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reuters May-15-2017 99 0
The U.S. Supreme Court put the final nail in the coffin of North Carolina's strict voter-identification law on Monday, rejecting a Republican bid to revive the measure struck down by a lower court for intentionally aiming to suppress black voter turnout.

The justices left in place a July 2016 ruling by the Richmond, Virginia-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that voided the law passed by a Republican-controlled legislature and signed by a Republican governor.

The state's new Democratic governor, Roy Cooper, and its Democratic attorney general, Josh Stein, had told the justices they wanted to drop the state's appeal of the 4th Circuit ruling. But the Republican-led state legislature said it should be able to intervene in the case to defend the law. The appeal was filed by Cooper's predecessor, Republican Pat McCrory, before the Democrat took office in January.

Chief Justice John Roberts, citing a "blizzard of filings over who is and who is not authorized to seek review in this court under North Carolina law," wrote a two-page statement noting that the confusion over who represents the state was a reason not to hear the dispute.

The North Carolina law required that certain forms of government-issued photo identification cards be presented by voters, allowing for example driver's licenses, passports and military identification cards but not public assistance cards used disproportionately by minorities in North Carolina. Other provisions included cutting early voting days and ending same-day voter registration.

The law, one of a number of similar statutes passed by Republican-controlled states, was opposed by civil rights groups, including the state chapter of the NAACP, as well as Democrats.

Republicans have said the laws are needed to prevent voter fraud. Democrats have said the laws are voter suppression measures intended to make it harder for groups that tend to back Democratic candidates, including black and Hispanic voters, to cast ballots.

The NAACP and individual voters sued to block it, arguing it disproportionately burdened black and Hispanic voters, who are more likely than white voters to lack acceptable forms of identification.
The appeals court found that the North Carolina law's provisions "target African-Americans with almost surgical precision" and "impose cures for problems that did not exist," concluding that the Republican-led legislature enacted the measure "with discriminatory intent."

North Carolina passed the law weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in June 2013 to eliminate a requirement that states with a history of discrimination receive federal approval before changing election laws.
Meera Jagannathan May-09-2017 118 0
President Trump scrambled to throw his “unwavering support” behind historically black colleges and universities Sunday night after seeming to question their constitutionality days earlier.

“The statement that accompanied my signing of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2017, sets forth my intention to spend the funds it appropriates, including the funds for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), consistently with my responsibilities under the Constitution,” Trump said in a statement.

“It does not affect my unwavering support for HBCUs and their critical educational missions.”

The President went on to cite his Feb. 28 executive order touting an initiative to “ensure equitable opportunities for HBCUs to participate in Federal programs” and “increase the number of college-educated Americans who feel empowered and able to advance the common good at home and abroad.”


“I am happy to see the president reaffirmed this Administration’s support for HCBUs,” she said. “I will continue to be an advocate for them and for programs that make higher education more accessible to all students.”


Trump, in a signing statement Friday on the $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill, had listed HBCUs, Native American housing block grants and minority business development as examples of “provisions that allocate benefits on the basis of race, ethnicity, and gender.”

His administration, he wrote, would treat them “in a manner consistent with the requirement to afford equal protection of the laws under the Due Process Clause of the Constitution’s Fifth Amendment.”

Presidents have traditionally used signing statements to signal provisions their administrations may disregard.

YAMICHE ALCINDOR May-03-2017 99 0
Ben Carson does not like the creature comforts, at least not for low-income Americans reliant on the government for a helping hand.

As he toured facilities for the poor in Ohio last week, Mr. Carson, the neurosurgeon-turned-housing secretary, joked that a relatively well-appointed apartment complex for veterans lacked “only pool tables.” He inquired at one stop whether animals were allowed. At yet another, he nodded, plainly happy, as officials explained how they had stacked dozens of bunk beds inside a homeless shelter and purposefully did not provide televisions.

Compassion, Mr. Carson explained in an interview, means not giving people “a comfortable setting that would make somebody want to say: ‘I’ll just stay here. They will take care of me.’”

When Mr. Carson assumed the helm of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, he had no government experience, no political experience beyond a failed bid for the Republican presidential nomination and no burning desire to run a major federal bureaucracy. But his views on poverty alleviation were tough-minded and well-known, informed by his childhood in Detroit and his own bootstraps journey from Motor City urban grit to the operating theater of Johns Hopkins University.

After two months as the Trump administration’s point man on alleviating poverty, those views have not changed. At each stop of a tour through the Columbus area, local officials grinned as they explained the importance of his agency and made their cases for their budgets, which are on the president’s chopping block. But the secretary was resolute in his belief that too much government assistance has led to too much dependence.

“We have some people who are mentally ill. We have some elderly and disabled people. We can’t expect in many cases those people to do a great deal to take care of themselves,” he said. But, he added, “There is another group of people who are able-bodied individuals, and I think we do those people a great disservice when we simply maintain them.”

Antoine Williams, 45, who lives in a supportive housing complex for the chronically homeless, shook his head after Mr. Carson finished greeting officials in the lobby of his building and headed out in a four-car motorcade.

“If he got something to do with Trump, that means he’s not really for us,” Mr. Williams said. “It’s not surprising. That’s what the rich do, they make it hard for the poor.”

“We are talking about incentivizing those who help themselves,” Mr. Carson said, before asking about how comfortable a supportive housing center for drug addicts in Lancaster, Ohio, was letting people get.

Ben Carson, secretary of housing and urban development, toured the Columbus Choice Neighborhood in Ohio last week. A planning grant from HUD helped to fund the neighborhood.
Next Slide

To some, just making the trip here showed that Mr. Carson is studying housing deeply and relying on both experts and personal stories to do his job. Mr. Carson, who has also visited Detroit, Dallas and Miami on his listening tour, peppered officials at housing projects in Ohio about which agency or company was paying for the maintenance, what comforts they were providing and what kind of job training facilities each had.

And in an interview, he indicated that some of President Trump’s tough-minded budget cuts might be more bluster than bottom lines. HUD programs targeted for elimination, including Community Development Block Grants, which help fund efforts like Meals on Wheels, may wind up with different names, but they will continue to function in some of the same ways, he said, addressing the president’s proposal to cut HUD’s budget by 13 percent.

“I know they have been called out for elimination. My impression is that what he is really saying is that there are problems with those programs,” Mr. Carson said. “And I think it may have been someone on his staff who kind of said, ‘Well, maybe we just need to get rid of the whole program.’ No, we don’t need to get rid of the whole program because there are some extremely good things there.”

Mr. Carson said he planned to focus much of his energy on persuading developers to hire local low-income residents for construction programs.

But he also indicated that money would be tight and focused. At a supportive housing center for drug addicts in Lancaster, Ohio, Trisha Farmer, the chief executive of the Recovery Center, pleaded for more federal help to house recovering addicts.

Mr. Carson interjected. “We are talking about incentivizing those who help themselves,” he said, before again asking minutes later about how comfortable the facility was letting people get.

To some residents who met with Mr. Carson, the tour was nothing more than a dog-and-pony show.

On his second day in Columbus, Mr. Carson stopped by the apartment of Alzene Munnerlyn, an 87-year-old living in senior housing and using a voucher to pay part of her rent after she was priced out of her last apartment. For about 10 minutes, Mr. Carson and several local housing officials posed for pictures in Ms. Munnerlyn’s living room and chatted with her about her place.

As Mr. Carson was leaving, Ms. Munnerlyn, a retired information officer for the Ohio Department of Education, said she felt a little used. She had wanted to tell Mr. Carson that President Trump’s plans to cut funding for housing vouchers might make it harder for other seniors to keep their homes.

But, she said: “It was staged. It was so fast.”

“There needs to be a forum where you can just sit and talk with him, and he could ask you how you feel and then you could express yourself,” she said, frowning.

Hours later, Bela Koe-Krompecher, clinical director at the Y.M.C.A. of Central Ohio, expressed a similar sentiment after walking with the housing secretary through an apartment and medical clinic for the chronically homeless.

“It’s so choreographed,” he said moments after Mr. Carson left Franklin Station, a supportive housing center for the homeless. “I was kind of told, ‘Be quiet, Bela.’ But I think people need to have that blunt conversation.”

During the visit, Mr. Carson had asked whether people had to be sober and drug free to get housing. The question is at the heart of a philosophy change in housing made some decades ago, and it stuck with Mr. Koe-Krompecher as he explained his worries about the Trump administration’s policy direction.

“The thinking was for years, you had to be clean and sober to get housing. And harm reduction philosophy says, ‘No, you don’t,’” Mr. Koe-Krompecher explained. “‘Housing first’ says, ‘We house them, we get them services.’ So when he asked if someone was clean to live here? The answer is, ‘No.’”

Not everyone was so harsh. Bryanna Ramirez, 24, beamed as Mr. Carson visited her two-bedroom apartment in a housing facility set aside for low-income parents who are working. Ms. Ramirez, a single mother, is earning an associate degree in science at Columbus State Community College and had been a supporter of Mr. Carson’s presidential bid. As she and Mr. Carson chatted, he signed her copy of his biography, “Gifted Hands,” writing, “Keep up the good work.”

“The best thing to do is to do what Ben Carson is doing and that’s walking through to see if programs are really benefiting people and if people are really serious,” said Ms. Ramirez, who uses a Section 8 voucher to pay for an apartment she shares with her 2-year-old and 6-year-old daughters. “I think you should be in school or working to try to be on your own because that’s what America is about.”
Meera Jagannathan Apr-17-2017 210 0
As police searched across five states for a man suspected of gunning down a Cleveland grandfather and posting the footage to Facebook, President Trump was tweeting about a book with no words.

The commander-in-chief, fresh off a separate Easter morning Twitter rant, cluttered his feed Monday morning with tweets about “Fox & Friends,” jabs at Democrats and musings on the “fake media.”

Top White House aide Kellyanne Conway — rising to Trump’s defense in February after his public silence on a fatal Quebec mosque shooting drew criticism — said he “doesn’t tweet about everything.”

It seems the President will, however, tweet about anything. Here’s what appeared to be on his mind after Steve Stephens, 37, allegedly shot 74-year-old Robert Godwin Sr. Sunday afternoon in a murder that made national headlines.

“The recent Kansas election (Congress) was a really big media event, until the Republicans won. Now they play the same game with Georgia-BAD!” Trump wrote at 8:45 p.m. Sunday.


President Trump on Monday had yet to tweet about Sunday's shooting in Cleveland.

In the race for CIA Director Mike Pompeo’s seat, Republican Ron Estes narrowly beat Democrat James Thompson last week in Kansas’s 4th district — which Trump had won handily in the 2016 election. Tuesday's contest in Georgia for Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price's seat is also expected to be close.

At 8:07 a.m. Monday, the President tweeted, “‘The first 90 days of my presidency has exposed the total failure of the last eight years of foreign policy!’ So true. @foxandfriends.”

He was ostensibly misquoting conservative author Michael J. Knowles, who appeared on “Fox & Friends” to promote his book, “Reasons to Vote for Democrats: A Comprehensive Guide.”

“It is unbelievable how within the first 100 days of this presidency we have exposed the total failure of the last eight years of foreign policy,” Knowles said on air.

Six minutes later, Trump plugged Knowles’ work — a tome filled with blank pages — in a separate tweet.

“A great book for your reading enjoyment: ‘REASONS TO VOTE FOR DEMOCRATS’ by Michael J. Knowles,” he wrote.

Soon after, the President zeroed in on one of his favorite punching bags. This time, he coined a corollary to “fake media”: “real media.”

“The Fake Media (not Real Media) has gotten even worse since the election. Every story is badly slanted. We have to hold them to the truth!” he tweeted.


Trump forged ahead tweeting about the Georgia election, but failed to spell “Congressional” correctly.

The President, capping off a string of tweets that ignored the biggest national crime story of the day, retweeted a Drudge Report post linking to a Rasmussen poll touting a 50% Trump approval rating. Gallup’s latest poll puts his job approval at 41%.
Jim Malewitz Apr-11-2017 148 0
A federal judge has ruled — for the second time — that Texas lawmakers intentionally discriminated against Latino and black voters in passing a strict voter identification law in 2011.  
by Jim MalewitzApril 10, 2017 5:20 PM
 
A federal judge has ruled — for the second time — that Texas lawmakers intentionally discriminated against Latino and black voters in passing a strict voter identification law in 2011.

U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos ruled Monday that Texas “has not met its burden” in proving that lawmakers passed the nation’s strictest photo ID law, know as Senate Bill 14, without knowingly targeting minority voters.

The 10-page ruling, if it withstands almost certain appeals, could ultimately put Texas back on the list of states needing outside approval before changing election laws. A 2013 Supreme Court ruling sprung Texas and other states with a history of discrimination from that list.

The U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last July that the Texas law disproportionately targeted minority voters who were less likely to have one of the seven forms of state-approved photo ID — a violation of the U.S. Voting Rights Act. And Texas conducted the 2016 general election under a court-ordered relaxation of the rules.

But the appeals court asked Ramos, of Corpus Christi, to reconsider her previous ruling that lawmakers discriminated on purpose, calling parts of her conclusion “infirm.”

After weighing the evidence again, she came to the same conclusion, according to Monday’s ruling. Her decision did not identify what some have called a smoking gun showing intent to discriminate, but it cited the state’s long history of discrimination; “virtually unprecedented radical departures from normal practices” in fast-tracking the 2011 bill through the Legislature; the legislation's “unduly strict” terms; and lawmakers' “shifting rationales” for passing a law that some said was needed to crack down on voter fraud.

“The Court holds that the evidence found 'infirm' did not tip the scales,” Ramos wrote. Civil rights groups and others suing the state offered evidence that “established a discriminatory purpose was at least one of the substantial or motivating factors behind passage of SB 14," she added.
Marc Rylander, a spokesman for Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, said his office was "disappointed and will seek review of this ruling at the appropriate time." And Brantley Starr, Paxton's first deputy assistant, told the House Committee on Elections on Monday that he believes an appeals court will overturn overturn Ramos’ ruling — by considering the state’s effort this year to pass a new ID law.

Texas Republicans, including Gov. Greg Abbott, have long disputed that the Legislature discriminated — let alone did so knowingly — and have suggested that the law bolstered the integrity of elections. 

Democrats sought to capitalize on the ruling Monday, saying it highlighted "sickening" and "shameful" state efforts to suppress voter turnout.

“It is disgusting and shameful that Republicans have worked so hard to keep Texas’ diverse new majority away from the polls," Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa said in a prepared statement. "Sadly, the damage has been done."

With the ruling, two federal courts — in consecutive months — have found that Texas lawmakers knowingly discriminated against Latino and black voters in elections. In March, a three-judge panel in San Antonio ruled the Legislature illegally “packed” and “cracked” minority populations in certain districts while redrawing the state’s congressional map in 2011— an effort to reduce their influence across Texas.
Krissah Thompson Mar-26-2017 152 0
The first cocktail party at Barack Obama’s new office last month was certainly more casual than any he had hosted in recent years. The wine bore a random assortment of labels, as if assembled potluck-style. The self-serve appetizers were set out in the narrow hallway. The host, tieless, eschewed formal remarks, as a few dozen of his old administration officials — Joe Biden and former chief of staff Denis McDonough, as well as more junior ones — mingled in a minimalist wood-paneled suite that could be mistaken for a boutique law firm.

“It was a bit of a shock to the system,” said Peter Velz, who used to work in the White House communications office. “You’re bumping up right against the vice president as he’s getting cheese from the cheese plate.”

As the dinner hour drew near, the former president exited with a familiar excuse, Velz recalled: “He was joking if he doesn’t get back to Michelle, he’s going to be in trouble.”

So far, Obama is trying to approach his post-presidency in the same way as his cocktail-hosting duties — keeping things low-key, despite clamoring from Democrats for him to do more. “He is enjoying a lower profile where he can relax, reflect and enjoy his family and friends,” said his former senior adviser Valerie Jarrett.

But the unprecedented nature of this particular post-presidency means his respite could be brief. Even while taking some downtime in the South Pacific last week, Obama put out a statement urging Republicans not to unilaterally dismantle his signature health care law.

Not only are the Obamas still young and unusually popular for a post-White House couple, their decision to stay in Washington while their younger daughter finishes high school has combined with the compulsion of the new Trump administration to keep pulling them back into the spotlight.

President Trump has repeatedly invoked his predecessor to blame him for the “mess” he says he inherited: “jobs pouring out of the country,” “major problems” in the Middle East and North Korea. A post-election show of camaraderie has ended; the two have not spoken since Trump took office.

Trump dropped any remaining veneer of politeness this month with a series of tweets accusing Obama — without a shred of evidence — of illegally surveilling Trump Tower during the campaign. Obama was privately irritated at the allegation, which the director of the FBI and lawmakers from both parties dismissed as unfounded.

He has attempted to stay above the fray, watching from the sidelines as Republicans have pressed to unravel a slew of his initiatives — and emphasizing the need for a new generation of political leaders to step up in his place.

And yet, while other recent ex-presidents have devoted their retirement years to apolitical, do-gooder causes, Obama is gearing up to throw himself into the wonky and highly partisan issue of redistricting, with the goal of reversing the electoral declines Democrats have experienced nationally.

Both the continued interest in Obama and his desire to remain engaged in civic life place him in an unusual position for a former president. George W. Bush left office with low approval rates, retreating to Dallas to write a memoir and take up painting. Bill Clinton decamped for New York on a somewhat higher note politically but downshifted to a mission of building his family’s foundation and supporting his wife’s political career.

Can the Obamas put their heads down and build their ambitious presidential center while living only blocks from the White House? Or is it inevitable that he will get pulled back into the political swamp?

In February, Obama attended a Broadway performance of Arthur Miller’s “The Price” along with his older daughter, Malia, and Jarrett. They slipped into the theater after the lights went down and left before they came up, most of the audience unaware of his presence — until a New York Times reporter sitting in front of him tweeted about it. By the time Obama left, a crowd had gathered outside.

Paparazzi wait outside of the D.C. SoulCycle exercise studio that Michelle Obama frequents, though she clearly does not appear interested in being photographed.

“They are still decompressing from an extremely intense period. It actually started not just eight years ago but really since his 2004 convention speech — and it never let up,” said a former senior West Wing staffer. “It’s like 12 years of extremely intense stress, political activity, scrutiny, responsibility as a national leader, and for the first lady as the surrogate-in-chief. .?.?. That’s been a big load for the both of them.”

Taylor Lorenz Mar-17-2017 143 0
Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) on Friday called for President Trump to apologize to former President Obama for accusing him of "wiretapping" Trump Tower without evidence.

"I see no indication that's true. It's not a charge that I would ever have ever made, and frankly unless he can produce some pretty compelling proof, then I think President Obama is owed an apology in that regard," Cole said.

"If he didn't do it, we shouldn't be reckless in accusations that he did."
Cole is the first GOP lawmaker to call for an apology, although other Republicans have questioned why Trump made the accusation without proof.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer on Thursday defended Trump, saying: "The president has already been very clear that he didn't mean specifically wiretapping. He had it in quotes. So I think to fall back on that is a false premise. That's not what he said. He was very clear when he talked about it yesterday."

Spicer said Trump stood by his claim, after the Senate Intelligence Committee earlier Thursday said it sees "no indication that Trump Tower was a subject of surveillance by any element of the United States government either before or after Election Day 2016."

Trump earlier this month wrote in a series of early Saturday morning tweets that "Obama had my 'wires tapped' in Trump Tower" during the campaign, calling his predecessor a "bad (or sick) guy!"
AP Mar-12-2017 215 0
Federal judges found more problems in Texas' voting rights laws, ruling that Republicans racially gerrymandered some congressional districts to weaken the growing electoral power of minorities, who former President Barack Obama set out to protect at the ballot box before leaving office.

The ruling late Friday by a three-judge panel in San Antonio gave Democrats hope of new, more favorably drawn maps that could turn over more seats in Congress in 2018. But the judges in their 2-1 decision didn't propose an immediate fix, and Texas could appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Republicans hold two of three congressional districts ruled newly invalid and were found to have been partly drawn with discriminatory intent. The GOP-controlled Texas Legislature approved the maps in 2011, the same year then-Gov. Rick Perry signed a voter ID law that ranks among the toughest in the U.S. Courts have since weakened that law, too.

Judges noted the "strong racial tension and heated debate about Latinos, Spanish-speaking people, undocumented immigrants and sanctuary cities" that served as the backdrop in the Legislature to Texas adopting the maps and the voter ID law. Those tensions are flaring again over President Donald Trump's executive orders on immigration, and Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is also demanding tough crackdowns on so-called sanctuary cities.

"The record indicates not just a hostility toward Democrat districts, but a hostility to minority districts, and a willingness to use race for partisan advantage," U.S. District Judges Xavier Rodriguez and Orlando Garcia wrote in their opinion.

Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton did not immediately remark on the ruling.

An attorney for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund welcomed Friday's ruling.

"The court's decision exposes the Texas Legislature's illegal effort to dilute the vote of Texas Latinos," said Nina Perales, the group's vice president of litigation and lead counsel in the case. "Moving forward, the ruling will help protect Latinos from manipulation of district lines in order to reduce their political clout."

Hispanics were found to have fueled Texas' dramatic growth in the 2010 census, the year before the maps were drawn, accounting for two out of every three new residents in the state. The findings of racially motivated mapmaking satisfied Democrats and minority rights groups, who are now pushing a separate federal court in Texas to determine that the voter ID law was also crafted with discriminatory intent.

Texas was forced ahead of the November election to weaken its voter ID law, which allows concealed handgun licenses but not college student IDs, after a federal appeals court found that the requirements particularly hampered minorities and the poor.

The Obama administration had brought the muscle of the U.S. Justice Department into Texas to help challenge both the maps and voter ID law. But barely a month after Trump took office, the federal government reversed course and announced it would no longer argue that Texas purposefully discriminated against minorities with its voter ID law.

It was not yet clear whether the Trump administration will also drop opposition to Texas' maps. But U.S. Circuit Judge Jerry Smith, in a blistering dissent, had strong words for Obama administration attorneys after they joined the case.

"It was obvious, from the start, that the DoJ attorneys viewed state officials and the legislative majority and their staffs as a bunch of backwoods hayseed bigots who bemoan the abolition of the poll tax and pine for the days of literacy tests and lynchings," Smith wrote. "And the DoJ lawyers saw themselves as an expeditionary landing party arriving here, just in time, to rescue the state from oppression, obviously presuming that plaintiffs' counsel were not up to the task."

The stakes in finding discriminatory intent are higher because it provides a window for opponents to argue that Texas should be forced to resume having changes to voting laws "pre-cleared" by the Justice Department or a federal court. A 2013 U.S. Supreme Court ruling did away with preclearance by striking down a key provision in the federal Voting Rights Act.

The congressional districts voided by the panel belong to Democrat Lloyd Doggett and Republicans Will Hurd and Blake Farenthold. Hurd's district, which runs from San Antonio to El Paso, has been a rare competitive swing district in Texas in recent years.
Feb-28-2017 162 0
President Trump signed an executive order to bolster historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) on Tuesday. The order will do this by moving the moving the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities, which was previously part of the Department of Education, back to the White House.

The administration says this action will encourage strategic partnerships with other agencies and outside groups by giving it greater visibility. The United Negro College Fund had requested that Mr. Trump move the Initiative to the White House and be led by a person “who reports to a senior advisor to the president,” according to The Washington Post.

Dozens of HBCU leaders gathered at the White House on Monday where they briefly met Mr. Trump in the Oval Office before meeting with Vice President Mike Pence. The order is a signal that the Trump administration plans to make HBCUs a priority, boosting Trump’s “urban agenda,” a senior White House office told reporters in a briefing.

What to expect in President Trump's address to joint session of Congress
The White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities was started by President Jimmy Carter, but the Trump administration says the office has “lost track because they didn’t have the full force of the White House behind it.”
AP Feb-25-2017 152 0
Democrats elected former Labor Secretary Tom Perez as their new national chairman on Saturday over a liberal Minnesota congressman after a divisive campaign that reflected the depths of the party's electoral failures as well as the energy from resistance to President Donald Trump.

Perez, the first Latino to hold the post, edged Rep. Keith Ellison on the second round of voting by Democratic National Committee members gathered in Atlanta.

A nod to his margin of 35 votes out of 435 cast, to say nothing of the lingering friction between old-guard Democratic brokers and outspoken liberal upstarts, Perez tapped Ellison to serve as deputy chair.

"We are all in this together," Perez said, calling on Democrats to fight "the worst president in the history of the United States." He added, "I am confident when we lead with our values and we lead with our actions, we succeed."

Perez had led on the first ballot among six candidates, but fell just short of the required majority.

Earlier Saturday, Perez told DNC members the party was facing a "crisis of confidence" and a "crisis of relevance."

"We need a chair who cannot only take the fight to Donald Trump but make sure that we talk about our positive message of inclusion and opportunity and talk to that big tent of the Democratic Party," Perez said.

Both top candidates had promised aggressive rebuilding efforts for state and local Democratic parties.

The chair campaign was uncharted territory as Democrats face a power deficit not seen in nine decades. Republicans control the White House, Congress and about two-thirds of U.S. statehouses. The GOP is one Senate confirmation fight away from a conservative majority on the Supreme Court.

With Democrats in agreement in their opposition to Trump, the race turned on who was able to convince enough DNC members to believe his promises of rebuilding party infrastructure that withered under President Barack Obama despite his personal electoral success.

Ellison told voting members he had signatures from 750,000 rank-and-file Democrats who support his chairmanship bid. He promised to "convert them from demonstration energy to electoral energy." He pledged to prioritize small donations to finance the party, while working to "organize this whole country."

Perez said he would "rebuild strong parties" and "organize, organize, organize" so Democratic nominees could win "from the school to the Senate in all the states."

Perez got into the race at Obama's urging, but he pushed back on the notion that represented the same "establishment" label that dogged Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. Ellison had endorsements from Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who challenged Clinton for the Democratic nomination, and also from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

For their parts, Ellison and Perez had praised each other and promised unity regardless of the outcome.

The winner succeeds outgoing Chairwoman Donna Brazile, who led the party as interim chief in the fallout from disclosure that internal party communications were stolen by hackers and leaked during the 2016 presidential campaign.

U.S. intelligence officials have blamed Russian agents and said Moscow's intention was to help Trump win.

Brazile said Saturday the party has worked with cybersecurity experts to address vulnerabilities. She chided Trump for his mockery of DNC cybersecurity and his doubts that Russians are at fault.

"No, Donald Trump, you can't go to Staples and buy anti-Russian hacking software," she said, urging Congress to investigate whether Russians hacked the Republican National Committee.

No RNC emails were leaked during the 2016 campaign. Republican officials insist their party communications were not breached.

Brazile suggests that proves Russians wanted to help Trump.
Reena Flores Feb-16-2017 135 0
President Trump’s freewheeling press White House press conference Thursday -- in which he announced his new labor secretary pick -- also included an awkward exchange on race, after a reporter asked him about his policies to improve inner cities.

“You go to some of the inner city places and it’s so sad when you look at the crime,” the president said. He went on to describe how people “lock themselves into apartments petrified to even leave in the middle of the day” in urban areas for fear of crime in the cities.

Journalist April Ryan, who serves as the White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief for American Urban Radio Networks, followed up: “When you say the inner cities, are you going to include the CBC, Mr. President, in your conversations with your urban agenda?”
When Mr. Trump seemed unfamiliar with the “CBC” acronym, Ryan, who is black, clarified: “Are you going to include the Congressional Black Caucus -- “

The president interrupted: “Well I would. I’d tell you what -- do you want to set up the meeting?
“Do you want to set up the meeting?” the president pressed again. “Are they friends of yours?”
Ryan emphatically shook her head and said, “No, no, no, I’m just a reporter...I know some of them but --”

“No, get us -- set up the meeting,” he urged. “Let’s go, set up the meeting, I would love to meet with the black caucus - the Congressional Black caucus.”
The CBC tweeted at Mr. Trump after the news conference.

President Trump went on to say he had once had a scheduled meeting with Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, who is a senior member of the Congressional Black Caucus.

“Every day I walked in and said I would like to meet with him, because I do want to solve the problem,” Mr. Trump said. “But he probably was told by [Senate Minority Leader Chuck] Schumer or somebody like that … he was probably told don’t meet with Trump. It’s bad politics.”  
“I was all set to have the meeting,” he said.

But Rep. Cummings, a Democrat, pushed back against the president’s claims in a short statement immediately after the news conference.

“I have no idea why President Trump would make up a story about me like he did today. Of course, Sen. Schumer never told me to skip a meeting with the President,” Cummings wrote Thursday. 
“I was actually looking forward to meeting with the President about the skyrocketing price of prescription drugs,” he said, adding that he looks “forward to meeting with [Mr. Trump] on this issue and others.
AP Feb-09-2017 231 0
A federal appeals court in San Francisco has refused to reinstate President Donald Trump's ban on travelers from seven predominantly Muslim nations.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday wouldn't block a lower-court ruling that suspended the ban and allowed previously barred travelers to enter the U.S. An appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court is possible.

U.S. District Judge James Robart in Seattle issued a temporary restraining order halting the ban last week after Washington state and Minnesota sued. The Justice Department appealed to the 9th Circuit.

Government lawyers argued that the ban was a "lawful exercise" of the president's authority and that the seven countries have raised terrorism concerns.

The states said Trump's executive order unconstitutionally blocked entry based on religion.

AP Feb-03-2017 198 0
The Republican-controlled Congress on Thursday scrapped Obama-era rules on the environment and guns, counting on a new ally in the White House to help reverse years of what the GOP calls excessive regulation.

The Senate gave final approval to a measure eliminating a rule to prevent coal mining debris from being dumped into nearby streams, while the House backed a separate resolution doing away with extended background checks for gun purchases by some Social Security recipients with mental disabilities.

The Senate's 54-45 vote sends the repeal of the stream protection rule to President Donald Trump, who is expected to sign it. The gun measure awaits Senate action.

Republicans and some Democrats say the coal-mining rule could eliminate thousands of coal-related jobs and ignores dozens of federal, state and local regulations already in place.

The Interior Department, which announced the rule in December, said that it would protect 6,000 miles of streams and 52,000 acres of forests, preventing coal mining debris from being dumped into nearby waters.

The vote was the first in a series of actions Republicans are expected to take in coming weeks to reverse years of what they call excessive regulation during President Barack Obama's tenure. Rules on fracking, federal contracting and other issues also are in the cross-hairs as the GOP moves to void a host of regulations finalized during Obama's last months in office.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., called the stream rule "an attack against coal miners and their families" and said it would have threatened coal jobs and caused major damage to communities in Kentucky and other coal-producing states.

"The legislation we passed today will help stop this disastrous rule and bring relief to coal miners and their families," McConnell said.

Democrats called the vote an attack on clean water and a clear win for big coal-mining companies and other polluters.

Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., said the stream rule had nothing to do with the decline of coal, which faces stiff competition from cheap natural gas.

"This rule was not in place" when coal production began declining in the past half-dozen years, Cantwell said.

In the House, the issue was an Obama rule extending background checks for disabled Social Security recipients mentally incapable of managing their own affairs. The House voted 235-180 to scuttle it.

Under the rule, the Social Security Administration had to provide information to the gun-buying background check system on recipients with a mental disorder so severe they cannot work and need someone to handle their benefits. The rule, also finalized in December, would have affected an estimated 75,000 beneficiaries.

"There is no evidence suggesting that those receiving disability benefits from the Social Security Administration are a threat to public safety," said Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

"Once an unelected bureaucrat unfairly adds these folks to the federal background check system, they are no longer able to exercise their Second Amendment right," he said.

After the 2012 school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, Obama directed the Justice Department to provide guidance to agencies regarding information they are obligated to report to the background check system.

In Newtown, 20 children and six educators were shot to death when a gunman entered the Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, 2012. The gunman had earlier killed his mother inside their home, and he used a gun and ammunition that she had purchased. His mental health problems have been extensively reported since the shooting.

Democrats said Republicans were doing the bidding of the National Rifle Association, which opposed the Social Security Administration's rule.

"These are not people just having a bad day," Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Calif., said. "These are not people simply suffering from depression or anxiety or agoraphobia. These are people with a severe mental illness who can't hold any kind of job or make any decisions about their affairs, so the law says very clearly they shouldn't have a firearm."

The NRA said overturning the regulation will protect a broad class of vulnerable citizens from government overreach. And the American Civil Liberties Union agreed, telling lawmakers that a disability should not constitute grounds for the automatic denial of any right or privilege, including gun ownership.

Republicans are employing a rarely used tool to roll back some of the rules issued in the final months of Obama's tenure. The Congressional Review Act provides a temporary window for a simple majority of both chambers to invalidate a rule. Trump would have to sign the disapproval measure for a regulation to be deemed invalid.

The law also prevents the executive branch from imposing substantially similar regulations in the future.

On the coal mining vote, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine was the sole Republican to oppose the repeal measure, which was supported by four Democrats: Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Claire McCaskill of Missouri. All four face re-election next year in states Trump won.

Daryl Washington Jan-31-2017 239 0
dan good Jan-16-2017 352 0
President-elect Donald Trump met with Martin Luther King III on Monday, as the country observed the holiday honoring King's father.

The two were seen shaking hands in the Trump Tower lobby following the early afternoon meeting, which addressed voter participation and poverty, King said.

Trump said "over and over" during the session that "he's going to represent Americans ... I think that we will continue to evaluate that," said King, who followed his father's footsteps in his work on human rights.

Trump had earlier been rumored to spend Martin Luther King Jr. Day visiting the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. — but the trip was called off due to unspecified "scheduling issues."

King answered questions from a handful of reporters after the meeting and briefly discussed the simmering feud between the President-elect and Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), who said that he didn't consider Trump a "legitimate president."

"In the heat of emotion, a lot of things get said on both sides," King said. "The goal is to bring America together, and Americans," he added. "We are a great nation, but we must become a greater nation."

"The goal is to bring America together, and Americans," he added. "We are a great nation, but we must become a greater nation."

William Wachtel – a lawyer who relaunched the Drum Major Institute, a think-tank and community action group, with King – also attended the meeting and later displayed a mock-up Social Security card featuring an image of Trump. The non-profit wants Trump to improve the government’s photo ID system to give more people the opportunity to vote.

The Rev. James A. Forbes and Scott Rechler were also present, the Washington Post reports.
Trump posted a message on Twitter honoring Martin Luther King Jr., the civil rights icon who was assassinated in 1968.

“Celebrate Martin Luther King Day and all of the many wonderful things that he stood for,” he wrote. “Honor him for being the great man that he was!”

Lewis and dozens of other lawmakers have said they plan to boycott Trump's inauguration after Trump wrote on Twitter that Lewis was "all talk" and that his district was in "horrible shape and falling apart."

Lewis worked alongside King and other civil rights activists during the 1960s, and was severely beaten during the "Bloody Sunday" marches from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama.

"Congressman Lewis started this," Spicer told NBC's "Today" on Monday. "To see somebody of John Lewis' stature and iconic nature who has worked so hard to enfranchise people and talk about people getting involved with our voting systems, and talking about the integrity of our voting systems, to then go out when the candidate of his choice didn't win and try to talk about the delegitimization of the election, is frankly, disappointing."
mary papenfuss Jan-15-2017 178 0
Donald Trump not only slammed Georgia Democratic Rep. John Lewis after the black congressman challenged the legitimacy of Trump’s coming presidency, but he also ripped Lewis’ Atlanta district as “crime infested” and in “horrible shape and falling apart.” Now Atlanta residents are furious.

“He needs to do a little more research before he opens his mouth,” local mom Monique Smith told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

If “Trump believes Georgia’s Fifth Congressional District is ‘falling apart,’ then he believes Atlanta is falling apart,” the newspaper noted, and that’s hardly the case. The economically and racially diverse district includes 750,000 people and encompasses most of the city along with some suburbs.

It’s unclear what Trump meant by “falling apart.” As for “crime infested,” Atlanta was ranked 14th in violent crime rates by the FBI in 2015. Kansas City, Missouri, ranked 8th, and Washington, D.C., ranked 12th. The 5th District includes impressive sections of wealthy areas like Buckhead, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Trump’s knee-jerk perception of Lewis’ district is similar to views he expressed during his campaign when he characterized some black communities as crime-ridden hellholes worse than Afghanistan.

Trump appears to be less concerned about accuracy in his portrayal of the 5th District and more focused on devaluing a critic’s assessment of him by evoking a negative image of a blighted black community failed by its leadership.

Lewis’ furious constituents and others flooded Twitter after Trump’s comments with responses defending their congressman and their community under hashtags such as #defendthefifth and #notsad.

Houston Astros pitcher Collin McHugh of Atlanta tweeted: “As someone who lives in the 5th district, I don’t think #DJT has any idea what he’s talking about. And then doubling down by insulting the civil rights hero on #MLK wknd … wow #classy.”

Some people posted photos of high-rises, beautiful homes and children playing in a park. One Twitter user quipped that Atlanta should be relieved about Trump’s attitude — because it means he probably won’t be visiting.

Trump attacked Lewis and his district after the congressman said he wouldn’t be attending the inauguration. He said he believes Trump won the White House with the help of Russian hackers.


“I think it was a conspiracy on the part of the Russians and others to help him get elected,” he said in an interview Friday on NBC for Sunday’s “Meet The Press.” “That’s not right. That’s not fair. That’s not the open democratic process.”

Lewis added: “I don’t see this president-elect as a legitimate president.”

Lewis, an iconic civil rights leader who was once beaten so badly by a law enforcement officer in a protest that his skull was fractured, has represented the 5th District since 1987. The NAACP has called on Trump to apologize to him. Organization President Cornell William Brooks said in a Saturday tweet that Trump’s remarks “demeaned Americans” and the rights Lewis has fought for throughout his life.


Mallory Shelbourne Jan-14-2017 220 0
Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.) on Saturday said he will not attend Donald Trump's inauguration next week after the president-elect ripped Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.).

"'All talk, no action.' I stand with @repjohnlewis and I will not be attending the inauguration," Takano wrote on Twitter.

Trump took to Twitter early Saturday to slam Lewis for saying he does not see Trump as "a legitimate president."

"Congressman John Lewis should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart (not to mention crime infested) rather than falsely complaining about the election results. All talk, talk, talk - no action or results. Sad!" Trump wrote in several tweets.

The attack sparked heavy backlash from several Democratic lawmakers as well as Republican Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), who noted Lewis' prominent role in the Civil Rights Movement.

Lewis said Friday that while he believes in forgiveness, working with Trump would be "hard."

"I believe in forgiveness. I believe in trying to work with people. It will be hard. It's going to be very difficult. I don't see this president-elect as a legitimate president," Lewis told NBC News on Friday.
AP Jan-14-2017 192 0
House Republicans have shown no inclination to challenge President-elect Donald Trump on ethics matters. Instead, they are going after the federal ethics official who questioned Trump's potential conflicts of interest.

Democrats slammed the move, saying GOP lawmakers are trying to intimidate an independent watchdog for having the temerity to challenge Trump's business arrangements.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, chairman of the House Oversight Committee, has summoned Walter Shaub Jr., the director of the Office of Government Ethics, to answer questions about his public comments on Trump.

This week, Shaub issued a scathing review of Trump's plan to turn over control of his business to his sons. Shaub said in a speech Wednesday that the only way Trump could avoid a conflict of interest as president would be to divest from his business and have his assets placed in a blind trust. "Stepping back from running his business is meaningless from a conflict of interest perspective," Shaub said of Trump.

Chaffetz sent Shaub a sternly worded letter late Thursday requesting that he sit for a transcribed interview. He said the interview would "help the committee understand how you perceive OGE's role, among other things."

"Your agency's mission is to provide clear ethics guidance, not engage in public relations," Chaffetz wrote.

In an interview, Chaffetz said Shaub is offering opinions on conflicts of interest without fully researching the circumstances. "What he's doing is highly unethical," Chaffetz said.

Chaffetz said his own letter was drafted before Shaub's speech. Chaffetz said he has been trying to meet with Shaub since the fall but that Shaub has declined his invitations. "All I wanted to do is try to get him to come in and talk to us," Chaffetz said.

Chaffetz' letter cited a series of tweets by Shaub in November. In the tweets, Shaub congratulated Trump for agreeing to divest from his business — an agreement that Trump never made.

The congressman's letter did not mention Shaub's speech.

In the speech, Shaub noted that members of Trump's Cabinet — some of them very wealthy, like Trump — are required to place their assets in a blind trust. Shaub said the president should be held to the same standard. "The plan the president-elect has announced doesn't meet the standards that the best of his nominees are meeting and that every president in the past four decades has met," Shaub said.

Shaub's criticism of Trump has been echoed by several government watchdog groups and both Republican and Democratic government ethics experts. They include Norman Eisen, a former chief ethics counselor for President Barack Obama, and Richard Painter, who served in the same role for President George W. Bush.

Congressional Democrats sharply criticized Chaffetz for summoning Shaub.

"The Oversight Committee has not held one hearing, conducted one interview, or obtained one document about President-elect Donald Trump's massive global entanglements, yet it is now apparently rushing to launch an investigation of the key government official for warning against the risks caused by President-elect Donald Trump's current plans," said Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, then top Democrat on the committee.

Some Democrats see a coordinated effort by Republicans to undermine the office responsible for ethics reviews of Cabinet nominees and ensuring they will avoid conflicts of interests.

"Instead of honoring his committee's responsibility to hold the administration accountable, Chairman Chaffetz has appointed himself President-elect Trump's chief strongman and enforcer," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

A week ago, Shaub complained that Senate Republicans were moving ahead with confirmation hearings before Trump's choices had reached ethics agreements.

This week, Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., circulated an online petition that says, "It's time for the bureaucrats at the Office of Government Ethics to pick up the pace on vetting President-elect Trump's nominees for the cabinet."
Reuters Jan-07-2017 220 0
President Obama said on Friday that criticism from the left wing of his own Democratic Party helped feed into the unpopularity of Obamacare, his signature health care reform law.

Obama has been spending part of his last two weeks in office urging supporters to speak out against plans by Republicans - who will soon control both the White House and Congress - to dismantle the 2010 Affordable Care Act.

At a town hall event with Vox Media, Obama acknowledged the politics have been stacked against his reforms, mainly blaming Republicans who he said refused to help make legislative fixes to Obamacare, which provides subsidies for private insurance to lower-income Americans who do not have healthcare plans at work.

But Obama also said liberals like former Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders had contributed to the program's unpopularity.

During Sanders' campaign for the presidential nomination, he proposed replacing Obamacare with a government-run single-payer health insurance system based on Medicare, the government plan for elderly and disabled Americans.

"In the 'dissatisfied' column are a whole bunch of Bernie Sanders supporters who wanted a single-payer plan," Obama said in the interview.

"The problem is not that they think Obamacare is a failure. The problem is that they don't think it went far enough and that it left too many people still uncovered," Obama said.

Michael Briggs, a spokesman for Sanders, agreed that many people would rather the government "take on the private insurance industry and the pharmaceutical companies" and play a bigger role in providing healthcare.

"There are many millions of Americans, including many of Bernie's supporters, who don’t understand why we are the only major country on earth that does not provide healthcare as a right and they don’t understand why we pay more but get less for what we spend on healthcare," Briggs said.

Polling by the Kaiser Family Foundation last month showed 46% of Americans have an unfavorable opinion of Obamacare, while 43% have a favorable view. Americans are also split on whether the law should be repealed.

Trump and congressional Republicans have vowed to quickly repeal the law, but Obama and Democrats have argued they should reveal a replacement plan before dismantling the program.

More than 20 million previously uninsured Americans gained health coverage through Obamacare, according to the White House. Coverage was extended by expanding the Medicaid program for the poor and through online exchanges where consumers can receive income-based subsidies.
Jason Silverstein Jan-03-2017 168 0
Members of the NAACP started occupying the Mobile office of Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions Tuesday, calling for him to turn down his controversial nomination to become the next U.S. Attorney General.

NAACP President Cornell William Brooks led several protesters into the office after noon, and said he'd be fine with leaving in handcuffs.

President-elect Donald Trump has tapped Sessions, 70, to be his Attorney General — a move that drew immediate rebukes for Sessions' history of opposing civil rights causes.

Sessions lost a nomination from President Ronald Reagan to become a federal judge after accusations that he had made racist remarks. Former colleagues said he called civil rights groups, including the NAACP, “un-American” and “communist inspired,” but said he was “okay” with the Ku Klux Klan until he learned that some members smoked marijuana.

Since then, he has earned a reputation as one of the staunchest conservatives in the Senate, and he has opposed Obamacare, the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and all three of President Obama’s Supreme Court nominees.

In a press conference before the protest, Birmingham NAACP leader Hezekiah Jackson said the black civil rights group "has chosen not to remain silent on this critical matter."

"We have found no evidence of (Sessions') ability, past or present, to be impartial and unbiased as the chief law enforcement officer of the United States of America, especially in the areas of civil rights, voting rights and equal protection under the law," Johnson said.

There were not any arrests in the first hour of the protest, Mobile Police Public Affairs Officer Charlette Solis told the Daily News. She was not sure how many protesters were in Sessions' office.
A representative in Sessions' Mobile refused to answer questions and referred to News to the senator's Washington, D.C. office. 
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