Harvard Hypocrisy: Profs Who Advocated for Obamacare Now Outraged

How the MRM Gets it So Right/Wrong on Nicholas Alahverdian Harvard Student MRM Modern Rights Movement
For years, some professors at Harvard University lobbied for and presented studies conducive to the passing of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). Now, members of the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) are expressing their outrage over what some say is tantamount to a pay cut.
This is hilarious in a very sad way. Political manipulation at its finest. Obama’s healthcare legacy isn’t shaping up to what he or Ted Kennedy purported it would be during the campaigns. For an omnibus bill with varying levels of potential for good throughout its massively complex legislative and judicial history, it is sure to be kept in focus as a primary issue during the 2016 presidential campaigns.
The ever left-leaning New York Times adequately captured the fury with which these rising costs have been welcomed:

For years, Harvard’s experts on health economics and policy have advised presidents and Congress on how to provide health benefits to the nation at a reasonable cost. But those remedies will now be applied to the Harvard faculty, and the professors are in an uproar.
Members of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the heart of the 378-year-old university, voted overwhelmingly in November to oppose changes that would require them and thousands of other Harvard employees to pay more for health care. The university says the increases are in part a result of the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act, which many Harvard professors championed.

What do you think? Comment in the box below.
Disclaimer: Nicholas Alahverdian was educated at Harvard and was a student whose department was under the auspices of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. 

Garrison Keillor to Undergo Surgery

Garrison Keillor, the host and creator of “A Prairie Home Companion” will undergo a medical procedure forcing him to cancel his Sept. 27 edition of the show.

garrison keillor nicholas alahverdian
Garrison Keillor, host of “A Prairie Home Companion”

In a release Thursday announcing the cancellation of the Fitzgerald Theater show, 72-year-old Keillor said, “If you’ve noticed my upstairs bathroom light go on at 10 p.m., 10:10, 10:25, 10:40, etc., you know all you need to know. It’s no way to live, so I’ve found an excellent surgeon who will fix everything, and by October, I will be thinking more about truth and beauty and less about plumbing,” the Pioneer Press reports.
Those with tickets to the Sept. 27 show should contact the Fitzgerald Theater box office by email (fitzgerald@mpr.org) for refunds.
garrison keillor nicholas alahverdian
Nicholas Alahverdian and Keillor, 2014

Keillor celebrated the 40th anniversary of the show this summer. The new season of “A Prairie Home Companion” kicks off Saturday Sept. 20 with a street dance and a live broadcast from the Fitzgerald Theater. The free event will go on as planned.
The shows at the Fitzgerald run through Oct. 18. In November, “A Prairie Home Companion” will go on the road for broadcasts in Minneapolis, Duluth and Rochester. All other shows will go on as scheduled, MPR News says.

It's Primary Day in Rhode Island

Rarely has solidly Democratic Rhode Island seen such political drama: To date, the race to be the next Rhode Island governor has already seen party switching, two political dynasties and an Olympic figure skater star in a campaign spot.
The race began in earnest when incumbent Lincoln Chafee, a former GOP senator whose father was former Governor and Senator John Chafee, switched parties from Independent to Democratic. Chafee was hoping to draw support from the state’s powerful Democrats, but soon withdrew from the race when it became clear such support was not going to materialize.
That left the field wide open, with three candidates vying for the Democratic nomination on Tuesday: State Treasurer Gina Raimondo, Providence Mayor Angel Taveras and Clay Pell, the 34-year-old grandson of beloved late senator Claiborne Pell. Taveras held a slight lead in polls going into the summer, but with the help of Emily’s List—and impressive fundraising—Raimondo pulled ahead in at least one recent poll.
“I think it’s going to be close. Raimondo has a small lead and benefits from Tavares and Pell splitting labor. I expect Raimondo to win, but there is some belief that Pell is surging,” says Jennifer Duffy, who tracks gubernatorial races for the non-partisan Cook Political Report. “If he does pull off an upset, then the general is probably pretty competitive. If Raimondo, or less likely Tavares, is the nominee, then Democrats have an advantage.”
A Fleming & Associates poll conducted Aug. 11 to 14 showed Raimondo leading with 32.2% of the vote to Taveras’ 26.8% and Pell’s 25.6%. That said, Pell has been surging in recent weeks, in part thanks to a television commercial where his wife, figure skater Michelle Kwan, promotes his record on women’s issues. In a similar poll conducted in May, Pell drew only 11.5% of the vote.
On the Republican side, Ken Block, a moderate who ran for governor in 2010, is taking on Cranston Mayor Allan Fung, who was the first Asian American mayor in Rhode Island and would be the first Asian American governor of Rhode Island, if elected.
And there are also a slew of independents running. The only serious candidate in contractor Todd Giroux. The four other independents include a Moderate Party candidate and a candidate for the Compassion Party.
The race is already the most expensive in Rhode Island history with candidates raising more than $12 million by the end of June, the latest date available for financial disclosures.
With coverage from TIME

Apple's Answer to Google Wallet Expected Today

Apple is continuing its autumn tradition by unveiling the iPhone 6 and a smart watch (expected to be called iTime) on Tuesday. The devices reportedly will add mobile payments to compete with companies like Amazon and Square that are using the new technology.
The iPhone 6 and smart watch will use near field communication technology to allow users to buy things by scanning their devices on sensors in certain stores like the Apple retail shops, coupled with tokenization that generates a one-time use payment code, according to industry blog Bank Innovation.
apple watch graphic nicholas alahverdianThis combination may boost convenience and decrease fraud, but linking payments with mobile phones also raises privacy concerns. Apple’s addition of a fingerprint scanner to its iPhone 5S last September sparked concern about granting the tech giant greater access to users’ personal information.
The iPhone 6 also will have a larger display to meet growing consumer demand for bigger screen size and an easier browsing experience on phones. A patent granted to Apple indicates the smart watch may be called iTime.
Companies are trying to make devices fashionable, in part to make up for the perception that wearables can’t yet rival the convenience of a smartphone, says Carolina Milanesi, chief of research at market analysis group Kantar Worldpanel ComTech. Milanesi expects Apple’s watch to have a fashion design that appeals to men and women, but the image included in the patent resembles the basic detachable watch band available as an accessory for the company’s iPod nano.
Apple also will likely preview a new iOS 8 operating system Tuesday to follow the new HealthKit and HomeKit platforms it debuted in June. Health monitoring is expected to be a major part of the smart watch, since fitness tracking is the most successful feature of the growing wearables sector.
Competition on wearables comes from companies including Google, which unveiled its Android Wearoperating system earlier this year. The system includes features like voice search and fitness monitoring, and operates on wearables designed by Intel and Motorola.
With coverage from U.S. News

RI pays millions to send foster kids out of state

BY DAVID KLEPPER
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Associated Press logoPROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Nicholas Alahverdian was a 15-year-old foster child when he was sent from Rhode Island to live in facilities for troubled young people, first in Nebraska and later in Florida. According to lawsuits he filed, he was subjected to regular physical and emotional abuse.
Now 24, Alahverdian blames officials in Rhode Island for moving him hundreds of miles from his home, school and friends. The state is failing its foster children when it places them far from its oversight, he said.

“It’s an inhumane approach to a human problem,” Alahverdian told The Associated Press. “These are the most vulnerable people in Rhode Island. We have the ability to provide for them here. And we’re spending all this money to ship them across the country.”

A portrait of Nicholas Alahverdian taken by Providence Journal photographer John Friedah in 2011
Nicholas Alahverdian

Each year, Rhode Island sends dozens of children to facilities elsewhere, at a cost to taxpayers that has averaged $14 million over the past decade, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press through an open-records request. In fiscal year 2010, for instance, 117 foster children were placed out of state, most in neighboring Massachusetts but some in Florida, Georgia and Tennessee.

Rhode Island plans to spend $88 million this year on foster care programs.
Officials at the Department of Children, Youth and Families said Rhode Island has made great strides in reducing the number of children sent out of state. As of Aug. 1, there were 1,700 children in state custody. Fifty-four are in out-of-state facilities. That’s down sharply from just a few years ago, when more than 200 children were sent out of state. In fiscal year 2008, for instance, the state spent $19.8 million housing 231 children in 13 states.

In several cases, children were sent to facilities with troubling records of employee misconduct, abuse and even death.

Nicholas Alahverdian featured on cover of The Newport Daily News on August 15, 2011, Headline: State under fire for exporting foster children
Cover of The Newport Daily News on August 15, 2011, Click to enlarge.

The Stonington Institute in Connecticut came under fire in 2008 after teen boys were forcibly injected with medications designed to restrain them. In 2006, Connecticut officials temporarily halted new admissions at the facility after inspectors reported insufficient staffing and poor employee training. Yet Rhode Island sent children to the facility from 2007 to 2010.

Officials in Virginia this year temporarily halted admissions at the Pines Residential Treatment Center’s two facilities after reporting “significant problems” over several years, including the mishandling of a sexual abuse complaint. North Carolina removed many of its children from the Pines after a parent reported that their child had been sexually abused by two other residents. Rhode Island sent children to the Pines facilities in five of the past 10 years.

Two Texas facilities that have received Rhode Island children were part of a chain of treatment centers criticized for the deaths of five residents since 1988. In each case the children died after being restrained. In 2003, Texas investigators determined that a 17-year-old boy who asphyxiated at one of the company’s wilderness camps in 2002 after being restrained. The company later sold the facilities. Rhode Island sent children to the facilities from 2002-2005.

The officials who oversee Rhode Island’s foster care system said they only send children to facilities in other states as a last resort, when a child’s physical or mental health needs require treatment no facility within the state can provide.
“I would love to say that we would never need to rely on out-of-state placement,” said Kevin Aucoin, acting director of the Department of Children, Youth and Families. “But I don’t think that’s realistic. There are children who come into our care with highly specialized treatment needs and we need to go outside the state to identify the programs best suited for them.”

Alahverdian said welfare officials told him he was being sent to out-of-state facilities because he suffered from bipolar disorder, which he denies. He believes he was sent to facilities in Nebraska and Florida because he spoke to state lawmakers about problems he experienced with the foster care system. When he was at those facilities, he said he rarely heard from the state officials charged with his well-being. Aucoin said caseworkers are required to visit Rhode Island children in out-of-state care at least every six months.

Aucoin noted that the overall number of children sent to institutions in other states – and the resulting cost to taxpayers – declined sharply in 2009 and 2010. And when children are placed elsewhere, Aucoin said most of them are sent to facilities in nearby Massachusetts.

Some lawmakers want to go further and prohibit the state from sending foster children out of the state at all. Rep. Roberto DaSilva, D-East Providence, introduced legislation this year that would bar the practice unless authorities can show it’s not possible to keep the child in Rhode Island. He proposed the legislation after meeting with Alahverdian.

“The amount of money we’re spending here is huge,” DaSilva said. “There are facilities here in Rhode Island that could provide these services. And who does the oversight on these out-of-state facilities? Are they being watched as closely as the ones right here?”

DaSilva’s bill didn’t get a vote, but he plans to try again next year.
Richard Wexler, executive director of the Alexandria, Va.-based National Coalition for Child Protection Reform, said it’s common for states to use out-of-state facilities for foster care. His group issued a report last year that labeled Rhode Island’s foster care system one of the worst. Rhode Island officials remove children at almost double the average rate in other states, the report calculated.

“The root of the problem is that Rhode Island takes away too many kids in the first place,” he said. “The system is overloaded at every step, so the state feels it has no choice but to send these kids out of state. I believe that creates a second trauma for these kids who have already been removed from their families.”
Aucoin doesn’t disagree. He said DCYF is a few years into an effort to reduce the total number of children in state care. In 2007, there were more than 2,500 children in the state’s foster care system. This year there are 1,700.

“There was a culture shift in the agency to focus on community based interventions, family based interventions with the goal of decreasing the number of children coming into DCYF care,” Aucoin said. “It’s better for the child, and better for the family.”

Alahverdian said more must be done. He was placed in state custody because his parents struggled with alcoholism and were abusive, he said. He remained in state custody until he was nearly 18. This year he worked as a lobbyist at the Statehouse, trying to convince lawmakers to reform the state’s foster care system. He’s taking college courses and is considering law school, or a career as an advocate for children in the foster care system.

“A big part of me wants to solve this problem,” he said. “But I don’t know if Rhode Island wants to solve this problem.”

This article was published in newspapers including the Erie Times-News, The New Haven Register, The Newport Daily News, The Boston Globe, The Houston Chronicle and many others. 

A Survivor Tells the Story of Kid Dumping

A survivor tells the story of kid dumping

By Bob Kerr
24 November 2002
The Providence Journal
© 2002 Providence Journal/Evening Bulletin. All Rights Reserved.
As Nicholas Alahverdian and I talked, he took in the view of the Rhode Island State House from The Journal cafeteria.
“You don’t know how much I love going in that building,” he says.
He loves the excitement of it, the reporters and the politicians. He’s been part of it. He’s worked for his state representative. He’s testified at hearings.
He wants to be a politician. And a lawyer. And a journalist.
Don’t bet against him hitting the career trifecta. He’s already been tested in ways few of us will ever know.
“I don’t think I’ve been harmed at all,” he says. “I think it’s all part of a plan that’s been assigned to me for upcoming events.”
He talks about the dark, uncertain part of his life as “boot camp.” It has taught him things and prepared him.
He’s 15, smart and articulate and almost painfully polite. He introduces himself with a handshake. He even said it was an honor to meet some of the people here at The Journal. He reads the newspaper. When he opens his backpack, a copy of David McCulloch’s biography of John Adams is the first thing he takes out.
He speaks from the other side of a lot of hard, cold statistics. He’s a kid caught in a cruel social shuffle that has left him with a heavy load of uncertainty when he desperately needs something solid and reliable.
His insistence on being all that he can be is remarkable.
After we talked Thursday afternoon, he headed for the bus stop and a ride to his latest group home in Providence.
At a time when he should have no concerns more pressing than homework and maybe the girl who sits two rows over in his Spanish class, he is forced to live his life in bits and pieces, never knowing how long he will be living or going to school in the same place.
There was a point in Nick’s nomadic life, when the Rhode Island social service system put him in a foster home in North Smithfield. It was probably the best experience he’s had, the closest he’s come to his ideal of home and family.
“I can’t tell you how loving this family was – how they accepted me into their home. They were so caring.”
He stayed there for two days. That’s all he was scheduled for. Then he went home to his real family for the Christmas holidays at the end of 1999.
Then he returned to a shelter in Woonsocket.
“It was decent for someone my age,” he says of the shelter. “There were caring people there. There were activities set up for us each night.”
As we talk, he sorts through a stack of notes he’s taken on his life so far. There are also copies of school grades and newspaper stories I wrote about his stepfather, a popular local performer.
It is amazing how matter-of-fact he is about it, as if every 15-year-old goes through this kind of jolting, disjointed life in which faceless people are making the calls on where he will live and where he will learn. He sorts through his papers, tells his stories and provides a stunning personal voice for all the stories about kids in Rhode Island who get moved around like pieces on a real-life board game.
He has been in night-to-night placement under the Department of Children Youth and Families (DCYF). It is often little more than a couch to sleep on for the night, followed by a day of wondering where the next couch will be.
“It’s scary ridiculously scary,” he says. “There are punks in there, they took my sneakers, my clothing. I was threatened, assaulted. I saw kids hit each other with hockey sticks.
“You wake up in the morning at 5:30 and you go the DCYF building and wait to see where you’re going to go the next night.
“You’re not in school and I love school. You’re not associating with friends. You’re not treated decently. And how can your parents know where you are?”
In one sense, he knows it has to be this way. In another, he rails against the injustice of it and the self-defeating madness of dumping kids in often strange and frightening places.
The list of his stops on what seems a journey with no real destination is daunting. It winds through Coventry, Woonsocket, North Providence, Cranston, Providence, Narragansett and points in between. He has been to a bunch of schools, some of which insulted his intelligence with course work and materials geared to children 5 or 6 years younger. He remembers being assigned the book The Pokey Little Puppy when it seemed like something from his distant past.
He once addressed the Cranston School Committee on how he felt he was being unfairly judged on his past in his classroom assignment.
Now, he is attending Hope High School where he’s on the debate team. He’s living in a group home in Providence which he considers one of the better ones he’s been in.
“It’s like a challenge at Hope,” he says, “a challenge to help yourself learn.”
And through it all, he remains this delightful survivor who seems to have held on to a real sense of who he is and what he wants to be, despite the efforts of the state of Rhode Island to keep him forever on the move.
There is a great temptation to listen to his story and thoroughly enjoy his company and then ask him something like “How the hell have you gotten through all this with so much hope and determination?”
We’ll hear from him somewhere down the road. He says all that training he received in his own personal “boot camp” has gotten him ready. It’s gotten him ready for war.
“It’s a war with people who are trying to destroy kids’ lives,” says my new friend Nick.