Colorlines

NOW IN RACIAL JUSTICE

Is Facebook’s Push for Immigration Reform More Sinister Than It Seems?

Is Facebook's Push for Immigration Reform More Sinister Than It Seems?

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg made a big splash last month when he launched Fwd.us, a pro-immigration reform organization. The young tycoon pulled together a rock star list of silicon valley elites to “”continue to promote innovation and meet our workforce needs.” The group’s current raison d’etre is to ensure that the immigration bill provides tech companies with enough visas for foreign workers to fill jobs they say can’t fill with U.S. workers.

But as might be expected from an outfit whose members include a number of the country’s most successful businessmen from across the political spectrum, Zuckerberg’s new outfit may have some rather sinister motivations. Fwd.us appears most interested in securing tech companies’ access to lower-paid foreign workers.

The Gang of Eight immigration bill is set to expand visas for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, so called STEM jobs and Zuckerberg’s is jumping into the fray to lobby for fewer strings attached to hiring foreign workers.

Gawker’s Adrian Chen reports:

As FWD.us promotes high-minded ideals of openness and opportunity, Facebook’s lobbying firms have been doing the dirty work of making sure immigration reform means they can freely hire high-skilled immigrants for less money than their American counterparts. Specifically, Facebook has been trying to insert language into the Senate immigration bill to eliminate a requirement that American companies make a “good faith” effort to hire Americans before looking abroad, according to the Washington Post. And Facebook wants to axe rules that would require companies to pay these foreign workers more.

Facebook and other advocates for more so-called high skilled visas—the H1B and L-1 visas—argue that their companies suffer because there simply aren’t enough U.S. workers with the right skills to fill jobs. Indeed, there’s been far more demand for these visas in recent years than there are visas available.

But there’s also new analysis from the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal think tank, that finds that the U.S. actually has enough tech workers to fill jobs here. If that’s the case then why do companies like Facebook want so many easily accessible guest workers? According to EPI and others, it’s because firms can pay these workers less than they can pay U.S. workers for the same jobs.

“The bottom line is that these visas can be used for cheaper indentured work,” says Ron Hira, a Public Policy professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology who’s contributed to EPI analysis. Hira says that because companies control the H1-B and L-1 visas of their employees, workers are regularly exploited and subjected to terrible working conditions, under-paid and sometimes left without any work at all once they are arrive in the country.

Recently, a group of 350 teachers in Louisiana who were in the country on H1-B visas—the same kind Zuckerberg wants more of with fewer regulations—won a $4.5 million settlement after they were forced to pay illegal and exorbitant fees and subjected to workplace abuses by the contractor that brought them to the U.S. to teach.

While the current Senate bill does raise the wage floor for the H1-B visa program, it does not significantly extend Department of Labor oversight over wage and hour violations and critics say it leaves workers vulnerable to exploitation.

There’s Scientific ‘Proof’ that Jamestown Settlers Practiced Cannibalism

There's Scientific 'Proof' that Jamestown Settlers Practiced Cannibalism

From the laugh-to-keep-from-crying files, the BBC is reporting on scientific proof that Jamestown settlers practiced cannibalism during what it calls “the cruel winter of 1609-10.”

The evidence uncovered by Doug Owsley, a forensic anthropologist at the Smithsonian’s natural history museum, is a 400-year-old skull and tibia of a teenage girl found in a James Fort, Va., excavation site.

An excerpt from the BBC article:

“The Starving Time was one of the most horrific periods of early colonial history. The Fort James settlers were under siege from the indigenous Indian population and had insufficient food to last the winter.

First they ate their horses, then dogs, cats, rats, mice and snakes. Some, to satisfy their cruel hunger, ate the leather of their shoes. […]

Relief came in the form of Lord De La Warr, who sailed into the settlement with food and new colonists. After six months of siege and starvation, only 60 of the original 300 settlers had survived.

“It’s somebody doing what they had to do,” said Dr Owsley of the cannibalism.”

Accusations of cannibalism have long been a European colonialist technique for dehumanizing indigenous peoples in what is now known as North and South America, in Asia and in Africa. In the contemporary United States context, films, cartoons, television shows and artifacts have reinforced the written accounts of a range of European explorers.

A recent Smithsonian magazine article explores “European hypocrisy” on the topic.

In medieval times, cultural enemies—not military or religious heroes—were commonly depicted as cannibals or giants, “especially in narratives of territorial invasion and conquest,” argues Geradine Heng, in Cannibalism, The First Crusade and the Genesis of Medieval Romance. “Witches, Jews, savages, Orientals, and pagans are conceivable as—indeed, must be—cannibals; but in the 12th-century medieval imaginary, the Christian European subject cannot.”

Smithsonian also notes that the word “cannibal” first entered the English language in the mid-16th century by means of Spanish explorers.

For more on what we refer to as scientific racism, check out “American Science’s Racist History Still Haunts the World” by Michelle Chen, and “The Pseudoscience of ‘Black Women Are Less Attractive” by me.

Father of Wrongly Accused Teen in Boston Bombing May Sue New York Post

Father of Wrongly Accused Teen in Boston Bombing May Sue New York Post

The New York Post may have to pay for its careless reporting. In the chaotic aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing, the paper ran a photo on its cover misidentifying the two suspects. The title was “Bag Men: Feds seek these two pictures at Boston Marathon.”

One of the two men pictured was actually a 16-year-old track athlete named Salah Barhoum who had just run the marathon. What followed was a torrent of unwanted media attention for the teen, who pleaded his case to the New York Daily News and professed his innocence.

Now, Salah’s father, El Hussein Barhoum, wants to hold the paper accountable. The Washington Post reports that the elder Barhoum is talking with attorneys about his options to sue the paper. The 16-year-old is reportedly afraid to go to school because he does not want people to ask him questions about the bombings.

From the Washington Post:

Staffers from the New York Post, says El Houssein Barhoum, visited his home in Revere, Mass., on the same day that “Bag Men” appeared on the paper’s cover. “They come here at my home, check his real name and took some pictures,” he recalls. When asked if they’d apologized for the high-profile photograph, El Houssein Barhoum said they hadn’t. “If they won’t apologize, it’s not between me and the New York Post,” he says. “They should apologize on the newspaper. They should write something on the newspaper, not between us. If they make a bad image of your son, they should make a good image just to correct.

The Post did run a story later that said Salah and his acquaintance had been cleared, but that’s not enough, according to the boy’s father.

Unregulated Lenders Now Target Pensioners

Unregulated Lenders Now Target Pensioners

Remember subprime loans? The ones that predatory lenders hawked to people of color, stripping communities of homes and wealth and tanking the economy? Well they’ve been pretty well regulated out of existence now. But that hasn’t stopped sketchy lenders from searching out new frontiers of financial predation.

The NY Times’ Jessica Silver-Greenberg reported on Sunday that the latest target of mass predation are aging pensioners who take cash advances on their retirement income and get saddled with sky-high interest rates. Consumer advocates say that like the subprime crisis, folks of color are more likely to find themselves the target of these unregulated financial services.

“Almost as a given, for every consumer scam, for every consumer abuse out there is always a racial component to it,” Stuart Rossman, an attorney with the National Consumer Law Center told Colorlines.com. Though Rossman says there’s no good data on the racial demographics of those who rely on the pension advances, “[race and predation] go hand in hand. This abuse is bad and it’s worse when you take into account race or ethnicity.”

Silver-Greenberg reports that the advance companies advertise the services online and often aggressively target recipients of public pensioners including military veterans, teachers and others. Because people of color occupy public jobs at disproportionate rates they’re likely more vulnerable to these schemes from the start.

One of these pensioners is Ronald Govan, a 59-year-old black Marine veteran from Georgia whom Silver-Greenberg reports on. Govan needed a loan but couldn’t get one from the bank because a 2008 foreclosure and subsequent bankruptcy wrecked his credit. So he jumped when he got an email from a Delaware based pension advance company offering him $10,000 upfront against his disability pension. But with his signature, Govan agreed to pay $353 the company of his $1,033 monthly pension, according the Times. In all he was paying a 36 percent interest rate on the advance.

Others have paid interest rates as high as 106 percent, largely because the companies promise fast cash without revealing the long-term costs.

Govan’s story leads to a larger context: racial disparities in wealth are growing. A report from the Urban Institute released last week shows again that the wealth gap between white, Latino and black Americans has expanded significantly since the start of the recession. That’s in part because of the fallout of racially targeted subprime lending.

Now, some of the same people who lost generations of wealth in the foreclosure crisis may be the targets of an unregulated pension scheme. (A 2012 AARP report revealed that black and Latino elders were twice as likely as their peers to lose their homes.)

Take Govan: it was his foreclosure that killed his credit and made him vulnerable to pension advance in the first place.

This is often how structural racial inequality works: exclusion and discrimination from the past creates the conditions for new kinds of abuse in the present. That’s what happened in the subprime context where legacies of redlining that excluded black borrowers from regular financial services left the space wide open for predators to crawl in.

So why aren’t these pension loans regulated? Because the lenders pretend the loans are not loans. By calling the high interest products “cash advances” they’ve remained just outside the purview of federal regulators and credit reporting requirements and above state usury laws.

Sound familiar? It was in part because federal regulatory schemes did not cover non-bank lenders that these financial services went on a subprime feeding frenzy. In the subprime context, the securitized subprime loans tanked the market.

Now, Congress and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau are taking notice, largely because of federal laws that make it illegal for military pensions to be written over to third parties, the Times reports. But for now, the advance companies continue the search for new borrowers.

After Dorner’s Allegations of Racism, LAPD Chief Now Says He Can’t Review Fired Cops’ Cases

After Dorner's Allegations of Racism, LAPD Chief Now Says He Can't Review Fired Cops' Cases

Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck won’t be able to make good on his promises to re-examine the firings of Los Angeles Police Department officers who feel racism tainted their termination after 40 officers took him up on his offer earlier this year. The city charter, Beck now says, bars him from looking into cases older than three years, the Los Angeles Times reports.

In February former Los Angeles police officer Christopher Dorner released a rambling but scathing manifesto charging the Los Angeles Police Department with corruption and racism, then went on a shooting rampage before apparently shooting himself after holing up in a mountain cabin east of Los Angeles. Dorner’s alleged death toll was three—including the daughter of a Los Angeles police officer who sat on the review board which called for Dorner’s termination.

Dorner’s attack put LAPD Chief Charlie Beck on the defensive, even as Beck was leading the manhunt to locate him. Many critics of the LAPD recognized in Dorner’s manifesto a cogent critique. He railed against racism he said was rampant throughout the department and which was responsible for his own firing in 2009. He called out former colleagues’ harassment and discrimination of civilians. Beck, hoping to regain legitimacy, extended an offer to other cops whose jobs had been terminated, and said he would reexamine their firing.

About half of the 40 cops who asked that their cases be reexamined won’t get that opportunity though, because the city charter bars it. “Therefore the Department does not have the power to reinstate officers whose terminations occurred more than three years ago,” Gerald Chaleff, the LAPD’s special assistant for constitutional policing wrote to the former officers, the Los Angeles Times reported.

“You are being informed of this to forestall any misconceptions about the power of the department.”

North Carolina Clergy Jailed While Praying for ’21st Century George Wallace’ Governor

North Carolina Clergy Jailed While Praying for '21st Century George Wallace' Governor

A “pray-in” in front of the North Carolina state Senate building ended with a group of 17 people — elderly ministers, college students and civil rights advocates — being handcuffed and jailed yesterday.

In the first of a series of planned nonviolent actions, Rev. William Barber, the North Carolina NAACP state conference president, led prayers and songs to protest a round of Republican-backed bills that would limit Medicaid expansion under Obamacare, reduce state funding of unemployment benefits by $700 million, and cut preschool access for mostly poor and working-class children. Barber’s group was also seeking national attention to legislation that, if passed, would make voting more burdensome for college-age, elderly, undocumented and previously incarcerated people.

Barber told reporters, before getting jailed, that “rightwing extremists in the state legislature and the governor’s office are acting as if they want to go down in history as the George Wallaces of 21st century by standing in the door of progress.”

The voter bills would impose a strict photo ID law, cut early voting, strip away voting rights for the formerly incarcerated and cause college students’ parents to pay a $2,500 tax if their kids vote at a different precinct than their home residence.

Barber called the voting restrictions unconstitutional and described them as “poll taxes”—a reference to Reconstruction-era fees specifically designed to prevent impoverished, recently emancipated black people from exercising their constitutional right to vote.

The proposed voter ID bill has already cleared the state House and will come to a vote in the state Senate soon. College students across the state began staging protests last week .

“The extreme ideology coming from the North Carolina legislature, with its attacks on the poor and working people, is alarming enough,” said Penda Hair, co-director of the civil rights organization Advancement Project. “Even more shameful is that the lawmakers who have taken control of the House and Senate are now trying to rig the rules, and disenfranchise certain voters, in order to remain in power far after this legislative session.”

These arrests came on the same day that President Obama nominated Charlotte mayor and North Carolina rising political star Anthony Foxx for Secretary of Department of Transportation. Also today, a Brookings study found that last year African-American voters turned out at a higher rate than white voters in November.

Magic Johnson’s TV Network Launching All Black ‘The View’ Like Talk Show

Magic Johnson's TV Network Launching All Black 'The View' Like Talk Show

Magic Johnson’s cable network “ASPiRE” is launching a talkshow similar to “The View” that will be co-hosted by five black women.

Variety has the details on the new program dubbed “Exhale:”

Weekly yakker aims to bring candid conversation to topics including family, relationships, career, money and faith. Co-hosts are journo Angela Burt-Murray, thesp and comedian Erin Jackson, helmer Issa Rae, author and TV anchor Rene Syler and actress Malinda Williams.

“Exhale,” produced by Lynne Robinson and Black Robin Media, will be Aspire’s third original series. Victoria Mahoney serves as director on “Exhale.”

“Exhale” launched in June 2012 through Comcast and Time Warner Cable. Johnson’s entry into the television arena came courtesy of communications giant Comcast Corp. as part of its agreement with the FCC and Department of Justice to diversify the cable landscape, the L.A. Times reports.

Ad Featuring Undocumented Immigrants Asks Whether They Deserve Healthcare Too

Ad Featuring Undocumented Immigrants Asks Whether They Deserve Healthcare Too

California has more uninsured people than other some states have people. It’s also home to the largest number of undocumented immigrants in the country.

The state is launching its insurance exchange program that will make health care more affordable for residents once Obamacare kicks in but it’s planning but it’s planning on leaving undocumented immigrants out.

The California Endowment, a health foundation, is running TV ads across the state to make sure undocumented have access to healthcare. The Endowment is pushing the state to keep county-run programs open and expand Medicaid on the government’s dime.

In the 60-second ad running across the state, several undocumented immigrants look into the camera and ask if California stands for universal coverage. “Does that mean everyone, everyone? Does everyone include me? Us too?”

New York’s Public Housing Tenants Sue Over Slow Pace of Repairs

New York's Public Housing Tenants Sue Over Slow Pace of Repairs

New York City is a slumlord, according to a lawsuit filed on Monday in the Big Apple’s Housing Court. The New York City Housing Authority has more than 400,000 tenants, making it the city biggest landlord. But delays in repairs have long plagued the agency and the backlog of repairs currently stands at 300,000 word orders, according to the New York Times.

More from the Times:

More than 300 tenants at the [Alfred E.] Smith Houses who are suing the authority listed numerous repairs needed in their complex of 12 buildings, including leaks, flooding, mold, warped floors, holes in walls, and broken stoves, toilets, doors, windows, buzzers and mailboxes.

Aixa O. Torres, president of the tenant association, said residents were often left without gas because pipes needed to be replaced. She said that in her 60 years in the project, the situation had never been so bad.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg blames the backlog on a reduction in federal subsidies over the last decade. His solution? A proposal to lease land within eight public housing projects in Manhattan to private developers to help pay for the repairs. The mayor’s proposal is widely opposed by public housing tenants, who fear that the move would be the first step in kicking them out of their homes. Bloomberg’s proposal has also been an issue in this year’s mayoral race, with former housing activist and current frontrunner Christine Quinn speaking out against it.

The Messages of Love (and Hate) for Jason Collins

The Messages of Love (and Hate) for Jason Collins

“I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay,” declared NBA player Jason Collins in a personal essay published in Sports Illustrated on Monday. With those words Collins became the first male athlete in a major professional sport to openly come out as gay.

Sports Illustrated published the story at 11am EST on Monday. Within minutes there were messages of support, messages fueled with hate and everything else in between. Literally, and everything else in between: One fellow NBA player even told his 80,000 Twitter followers that he didn’t mind Collins’ coming out, he was just bothered with what he called the “I’m black buffer.”

Still the homophobic messages were drowned out pretty quickly. Collins immediately drew support for his announcement from the White House — President Obama called him — along with former President Clinton, the NBA, current and former teammates, a sponsor, and athletes in other sports.

Checkout some of the messages of love (and hate) for Collins below:

(If you’re on a mobile device and don’t see any content below please scroll down and select “desktop view.)

‘Sa-I-Gu’ Documentary Explores How Korean Women Remember the L.A. Riots

'Sa-I-Gu' Documentary Explores How Korean Women Remember the L.A. Riots

Today is the 21st anniversary of the uprising in Los Angeles shortly after the Rodney King trial verdict was announced. “Sa-I-Gu”, Korean for April 29, opens a window on Korean American women in Los Angeles whose stores — and lives — were devastated during in the aftermath.

Three Korean women, Dai Sil Kim-Gibson, Christine Choy and Elaine Kim started making the film “Sa-I-Gu” just three months after the uprising in Los Angeles. They interview interview several Korean women shopkeepers and use newsreel footage and family photographs to help tell their side of the experience.

Sa-I-Gu provides an important perspective for better understanding the Los Angeles riots, community studies, and ethnic relations and racism in the United States.

I was 9-years-old and living about a mile away from the epicenter of the L.A. Riots and remember the events vividly. I knew that they were other children who remembered the events like they happened yesterday and created a series of video portraits of young adults who were 8, 9 and 10-year olds during the LA Riots.

Visit “Two Decades Later, Children of the L.A. Riots Share Memories” to listen to how children who lived through the riots remember the events today.

Wizards’ Jason Collins Gets Messages of Support From Big Names

Wizards' Jason Collins Gets Messages of Support From Big Names

This morning NBA player Jason Collins revealed he’s gay in an essay published in Sports Illustrated.

“I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay,” the 34-year-old center wrote in his first person article published online this morning.

Collins’ article sparked messages of support, including from his friend Chelsea Clinton, who was his classmate at Stanford. “I am very proud of my friend Jason Collins for having the strength and courage to become the first openly gay athlete in the NBA,” Clinton posted on her Facebook page. “His decision marks an important moment for professional sports and for our country.”

Clinton’s father, former president Bill Clinton also issued a statement in support.

“I have known Jason Collins since he was Chelsea’s classmate and friend at Stanford,” reads Clinton’s statement. “Jason’s announcement today is an important moment for professional sports and in the history of the LGBT community. It is also the straightforward statement of a good man who wants no more than what so many of us seek: to be able to be who we are; to do our work; to build families and to contribute to our communities. For so many members of the LGBT community, these simple goals remain elusive. I hope that everyone, particularly Jason’s colleagues in the NBA, the media and his many fans extend to him their support and the respect he has earned.”

White House press secretary Jay Carney also announced the president’s support for Collins.

“We commend him for his courage and support him in this effort,” Carney told reporters at a daily briefing.

The Wizards, whom Collins has been playing with most recently, also released a statement that read, “We are extremely proud of Jason and support his decision to live his life proudly and openly. He has been a leader on and off the court and an outstanding teammate throughout his NBA career. Those qualities will continue to serve him both as a player and as a positive role model for others of all sexual orientation.”

In April 2011, Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant was fined $100,000 for calling a referee an anti-gay slur and it appears he may have learned a thing or two. Shortly after Collin’s Sports Illustrated piece was published there was a message of support from Bryant’s Twitter feed.

NBA Commissioner David Stern also issued a statement this morning in support of Collins: > “As Adam Silver and I said to Jason, we have known the Collins family since Jason and Jarron joined the NBA in 2001 and they have been exemplary members of the NBA family. Jason has been a widely respected player and teammate throughout his career and we are proud he has assumed the leadership mantle on this very important issue.”

First Active NBA Player Comes Out As Gay

First Active NBA Player Comes Out As Gay

NBA center Jason Collins this morning become the first male athlete in a major professional sport to come out as gay.

Collins, 34, is a 12-year NBA veteran and this season he appeared in 32 games with the Celtics. He currently is a free agent.

“I didn’t set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport,” Collins says a first-person article. “But since I am, I’m happy to start the conversation. I wish I wasn’t the kid in the classroom raising his hand and saying, ‘I’m different.’ If I had my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I’m raising my hand.”

chi-jason-collins-gay-athlete-20130429-002.jpegAn excerpt from Collins’ essays is published below:

 Why am I coming out now? Well, I started thinking about this in 2011 during the NBA player lockout. I’m a creature of routine. When the regular season ends I immediately dedicate myself to getting game ready for the opener of the next campaign in the fall. But the lockout wreaked havoc on my habits and forced me to confront who I really am and what I really want. With the season delayed, I trained and worked out. But I lacked the distraction that basketball had always provided.

The first relative I came out to was my aunt Teri, a superior court judge in San Francisco. Her reaction surprised me. “I’ve known you were gay for years,” she said. From that moment on I was comfortable in my own skin. In her presence I ignored my censor button for the first time. She gave me support. The relief I felt was a sweet release. Imagine you’re in the oven, baking. Some of us know and accept our sexuality right away and some need more time to cook. I should know — I baked for 33 years. When I was younger I dated women. I even got engaged. I thought I had to live a certain way. I thought I needed to marry a woman and raise kids with her. I kept telling myself the sky was red, but I always knew it was blue.

I realized I needed to go public when Joe Kennedy, my old roommate at Stanford and now a Massachusetts congressman, told me he had just marched in Boston’s 2012 Gay Pride Parade. I’m seldom jealous of others, but hearing what Joe had done filled me with envy. I was proud of him for participating but angry that as a closeted gay man I couldn’t even cheer my straight friend on as a spectator. If I’d been questioned, I would have concocted half truths. What a shame to have to lie at a celebration of pride. I want to do the right thing and not hide anymore. I want to march for tolerance, acceptance and understanding. I want to take a stand and say, “Me, too.”

Collins was born in Northridge, Calif., and graduated from Stanford University with a degree in communications, concentrating in broadcast and print media. His twin brother Jarron is also a longtime NBA center, spending time with the LA Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers last season.

Jarron also published an essay this morning in support of his brother. His piece published in Sports Illustrated is titled “I’ve never been more proud of my brother.”

Former NBA player John Amaechi came out as gay in 2007 but already had retired. More recently, earlier this month top WNBA draft pick and Baylor University senior Brittney Griner became one of the highest profile LGBT athletes in the country when she confirmed in an interview that she is gay.

LATEST: White House, Kobe Bryant, NBA Commissioner, Bill Clinton have all declared their support for Jason Collins.

Black Voters Made History By Beating Whites to Polls Last November

Black Voters Made History By Beating Whites to Polls Last November

Brookings Institution scholars are reporting that African Americans turned out to vote at a higher rate than white voters last November. Brookings demographer William H. Frey analyzed 2012 census election data, along with Pew Research Center numbers, and found that black voters turned out at a higher rate than any other race, which was consistent with similar findings by Pew in December. Back then it was also estimated that black voters turned out at a higher rate than white voters, but Frey’s analysis finally confirms that conclusion.

SDT-2012-12-26-bvote-01.png

The Associated Press, for whom the analysis was commissioned, reports that the finding reflects “a deeply polarized presidential election in which blacks strongly supported Barack Obama while many whites stayed home.”

One key downer from the report is that overall turnout rates have steadily decreased: 58 percent voter turnout in 2012 compared with 62 percent in 2008 and 60 percent in 2004.

Still, the milestone for African American voters is particularly significant given that they overcame many threats to the ballot franchise — namely voter ID laws and the attacks on early voting — in order to reach this peak in turnout.

“Black turnout set records this year despite record attempts to suppress the black vote,” said NAACP president Ben Jealous in an interview with AP. He also told them that the upcoming 2014 midterm elections will be “the real bellwether” for black turnout.

Network of Black Farmers Calls New York Times Investigation ‘Inaccurate’

Network of Black Farmers Calls New York Times Investigation 'Inaccurate'

Black farmers are once again in the spotlight, but this time they’re defending themselves against accusations of fraud. Just a few years after winning a landmark $1.33 billion settlement for decades of discrimination by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the New York Times published a deeply critical look at those court judgements. The Times’ investigation alleges widespread fraud and questions whether similar settlements should be made with Latino and women farmers, as mandated by the Obama administration’s political appointees in the Justice and Agriculture Departments.

From the Times:

The deal, several current and former government officials said, was fashioned in White House meetings despite the vehement objections — until now undisclosed — of career lawyers and agency officials who had argued that there was no credible evidence of widespread discrimination. What is more, some protested, the template for the deal — the $50,000 payouts to black farmers — had proved a magnet for fraud.

Soon after the Times published its findings, the Network of Black Farmers issued a point-by-point rebuttal of the paper’s claims. When I reached the network’s Heather Gray by phone this morning, she underlined an important point. “The New York Times inappropriately targeted black farmers who are the victims [of discrimination] rather than talking about the behavior of the Agriculture Department, which has for years denied its services to its [black] U.S. citizens.”

See a portion of the farmers’ rebuttal after the jump.

North Carolina Students Protest Harsh Voter ID Bill

North Carolina Students Protest Harsh Voter ID Bill

North Carolina’s Republican-dominated legislature passed the Voter Information Verification Act through its House chamber Wednesday. If the bill passes the Senate, it would only need the governor’s signature to make it mandatory for voters to show photo identification in order to cast a ballot. The governor, Pat McCroy (R), has indicated he intends to sign it into law.

To protest the voter ID bill and other proposed legislation that would make voting more difficult, students from universities across the state sat in the House chamber on Wednesday wearing duct tape over their mouths with messages such as, “Do not silence my vote,” and “Say no to voter suppression.” The action was coordinated by students in the North Carolina NAACP Youth and College Division.

Other legislation on the table in North Carolina are bills that would levy a tax penalty on parents whose children register to vote where they attend college, cut early voting — which 70 percent of black voters in the state use — and one that would create the harshest felony disenfranchisement law in the nation.

Georgia High School Students Set to Hold First Integrated Prom

Georgia High School Students Set to Hold First Integrated Prom

Georgia’s Wilcox County High School will hold its first ever integrated prom this Saturday, nearly 60 years after Brown v. Board of Education desegregated the nation’s school system. The integrated prom comes after a small “group of [young] ladies” teamed up with the NAACP to pressure school administrators and community leaders to let the event go forward.

In Georgia, proms are organized by private groups, like parents, and not by the school. But since Wilcox County is the last county in Georgia where dances are still segregated by race, WMAZ-TV reported, that has meant separate proms for black and white students.

The students from the small town in rural south Georgia called attention to their efforts by starting a Facebook page that has more than 24,000 “likes.” The “Integrated Prom” page says it represents a group of adamant high school seniors” who “want to make a difference” in their community.

“For the first time in the history of our county, we plan to have an integrated prom,” the Facebook page’s description reads.

“At first, we had a whole bunch of students who you could tell that wanted to support it, but they were too scared to stand out and stand against, not their peers, but their parents,” student Brandon Davis told Democracy Now. “But as times progressed we’ve had more and more students change come help us out — and we’ve actually had more parents. At first, parents were like, ‘Well, that’s tradition, let’s just stay it this way.’ But after time, their children changed and they were like, ‘Hey, I’m going to support my children, this is their memory, Lets go.’”

The Wilcox County Board of Education published a statement on their website that explains “earlier in this school year, a group of ladies approached the Wilcox County Board of Education and the Superintendent to discuss their plans for hosting an ‘integrated prom’.” They go on to point the students may be making history by creating institutional changes.

“The Board and Superintendent not only applauded the idea, but passed a resolution requesting that all activities involving WCS students be inclusive and non-discriminatory,” the statement read.

Obama: God Bless Planned Parenthood (Video)

Obama: God Bless Planned Parenthood (Video)

At a Planned Parenthood gala in Washington this morning, President Obama said the women’s health organization is “not going anywhere,” despite GOP-led efforts to defund it.

“No matter how great the challenge, no matter how fierce the opposition, if there’s one thing the past few years have shown, it’s that Planned Parenthood is not going anywhere. It’s not going anywhere today. It’s not going anywhere tomorrow,” the president said on Friday.

Obama: If Daughters Get Tattoos, We Will Too

Obama: If Daughters Get Tattoos, We Will Too

President Obama visited the the “Today Show” on Wednesday morning and explained how he and the first lady plan to keep their daughters from getting tattoos.

“What we’ve said to the girls is, ‘If you guys ever decided you’re going to get a tattoo, then mommy and me will get the exact same tattoo in the same place. And we’ll go on YouTube and show it off as a family tattoo,” Obama said. “And our thinking is that might dissuade them from thinking that somehow that’s a good way to rebel.”

Two Women Shot At By LAPD During Dorner Manhunt Settle for $4.2 Million

Two Women Shot At By LAPD During Dorner Manhunt Settle for $4.2 Million

The women injured when Los Angeles police opened fire on them during the manhunt for ex-cop Christopher Dorner have reached a $4.2-million settlement with the city, City Atty. Carmen Trutanich told the LA Times.

Margie Carranza, 47, and her mother, Emma Hernandez, 71, were delivering newspapers in Torrance on Feb. 7, when officers mistook their blue Toyota Tacoma for Dorner’s gray Nissan Titan. Hernandez was shot twice in the back, and Carranza sustained minor injuries from broken glass.

LAPD Chief Charlie Beck called the shooting “a tragic misinterpretation” by officers working under “incredible tension” hours after Dorner allegedly shot police officers.

Trutanich told the Times the agreement was a “no brainer because the costs were going to skyrocket.”

“We got out of this thing pretty cheaply all things considered,” he said.

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