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Meet Richard Hayes, the Black Man Who Picks Up Mitt Romney’s Trash

Meet Richard Hayes, the Black Man Who Picks Up Mitt Romney's Trash

Even Mitt Romney’s garbage man, Richard Hayes, is taking offense to his 47 percent comments. Hayes is a City of San Diego sanitation worker whose route includes Romney’s $12 million oceanfront villa in La Jolla, Calif.

Hayes is featured in a new video spotlighting public service workers who provide services to Romney. The series juxtaposes the personal stories of public workers with Romney’s 47% comments and his agenda to cut and privatize public services.

“My name is Richard Hayes, and I pick up Mitt Romney’s trash. We’re kind of like the invisible people. He doesn’t realize that the service we provide — if it wasn’t for us, it would be a big health issue, us not picking up trash,” Hayes says in the video.

“We’re kind of like the invisible people. He doesn’t realize, you know, the service we provide… When I’m 55, 60 years old I know my body’s gonna be breaking down. Mitt Romney doesn’t care about that,” Hayes goes on to say.

The second video, “Meet Temo” features Temo Fuentes, a City of San Diego employee who fixes the fire trucks that service Mitt Romney’s neighborhood. (Fuentes’ mother used to clean houses in the area also.)

The videos were produced by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO, and the workers featured are AFSCME members.

California Approves Driver’s Licenses for Young Undocumented Immigrants

California Approves Driver's Licenses for Young Undocumented Immigrants

On Sunday, Governor Jerry Brown signed Assemblymember Gilbert Cedillo’s (D-Los Angeles) AB 2189 in to law, which will allow DREAMers who are granted deferred action to apply for a California Drivers’ License. The bill states that any document received by a person granted deferred action will be accepted as proof of legal presence for the purpose of applying for a California Drivers’ License.

“It is a victory for those who were brought here through no choice of their own, played by the rules, and are only asking to be included in and contribute to American society,” Cedillo said in a statement. “I wholeheartedly thank and congratulate Governor Brown for signing this bill into law making California the first state in the nation to grant drivers’ licenses to this worthy group of people.”

Gov. Brown’s spokesman Gil Duran said “President Obama has recognized the unique status of these students, and making them eligible to apply for driver’s licenses is an obvious next step.”

Undocumented immigrants were eligible for driver licenses in California until 1993, when the Legislature passed SB 976. Gov. Pete Wilson signed the bill which required residents to provide a Social Security number and proof that their presence in California “is authorized under federal law” in order to obtain a license to drive.

“What we’re seeing now are the fruits of the hard-driving immigrant youth movement,” said Julianne Hing, immigration reporter for Colorlines.com. “There’s clear support for undocumented youth in the state. It should be noted that Cedillo was the author of last year’s successful California Dream Act, a new law which grants undocumented college students eligibility for public financial aid. But there’s not necessarily so much goodwill toward their parents or the larger immigrant community, judging from Gov. Brown’s veto of the TRUST Act and the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights.”

Utah, Washington and New Mexico are the only states in the nation that allow residents to access driver’s licenses regardless of immigration status.

Philly Cop Appears to Punch Woman at Puerto Rican Day Parade

Philly Cop Appears to Punch Woman at Puerto Rican Day Parade

There’s not a whole lot of context to the video above that was recorded at this past weekend’s 50th Annual Puerto Rican Day Parade in Philadelphia. But what’s clear from the 36 second video is that a woman jumping around celebrating (by spraying silly string) ends up with a busted lip after an officer throws her down on the floor.

The video was posted to Reddit Monday morning with just a few details added by the person who shot the video.

“Police Brutality in Philadelphia: Officer sucker punches woman he assumed sprinkled water on him. The video shows it wasn’t her,” wrote the user zombiesrus. In just 6-hours since the video was posted, Reddit users have deconstructed the video and created GIFs that illustrate ‘zombiesrus’ observations.

Commenters also say the officer that allegedly punched the woman is believed to be a sergeant because he is wearing a white shirt.

We’ll keep you updated if and when we get any information from the Philadelphia Police Department.

Calif. Gov. Vetoes Legislation That Would Protect Farm Workers from Heat-Related Deaths

On Sunday, Gov. Jerry Brown rejected The Humane Treatment for Farm Workers Act - authored by Assemblyman Charles Calderon (D-Whittier) - that would make it a misdemeanor crime, punishable by jail time and fines, to not provide appropriate water or shade to workers laboring under high heat conditions. The governor also vetoed AB 2346 - The Farm Worker Safety Act - by Assemblywoman Betsy Butler (D-Los Angeles). It would have allowed workers to enforce the state’s heat regulations by suing employers who repeatedly violate the law. The United Farm Workers strongly supported both bills.

United Farm Workers President Arturo Rodriguez issued the following statement:

“The UFW is appalled at the governor’s decision to deny farm workers the basic legal tools to protect themselves from employers who intentionally put their lives at risk by refusing to provide them with adequate water and shade despite the dangerously high temperatures. By vetoing AB 2676, the governor continues the policy of giving animals more protections than those currently offered to farm workers.

Since California issued regulations in 2005 to keep farm workers from dying of extreme heat, preventable farm worker deaths have continued. State regulators are investigating two possible heat-related farm worker deaths that occurred this summer. There are over 81,500 farms and more than 450,000 farm workers working under a corrupt farm labor contractor system. It’s time the government admits that without adequate enforcement, regulations are ineffective. We are weighing our legal and other options to determine how we better provide the protections farm workers deserve as human beings.”

“While I believe enforcement of our heat standards can be improved, I am not convinced that creating a new crimes — and crime that applies only to one group of employers — is the answer,” wrote CA Gov. Jerry Brown in his legislative update issued Sunday. “Instead, we should continue to enforce our stringent standards for the benefit of all workers in all industries.”

Calif. Gov Protects Some Immigrant Families, Leaves Others Out in the Cold

Calif. Gov Protects Some Immigrant Families, Leaves Others Out in the Cold

California’s governor yesterday signed two pieces of legislation aimed at protecting immigrant parents and their children from permanent separation. The bills, inspired in part by Colorlines.com’s Shattered Families investigation, take steps to stop U.S. citizen children from getting stuck in foster care if their parents are detained and deported. But the immigrant rights victories are tempered by Gov. Jerry Brown’s decision to veto the closely watched Trust Act, a bill that would have curtailed the state’s participation in Secure Communities, the federal government’s core deportation program.

The two family bills were introduced earlier this year to address the separation of families at the intersection of deportation and the child welfare system. In November, Colorlines.com published a national investigation that conservatively estimates over 5000 children are stuck in foster care with detained and deported parents.

The first bill, SB 1064, introduced by Sen. Kevin De Leon of Los Angeles, extends the period of time for family reunification afforded to deported parents. Current California law provides between six months and a year for families to reunite before courts move foster children into adoption, but parental detention and deportation often makes it impossible for parents to take part in reunification requirements. The bill allows judges to lengthen these timelines when deportation erects barriers to reunification.

De Leon’s bill also instructs child welfare departments to ignore immigration status when evaluating an adult family to care for a young relative. Without such clear guidance, many county child welfare departments refuse to place foster children with their own relatives if the adults are undocumented immigrants. The effect is that these kids can end up in the custody of strangers.


Governor Brown Denies Overtime Protection to Domestic Workers in CA

Governor Brown Denies Overtime Protection to Domestic Workers in CA

Shortly before his midnight deadline on Sunday, California Gov. Jerry Brown announced he vetoed ‘The Domestic Workers Bill of Rights’ (Assembly Bill 889) that would have provided overtime pay, meal breaks and other labor protections to an estimated 200,000 caregivers, nannies and house cleaners in California.

As a result, the overwhelmingly female and immigrant domestic worker workforce in California will continue to be excluded from most labor and employment laws.

In the legislative update announcing his veto, Brown said domestic workers deserve fair pay and safe working conditions, but said he rejected the bill because it “raises a number of unanswered questions.” [PDF]

“Will there be fewer jobs for domestic workers? Will the available jobs be for fewer hours? Will they be less flexible?”, the Democratic governor asked in his veto statement. “What will be the impact of the looming federal policies in this area? How would the state actually enforce the new work rules in the privacy of people’s homes?”

The irony is that the “privacy of people’s homes” that Gov. Brown speaks of is precisely what keeps domestic workers vulnerable. According to the National Domestic Workers Alliance, the mostly female and immigrant domestic workforce is particularly vulnerable due to the isolated nature of the industry, where women labor behind closed doors and out of the public eye.

“Protecting the basic labor rights of workers who care for kids and elders and sick people isn’t that complicated. This is a real setback for racial and economic justice,” said Rinku Sen, President and Executive Director of the Applied Research Center (ARC) and Publisher of Colorlines.com.

Data collected by the American Community Survey from 2006 to 2008 indicate that only 20% of domestic workers in California are white and 73% are foreign-born. Domestic workers are also overwhelmingly women (93%). [PDF]

Though domestic workers are professionals who do real work everyday, domestic workers are excluded from many of the basic protections guaranteed by the Fair Labor Standards Act to most other workers in the United States.

The National Labor Relations Act of 1935 that sets guidelines on labor disputes between employees and employers excludes domestic workers and farm workers. The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 that guarantees U.S. workers the right to minimum wage, overtime and a day of rest each week also excludes domestic workers.

Gov. Brown may have vetoed ‘The Domestic Workers Bill of Rights’ but dozens of celebrities and elected officials helped raised awareness about the conditions domestic workers face daily.

Notables like actress Amy Poehler and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa starred in videos and made public appearances urging Gov. Brown to sign ‘The Domestic Workers Bill of Rights.’

In 2010, New York State passed similar legislation to the CA Domestic Worker Bill of Rights that Governor Brown vetoed. That first-of-its-kind law established overtime pay, a day of rest, paid leave, and protection from discrimination and harassment for domestic workers. Hawai’i, Massachusetts and Illinois are also considering laws to strengthen the rights and protections for domestic workers.

The National Domestic Workers Alliance, who is responsible for passing the NY state bill, is also credited for bringing ‘The Domestic Workers Bill of Rights’ to California. Assemblymember Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) introduced the legislation to the state California.

Whoopi Goldberg Bleeped After Ann Coulter Tries To Tell Her About Black People

Whoopi Goldberg Bleeped After Ann Coulter Tries To Tell Her About Black People

Controversial conservative pundit Ann Coulter appeared on the “The View” Thursday to promote her new book, “Mugged,” in which she claims that President Obama has abandoned black people and that the OJ Simpson verdict was good for the country.

“Oh you know what, hold up Ms. Coulter, please stop. Please stop,” Whoopi Goldberg said shortly after Coulter began to introduce her book. “If you are going to talk about race, at least, at least, know what you’re talking about.”

“What don’t I know?” Coulter asked.

“Well tell me what you know about being black,” Goldberg said. “Your facts are a little shaky. I mean, you’re saying that because liberals have abandoned black people now—what? I don’t get it. I don’t understand.”

Just watch. At one point Goldberg can’t take it anymore and goes off.

“Bullshit! Bullshit, I’m sorry! That’s bull, that’s bull,” Goldberg said.

In more positive news, co-host Joy Behar introduced daytime TV viewers to racist voter ID laws popping up around the country: “It seems to me that voter suppression is happening in areas where black people and hispanics are and it is really being promoted by the Republicans, not the Democrats.”

“So, my view and I have a different one from you, it looks as though the Republicans are really going against blacks, not the Liberals,” Behar said.

Marijuana Prohibition Turns 75, Blacks Three Times More Likely to be Arrested Than Whites

Amanda Reiman, a policy manager at the Drug Police Alliance says it’s important to consider why marijuana was deemed illicit 75 years ago on October 1st.

Take a look at what the first Commissioner of the U.S. Treasury Department’s Federal Bureau of Narcotics Harry Jacob Anslinger said:

“There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the US, and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz and swing, result from marijuana usage. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers and any others.”

Below is an excerpt from Reiman’s piece “75 Years of Racial Control: Happy Birthday Marijuana Prohibition,” that explores the history and the legacy marijuana prohibition has left behind.

As we approach the 75th anniversary of marijuana prohibition in the United States on October 1, it is important to remember why marijuana was deemed illicit in the first place, and why we as Americans must open our eyes to the insidious strategy behind 75 years of failed policy and ruined lives. Marijuana laws were designed not to control marijuana, but to control the Mexican immigrants who had brought this native plant with them to the U.S. Fears over loss of jobs and of the Mexicans themselves led cities to look for ways to keep a close eye on the newcomers. In 1914, El Paso Texas became the first jurisdiction in the U.S. to ban the sale and possession of marijuana. This ban gave police the right to search, detain and question Mexican immigrants without reason, except the suspicion that they were in possession of marijuana. Folklore started to erupt about the effect that marijuana had on those who used it. As Harry Anslinger stated, “Reefer makes darkies think they’re as good as white men.”

Fast forward to 2012. Marijuana is still an illicit substance and the laws are still being used to justify the search, detainment and questioning of populations deemed “untrustworthy” and “suspicious” by modern society, namely the poor and young men of color. A prime example is New York’s Stop and Frisk program, which stopped nearly 700,000 people in 2011. Hailed as a strategy for removing guns and violent crime from the streets, this method of stopping and questioning “suspicious” individuals, highlights the racial inequities associated with drug laws. From 2002 to 2011, African American and Hispanic residents made up close to 90% of people stopped. This is not limited to New York. In California, African-Americans are 4 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana, 12 times more likely to go to prison with a felony marijuana charge, and 3 times more likely to go to prison with a marijuana possession charge.

Visit the Huffington Post to read Amanda Reiman’s full story.

Undocubus Headed to Calif. to Urge Gov. Brown to Sign TRUST Act

California Gov. Jerry Brown can stop the Arizonification of his state by signing the TRUST Act into law. That’s the message from Undocubus riders, who are getting back on their butterfly-emblazoned bus and making the trip from Arizona to Los Angeles this weekend to urge Gov. Brown to back the TRUST Act, which would reduce the state’s cooperation with the Secure Communities, the federal immigration enforcement program which is similar in intent and impact to Arizona’s anti-immigrant SB 1070. By traveling to California to bring their message to the state, the undocumented immigrant activists risk arrest, and deportation.

At an event scheduled for 12pm on Saturday in MacArthur Park in Los Angeles, Undocubus riders will join TRUST Act author, Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, the California Domestic Workers Coalition and the National Day Laborer Organizing Network to rally behind the TRUST Act and the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, which is also awaiting the governor’s signature ahead of a September 30 signing deadline.

Under Secure Communities, the fingerprints of anyone who’s booked—regardless of whether they’re eventually charged or even convicted of a crime—are handed over to federal immigration officials, who can then request local jails to put an immigration hold on those whose cases they want to investigate for possible immigration violations. The program has become the new backbone of immigration enforcement in the country, and part of a trend of increasing partnerships between local law and immigration enforcement agencies.

Sikh Woman Teaches Reddit Users a Life Lesson in Tolerance

Sikh Woman Teaches Reddit Users a Life Lesson in Tolerance

A college student who posted a mean spirited photo he shot of a fellow student to the online community site Reddit.com just got a life lesson in tolerance he’ll never forget.

The Ohio State University student who goes by the handle “European_Douchebag” posted the image seen above with the caption “I’m not sure what to make of this” in a “funny” section of the site. The image captures a woman with facial hair that does not to alter or manicure her appearance because she is a baptized Sikhs who “believes in the sacredness of this body.”

The woman in the photo, Balpreet Kaur, also a student at Ohio State, was unaware she was being photograph but found her image online hours later after several friends alerted her on Facebook.

Reddit is an of online community where users vote on content like news stories, pictures or YouTube videos that other users submit. The site dubs itself the “front page of the internet” because it allows users with similar interests to quickly discover new content.

One of the more than 4,000 communities on the site is the “funny” community, where registered users called “Redditors” submit hundreds of pictures with hopes of other Redditors voting their submissions up so they can end up on the front page of the funny community.

By the time Kaur found her image online she was on the front page. Her image was trending and hundreds were commenting on her appearance. Some defended her but most deconstructed her image and made negative comments.

What happened next is extraordinary.

With an open heart, patience and love Kaur posted a comment on thread “European_Douchebag” started. Below is her response published in its entirety:

Hey, guys. This is Balpreet Kaur, the girl from the picture. I actually didn’t know about this until one of my friends told on facebook. If the OP wanted a picture, they could have just asked and I could have smiled :) However, I’m not embarrased or even humiliated by the attention [negative and positve] that this picture is getting because, it’s who I am. Yes, I’m a baptized Sikh woman with facial hair. Yes, I realize that my gender is often confused and I look different than most women. However, baptized Sikhs believe in the sacredness of this body - it is a gift that has been given to us by the Divine Being [which is genderless, actually] and, must keep it intact as a submission to the divine will. Just as a child doesn’t reject the gift of his/her parents, Sikhs do not reject the body that has been given to us. By crying ‘mine, mine’ and changing this body-tool, we are essentially living in ego and creating a seperateness between ourselves and the divinity within us. By transcending societal views of beauty, I believe that I can focus more on my actions. My attitude and thoughts and actions have more value in them than my body because I recognize that this body is just going to become ash in the end, so why fuss about it? When I die, no one is going to remember what I looked like, heck, my kids will forget my voice, and slowly, all physical memory will fade away. However, my impact and legacy will remain: and, by not focusing on the physical beauty, I have time to cultivate those inner virtues and hopefully, focus my life on creating change and progress for this world in any way I can. So, to me, my face isn’t important but the smile and the happiness that lie behind the face are. :-) So, if anyone sees me at OSU, please come up and say hello. I appreciate all of the comments here, both positive and less positive because I’ve gotten a better understanding of myself and others from this. Also, the yoga pants are quite comfortable and the Better Together tshirt is actually from Interfaith Youth Core, an organization that focuses on storytelling and engagement between different faiths. :) I hope this explains everything a bit more, and I apologize for causing such confusion and uttering anything that hurt anyone.

Now what happened next is even more incredible. A post believed to be published by “European_Douchebag” included a sincere apology:

Are Mitt Romney’s Canvassers Deceiving Nevada Voters?

Our Nevada-based community journalist Kate Sedinger tells us about a troubling development in Carson City, Nevada targeting senior citizen voters.

Carson Now reports that canvassers identifying themselves as part of the Romney campaign told seniors leaving a big box store that new legislation required that they re-register in order to vote. The deception doesn’t stop there. Another senior names Janet Riggs says that she got a phone call, also informing her that she had to re-register.

Voter deception targets vulnerable communities—aside from seniors, youth and people of color are purposefully confused, so that they won’t participate in the voting process. To read about the way that former felons are being tricked, read Brentin Mock’s feature, Florida’s Felonious Voting Trap.

If you hear or see something that doesn’t jive with what you already know to be true about registering or voting, remember that you can always contact Election Protection by going online or calling 1-866-Our-Vote.

Viola Davis Welcomes Protestors Who Disrupted ‘Won’t Back Down’ Premiere

Viola Davis Welcomes Protestors Who Disrupted 'Won't Back Down' Premiere

An estimated 50 parents and teachers demonstrated outside the “Won’t Back Down” film premiere in New York Sunday. Demonstrators said the film pushes for more testing, closures, teacher bashing and the privatization of public schools.

Viola Davis and Maggie Gyllenhaal star in the film “Won’t Back Down” that is loosely based on The Parent Trigger law, which first passed in California in 2010 and now on the books in seven states.

“I’m not Maggie Gyllenhaal, but I play her in real life,” Zakiyah Ansari, a mother of eight, an education advocate and the organizer of the protest told the Hollywood Reporter. “When you have a super PAC like StudentsFirst pushing this movie, we are not fooled. We know the agenda of this group pushes for more testing, closures, teacher bashing and the privatization of our public schools.”

Colorlines.com’s education reporter Julianne Hing published a story Wednesday that called the film a “a well-funded political tool to advance a hot-button school reform policy around the nation. Hing’s story “Hollywood Takes Up School Reform’s Latest Agenda in ‘Won’t Back Down’” describes the policy debate behind the film:

The film dramatizes the real-life policy debate happening right now across the country as states debate parent trigger laws which give parents the power to dissolve and remake their kids’ failing public schools if organizers can garner the support of more than 50 percent of parents at the school. Parent trigger backers, among them the former Washington D.C. schools chief Michelle Rhee and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, have said that the law, which is on the books in seven states, is a powerful tool to empower parents, who are too often left out of the school reform debate. Yet skeptics say the law only provides the illusion of parental empowerment—that the law is designed to shortcut the destabilization of public schools, and the actual process doesn’t leave room to ensure lasting involvement from parents.

Davis appeared on the “Today” show Monday morning applauded the protesters.

“I welcome protests,” Davis said on the ‘Today Show’ the following morning. “I welcome discourse; I think discourse is a good thing. I think it spearheads change…. And you know what, in this movie, the teacher at the end of the day is the hero. They save the day. And it’s a system that’s broken, that needs to be fixed.”

Film reviewers have given “Won’t Back Down” a 33 percent freshness score on the film review website, Rotten Tomatoes.

Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune claims that “You know exactly where the movie stands straight off,” after describing the film’s opening with an apathetic teacher. “[‘Won’t Back Down’] represents an unusually blunt attempt to make movie audiences feel good about feeling lousy about public education and the good-for-nothing union-coddled teachers destroying a generation of learners.”

That’s not very good and perhaps why opening weekend expectations for the film remain soft. Insiders expect the $19-million movie to pull in less than $5 million when it opens against the sci-fi time travel film “Looper” and the animated comedy “Hotel Transylvania.”

Awkward Moments with Mitt Romney: That One Time He Asked a Group of Black Teens ‘Who Let The Dogs Out?’

Awkward Moments with Mitt Romney: That One Time He Asked a Group of Black Teens 'Who Let The Dogs Out?'

Remember the Baha Men’s 2000 hit single “Who let the dogs out?”

Well, it was at a 2008 Martin Luther King Day parade in Jacksonville, Florida that Mitt Romney made the ill-considered decision to chant the lyrics to the Baha Men’s song.

Surrounded by a group of black teens (and for what appears to be no apparent reason) Romney recited the lyrics and asked “Who let the dogs out, who, who.”

And just in case you’re wondering, the latest poll numbers show Romney has zero percent support among black voters.

Did Ann Romney Just Say Being Black is Kind of Like Being Mormon?

Did Ann Romney Just Say Being Black is Kind of Like Being Mormon?

On Tuesday night, Ann Romney told “The Tonight Show” host Jay Leno that electing her husband would help eliminate prejudice against their Mormon faith, just like we left “prejudices behind” when we elected President Obama.

“On a serious note, talk about the significance—if he gets elected—of being the first Mormon president?” Leno asked Mrs. Romney.

She began to answer the question with an analogy.

“I love the fact that we have the first African-American president. That means to me that we’re leaving prejudices behind,” Mrs. Romney told Leno. “I would hope that if Mitt were elected, we would see more of the same.”

That last statement raises other questions.

First question is whether she compared the prejudice and oppression faced by black people in the U.S. with that of the Mormon experience. That’s something that can get anyone in to some controversy.

The second question Mrs. Romney’s comments raise is whether she believes the country is post racial—is she suggesting that because the U.S. elected a black president that we’ve left prejudice behind?

She thinks “we leaving prejudices behind” but has she read news about that new empty chair lynching trend?

Samuel L. Jackson Debuts F-Bomb-Laced Pro-Obama Voting Ad

Samuel L. Jackson Debuts F-Bomb-Laced Pro-Obama Voting Ad

Actor Samuel L. Jackson has a message for Democrats who supported President Barack Obama in 2008 but aren’t enthusiastic this time around:

“Sorry my friend, but there’s no time to snore. An out of touch millionaire has just declared war. On schools, the environment, unions, fair pay. We’re all on our own if Romney has his way. And he’s against safety nets. If you fall, tough luck. So I strongly suggest that you wake the fuck up,” Jackson says in the video.

The ad was paid for by the Jewish Council for Education and Research Super PAC.

Families Urge the FCC to Lower Price of Prison Phone Calls

Families Urge the FCC to Lower Price of Prison Phone Calls

Earlier this week, FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn heard from friends and relatives of people who are in prison who urged her to help lower the cost of calls from U.S. prisons. Advocates say regulation would both reduce the price-gouging that the families of incarcerated people and contribute to the social good by reducing recidivism.

“For example, one fifteen-minute interstate phone call from prisons in two different states—one in the East and one in the West—costs about $17. For those families, they will spend an additional $34 over and above their basic monthly phone rate to speak twice a month for a total of 30 minutes,” Clyburn said in a statement released after she met with the family members (PDF).

According to a Prison Policy Initiative (PPI) study, some families are forced to choose between keeping in touch with a relative behind bars and, in some cases, putting food on the table.

The issue falls clearly along racial lines: 35 percent of those incarcerated are Latino and 37 percent are Black. And many of them are poor, according to statistics from the Bureau of Prisoners.

A Colorlines.com story published earlier this year noted that close to 88 percent of people awaiting trial or serving time in jail had no income or made less than $1,200 a month.

In that same story, Colorlines interviewed a woman named Martha Wright, who said a 5-minute calls with her grandson could cost up to $18.

“You just have to get everything out in one line,” Wright said with humor.

In most parts of the country states have no incentive to regulate prison phone companies because they also get “commissions.” More details from PPI’s report “The Price to Call Home:”

Prison phone companies are awarded these monopolies through bidding processes in which they submit contract proposals to the state prison systems; in all but eight states, these contracts include promises to pay “commissions” — in effect, kickbacks — to states, in either the form of a percentage of revenue, a fixed up-front payment, or a combination of the two. Thus, state prison systems have no incentive to select the telephone company that offers the lowest rates; rather, correctional departments have an incentive to reap the most profit by selecting the telephone company that provides the highest commission.

“Connecting husbands to wives, parents to children, and grandparents to grandchildren should be a national priority because these tangible means of communicating not only will help these families keep in contact, but the general society benefits overall, as studies show that prisoners are less likely to re-offend if they are able to maintain these relationships with their loved ones,” FCC Commissioner Clyburn said.

Along with hearing testimonies from friends and relatives of people who are incarcerated, the FCC officials attended a screening of “Middle of Nowhere,” a feature film written and directed by Ava DuVernay that captures a woman’s struggle to maintain her relationship with her incarcerated husband. DuVernay made history earlier this year when she became the first black woman to win the Best Director prize at Sundance.


Chicano Poet Takes on Anti-Muslim ‘Savage’ Ads [Video]

Chicano Poet Takes on Anti-Muslim 'Savage' Ads [Video]

In this video, spoken word artist Mark Gonzales takes on the racist advertisements — paid for by Pamela Geller and her organization the American Freedom Defense Initiative — that referred to Muslims as “savages.”

Gonzales is an HBO Def Poet with a Master’s in Education. He’s also Mexican, and a Muslim. For more of his work visit WageBeauty.com.

More details via the YouTube video description:

This video of spoken word artist Mark Gonzales is in response to the hateful and racist advertisements purchased by Pamela Geller and her organization the American Freedom Defense Initiative on San Francisco city buses as well as across the country in the month of August. While hate profiteers do have the right to freedom of speech, we also use our right to speak out against the historical and ongoing targeting of communities of color. The use of the word “savage” in Geller’s bus ads and elsewhere throughout US history, as is seen in the targeting of indigenous people and communities of color, is offensive to all of us. It desecrates the memories of those whose lives and land were taken as a result of imperialism and conquest. We stand against hate, then and now, and see these attacks as targeting all of our communities.

The video was created by filmmaker David Zlutnick’s Upheaval Productions.

Cherokee Nation Demands Scott Brown Apologize For ‘Downright Racist’ Behavior

Cherokee Nation Demands Scott Brown Apologize For 'Downright Racist' Behavior

The Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation issued a strongly worded statement Wednesday denouncing the actions of Sen. Scott Brown staffers and supporters at a campaign rally earlier this week. In a video posted on YouTube, members of Brown’s staff are seen chanting so-called Indian “war whoops” and making “tomahawk chops,” presumably in reference to their opponent Elizabeth Warren’s claims of Cherokee heritage.

“The conduct of these individuals goes far beyond what is appropriate and proper in political discourse. The use of stereotypical ‘war whoop chants’ and ‘tomahawk chops’ are offensive and downright racist. It is those types of actions that perpetuate negative stereotypes and continue to minimize and degrade all native peoples,” Bill John Baker, Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation said in a statement.

But Brown isn’t apologizing. He said his staffer’s actions were unfortunate, but quickly pivoted and pointed fingers at Warren.

“It is certainly something that I don’t condone,” said Brown when asked about the video Tuesday by WCVB. “The real offense is that (Warren) said she was white and then checked the box saying she is Native American, and then she changed her profile in the law directory once she made her tenure.”

Chief Baker says he expects more from Brown.

“The individuals involved in this unfortunate incident are high ranking staffers in both the senate office and the Brown campaign,” Chief Baker said. “A campaign that would allow and condone such offensive and racist behavior must be called to task for their actions.” Chief Baker asked Sen. Brown to apologize for his staff’s actions.

The Native American Journalists Association also issued a statement that said: “NAJA is disappointed that coverage of U.S. Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren’s claimed Native heritage has resulted in a series of disrespectful headlines and puns that show disregard for Native Americans and our history.”

Dolce & Gabbana Send Racist Mammy Collection Down the Catwalk

Dolce & Gabbana Send Racist Mammy Collection Down the Catwalk

The set at Dolce & Gabbana’s Spring 2013 fashion show at Milan Fashion Week included a balcony lined with trailing ivy and upstanding cacti. The models on the runway wore fruit cornucopias — and burlap dresses and earrings that include romanticized images of black women living happy slave plantation lives.

The New York Times’s Suzy Menkes thought the show was “imaginative.”

“The imaginative elements came fast and furious — witty, ironic, funky — but always with a sense of proportion and style,” Menkes wrote in a short write up about the show. “The spirit of Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana is maxi — and the show was effusive in every way, from earrings that swung as giant raffia circles fancied up with pompoms, through prints of toy soldier puppets on silken sheaths.”

For others, the show was obviously offensive.

Sara Ilyas at The Guardian writes, “that’s the same Aunt Jemima that, initially conceived as part of a minstrel show, became an image that romanticised slavery and plantation life. There’s no denying they’re offensive.”

To top it all off, not a single black model was included in their show. So Dolce and Gabbana liked black women enough to exoticise them on earrings but not to include them on their runway?

Romney’s Mexican Cousin: U.S./NAFTA ‘Responsible for Increase in Illegal Immigration’ [Video]

Romney's Mexican Cousin: U.S./NAFTA 'Responsible for Increase in Illegal Immigration' [Video]

Mitt Romney’s cousin, only identified as Kelly in the Vice video above, says the GOP presidential candidate’s position on immigration reform is off.

“I think his position needs to change,” the Mexican Romney says. “Being born and raised in Mexico, and especially since NAFTA, I think the United States is partly responsible for the increase in illegal immigration.

Kelley’s immigration comments start about 2:10 minutes in to the video.

“Give amnesty to those that are out there—that are working legitimately and have a job—and let these people go out there and work and let them take care of their families because basically they’re starving to death here,” Kelly said.

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