Newswire : African leaders confront a ‘blue wave’ demanding democratic change

Sudanese women protesting government actions

Jan. 7, 2018 (GIN) – When Democrats captured one House seat after another in the midterm elections, observers brushed it off as a “blue trickle.” Later they had to admit: it was a giant blue wave.

Africans are also yearning for change and their frustration is erupting across the continent with a new crop of activists challenging the old order.

In Ethiopia, reforms are already underway since the installation last year of 42 year old Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. Women have been named to some of the government’s key positions – president, chief justice and half of all ministers. Thousands of political prisoners and journalists have been freed while senior officials accused of human rights abuses and corruption no longer enjoys immunity.

Ahmed overturned bans on opposition groups. His overture to Eritrea led to the end of a long-running conflict of neighbors.

U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres called it “a wind of hope blowing in the Horn of Africa.”

Since the unpopular Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos was coaxed from power in 2017, a liberation fighter and former defense minister, Joao Lourenco, next in succession, stepped into the job. Today, even the toughest critics of the government say that in just more than a year, President Lourenco has accomplished more to stop corruption than any previous administration.

In Sudan, President Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir is facing a determined movement of opposition on the heels of his third decade in power enabled by disputed elections. His late-arriving “reforms” fell flat as prices for bread and fuel were jacked up as per the advice of the IMF. Spontaneous, leaderless crowds are turning out in the thousands — not just in the capital, Khartoum, but countrywide.

“It’s like someone who has found himself on the back of a lion,” said one observer. “He can’t get off without the lion devouring him.”

Democratic reforms are also high on the wish list of people in Togo, who are fighting for term limits that would effectively end President Faure Gnassingbé’s nearly two decades in power. In Gabon, President Ali Bongo who remains in Morocco since suffering a stroke in October while traveling abroad, barely managed to survive a coup this week by a handful of young officers. Nigeria meanwhile goes to the polls on Feb. 16.

Finally, 46 million Congolese cast ballots on Dec. 30 only to learn that the electoral commission has counted less than half the votes and a winner will not be announced until a week or two or three, if ever.

So which way for the blue wave in the Congo? Stay tuned…. w/pix of protesting Sudanese women in the U.S.

Newswire : Tennessee Governor grants full clemency to Cyntoia Brown, sets August 7 release from prison

By Adam Tamburin and Anita Wadhwani, The Nashville Tennessean

Cyntoia Brown with her attorneys

     Gov. Bill Haslam ordered an early release for Cyntoia Brown, a Tennessee woman and alleged sex trafficking victim serving a life sentence in prison for killing a man when she was 16.

Haslam granted Brown a full commutation to parole on Monday. Brown will be eligible for release Aug. 7 on time served and will stay on parole for 10 years.

“Cyntoia Brown committed, by her own admission, a horrific crime at the age of 16,” Haslam said in a statement. “Yet, imposing a life sentence on a juvenile that would require her to serve at least 51 yearsbefore even being eligible for parole consideration is too harsh, especially in light of the extraordinary steps Ms. Brown has taken to rebuild her life.

“Transformation should be accompanied by hope. So, I am commuting Ms. Brown’s sentence, subject to certain conditions.”

Brown will be required to participate in regular counseling sessions and to perform at least 50 hours of community service, including working with at-risk youth. She also will be required to get a job.
In a statement released by her lawyers, Brown thanked Haslam “for your act of mercy in giving me a second chance. I will do everything I can to justify your faith in me.”

“With God’s help, I am committed to live the rest of my life helping others, especially young people. My hope is to help other young girls avoid ending up where I have been.”

The governor’s long-awaited decision, handed down during his last days in office, brought a dramatic conclusion to Brown’s plea for mercy, which burst onto the national stage as celebrities and criminal justice reform advocates discovered her case.

In his commutation, the governor called Brown’s case one that “appears to me to be a proper one for the exercise of executive clemency.”
“Over her more than fourteen years of incarceration, Ms. Brown has demonstrated extraordinary growth and rehabilitation,” the commutation said.

It was a remarkable victory for Brown after years of legal setbacks.
Brown said she was forced into prostitution and was scared for her life when she shot 43-year-old Johnny Allen in the back of the head while they were in bed together.

Allen, a local real estate agent, had picked her up at an East Nashville Sonic restaurant and taken her to his home.

Brown, now 30, was tried as an adult and convicted of first-degree murder in 2006. She was given a life sentence. Had Haslam declined to intervene, Brown would not have been eligible for parole until she was 69.

The state parole board, which considered Brown’s case in 2018, gave the governor a split recommendation, with some recommending early release and some recommending she stay in prison.

Lawyers for Brown applauded the governor’s decision. “This is truly a joyful moment — for Cyntoia and for all of us who have worked to help her,” the statement from Charles Bone and J.Houston Gordon, Brown’s lead attorneys.”The governor’s decision is proof that our justice system works and it marks the beginning” of a new chapter for Cyntoia.

In recent years, celebrities have highlighted her case, fueling intense interest and a renewed legal fight to get her out of prison.
Activists, lawmakers and celebrities, including Rihanna and Kim Kardashian West, have cited Brown’s case as an illustration of a broken justice system. Brown was a victim herself, they said, and didn’t deserve her punishment.

Her impending release sets the stage for her to join their ranks.
During her time in prison, Brown completed her GED and got a college degree from Lipscomb University. Her allies say she hopes to apply her education by supporting social justice issues through her own nonprofit.

Newsire: Congresswoman Maxine Waters makes history: First Black, First Woman to Chair House Financial Services Committee

By Charlene Crowell

Congresswoman Maxoine Waters

(TriceEdneyWire.com) – As 2019 begins, there is also a new Congress with leadership in the House of Representatives that makes history for people of color and women alike.

Long-time California Representative Nancy Pelosi returns as Speaker of the House – the first time in 50 years that a Member of Congress has achieved this feat. On a gender note, Speaker Pelosi becomes the most powerful woman on Capitol Hill and the only female in the nation’s history to do so.

There’s also another key woman and legislator that is making history. Congresswoman Maxine Waters is now the first Black and the first woman to chair the powerful House Financial Services Committee. Having served on this committee since 1995, and its Ranking Member in the previous Congress, Waters will set the committee’s agenda in key areas affecting the economy, banking, housing, insurance and securities.

The House Financial Services Committee oversees the activities and responsibilities for major financial regulators, agencies, and the nation’s central bank, the Federal Reserve. These agencies include but are not limited to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation – that insures monies in depository institutions, as well as the Securities and Exchange Commission that is charged with maintaining fair and efficient investment markets.

In other words, the fiery and bold Black lawmaker who earned a reputation for challenging Wall Street and major lenders during the housing crisis will now set the direction for a range of financial players, regulators, and institutions. From monetary policy to the production and distribution of currency, and expanding financial access to affordable housing options, a progressive and principled committee chair is running the show. She is also expected to set standards of performance that level the financial playing field and hold lenders accountable when they take advantage of consumers or discriminate in their lending.

With the right kind of regulation and committee oversight, the nation may be able to change financial trends that have worsened both racial and gender wealth gaps.

For example, a December 2018 report by the Asset Funder’s Network analyzed racial and gender disparities in wealth and found that Black and Latina women have “lost substantial amounts of wealth in the last two decades”.

From 2007 to 2016, Black women ages 45-65 had a 74 percent drop in median wealth, compared to that of White women who experienced a 28 percent drop. Further, the Asset Funders Network concluded the median “quasi-liquid” savings for single Black and Latina women aged 45-50 was $0.
Earlier in 2017 the Federal Reserve found that nearly 1 in 5 black families have zero or negative net worth — twice the rate of white families. Additionally the median net worth of Black families was one-tenth of that held by White families.

These wealth disparities continue to plague communities of color in large part because of disparities in home ownership that enable consumers to build wealth. Year after year, the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA) report has consistently found that consumers of color are denied access to mortgages, especially private conventional loans that remain the most sustainable and affordable loans.

Last year, the Center for Investigative Reporting published its analysis of the most recent HMDA report. “It found a pattern of troubling denials for people of color across the country, including in major metropolitan areas such as Atlanta, Detroit, Philadelphia, St. Louis and San Antonio,” states the report. “African Americans faced the most resistance in Southern cities – Mobile, Alabama; Greenville, North Carolina; and Gainesville, Florida – and Latinos in Iowa City, Iowa.”

A second but equally harmful trend is predatory lending that targets these same consumers with high-cost credit that creates debt traps. When consumers find themselves short of cash before paydays, overdraft fees, payday and car title loans are among the most predatory due to their extremely high interest rates and failure to consider whether borrowers have the financial capacity to repay the loans without taking on additional debt.

For all of Black America, as well as consumer advocates and others who believe financial fairness should be the nation’s watchword, an expectation of a new era of accountability, access and transparency is hoped to soon unfold.

“She is a tough and savvy defender of consumer protection and holds the feet of the banks and the Trump administration regulators to the fire,” said Mike Calhoun, president of the Center for Responsible Lending in a recent interview.

Should anyone doubt the resolve of Congresswoman Waters, consider her reaction last fall when she and other prominent progressives faced a series of bomb threats and other violence.

“We have to keep doing what we’re doing in order to make this country right,” Waters told the Washington Post. “That’s what I intend to do. And as the young people say, ‘I ain’t scared.’”

Charlene Crowell is the Center for Responsible Lending’s Communications Deputy Director. She can be reached atCharlene.crowell@responsiblelending.org.

Newswire: Pelosi supports holding hearings on ‘Medicare for All’

By Peter Sullivan, The Hill

     Incoming Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) supports holding hearings on Medicare for all, her spokesman said Thursday, marking a major step forward for supporters of a single-payer health system.     Some Democrats have been talking about holding hearings on the issue, but Pelosi's backing is seen as a boost for those efforts.

Pelosi had said last year that Medicare for all would “have to be evaluated” and is “on the table.”
The Washington Post reported Thursdaythat the Rules Committee and the Budget Committee will hold the hearings.
That would leave out the main committees with jurisdiction over the issue: Energy and Commerce and Ways and Means. The chairmen of those committees have not given their backing to Medicare for all, while the chairmen of Rules and Budget have.
Pelosi’s support for hearings is a plus for the movement, but it’s unclear whether she would support further steps such as holding a vote on Medicare for all legislation.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) plans to introduce a new version of the Medicare-for-all legislation early in the new Congress.
She has been working to update the legislation and work out the concerns of some lawmakers.
Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-Mass.) told The Hill in Novemberthat he was “hopeful” he could support the new version if issues with last year’s bill were worked out.
Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.), the incoming chairman of the Budget Committee, already said last year that he planned to hold hearings on Medicare for all.
“Chairman Yarmuth plans to hold a hearing this Congress on the various approaches to expanding coverage and making health care more affordable, which would include different Medicare for All options,” spokesman Sam Lau said Thursday.
By contrast, Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.), the incoming chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, has thrown cold water on the idea.
“I’ve always been an advocate for Medicare for all or single-payer, but I just don’t think that the votes would be there for that, so I think our priority has to be stabilizing the Affordable Care Act, preventing the sabotage that the Trump administration has initiated,” Pallone said in November.
Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.), the incoming Ways and Mean chair, has been slightly more open to the idea, saying in December that Medicare for all deserved “a conversation.”
Democrats, however, face pressure from their left wing on the issue, not only from Jayapal but from a class of new members including incoming Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).

Newswire : A petulant President shuts down government and insults working people

NEWS ANALYSIS by: Rev. Jesse Jackson

The U. S. Department of Agriculture’s disaster relief program is
one of the essentials of the federal government. PHOTO: USDA.gov

(TriceEdneyWire.com) – The partial government shutdown continued this week. Meanwhile, some 800,000 federal employees are going without pay, either furloughed and forced not to work or deemed
“essential” and forced to work without pay.

On Christmas Day, President Trump suggested that the workers supported the shutdown that he earlier said he would be “proud” to cause: “Many of those workers have said to me, communicated,
stay out until you get the funding for the wall.”

This is a billionaire’s conceit. Federal employees are not wealthy. Like most Americans, many live paycheck to paycheck. The shutdown, which started on Dec. 22, stopped all paychecks just as the holiday approached. It also terminated all paid time off for workers, even for those who have scheduled leave for the holiday and will lose the paid time off if they don’t use it by the end of the year. It is hard to imagine anything more disruptive, or more callous.

Unlike the president, Trump’s Office of Personnel Management recognizes the plight that workers face in the shutdown.
It issued suggestions on how employees might negotiate with landlords and creditors over missed payments, even suggesting that they offer to do “painting or carpentry” in lieu of rent. Even if Congress eventually votes to reimburse employees for back pay, it isn’t likely to cover the fines, penalty fees, late fees, and hit to credit ratings that the shutdown will cause. For years, conservatives have maligned federal workers as overpaid, inefficient and intrusive. Ever since President Ronald Reagan quipped that the most dangerous words in the English language are “I’m from the government and I’m here to help,” federal workers have been scorned and mocked.

This is just plain ignorant. Federal workers are public servants — they do the public’s work. They are air traffic controllers, park rangers, border patrol officers and prison employees. They guard our coasts, they protect our air and water, they care for public lands, they administer our Social Security and Medicare.We rely on them
in big and little ways.

When Republicans cut the public servants in the Internal Revenue Service, the wealthy and corporations find it easier to avoid paying their fair share of taxes. When OSHA inspectors are cut, employees are at greater risk in the work place.When the Justice Department cuts back on anti-trust, private monopolies and fraud fleece
millions of Americans.

When we get stuck waiting in lines or find getting help from a federal official difficult, we should remember that it isn’t because the employees are incompetent, it’s because right-wing attacks on government and cuts in resources have rendered them less able to do their work. Conservatives say they believe in markets, not government, but free and efficient markets depend on government to enforce laws, break up monopolies, police against fraud. Without an active and efficient government, the criminal and the grifters drive out the honest and the decent from the marketplace, and we are
all worse off as a result.

Trump’s shutdown is simply the most recent of his assaults on the employees of the government that he was elected to run. He’s scorned them as part of the “swamp, ”sought to freeze their pay, cut their retirements and undermine their labor organizations.Instead of paying tribute to their service, he’s demeaned their capacity, even while cutting the resources needed to do their jobs. Not surprisingly, the non-partisan Best Places to Work report finds a decline in employee engagement and morale under Trump.

The shutdown will do real damage to many federal employees and their families. And it will do real damage to the services that we need and expect from our government. For Trump and the right, this is a sucker’s play.They demean federal employees, shut down parts of the government, cut back resources and staffing to do needed tasks and then use the resulting inefficiency as evidence that government can’t work.

2018 – Year in Review

In this article, we will review the highlights of local news stories that affected Greene County during the past year – 2018.

Love’s Truckstop planned

The most notable development for Greene County during 2018 was the announcement that Love’s corporation had secured an option to purchase land at the Exit 40 intersection with Interstate Highway 20/59 on the outskirts of Eutaw. Love’s plans to build a truck stop with 87 spaces, a convenience store with three fast food outlets and other services for trucks and travelers.
The development of the project was contingent upon the City of Eutaw extending sewage lines about a mile to the project site at an estimated cost of $900,000. In July, Mayor Steele announced a $400,000 grant from the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA) toward the sewage project. This was followed in August by an announcement by the Delta Regional Authority (DRA) of a grant of $372,425 for the project.
The Greene County Industrial Development Authority agreed to loan the City of Eutaw, the balance of funding needed to complete the sewer line. At its December meeting, the City of Eutaw accepted bids for construction of the sewer line.
On October 15, 2018 a groundbreaking was held at the site, where Love’s confirmed that it was building its 470th Travel Center and Country Store in Greene County at the Interstate 40 interchange.
Governor Kay Ivey, Congresswoman Terri Sewell, State Senator Bobby Singleton, members of the Love’s family and management, and many other dignitaries attended the groundbreaking
The $16 million travel stop will be built on a 13.9-acre site and is expected to bring an estimated 43 permanent jobs to the area with a projected 1,000 trucks per day. The facility is expected to sell 8 to 10 million gallons of fuel and have retail sales of $4 to 6 million per year, which will significantly increase tax revenues to Greene County and the City of Eutaw.
Construction of the Lowe’s project is expected to begin in January 2019 and be completed by late Fall of 2019.

Electronic Bingo

The Greene County Community continued to benefit from a gaming and tourist industry authorized by local voter approval of Alabama Constitutional Amendment 743 in 1986.
Five bingo parlors at Greenetrack, Green Charity, Frontier, River’s Edge and the Palace provide 600 or more jobs and over $4.5 million in revenues to the Board of Education, County Government, Sheriff’s Department, Municipalities and the Greene County Hospital and Health System. Additional contributions to E-911, the Greene County Volunteer Firefighters Association and other civic charities are also made.

Each month, the Democrat had a photo and story on the basic fee distribution by the Greene County Sheriff’s Department. The monthly distributions averaged over $370,000 each month for the year.
The Greene County Hospital and Health System received $540,000 in bingo fees ($25 per bingo machine) for 2018, the first full year it was included in the monthly bingo fees distribution. This helped stabilize the finances of the Greene County Health System and insured the continued operation of these critical health facilities.
Electronic bingo in Greene County and throughout the state is under attack as “illegal slot-machine gambling” by State Attorney General Mike Marshall, who was re-elected in November. In September 2018, we reported on a status conference, in front of special Circuit Judge James Moore of Fayette County with representatives of the State and all five bingo operators, to discuss a calendar of future motions and hearings in this critical case.
State AG Marshall is continuing to push the case to end electronic bingo in Greene County despite the catastrophic implications for this industry in lost jobs and revenues, in a historically persistent poor county of the Alabama Black Belt.

2018 Local and Statewide Elections

The past year was a major election year for state offices and the Legislature in Alabama and also local elections for Sheriff, Circuit Clerk, Probate Judge, Coroner, County Commission and other political positions.
Numerous candidates for state and local offices qualified by February 9, for the Democratic and Republican primaries on June 5. Several positions were uncontested: Terri Sewell for Congress in the 7th District, Bobby Singleton for State Senate, A. J. McCampbell and Ralph Howard for State House seats involving Greene County.
In the June 5 primary, Greene County voters chose to re-elect Sheriff Jonathan ‘Joe” Benison, Ronald Kent Smith for Coroner, Veronica Morton Jones for Circuit Clerk and for Commissioners: Lester Brown for District 1, Tennyson Smith for District 2, Corey Cockrell for District 3 and Allen Turner for District 4.
Six weeks later after the July 17th primary run-off, Rolanda Wedgeworth triumphed over Jeremy Rancher for Probate Judge and Roshanda Summerville was chosen to be the nominee for District 5 County Commissioner. Since there were no Republican challengers on the local level, all Democrats running for local and legislative positions were elected subject to no independent or write-in challenges in the November General Election.
At the statewide level, Greene county voters helped Walt Maddox, Mayor of Tuscaloosa, to be the Democratic nominee for Governor and Joe Siegelman to be nominee for Attorney General, in the June primary. However, despite strong support in the November 6 General Election, in the Black Belt, Maddox was defeated by incumbent Governor Kay Ivey and Siegelman was defeated by AG Mike Marshall,
In November, Alabama voters continued Republican control of all major statewide offices and a solid majority in both houses of the State Legislature. This despite Maddox’s promise to “expand Medicaid to 300,000 uncovered people in the state on my first day in office” and Ivey’s
Promise to protect Confederate monuments where they were in the state.
Alabama Congressional delegation remained with six Republicans and one Democrat – Terri Sewell.
In June 2018, Governor Kay Ivey appointed Barbara McShan, longtime Revenue Clerk to the position of Greene County Revenue Commissioner to serve out the term of Brenda Goree, who retired.
In November, the five County Commissioners were sworn-in and selected Tennyson Smith as Chair and Roshanda Summerville as Vice Chair for the next four years.

Mayor Raymond Steele and Eutaw City Council often at odds

From the very first meetings of the Eutaw City Council in January 2018 there were fissures and disagreements between Mayor Raymond Steele and City Council members. The disagreements centered around use of city facilities and vehicles, development of a budget for city finances, payment of bills, operation of the water department, repair of roads in Branch Heights, and the addition of items to the meeting agenda without prior consultation with the Mayor.

The Mayor and City Council generally agreed on support for the Love’s Truckstop project but disagreed on practically everything else. There were concerns about the use of the National Guard Armory after a shooting in the –parking lot after a January party at the facility that ended after midnight. City Councilman Jeffrey Carpenter, also a sheriff’s deputy was injured in the shooting.
In March, Mayor Steele purchased the Carver School from the Board of Education for $213,000 with a $50,000 down payment and four years to pay the balance. The Mayor wants to use the school classroom and gymnasium facilities for after-school and weekend youth programs, adult education and cultural programs and other community activities. Council members argue that the purchase is too costly, no operational plan or regulations exist for use of the facilities, and the purchase should have been coordinated with the County Commission and other agencies.
The Mayor and Council have disagreed about the closing-out of the $3.1 loan and grant package with USDA Rural Development for improvement of the water tower and water system. Many of the water meters were incorrectly installed and may not be providing accurate billing reports. Billing has been behind and late which has placed financial hardships on the City in paying its bills.
Several Council members have called for a budget to determine how city finances are being used, when decisions were made such as using $115,000 of funds set aside for Branch Heights roads to pay other bills. Later funds were contracted for Brach Heights roads repairs but the contractor has not started work as yet. Council members are also calling for an audit of city finances but the cost seems high in relation to the benefits.

Other News and
Developments

Greene County Board of Education continued to make progress during 2018 on improving student learning and performance. LaVonda Blair was hired early in the year to be CSFO to handle school finances after the departure of her predecessor. The TieTying for new ninth graders at the High School continued. New courses in welding, auto mechanics and computer coding were added to the curriculum. A virtual high school program was added to serve persons who dropped out or could not attend classes. At its last meeting the Greene County Board of Directors voted 3 to 2 not to continue the contract of Superindent James H. Carter. Unless this decision is rescinded, the Board will spend much of 2019 searching for and interviewing candidates to replace Carter.

Mills Pharmacy opened for business in July in Eutaw in the old Solomon Drug location giving residents a choice in purchasing their drugs. The General Dollar in Eutaw was remodeled giving more space for food items. A new General Dollar opened in the Clinton community at the end of the year. The Super Dollar store closed and the Family Dollar store burned down and the remains cleared away during the past year.
Greene County celebrated Dr. Martin Luther King’s Birthday on January 17 with a breakfast, a march through downtown and a rally at the Courthouse, which featured Dr. Cynthia Warrick, President of Stillman College. In March, many Greene Countians participated in the 53rd. Bridge Crossing Jubilee in Selma, Alabama to celebrate and agitate for voting rights. In July, the Alabama Civil Rights Museum sponsored the 49th anniversary of the 1969 Special Election in Greene County, which was the beginning of Black political control of Greene County.
In August, the community celebrated National Night Out and Back to School Rally on the Courthouse Square. At the end of the month, the 43rd annual Black Belt Folk Roots Festival was held on the Courthouse Square. In December the Chamber of Commerce sponsored the annual Christmas Parade.

Many other news and community events were held during 2018 – too many to mention in this summary.

Newswire : Hotel employees fired after calling police on Black guest using his phone in lobby

By: Carla Herreria, Huffington Post

Jermaine Massey

     The DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel in Portland, Oregon, fired two employees days after they were accused of racially profiling a black hotel guest who was taking a call on his cellphone in the lobby. 
     In a statement posted to Twitter on Saturday, the hotel issued another apology and announced that it fired the two men “involved in the mistreatment” of Jermaine Massey, who captured parts of last week’s confrontation on camera. 
     The decision to fire the employees came after the hotel announced it would investigate the discrimination claims.
     “Their actions were inconsistent with our standards & values,” the hotel tweeted. “We reiterate our sincere apology for what he endured & will work with diversity experts to ensure this never happens again.”
     Jacob Benjamin, the hotel’s general manager, did not immediately return HuffPost’s request for the employees’ full names.
     Last weekend, Massey posted a series of videos showing DoubleTree staff members and a police officer asking him to leave the hotel, despite his having booked a room. Massey was eventually forced to give up the room. 
     “Tonight I was racially profiled and discriminated against for taking a phone call in the lobby of my hotel room at the @doubletreepdx @doubletree,” Massey wrote in an Instagram post. “They already had in their minds that they didn’t want me there so I waited for the cops to show up and when they did, I explained my side of the story and they didn’t want to hear it.”
     The hotel first apologized on Wednesday, then again on Friday, in a pair of statements obtained by HuffPost detailing the company’s plans to launch an internal investigation and reach out to Massey.
     Massey, who was in Portland to see rapper Travis Scott perform, said he received a call from his mother who is on the East Coast after the concert. Thinking it was an emergency, Massey said he found a “remote area” of the hotel’s lobby to answer the call.
     In Massey’s videos, a security guard identified as Earl can be seen telling Massey that the police have been called and he is no longer welcome at the hotel. Meanwhile, Massey, who is seated on a couch, accuses the security guard of harassing him while he was on the phone.

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Later, speaking to a hotel manager identified as Luis, Massey said he was a guest of the hotel and needed privacy to take the call.
“I needed some privacy, I had a family emergency going on and this gentleman decided to come over here and harass me and ask me where I was staying,” Massey says to the hotel employees.
When Earl accuses Massey of loitering by sitting in the lobby, Massey says: “So this area is off limits after a certain time?” Earl replies, “Only if you’re a guest.”
“I am a guest,” Massey says. “You didn’t tell me that,” the security guard responds. “I asked you what room you’re in and you refused.”
Later in the videos, a police officer can be seen asking Massey to leave the hotel. The Portland Police Bureau confirmed to HuffPost that officers responded to a trespassing call at the hotel late Saturday and asked Massey to gather his personal belongings from his room and leave.
Massey’s Instagram posts, which have since gone viral, reignited a national conversationover people who call the police on people of color who are doing mundane or normal activities, such as throwing a picnic or going home.
In a video message to his Instagram followers, Massey called attention to the racism he experienced.
“Racism is still alive and well. It’s sad that people have to go through these things and I know I’m not the only one. I’m not the first, and I’m not the last but I will not stand for injustice,” he said.
Throughout 2018, white people have called or threatened to call the police on an 8-year-old black girl who was selling water on a sidewalk, a pair of Native American brothers who joined a college campus tour, a black youth mentor who was babysitting two white children, a black man at a bank trying to cash his own paycheckand a black man trying to enter his own apartment building.

Bipartisan 2018 Farm Bill turns the tide for historically underserved farmers and ranchers

By: Lorette Picciano, Executive Director, Rural Coalition

The Rural Coalition and its members applaud the completion of the House and Senate conference report to the 2018 Farm Bill. The conference report was passed in the U. S. Senate by a vote of 86 to 12 and the U. S. House of Representatives by 334 to 47 last week. The 2018 Farm Bill was signed into law this week by President Donald J. Trump.
The 2018 Farm Bill is a strong indication of Congress’ legislative efforts to ensure that our nation’s African American, Asian Pacific, Latino, and Tribal Farmers and Ranchers and rural communities are well equipped to meet the growing demands for healthy foods and farm land preservation.
Rooted in the stronger Bipartisan Senate version of the bill crafted under the leadership of Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Senator Pat Roberts, and Ranking Member Senator Debbie Stabenow, the package ensures food access for all communities, and retains funding and authority for the crucial Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). It also increases support for the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentives program and related initiatives to strengthen local food systems.
Of great significance to our communities, it makes critical new investments in tribal farmers and food systems and programs supporting the nation’s historically underserved, veteran and young farmers and ranchers, improves transparency in credit programs and removes barriers to cultivation of industrial hemp, strengthens local food and organic programs and establishes an Office of Urban Agriculture.
Some Specific Sections of the 2018 Farm Bill, we highlight are:

· Extends SNAP funding as in Nutrition Title in the Senate Bill without the very stiff and bureaucratic workfare requirements in the current House bill. Those provisions would create hunger and deepen poverty for vulnerable Americans, including children and families, and burden States with implementation and costs of constructing an underfunded bureaucratic infrastructure.

· Provides Fair Access for Farmers and Ranchers who attempt to farm on “heirs property”.

  The conference report language ensures that more farmers — especially African-American farmers and farmers of color operating on land with undivided interests – can finally access USDA programs that enable them to protect the soil and water; and continue to operate viable farms that feed their communities.  

This language, sponsored with thanks to Senators Doug Jones, Tim Scott and Tom Udall in the Senate, and Reps. Marcia Fudge, Sanford Bishop and Alma Adams in the House, was developed in cooperation with Rural Coalition with its members including the Federation of Southern Cooperatives, Oklahoma Black Historical Research Project, Inc., Land Loss Prevention Project, and Rural Advancement Fund of the National Sharecroppers Fund, with critical support from the Uniform Laws Commission, the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts and support from the National Association of Conservation Districts.
· Expands and Improves Opportunities for all Farmers to Access USDA Programs – The Conference Report includes language that creates the new Farming Opportunities Training and Outreach (FOTO) Program. FOTO strengthens the historic Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program and also links it closely to the related Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Development Program. The improved program provides permanent authority and permanent funding of $50 million annually, shared equally between the two programs. We thank Senators Tina Smith, Chris Van Hollen, Tom Udall, Reps. Michelle Lujan-Grisham, Ben Ray Lujan, Sanford Bishop and many others who led the effort to make these changes. And we especially credit the Senators Stabenow and Roberts and their staffs for their diligent efforts to permanently secure and fund this landmark program.
· Legalizes and regulates cultivation of Industrial Hemp by removing it from the controlled substances list and allowing tribes, states, and territories to establish regulatory structures within their boundaries that allow farmers and ranchers to produce a high value cash crop while retaining federal farm program benefits that were previously not allowed.
· Provides critical improvements in USDA direct lending credit policy by including equitable relief servicing options in order to protect producers against errors or mistakes made within the USDA direct lending program.
· Authorizes the Farmer and Rancher Stress Assistance Network which supports mental health resources and services to farmers and farmworkers who need them;
· Creates a new Local Agricultural Market Program (LAMP) by merging authorities and providing baseline funding for a streamlined new program. Specifically the LAMP language links the previous Farmers Market Promotion Program, the Local Food Promotion Program and the Value-Added Producer Grants Program.
· Establishes an Office of Urban Agriculture
“This bill turns the tide for African American and all other historically underserved farmers and ranchers,” said Rural Coalition Vice Chairperson Georgia Good, Executive Director of the Rural Advancement Fund of the National Sharecroppers Fund, which has worked since 1937 to improve the quality of life in rural communities in the South. We are grateful to Senators Tim Scott (SC) and Doug Jones (AL) for opening a critical new door to allow families of multiple generations operating on inherited land to be allowed in to the programs of USDA that all farmers need to thrive with their bill. We further thank Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (KA) and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (MI)for their patient and persistent leadership to work with us all to include these sections in a landmark package that values all rural communities and peoples.”

According to Rural Coalition Chairperson John Zippert of the Alabama Association of Cooperatives, “The Federation of Southern Cooperatives estimates more than 40% of black owned land is in heirs property status. Including the Fair Access Act in this bill enables people in states that have the Uniform Partition of Heirs Property laws to access USDA programs more directly with less red tape.”

“We have been working hard for decades to bring equity to the farm bill in terms of treatment for Black farmers and other farmers of color to build cooperatives and to uplift low-wealth communities. The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 addresses continuing inequities and supports the quality hands-on assistance needed to make sure the 2018 farm bill reaches everyone,” he continued.

“Particular thanks are due to the Senators Stabenow and Roberts and their staffs for dedicated efforts to refine legislation and push it to the finish line, and to Rep. Conaway and Peterson’s staffs for working with them to make the important changes necessary to improve opportunities for all farmers. We also thank the many other Senators and members of Congress who led in developing key sections of this legislation.

“The Agricultural Improvement Act passed last week is a huge step forward,” said Rural Coalition Board Member Rudy Arredondo, President of the National Latino Farmers and Ranchers Trade Association. “We are extremely happy that the Agriculture Committee leaders were able to stay focused on the essentials of as good a bipartisan farm bill as we can get in this political climate.”

Everyone in our nation who cares about a future for diverse farmers, ranchers and rural communities needs to call upon Congress and the President to assure swift passage and signing, and final enactment of the 2018 Farm Bill.

Newswire: Africa’s ‘Blue Economy’ – the new frontier

African maritime industry

        Dec. 17, 2018 (GIN) – Six counties in Kenya’s coastal region have been tagged for technical training in the blue economy – what some have called “the new frontier of the African Renaissance.”

        The goal is to enable young people to find jobs in the maritime industry.

        Kevit Desai, a Kenyan vocational training principal, says institutions of higher learning must begin to focus on developing skills, nurturing innovations and enterprise creation for this “overlooked opportunity.”

        He suggested a post-Blue Economy Conference workshop to create awareness and enhance community participation in this vision for the future.

        The topic prompted the World Bank last year to release a report called “The Potential of the Blue Economy” on sustainable use of marine resources for small island and coastal least developed countries.

        “An important challenge of the blue economy is to understand and better manage oceanic sustainability,” the report began, “from sustainable fisheries to ecosystem health to pollution.”

        After years of neglect, the multilateral community is finally waking up,” writes David Thomas of African Business.  “Policymakers are excitingly speaking of job creation, new sources of government revenue and the limitless potential of ocean entrepreneurship.”

        But the initiative is also worrying to those who see a ‘global ocean grab’ by the rich and powerful, deciding who shall benefit, who should decide how much to fish and where. A drive for maximum profit is underway and small-scale fisher people fear a “global ocean grab’ is in the works.

        Multinational corporations, states, NGOs, speculative investors and many others are behind a ‘power grab’ to gain control of aquatic - ‘blue’ - resources, critics charge.

        A recent report on “Ocean Prosperity” speaks optimistically of the potential for profit: “The transition to a blue economy is a tremendous economic and investment opportunity,” they write, “and this report will help investors understand the risks and opportunities for making money from ocean resources.”

        The rise of blue growth represents the latest stage in a move by powerful economic actors to control crucial decision-making – including the power to decide how and for what purposes marine resources are used, conserved and managed.

        Guided by the World Bank and similar institutions, an increasing number of African countries are now embracing the blue economy for its potential to deliver solutions to their most pressing needs – particularly extreme poverty and hunger.

        Fishing sits at the forefront of debates about how to make the most of the blue economy while preserving a fragile ecosystem, observes Jeremy Prince of Murdoch University’s Center for Fish and Fisheries Research in Perth, Australia.

        Support has been promised to the African Union from the Economic Commission for Africa to ensure that the untapped potentials of the blue economy are fully realized.

Newswire : Rep. Waters statement on Texas judge ruling Obamacare unconstitutional

Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA)

     WASHINGTON — Congresswoman Maxine Waters (CA-43) released the following statement today in response to the ruling of a federal judge in Texas that the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) is unconstitutional:

     “I am deeply disturbed by the ruling of a federal judge in Texas – who was appointed by a Republican – that Obamacare is unconstitutional. This court case was brought before the court by a group of Republican governors and state attorneys general who are continuing the Republican Party’s relentless campaign to repeal Obamacare and strip away its protections for people with pre-existing conditions. The case is further evidence that Republicans will stop at nothing to strike down Obamacare and take away health coverage from millions of Americans.

     “Ironically, this ruling comes barely a month after numerous Republicans stood for reelection while campaigning on the false premise that they actually cared about people with pre-existing conditions and were committed to protecting them. The American people were not fooled by these disingenuous claims, and many of these Republicans lost.

     “I applaud the announcement that the State of California, along with several other states led by Democrats, plans to appeal the court’s ruling. Obamacare has already survived several court challenges initiated by heartless Republicans, and I have no doubt it will survive this one.

     “Democrats just won a big victory in the 2018 midterm elections, after proving time and time again that we are the party that truly cares about the health and well-being of working families, seniors, veterans, the disabled and Americans with pre-existing conditions. As we take control of the House of Representatives, we will fight to protect the rights of all Americans to quality, affordable health care, and make certain that Obamacare and its protections for people with pre-existing conditions remain the law of the land.”