9/11 taught us an incredible lesson too many of us have since forgotten

The horrific events of September 11, 2001, were singed into the minds of every American who watched in horror as the Twin Towers collapsed into ash and debris, turning New York City into the site of the deadliest terrorist attack in American history.

The traumatic assault on the towers left 2,753 dead. Another 189 people perishing when American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon. And an additional 44 people died when United Airlines Flight 93 crashed into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

The attack left Americans absolutely paralyzed by grief, with life screeching to a halt as we struggled to process how such unimaginable evil could manifest itself in a deadly amalgam of chaos.

Amid the intense national pain in the wake of 9/11, though, something unexpected happened: a strong bond of unity formed among Americans of all stripes. No matter our color, creed, ideology or faith, we suddenly saw ourselves as a collective whole – a singular body struggling with emotional wounds.

As people attempted to comprehend what happened, a cohesiveness formed unlike anything that had been experienced in recent memory. Kevin O’Connor of The Herald News, a newspaper in Fall River, Massachusetts, perhaps explained it best when he wrote: “We were all Americans. We all felt the same loss.”

Heroism abounded as people flocked to Ground Zero to help search for survivors in the rubble of the World Trade Center. American flags proudly waved at offices, factories, stores, restaurants and homes. Candlelight vigils unfolded in communities across the U.S.

There was an almost universal understanding in the value of our humanity. The seemingly never-ending debate over God’s place in culture appeared to be eclipsed by humanity’s recognition of the collective need for a relationship with something bigger than ourselves.

And if you’re looking for a more tangible representation of just how united the nation was in the wake of terrorism, think back to the nearly 150 members of Congress – individuals from both major parties – who stood together to sing “God Bless America” on the steps of the Capitol.

The terrorists’ actions so horrified the nation that the bitter differences that sparked so many heated debates and battles melted away, opening up the doors for a unique – and sadly brief – period in which humanity trumped ideology, partisanship and most other things that divide us.

There are many lessons that must be taken away from 9/11. From conversations about national security to considerations surrounding religious freedom, the fallout of that terrible event continues to impact our lives 17 years later.

But there’s yet another lesson that too many of us quickly forgot: unity and civility matter. They are two of the most essential benchmarks of a healthy culture. While disagreement is a normal and healthy social ingredient, we have taken what divides us too far, descending in recent years into a pit of interpersonal depravity.

From hateful tweets to vitriolic proclamations and violence, too many Americans have lost themselves in the midst of cultural divides. We have become so rabidly obsessed with our differences that social and political advancement is nearly impossible.

Our compulsive tribalism, lack of compassion and coldness toward one another paint a tragic picture when collectively juxtaposed against the bravery, love and kindness this nation experienced in the wake of 9/11.

While this goodness didn’t last long, it offered a lens into the kind of people we can be if and when we are pressed to the max. Tragically, it shouldn’t take an act so horrific for us to realize the commonness in our humanity.

As we reflect on 9/11, let’s make an effort to recapture the grace with which so many people spoke and acted after that tragedy.

It might feel difficult or even impossible to make a cultural change when politicians, the Hollywood elite and so many others in positions of authority choose to engage in name-calling, callousness and divisive measures.

But we each have the individual ability to shine our lights in the darkness of divided times. And remember: kindness doesn’t require agreement. We must discover the lost art of being able to love and respect the people we disagree with.

Take a moment and reflect before sending a tweet, pause to consider the pain or uncertainty someone you dislike might be facing. Offer to show someone love when they’ve shown you hate. It’s through small steps that we can collectively make a difference. Let’s be better.


Senate comes together to fight opioid crisis

The Senate will vote this week on a massive bipartisan bill that combines 70 different measures aimed at reducing addiction and drug overdose deaths from opioids such as heroin and prescription painkillers.

The vote on the bill, the Opioid Crisis Response Act, is a culmination of months of hearings and negotiations across five committees. Supporters hope that the legislation will help reduce death tolls from opioid overdoses, which early data show surpassed 40,000 people in 2017.

The legislation provides more access to medical treatment for addiction, additional funding for states to carry out their programs, and gives the National Institutes of Health more power to carry out research on treatment for pain and addiction. It allows the Food and Drug Administration to limit how many prescription opioids, such as OxyContin, doctors are allowed to give patients, and to set guidelines for how they can be packaged so that they are harder for children to get.

The vote was announced Thursday by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., after he secured support from Democrats.

“The fact that so many senators across so many committees were able to put aside political differences to reach an agreement on this legislation, especially given our current political environment, speaks to the seriousness and pervasiveness of opioid and substance use disorders,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, who chairs the Finance Committee.

After the bill passes, the Senate will go to conference with the House to hash out a final version that will be sent to President Trump. The lower chamber passed its massive opioid package in June, and the effort represents a rare win for both Democrats and Republicans as they head into November’s midterm elections.

“There is a bipartisan urgency to work with our House colleagues to get the legislation to the president’s desk,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., who chairs the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee.

An aide on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which passed several bills in the lower chamber, said the committee was “pleased that the proposal received strong bipartisan support in the House and looks forward to working to ensure its inclusion in the final product.”

Though the packages have several common features, the Senate version does not include a provision to allow more hospitals to be reimbursed by the government for treating patients with addiction. Under current law, hospitals are only allowed to receive Medicaid money if they treat no more than 16 patients for addiction or mental health troubles at a time. The Trump administration has authorized several states to lift the limit, which would allow people to receive care who would otherwise be waiting in line, increasing their risk of overdose.

The Opioid Crisis Response Act also does not include a provision to help families access medical records for a patient with substance abuse disorder.

Both of these provisions were contentious in the House. Democrats raised concerns during hearings about privacy, and also said that people with addictions should receive care in the community rather than being institutionalized in a hospital. Still, the bills ultimately passed with Democratic support.

The final product involves the work of different Senate Committees, including HELP, Finance, Judiciary, Commerce, and Banking, and is meant to affect a slew of agencies.

The bill directs the Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services to study the effects of prescribing limits on patients and whether they are associated with higher rates of suicide.

It includes the Synthetic Trafficking and Overdose Prevention Act, or STOP Act, which gives the Postal Service more tools to flag suspicious shipments of illicit fentanyl from overseas. This bill had the vocal support of Trump and was introduced by Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio.

“Across Ohio, what I hear as I meet with those on the frontlines of this crisis is that we need to combat the influx of fentanyl if we truly want to overcome this epidemic,” Portman said. Without his legislation, he warned, drug traffickers would continue to take advantage of a loophole in mail screening.

Fentanyl was responsible for roughly 30,000 of the 40,000 opioid deaths in 2017. The drug is made in a lab and is 50 times more potent than heroin, which is made from the poppy plant.

The Trump administration has said that addressing the epidemic is a national priority. Trump has declared the crisis a “public health emergency” and Congress set aside $4.7 billion in funds earlier this year to combat the crisis.


George Papadopoulos Sentenced To 14 Days In Mueller Investigation

The first Trump campaign adviser arrested in Robert Mueller’s special counsel investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election was sentenced to 14 days in prison on Friday afternoon.

Former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos, 31, had pleaded guilty in October 2017 to lying to the FBI about his dealings with a professor who told him during the 2016 campaign that the Russians had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton. He appeared in federal court in D.C. before U.S. District Judge Randolph D. Moss, who also sentenced Papadopoulos to 200 hours of community service and 12 months of supervised release.

Papadopoulos met with FBI agents investigating Russian interference in the election in late January 2017, nearly two months before then-FBI Director James Comey formally acknowledged the existence of the FBI probe. He lied to investigators about when he was told about Russian “dirt” on Clinton, telling them he learned of it before he joined the campaign in what happened to be a “very strange coincidence.”

Papadopoulos was arrested at Dulles International Airport on July 27, 2017, but Mueller kept his arrest and later plea deal under wraps until it was unsealed last October.

On Friday, Judge Moss said that Papadopoulos put his own self-interest ahead of the interests of his country, and that his choice to lie to the FBI “does not reflect good character.” He said Papadopoulos was “riding very high” at the time he lied to the FBI, and that the defendant “had a lot of advantages in life.” While noting that Papadopoulos already faced “collateral consequences” that were “close to unbearable,” the judge said it was important to send a message to the public that lying to the FBI was a serious crime, especially in a case “of great significance.”

Papadopoulos spoke ahead of his sentencing, telling the court that he “made a terrible mistake” and that he considered himself a patriotic American and was deeply embarrassed by his conduct. His “entire life has been turned upside down” since his name became public, Papadopoulos said. “I hope to have a second chance.”

Papadopoulos didn’t have any comment after the sentencing, but had an orange “team Putin” shirt thrown at him when leaving the courthouse.

Thomas Breen, an attorney representing Papadopoulos, told the court that his client made a “stupid mistake” and that his actions were “unsophisticated” and those of “a fool.” Papadopoulos lied to the FBI, Breen said, because he wanted to “keep his name in the hopper” for a position in the Trump administration.

Breen argued that his client had caused much less damage to the special counsel investigation than Trump has.

“The president of the United States hindered this investigation more than George Papadopoulos ever could,” he said.

Mueller’s team hadn’t taken a position on what precise sentence should be imposed, but had argued the sentencing guidelines called for up to six months in prison and that Papadopoulos’ crime warranted incarceration.

Papadopoulos, Mueller’s team wrote in a sentencing memo, “caused damage to the government’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.” Mueller’s team argued that Papadopoulos’ sentence “should reflect the fact that lying to federal investigators has real consequences, especially where the defendant lied to investigators about critical facts, in an investigation of national importance, after having been explicitly warned that lying to the FBI was a federal offense.”

His defense team said that Papadopoulos was “ashamed and remorseful” about his conduct, but that it was the result of his desire to “save his professional aspirations and preserve a perhaps misguided loyalty to this master.” 

The defense portrayed him as a young, eager Donald Trump supporter who landed his job as a campaign foreign policy adviser “despite having no experience with U.S. and Russian diplomacy.”

Papadopoulos’ wife, Simona Mangiante Papadopoulos, has been publicly lobbying the president to pardon her husband. The website Law & Crime reported that the couple are “preparing to turn infamy into fame and fortune” through a book deal.



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