Things That Matter

Here’s What Happened When Alyssa Milano Live-Streamed Her Gun Reform Discussion With Ted Cruz

Hollywood actress Alyssa Milano has long been using her platform to creatively advocate for political change in America. In the past, she’s even called on women to partake in a sex strike in response to the onslaught of abortion ban bills that swept the nation. More recently, she’s taken to calling out the elected officials whose careers are most benefitted by the National Rifle Association (NRA). The Congressperson who received the highest donation from the NRA and other gun-rights organizations is none other than Texas Republican Ted Cruz. 

The two have been spitting fire at each other via Twitter for the last few weeks. All of it culminated in an actual, real-live, live-streamed meeting between the two Tuesday morning. Why was it live-streamed? Because Milano wanted to make sure “the American people can hear your bullshit 1st hand.”

Alyssa Milano told Ted Cruz that part of the reason she wanted to meet was to make sure he was a human being. Literally.

Credit: @BIZPACReview / Twitter

“That is why this meeting was so important to me,” she told him during the live stream. “I wanted to look at you in the eye and know that you really are a human with a heartbeat.” Ted Cruz started the meeting by telling Milano that he was a fan of “Who’s the Boss?” and “Commando,” while Milano started by letting Cruz know his politics on gun control “has made you almost like this caricature of a villain.”

The two talked for more than an hour on gun control, with Milano beginning the conversation by imploring, “I’m asking you, begging you, to have the courage to lead.” In the room was also Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter was murdered during the Parkland shooting. 

Cruz didn’t make any revolutionary statements throughout the meeting, arguing that merely having a civil discussion is a triumph.

Credit: @SenTedCruz / Twitter

“This is a divided time. This is an angry time. … I think it is beneficial for is to have a human conversation,” Cruz said. “I also hope that just seeing people on different places on the spectrum, treating people with civility and humanity, that is contagious.” Instead of agreeing to introduce or urge the Senate to discuss new gun control laws, Cruz instead wanted to “focus on policies that would really stop these crimes.” Cruz claims to be leading the charge on preventing mass shootings in America by proposing harsher prosecutions of gun cases and making background checks more “accurate.”

Cruz and Milano agreed to meet last week, after tweeting jabs at each other over their stances on gun control.

Credit: @Alyssa_Milano / Twitter

We hear that a lot, right? The “God-given right” to own guns in America. Cruz decided to respond to Milano, tweeting, “it is of course not the right to a modern-day firearm that is God-given but rather the right to Life & the right to Liberty. Essential to that right is the right to DEFEND your life & your family.”

Cruz gave a lengthy (for Twitter) response to Milano:

Credit: @tedcruz / Twitter

He went on to say, “The right to self-defense is recognized repeatedly in the Bible, eg Exodus 22:2: ‘If a thief is caught breaking in at night & is struck a fatal blow, the defender is not guilty of bloodshed.’ (Note, though, verse 3 says it IS murder if during daylight (ie, not self-defense). The Declaration of Independence acknowledges our rights thusly: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” And, for that reason, the Second Amendment provides “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, SHALL NOT be infringed.” It wasn’t to protect people’s ability to hunt, or to shoot target practice, but to defend their lives, their homes & their families. Stephen Willeford exercised that fundamental right when he risked his own life to stop the Sutherland Springs murderer, saving countless others as a result.” 

Just like that, the meeting was born in resentment and frustration but seemed to end in civil resentment and frustration.

Credit: @Alyssa_Milano / Twitter

After the meeting, Milano tweeted, “He was gracious. I’m unsure if it changes anything. But appreciative for the opportunity to bridge the divide with civil, meaningful discussion.” Cruz described the meeting as “productive and respectful.” Basically, nothing noteworthy really happened except for that Alyssa Milano gave Ted Cruz a hug. What is noteworthy is that civil discourse cannot sway the NRA-lined pockets of Ted Cruz.

READ: Ted Cruz’s Legal Team Believes That His Fight For $10,000 Is The Same As Rosa Parks’s Fight For Civil Rights

Ecuador Was In Chaos After Massive Protests But The Government Has Reached A Deal With These Indigenous Activists

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Ecuador Was In Chaos After Massive Protests But The Government Has Reached A Deal With These Indigenous Activists

@democracynow / Twitter

Ecuador’s government announced a round of talks with leaders of the Indigenous groups who have been mobilizing against the government in a move to end the violence and chaos that has racked the nation for more than a week.

President Moreno announced he would withdraw the country from a deal reached with the IMF that many said would cause the greatest harms to the country’s most vulnerable populations.

In a major address, President Lenin Moreno announced he had struck a deal with indigenous leaders to cancel a disputed austerity package.

The news comes after nearly two weeks of protests that have paralyzed the economy and left seven dead.

Under the new agreement, President Moreno will withdraw the International Monetary Fund-backed package, known as Decree 883, that included a sharp rise in fuel costs. Indigenous leaders, in turn, will call on their followers to end protests and street blockades.

“Comrades, this deal is a compromise on both sides,” Moreno said. “The indigenous mobilization will end and Decree 883 will be lifted.”

The two sides will work together to develop a package of measures to cut government spending, increase revenue and reduce Ecuador’s growing budget deficits and public debt.

Ecuador’s Indigenous groups celebrated the announcement as a major victory.

“I’m so happy I don’t know what to say. I don’t have words, I’m so emotional. At least God touched the president’s heart,” said protester Rosa Matango in an interview with The Guardian. “I am happy as a mother, happy for our future. We indigenous people fought and lost so many brothers, but we’ll keep going forward.”

Caravans of cars roamed the streets early on Monday honking in celebration, passengers shouting, banging pots and waving Ecuadorian flags.

“The moment of peace, of agreement, has come for Ecuador,” said Arnaud Peral, the United Nations’ resident coordinator in Ecuador and one of the mediators of the nationally televised talks. “This deal is an extraordinary step.”

Wearing the feathered headdress and face paint of the Achuar people of the Amazon rainforest, the president of the Confederation of Indigenous Nations, Jaime Vargas, thanked President Moreno and demanded improved long-term conditions for Indigenous Ecuadorians.

“We want peace for our brothers and sisters in this country,” Vargas said. “We don’t want more repression.”

The protests started when the President affirmed his support for an IMF-backed agreement, known as Decree 883.

The move sparked nationwide protests as prices rose overnight by about a 25% for gas and double for diesel. A state of emergency was imposed on Thursday. Truck and taxi drivers forced a partial shutdown of Quito’s airport and roadblocks have paralyzed major roads across the country.

Images from Quito showed protesters hurling gas bombs and stones, ransacking and vandalizing public buildings as well as clashing with the police in running battles late into the night.

Some protests became so violent that the government was actually forced to flee the capital of Quito for the coastal city of Guayaquil.

All of this was in response to Decree 883 which would have ended fuel subsidies that many of the country’s poorest citizens have come to rely on.

Other indigenous demands included higher taxes on the wealthy and the firing of the interior and defence ministers over their handling of the protests.

In a shift from the heated language of the last 10 days of protests, each side at the negotiations praised the other’s willingness to talk as they outlined their positions in the first hour before a short break.

“From our heart, we declare that we, the peoples and nations, have risen up in search of liberty,” Vargas told The Guardian. “We recognize the bravery of the men and women who rose up.”

This Is How Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Plans To Tackle Poverty In The US

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This Is How Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Plans To Tackle Poverty In The US

Since making her way to Capitol Hill at the start of the year, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has been one of the most progressive voices in Congress — and her recently-unveiled policy package to tackle US poverty assures that her vision for the country hasn’t gotten any less bold.

“I am both energized and humbled to introduce legislation today to build upon the most transformative programs of the last century,” Ocasio-Cortez said in a statement.

The first-year lawmaker’s legislative package is called “A Just Society,” and it includes six individual bills.

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First, the Puerto Rican congresswoman aims to update the way the US government currently calculates poverty and determines eligibility for welfare. At the moment, a single person is considered “poor” in the US if they make less than $12,500 a year. If someone makes more than that, then they are unable to benefit from programs like Medicaid, even though they could still be struggling gravely economically.  Through the proposal, called the Recognizing Poverty Act, Ocasio-Cortez would prompt the Secretary of Health and Human Services, the Bureau of the Census and the Bureau of Labor Statistics to modify the equation so that it takes more details into account, including a person’s geographic cost of living, what portion of their income they spend on health insurance or child care, and spending toward utilities. This act would undoubtedly result in a rise in the number of people who live at or below the federal poverty level and would widen people’s eligibility to welfare programs, like Medicaid, food stamps and family planning services.

According to the U.S. Census, about 40 million Americans live in poverty, a harrowing reality that the congresswoman doesn’t think many people in the country know or understand. “If we can acknowledge how many Americans are actually in poverty I think that we can start to address some of the more systemic issues in our economy,” she told NPR.

Her policy bundle includes proposals that could help the country’s most marginalized communities, including immigrants and people who were formerly incarcerated. For instance, her Mercy in Re-entry Act proposes that individuals who have been convicted of a criminal offense would be ensured access to all federal public benefits. Presently, many states ban people with felony drug convictions from receiving welfare and food stamps.

Even more, formerly incarcerated individuals often struggle to obtain government-issued IDs. 

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Additionally, her so-called Embrace Act would guarantee federal public benefits access to anyone, regardless of their immigration status. Currently, undocumented immigrants, including DACA holders, are not eligible to receive most federal public benefits, including benefits like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), regular Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). They’re also ineligible for health care subsidies under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and are prohibited from purchasing unsubsidized health coverage on ACA exchanges. Still, these individuals might be able to take advantage of some benefits that are deemed “necessary to protect life or guarantee safety in dire situations,” such as emergency Medicaid, access to treatment in hospital emergency rooms, or access to healthcare and nutrition programs under the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). However, rumors that the Trump administration is considering blocking immigrants using public benefits from getting their green cards is currently halting the most vulnerable in these communities from using those life-saving benefits.

“From the New Deal to the Great Society, we have shown time and again that our nation is capable of implementing big ideas and bold solutions that match the scale of the challenges we face,” Ocasio-Cortez, 29, said in her statement. “We must once again recognize the breadth and consequences of poverty in this country and work together to ensure a path forward to economic freedom for everyone.”

Her wide-ranging proposal also considers tenants and workers.

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The Place to Prosper Act would tackle the housing crisis by introducing a 3 percent national cap on annual rent increases, among other provisions. Meanwhile, the Uplift Our Workers Act would prompt the Department of Labor and the Office of Management and Budget to create a “worker-friendly score” for federal contractors.

Finally, the congressional freshman also proposed a resolution dubbed A Just Society Guarantees the Economic, Social and Cultural Rights for All that would request the Senate to ratify the U.N. Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

While critics have called Ocasio-Cortez’s proposal a “radical, extreme-left agenda,” the congresswoman believes it could effectively tackle the US’ poverty crisis and help the people of one of the wealthiest nations in the world to live a life beyond destitution. 

“In a modern, moral, and wealthy society, no person should be too poor to live,” Ocasio-Cortez says in a video introducing her legislation. “That’s what a just society means to me.” 

Ocasio-Cortez’s legislative package is her latest ambitious proposal. Back in February, when the congressional newbie was just one month on the job, she introduced the much-talked-about Green New Deal, a series of proposals backed by leading Democrats to tackle climate change.

Read: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Made A Student Loan Payment During Meeting To Prove A Point About Corruption