Student Abandoned in Tiny Government Cell to Receive $4.1 Million

Student Abandoned in Tiny Government Cell to Receive $4.1 Million

The UC San Diego student who was picked up in a bust last year and left stranded in a Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) holding cell is about to get paid. Daniel Chong, now 25, was questioned and then told he was free to go after government agents raided a friend’s home that Chong was visiting. They never filed any charges against him. But instead of setting him free, authorities placed him in a 5’ x 10’ cell (that’s about the size of a small trailer), with no windows, no food, no water and no toilet facilities. He would spend five days there before being taken to a hospital to recover. Chong then spent three days in intensive care at Sharp Memorial Hospital, healing from failing kidneys, a punctured lung, and dehydration. 

As is common for anyone being held in solitary confinement, Chong began hallucinating, and says he was forced to drink his own urine. Thinking death was imminent, he began chewing on his own eyeglasses in order to break them and scrawl a final message to his mother with broken glass on his arm. He lost four pounds in almost as many days. Chong says he screamed for help to no avail—although he could clearly hear agents just outside the cell where he was being held. The DEA issued a rare apology after his release. 

The student subsequently filed a $20 million lawsuit against the DEA. According to NBC7 San Diego, Chong’s attorney announced a settlement today at just more than $4 million. Chong continues to be treated for posttraumatic stress disorder. 

Here’s Spike Lee’s List of 6 Essential Films Streaming on Netflix

Here's Spike Lee's List of 6 Essential Films Streaming on Netflix

Spike Lee made an essential films list over at Shadow & Act. It’s a long list, 86 films in total. But here are the six that you can find streaming on Netflix:

Federico Fellini’s “8 1/2” (1963)

John Scleshingter’s “Midnight Cowboy” (1969)

Roman Polanski’s “Chinatown” (1974)

Steve Jamwes’ “Hoop Dreams”

Terrence Malick’s “Days of Heaven” (1978)

Vlittorio De Sica’s “The Bicycle Thief” (1948)

Obama Reassures on Voting Rights Protections

Obama Reassures on Voting Rights Protections

Yesterday, President Obama brought Attorney General Eric Holder and his new Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez to meet with civil rights leaders and lawmakers over how the Voting Rights Act will still be enforced. Obama assured those in attendance that his administration would not shy away from voting rights protection, according to reports from the meeting. Before moving to Labor, Perez was in charge of enforcing Voting Rights Act provisions as director of the civil rights division. 

 D.C. Beltway news site The Hill, said the activists in attendance “were encouraged by the comments made by the president and administration officials.”

Alabama Congressman Napoleon Bracy, who represents Mobile on the state’s Gulf Coast, told a local news station that he was pleased with the meeting.

“The Voting Rights Act took a black eye; now we understand that the Department of Justice is here and going to do what they can to protect our voting rights,” Bracy told the station. “The Department of Justice is not going to lay down; anybody that’s trying to discriminate against people, not allow them to have their right to vote, will have to answer to the Department of Justice.”

Alabama was one of the states covered by Section Five of the Voting Rights Act, before it was stripped of its power, meaning Alabama no longer has to clear its election changes with the federal government to ensure no racial discrimination resulted. Meanwhile, the state has a photo voter ID law that will go into effect next year.

Texas State Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, chairman of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, was also in attendance. The Dallas Morning News reported that he came out “optimistic that the administration will do what it can to fill the void created by the Supreme Court.”

“If you look at an issue as contentious as the Voting Rights Act, you want an all of the above strategy,” said Martinez Fischer after the meeting. “You want to have a congressional plan, you want to have an outreach plan, you want to have a litigation plan.”

Attorney General Holder announced last week that the Justice Department was suing Texas under Section Three of the Voting Rights Act, which would bail the state back into preclearance coverage. Holder’s actions have apparently touched a nerve with Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who wrote an op-ed in the Washington Times today saying that, “The president’s partisan use of the Voting Rights Act actually hurts many minority voters in Texas.”

Holder is suing Texas over their redistricting law, which a federal court had already invalidated because, as one of the judges said, the parties “provided more evidence of discriminatory intent than we have space, or need to address here.” Those words came from U.S. Circuit Judge Thomas Griffith, who was appointed by Pres. George W. Bush. During that trial, the presiding judge Rosemary Collyer, also appointed by Bush, said, “It’s really hard to explain (changes to the map) other than doing it on the basis of reducing minority votes.”

Al Sharpton, the MSNBC news host and director of the National Action Network, was in attendance and tweeted about it beforehand.

He blogged about it afterward in The Huffington Post, tying voting rights attacks to other racially charged issues of the day: 

Today, as we continue to deal with the fight against ‘Stand Your Ground’ laws that set the climate for the George Zimmerman verdict, as well as the attack on voting rights, it’s becoming apparent that the politics of distraction are in full effect. The chatter is being drummed up by people like Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly, and cosigned by others like Don Lemon of CNN. Nice try, but we see you.

FCC to Vote Next Week on Prison Phone Rates

FCC to Vote Next Week on Prison Phone Rates

Phone calls from prison may be getting a lot cheaper. The Federal Communications Commission will vote next week on an order to cut the rates that inmates pay for interstate phone calls. 

Acting FCC Chairperson Mignon Clyburn has been a strong advocate of reducing the rates that inmates pay to call home. 

“For too long, the high cost of long-distance calls from prisoners to their loved ones across state lines has chronically impacted parents and children, especially among low-income families,”Clyburn said in a statement. ” Multiple studies have shown that meaningful contact beyond prison walls can make a real difference in maintaining community ties, promoting rehabilitation, and reducing recidivism.”

An average collect phone call from prison has a $3.95 connection fee and rates as high as 90 cents per minute, according to advocates. That means that a typical 15 minute phone call could cost a family anywhere between $10 and $17.

(H/T The Hill)

Detroit’s Taxpayers Are Bankrolling the Emergency Manager’s Lavish Lifestyle

Detroit's Taxpayers Are Bankrolling the Emergency Manager's Lavish Lifestyle

While Detroit’s residents struggle with the prospect of the city’s impending bankruptcy, many are wondering why the man charged with managing it is living in the lap of luxury.

Emergency manager Kevyn Orr, whose legal residence is in Washington, DC, has taken criticism for racking up expensive food and lodging bills in the Motor City. Orr is reportedly living in a hotel penthouse that’s paid for by taxpayers despite also taking in a salary of over $275,000 a year. With that much money, critics say, Orr should have been able to find his own, far less expensive, lodging in the city.

Orr has reportedly also rung up a $3,000 room service bill for items ranging that include crab cakes, steak bites, calamari, and shrimp Caesar.

All of this despite the fact that many of Detroit’s residents are living in a city that’s had to cut back drastically on basic municipal services like garbadge collection and street cleaning. What’s more, Orr is arguing that Detroit’s must file for bankruptcy because the city simply can’t afford to pay the pensions it promised to thousands of former city workers.

(H/T Click On Detroit)

TAGS: Detroit

What to Watch For in the Second Season of ‘Orange is the New Black’

What to Watch For in the Second Season of 'Orange is the New Black'

Netflix’s new hit series “Orange is the New Black” has been renewed for a second season and will add at least one new cast member: Lorraine Toussaint, who will play a street wise former drug queen who used kids as runners. Toussaint is know mostly for her role on Lifetime’s “Any Day Now.”

(H/T Shadow & Act)

A Fast Food Worker Strike Is Likely Coming to a City Near You

A Fast Food Worker Strike Is Likely Coming to a City Near You

A fast food worker strike that began in New York City is now spreading nationwide. This week strikes are planned to take place in seven cities, making it the biggest fast food worker mobilization in the country’s history. Walk outs and demonstrations will be held in New York, Chicago, St. Louis, Detroit, Milwaukee, Kansas City, and Flint, Michigan.

The strikes began in November in New York City when more than 200 workers walked off the job and demanded better wages. 

Here’s Monday’s scene from New York City.

Study: Stop-and-Frisk Doesn’t Deter Youth Crime, It Accelerates It

You hear it time and again: Supporters of the New York City Police Department’s controversial Stop-and-Frisk program say that the project is a necessary tool to prevent crime from happening in some of the city’s hardest hit areas. But according to a new study published in the journal Crime and Delinquency, young people who are stopped, questioned, and frisked are more likely than those who were not to break the law.

From Time Magazine:

In the current study, Stephanie Wiley, a PhD candidate at the University of Missouri in St. Louis and her colleagues followed some 2,600 students enrolled in a classroom-based gang prevention program in seven cities from 2006 to 2013.  Over the course of that time, some teens were stopped by the police, some stopped and arrested and others were not.

By the end of the study, those who did have police contact early in the trial period reported committing five more delinquent acts on average, ranging from cutting classes to selling drugs and attacking people with a weapon, than those who were not stopped randomly by police. And the students who were arrested for any reason wound up committing around 15 more delinquent acts on average than those who were not. The rates held even after the scientists adjusted for the effect of age, race and previous delinquency that could also affect their odds of being targeted by the police.

 Wiley summed up the point this way: “The theory is that when you’re publicly labeled as delinquent, you start to take on that role and experience social exclusion,” says Wiley, “You might also become friends with others who are delinquent based on a shared background, values and beliefs.”

Bay Area TV News Anchors Fired Over Racist Name Prank

Bay Area TV News Anchors Fired Over Racist Name Prank

Three veteran news producers at Bay Area news station KTVU were fired last week after an investigation into a racist name prank that aired on and humiliated the station.

From the San Francisco Chronicle:

Station sources confirmed late Wednesday that investigative producer Roland DeWolk, special projects producer Cristina Gastelu and producer Brad Belstock were all sent packing following an in-house investigation into the July 12 broadcast of four fake names of the pilots involved in the Asiana Flight 214 crash at San Francisco International Airport on July 6.

News anchor Tori Campbell was reporting on an Asiana Airlines flight and falsely identified the pilots as Capt. Sum Ting Wong, Wi Tu Lo, Ho Lee Fuk and Bang Ding Ow.

Randy Shandobil, a veteran KTVU reporter who left the station more than two years ago, said that the episode was emblematic of the pressure that news reporters are under to quickly access and deliver information. 

(H/T Angry Asian Man)

The Best Take Downs (So Far) of Don Lemon’s Tirade on Black America

The Best Take Downs (So Far) of Don Lemon's Tirade on Black America

CNN anchor Don Lemon got himself into a mess recently when he said that Bill O’Reilly’s criticism of the black community “doesn’t go far enough” and offered up his own  ideas. Among them: pull up your pants and stop littering. 

Enter the #DonLemonLogic hashtag on Twitter. 

TAGS: Don Lemon

Jay Z’s Fight With Harry Belafonte

Jay Z's Fight With Harry Belafonte

Twitter reacted strongly after a video surfaced last week in which Jay Z said that his presence is charity. The comments came in response to criticism by civil rights pioneer Harry Belafonte, who said that today’s artists need to be more politically engaged.

An important theme that’s come up: there’s a big difference between charity and activism. It’s a point that’s been up for public debate, especially in light of Peter Buffet’s op-ed abut the charitable-industrial complex in the New York Times. Editorial Director Kai Wright wrote back in 2011 that Belafonte does a lot more than just show up for justice; he acts. 

Belafonte has spent decades helping to lead reform movements around the world. He’s not just leant his celebrity, but has played meaningful roles in several human rights struggles, most recently in the founding of the Gathering for Justice. His accumulated wisdom brings invaluable context to the ups and downs of electoral politics. Most importantly, Belafonte stresses that our concern needn’t be over President Obama’s political well being; our concern must be with building a people-driven movement for justice, to which any elected official must respond.

In the above video from 2010, Belafonte sat down with Colorlines publisher Rinku Sen to talk about race and politics. He speaks with an eloquence that resonates with many of today’s racial justice advocates. That’s one of the things that many people on Twitter reacted to last week after Jay Z’s comments went public. Our community engagement fellow Stacia L. Brown faciliated a pretty meaty conversation, most of which is captured below.


A Look at Black Chicago in the 1970’s

A Look at Black Chicago in the 1970's

The Atlantic’s In Focus blog is doing a great photo series on America in the early 1970’s. Last week they took a look at documentary photographer John H. White, who went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for Photojournalism in 1982. Here’s a quick look at the series, and you can see the whole thing over at The Atlantic.

‘Fruitvale Station’ Cracks the Top Ten in Weekend Box Office Numbers

'Fruitvale Station' Cracks the Top Ten in Weekend Box Office Numbers

Ryan Coogler’s “Fruitvale Station” opened in over 1,000 theaters across the country over the weekend and took in just over $4 million at the box office. The opening puts it in the top ten films in America; “The Wolverine” took the top spot.

New Orleans Pre-Schooler Joins World’s Oldest High IQ Society

New Orleans Pre-Schooler Joins World's Oldest High IQ Society

Anala Beevers is a 4-year-old genius. At four months, she learned the alphabet. By 18 months, she mastered numbers — in Spanish. And today, at only four years old, she knows the location and capital of every state in the country.

The girl was recently invited to join MENSA, an international organization for super-smart people, aka geniuses.  The organization’s members are mostly adults whose intelligence is in the top two percent of the populace; Anala’s is in the top one percent. 

(H/T Jezebel)

Dream Hampton to Direct Film About Slain Detroit Transgender Teen

Dream Hampton to Direct Film About Slain Detroit Transgender Teen

Shelly Hilliard was a 19-year-old transgender woman living in Detroit when she was brutally murdered. Now, a new team of storytellers is setting out to tell the story of her life and her family’s search for closure. “TransParent; A Story of Loss in a Community Misunderstood” is a new film written by Detroit poet and queer activist Natasha T. Miller and directed by hip-hop journalist dream hampton. 

The project recently raised more than $30,000 on Kickstarter.

As a longtime journalist, hampton is widely known for her profiles of hip-hop luminaries, including Snoop Dogg, 2pac and, more recently, her bestselling book with Jay Z called “Decoded.” She writes about the film:

TransParent is a film about the life of Shelley “Treasure” Hilliard, a Detroit 19-year-old girl, beloved by her family and friends. TransParent is a film about Shelley’s murder, about a hate crime that wasn’t prosecuted as one. TransParent is about the struggle to forgive. TransParent is about Detroit. TransParent is about projections and perceptions and communities misrepresented and misunderstood. TransParent is about incredible beauty and horrific violence. TransParent is about a grieving mother and her commitment to honor her daughter, Treasure.

Hilliard’s death made national news after it was revealed that she had been forced to work as an informant for the Madison Height’s police in suburban Detroit. Hilliard’s mother later sued the department, claiming that police revealed her identity to drug dealers who later killer her. You can read more about the case at AlterNet. 

Pete Rock and CL Smooth Reunite for Rock Steady’s Anniversary

Pete Rock and CL Smooth Reunite for Rock Steady's Anniversary

Pete Rock and CL Smooth reunited to perform at Rock Steady’s 36th anniversary in New York City’s Central Park over the weekend. Here’s the duo performing their legendary hit “They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.).”

Raphael Saadiq to Produce Music for the New Spike Lee Joint

Raphael Saadiq to Produce Music for the New Spike Lee Joint

Spike Lee recently launched an ambitious Kickstarter campaign to help finance his new film, and the project just got a lot more intriguing: Grammy-winning recording artist Raphael Saadiq is reportedly on deck to produce music for the new project. 

Lee tweeted the news to his followers over the weekend. “Great News. My Man Raphael Saadiq Doing Music For Our New Spike Lee Joint. Y’Know Is Saadiq Is Gonna Bring It,” the director wrote. 

Still, the project itself remains shrouded in mystery. The name, plot, and cast information still hasn’t been released. The only information we’ve got so far is what’s been posted on Lee’s Kickstarter page: “Human beings who are addicted to blood. Funny, sexy and bloody (and it’s not ‘Blacula”)…”

(H/T Shadow & Act)

Jay Z to Harry Belafonte: ‘My Presence is Charity’

Jay Z to Harry Belafonte: 'My Presence is Charity'

Jay Z had this to say in response to Harry Belafone’s recent criticism that today’s celebrities ignore social responsibility. (Skip ahead to 6:58 in the video above.)

I’m offended by that because first of all, and this is going to sound arrogant, but my presence is charity. Just who I am. Just like Obama’s is. Obama provides hope. Whether he does anything, the hope that he provides for a nation, and outside of America is enough. Just being who he is. You’re the first black president. If he speaks on any issue or anything he should be left alone…I felt Belafonte he just went about it wrong. Like the way he did it in the media, and then he big’d up Bruce Springsteen or somebody. And it was like, “whoa,” you just sent the wrong message all the way around…Bruce Springsteen is a great guy. You’re this Civil Rights activist and you just big’d up the white guy against me in the white media. And I’m not saying that in a racial way. I’m just saying what it is. The fact of what it was. And that was just the wrong way to go about it.

Jay Z made his comments during a wide-ranging and really interesting interview with Rap Radar’s Elliot Wilson.

(H/T Life + Times)


‘American Idol’ Hit With $250 Million Racial Discrimination Suit

'American Idol' Hit With $250 Million Racial Discrimination Suit

Ten black former “American Idol” are suing the show claiming that they were intentonally forced off in an effort to boost ratings. Specifically, the former contestants claim that their arrest records were illegally dug up and scrutinized in a way that white contestants’ never were. According to their attorney, only black contestants were questioned about their arrests. And, notably, none of the ten plaintiffs’ arrests led to criminal convictions.

From Shadow & Act:

New York City based lawyer James Freeman who is representing that contestants - Corey Clark  Jaered Andrews, Jacob John Smalley (Season 2), Donnie Williams (Season 3), Terrell Brittenum  Derrell Brittenum (Season 5), Thomas Daniels  Akron Watson (Season 6), Ju’Not Joyner (Season 8), and Chris Golightly (Season 9) - charges that AI producers “illegally dug up arrest histories of the contestants and used them to humiliate the singers, but never attempted to dig up similar dirt about white contestants”.

Black contestants have been important to the show’s success. Roughly 30 percent of the show’s finalists have been black, including last season’s winner, Candice Glover.

Trayvon Martin’s Family Devastated by Juror B29’s Comments

Trayvon Martin's Family Devastated by Juror B29's Comments

Shortly after Juror B29 (aka Maddy) came forward on Thursday to admit publicly that she thinks George Zimmeman got away with murder, Trayvon Martin’s family responded to the news.

Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton released the following statement.

It is devastating for my family to hear the comments from juror B29, comments which we already knew in our hearts to be true. That George Zimmerman literally got away with murder.

This new information challenges our nation once again to do everything we can to make sure that this never happens to another child. That’s why Tracy and I have launched The Trayvon Martin Foundation to try and take something very painful and negative and turn it into something positive as a legacy to our son.

The juror’s full interview with “Good Morning America’s” Robin Roberts is set to air Friday morning.

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