Obama on Kimmel, Shooting Fireballs From Your Hand, Star Wars Roundup

Obama on Kimmel, Shooting Fireballs From Your Hand, Star Wars Roundup

Here’s some of what I’m reading up on this morning: 

  • President Obama tells Jimmy Kimmel that the shooting of two police officers is criminal, and that the perpetrators should be arrested. 
  • Obama also reads mean tweets about him.
  • You can now “shoot fireballs at will”, right from your hand. No, seriously
  • Star Wars VIII is coming May 2017—not to be confused with a standalone Star Wars films that will be released next year titled “Rogue One.”
  • There may be water—and life—on some of our neighboring planet’s moons. 
TAGS: Morning Rush

Palestinian Activist Rasmea Odeh Sentenced in Immigration Fraud Case

Palestinian Activist Rasmea Odeh Sentenced in Immigration Fraud Case

On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Gershwin Drain sentenced Palestinian activist Rasmea Odeh to 18 months in prison after the 67-year-old Odeh was convicted of falsifying information about her past to gain citizenship in the U.S. The sentence was issued to a packed courtroom, with dozens of Odeh’s supporters present. She was released on bond and plans to appeal her conviction, according to the Rasmea Defense Committee.

A Detroit jury convicted Odeh in November of failing to notify U.S. immigration authorities that an Israeli military court had found her guilty of participating in a 1969 bombing in which Israeli civilians died. As part of her sentence Thursday Odeh’s citizenship will be revoked, and after serving her sentence she’ll be automatically deported to Jordan.

Prosecutors had called for a 5- to 7-year prison term for Odeh in the highly politicized case, which garnered national and international attention. During his sentencing, Judge Drain said that while Odeh may have been a “terrorist,” he believed she was reformed. He said he was abiding by sentencing guidelines, and sentenced her firmly in the middle of the recommended 15 to 21 months, the Detroit Free Press reported.

Her attorneys have maintained that her 1969 conviction was obtained after torture and sexual assault while in custody in an Israeli military court system with a 99 percent conviction rate for Palestinians. Odeh maintains that she wasn’t involved in the attack.

ICE Raid Apprehends Hundreds of Immigrants With Misdemeanors

ICE Raid Apprehends Hundreds of Immigrants With Misdemeanors

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) conducted a five-day raid called Cross Check that resulted in the apprehension of 2,059 immigrants. Over at CNN, Department of Homeland Security Deputy Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas is quoted as saying that Cross Check aimed to round up “the worst of the worst criminals.” But almost half of those people taken in the operation have never been convicted of a felony.

Obama’s executive action on immigration hinges, he’s said, on “felons, not families.” That executive action is on hold, caught up in the courts after a Texas-based U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen judge ruled in favor of a 26 state lawsuit challenging Obama’s authority. The Department of Justice, meanwhile, filed an appeal to the 5th Circuit today, in hopes of blocking Judge Hanen’s order.

The “felons not family” rhetoric is fraught with trouble: felons, like non-felons, also belong to families. Nevertheless, Obama’s messaging suggests that his administration is only targeting people with violent criminal records for deportation. But if ICE-ERO’s latest raid is any indication, it’s not just felons that get caught in the administration’s hunt—it’s also people who have been convicted of misdemeanors, especially those with DUIs. “This shows that the Executive Action isn’t being used to curb deportations,” says #NotOneMore campaign member Angelica Chazaro. “It’s being used to redirect them against criminalized immigrant communities.”

Over at Think Progress, Esther Yu-Hsi Lee provides some damning examples of some of the people caught up in ICE-ERO’s recent raid:

Among those immigrants is a 42-year-old immigrant from the Middle East who faces possible persecution or death if he’s deported because of his religious belief. The immigrant, whom his wife referred to only by the pseudonym Rick, reportedly became undocumented in 1981 at the age of nine when U.S. immigration officials lost his citizenship application that his father filed for him. His siblings are all U.S. citizens.

Two ICE agents arrested Rick last Thursday morning as he was getting into his truck in his driveway. Rick’s wife told ThinkProgress that ICE agents “made it sound like he would get out that day or the next day. They said, ‘you have a job. You have a child. You’ll probably be able to talk to the supervisor when you get out the next day.’” Rick’s wife said that ICE agents stated that he received a “failure to report” violation stemming from a drug-related possession charge that Rick got in the late 1990s. At the time, he served 18 months in immigration detention, and according to various family members, Rick checked in with ICE officials for five years under supervisory visits and a judge in a “drug court program” as a part of his rehabilitation after he was released from detention.

Around 2006, Rick’s family members said that ICE stopped his check-in visits because “he has no birth certificate, no records that tied him to [the Middle Eastern country he’s from]. … he was ‘not deportable’ so they released him,” his sister said. Rick went on to receive a degree from culinary school and up until his detention, was working for 13 years in the food industry.

“I’m hurt by this,” Rick’s sister said, “My 14-year-old son is livid. We’re just a basket case. For a person to be picked up from his driveway, he’s going to lose his job. He’s been working hard and he’s married. He pays taxes! We’re all humans, we make mistakes. … Not everyone deserves to be sent back, or held, or detained.”

You can read more about the people caught up in the immigration raid at Think Progress

Univision Fires Host For Racist Michelle Obama Commentary

Univision Fires Host For Racist Michelle Obama Commentary

A popular, award-winning Spanish language television host, Rodner Figueroa, has been fired by Univision after making racist comments about Michelle Obama.

On Wednesday’s “El Gordo y la Flaca,” Figueroa was talking about Paolo Ballesteros, who applies makeup to look like different celebrities—including sometimes donning blackface to look like Michelle Obama. Here’s a short clip in Spanish:

“You know Michelle Obama looks like she’s from the cast of ‘Planet of the Apes,’” said Figueroa, to some laughter from either the show’s hosts and/or audience. “I find her very attractive,” responded host Raúl de Molina—who didn’t address Figueroa’s racist comment on the air.

This morning, @univision tweeted a statement in Spanish, writing that Figueroa’s comments about “First Lady Michelle Obama were completely reprehensible and in no way reflect the values ​​or opinions of Univision,” confirming that Figueroa has split from Univision.

(h/t Latino Rebels)

Common to White Americans: ‘I Love You, Let’s Move Past This’

Common to White Americans: 'I Love You, Let's Move Past This'

Common has a new action film coming out but last night with Jon Stewart, they barely touched on it, what with the rapper-turned-actor’s starring role in the country’s post-Ferguson conversation about racism. “The ride that you are on, right now,” Stewart says. Watch the video above for Common’s view of the #BlackLivesMatter movement from his front seat (click here for the extended interview). Together he and Stewart bring much-needed laughter and ease to a subject where defensiveness is the norm. 

(h/t The Daily Show)

Ferguson Update, French Yogurt Price Fixing, Kurt Cobain Doc

Ferguson Update, French Yogurt Price Fixing, Kurt Cobain Doc

Here’s what I’m reading up on this morning: 

  • Ferguson’s police chief Thomas Jackson will resign

‘Bloody Sunday’ Made History, But Did It Change Selma?

'Bloody Sunday' Made History, But Did It Change Selma?

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the unsolved murder of white Boston minister James Reeb, an attack captured in Ava DuVernay’s film, “Selma.” Less than a week later in his address to Congress, President Lyndon Johnson referenced Reeb’s death, which, ultimately, helped to purchase passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. But what did Reeb’s and others’ sacrifice purchase for the town of Selma? The anniversary of Bloody Sunday drew tens of thousands to the small Alabama town last week. But as national media camped out at Edmund Pettus Bridge, Facing South’s Chris Kromm went on a walkabout of modern-day Selma that dramatically demonstrates, he says, “the conflicting legacy of the 1960s civil rights movement.” Says Kromm:

In the late 1800s, Dallas County where Selma is located was the fourth-richest area in the country — wealth enjoyed exclusively by the white elite. Today the county has the highest poverty rate in the state, nearly 37 percent, emblematic of the ongoing struggles in the South’s Black Belt region. …

In 1965, Selma was about half-white; today only 18 percent of residents are. Many affluent whites live near the Selma Country Club, located just west of downtown and the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Gay Talese of The New York Times remembers watching country club members “hiss at at the television” during the marches in 1965. When I visited, everyone on the grounds was white. The Los Angeles Times reports that the club today doesn’t have a single black member.

Read the rest at Facing South. And check out columnist Leonard Pitt’s latest on this weekend’s “carnival atmosphere detracting from the seriousness” of Selma.

W. Kamau Bell, Reza Aslan Get New Shows on CNN

W. Kamau Bell, Reza Aslan Get New Shows on CNN

Great news for fans of racial justice and comedy: W. Kamau Bell* is coming back to TV!

CNN announced this week that it has ordered a new series in which the comedian travels the country and strives to “show the United States is not built upon just one, but many diverse and colorful definitions of America,” according to a statement received by the Hollywood Reporter. Bell previously had a comedy show on FX called “Totally Biased” that lasted two seasons and ended in November of 2013. 

Reza Aslan, an Iranian-American creative writing professor at UC Riverside and the author of “Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth,” is also joining the network with a new show called “The Believer.” The series is built around Aslan immersing himself in different faith-based communities and exploring what it means to be a “true believer.”

Read more at Deadline

*Bell has served on the board of Colorlines’ publisher, Race Forward.

5th Ferguson Resignation, Clinton on E-mail Debacle, Thicke and Williams Lose in Court

5th Ferguson Resignation, Clinton on E-mail Debacle, Thicke and Williams Lose in Court

Here’s some of what I’m reading up on this morning: 

  • Parker Rice, one of two University of Oklahoma frat boys seen chanting about lynching black people on a video issues a statement which is part apology part victimization. His frat brother Levi Pettit hasn’t said anything, allowing instead for his parents to issue a similar statement that claims Pettit isn’t racist. 
TAGS: Morning Rush

Don’t Know Jamaican Author Marlon James? Shame.

Don't Know Jamaican Author Marlon James? Shame.

Marlon James, the author of the new-ish novel “A Brief History of Seven Killings” hid himself while living in his native Jamaica. “I was so convinced that my voice outed me as a fag,” he writes in The New York Times Magazine, “that I had stopped speaking to people I didn’t know.” He was 28, well into adulthood, and by then weary of camouflage.

Now in his 40s, James reflects on finding freedom in the United States after growing up as a gay man in Jamaica. The island nation’s turbulent ’70s are the subject of James’ third novel—and also the subject of a Human Rights Watch report about anti-LGBT violence and discrimination, “Not Safe At Home.”

In the Times magazine James writes: 

…[M]y best friend, Ingrid, visited from Jamaica. She looked at my walls, covered with photos and posters, books all the way to the ceiling, four shelves of vinyl, copies of GQ, Bookforum and Out magazines scattered everywhere, my “simile is like a metaphor” T-shirt, then at my face and said: “This is so you, dude. I’ve never seen you as you before.” I didn’t even realize when it happened, when I stopped playing roles. 

Read more of James’ personal essay, here.

Two University of Oklahoma Students Expelled for Racist Chant

Two University of Oklahoma Students Expelled for Racist Chant

Just days after a video surfaced showing Sigma Alpha Epsillon members at the University of Oklahoma chanting racist slurs, two students in the video have been expelled from the school. 

The students have not yet been identified, but university president David Boren explained his actions in a statement. The students, who were members of the university’s chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon, were dismissed for creating a “hostile learning environment for others,” the statement said, according to the Guardian. 

The move came just one day after the national chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon closed the University of Oklahoma’s chapter. 

The school, which boasts one of the most powerful football programs in the country, is also feeling the effect on its campus. The football team refused to practice on Monday, and one well-regarded recruit de-committed from the university after the video went public. 

[Video] John Oliver: The Other People of Color Barred From Voting

[Video] John Oliver: The Other People of Color Barred From Voting

“Anglo-Saxon values” makes an appearance as comedian John Oliver revisits the racist roots of why more than 4 million Americans in U.S. territories, Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the Northern Marianas and the U.S. Virgin Islands can fight for their country but still can’t vote.

UO’s Racist House Mother, GOP Letter to Iran, Florida Officials Ban Use of ‘Climate Change’

UO's Racist House Mother, GOP Letter to Iran, Florida Officials Ban Use of 'Climate Change'

Here’s what I’m reading up on this morning: 

  • A stunning investigative report says that Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection banned its workers from using the terms “climate change,” “global warming,” and “sustainability.”
TAGS: Morning Rush

Kansas City Has Warp-Speed Internet, and 20th Century Digital Divide

Kansas City Has Warp-Speed Internet, and 20th Century Digital Divide

A midwestern U.S. city has one of the fastest broadband connections in the world, on par with Hong Kong. That’s because four years ago, Google Fiber selected Kansas City, Mo., for the roll-out of its broadband network at speeds 100 times faster than anywhere in the county. Despite its warp-speed leap into the future, however, Kansas City still boasts a racial digital divide that tracks with its 20th century residential segregation of African-American and Latino residents. The disparity is one that’s renewing conversations around barriers to Internet access for all low-income communities of color and their ability to effectively compete in the global information economy. Seventy percent of public school students, according to local tech nonprofit Connecting for Good, do not have Internet access at home.

There’re a number of reasons for low adoption, as Fast Company reports. Major barriers include price (comparatively low, but not low enough for owners of buildings with low-income tenants, including public housing) and a perception among residents that the Internet—compared to paying rent or buying food—isn’t a necessity.

(h/t NPR)

Remember Tony Robinson Jr., Oklahoma Frat’s Racist Fail

Remember Tony Robinson Jr., Oklahoma Frat's Racist Fail

Here’s what I’m reading up on today:

TAGS: Morning Rush

Fine-Friendly Ferguson Judge Owes $170K in Back Taxes

Fine-Friendly Ferguson Judge Owes $170K in Back Taxes

The Ferguson judge accused by this week’s DOJ report of ticket fixing and punishing majority black residents with exorbitant fines and arrest for nonpayment reportedly owes more than $170,000 in back taxes. Ronald J. Brockmeyer, 70, according to The Guardian, is in his 12th year as Ferguson’s municipal judge. According to his private practice bio, he is also a judge in another neighboring city and prosecutor in three others. Brockmeyer’s and other’s dual roles have raised conflict of interest issues before and is considered symptomatic of the area’s Balkanization. St. Louis County’s 90 municipalities, according to a 2014 Better Together report, account for 11 percent of Missouri’s population but bring in 34 percent of all muni court fines and fees statewide. From The Guardian:

While Brockmeyer owes the US government $172,646 in taxes, his court in Ferguson is at the centre of a class-action federal lawsuit that alleges Ferguson repeatedly “imprisoned a human being solely because the person could not afford to make a monetary payment”.

“Judge Brockmeyer not being incarcerated is a perfect illustration of how we should go about collecting debt from people who owe it,” said Thomas Harvey, the director of Arch City Defenders, one of the legal non-profits representing plaintiffs who were jailed in Ferguson.

Also, today, more fallout from Wednesday’s DOJ report. According to the Post-Dispatch, Capt. Rick Henke and Sgt. William Mudd, two veteran police officers, have resigned over racist e-mails. The city’s top court clerk, Mary Ann Twitty, was terminated for the same reason.

Comedian Jessica Williams on Ferguson, Fines and The F.E.A. Party

Comedian Jessica Williams on Ferguson, Fines and The F.E.A. Party

It can’t get much worse than the DOJ’s Ferguson police department report. Unless, “even after the revelations, it’s business as usual at the Ferguson PD,” The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart suggests to senior Ferguson correspondent Jessica Williams. Watch the video above for her novel solution: the Fined Enough Already (F.E.A.) Party. Thing is, Stewart’s suggestion isn’t that far-fetched. The DOJ report names and blames many city leaders now being asked to reform. 

One fired employee’s identity has been revealed since Mayor John Knowles’ Wednesday evening press conference at which he took no questions. Mary Ann Twitty, fired for sending racist e-mails, was the city’s top court clerk. Others include: 

…the police chief who authorized arrests without probable cause; the municipal judge who adds new charges when people contest their citations, yet quietly got his own traffic ticket wiped away; and the city manager who was the force behind the financially driven policies that led to widespread discrimination.

(h/t The New York Times)

It’s Seriously Cold Out, Google Car Insurance Search, Too Much Sugar

It's Seriously Cold Out, Google Car Insurance Search, Too Much Sugar

Here’s some of what I’m reading up on this morning: 

  • An 11-year-old child in England dresses up as the guy form 50 Shades of Grey, with cable ties and a mask, for World Book Day and is asked to alter his outfit. But his mom stands by her decision to allow him to go to school like a that.
TAGS: Morning Rush

#TBT: The One Native Person to Ever Grace Paper Money in the U.S.

#TBT: The One Native Person to Ever Grace Paper Money in the U.S.

It’s Throwback Thursday, and today we’re gonna take you back more than 100 years to illustrate a little-known part of paper money history.

In 1899, the U.S. Mint issued a $5 silver note that features Hankupapa Lakota Chief Running Antelope. It remains the only paper currency that includes a Native American in the history of money in the United States:


The note is still available as a collector’s item on eBay, where it sells for anywhere between $500 to $10,000, depending on the day and on the quality of the bill. Over at Treasured Stocks, there’s a short biography about Running Antelope, along with the cringeworthy rumor that the chief was made to wear a Pawnee headdress rather than a Lakota one:

This note shows, as its center and central figure, the image of brave Chief Running Antelope who became Head Chief of the Hunkpapa in 1851. He was born in South Dakota in 1821 and raised in native traditional skills and values. As diplomat, communicator, and warrior Chief Running Antelope was a friend and advisor to Chief Sitting Bull during the Plains Indian conflicts. He believed, however, that native nations should compromise with not fight against whites. If you are looking at a Chief Silver Certificate you are looking at a picture of the only American Indian to be featured on US Currency. The engraved picture is not without controversy, however. The story is that Chief Running Antelope is shown wearing a Pawnee head dress, not Hunkpapa, because the one the Chief actually wore was too tall for the engraving. Another version of that story is that the Chief was told to wear the Pawnee head dress during the photographic session which he adamantly refused to do. Either way, the head dress show on his head is Pawnee.

But, as Thomas King writes in his book, “The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America,” it’s not exactly clear whether Running Antelope is wearing a Lakota or Pawnee headdress.

What is clear is that the bill went out of circulation shortly after it was first issued. More than 100 years later, Running Antelope remains the only Native to ever appear on paper this country’s paper money. Meanwhile Andrew Jackson—the president who oversaw the Indian Removal Act that resulted in the Trail of Tears—has been on the $20 bill for 87 years. 

Racist E-mails Aren’t the Worst Thing in the DOJ’s Ferguson Report

Racist E-mails Aren't the Worst Thing in the DOJ's Ferguson Report

A day after the Department of Justice’s report, racist e-mails exchanged between Ferguson police officers are capturing headlines and, perhaps, dominating social media shares. One officer has been fired and two others have been placed on administrative leave. “This type of behavior will not be tolerated,” Mayor James Knowles said at an evening press conference yesterday at which he took no questions. But, truly, racist e-mails rank among the least disturbing parts of a report so caustic it reads like an Onion article. What struck me was that Ferguson’s revenue-driven policing effectively steals from working-class and poor African-Americans—and the City of Ferguson has not conducted a full accounting of the cost of that theft.

In the DOJ report, we learn that as a result of eight charges stemming from false arrest, one 32-year-old man lost his job as a contractor with the federal government (read: good benefits). We also learn that one woman is still paying down on an illegal parking ticket she received seven years ago. As of December 2014 she had paid $550 on a $150 court fine—and still owed $541. These examples are necessary but the picture is still incomplete. What if in addition to the DOJ’s thorough report into the city’s institutions, there was also a separate audit to tally the economic cost of institutional racism?

Ferguson’s predation disrupted not just residents’ lives but their households’, too—but how? How does losing a federal contract for sitting in a parked car on a hot day impact a 32-year-old man and his family? 

Sustained police misconduct or abuse isn’t only about criminal justice. It’s an economic and livelihood issue, too. But the latter is harder to see if there’s not also a commensurate accounting of all that the city of Ferguson stole.

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