Federal Judge Blocks Portion of Texas Abortion Law

Federal Judge Blocks Portion of Texas Abortion Law

Today a federal judge dealt a blow to HB 2, Texas’s omnibus abortion law set to take effect tomorrow. Among other provisions, the law forced abortion providers to have (medically unnecessary) admitting privileges to local hospitals, a requirement that reproductive health advocates said would force them to stop providing abortions. U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel found the provision unconstitutional. From ThinkProgress:

In his opinion, Yeakel noted that the “admitting-privileges provision is without a rational basis and places a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion of a nonviable fetus.” Similar logic has led several federal judges to block identical provisions in other states. Yeakel did not strike down the provision related to medication-induced abortions.

The ruling also does not affect several of the other provisions in Texas’ omnibus law, such as the requirement that abortion clinics need to meet the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers — which won’t take effect until 2014 — or the ban that outlaws abortion procedures after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

A Black Man Won a Nascar National Race For the First Time in 50 Years

A Black Man Won a Nascar National Race For the First Time in 50 Years

Darrell Wallace Jr. became the first black man to win a national Nascar race in 50 years after at Martinsville Speedway in southern Virginia on Saturday.

Nascar has had its share of image problems and was quick to celebrate Wallace’s victory. “We congratulate Darrell Wallace Jr. on his first national series victory, one that will be remembered as a remarkable moment in our sport’s history,” said Nascar chairman and CEO Brian France.

CNN noted that no black driver had won a national Nascar race since December 1, 1963 when Wendell Scott became the first African-American to win at Nascar top level at Speedway Park in Jacksonville, Fla.



North Dakota Town Keeps Battling White Supremacist

North Dakota Town Keeps Battling White Supremacist

Paul Craig Cobb’s plans to create a white power haven in Leith, N.D., are being thwarted by local residents. Two years ago he began buying up more than a dozen properties in Leith with the hopes of creating his white supremacist enclave, and currently lives in a house without running water or sewer service, along with three other white men and two children. Now, the townspeople are fighting back by trying to get two ordinances passed: one that would require him to put a water and sewer line on his property, and another which would prevent people from camping out on his properties for more than 10 consecutive days. 

Leith has only 23 residents, and the town’s sole black resident—Bobby Harper—says he and his wife will remain in the town even if the white supremacists do arrive, because it is his home. The townsfolk have been fiercely opposed to Cobb’s plans since they came to light, and recently a group of Native Lakota and Dakota women burned a Nazi flag in protest. Councilman Lee Cook said plainly they would do everything they could to prevent Cobb from seeing his plan through. 

In addition to his current white supremacist project, Cobb is also wanted in Canada for “willful promotion of hatred,” though the Canadian government will not extradite him for this crime. He has been explicit about his intentions to take over city government in Leith. 

Julianne Hough Apologizes for Blackface Halloween Costume

Julianne Hough Apologizes for Blackface Halloween Costume

Julianne Hough has offered up an apology for dressing up in blackface as the character “Crazy Eyes” from “Orange is the New Black.” The professional ballroom dance and champ of “Dancing With the Stars” issued the apology on Saturday after photos of her costume went viral. 

“I am a huge fan of the show Orange is the New Black, actress Uzo Aduba, and the character she has created. It certainly was never my intention to be disrespectful or demeaning to anyone in any way. I realize my costume hurt and offended people and I truly apologize,” Hough tweeted.

(h/t USA Today)


Awful Halloween Costumes Cont’d: Bloody Asiana Flight Attendants

Awful Halloween Costumes Cont'd: Bloody Asiana Flight Attendants

Three guys decided to dress up as bloody flight attendants from Asiana Airlines Flight 214, which crash-landed at San Francisco International Airport this past summer. The costumes, brought to light by Angry Asian Man, also included the fake racist flight crew names that ran as a prank on Bay Area news station KTVU. The crash killed three people and left dozens of people with life-altering injuries but, apparently, that’s funny to these folks.


Ntozake Shange Talks About a New Struggle With Words, and Health

Ntozake Shange Talks About a New Struggle With Words, and Health

“I can’t count the times I viscerally wanted to attack, deform and maim the language I was taught to hate myself in,” says a character in Ntozake Shange’s new choreoplay, “Lost in Language and Sound,” which recently premiered in New York City. But the award-winning playwright, 65, is in a new battle with language, her body, and the technology that’s supposed to make life easier.

The New York Times recently profiled Shange and her battle against a neurological disorder called chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy that’s left her unable to write or type without difficulty. The disorder came after a pair of strokes that left her temporarily unable to read.

“I can’t work on a computer and I can’t write very well, either,” Shange told the Times. “It sort of feels empty, not like I’m swollen with words. I feel like there’s an astringent being applied to my body so that everything is getting very tight and I can’t release it right this minute.”

“Spell-check ruins my work,” she added. “It fixes all my slang and dialect into standard English. So I’m caught in a tangle of technology that feels very foreign to me. My characters don’t talk necessarily in a normal American way of talking. They talk a little different. So I’m having a struggle with the grammar.”

Shange is most known for her hit 1975 choreoplay “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When The Rainbow Is Enuf” and later advised filmmaker Tyler Perry in his 2010 film adaptation of the play. Both were wildly successful. 

Read more at the New York Times


Federal Judge Says His Voter ID Approval Was a Mistake, Then Takes it Back

Federal Judge Says His Voter ID Approval Was a Mistake, Then Takes it Back

A federal appeals court judge who made a crucial ruling in 2007 declaring an Indiana voter ID legal recently published a book where he “plead guilty” to upholding “a type of law now widely regarded as a means of voter suppression rather than of fraud prevention,” which many read as a confession that he made a mistake in that ruling. After dozens of election law experts and voting rights advocates criticized Judge Richard Posner for his second-thinking, given all that is at stake for elections (millions of people at risk of losing their ballot for not having ID), the judge wrote an op-ed in The New Republic this weekend walking back his guilty plea.

Wrote Posner:  

I did not say that my decision … [was] wrong, only that, in common with many other judges, I could not be confident that it was right, since I am one of the judges who doesn’t understand the electoral process sufficiently well to be able to gauge the consequences of decisions dealing with that process.

Posner’s original ruling in the 2007 Crawford v. Marion County Election Board case, when he upheld voter ID laws as constitutional, was the foundation for the U.S. Supreme Court’s later ruling that gave the laws the same legal greenlight. Posner posited in 2007 that since it was a new type of law (there were no other state voter ID laws at the time) that there weren’t enough data to prove that it would disenfranchise those without ID, as opponents argued in court. Of course, there were no data that proved it would stop voter impersonation fraud either — or that impersonation fraud even existed, as the law’s proponents argued. But Posner decided to err on the side of the non-existent fraud, and the rest is history. 

The point I was making in my book in mentioning the Crawford case was not that the decision was right or wrong … but that in many cases judges can’t have any confidence in the soundness of their decisions if they do not have empirical data concerning the likely consequences of deciding the case one way rather than another.

Not having confidence in your decision sounds like doubting your decision, which, regardless of what he’s now saying in The New Republic, sounds like Monday-morning quarterbacking — in other words, reviewing your mistakes. In this op-ed, though, Posner sounds like he’s trying to have it both ways: He both questions the correctness of his decision and believes he is correct. 

It wasn’t long ago that in an interview with Mike Sacks at Huffpost Live, he was unequivocal that he made a mistake. When Posner was asked if his ruling was wrong, the judge said, “Yes, absolutely.”

Meanwhile, the consequences of the half-baked ruling are apparent, particularly now in North Carolina and Texas (see below, from Advancement Project):



‘The Graduates/Los Graduados’ Premiers on PBS

'The Graduates/Los Graduados' Premiers on PBS

Over the past decade Latino students have had the highest high school dropout rates of any racial or ethnic group. Experts say Latino students often drop out in order to help support their families, while many undocumented Latino youth are discouraged from completing high school because they are misinformed about college or otherwise unsure of their future.  “The Graduates/Los Graduados,” a new film by Bernardo Ruiz, takes a close look at six Latino students from across the U.S. who struggle with the decision whether or not to drop out. Their individual stories explore themes of teen pregnancy, homophobic bullying, joining a gang, being undocumented, and grappling with homelessness.

This bilingual two-part series premiers tonight on PBS. The second installment will air on November 4. 

These Men Dressed Up as Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman For Halloween

These Men Dressed Up as Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman For Halloween

Two Florida men decided to dress up as Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman for Halloween. And if that sentence didn’t turn your stomach, then this might: the costume includes blackface and a bloodstained hoodie.

Caitlin Cimeno uploaded the photo to Facebook on Friday that shows Greg Simeno, 22, dressed up as Zimmerman and wearing a T-shirt with the title “Neighborhood Watch” scrawled across the front. William Filene, 25, is dressed up as Martin, complete with blackface and wearing the bloodstained hoodie. The photo was uploaded with the message, “Happy Halloween from Zimmerman & trayvon.” And there was a smiley face involved.

The costume is obviously playing on all the tropes of black criminality that echoed throughout Zimmerman’s trial and eventual equittal for mudering the unarmed, 17-year-old Martin. But the Smoking Gun dug up some background on the duo and found that Filene has quite a rapsheet, including a recent arrest for grand theft auto. And there’s more:

In August, Cimeno also posted a photo of an African American girl wearing a t-shirt reading “Black Girls Rock.” In her accompanying caption, Cimeno wrote, “First of all, sorry Hun but mommy lied to you & secondly if I was wearing a shirt that said something like the truth ‘white girls rock’ I would be stared at and called a racist cracker.”

(h/t The Smoking Gun)

Frank Waln’s New Video Will Blow You Away

Frank Waln's New Video Will Blow You Away

Sicangu Lakota hip hop artist Frank Waln—who’s also a Gates Millennium scholar—has an incredible new video out. The lyrics to his track AbOriginal reference his home on the Rosebud Reservation, Idle No More, and the plague of reappropriation. 

Do yourself a favor and watch it now. 

Pregnant Woman Fights Wisconsin Fetal Rights Laws

Pregnant Woman Fights Wisconsin Fetal Rights Laws

Alicia Beltran thought she was doing the right thing when she disclosed her past addiction history during a prenatal checkup in July. She was 12 weeks pregnant, and told the physician’s assistant who treated her that she had recently tapered off an anti-addiction medication called Suboxone to help with a prior addiction to Percocet. The physician’s assistant recommended she go back on Suboxone, which Beltran declined, and a urine test found only trace amounts of the anti-addiction medication. Two weeks after the checkup a social worker visited Beltran and insisted she go back on the anti-addiction medication, which Beltran again declined. A couple days later she was taken into custody by county police after which she was detained, shackled, and later ordered by a county judge to serve 90 days in a drug rehabilitation facility.

Beltran has now filed a federal lawsuit that challenges a 1998 Wisconsin law known as the “cocaine mom” law that is at the center of her case,  which grants courts authority to impose drug treatment medication and programs on women believed to be habitual users. Studies have shown that criminalizing pregnant women can have negative effects on both mother and child. Verónica Bayetti Flores at Feministing gives a great breakdown of what’s wrong with this kind of fetal rights legislation. 

We still hear about legislators and attorneys general suggesting the drug-testing of pregnant women, and criminalizing women more generally for “fetal endangerment.”  In fact, earlier this year NAPW released a groundbreaking report on the devastating ways that fetal personhood initiatives, usually passed to restrict abortion access, are being used to criminalize pregnancy. Unsurprisingly, these laws disproportionately affect already marginalized communities: immigrant women, low-income women, and women of color.

There are currently four states that have laws similar “cocaine mom” laws, including Minnesota, Oklahoma, and South Dakota. 

(h/t Feministing)

Alison Gold’s Awful ‘Chinese Food’ Makes Billboard Top 100 Debut

Alison Gold's Awful 'Chinese Food' Makes Billboard Top 100 Debut Play

Remember 12-year-old Alison Gold’s awful, really, really bad song and video called “Chinese Food?” It played on practically every anti-Asian strereotype you can imagine. And still, somehow, it managed to making a shocking appearance on the Billboard Hot 100, debuting at number 29 this week.

The song and video are products of ARK Music Factory, the same company that brought the world Rebecca Black’s “Friday.” Gold’s debut on Billboard’s Top 100 is due largely to the 5 million U.S. streams the video has gotten since it was uploaded onto YouTube on October 14. The track has also 1,000 downloads.

(h/t Billboard via Angry Asian Man)

Watch Janelle Monáe And Ed Norton Joke on SNL Promo

Watch Janelle Monáe And Ed Norton Joke on SNL Promo

Janelle Monáe will be appearing with Ed Norton on the upcoming Halloween edition of Saturday Night Live. Here’s a sneak peek.

More Evidence New York’s Tech Industry is Dominated by White Men

More Evidence New York's Tech Industry is Dominated by White Men

In an article published this week on Colorlines, we showed that New York City’s Silicon Alley, the burgeoning East Coast counterpoint to California’s Silicon Valley, continues to be a predominantly white, male industry. We know that people of color are the fastest growing users of everything from smartphones to social media, but they still don’t have a seat at the table when it comes to technology development. Black techies in New York told us they’d long struggled with lack of access to technology careers, which exposed deep-rooted structural issues that block people of color from education, networks, and access to start-up capital needed to create an equitable industry. 

And if we needed more proof, an article published yesterday on Business Insider gives a glimpse at the faces of New York tech industry entrepreneurs who are doing “cool things.” Of the 100 people featured, a scant few are people of color. In a city as ethnically and racially diverse, and with the tech sector emerging as the second largest job sector in the city, the lack of racial equity is particularly troubling.

Junot Díaz to Release Illustrated Edition of ‘This Is How You Lose Her’

Junot Díaz to Release Illustrated Edition of 'This Is How You Lose Her'

Junot Díaz is teaming up with award-winning graphic novelist Jaime Hernandez to release a deluxe illustrated version of his best-selling short story collection “This Is How You Lose Her.” The release is set to hit bookstores on October 31 and will feature full-page illustrations. 

JUNOTalma.jpg“Honestly, I am over-the-moon giddy,” Diaz told Comic Riffs this week. “I’ve got to tell you, I have never been the kind of person who [marvels] at his own work. I’m never over-the-top happy [about it]. I don’t even have parties … or go out for drinks with friends [when a new book of mine comes out].

Hernandez is known, along with his brothers Gilbert and Mario, as the co-creator of the long-running independent comic “Love and Rockets,” which follows a group of Latina teenagers in the California punk scene.

Díaz talked to the Washington Post about being inspired by Hernandez’s work early on in his writing career. “I discovered ‘Love and Rockets’ in 1987, while I was living in Jersey, during my first year of university [Rutgers],” Díaz said. “What’s sort of important to me is that Jaime and his brother Gilberto have been at the forefront of representing the U.S.-Latino and the Latino experience in a profound and human and complicated way. Back when everyone else was creating shows, these guys were talking about young, bisexual punk-rock girls from Oxnard. That’s the universe I [recognized].”

Hernandez said he had reservations about doing the project. “It was a little frustrating because this was his book,” he told The Post. “When doing something for someone else, I babysit it for a while.” As he read, he made mental sketches; sometimes, he even made physical ones in the margins, “so I wouldn’t forget a certain detail.” (Sometimes, he even had to backtrack; he envisioned Flaca as Latina till Diaz’s reveal that she’s white.)

(Above: Hernandez’s illustration of Alma from “This Is How You Lose Her.” (JUNOT DIAZ & JAIME HERNANDEZ - Riverhead Books )

Watch Gay Black Men Talk About Coming Out and Black Masculinity

Watch Gay Black Men Talk About Coming Out and Black Masculinity

Atlanta filmmaker Chase Simmons recently produced the documentary “Dear Dad,” which explores the lives of eight gay men of color and their experiences coming out to their fathers. In an interview with HuffPost Live, Simmons says he used the documentary to come out as gay to his own father, and discussed the themes of black masculinity, religion and the challenges faced by single mothers. 

Yolo Akili, author of ‘Gay Men’s Sexism and Women’s Bodies,’ discusses what he believes makes it difficult for black men to be openly gay.

“When you’re, particularly, African-American, because of the history of slavery and the history of race in this country, that masculinity is more rigid. So when you come out as a queer person, there’s a way in which historically that’s not connected with blackness or black masculinity. Black masculinity is rigged hard, tough—not what’s typically associated with gayness like vulnerability ad softness  It’s hard to circumvent those stereotypes.”

Others interviewed agreed that the stigma around black masculinity made them afraid to come out, and most described parents knowing they were gay but choosing not to discuss the topic. Simmons says he hopes the film will help people heal from negative experiences they’ve had expressing their sexuality within the black community.

(h/t HuffPost Live)


Maya Angelou and 100 Children’s Book Authors Ask Obama to Stop Overtesting Kids

Maya Angelou and 100 Children's Book Authors Ask Obama to Stop Overtesting Kids

This week over 100 children’s book authors and illustrators sent a letter to President Obama urging him to reconsider his testing-driven education reform agenda. The list of signers includes Dr. Maya Angelou and children’s book authors and illustrators like Judy Blume, Judith Viorst and Donald and Nina Crews.

Organized by testing reform advocacy group FairTest, the signers collectively told Obama:

We are alarmed at the negative impact of excessive school testing mandates, including your Administration’s own initiatives, on children’s love of reading and literature. Recent policy changes by your Administration have not lowered the stakes. On the contrary, requirements to evaluate teachers based on student test scores impose more standardized exams and crowd out exploration.

Teachers, parents and students agree with British author Philip Pullman who said, “We are creating a generation that hates reading and feels nothing but hostility for literature.” Students spend time on test practice instead of perusing books. Too many schools devote their library budgets to test-prep materials, depriving students of access to real literature. Without this access, children also lack exposure to our country’s rich cultural range.

Indeed, the hallmark of Obama’s education reform agenda has been his aggressive expansion of test-based accountability measures. Under Obama, tests now matter more. Standardized tests can determine whether school doors stay open, a student’s future educational options, and even whether a teacher may keep her job. In response to new state standards and the testing barrage, lawmakers, parents, educators and students around the country have spoken out against overtesting with legislation, boycotts, and protests.

Which leaves just one question. President Obama, are you really going to ignore Maya Angelou?

A Comic Guide to Sneaky Abortion Laws

A Comic Guide to Sneaky Abortion Laws

Over the past year more than 300 abortion restriction bills have been introduced in states across the nation. Among them are bans on post 20-week abortions that have been approved in 12 states, most recently in Texas where a lawsuit was just filed to block the new legislation. This week the ACLU published a comic created by artist Jen Sorensen that illustrates the tactics used by legislators to get these laws passed. Check out the full illustration below. 

(h/t Feministing)


‘Black Actress’ Web Series Premiers on Issa Rae’s YouTube Channel

'Black Actress' Web Series Premiers on Issa Rae's YouTube Channel

On November 5, “Degrassi: The Next Generation” star Andrea Lewis will launch a new web series called “Black Actress” that promises to explore the challenges of being a black actress in a field that continues to lack diverse roles for women of color. 

In a recent interview on Oprah’s Next Chapter, actress Viola Davis shared her thoughts on being a black women in the entertaining industry. “We’re in crisis mode as black actresses. Not in the sheer number of roles that are offered, but in the quality of roles,” she says. “When you only have two or three categories for black actresses, it’s a natural instinct. If you throw a piece of cheese into a room full of rats, they’re going to claw at each other.”

Those sentiments seem to resonate with Lewis. In a teaser scene from the series released yesterday, two black actresses are auditioning for the role of a woman named Beatrice in “12 Years a Slave,” who is described as being “very dark-skinned.” The two then get into a playful, albeit profound, debate about whether one of them, who has lighter skin, is right for the part. In the end the part goes to one infamous white so-called “twerker,” and the following conversation exposes the ongoing tensions among black actresses on skin color and competitiveness spurred by lacking roles.

The show, which is co-produced by Issa Rae, is will premier on her YouTube channel.

San Francisco Chinese Family Loses Their Eviction Fight

San Francisco Chinese Family Loses Their Eviction Fight

On Tuesday night Gum Gee Lee, Poon Heung Lee and their daughter removed the last of their belongings from the San Francisco apartment they’d lived in for over 30 years. Their eviction made final, the family had no choice but to leave their home despite weeks of protest from community groups which drew attention from city council members and sympathy from Mayor Ed Lee.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported:

The couple, who lived in the two-bedroom unit with their mentally disabled daughter for 34 years, silently loaded a few belongings into a friend’s car just after 8 p.m. and drove away. Relatives and community volunteers worked until after 11 p.m. moving the family’s furniture and other belongings to a storage center.

Building owner Matthew Miller’s attorney, Jeff Woo, said Miller “had great sympathy for the Lees … and we wish them well.” But he said it was impractical to leave the building as is. Recently upgraded tenant-in-common units in the area regularly sell for upward of $1 million apiece.

The Lee family were the last remaining tenants of an old eight-unit building which the new building’s owner plans to remodel and turn into luxury condos. Under California law, Miller had the right to evict the family. Elderly, living on a fixed income and responsible for the care of a daughter dependent on San Francisco health services oriented toward Asian immigrants, the Lees never had many options.

The Lees’ fight to stay in their home became a symbol of the angry clash between Silicon Valley’s new monied class and longtime, lower-income Bay Area residents who are being pushed out of their homes and businesses

Even with the $22,000 relocation fees they’ll be receiving from Miller, they’ve still yet to find a permanent place to live. “We thought we’d live here until we passed away,” Gum Gee Lee told the San Francisco Chronicle. “And now this. It is all so sad.”

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