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New York Fast Food Workers Head Back to Work With Community Escorts

New York Fast Food Workers Head Back to Work With Community Escorts

It’s 44°F and raining in New York City this morning but community members are escorting workers who walked out on their fast food restaurant jobs yesterday back to work. Community members say they’re there for support and hopes that workers don’t face retaliation when striking workers go back on the job.

The Fastfoodforward.org petition calling on fast food companies to pay their workers a living wage came close to getting 16,000 signatures on Thursday. Much of the attention to the petition came by way of dozens of workers who went on strike for a day to call attention to the low wages and working conditions at fast food restaurants throughout New York.

Most workers are making just $7.25 an hour and their average yearly salary is $11,000—that’s only 25% of the money the need to survive in NYC, according to the campaign.

The workers coming together to strike is a major act of courage because of likely retaliation from their employers. Among them are some who have already lost their jobs for organizing Thursday’s strike.

Community members are thanking workers who walked off their jobs yesterday by accompanying them back to work. Check out some of the updates below.

You can support the workers by signing the campaign’s petition at Fastfoodforward.org.

French Media Outlets Report Strauss-Kahn, NY Maid Settle for $6 Million

French Media Outlets Report Strauss-Kahn, NY Maid Settle for $6 Million

Former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn and Nafissitou Diallo, the New York hotel house keeper who accused him of sexually assaulting her last year, will settle out of court for $6 million, French media reports said on Friday.

The legal teams on both sides will not comment but the two largest French newspapers Le Monde and Le Figaro are reporting Strauss-Kahn and Diallo are expected to meet on December 7 to “sign a financial agreement ending the civil proceedings.” The Associated Press and The New York Times also reported Strauss-Kahn and Diallo had reached a deal on Thursday but they did not disclose any information of a cash settlement.

The alleged settlement comes eighteen months after Diallo told police Strauss-Kahn had sexually assaulted her when she came to clean his 28th-floor suite at the Sofitel hotel. Days later a grand jury indicted Strauss-Kahn on charges including attempted rape, sexual abuse, criminal sexual act, unlawful imprisonment and forcible touching.

But the case fell apart in the weeks after as prosecutors began to have concerns about the housekeeper’s credibility.

Diallo, an immigrant from Guinea, was dissected by the press. The New York Times reported she lied about her immigration status and her finances. The NY Post published a story that said everything short of, “Ooooh, she gave that man AIDS!”

Colorlines.com’s Gender Matters reporter Akiba Solomon  read the 25-page explanation of why prosecutors no longer believed Diallo to be credible, below is an except from her story published in August 2011:

In it, they cite the fact that she had three different accounts of what she did immediately after the sexual encounter; that she lied about her earnings to retain lower-income housing; and that she had questionable financial dealings with an incarcerated man she called her fiance.

A year later Strauss-Kahn would go on to file a $1 million counter-claim against Diallo for the loss of his job, defamation and false imprisonment. But that was followed by a motion for dismissal by Strauss-Kahn week later.

And now Le Monde is reporting details of the alleged $6 million settlement between Strauss-Kahn and Diallo:

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who went himself to New York several times in recent months, told several of his relatives that the main elements of the agreement had come to be found at the end of the summer . According to his confidences, he should pay $ 6 million (4.64 million euros) to that accuses him of sexual assault.

To his friends, he also said he did not have the money personally. Despite some lectures in private universities or at the invitation of major banks, and despite his consulting business, including Morocco , Mr. Strauss-Kahn, 63, has in fact no income or assets sufficient.

It should therefore, as he told his family, getting a bank loan of $ 3 million. His wife Anne Sinclair , are living separate since this summer, should also lend the remaining $ 3 million.

Le Monde interviewed Christopher Mesnooh, a member of the Bars in both Paris and New York, who said the $6 million dollar figure isn’t out of the question. “Given the stakes of this case, the media, the social position of Mr. Strauss-Kahn and the need for him to finish with this story, such a sum is not shocking. Transaction should logically located in millions of dollars.”

Obama Served Romney White Turkey Chili at White House Today [Photo]

Obama Served Romney White Turkey Chili at White House Today [Photo]

This afternoon, President Obama and Governor Romney visited for an hour over lunch in the Private Dining Room adjacent to the Oval Office.

Obama and Romney “pledged to stay in touch, particularly if opportunities to work together on shared interests arise in the future,” the White House said.

Their lunch menu included white turkey chili and Southwestern grilled chicken salad.

Study Finds Negative Portrayals of Muslims Get More Media Attention

Organizations using fear and anger to spread negative messages about Muslims have moved from the fringes of public discourse into the mainstream media since the Sept. 11 attacks, according to new research by a sociologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Christopher Bail, an assistant professor of sociology in UNC’s College of Arts and Sciences, used plagiarism detection software to track the influence of 1,084 press releases about Muslims from 120 organizations on more than 50,000 television transcripts and newspaper articles produced from 2001 to 2008.

Bail analyzed articles from the New York Times, USA Today and the Washington Times, as well as stories from CBS, CNN and Fox’s television broadcast.

“I found that organizations with negative messages about Muslims captivated the mass media after the Sept. 11 attacks, even though the vast majority of civil society organizations depict Muslims as peaceful, contributing members of American society,” said Bail in a statement.

“As a result, public condemnations of terrorism by Muslims have received little media attention, but organizations spreading negative messages continue to stoke public fears that Muslims are secretly plotting to overthrow the U.S. government.”

His study titled, “The Fringe Effect: Civil Society Organizations and the Evolution of Media Discourse about Islam since the September 11th Attacks,” appears in the December issue of the American Sociological Review.

You can also download a PDF version of the study on Bail’s website.

Is That a ‘Muslim Obama’ Bobblehead in Glenn Beck’s ‘Pee Pee’ Jar?

obama_glennbeck-figurine.jpg

Glenn Beck’s “Obama pee stunt” has made national headlines but no ones pointed out that the figurine inside the jar is a kneeling President Obama with his hands in mid air in prayer position. The Obama figurine is also seen wearing a white robe.

For years now Beck has argued President Obama has “shocking ties to the radical Muslim Brotherhood” and has suggested the commander in chief may be Muslim himself.

So, is the figurine seen inside the jar supposed to be a Muslim Obama? Out of all the Obama figurines and bobbleheads out there, why pick the religious figure to stick in a jar of “pee pee”?

Here’s the last picture before the “Obama in Pee Pee” piece of “art” was taken down from the auction site (eBay screengrab via The Examiner):

ebay-muslim-obama.jpg

“The popular online auction site eBay has yanked a piece of artwork done by Glenn Beck citing its belief that the project featured an Obama figurine floating in actual urine (it was not, however),” wrote Tiffany Gabbay on Beck’s site, The Blaze.

According to The Blaze, eBay sent the following notification: “not allow bodily fluids to be listed on our site. Even if the liquid in the jar is not urine, you are describing it as such.”

In a stunt to teach his audience about the Constitution and free speech, Beck initially suggested the jar was filled with his urine:

After a day drinking a lot of water, Glenn had a mason jar filled with…his own special brew of yellow liquid on set. Glenn took a Obama figurine, and then placed it in the jar. The result? “Obama in Pee Pee” - which will soon be up for sale for $25,000.

Beck later backtracked and said the liquid was actually beer. (The Examiner reports it’s actually Country Time Lemonade.) Still, because the eBay auction states the jar is filled with a bodily fluid eBay took the auction down.

That didn’t stop Beck though. He went on to solicit bids via e-mail this morning.


Arizona Sued for Denying Driver’s Licenses to Immigrant Youth

Arizona Sued for Denying Driver's Licenses to Immigrant Youth

A coalition of civil rights groups filed a class action suit in federal court today, challenging Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer’s executive order denying drivers licenses to young undocumented immigrants granted work permits through President Obama’s deferred action program. The suit is latest in a line of legal challenged against the Arizona governor who’s made a name for herself as a supporter of anti-immigrant legislation and an opponent of the Obama administration.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which Pres. Obama issued in June, allows some young undocumented immigrants who came the country as children to stay in the country with authorization to work. In most states this authorization means recipients can also apply for driver’s licenses.

But on August 15, the day the federal government began accepting DACA applications, Gov. Brewer issued exec. order 2012-06, barring her state agencies from providing services or offering programs to recipients of deferred action. This includes the Arizona Department of Transportation, which now denies licenses to immigrants presenting DACA documents.

There are approximately 80,000 young people in Arizona eligible to apply for relief from deportation under the program.

The complaint, filed today by the American Civil Liberties, the National Immigrant Law Center and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund on behalf of five named undocumented defendants and the Arizona DREAM Act Coalition claims that the ban makes it “difficult, if not impossible for [DACA recipients] to accomplish essential aspects of daily life” like getting to work, school or medical appointments.

In addition to Gov. Brewer, the complaint names as defendants John Halikowski, the director of the Arizona Department of Transportation, and Stacy Stanton, assistant director of the department’s Motor Vehicle Division. The two state officials applied Brewer’s order to deny licenses to DACA recipients.

Alejandra Lopez is one of the plaintiffs in the case. Lopez, 19, came to the United States when he was four and is raising her baby son and her four and 15-year-old brothers. She was granted deferred action, but without a license was turned down from a job that required a commute by car.

The complaint claims the executive order violates the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution, which grants the federal government power over immigration lawmaking, and the Equal Protection Clause, by denying licenses “without any valid justification, including even a rational basis.”

Gov. Brewer’s executive order barred DACA recipients from all state services, asserting that a grant of deferred action though the particular Obama Administarion program does not amount to proof legitimate immigration status.

“The Deferred Action program does not and cannot confer lawful or authorized status upon the unlawful alien applicants,” Brewer said in her order.

But the executive order contradicts existing Arizona law, which regularly grants licenses to immigrants with permission to be present and work in the country.

“It’s not up to the states to decide for themselves that DACA recipients are not authorized when the federal government has said that they are,” Jennifer Chang Newell, an attorney with the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project told Colorlines.com. “Hopefully we can help ensure that other states keep issuing licenses and don’t follow Arizona.”

The suit, announced today at a press conference in Tempe, AZ, is the latest challenge from these and other civil rights groups against Arizona and Gov. Brewer for violating the rights of immigrants and overstepping state authority.

The three groups are currently involved in a civil rights suit against Arizona’s SB 1070, the “show me your papers” law.

Here’s Why Hundreds of NYC Fast Food Workers Are Striking Today

Here's Why Hundreds of NYC Fast Food Workers Are Striking Today

Workers at dozens of fast-food restaurants in New York City walked off the job Thursday morning. Organizers say New Yorkers will see hundreds of workers on strike at some of the largest fast food chains including McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Domino’s, Taco Bell and other fast-food restaurants across the city.

The workers’ campaign is Fast Food Forward. They’re coming together to fight for $15 / hour and the right to form a union. The campaign’s goal is to put money back in the pockets of the 50,000 men and women who work hard in the city’s fast food industry - but still can’t afford basic necessities like food, clothing, and rent.

The workers coming together is a major act of courage because among them are some who have already faced retaliation for organizing today’s strike.

Jose Cerillo, a 79-year-old man who’s been cleaning floors at McDonald’s since 1996 was fired recently for organizing workers to support Fast Food Forward. After 16 years of working there he was making $7.40 an hour, 15 cents above minimum wage, Salon.com reports.

You can support the workers by signing the campaign’s petition at Fastfoodforward.org.

Also, If you’re in New York you can support the workers by visiting one of the picket sites listed at the end of this story.

The organizing drive is backed by community organizing groups like New York Communities for Change as well as the SEIU. New York Communities for Change organizing director Jonathan Westin told Salon the current effort is “the biggest organizing campaign that’s happened in the fast food industry.”


The main strike sites and picket times are listed below:

McDonalds- 280 Madison avenue @40th street-6am (media location 6:30am)

Yum and Burger King-Penn Station-Midtown- 11am-1pm (Media location noon) Gather at BK on 34th between 7th and 8th.

Wendy’s- 425 Fulton St. Wendy’s-Brooklyn-11am -1pm (Media location noon)

McDonalds- 220 West 42nd Street- Times Square- 4pm-6pm (Rally/ media location 5pm)

additional picket locations & times

1) Harlem-McDonalds- 145 east 125 street 11am-1pm

2) Harlem- McDonalds- 2142 3rd Ave 10-noon

3) Brooklyn-KFC- 495 Nostrand Ave noon-1pm

4) Brooklyn KFC-798 4th Ave # 812 11a-noon

5) Time Square- McDonalds 1188 Avenue Of The Americas 7am-9:30am

Petition Calls Out NYT Art Critic for Racist and Sexist Framing

Petition Calls Out NYT Art Critic for Racist and Sexist Framing

A new petition is demanding the New York Times “acknowledge and address” a Times art critic’s recent reviews that have compared women and black artists to white male artists, “only to find them lacking.”

The petition includes an open letter that calls out two articles by Times art critic Ken Johnson: his October 25th review of “Now Dig This! Art & Black Los Angeles 1960-1980″ at MoMA PS1 and his November 8th preview of “The Female Gaze: Women Artists Making Their World” at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. According to the open letter, both articles use “irresponsible generalities.”

The petition has “no sponsor information” available but it appears it was created by someone connected to artists and the art world. The petition’s early supporters includes notable names.

Artists Glenn Ligon and Coco Fusco confirmed to ARTINFO they signed the petition this morning. Other (currently unconfirmed) signatures on the petition include artists Kara Walker, Paul Ramirez Jonas, Janine Antoni, Louise Lawler, Julie Mehretu and Martha Rosler as well as art historians Rosalyn Deutsche, Miwon Kw0n, and Robert Storr.

An excerpt of the open letter is below:

Open Letter to The New York Times:

The recent writing of art critic Ken Johnson troubles us. His October 25th review of “Now Dig This! Art & Black Los Angeles 1960-1980” and his November 8th preview of “The Female Gaze: Women Artists Making Their World,” present ill-informed arguments. Using irresponsible generalities, Johnson compares women and African-American artists to white male artists, only to find them lacking.

In his review of “Now Dig This!” Mr. Johnson starts with the claim that “Black artists didn’t invent assemblage.” Instead, he states that black artists appropriated the form from white artists who developed it. Both these statements attack a straw man; no historian, artist or curator has ever made a claim that anyone, black or white, “invented” assemblage. In fact, assemblage has roots in many cultures and it is well documented that European and American Modernist artists borrowed heavily from African art in their use of the form.

Mr. Johnson organizes his review around an oversimplified opposition between the apolitical, “deracinated” work of white artists and the political, “parochial” work of black artists. He claims that white European artists, such as those of Cubism, Surrealism and Dada, who “were as free as anyone could be,” were only playfully messing around with aesthetic conventions. The aesthetic play of assemblage “took on a different complexion,” to use Mr. Johnson’s unfortunate turn of phrase, when black artists politicized the form. But he ignores both the extreme political unrest in Europe at the time and the ideological motivations of these artistic movements. What was DaDa if not a response to the social psychosis and industrialized mass murder of WWI?

The open letter goes on to point out Johnson also compares women to white male artists, and again, “only to find them lacking.”

Mr. Johnson frames “The Female Gaze: Women Artists Making Their World” in similar terms: “The day that any woman earns the big bucks that men like Jeff Koons and Damien Hirst rake in is still a long way off. Sexism is probably a good enough explanation for inequities in the market. But might it also have something to do with the nature of the art that women tend to make?” His text brackets the real impact of sexism and leaves us only with an insinuating question. There is no explanation of “the nature of the art that women tend to make.” The reader is only left with the sense that women’s art is a problem, somehow.

Johnson, 59, covers gallery and museum exhibits for The New York Times. He’s also a critic-in-residence at the Maryland Institute College of Art.

The petition had 967 signatures at the time this story was published.

December 1 is World AIDS Day, Find Events Near You

Every year World AIDS Day events take place across the country to raise awareness and show support for people living with HIV. World AIDS Day is on Saturday, December 1, 2012.

Poz.com has a national calendar that contains a list of conferences and events related to World AIDS day. POZ.com is the online home for the magazine Poz that chronicles the lives of people affected by HIV and AIDS.

You can also find events on Worldaidsday.org/events.

If you have an event you’d like to share with Colorlines.com readers please list it in the comments below.

Louisiana Teachers Take Gov. Jindal’s School Vouchers Law to Court

Louisiana teachers were in court today to challenge Act 2, the nation’s most expansive statewide school voucher law passed this year, and the cornerstone of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s education reform victories. In a trial which began this morning, Louisiana teacher unions argue that the law, which hands state money to private entities who take in public students, is unconstitutional.

In its challenge (PDF), the Louisiana Federation of Teachers and other plaintiffs argue that Act 2, which the Louisiana legislature hastily passed this spring, is unconstitutional because the statewide voucher program will divert funds meant for public schools to private entities, including private companies that run online education programs, and private schools, including religious schools. Louisiana teachers also argue that the state’s legislative process was abused, forcing lawmakers to vote on a law that got inadequate consideration.

“In the haste to steamroll these bills through the Legislature, the constitution was often treated like little more than a list of inconvenient suggestions,” LFT President Steve Monaghan said in a statement. “The passage of these laws has elevated legal challenges to acts of civic responsibility.”

The trial will be brisk; opening statements happened this morning, and Judge Timothy Kelley expects a ruling by the end of the week, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported. But both sides do not expect the legal fight, and the political conversation around the changing role of the nation’s public schools, to wrap up anytime soon.

Did a Top Romney Adviser Just Brag About Losing Poor Voters of Color to Obama?

Did a Top Romney Adviser Just Brag About Losing Poor Voters of Color to Obama?

On Wednesday the Washington Post published an op-ed written by Stuart Stevens, the chief strategist for the Mitt Romney presidential campaign. Stuart wrote that although Romney didn’t win the election he’s “proud” of the voters the campaign secured.

Stevens starts by pointing out at that Romney won the voters who really count. :

On Nov. 6, Mitt Romney carried the majority of every economic group except those with less than $50,000 a year in household income. That means he carried the majority of middle-class voters. While John McCain lost white voters under 30 by 10 points, Romney won those voters by seven points, a 17-point shift. Obama received 41 / 2 million fewer voters in 2012 than 2008, and Romney got more votes than McCain.

According to Stevens, “The Republican Party has problems, but as we go forward, let’s remember that any party that captures the majority of the middle class must be doing something right.” As a result, “Republican ideals — Mitt Romney — carried the day.”

Carried the day where?

He finished his op-ed by arguing Obama only won the presidency because the press really liked the “charismatic African American” candidate.

“But he was a charismatic African American president with a billion dollars, no primary and a media that often felt morally conflicted about being critical.”

GOP’s Alternative to DREAM Act Has No Path to Citizenship

GOP's Alternative to DREAM Act Has No Path to Citizenship

On Tuesday in Washington, two retiring GOP senators — Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas and Jon Kyl of Arizona — introduced a bill that would allow young undocumented immigrants to stay in the U.S. legally as long as they enroll in college or joined the military. The bill, dubbed the Achieve Act, would extend a new visa to those younger than 28 but would provide no path to citizenship.

The Achieve Act would only provide a pathway for young adults to apply for legal permanent residency — but not citizenship — if they have completed military service or higher education and have worked in the U.S for at least four years.

It would only be available to those who entered the country before the age of 14 and who do not have serious criminal records. Applicants would also have to agree not to seek government benefits, including federal student loans.

Advocates are calling the Achieve Act a watered down DREAM Act with tighter elibility requirements than the DREAM Act itself.

“It doesn’t make sense for Republicans to water down the DREAM Act, especially after we saw in the elections that not only the Latino community but also a large portion of the American people support the DREAM Act and a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants,” Erika Andiola, a DREAMer from Arizona told VOXXI.

Dulce Matuz, the Arizona DREAMer selected by TIME magazine as one of the most influential people in the world, said the Achieve Act “treats DREAMers like second-class citizens.”

“We will not tolerate political games that disrespect immigrant youth,” Matuz said in an e-mailed statement. “We are educated and capable of dealing with important issues that our lives depend on”.

The Huffington Post points after the news conference Kyl told reportersthat there are other ways for undocumented immigrants to gain citizenship, including getting married to a U.S. citizen.

Kyl said that because undocumented immigrants are young it was likely for them to gain citizenship through marriage because “in this country, the biggest marriage pool are U.S. citizens.”

Undocumented Immigrants Rising Quickly on TIME’S ‘Person of the Year’ List

Undocumented Immigrants Rising Quickly on TIME'S 'Person of the Year' List

TIME magazine is letting readers have their say on who should be the 2012 Person of the Year. The list of 40 contenders includes “Undocumented Immigrants” who are currently in ninth place.

Soon after the story was published Monday, “Undocumented Immigrants” rose to the middle of the list with the majority voting “no way” they should be on the cover. At 3pm EST Tuesday the “no ways” were still in the lead with 28,092 votes, compared to 16,187 “definitely” votes for undocumented immigrants.

But sometime in the evening Tuesday the “definitely” votes flipped.

At the time this story was published, the “definitely” votes were at 51 percent (46,024) while the “no way” votes stood at 49 (43,485).

Undocumented immigrants are now in ninth place. Egypt’s new president Mohamed Morsy is currently in first place with 229,409 “definitely” votes.

Voting closes at 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 12, and the winner will be announced on Dec. 14. You can vote on TIME.com.

TIME does clearly point out that “as always TIME’s editors will choose the Person of the Year,” so ultimately they’ll have the final say.

Spanish-Speaker Spends Months Locked Up After Interpreter Dies

Spanish-Speaker Spends Months Locked Up After Interpreter Dies

A man in Mississippi will spend an additional two months behind bars because, according to his attorney, the only available Spanish translator in the area has died.

Yoany Oriel Serrano-Bejarano is one of three men so far indicted for taking part in a May prison riot at a privately-run federal prison in Natchez, Miss. The riot left a 24-year-old prison guard dead. Inmates told the press that they were protesting abusive conditions including a lack of medical care.

Mr. Serrano-Bejarano pleaded not guilty before federal Magistrate Judge F. Keith Ball late last month and jury trial was initially scheduled for December 3. But the case was continued, court documents read, because “the current shortage of interpreters has prevented counsel from communicating with Mr. Serrano-Bejarano in a timely fashion.”

“Mr. Serrano does not speak one lick of English and I don’t speak one lick of Spanish,” the defendant’s appointed public defender, Clarence T. Guthrie, told Colorlines.com. “The main interpreter that I use passed away this year.”

Naked HIV/AIDS Activists Arrested After They Take Over John Boehner’s Office

Naked HIV/AIDS Activists Arrested After They Take Over John Boehner's Office

At least three AIDS activists were arrested on Tuesday after they and other naked demonstrators briefly took over House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-OH) to protest budget cuts to health care services.

There were seven nude activists total, including three women and four men. Several protesters had the word “AIDS” painted on their bodies, according to reports and photos shared on Twitter.

Activists from ACT UP, New York ACT UP, Philadelphia ACT UP, Housing Works and the Student Global AIDS Campaign stripped down in the lobby of the Speakers office and began chanting the famous ACT UP chant: “ACT UP! FIGHT BACK! FIGHT AIDS!”

Other chants made light of the situation (and Speaker Boehner’s name.)

“Boehner, Boehner, don’t be a dick, budget cuts will make us sick,” they chanted. “The budget cuts are really rude, that’s why we have to be so lewd.”

“The reality is that these draconian budget cuts will actually result in the conservative loss of 600,000 people with AIDS’ lives around the world,” one of the protesters, Jennifer Flynn, told Buzzfeed. “We’re talking about killing 600,000 people around the world if we let these budget cuts go into effect. And that’s just one year.”

Flynn may have been referring to $538 million in cuts to HIV/AIDS funding that could occur on January 2 unless Congress and the president find alternative options.

TheHill.com points out the protest happened in Boehner’s office in the Longworth House Office Building, not the Speaker’s office where he works in the Capitol. Boehner’s office confirmed that he was not in the office at the time.

World AIDS Day is on Saturday, December 1, 2012.

Walmart Admits Goods Were Made at Bangladesh Factory Before Fire

Walmart Admits Goods Were Made at Bangladesh Factory Before Fire

Walmart has admitted some of its products were made at the Bangladesh garment factory where a weekend fire killed at least 112 people.

“A supplier subcontracted work to this factory without authorization and in direct violation of our policies,” Walmart said in a statement issued on Monday. “Today, we have terminated the relationship with that supplier.

Walmart’s statement comes as no surprise considering a Bangladeshi labor group on Monday released photos of smoked damaged apparel in the burned factory. The Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity provided The Nation images of apparel made for “Faded Glory,” a line sold exclusively at Walmart.

“The fact that this occurred is extremely troubling to us, and we will continue to work across the apparel industry to improve fire safety education and training in Bangladesh.”

Records show the factory that burned down received an “orange” rating from Walmart in a May 2011 site visit. According to the report, Walmart found “violations and/or conditions that were deemed to be high risk.”

Li & Fung, the Hong Kong-based company believed to be the link between the factory and Walmart, said it will conduct its own investigations into the cause of the fire.

The company has pledged 100,000 takas (USD $1,161.27) for the families of each victim. The 100,000 takas matches the financial assistance from the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, according to the South China Morning Post.

Felipe Montes Reunited With His Children, On Trial Basis

Felipe Montes Reunited With His Children, On Trial Basis

Felipe Montes, an immigrant father who lost his three children to foster care when he was deported two years ago, was provisionally reunited with his three young children today in a North Carolina court.

“The court cannot find that the father is unfit,” County Judge Michael Duncan said from the bench in the Alleghany County courtroom shortly after noon. “The permanent plan is reunification with the father.”

The decision marks a major victory for Felipe Montes who faced permanent separation from his kids after local child welfare authorities and the children’s appointed Guardian Ad Litem recommended initially that the kids be adopted by foster families.

Montes is not yet free to take his three U.S. citizen sons, now 2, 3, and 5, to Mexico. After the ruling in court, the judge told the attorneys in chambers that the reunification would be a “trial placement” in Alleghany County, said Donna Shumate, Montes’s attorney. From December 7th until February 19th, the children are scheduled to live with their father in a local hotel.

It’s the same local hotel where Montes and his kids have visited with their father since August when he returned to the country on a rare humanitarian parole from federal immigration authorities. The parole, which was granted after a long application process so that Montes could attend his parental rights hearings, currently expires on December 23rd. Ann Robertson, an immigration attorney hired by the Mexican Consulate to represent Montes, said today she will apply for an extension so that he can remain in the country until the 19th of February.

Colorlines.com broke the Montes story in February. Soon after, the Latino advocacy group Presente.org gathered 20,000 signatures on a petition demanding Alleghany County reunify the boys with their father. In recent weeks, the Alleghany County Department of Social Services reversed it’s position and began recommending the children be returned to their father.

If all goes well for Montes during the trial placement, the Judge will close the child welfare case and grant Montes full rights over his children. The father plans to bring his children with him in Tamaulipas, Mexico, where he’s lived since he was deported for driving violations in 2010.

“I am happy, but I am waiting,” Montes said just after the hearing. “I have learned to be patient.”

Since his return, Felipe Montes has attended regular parenting classes and shared parenting responsibilities with the kid’s foster care providers.

Montes’s children were removed from the custody of his U.S. citizen wife Marie Montes shortly after he was deported. Mrs. Montes, who is now pregnant, is currently incarcerated for parole violations related to driving violations. She has long struggled with drug addiction and mental health issues and could not continue taking care of their children, including a newborn baby, after her husband was deported. The county child welfare department initially refused to place the boys with their father in Mexico, instead, arguing that they should be adopted by foster parents.

The foster parents, Brian and Marcie Galyean, who have cared for the two older boys Isaiah and Adrian, and Bob and Patricia Westlund, who have raised Angel since the baby was born, sat quietly in the second row of benches as the judge spoke. Mrs. Galyean and Mrs. Westlund began to cry when the judge ordered the boys move toward reunification. They have previously declined to speak with Colorlines.com and left the court room quickly after the hearing today.

In February, if the judge rules as expected to restore Montes’s parental rights and close the child welfare case, the children’s attorney advocate could appeal the decision.

Report: Immigration Status and Race Affect Domestic Workers’ Pay

Report: Immigration Status and Race Affect Domestic Workers' Pay

Home work is professional work for domestic workers. But there, as in the rest of the world, a domestic worker’s race and immigration status impact how well she’s paid and what kind of working environment she lives with. Undocumented domestic workers are paid roughly 20 percent less than their U.S.-citizen counterparts, according to a groundbreaking new report offering the first national look at domestic workers’ world—one where unforgiving work, a high incidence of abuse and differential pay depending on race is the standard. More than 2,000 nannies, house cleaners and caregivers in 14 U.S. cities were surveyed for the study (PDF), released today by the National Domestic Workers Alliance.

Domestic work is treated as women’s work—94 percent of such workers are women. And domestic work is low-paying work. Domestic workers earn 23 percent less than their state’s minimum wage. But within the industry, U.S.-born and U.S.-citizen nannies, caregivers and housecleaners make roughly a dollar more an hour than their counterparts who have legal status, and around two dollars more an hour than undocumented domestic workers. The median hourly wage for U.S.-citizen domestic workers is $12 an hour, but is $10 an hour for those who are undocumented.

As in the rest of the working world, a domestic worker’s immigration status impacts her pay and her worklife. Undocumented domestic workers are more likely than workers with legal status or citizenship to report being assigned work beyond their job descriptions. They’re also more likely to be required to do “heavy, strenuous” work, get injured on the job, and then have to work while injured. Some 77 percent of undocumented domestic workers reported working while sick, injured or in pain, compared to 66 percent of all domestic workers surveyed, and just 56 of U.S.-born domestic workers. Those who are are foreign-born make up 46 percent of the domestic worker workforce.

Obama Nominates First Openly Gay Latina Federal Judge

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President Obama nominated three new federal judges yesterday, including openly gay Judge Nitza I. Quiñones Alejandro, who currently serves on the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas.

If confirmed by the Senate, Judge Quiñones would be the first openly gay Latina to serve on the federal bench.

A Puerto Rico native, Judge Quiñones received her law degree in 1975 from the University of Puerto Rico School of Law and graduated with honors in 1972 from the University of Puerto Rico with a bachelor’s degree in business administration.

The Pennsylvania Association for Justice has more details on Judge Quiñones’ history: 

Upon graduation from law school, Judge Quiñones relocated to Philadelphia to work as a staff attorney for Community Legal Services, Inc.

In May 1990, the Honorable Robert P. Casey, Governor of Pennsylvania, nominated Judge Quiñones Alejandro for a judicial appointment. The Senate hesitated in its confirmation, and on November 5, 1991, Judge Quiñones Alejandro was elected the first Hispanic female judge of the Court of Common Pleas for the First Judicial District of Pennsylvania.

Judge Quiñones is the eighth openly gay life-tenured federal court judicial nominee named by President Obama, according to the Human Rights Campaign. Prior to the Obama Administration, only one openly gay individual had been confirmed to serve with lifetime tenure on our federal judiciary.

President Obama nominated a total of three judges to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania today, the White House announced Tuesday. Judges Luis Felipe Restrepo, and Jeffrey L. Schmehl were also nominated.

“These nominees are emblematic of the president’s commitment to nominating qualified, diverse nominees to the federal bench,” said Marge Baker of People For the American Way. “They are also a sign of the president’s commitment to solving the vacancy crisis in our federal courts without delay. One week after his reelection, the president nominated seven Americans to fill district and circuit court vacancies. Today, he has taken an important step in tackling the longstanding vacancy crisis in Pennsylvania.”

Pennsylvania’s federal courts currently have eight vacancies. Two nominees for seats considered “judicial emergencies” have been waiting over four months for confirmation votes from the Senate, despite the stated support of their home-state senators.

Hip-Hop Legend Afrika Bambaataa Begins Lecturing at Cornell

Hip-Hop Legend Afrika Bambaataa Begins Lecturing at Cornell

Hip-hop founding father, electro-funk pioneer and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominee DJ Afrika Bambaataa has been appointed to a three-year term as a visiting scholar at Cornell.

The pioneering South Bronx DJ will visit the Ivy League school’s campus in Ithaca, New York, several times per year to speak in classes, meet with students and community groups and perform. Bambaataa will lecture at the university for the first time this week.

The appointment was made by Cornell University Library’s Hip Hop Collection in conjunction with Cornell’s Department of Music. According to the Cornell University Library website, they have largest national archive on hip-hop culture, documenting its birth and growth by preserving thousands of recordings, flyers, photographs and other artifacts.

Bambaataa joins a list of other Hip-hop pioneers who have recently become visiting scholars at Ivy League institutions.

In 2010, NYU appointed Swizz Beatz as the new Producer in Residence in the Clive Davis Department of Recorded Music at the Tisch School of the Arts. Last month NYU also announced The Roots’ drummer Ahmir ‘?uestlove’ Thompson will join faculty to teach a “classic albums” course next Spring.

Hip-hop producer 9th Wonder also taught an African-American Studies course at Duke University alongside Professor Mark Anthony Neal. 9th Wonder taught “Sampling Soul,” a course that focuses on music from the Civil Rights and Black Power movements.

Duke University worked with producer Ninth Wonder. Also, there’s GZA working with Columbia professor David Emdin to teach NY middle schoolers science.

Wu-Tang Clan’s GZA is currently collaborating with Columbia University professor Christopher Emdin to help teach science through hip hop in New York City schools.

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