November 21 // The lonesome death of Emily Butler

We don't know much about 29-year-old Emily Butler other than that she died last week at the Maryland women’s prison in Jessup. But we can guess that her death was probably preventable. Butler is the latest victim of a cruel and unusual form of extreme punishment known as solitary confinement, which the state of Maryland insists doesn’t even exist officially in its facilities but which nevertheless continues to take a terrible toll on the inmates subjected to whatever euphemism the state uses to describe the prolonged isolation of prisoners from human contact. It’s past time for the state to abolish this inhumane and counterproductive practice, which is demonstrably harmful, but doesn’t make prison inmates or staff any safer. (Balt. Sun)

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Military pensions — haves or have nots?

During his two terms as governor, the late William Donald Schaefer often observed that the hardest part of the job was saying no. Deserving people with good ideas and commendable goals came to his doorstep all the time. But the state can’t afford to reward all whether in the form of new spending or special tax breaks. At some point, fiscal prudence requires the state’s chief executive — or its legislature — to politely decline. Such is the case with Gov. Larry Hogan’s plan to eliminate state and local income taxes on all retirement income of military veterans. (Balt. Sun)

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Questionable public housing policy merits investigation

There’s always a chance a government practice that sounds highly questionable is actually common, if little discussed. While that wouldn’t make it right, it might provide some justification for officials who thought it was standard operating procedure. But there doesn’t seem to be any such excuse for the practice, scrapped this year at the insistence of new housing agency Executive Director Beverly Wilbourne, of the Housing Authority of the City of Annapolis handing tenant rosters to the city police. This went on for close to two decades. (Capital)

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Kislaya Prasad: Taxing grad students means fewer of them

With so many radical changes in the proposed tax reform plans, it is easy to overlook the proposal to tax tuition waivers. Indeed, I had done the same until I heard the murmurs in my doctoral seminar at the University of Maryland. In a year when events have lost their ability to surprise, I had to shake my head in amazement. This does so much damage for so little revenue that I am unable to make sense of it. And our students are understandably anxious about the prospect of paying more taxes. (Balt. Sun)

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A noble bird, a regrettable choice

The whooping crane is not only the tallest and grandest bird of North America but one of the continent’s most critically endangered species. For more than a half-century, a federally-funded research center in Maryland has been at the heart of efforts to better understand, breed and repopulate the birds in the wild. It has been a small but extraordinary effort involving generations of researchers nurturing and studying captive birds — and it can claim a measure of success given that the species thought to once number fewer than two dozen in the 1940s can be counted in the hundreds today. (Balt. Sun)

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Maggie Master: The tale of two Targets, a Baltimore segregation story

Like many patrons, I felt devastated and blindsided by Target’s recent announcement that it would shutter its Mondawmin Mall location in February, apparently with little conversation or negotiation with their development partners or the city. While a closure anywhere would likely have a negative impact on a given community, removing access to goods and jobs in an economically depressed neighborhood feels even more egregious. (Balt. Sun)

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November 20 // U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin: Let's rethink president's ability to use nuclear weapons

At my town halls and meetings across Maryland, people are increasingly asking me, "Is President Trump really going to start a nuclear war with North Korea? Can he do that? Are there any checks upon the president to prevent him from starting a nuclear war?" The American people's fears on this issue are understandably fueled by the dangerous way President Donald Trump has spoken about nuclear weapons and the ongoing crisis with North Korea. (Capital)

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Which way forward for Md.'s HBCUs?

In a ruling that could help reshape the mission of Maryland’s historically black colleges and universities for years to come, a federal judge recently delivered some good news and bad news for both sides in the long-running controversy over how to end the vestiges of de jure segregation in the state’s public institutions of higher learning. It’s finally possible to envision a resolution to the decade-old lawsuit brought by HBCU alumni and supporters that remedies the legacy of more than a century of state-sanctioned discrimination against African-American college students and the schools they historically have attended without causing even greater damage to a university system that remains the key opportunity for advancement for Maryland’s students, black and white alike. (Balt. Sun)

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