Freezing Temperatures, Cosby Back on Stage, 9 Measles Cases Linked to Disney Parks

Freezing Temperatures, Cosby Back on Stage, 9 Measles Cases Linked to Disney Parks

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

TAGS: Morning Rush

Brooklyn D.A. Determined to Overturn Wrongful Convictions

Brooklyn D.A. Determined to Overturn Wrongful Convictions

After serving nearly 21 years in prison for murder, 46-year-old Derrick Hamilton this week became the 11th person in less than a year to have his name cleared by Brooklyn’s new district attorney. Ken Thompson’s central reform since taking office last January is the Conviction Review Unit (CRU). Staffed by 10 lawyers, the team’s priority, Thompson tells The New Yorker, “is to give freedom to people who were convicted during the…era of mass incarceration but don’t belong in prison.” 

One reason Thompson’s unit stands out, experts say, is that instead of relying on DNA evidence to exonerate the innocent, it reviews tougher cases where fault may lie in human errors like negligence, misconduct or judgment.

Hamilton, a father of five, has been out on parole since 2011. He maintained that he had been out of state when the 1991 murder occurred. As a result of Hamilton’s and a number of other accusations, the district attorney’s office has been reviewing more than 70 cases worked by discredited homicide detective Louis Scarcella, now retired.

Read more about Thompson’s CRU on The New Yorker.

Remembering American Muslim Leader Maher Hathout

Remembering American Muslim Leader Maher Hathout

Maher Hathout, a renowned doctor and interfaith leader known as the “father of American Muslim identity,” died from liver cancer just after New Years. He was 79.

Hathout was born in Egypt in 1978 and moved to New York and then Los Angeles in the 1970s, where he helped found the first-ever co-ed Muslim Youth Group and the Islamic Information Service. Here’s more from the Huffington Post:

Hathout was a devoted interfaith activist who worked with organizations and individuals throughout southern California to promote causes for peace and justice. In 1988 he co-founded the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), which works to promote civil rights for American Muslims and helps foster relationships between Muslims and other faith communities in the United States.

“Thirty years ago, no Muslim leader other than he was talking about he American Muslim identity, that home is where our grandchildren are raised not where our grandparents are buried,” MPAC President Salam Al-Marayati said in an email to HuffPost.

Hathout also helped found the Religious Coalition Against War in the Middle East in 1991 and served on the Board of Directors of the Interfaith Alliance and Claremont Lincoln University. He was a charter member of the Pacific Council on International Policy, the western partner of the Council on Foreign Relations and served as Chairman of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California.

Read more about Hathout’s life and work.

FBI Says ‘Hate Crime is One Possibility’ for Blast Outside NAACP

FBI Says 'Hate Crime is One Possibility' for Blast Outside NAACP

Investigators are searching for an approximately 40-year-old balding white man in connection to an explosion outside a Colorado Springs, Colo., chapter office of the NAACP on Tuesday. A crude incendiary device was deliberately placed outside the building and blasted, but a gas canister placed nearby failed to ignite.

No one was injured in Tuesday’s bombing and it caused only minor damage to the building—but the FBI is indicating the explosion outside the NAACP may be no accident. This, according to the Guardian:

FBI special agent Amy Sanders said she couldn’t say whether the explosion was targeting the NAACP, the nation’s oldest civil rights organization.

“We believe it was deliberately set and are investigating all potential motives at this time,” said Sanders in an email.

“A hate crime is one possibility,” she added.

The building that houses the NAACP also houses a barbershop. According to Newsweek, the local NAACP chapter president is reluctant to call the act a hate crime. 

‘Illegal Immigrant Barbie’ is as Bad as it Sounds

'Illegal Immigrant Barbie' is as Bad as it Sounds

Points In Case, an online humor site aimed at college students and recent grads, has published a post featuring images of six imaginary Barbie dolls: Rehab Barbie, Facebook Barbie, Xbox Barbie, Hotflash Barbie, Lesbian Barbie and “Illegal Immigrant” Barbie. Janet Eve Josselyn, who wrote the post, offers Mattel “contemporary alternatives to existing Barbie dolls,” and provides deriding captions for each doll.

For immigrant Barbie, Josselyn writes:

Illegal immigrant Barbie is tethered to a bunch of children and comes with a compass and a coyote. Her hair is unkempt and her cheeks lack the rosy glow of the 20th century Barbies. She is armed with wire cutters and sandwiches wrapped in tin foil. She clutches Ken’s phone number in the event that she is detained by the Border Patrol.

The doll, which is pregnant with a black eye, is seen pushing a grocery cart full of children and beer cases—and carries a bag of cigarettes, hard liquor and a mac and cheese box.

This imaginary Barbie is thankfully not for sale.

(H/T Latino Rebels)

Bombings in Paris, Sanaa and Colorado Springs, December Job Growth, Phylicia Rashad Defends Bill Cosby

Bombings in Paris, Sanaa and Colorado Springs, December Job Growth, Phylicia Rashad Defends Bill Cosby

Some of the stories I’m reading up on this morning: 

  • Intel says it’s investing $300 million “to achieve full representation of women and under-represented minorities” in the next five years. 
TAGS: Morning Rush

Arizona School Chief’s Takes Parting Shot at Tucson’s ‘Culturally Relevant’ Classes

Arizona School Chief's Takes Parting Shot at Tucson's 'Culturally Relevant' Classes

In a final parting shot before leaving office, former Arizona state superintendent and longtime foe of Tucson’s ethnic studies curriculum John Huppenthal filed a memo last week declaring Tucson’s current “culturally relevant” courses in violation of the state law. 

The courses, which are required under a decades-old federal desegregation order, replaced Tucson’s ethnic studies curriculum, which was outlawed when the Arizona state legislature passed HB 2281 in 2010, which was adopted as Arizona Revised Statutes 15-112. With its current “culturally relevant courses,” Tucson Unified School District “has failed to meet several provisions of the 2012 Settlement Agreement settlement and is once again in clear violation of A.R.S. 15-112,” Huppenthal wrote, Tucson’s KVOA reported. “Furthermore, I am deeply concerned by the fact that the noncompliance appears to extend beyond classes taught from the Mexican American perspective and now also includes classes taught from the African American perspective.”

Tucson’s public schools reminded Huppenthal that the courses are actually court-mandated—the result of a 1974 federal desegregation order. “That order … requires us to develop and implement culturally relevant courses taught from both the Mexican American and African American perspectives,” the district responded, KVOA reported.

The final word in this, just the latest phase of the yearslong struggle in Arizona over how and whether to teach classes which recognize the heritage and histories of Arizona’s students and the state itself, will actually be left to Arizona’s brand new schools superintendent, Diane Douglas.

If Douglas sides with Huppenthal’s findings, Tucson faces a 10 percent cut in state funding, which would mean a loss of $14 million per year, the Arizona Daily Star reported.

NYPD Again Turn Backs on Mayor At Officer’s Funeral

NYPD Again Turn Backs on Mayor At Officer's Funeral

New York City police officers again turned their backs on mayor Bill De Blasio this Sunday at the funeral for Officer Wenjian Liu, 32. The action disregards a memo issued by the police commissioner asking officers not to repeat the silent protest shown during the funeral of Officer Rafael Ramos, 40. Both Ramos and Liu were killed in a surprise attack by lone gunman Ismaaiyl Brinsley this December. Its aftermath has revealed extraordinary tension between the nation’s largest municipal police union, department leadership, City Hall and residents just as civilian protesters were escalating calls for police reform. 

As with Ramos, hundreds of officers turned their backs just as the mayor began Liu’s eulogy. According to the Washington Post, even out-of-town officers joined in. Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke tells the Post, “We might be reaching a tipping point with the mind-set of officers, who are beginning to wonder if the risks they take to keep communities safe are even worth it anymore. In New York and other places, we’re seeing a natural recoil from law enforcement officers who don’t feel like certain people who need to have their backs have their backs.”

There appears to be disagreement within the rank-and-file however. “It’s two different police departments inside those walls,” one retired officer tells the Post. “There are officers who really feel that the mayor has turned his back on the police department and that they are in increased danger. And then there are the officers who go home and tell their sons the same things that the mayor said he told his — if you’re black, be careful around police.”

This Sunday’s funeral marks the third time in less than a month that officers have publicly turned their backs on the mayor. The first incident occurred in the hallways of the Brooklyn hospital where officers Ramos and Liu died. 

Expect this story to develop. Later this month a new judge will hear arguments asking for a full release of transcripts of the grand jury decision in the Eric Garner case. 

Another NYPD Shooting, Same-Sex Marriage in Florida

Another NYPD Shooting, Same-Sex Marriage in Florida

Some of the morning’s headlines:

TAGS: Morning Rush

Colorlines Needs You!

Colorlines Needs You!

There’s no doubt that 2014 was an intense year. 

We’ve been tested (#HandsUp, #ICan’tBreathe, Palestine, lawyer-less child migrants).

We’ve been powerful (#BlackLivesMatter, civilian oversight of L.A. sheriffs, Moral Mondays, the fast food strikes).

And we’ve celebrated (Freedom Rides, WOCs who rock, Facing Race.)

As we approach the new year, we’d like to thank you for reading, tweeting, commenting and generally engaging with Colorlines this year. With your help, our tiny staff has provided context for breaking news, continued our coverage of ongoing stories, and kept you up on culture. We’ve also brought you Life Cycles of Inequity, a special multimedia series that explores how systemic racism impacts black men’s lives, from birth to death. 

You know you won’t find coverage like this—by and of people of color—anywhere else. And your readership means the world.

Now we’re going to ask you to keep us going by donating today!

The fact is good writing and real reporting costs money. With your donations, we can continue to bring you this daily news site where race matters. (I know everyone says this, but we truly do welcome one-time and monthly gifts of any size!)

To quote the late, great poet Gwendolyn Brooks, “We are each other’s harvest; we are each other’s business; we are each other’s magnitude and bond.” Around here we take those words seriously.

Peace, power and time,

Akiba Solomon, Editorial Director

PS: You may notice that we’ve been publishing fewer pieces. That’s because we’re taking some time off. But no worries. We’ll be back at full speed in January 2015.

Study: Black LGBT People More Likely to Live in States Without Anti-Discrimination Job Protection

Study: Black LGBT People More Likely to Live in States Without Anti-Discrimination Job Protection

Black LGBT people in the U.S. are more likely to live in states that don’t prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation, according to a new report (PDF) from the Williams Institute, a think tank at UCLA School of Law. That difference puts some 890,000 black LGBT people at risk of being discriminated against with no legal protection, researchers found.

Those findings come from a new report that examines the disparities in life experiences for LGBT people who live in states that don’t prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of a person’s sexual orientation. The Williams Institute compared Washington, D.C, and the 21 states that have laws on their books prohibiting employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation with the 29 states—primarily Midwestern, Southern, and Mountain States—that don’t. They found that states that offer employment protections are more likely to have an LGBT-friendly social climate than states that don’t. That line translates to differences in income, health outcomes and access, and food insecurity. 

Unsurprisingly, LGBT people in the U.S. have widely different experiences depending on their race and geographic location. By one estimate, more than one in six LGBT people who live in those 29 states without state anti-discrimination laws is black, even though black people are estimated to be roughly 15 percent of the LGBT population in the U.S. 

Check out the rest of the report at the Williams Institute.

U.S. Sues New York City Over Rikers Island’s Treatment of Teen Inmates

U.S. Sues New York City Over Rikers Island's Treatment of Teen Inmates

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara is making good on warnings he issued earlier this year over New York City’s handling of the city jail Rikers Island. Today, federal prosecutors announced that they will sue the city for violating the civil rights of its juvenile inmates, the New York Times reported. 

Rikers Island’s adolescent inmates were “subjected to unconstitutional conditions and confinement,” Bharara and Attorney General Eric Holder wrote in their filing, the Los Angeles Times reported. Until September of this year when city officials moved to phase out the practice, solitary confinement has been the primary form of punishment used against 16 and 17-year-old inmates at Rikers.

That wasn’t enough change for federal prosecutors, who wrote in their filing that among other violations, “Staff have frequently insulted, humiliated, and antagonized [inmates], often using obscenities and abusive language without fear of any reprimand from supervisors. Such unprofessional conduct provokes physical altercations, and leads to unnecessary violence.” In a searing federal report published this summer, Bharara also noted that in the last two years, adolescent inmates sustained more than a thousand injuries—nearly half of which required emergency care, the Los Angeles Times reported.

If you’re looking for devastating, deep reads into Rikers Island, The New York Times’ Michael Winerip and Michael Schwirtz have been filing reports on the jail this year on the culture of abuse and violence which ruled Rikers, focusing on guards’ brutal treatment of inmates, especially those with mental illness.

In their latest installment, Winerip and Schwirtz examine labor’s role in blocking reform of the jail system. It’s an especially pertinent issue as the rest of the nation grapples with police accountability and criminal justice reform. It’s not just corrections officer unions who are stymieing accountability efforts.

Hundreds of Los Angeles Lawyers Die-In for Black Lives

Hundreds of Los Angeles Lawyers Die-In for Black Lives

Los Angeles-area lawyers, law students, legal aids and allies gathered on the steps of the Los Angeles County Superior Court for a die-in Tuesday to protest police brutality that disproportionately targets black people. The participants, clad in business suits with briefcases, weathered rain for about 15 minutes that morning.

Law professor Priscilla Ocen, who is also the spokesperson for the event, told Colorlines that about 275 people attended the die-in. 

U.S.-Cuba Relations, Sony Cancels ‘The Interview,’ New York Bans Fracking

U.S.-Cuba Relations, Sony Cancels 'The Interview,' New York Bans Fracking

Some of the morning’s headlines:

  • After 54 years of an embarrassing and utterly ineffective embargo against Cuba, a tiny island nation roughly the size of the state of Tennessee, the U.S. decides to normalize relations
TAGS: Morning Rush

Judge Calls Obama’s Immigration Action Unconstitutional

Judge Calls Obama's Immigration Action Unconstitutional

U.S. District Court Judge Arthur Schwab of Pennsylvania ruled this week that President Obama overstepped his authority as president when he announced his recent sweeping immigration executive order, the New York Times reported. Except, the case Judge Schwab had before him didn’t exactly require him to weigh in on the constitutionality of Obama’s executive action.

Nevertheless, Schwab ruled that Obama’s executive action goes “beyond prosecutorial discretion” and should be considered legislation. “President Obama’s unilateral legislative action violates the separation of powers provided for in the United States Constitution as well as the Take Care Clause, and therefore, is unconstitutional,” Schwab wrote.

The Department of Justice fired back, calling the opinion “unfounded,” Fox News reported. Neither party asked Judge Schwab to weigh in on the legality of the executive action, the Justice Department noted. 

Talking Points Memo’s Sahil Kapur has more on Schwab’s background—which includes Schwab’s being pulled from cases, and lazy rulings which were reversed by higher courts. 

Los Angeles Police to Get 7,000 Body Cameras

Los Angeles Police to Get 7,000 Body Cameras

On Tuesday, Mayor Eric Garcetti announced that the city will purchase 7,000 body cameras for Los Angeles Police Department officers, the Los Angeles Times reported. In the wake of protests in Ferguson and the rest of the country, one tangible cop accountability policy has risen to the top: body cameras for police officers. President Obama requested $263 million to go in part toward equipping police officers with 50,000 body camerasWhile Washington, D.C. and New York City are piloting body-mounted cameras for their police forces, Los Angeles is committing itself to the program. 

Body-worn cameras “are not a panacea, but they are a critical part of the formula,” Garcetti said Tuesday, the LA Times reported. “The trust between a community and its police department can be eroded in a single moment. Trust is built on transparency.”

And yet, for black men whose recent police killings have been recorded, transparency hasn’t translated into justice, Saint Louis University School of Law professor Justin Hansford recently wrote for the Washington Post. And that’s even when the cameras are on. Earlier this year, LAPD officers in a South L.A. patrol division were found to have tampered with the cameras installed in patrol cars to avoid being recorded, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Cuban Prisoner Swap, State Department Made Decisions on Sony’s ‘The Interview,’ Instagram’s New Filters

Cuban Prisoner Swap, State Department Made Decisions on Sony's 'The Interview,' Instagram's New Filters

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

  • Cuba is releasing Alan Gross and at least one more U.S. citizen in exchange for three Cuban prisoners held by the United States. 
  • Hacked emails reveal that Sony worked with the Department of State, which played a roll in making decisions about “The Interview,” a movie in which Kim Jong-Un is assassinated. Hackers have also threatened to bomb any theater that screens the movie. 
  • The Marine veteran who killed six people, including his ex-wife, is found dead
  • Because there’s actually a statute of limitation on things like this, Bill Cosby won’t face charges that he drugged and sexually assaulted Judy Huth at the Playboy Mansion in 1974.  
TAGS: Morning Rush

Los Angeles County Agrees to Reform Jails, With Judge Watching

Los Angeles County Agrees to Reform Jails, With Judge Watching

On Tuesday, Los Angeles county officials formally agreed to a list of reforms (PDF) to clean up its violent jail system, LA’s KPCC reported. The reforms, part of a consent decree which will be overseen by a federal judge, stem from a lawsuit filed by the ACLU in 2012 over what the ACLU called a culture of wanton, brutal deputy-on-inmate violence.

Under the 15-page agreement, Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies will have to undergo new use-of-force training for a new, more stringent use-of-force policy. For instance, if an inmate stops resisting during an exchange, a deputy must “de-escalate” their own use of force, KPCC reports. Sheriff’s deputies will also no longer be allowed to verbally provoke inmates as a pretext to use force against them under the reforms.

In addition to the updated use-of-force policies, the county will also place more cameras inside its jails and expand options for inmates to file grievances. The new inmate grievance form, for instance, must now include a box for “use of force” as a category for complaints against staff members. The consent decree also bars deputies from retaliating against inmates. 

The consent decree comes one week after the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors approved the creation of a civilian oversight commission for the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, which runs the county jail system. 

Justice Dept. Warns: Ebola Panic Doesn’t Make It OK to Discriminate

Justice Dept. Warns: Ebola Panic Doesn't Make It OK to Discriminate

On Monday the Department of Justice issued a guidance (PDF) to address U.S. residents who’ve let Ebola panic fuel discriminatory acts against African people. “The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has led to increased reports of discrimination in the United States against people who are or are perceived to be from an African country or of African descent, as well as against those perceived as having Ebola,” the guidance’s opening lines read. Such actions are illegal, the federal government warns.

When racialized fear informs decisions that limit people’s access to housing, employment, education and other services, the federal government warns, people could be infringing on others’ civil rights. Racial discrimination and harassment, such as requiring a child of African descent who hasn’t been asked by health authorities to stay away from school or refusing to offer disaster relief to someone who is or might be perceived to be from an African country, is not only illegal, the Justice Department says, it discourages those who might have actual symptoms from coming forward.

“Both science and the law must lead our efforts to ensure that unfounded fear and/or prejudice do not limit access” to jobs, housing and education, the Justice Department’s statement read.

(h/t Huffington Post)

Nation’s Largest Family Immigrant Detention Facility Opens in Texas

Nation's Largest Family Immigrant Detention Facility Opens in Texas

On Monday, as Congress put off funding the Department of Homeland Security through 2015, the agency opened a new family detention center in Dilley, Tex. The center, with capacity for 2,400, will primarily house women and children and sits about 100 miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border.

The United States is “not open to illegal migration,” DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson said Monday, Reuters reported. The center’s first detainees will be those who are transferred from a facility in Artesia, N.M., which was shut down earlier this year after a lawsuit challenged the federal government’s treatment of detainees in the midst of a child migrant crisis. 

The new Texas facility will be run by Corrections Corporation of America, the New York Times reports. CCA is one of the nation’s largest private prison companies in the country. It will cost the federal government $296 a day to house each detainee.

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