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Is Comprehensive Immigration Reform Dead?

Is Comprehensive Immigration Reform Dead?

Despite hopes to the contrary, the promise of Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) is all but dead in the House. The Senate had passed the Gang of Eight’s bill and handed it over months ago. House minority leader John Boehner (R-Oh.) made pretty clear his party wasn’t going to move on it—yet advocates continued to put pressure on Congress. 

But it seems that effort hasn’t paid off. Speaking to the Washington Post today, Representative Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) made it pretty clear:

“It doesn’t appear that we’re going to move forward with the group of seven,” Dem Rep. Luis Gutierrez, a key player on immigration as a member of the gang, said in an interview with me. “The process is stalled. I don’t believe we’re going to produce a bill anytime soon.”

When President Obama spoke about the overdue need for CIR in January, he said he wouldn’t waste any time:

[I]f Congress is unable to move forward in a timely fashion, I will send up a bill based on my proposal and insist that they vote on it right away.

But the president has let eight months pass without action on immigration reform since he made that statement—and it’s estimated that during that time, about a quarter of a million people have been deported. The president can use his executive power to curtail those deportations, but in an interview with Telemundo this week, he explained he has no interest in doing so.

While the news is surprising to some, rumors of the bills failure have been circulating for months. Tania Unzueta, an organizer with the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, says she first found out about the news through social media. “I feel like we’ve been talking about it for a bit, even as immigrants rights advocates,” she says. “But we continue to move on Plan A—asking president to take action to stop deportations.”

Unzueta understands that Obama won’t stop deportations outright, but she says he has a lot of options—including putting a halt to the damaging Secure Communities program, altering the policy around who counts as a high-priority removal target under prosecutorial discretion, and changing the qualifications for who’s eligible for deferred action.

Representatives Raúl Grijalva (D-Az) and Filemon Vela (D-Texas), meanwhile, introduced their own CIR bill in the House today. “This is not an issue that’s going away just because some people refuse to pay attention,” warned Grijalva. 

Retrial Date Set for Cop in Aiyana Stanley-Jones Death

Retrial Date Set for Cop in Aiyana Stanley-Jones Death

Joseph Weekley, the Detroit police officer who shot and killed seven year-old Aiyana Stanley-Jones, will be retried on a charge of involuntary manslaughter on December 4. Weekley also faces one charge of careless discharge of a firearm. The cable network A&E was following Weekley’s unit in its pursuit of a murder suspect when the shooting occurred. Stanley-Jones was sleeping on a sofa with her grandmother in the early morning hours of May 16, 2010 when Weekley’s unit burst through the door. The suspect they were looking for was not present in the apartment, but both Weekley and prosecutors agree that the bullet that killed the child was fired from the officer’s gun. Weekley’s previous trial ended in June after a jury deadlocked on a verdict. (h/t Huffington Post)

There’s a Deaf NFL Player Who You Should Know About

There's a Deaf NFL Player Who You Should Know About

Seattle Seahawks fans have set world records for being the loudest in the NFL. But there’s at least one player whose attention is focused squarely on football, by neccessity. The team’s starting fullback Derrick Coleman is deaf. From Buzzfeed:

The former UCLA tailback has been legally deaf since the age of 3 and can only hear sounds and tones without the hearing aids, but that has never slowed him down on the football field, where he relies primarily on lip reading and hand signals. According to the recruiting website Rivals.com Coleman was the fifth-ranked high school fullback in the class of 2008 and during his four years at UCLA he rushed for over 1,700 yards and 19 touchdowns. Despite his success, he went undrafted in the spring of 2012.

Playing fullback is a relatively thankless job of blocking and setting up plays for the likes of Marshawn Lynch, one of the league’s leading rushers. But Coleman’s story is unique and important, too.

TAGS: NFL

Boston Man Who Returned $42,000 is Generously Rewarded

Boston Man Who Returned $42,000 is Generously Rewarded

Glen James, a Boston man in his mid 50s who is currently homeless, returned a backpack containing $42,000 in travelers checks and cash earlier this week. Soon after, 27-year-old Virginia man, Ethan Whittington, started a campaign on GoFundMe which has so far raised $130,450

Whittington is not the owner of the backpack. He says he started the fund because he was inspired by James’ generosity and honesty. 

James says he’s been homeless for five years, and in addition to the donations he also received an award from the Boston Police Department.  

Attorney General Outlines Changes on Mandatory Minimums

Attorney General Outlines Changes on Mandatory Minimums

Attorney General Eric Holder addressed the Congressional Black Caucus Thursday, and summarized changes the Department of Justice is taking to end mandatory minimums for “people charged with certain low-level, nonviolent drug offenses.” Holder expanded on his initial announcement, made last month, and explained his department’s new policy:  

I am pleased to announce today that the Department has issued new guidance to apply our updated charging policy not only to new matters but also to pending cases where the defendant was charged before the policy was issued but is still awaiting adjudication of guilt.  By reserving the most severe prison terms for serious, high-level, or violent drug traffickers or kingpins, we can better enhance public safety.  We can increase our focus on proven strategies for deterrence and rehabilitation.  And we can do so while making our expenditures smarter and more productive.

As The New York Times reports, Holder issued a memo to prosecutors that the new guidelines apply retroactively:

The policy applies to defendants who meet four criteria: their offense did not involve violence, the use of a weapon, or selling drugs to minors; they are not leaders of a criminal organization; they have no significant ties to large-scale gangs or drug trafficking organizations; and they have no significant criminal histories.

On Thursday, the Justice Department ordered prosecutors to apply the new policy retroactively to defendants who are already in the system but have not yet been sentenced. It was not immediately clear how many pending federal drug cases would be affected.

The policy (that you can read in its entirety)—which relies on prosecutorial discretion—is not truly retroactive, however. Those people already convicted under what Holder referred to as “draconian mandatory minimum sentences” will continue to serve them out. 

House Votes to Cut $40 Billion in Funding For Food Stamps

House Votes to Cut $40 Billion in Funding For Food Stamps

In a tight vote yesterday (217-200) the Republican-controlled House of Representatives approved deep cuts to the federal food stamps program. One in seven people currently use food stamps, about 85 percent of which are children and the vast majority of who are people of color.  With the U.S. poverty rate holding steady at 15 percent, food stamps are seen as a critical safety net program for needy families. 

The approved bill would cut $4 billion annually over the next decade and it includes strict new work regulations such as a three-month cap on food stamp benefits if recipients do not secure employment. GOP lawmakers claim the cuts are needed because the program is overfunded and has been abused by recipients.

While the bill is unlikely to pass the Senate, and President Obama has threatened to veto the bill if it does, the move signals a disconnect between many Republican lawmakers and the reality faced by the estimated four million people who rely on food stamps to make ends meet.

Grace Jones Is Coming Out With a Memoir Next Fall

Grace Jones Is Coming Out With a Memoir Next Fall

Grace Jones has apparently changed her mind about writing a memoir, because hers is due out next fall. From the New York Times:

The model, actress, singer and Studio 54 legend has an agreement with Gallery Books for a book scheduled to come out next fall. Gallery, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, announced Wednesday that the book is currently untitled.

In a statement released by Gallery, Jones noted that her song “Art Groupie” began with the line, “I’ll never write my memoirs.” What made her give in? If she didn’t do it, someone else would.

Queerty offers up 10 reasons you should be really, really excited (if you aren’t already).

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Fresh Prince of Bel Air Makes an Appearance on an NHL Goalie’s Face Mask

Fresh Prince of Bel Air Makes an Appearance on an NHL Goalie's Face Mask

What else can you say? Canadian goalie prospect Jordan Binnington knows his ’90s television.

2Pac’s Mother Afeni Shakur Producing Biopic of Slain Rapper

2Pac's Mother Afeni Shakur Producing Biopic of Slain Rapper

There’s been a Tupac Shakur biopic in the works since 2011, but the project recently gained some momentum thanks to a new deal to finance the film. From Deadline:

Emmett/Furla/Oasis Films is teaming with Morgan Creek Productions to co-finance and co-produce Tupac, creating a new urgency for the long-gestating biopic on the hip-hop icon Tupac Shakur. They are working with a script by Eddie Gonzalez and Jeremy Haft, and a new draft is expected in two weeks. Several companies battled for the rights to partner on the film with Jim Robinson’s Morgan Creek before MCP president David Robinson sealed the deal with EFO. They are eyeing a February start date and a $45 million budget. They have the rights to exploit Tupac’s musical catalog, and his mother, Afeni Shakur, will be a producer on the film.

No word yet on the cast, but Deadline notes that “Fruitvale Station” actor Micheal B. Jordan or Anthony Mackie could be good fits for the leading role. Read more over at Deadline.

Hari Kondabolu Demands TSA Reparations

Hari Kondabolu Demands TSA Reparations

Just another reason to watch “Totally Biased.”

(h/t Angry Asian Man)

Parents Complain After Child Forced to Reenact Slavery on a Field Trip

Parents Complain After Child Forced to Reenact Slavery on a Field Trip

During a Nature’s Classroom field trip organized by Hartford Magnet Trinity College Academy last year, a 12-year-old black girl was forced to pretend she was a slave as part of a historical reenactment. During the simulation she was called the N-word, chased through the woods, and threatened with physical violence including whipping and cutting her Achilles. Nature’s Classroom has been criticized for this same reenactment in the past, but continues do it. 

Now, Sandra and James Baker—the girl’s parents—have taken their complaints to the Connecticut School Board and the Human Rights Commission after 10-months of trying to get an apology from their daughter’s former school. Other students who went on the same trip were recently debriefed, and described being similarly horrified by the experience. 

Has Stop-and-Frisk Been Replaced by Youth Surveillance?

Has Stop-and-Frisk Been Replaced by Youth Surveillance?

In an article published today in the New York Times, the NYPD seems to be beefing up social media monitoring as a tactic to replace the once common stop-and-frisk, which was ruled a violation of rights by a federal judge earlier this year.  According to the article, the NYPD says 30 percent of shootings over the past several years can be connected to youth gangs known as “crews” or “sets,” and Facebook is a particularly reliable source for connecting people with these groups. 

Police also claim people involved in gang activity often threaten people or boast about past actions on Facebook, which enabled the NYPD to thwart a potential violent incident earlier this spring. Now it seems they will be relying more heavily on “Operation Crew Cut” to root out potential crews. The officers are also using Twitter, Instagram and YouTube, often disguising their identities to gain access to individuals.

This strategy has been applauded even by staunch stop-and-frisk opponent Democratic mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio, among others. But the increased use of this tactic also brings up some serious questions about internet privacy and government surveillance. While internet bullying should never be condoned, could an idle threat by a teen somehow link him to gang activity? What’s your take?  

(h/t New York Times)

Navajo Star Wars: Coming to a Theater Near You

Navajo Star Wars: Coming to a Theater Near You

Some 150,000 people speak Diné bizaad, or Navajo language. Yet no major film has ever been released in Diné. That means that monolingual speakers—who mostly live on the Navajo Nation that spreads out over Arizona, Utah and New Mexico—have been unable to simply go to a theater to enjoy a film. 

That all changed recently, after Navajo Nation Museum director Manuelito Wheeler set out to get Star Wars dubbed in Diné. Before the casting call could even be made, the film first had to be translated—and that’s not an easy thing for a language that’s so precise in its descriptions when compared to English. Wheeler explained the process to NPR in June:

We had a team of five translators and in my mind they pulled off a miracle. You know, there was some talk out there … like, ‘How are you gonna say robot because there’s no word for robot in Navajo?’ It’s such a powerful language, that it’s very descriptive, very descriptive. If you ask for an object in Navajo you will know you’ll be getting a round object, you’ll be getting a skinny, soft object, you’ll be getting a flat rigid object. So, the trick was choosing from the variety of definitions that the group came up with. So for example: “robot.” It’s a thinking machine; a machine that thinks for itself.

Navajo Star Wars was shown on and near the Navajo Nation this summer with glowing reviews from Diné speakers. And now, it’s hitting major cities, too. Arizona State University will host an exclusive screening in about two weeks (do yourself a favor and click on that last link for an awesome poster image!), and it’s coming to New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles soon, too. 

Seth Green Insists ‘Dads’ Isn’t Racist, It’s Just Comedy

Seth Green Insists 'Dads' Isn't Racist, It's Just Comedy

FOX’s new sitcom “Dads” has been criticized for its bad racist jokes, but costar Seth Green insists that those critics just don’t have a decent sense of humor. During an “Ask Me Anything” forum on Reddit, Green made his case.

“There have been some groups who through their own cultural sensitivities feel that jokes that we’re making are inappropriate for television, but I don’t think any of those people have really seen the show as a whole and are solely focusing on singular jokes without considering them in the context of the entire show,” Green said. Later, he added, “

The creators of the show are smart and clever, and we all grew up loving this kind of TV for being both a mirror to what we’re all going through, and also provocative enough to ask questions about why we behave the way we do.”

“Everyone needs to remember, this is a comedy, it’s not about making fun of people but it’s about having fun with the situations these people get into.”

“Dads” premieres Tuesday.

(h/t Los Angeles Times)

TAGS: Dads TV

New York City Has Widest Income Gap According to American Community Survey

New York City Has Widest Income Gap According to American Community Survey

To complement the Census Bureau’s recent release of annual poverty, income and health insurance statistics, today the bureau released data from the American Community Survey. The survey’s findings, which can be difficult to navigate for the average person and will likely emerge in the coming days, have already highlighted some interesting state-specific information.

Among them, New York City is found to have the widest income gap of any U.S. city, with a poverty rate of nearly 15 percent and a median household income of $64,000. Overall, the Census Bureau found there were not significant statistical variations from last year, aside from increased health coverage nationwide in particular for children and teens. And so, despite economic stimulus efforts in the U.S., women and people of color continue to earn lower wages, and are at higher risk for living in poverty.

Want the Washington Redskins to Change Their Name? You’re Racist

Want the Washington Redskins to Change Their Name? You're Racist

ESPN’s Rick Reilly pissed off a lot of people this week by writing in support of the Washington Redskins’ team name. For decades, team executives have stubbornly clung to the name despite growing outrage from fans and, notably, prominent Native groups who point out that the name is an obvious racial slur.

Reilly wrote at ESPN:

White America has spoken. You aren’t offended, so we’ll be offended for you.

[snip]

…The 81-year-old Washington Redskins name is falling, and everybody better get out of the way. For the majority of Native Americans who don’t care, we’ll care for them. For the Native Americans who haven’t asked for help, we’re glad to give it to them.

Trust us. We know what’s best. We’ll take this away for your own good, and put up barriers that protect you from ever being harmed again.

Kind of like a reservation.

Dave Zirin offered up a scathing criqiue of Reily over at The Nation:

Every poll shows overwhelming support for preserving the name as is. But saying “white America” is imposing this name change on the Native American community is not only ass-backward. It is incredibly insulting to every Native American—people like the original activists of the American Indian Movement, Suzan Harjo and Vern Bellecourt—who have organized to change it in the face of constant abuse by high-profile, invariably white sportswriters like Rick Reilly. By not giving even token mention to the long history of Native American organizing or agency, Reilly makes them invisible or implies that they are just pawns of this PC liberal elite just looking to be offended for the sake of being offended.

It’s going to be a very long football season. 

TAGS: NFL

Edwidge Danticat Talks About Writing Her First Novel in 10 Years

Edwidge Danticat Talks About Writing Her First Novel in 10 Years

Edwidge Danticat sat down for an interview with PBS’s NewsHour to talk about “Claire of the Sea Light,” her first work of fiction in more than a decade. In the video above she talks about her writing process. Below, she reads an excerpt from the book.

(h/t PBS NewsHour)

Like Janelle Monáe? You’ll Love THEESatisfaction, KING, and Ebony Bones

Like Janelle Monáe? You'll Love THEESatisfaction, KING, and Ebony Bones

If you’re looking for a little something to add to your fall playlist (especially now that those new iOS 7 updates are out with iTunes radio!), then look no further. Janelle Monáe’s successful release of her second album has shown that there’s a market for new, quirky black songresses, and she’s not the only one in it. Below are a few acts who, whether in style or substance, are changing music both here and across the pond.

THEESatisfaction (Seattle, WA & Brooklyn, NY)

This talented duo started their careers in Seattle when they met at the University of Washington.  Since then, they’ve been on a roll, performing with Erykah Badu, releasing new music, and hosting Brooklyn’s popular Black Weirdo party.

KING (Los Angeles, CA)

What’s better than one talented singer? Twins songstresses who decide to form a group together. A few years ago, Paris and Amber Strother caught the industry’s attention when their 2011 song “The Story” went viral. Now they’re on tour with with British soul singer Laura Mvula.

Ebony Bones (London, UK)

This writer, producer and actress does a little bit of everything, but gained a following in the states after performing at SXSW a few years ago. She just released her second album, “Behold, A Pale Horse,” which got rave reviews from the good folks at NPR’s First Listen.

Eight Lessons From Erykah Badu’s Vine

Eight Lessons From Erykah Badu's Vine

Know your history.

 

There’s a movement behind every individual.

 

Take it slow.

 

You won’t get everything right on the first try.

Make time for your family.

Be patient.

Don’t be afraid to confront the opposition.

Don’t forget to have fun.

 

The Story of the Black Pitcher Who Threw a No-Hitter While on LSD

The Story of the Black Pitcher Who Threw a No-Hitter While on LSD

You may have heard of Dock Ellis. He’s the Major League Baseball pitcher made infamous for throwing a no hitter on June 12, 1970 while a member of the San Diego Padres. What makes his story even more interesting isn’t just that it happened, but that it’s been illustrated and put on YouTube. After his career ended in the late ’70s, Ellis entered recovery, counseled people battling addictions, and became an outspoken advocate for players’ rights. So much so, in fact, that Jackie Robinson had to tell him to take it easy. Ellis died of lung disease in 2008 when he was only 63 years old.

This illustrated short is an interesting look into the drugs that were a prominent part of professional sports in that era, long before today’s concerns over performance enhancing drugs and stories of current players like Lamar Odom battling high-profile addictions.

TAGS: Drugs MLB
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