Voting Rights Act Protects Two More States From Suppression Efforts

Voting Rights Act Protects Two More States From Suppression Efforts

Today, a federal court blocked South Carolina’s voter ID law for the 2012 elections, though it will be allowed to commence in 2013. According to the judges’ ruling, it is too close to the November election for effective implementation of South Carolina’s Act R54, which required voters to show a drivers license, state-issued photo ID, passport, federal military photo ID or a photo voter registration card to vote. Before this law was passed, voters could show their voter registration card without a photo. The ruling states: .

From the outset, the Court has pushed very hard to make a decision in time for the 2012 elections. We set an extremely aggressive trial schedule to accomplish that objective. Counsel for all parties have worked diligently, which the Court greatly appreciates. Unfortunately, as one might have anticipated in a case with this many entities involved, the parties ran into some discovery delays over the summer in trying to obtain relevant information. In the ordinary case, those minor and typical delays would not have been a big deal. In this case, those discovery Case 1:12-cv-00203-CKK-BMK-JDB Document 299 Filed 10/10/12 Page 34 of 415 delays pushed back the trial date by several weeks, with the voluntary consent of all parties. And that delay has in turn pushed back our date of decision. We need not belabor the point. At this late date, the Court is unable to conclude that South Carolina can implement Act R54 for the 2012 elections in a way that will suffice under the Voting Rights Act.

US District Judge Collen Kollar-Kotelly noted in her concurring opinion that both the state and the civil rights attorneys challenging the state agreed that almost 130,000 voters in South Carolina lacked qualifying ID to vote, mostly people of color. Pointing that out, Kollar-Kottelly, who was appointed by conservative US Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist, credited the Voting Rights Act, and Section 5 in particular for protecting the rights of those voters of color, writing:

Affirmative Action Is Just One Part of the Educational Equity Fight

It’s affirmative action day today, with the Supreme Court taking up Fisher v. Texas and with it, the fate of race-conscious higher education admissions.

By now you’re caught up on the legal history that’s gotten us to this moment, where we may be witnessing the death knell of affirmative action in higher education. And we’ve discussed how affirmative action devolved from a measure of equity and became a tool of diversity, and what’s gotten lost in the conversation in between. There’s a separate point worth stressing: The affirmative action drama which has filled the courts for the last 30 years is actually far removed from the lives of students of color at the bottom of the educational stratum.

It was Harvard education professor Thomas Kane who found that race is of little or no consideration in the admissions processes of 80 percent of the country’s less selective four-year colleges. Because of the dazzling array of racialized structural inequities in this country, ranging from poverty to housing, joblessness and education, most students of color just aren’t headed for the flagship universities which are most fervently defending race-conscious admissions, and that denied white applicants are suing. A full 48 percent of black males who entered high school in 2006 didn’t graduate come 2010, the Schott Foundation found this year. Yet the heated emotion surrounding the topic has allowed affirmative action to balloon in our public imagination. The educational equity matters the majority of students of color in the country face are stuck at a much more basic level. And the affirmative action fight is but one sliver of that larger struggle.

Michigan Students Fight Florida Pastor’s Anti-Muslim Attacks

Michigan Students Fight Florida Pastor's Anti-Muslim Attacks

Florida pastor Terry Jones got the world’s attention back in 2010 when he set fire to the Quran, the Islamic holy book. His screeds gained national prominence during the whole debate over the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” that year. Now, he’s back. Jones and his cronies will be protesting what they’re calling “Muslim gangs” at of Edsel Ford High School in Dearborn, Michigan this morning. 

The Detroit News has more:

Jones, 60, said he plans to meet with the school’s principal about what he says is a problem with Muslim teens beating up other students.

Dearborn schools spokesman David Mustonen has said Jones’ claims of bullying by Muslim students are unfounded.

Jones has been a frequent visitor to Dearborn, where he has criticized what he calls “radical elements of Islam.” Jones’ critics say his protests have been nothing but “hate speech.”

Administrators at the school say that classes will go on as normal today. But students at the school are fighting back against Jones’s attacks. Several of them have started the Intergroup Dialogue Student Leadership Team, which will begin student-led workshops and host guest speakers to help “facilitate dialogue to celebrate different cultures.” They outlined some of their goals in this video:

The group is asking for donations to help support their work by October 31, 2012.

Immigration to U.S. Stagnates, But Climbing Migrant Death Toll Breaks Records

The two statistics seem to contradict each other. And yet in the cruel, upside down world of immigration and border enforcement, both are true. Net immigration into the country from Mexico has all but screeched to a halt, but those who are trying to enter into the country are dying in ever higher numbers in the middle of their journeys.

The United States is witnessing two simultaneous dynamics. Pew Research Center, responsible for detailing the first finding this spring, found that due to increasingly harsh border enforcement and the ongoing economic recession in the U.S. net migration may have even hit negative rates. Meanwhile, the numbers of bodies found in the desert just this year by border agents have reached almost 150, a 200 percent jump from the last fiscal year, NBC reported today. “[W]hile fewer are crossing, more are dying,” write reporters Hannah Rappleye and Lisa Riordan Seville.

Watch the Only Known Recording of NYPD’s Stop-and-Frisk in Action

Watch the Only Known Recording of NYPD's Stop-and-Frisk in Action

The NYPD conducts more than 1,800 stop-and-frisks each day. The program has come under widespread condemnation by critics who say that it unfairly targets men of color. Now there’s proof. Here’s more from Ross Tuttle at The Nation:

On June 3, 2011, three plainclothes New York City Police officers stopped a Harlem teenager named Alvin and two of the officers questioned and frisked him while the third remained in their unmarked car. Alvin secretly captured the interaction on his cell phone, and the resulting audio is one of the only known recordings of stop-and-frisk in action.

In the course of the two-minute recording, the officers give no legally valid reason for the stop, use racially charged language and threaten Alvin with violence. Early in the stop, one of the officers asks, “You want me to smack you?” When Alvin asks why he is being threatened with arrest, the other officer responds, “For being a fucking mutt.” Later in the stop, while holding Alvin’s arm behind his back, the first officer says, “Dude, I’m gonna break your fuckin’ arm, then I’m gonna punch you in the fuckin’ face.”

Ohio Appealing to US Supreme Court To Block Weekend Early Voting

Ohio Appealing to US Supreme Court To Block Weekend Early Voting

Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, dissatisfied with a federal appeals court ruling just four days ago denying his attempt to delete the weekend before Election Day for early voting, is now turning to the US Supreme Court to get his way.

Said Husted in a statement released today:

“This is an unprecedented intrusion by the federal courts into how states run elections and because of its impact on all 50 states as to who and how elections will be run in America we are asking the Supreme Court to step in and allow Ohioans to run Ohio elections. …

“As a swing state, we in Ohio expect to be held to a high standard and level of scrutiny when it comes to elections. However, it’s troubling that the federal courts have failed to recognize that there isn’t another state in the union which can claim Ohio’s broad menu of voting options and opportunity to vote. In Ohio, ALL voters already have at least 230 hours available to vote in person prior to Election Day, ALL registered voters received an application to vote by mail and ALL voters still have the ability to vote during the 13-hour window on Election Day itself.”

Ohio’s early voting window in 2008 included the Saturday, Sunday and Monday before Election Day, which many African-American churches took advantage of in their “souls to the polls” campaigns when they bussed black voters to the polls after church service that Sunday. This boosted black voter turnout, something that upset Doug Priesse, a GOP county election board member, who said “I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban — read African-American — voter-turnout machine.”

Husted decided in August this year that there will be no early voting on weekends, except for military voters, who could vote on the weekend before. That move is easily viewed as a strike against black church voters, who tend to vote Democratic, while biasing military voters, who often vote Republican. The Obama campaign recognized this and sued to have weekend voting available to all voters. Two federal courts ruled in all voters favor by reinstating the weekend before Election Day for early voting.

Husted has also made the news for fighting to have provisional ballots thrown away if a voter is sent by an elections official to the wrong district to vote — this in a state that leads the nation in trashed provisional ballots. He has denounced voter suppression groups like True the Vote, but his other calls to restrict voting access have landed him in bad company with other state secretaries who’ve been doing the same.

Walmart Worker Strike Spreads to Maryland, Texas

Walmart Worker Strike Spreads to Maryland, Texas

Walmart workers are not done striking. Today in just the second time in Walmart history, the mega retailer’s workers are walking out of work to protest their treatment on the job, Salon reported. In Laurel, Maryland and Dallas, Texas, Walmart workers are following up on a worker walkout that took place last Thursday, when Los Angeles area workers took to the streets to protest what they say are Walmart’s intimidation tactics blocking their organizing efforts.

Walmart workers are shining a light on their plight ahead of the company’s annual investor meeting tomorrow in Bentonville, Arkansas. Walmart wages aren’t enough to cover the basics like rent, or health care premiums, or even lunch, workers say, and some have been forced to turn to public assistance to make ends meet. From Salon:

“A lot of associates, we have to use somewhat of a buddy system,” Dallas worker Colby Harris said last night. “We loan each other money during non-paycheck weeks just to make it through to the next week when we get paid. Because we don’t have enough money after paying bills to even eat lunch.” Harris, who’s now on strike, said that after three years at Walmart, he makes $8.90 an hour in the produce department, and workers at his store have faced “constant retaliation” for speaking up.

Today’s the Last Day to Register to Vote in Over a Dozen States

Today's the Last Day to Register to Vote in Over a Dozen States

Over at The Nation, Peter Rothberg reminds us that today’s the last day to vote in over a dozen states: Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Montana, New Mexico, Texas, Utah, the District of Columbia and key swing states Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Do you still need to register to vote? Or check on your voter registration status? makes it really easy. Just visit

And if you’re looking to protect your vote, there’s an app for that. Actually, there are several. Our community journalism coordinator Aura Bogado helped put together a list of online resources that people can use to stem the effect of voter suppression efforts across the country,

MSNBC’s Chris Hayes Hosts Conversation on the ‘i-word’

MSNBC's Chris Hayes Hosts Conversation on the 'i-word'

This past weekend, MSNBC’s Up with Chris Hayes featured an excellent conversation all about the i-word this Sunday. Sunday’s guests included John McWhorter, professor of linguistics and American studies at Columbia University, Maria Hinojosa, journalist, anchor and executive producer of NPR’s “Latino USA,” Brooke Gladstone, co-host and managing editor of WNYC’s “On the Media,” and Jose Antonio Vargas, Pulitzer prize-winning journalist and founder of Define American.

The entire 4-part segment is worth a watch because they get to discuss the i-word in-depth. Hayes says he uses “undocumented worker” partly because he calls people however they want to be described. Hinojosa, who recently came out against the i-word in the film “Harvest of Empire”, shares that it was Nobel laureate and holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, who told her not to describe people as “illegal” “because that is exactly what the Nazis did to Jews. You do not label a people illegal.”

It’s a spirited and well-informed conversation. At one point Hayes interjects at McWhorter’s understanding about a person’s immigration status. McWhorter starts to say that it is illegal for a person to live in the US without papers. Hayes makes the distinction and correction: the act of entering without inspection could be “illegal,” but living in the United States without papers is not. It is a civil infraction — as the Drop the I-Word team has often stated.

Vargas makes the point that while journalists should aim for accuracy and precision, many are taking a page from a memo written in 2005 by Republican strategist Frank Luntz that gave direction for undocumented immigrants to be labeled “illegal immigrants.” He says, “If journalists argue a neutral stance, are we then listening to Frank Luntz?” On Friday, MinnPost reported that Vargas was arrested for driving without a valid license that morning as he made his way to Carleton College to give the weekly convocation. He has a court date scheduled for October 18th and has reported on Twitter that he is fine. Notably, MinnPost’s Beth Hawkins did not describe Vargas with the i-word in her report.

If you are interested in the full case being made to journalists, see the Drop the I-Word toolkit here.

Savage and Alive: Native Students Respond on Indigenous Peoples’ Day

Savage and Alive: Native Students Respond on Indigenous Peoples' Day

Savage Media has released a new video for Indigenous Peoples’ Day. In it, Native students from Dartmouth College respond to The Spanish Requirement of 1513—in which Spain declared that it was ordained by God to take possession of what is known today as the Americas—with their own “Requiremento of 2012.”

Founded by Autumn White Eyes, Preston Wills, and Taylor Payer, three Native Dartmouth students, Savage Media has produced five videos in as many months. In a phone interview today, Wells said the group was inspired The 1491’s, a Native sketch comedy group that visited the campus last year, and challenged students there to make their own videos.

While Dartmouth College is known to have graduated more Native American students than all of the other Ivies combined, the school also traditionally used an Indian mascot. Although the offensive mascot was phased out in 1974, students and alums still sport the image on t-shirt on and off campus. Wells explained that Dartmouth has “swept the [Indian mascot] issue under the rug, as if it was never used on football uniforms.” Just last year, a Dartmouth sophomore produced and marketed an offensive t-shirt with a play on the Indian mascot. “Something like that happens every year,” added Wells.

The group is also raising funds to create their own website and t-shirts. Supporters have eight days to raise a little more than $100 needed to reach their $500 goal. Because Savage Media is independent of, and receives no funding from Dartmouth, they use personal or borrowed equipment to create their videos. Members are hoping to able to raise enough money to have some equipment and props of their own. It’s likely that Indigenous Peoples’ Day 2012 will mark the day these students raise the funds they need to tell their own stories.

TAGS: Indigenous

Another Voting Rights Victory, This Time in Ohio

In another voting rights victory, a federal appeals court has blocked the state of Ohio from cutting off its early voting hours. As we reported in August, Ohio’s Secretary of State, Jon Husted, cut off early voting the weekend before the election.

Because black churches encourage their congregants to vote after services the Sunday before Election Day, Husted’s move would have disproportionately affected black voters. The new rule would have allowed military voters to cast their ballots in person through the weekend—but not any others. Today’s ruling doesn’t mandate all polling places to remain open for early hours; local elections boards will make that decision. led a campaign to pressure Secretary Husted, a Republican, to guarantee access to the polls for everyone in Ohio. Meanwhile, President Barack Obama’s campaign sued the state to allow early voting the weekend before Election Day. Executive Director Rashad Robinson issued the following statement after today’s ruling:

“Today’s decision is in line with what members of the ColorOfChange community have long known: Black, low-income and elderly voters as well as students and other groups are more likely to vote if they have a broader range of opportunities to do so. Ohioans now need to demand that county boards of election open their doors those three days before Election Day so that everyone can take advantage of those weekend hours.

“We cannot afford to have November 6th be a replay of the 2004 election debacle, in which many Ohioans waited upwards of 10 hours in line to vote. By calling for an end to weekend voting throughout the month of October, Secretary of State Husted has indicated that he wants a return to that kind of election, in which Black Ohioans and other groups that typically vote Democratic were disenfranchised. It’s a shame that Mr. Husted is playing partisan politics by putting barriers to the polls. Our community is still calling on him to open the polls all remaining weekends in October. Beyond that, it is our strong hope that Mr. Husted complies with today’s ruling and instructs the county boards of election to immediately make arrangements for voting for the Saturday, Sunday, and Monday before Election Day.”

You can read more about Ohio from our Community Journalist Nelson Pierce, who’s written about voting as a matter of faith

Rep. Elijah Cummings Launches True the Vote Investigation

Rep. Elijah Cummings Launches True the Vote Investigation

Today, Rep. Elijah Cummings announced that he was launching an investigation into the group True the Vote, a tea party network that has trumped up charges of voter fraud in order to have restrictive voting laws passed while stacking up complaints of voter intimidation.

Rep. Cummings sent a letter to True the Vote’s president Catherine Engelbrecht asking for documents related to their work of scouring through voter registration databases and then demanding that thousands of voters be purged from the rolls. They’ve done this throughout 2012 under the belief that dead people, imprisoned people and “illegal aliens” have been voting and stealing elections. All of their voter fraud accusations and allegations have fallen flat and Rep. Cummings said he based his investigation on their “horrendous record” of filing false voter challenges.

“At some point, an effort to challenge voter registrations by the thousands without any legitimate basis may be evidence of illegal voter suppression,” wrote Cummings. “If these efforts are intentional, politically-motivated, and widespread across multiple states, they could amount to a criminal conspiracy to deny legitimate voters their constitutional rights.”

He’s demanding that Englebrecht turn records related to the software and databases they use to challenge voters, training materials for poll watchers and how they select which polling districts to deploy volunteers to.

Here at Voting Rights Watch 2012 we have been following and reporting the activities of True the Vote since April. It was at their national summit that month that we collected the widely cited quote from their national elections coordinator Bill Ouren who said True the Vote poll watchers should make voters feel like they’re “driving with the police following you.” In a story we posted this week about former Congressman Artur Davis’ involvement with them, we published True the Vote’s explanation of that quote, which was to say that True the Vote was really like “a parent” and that “kids [voters] will act up more” if they’re not around.

In August, we published the investigative report “How the Tea Party’s Building a ‘Poll Watcher’ Network for November,” which revealed the extent of their outreach around the nation in their efforts to have one million trainees at polling places in November.

Read Rep. Elijah Cummings letter about the investigation here.

Read the full suite of Voting Rights Watch 2012’s True the Vote coverage here.

Watch Brentin Mock discuss True the Vote with Adam Serwer of Mother Jones on Bloggingheads here:

LAPD Chief Charlie Beck Won’t Hand Over Low Level Arrestees to Immigration Officials

Those who are arrested for low level crimes in Los Angeles won’t get referred to immigration officials for potential detention and deportation, Los Angeles police chief Charlie Beck announced Thursday. The change in policy, reported by the Los Angeles Times, was a response to federal immigration enforcement programs which have “eroded the public trust,” Beck said.

The shift, which the Los Angeles Times reports would affect roughly 400 people, would alter current agreements with the federal government which allow immigration officials to peer into the databases of those who are booked in Los Angeles jails and request people with potential immigration violations be held on a detainer. Immigration and Customs Enforcement then will come and detain a person and begin looking into a person’s deportability. The programs make those who care about civil and immigrant rights, as well as an increasing number of law enforcement agencies, uncomfortable. Typically immigration issues are civil violations, but the merging of law and immigration enforcement can make the public uncomfortable and discourage people from reporting crimes or serving as witnesses for fear that their immigration status could land them in deportation proceedings.

Chipotle Agrees to Respect Farmworkers

Chipotle Agrees to Respect Farmworkers

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers claimed another victory yesterday when Chipotle agree to sign on to the organization’s Fair Food Program. CIW members—who represent some 4,000 Florida tomato pickers—and their allies held a protest outside of Chipotle’s headquarters in Denver this week. They were planning another protest during the restaurant’s popular Cultivate Festival tomorrow—which touts Chipotle’s “Food with Integrity” slogan.

After six years of refusing to meet with the CIW, Chipotle becomes the 11th corporation to sign on to the agreement—after Trader Joe’s did the same in February. The Fair Food Program is unique in that it doesn’t demand more pay directly to farmworkers. Instead, it asks that end-use corporations like Chipotle pay a price premium for the tomatoes they purchase for their consumers. In turn, the price premium paid by those food retailers to growers ensures higher wages for farmworkers, and a code of conduct that targets harassment in Florida’s fields.

Fast food chains and supermarkets often argue that industries that rely on ever lower prices simply cannot afford to pay a price premium. They add that since they don’t set wages in the fields, they shouldn’t be pressured to raise the amount of money they pay for their tomatoes.

Yet CIW continues to win victories by reminding growers, corporations, and consumers what farmworkers already know: the food chain’s economy is connected, and once food retailers pay pennies more per pound on one end, workers in the field will feel the difference by earning more pay on their end. Aside from a wage increase, the price premium also ensures rules against child labor and modern-day slavery in Florida’s tomato fields.

Nely Rodriguez, a CIW member who has been working in fields in Michigan and Florida for nearly 10 years, told that the agreement is also an important win for Chipotle. In a phone interview this morning, she said that consumers want workers to be treated with respect, and that Chipotle’s signature assures that.

“The agreement is also important because if there are any human rights violations in Florida’s fields, against women being sexually assaulted, for example, Chipotle now has the responsibility to hold the grower to the code of conduct, and stop the misconduct. There are now market consequences for abuse,” she added.

The CIW has cancelled this weekend’s action in Denver, and is already preparing for its next victories, with actions planned against Publix, Kroger, Stop and Shop, and Giant supermarkets. Although 11 food retailers have signed on to the Fair Food Program, Rodriguez said there are many more corporations who take advantage of cheap farm labor during the winter tomato harvest.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly From September’s Jobs Report

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly From September's Jobs Report

The September jobs report released this morning contained encouraging economic news for the Obama Administration in the closing weeks of this year’s election.

The nation’s unemployment rate fell to 7.8 percent in September, the lowest level in three years. The economy added 114,000 last month.

In more welcome news for Obama, the Bureau of Labor Statistics also reported that the economy added 86,000 more jobs in July and August than previously estimated. All in all today’s data adds strength to the Administration’s “stick with us, we’re headed in the right direction” narrative.

While these top-line numbers suggest an improving economic situation, the broader jobs report reveals that the harsh reality for most Americans continues.

For blacks, Latinos, and youth the picture is far less optimistic and remained in economic-depression territory. 1 out 7 African-Americans, 1 out of ten Latinos and 1 out of 4 people between 16-19 is unemployed. These numbers are essentially unchanged from August.

The number of people looking for work, discouraged by five years of record joblessness, remains at its lowest level in almost thirty years. Since 2007, 9 million people have dropped out of the job force. If these Americans were still looking for work, today’s unemployment rate would be over 10 percent.

The percentage of underemployed Americans, those without work or at jobs at well below their skill level, is over 14 percent or, to translate, 18 million people.

In its totality, the jobs report underscores the curious absence of any at-length discussion of joblessness in Wednesday night’s presidential debate. Given that the economy is the number once concern of all Americans, the lack of presentation by the candidates of detailed plans during their exchange is almost unconscionable.

Sadly, regardless of who pundits crowned as the winner, we all lost.

The New York Times is Feeling the Pressure Over Its I-Word Stance

The New York Times is Feeling the Pressure Over Its I-Word Stance

The New York Times public editor and readers’ representative, Margaret Sullivan recently deliberated on the i-word and decided she was for keeping it. In a span of a few days she read through multiple reasons and a compelling case delivered by leading linguists, scholars, lawyers, readers from across the country, the Drop the I-Word campaign, Times editorial board member, Lawrence Downes and Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas who kicked off the conversation with her a little more than a year after coming out as undocumented (not as “illegal”) in the pages of the Times.

Sullivan weighed in saying that she sees “no advantage for Times readers in a move away from the paper’s use of the phrase ‘illegal immigrant.’” She said “It is clear and accurate; it gets its job done in two words that are easily understood. The same cannot be said of the most frequently suggested alternatives - ‘unauthorized,’ ‘immigrants without legal status,’ ‘undocumented.’ She said this, all after linguists and attorneys have weighed in with expertise on the opposite. Now, in a welcome and exciting turn, colleagues in the field of journalism are calling out the Times, too.

In Historic Move, Walmart Workers Across Los Angeles Walk Off the Job

In Historic Move, Walmart Workers Across Los Angeles Walk Off the Job

In what labor rights groups are calling a first in Walmart history, workers from multiple stores have walked off the job today. Workers led a one-day work stoppage for nearly a dozen Walmart stores to protest the retail giant’s retaliation for worker’s efforts to organize for better treatment and pay.

“Walmart should not be silencing workers for standing up for what’s good for my store, my co-workers, my family and my community,” Venanzi Luna, a striking worker at the Pico Rivera Walmart, said in a statement. Luna is a member of OUR Walmart, a national Walmart employee organization with a presence in 43 states that’s backed by the United Food and Commercial Workers union.

At a rally today outside the Pico Rivera Walmart where Luna works, workers will tell their stories of struggling to barely get by on Walmart wages and dealing with reduced hours, safety issues and staffing issues. Among those coming out to support the striking workers are plenty of immigrant, labor and religious organizations who say Walmart workers shouldn’t be forced to rely on public assistance to get by, especially as the corporate behemoth turns around $16 billion a year in profits. Walmart has 1.4 million so-called associates around the country, and is union free in its North American stores. Workers on strike today say they are fighting for all of them.

Lakers Sign the NBA’s First Salvadoran-Honduran Player Ronnie Aguilar

Lakers Sign the NBA's First Salvadoran-Honduran Player Ronnie Aguilar

The NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers signed the league’s first Salvadoran-American player recently. Ronnie Aguilar is a 7’1” center who was born and raised in L.A. by a Salvadoran father and Honduran mother.

Aguilar played basketball, volleyball and football at John Marshall High School in Los Angeles, and he’s excited to play for his hometown team. From ESPN Deportes:

“It’s a dream to be here, especially since I’m from Los Angeles. I grew up watching the Lakers, especially Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. It’s a pleasure and an honor to be here playing on the same team I have loved since I was a child. I want to do everything possible to grab that ‘ring’ (ring) we want, ” the 25 years old center told ESPN en Español.

Aguilar, a 7-1, 250 pound center, most recently played in six games for the Bakersfield Jam of the NBA Development League during the 2011-12 season, averaging 2.2 points and 4.2 rebounds in 11.5 minutes.

TAGS: NBA sports

Near Silence on Poverty in the Presidential Debate

Between the two of them, Obama and Romney cast about the words middle income or middle class 31 times. Obama referred to the amorphous group of Americans 19 times and Romney 12. That’s about once every three minutes. Meanwhile Obama didn’t mention poor people, low income people, or poverty even once and Romney rattled out the words poor, low income, lower income and poverty seven times, but mostly to attack Obama. He offered no substantive plan for addressing poverty issues.

In a presidential debate about the economy in this time of prolonged economic downturn and high poverty, the near eclipse of explicit talk of poverty and low-income Americans takes work. The candidates actually did talk around poverty quite a lot last night, bur rarely actually named it. Medicaid, school vouchers, food stamps and the unemployed found their way into the scripts, but poor people themselves barely did. Both described the struggling middle-income Americans they’ve run into the on the campaign trail, but not poor folks. Obama offered that he’d like to build “ladders of opportunity into the middle class,” but still, no talk of the people at the botton of those ladders.

As noted on the New York Times editorial page:

The two candidates said nothing about poverty in Wednesday’s debate. The political reasons for focusing the campaigns on the middle class are obvious, but that doesn’t change the fact that the candidates are ducking responsibility for neglecting those without a powerful voice at the ballot box, with Mitt Romney treating them with particular disdain.

As the 2007 speech shows, Mr. Obama was once quite passionate about improving the lives of what he called “young men and women without hope, without miracles, and without a sense of destiny other than life on the edge — the edge of the law, the edge of the economy, the edge of family structures and communities.”

Indeed, the omission is not terribly surprising, but it is hugely significant because the silence once again draws a line around which kinds of Americans matter. Those who face disproportionate levels of poverty—people of color, single women—are growing demographics who overwhelmingly support Obama. He decided last night to take them for granted.

Plenty of Common Ground in Obama and Romney’s Ed Reform Pitches

Plenty of Common Ground in Obama and Romney's Ed Reform Pitches

For all the back and forth sparring during the presidential debate on Wednesday, one might think President Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney don’t see eye to eye on anything. But look at Mitt Romney and President Obama’s respective education agendas and you’ll see something rather striking: plenty of ideological overlap about how to fix public schools.

Romney’s education platform, which calls on the federal government to tie federal education funding to state commitments to school reform, puts a focus on improving the U.S. teacher force by evaluating teachers based on their students’ test scores and expanding choice options for parents. Romney supports far more aggressive school choice models, including vouchers which encourage families to leave poor performing neighborhood schools for other private and charter schools. But he, like Obama, encourage the expansion of charter schools in the U.S. public education system. In fact, Romney’s ideas look remarkably like President Obama’s marquee education initiative Race to the Top, a competitive grant program which exchanged money for promises from states to enact harsher accountability measures for teachers, a more open school marketplace, and better data tracking. During the debate last night, Romney even managed to say he agrees with “some” of the ideas in Race to the Top.

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