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Betty Ford, First Lady, Pioneer Health And Women’s Rights Advocate, Dies

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Betty Ford, former First Lady, popular and outspoken wife of the late President Gerald R. Ford, a woman who became the nation’s leading advocate for treatment of drug and alcohol addiction, has died at the age of 93 in Palm Springs, California. Ford, according to her biographer, Chris Chase, died at her home Friday night, surrounded by her family.

Elizabeth Ann Bloomer Warren Ford, better known as Betty, was an able partner to her husband, who assumed the presidency on August 9, 1974, when Richard M. Nixon, plagued by the Watergate scandal that had mired his presidency after a burglary of the Democratic National Committee’s Washington, D.C. headquarters, resigned amid scandal.

The accidental First Lady became a candid voice of openness and frankness, which was unprecedented in staid and staged Washington, D.C. Her demeanor was particularly ground-breaking for the wife of a president to speak so frankly about once-taboo subjects, such as sex, gay rights, abortion, marijuana, and even support for equal rights for women. Mrs. Ford called the Supreme Court’s decision on Roe v. Wade, sanctioning abortion rights, a “great, great decision.”

Mrs. Ford, born on April 8, 1918, was far more popular than her Republican husband, and his presidential election campaign took notice, printing, “Betty’s Husband for President” buttons.

The unvarnished candor of the politically active presidential wife “since Eleanor Roosevelt,” according to Time, was a breath of fresh air for the entire country, sorely needed following the obsessive secrecy of the Nixon presidency.

Arguably, her greatest legacy in fighting alcohol and drug addiction would occur after Gerald Ford was defeated by Jimmy Carter for the presidency in 1976. She would go on to become America’s national leader and advocate on treatment of drug and alcohol addiction.  On April 1, 1978, Ford was confronted by her husband and her children about her abuse of alcohol and prescription drugs. She subsequently founded the Betty Ford Center and  Clinic in 1982, which led the nation on education and treatment of alcohol and drug addiction.

Mrs. Ford admitted her loneliness, which led to her addictions, while her husband was away campaigning and spending long hours working in politics. She also asserted that women’s conduct was more highly scrutinized than men’s behavior within society, thus women hid their addictions more effectively from their families and friends.

Ford also brought breast cancer out of the closet, a once-whispered women’s disease of great shame.  Just six weeks into Ford’s nascent presidency, Betty Ford announced that she had breast cancer and would have surgery at Bethesda Naval Hospital. She and the president invited reporters to her hospital room following surgery, where she was photographed in her house coat.

Betty Ford said she slept with her husband in the White House (Presidents Kennedy and Johnson had made it known they did not sleep with their wives because of the demands of the presidency) and she enjoyed sex with him frequently. She acknowledged the existence of abortion and supported women’s access to medically safe reproductive services, and she also strongly supported the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), all subjects which would be anathema today within the Republican Party.

In her 1978 memoir, “The Times of My Life,” Betty Ford wrote of her thoughts when her husband, then-Vice President Gerald Ford, rose to the presidency.

“I had such belief in my husband. I never doubted he could do it. … But I wasn’t sure what kind of First Lady I would be. There was a great deal of whooping and hollering right at the beginning because I’d said Jerry and I were not going to have separate bedrooms at the White House, and that we were going to take our own bed with us. … Even now, after all those years of married life, I like the idea of sleeping with my husband next to me.”

“I figured, OK, I’ll move to the White House, do the best I can and if they don’t like it, they can kick me out, but they can’t make me somebody I’m not.”

She also wrote, “I feel women ought to have equal rights, equal Social Security, equal opportunities for education, an equal chance to establish credit.”

When Ford lost the election to Jimmy Carter for the presidency in 1977, he had lost his voice and, exhausted, Betty Ford read his concession statement to the public from the White House.

Ford divorced William Warren after five years, before marrying Gerald Ford in 1948, just six weeks before he became a member of Congress. She was the mother of three sons, Michael, John, Steven and Susan, the Ford’s only daughter.

“Elizabeth Anne Ford distinguished herself through her courage and compassion,” President Barack Obama said upon Mrs. Ford’s passing. “As our nation’s First Lady, she was a powerful advocate for women’s health and women’s rights. After leaving the White House, Mrs. Ford helped reduce the social stigma surrounding addiction and inspired thousands to seek much-needed treatment. While her death is a cause for sadness, we know that organizations such as the Betty Ford Center will honor her legacy by giving countless Americans a new lease on life.

“Today, we take comfort in the knowledge that Betty and her husband, former President Gerald Ford, are together once more. Michelle and I send our thoughts and prayers to their children, Michael, John, Steven, and Susan.”

Vice President and Mrs. Biden said in a statement, “Throughout her life, Betty displayed strength, courage and determination that provided hope for millions of Americans seeking a healthier, happier future. Her legacy and work will live on through the millions of lives she has touched and the many more who will continue to look to her for inspiration. Her family will remain in our thoughts and prayers in the coming days.”

See: The BBC's "Betty Ford's life in pictures"

Tanya L. Domi is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University, who teaches about human rights in Eurasia and is a Harriman Institute affiliated faculty member. Prior to teaching at Columbia, Domi worked internationally for more than a decade on issues related to democratic transitional development, including political and media development, human rights, gender issues, sex trafficking, and media freedom.

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RIGHT WING EXTREMISM

‘Thinly-Veiled Incitement to Violence and Overt Racism’: Trump’s Truth Social Post Sparks Outrage

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Donald Trump was permanently suspended from Twitter “due to the risk of further incitement of violence,” but on Friday night took his social media approach to his Truth Social website.

Trump accused Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell of having a “death wish” after a government shutdown was averted.

“Must immediately seek help and advise (sic) from his China loving wife, Coco Chow!” he said of Elaine Chao, who served in his cabinet for four years as Secretary of Transportation.

Trump’s post generated outrage online.

“Nothing to see here,” conservative lawyer George Conway tweeted. “Just a former president of the United States seeking to incite violence against the minority leader of the United States Senate and launching a racist verbal attack on the leader’s wife.”

Former federal prosecutor Shanlon Wu wrote, “Donald Trump using blatant racist tactics in his desperate attacks on McConnell by trying to ridicule Asian American former Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao’s name calling her ‘Coco Chow’ — [McConnell] and [GOP] should call him out and reject his racist hate — will they do it?”

“Hardly shocking that Trump would threaten Mitch McConnell by capitalizing the words ‘death wish’ — dog whistle invitation to Trump’s extremist supporters — same Trump who believed his own VP Pence deserved to be lynched by the angry Jan. 6 mob Trump incited to violence,” Wu added.

Janai Nelson, the president of the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, wrote, “I double dare all major media outlets to call this what it is: thinly-veiled incitement to violence and overt racism.”

Podcaster Fred Wellman said, “Elaine Chao was Trump’s Secretary of Transportation for 4 years and he just called her the ridiculously racist nickname ‘Coco Chow.’ Yes…you are a racist if you still support this broken *sshole.”

Jonah Goldberg, the editor-in-chief of The Dispatch, wrote, “Look, I think the gross bigotry, stupidity, dishonesty, and demagoguery of this is obvious on so many levels and I’m embarrassed for the country. But, because no one else will, I feel I have to point out he also misspelled advice.”

 

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News

Republicans suggest defunding Veteran Affairs even though it helps 9 million vets

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Republican legislators are starting to suggest defunding the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA), the office founded in 1989 to assist with veteran needs. The VA assists with getting veterans mental and physical healthcare, educational opportunities, community support, and other everyday housing and living needs.

An Arizona legislator, captured on video participating in a mock congressional hearing, said he supported shutting down the department.

“That’s sort of what I’m thinking because … I hear no good stories. I had zero in my district,” the legislator said in a video posted by the far-right watchdog group Patriot Takes. “So I guess it’s a matter of us leading the fight to defund it.”

A second video, posted by the same account, showed Republican Florida Representative Matt Gaetz advocating for defunding the VA while speaking at an event held by FreedomWorks, a conservative and libertarian advocacy group.

“This is my question to the group. Is it savable? Why not abolish the VA, take all of the money that we are otherwise spending and go to an any willing provider system inside of our communities?” Gaetz says in the video. “And then, if people get bad care, they can vote with their feet and you don’t have a two-tier system of healthcare in this country with our veterans and then with everyone else.”

Generally speaking, Republican policies favor the privatization of all government functions, thinking that a “small government,” “free-market,” “for-profit” privatization provided by a corporation can solve any market ill.

In reality, if entire communities are deprived of VA access, U.S. military veterans will be left largely on their own to get their life needs met after military service. Those who lack money or transportation won’t be able to “vote with their feet” and find a local care provider to handle their specific issues… they’ll either have to spend massive amounts to get such essential care or just go without.

In late July, 41 Senate Republicans voted against a bill aimed at protecting veterans exposed to toxic materials during their military service. The legislation would have expanded care to 3.5 million veterans exposed to toxic burn pits. It would have also added 23 toxic and burn pit exposure-related illnesses to the VA database, Newsweek reported.

After massive blowback, Senate Republicans re-voted on the bill and helped it pass.

Patriot Takes posted the video hoping that it would encourage veterans and military members to vote in the upcoming mid-term elections.

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'PRIORITIES'

Red states are lining up to stop Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan

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Six red states — Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, and South Carolina — are suing the administration of Democratic President Joe Biden over Biden’s plan to cancel up to $20,000 in student loan debt for individuals making less than $125,000 a year.

The Biden administration based its plan on a 2003 law. According to the Justice Department, the law, initially meant to help military members, says that Biden can reduce or erase student loan debts during times of national emergency.

The red states’ lawsuit, filed Thursday in Missouri, said that Biden’s plan was “not remotely tailored to address the effects of the pandemic on federal student loan borrowers.” The lawsuit adds that, since Biden recently declared the COVID-19 pandemic as over, he can’t use it as a justification for his wide-scale debt relief plan, ABC News reported.

“It’s patently unfair to saddle hard-working Americans with the loan debt of those who chose to go to college,” Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said of her state’s lawsuit. “The Department of Education is required, under the law, to collect the balance due on loans. And President Biden does not have the authority to override that.”

The states argued that Biden’s plan inflicted a “number of ongoing financial harms” to student loan providers and also “will ultimately disrupt revenue to state coffers.” They also argued that Biden’s plan violates the Administrative Procedure Act, a law regulating how federal agencies ensure that presidential policies are well-reasoned and explained, the aforementioned publication reported.

Despite these claims, the White House has said it will continue with its plan, confident it can survive a court challenge.

“Republican officials from these six states are standing with special interests, and fighting to stop relief for borrowers buried under mountains of debt,” White House spokesman Abdullah Hasan said Thursday. “The president and his administration are lawfully giving working and middle class families breathing room as they recover from the pandemic and prepare to resume loan payments in January.”

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