for Americans and to stand up for women’s rights at home and abroad. She promoted and advanced many progressive policies as first lady, U.S. senator and secretary of state. 

She has remained dedicated to public service despite constant vilification from right-wing opponents.

She was slow to support gay marriage, but I have no fear that a Clinton presidency would turn back the clock on LGBT rights. The most impressive thing about Clinton is her command of both domestic and international issues and her ability to articulate those positions effectively.

I was disappointed, however, in her dismissal of Bernie Sanders’ proposal to re-implement the Glass-Steagall Act. This is the 1933 law that separated commercial banking from investment banking and securities trading. It deterred the type of speculation and financial shenanigans that brought on the Great Depression.

Glass-Steagall protected consumers pretty well until Congress repealed it in 1999. That Clinton disdains even a discussion of its revival reinforces criticism that she is too cozy with big banks and wealthy campaign contributors. Her remarks against whistleblower Edward Snowden indicate she will champion continued surveillance and privacy violations by our national security agencies.

Bernie Sanders spoke passionately against U.S. intervention abroad and the need for reversing income inequality at home through tax hikes on the rich, an increased minimum wage, free college tuition and universal health care. He promises to address racism in our justice system and high rates of incarceration. He wants to funnel more money into jobs and infrastructure.

The media seems surprised at the crowds and donations Sanders is attracting. Will Americans really support a socialist? Polls show that most Americans react negatively to the word “socialism,” yet they support socialist institutions like Medicare, public utilities, universities and libraries. 

I don’t know if Bernie Sanders can win the nomination or the presidency, but I’m grateful to him for charting a bold, alternative course for our country.

In recent decades, an alliance of unprincipled corporations, conservative media and fundamentalist zealots has pushed the U.S. far to the right, threatening principles of freedom and equality. Liberals have been in defensive mode for too long. 

By pushing policy discussions to the left, Bernie Sanders is widening our intellectual horizons and helping to re-balance our political system.