Newswire : Montgomery school board votes to remove confederate names from schools

BY: Josh Moon, ALPolitical Reporters

Two confederate figures will be replaced by a renowned Black scientist and several Civil Rights Era figures. That, of course, is ludicrous. Lee was a slave owner who beat Black and tortured other humans for his own benefit. Davis was the leader of a traitorous revolt against this country – a revolt centered entirely on the issue of slave labor. In addition, neither man was from Montgomery, or even Alabama, and only Davis spent a miniscule amount of time in the state. 
In the meantime, Dr. Percy Julian was born in Montgomery and became one of the first Black scientists to earn a doctorate degree. He held more than 130 chemical patents and his work – pioneering the synthesis of medicinal drugs from plants – still influences the lives of every American on a daily basis. 
Judge Frank Johnson served as a federal judge in Montgomery and issued some of the most famous and consequential rulings of the Civil Rights Era. He is widely hailed as a champion of equality and justice, and some of his decisions still serve as precedent today. 
The Montgomery County School Board voted Thursday to officially remove the names of confederates from two city high schools and rename the schools after civil rights leaders, a federal judge and a renowned Black chemist. 
The school formerly known as Jefferson Davis High will be renamed Dr. Percy Julian High. Former Robert E. Lee High will now be called JAG High, an acronym combining the first initial of the last names of Judge Frank Johnson, Ralph Abernathy and Rev. Robert Graetz. 
“I’m glad we were able to put it on the table and move it forward,” said Montgomery Superintendent Melvin Brown, who made the formal recommendation for the name changes. “We can now get this change going in a positive direction. The bottom line is we’re going to make decisions based on what our kids need and not based around whatever nostalgia might exist.”
The renaming of the two high schools has been, unfortunately, a controversial issue, and the renaming of the schools did not receive unanimous approval from the county board. Two members voted against it, with one of those members proclaiming that choosing the civil rights leaders and a Black scientist was just as divisive as naming the schools for a confederate general and the former confederate president. 
Ralph Abernathy, a Baptist minister, was one of the most consequential figures of the Civil Rights Movement, working hand in hand with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Abernathy helped create the Montgomery Improvement Association, which launched the 1955 Bus Boycott – the starting point to the Civil Rights Movement. He also founded the Southern Christian Leadership Council and led hundreds of protests and movements in the name of equality. 
And Rev. Robert Graetz was one of the few white ministers to participate in the Civil Rights Movement. Graetz and his wife, Jeannie, took over a small, predominantly Black church in Montgomery just prior to the Bus Boycott and helped facilitate the transportation and other needs of the participants. Their home was bombed multiple times as a result. 
“The community wanted the names (of the schools) to be reflective of the people who live in Montgomery now,” said board member Arica Watkins-Smith.

Newswire: Texas judge stops President Biden’s Student Loan Forgiveness Program

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

A federal judge in Texas bent to the will of a few and struck down President Joe Biden’s student loan forgiveness program that offered relief to at least 40 million borrowers.
The conservative group, Job Creators Network Foundation, filed the lawsuit against the plan on behalf who two individuals who didn’t qualify for relief under Biden’s program. There remains another legal challenge to the plan.
“We strongly disagree with the District Court’s ruling on our student debt relief program, and the Department of Justice has filed an appeal,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.
“The President and this Administration are determined to help working, and middle-class Americans get back on their feet, while our opponents – backed by extreme Republican special interests – sued to block millions of Americans from getting much-needed relief,” she stated.
White House officials maintain that the Secretary of Education received power from Congress to discharge student loan debt under the 2003 HEROES Act. “The program is thus an unconstitutional exercise of Congress’s legislative power and must be vacated,” wrote Judge Mark Pittman, a Donald Trump nominee.
“In this country, we are not ruled by an all-powerful executive with a pen and a phone,” he continued.
Under the president’s plan, borrowers who earned less than $125,000 in either 2020 or 2021 and married couples or heads of households who made less than $250,000 annually in those years are eligible to have up to $10,000 of their federal student loan debt forgiven.
If a qualifying borrower also received a federal Pell grant, the individual would receive as much as $20,000 of debt forgiveness.
In October, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals placed an administrative hold on Biden’s forgiveness program based on a suit filed by six GOP-led states.
In the most recent case in Texas, one plaintiff did not qualify for the student loan forgiveness program because the federal government does not hold her loans.
The other plaintiff is only eligible for $10,000 in debt relief because he did not receive a Pell grant.
They argued that they could not voice their disagreement with the program’s rules because the administration did not put it through a formal notice-and-comment rule-making process under the Administrative Procedure Act.
“This ruling protects the rule of law which requires all Americans to have their voices heard by their federal government,” said Elaine Parker, president of the Job Creators Network Foundation, in a statement.
CNN reported that major Trump donor and former Home Depot CEO Bernie Marcus founded Job Creators Network Foundation.

Newswire: Vernice Miller-Travis, a crusader who continues the struggle to weed out environmental racism

Vernice Miller-Travis

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

Vernice Miller-Travis has consistently recognized racism, including how race has played a significant role in environmental policy.
She’s the vice chair of Clean Water Action’s board of directors, executive vice president for environmental and social justice at Metropolitan Group, and co-founder of We Act for Environmental Justice.
Miller-Travis said that it’s her job to analyze data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s list of national priorities.
In that way, she’s able to keep abreast of hazardous waste sites in the United States, including the ones that pose an immediate health and environmental threat.
“You get to see the pattern,” Miller-Travis told National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) President and CEO Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr.
“The pattern around the racial composition of who lives in a particular place in proximity to a hazardous waste site is not random,” she said during a riveting conversation inside NNPA’s state-of-the-art television studios in Washington.
The full discussion will air on Chavis’ PBS-TV Show, The Chavis Chronicles.
And when there’s any pushback, Miller-Travis stands at the ready.
“When they ask whether they’re being accused of being racist, I tell them that what I’m saying is that your policies you utilize have an unequal impact that people of color are always adversely affected, not white people.”
Born in 1959 at New York’s Harlem Hospital, where both her parents worked, Miller-Travis said she spent a lot of time at the famed health center.
She attended Barnard College before earning a political science degree from Columbia University’s School of General Studies.
“I started as a researcher working for the civil rights division of a small Protestant Church known as United Church of Christ – the remnants of the church established by the pilgrims,” Miller-Travis said.
As she spoke with National Newspaper Publishers Association President and CEO Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr., for a segment of his PBS-TV show, The Chavis Chronicles, they shared stories about the 40th anniversary of the Warren County, North Carolina protest that officially birthed the movement.
“One of the people leading that struggle was a minister in the United Church of Christ, and he called up to the headquarters in New York City and said, look, we need help. Nobody has talked to us, and the state has not reached out. There have been no briefings, no hearings, no nothing,” Miller-Travis recalled.
“And so, the national church did all they could to help and bring attention to it, but they thought, this is kind of curious.”
She continued: “We need to see if what’s happening in Warren County is endemic to what’s happening in rural North Carolina – is it the southeast? Is it bigger than that? And they hired me as a research assistant to help identify what we would then call environmental injustice and environmental racism, which Dr. Chavis coined the term.”
“And we found that race was the most statistically significant indicator of where hazardous waste sites were located across these United States, not just North Carolina.”
Miller-Travis said her grandmother encouraged her to use her “practical knowledge” as a scientist to understand the circumstances affecting predominately Black communities.
“Nobody was researching the lived experience in terms of environmental impacts on communities of color, on low-income communities, on tribal communities,” Miller-Travis recalled.
“People were focused on endangered species, endangered water bodies – that was where the environmental community’s head was. They were working on hazardous waste issues, but no one was connecting race and environmental threats’ location. So, we were the first folks to do this.”
She continued: “We published a report in 1987 called ‘Toxic Waste and Race in the United States,’ published by the United Church of Christ’s Commission for Racial Justice, which set the whole conversation aloft in this country.
Miller-Travis later traveled to Washington, where the First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit took place.
She said she realized then that environmental racism existed throughout the United States.
Miller-Travis helped to adopt the 17 Principles of Environmental Justice, which remains relevant as the world wrestles with climate change, global warming, and a woeful environment.
However, she said she’s optimistic because the Biden-Harris administration has proven aggressive in its approach to these issues.
“This has been the most aggressive White House administration to address environmental injustice and environmental inequities in the history of the United States of America,” Miller-Travis asserted.
“They have policies, objectives, staff, executive orders specifically about environmental injustice in the climate space, and an executive order on addressing systemic racism across the breadth of the federal government.”

Newswire: Karen Bass wins election to become first Black woman Mayor of Los Angeles

Karen Bass at victory celebration

 By Bruce C.T. Wright, NewsOne


Following more than a week of counting ballots and tabulating votes, U.S. Rep Karen Bass was finally projected to win the Los Angeles mayor race and become the first Black woman to ever serve in that role. In fact, Bass is also now the first woman period to ever be elected mayor of Los Angeles.
The Associated Press called the race on Wednesday night with more than 70% of the votes counted as it became apparent that the electoral math wasn’t in the favor of Bass’ billionaire opponent, Caruso.
Mayor-elect Bass “amassed an insurmountable lead of nearly 47,000 votes,” the AP reported. “She had 53.1%, with Caruso notching 46.9%.”
The election was hailed in part as a victory for women.
“Karen Bass’ victory is important to the people of Los Angeles because she is one of us,” Emiliana Guereca, Founder and President of Women’s March Action, said in a statement emailed to NewsOne after the election results were announced. “She will fight for women’s rights, build bridges, help house the homeless, secure federal dollars and bring fresh energy to City Hall. She is going to be a great role model and will make us proud.”
Last week’s election served as a runoff months after neither Bass nor Caruso eclipsed the 50% mark during the primary in June.
At the time, Bass said she was confident of her chances in November and accurately predicted, “we are going to win.”
Bass, a sitting U.S. Congresswoman who has served California’s 37th Congressional District, which includes Los Angeles, since 2010. But she began gearing up for her mayoral run last year and suggested at the time that she was the right person to address Los Angeles’ “humanitarian crisis in homelessness and a public health crisis” from the pandemic.
Caruso, a wealthy real estate developer who similarly ran on a platform that promised to “clean up” homelessness in Los Angeles, where Black people make up 34% of the city’s homeless population, also placed a heavy emphasis on policing.
In a memorable moment during the campaign, Caruso rejected the notion that he is “a white man” during a debate against Bass last month. Caruso claimed his “Latin” heritage as an Italian precludes him from being described as “a white man.”
Caruso is, of course, a white man.
The victory for Bass — a 69-year-old native Angeleno who Joe Biden seriously considered to be his vice-presidential running mate in 2020 — makes her the latest inductee into a growing club of Black mayors of major cities who have been elected in recent years, at least 11 of whom were sworn in this year alone. She will also become the second-ever Black mayor of the city. Tom Bradley served as Los Angeles’ first Black Mayor from 1973-1993.
The current Mayor Eric Garcetti was forced to leave office because of term limits.
Prior to running for mayor, Bass was a core member of the bipartisan Congressional group leading the efforts on a police reform bill. The former Congressional Black Caucus chair has also been an ardent advocate for voting rights particularly for Black people.

Newswire: Rep. Hakeem Jeffries announces bid to replace Nancy Pelosi as Democratic leader

Congressman Hakeem Jeffries

By Scott Wong and Sahil Kapur, NBC News

WASHINGTON — New York Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, the fourth-ranking House Democrat, said Friday that he will run to replace House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as the party’s leader after Republicans took back control of the chamber in last week’s midterm elections.
His announcement in a letter to colleagues came a day after Pelosi said in a powerful floor speech that she is stepping down after a two-decade reign as the top leader of House Democrats.

If Jeffries is successful, it would represent a historic passing of the torch: Pelosi made history as the first female speaker of the House, while Jeffries, the current Democratic Caucus chairman, would become the first Black leader of a congressional caucus and highest-ranking Black lawmaker on Capitol Hill. If Democrats were to retake control of the House — a real possibility with Republicans having such a narrow majority — Jeffries would be in line to be the first Black speaker in the nation’s history.
The ascension of the 52-year-old Jeffries to minority leader would also represent generational change. Pelosi and her top two deputies — Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., and Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, D-S.C. — are all in their 80s and are receiving from within the party for “new blood” in leadership; Hoyer will not seek another leadership post while Clyburn plans to stay on and work with the next generation.
Reps. Katherine Clark, D-Mass., and Pete Aguilar, D-Calif., are seeking to round out the new leadership team, announcing Friday that they will run for the No. 2 and No. 3 spots in leadership. Clark, 59, announced a bid for Democratic Whip, while Aguilar, 43, is running for Democratic Caucus Chair.
Pelosi endorsed all three to succeed her leadership team in a statement Friday, saying they are “ready and willing to assume this awesome responsibility.” Clyburn has also endorsed the three, while Hoyer backed Jeffries for leader on Thursday.
“In the 118th Congress, House Democrats will be led by a trio that reflects our beautiful diversity of our nation,” Pelosi said. “Chair Jeffries, Assistant Speaker Clark and Vice Chair Aguilar know that, in our Caucus, diversity is our strength and unity is our power.”
Clyburn, a towering figure in the caucus and close ally of President Joe Biden, called his protege Jeffries “absolutely fantastic” and signaled support for a full slate of younger set of leaders taking the reins of the Democratic leadership apparatus: Jeffries, Clark, and Aguilar

Newswire : Young researcher from Ivory Coast tapped for women in science prize

Adjata Kamara, scientific researcher

Nov. 14, 2022 (GIN) – Twenty-five-year-old Adjata Kamara’s specialized research into plant-based biopesticides brought her to the attention of the L’Oréal Foundation and UNESCO – two organizations which aim to give visibility to women researchers worldwide. 
 
This week, Kamara was among 20 young women working in science to receive the UNESCO/L’Oreal prize. She had been exploring the use of plant extracts, fungi and beneficial bacteria on yams rather than chemicals which, she said, depletes the soil. Yams are a root that is highly prized in sub-Saharan Africa.
 
“The prize allows me to show my research to other women, to other countries and it puts a little pressure on me because I tell myself that now I have to be a role model for young girls in science,” she said.
 
Adjata explains that her goal is to develop “biopesticides based on plant extracts, fungi and beneficial bacteria,” in order to treat without chemicals this anomaly that disrupts the production of a plant that is the basis of staple food in several regions of Africa.
 
“I work on the development of biopesticides based on plant extracts, bacteria and also fungi. These bacteria and fungi are said to be beneficial and so I’m trying to find methods to control the fungi that attack post-harvest yams,” said Adjata.
 
Adjata is one of the twenty laureates of the “For women in science” young talent prize from sub-Saharan Africa who will receive US$10,000 to help them in their work.
 
She explained her interest in the field: “From an early age, my father had a mango plantation. And this plantation was attacked by mushrooms, but at that time we did not know it. And as the years passed, there was a drop in production. And from then on, I wanted to know why these mangoes were being attacked (by fungi), and why production was falling. And it’s since then that I devoted myself to it and that I loved science.”
 
 

Newswire : Wes Moore wins Maryland, becomes third elected Black governor in American history

Wes Moore campaigning with President Biden

By Hamil R. Harris

(TriceEdneyWire.com) – Wes Moore, the son of a single mother who rose to become a Rhodes Scholar, Army Captain and best selling author, was elected as the governor of Maryland on Tuesday. Moore is not only Maryland’s first African-American governor, but only the third Black person elected as governor following L. Douglas Wilder of Virginia and Deval Patrick of Massachusetts.
“Thank you Maryland! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you Maryland!” said Moore during an acceptance speech standing with his wife, children and mother in Baltimore. “What an amazing night and what an improbable journey.”
During his speech, Moore thanked outgoing Republican Governor Larry Hogan who supported him over Donald Trump-backed opponent on a night when results show a politically divided country.
But Moore looked at the racially mixed crowd and said, “You believed in this moment: our state could be bolder. You believed in this moment our state could go faster.”
In a glorious tribute, Moore thanked his wife, children and his mother. But the Moore victory came on a tough night for both Republicans and Democrats who are still awaiting which party will control the House and the Senate.
Among other key races:
In Georgia, Gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams lost her rematch with Gov. Brian Kemp 53.4 percent-45.9 percent.
Also in Georgia, Sen. Raphael Warnock appears to have narrowly defeated former NFL star Herschel Walker 49.42 percent-48.52 percent. But that race is headed to a run-off because neither candidate got 51 percent of the vote Dec. 6.
In Pennsylvania, Democrat John Fetterman defeated Trump-backed Dr. Mehmet Oz. 
Republican JD Vance defeated Democrat Tim Ryan in Ohio.
In Wisconsin, Democrat Mandela Barnes is trailing Republican Ron Johnson 50.5 percent to 49.5 percent with 98 percent of the votes counted.
Republicans appear to have won control of the U. S. House of Representatives by a slim margin because in the state of Florida the GOP gained four new seats after redistricting. Control of the Senate was still too close to call.  
With heated races and millions of people voting, election protection was very much on the minds of civil rights activists across the US. A network of “poll chaplains” stood outside precincts across the country to pray and ensure that voters exercised their right to vote on Election Day.
Reminiscent of the days when civil rights activists faced racism, police dogs, and poll taxes, Organizers of the “Faith United to Save Democracy Campaign recruited, trained, and mobilized faith leaders of many races to promote peace at the polls.
“We have recruited and trained more than 700 poll chaplains in 10 states who are committed to providing a peaceful and calming presence at polling sites across America,” said Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner, Co-Coordinator of FUSD. “This is the time of year when misinformation and disinformation are heightened to discourage vulnerable voters from making it to the polls.”
Skinner said she was moved to organize such an effort after the 2020 elections when conservatives in 49 states proposed 440 anti-voting measures 19 states passed 33 laws making it harder to vote, including laws that prohibited food and water from being given to people waiting in line to vote.
Skinner said while in previous years the focus was on turning out the “Black Vote,” the focus was expanded to include people of many races because “Jews and Muslims and Quakers were affected and in effect, these laws also would have an impact on people, “young and old, Latino, white, Native American and we could not afford to keep our focus so narrow.”
Rev. Gerald Durley, the retired pastor of the Provident Baptist Church in Atlanta, has worked hard to get people to vote. He said he wouldn’t just take the word of his grandchildren. “I had my grandchildren send me photos showing that they voted because it is just that important,” Durley said. “We can’t afford a runoff because you just don’t know what will happen.”
Last month pastors in Georgia announced a massive effort to ensure that over 1,000 local churches, synagogues, mosques, and other faith institutions create their own customized voter engagement campaigns to provide every person within their local congregations has the information and ability to vote this Fall.
“In 2020, African-Americans in Georgia made voting history, and we are clearly on the verge of doing it once again,” said AME Bishop Reginald T. Jackson, the Presiding Prelate of the Sixth Episcopal District and a founding member of Faith Works. “Despite every effort by extremists to minimize Black turnout this voting cycle, our communities are responding like never before with urgency and enthusiasm. With early voting finally rolling out next week, Georgia will see that our communities are organized and determined.”
Meanwhile, on the eve of the election, President Biden and First Lady Jill Biden came to the campus of Bowie State University in Maryland to rally supporters for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wes Moore. “I am so thankful for the first family to be here,” Moore said. “If we stand divided, we can not win. If we stand together, we can not lose. Democracy is not just a day. Democracy is not just a single act; it is an honored commitment.”
By lunchtime on Election Day, the Washington DC command center of Faith United was staffed and filled with volunteers to answer calls coming in from across the country. Rev. Jim Wallace, Chair and Director of the Faith and Justice Center at Georgetown University, was happy to report that things were quiet during the first half of Election Day. The Command Center will continue to monitor the voting situation in 10 key battleground states: Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin.
“Despite voter suppression laws, people have been coming to the polls,” Wallace said. “More than 2.5 million people have voted, and Democracy is on the move.”

Newswire : Voters in deep red South Dakota approve Medicaid Expansion

By: Jake Johnson, Common Dreams

It is set to be seventh state to expand Medicaid through a ballot measure
Defying their right-wing political leaders, South Dakota voters on Tuesday approved a constitutional amendment to expand the state’s Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act, a move that will extend public health insurance coverage to around 45,000 low-income people.
With Tuesday’s vote, which currently sits at 56% in favor of the amendment and 44% against, South Dakota is set to become the seventh state to expand Medicaid through a ballot measure, keeping the undefeated streak for Medicaid initiatives intact.
“We’re glad that South Dakota voters saw that helping our neighbors get healthcare is the right thing to do,” Dave Kapaska, a retired hospital executive and co-chair of the American Heart Association’s volunteer cabinet for Medicaid expansion, said in a statement sent out by South Dakotans Decide Healthcare, the group that led the ballot campaign.
Approval of the ballot measure came months after South Dakotans rejected a GOP-backed constitutional amendment that raised the threshold for passage of most ballot initiatives from a simple majority to 60%, which would have spelled defeat for Medicaid expansion.
Prior to Tuesday, South Dakota was among  a dozen Republican controlled states, including Alabama, that refused to expand Medicaid coverage under the ACA, depriving millions of people across the U.S. of life saving care Under current South Dakota law, as Vox’s Dylan Scott explained Wednesday, “childless adults of working age cannot qualify for coverage at all.”
Medicaid is expanded despite opposition from the state’s Republican legislature and GOP Gov. Kristi Noem.
“Pregnant women, children, and the elderly can currently receive Medicaid benefits, but working parents must have a very low income—less than 63% of the federal poverty level, about $17,500 for a family of four—to enroll,” Scott added.
Zach Marcus, the campaign manager for South Dakotans Decide Healthcare, said in a statement that “there are thousands of people in South Dakota who are stuck in the middle.”
“They’re people who are making too much money to qualify for Medicaid, but still don’t make enough money to qualify for insurance on their own,” said Marcus.
Once Medicaid is expanded in South Dakota despite opposition from the state’s Republican legislature and GOP Gov. Kristi Noem, people between the ages of 18 and 65 who earn less than 138% of the federal poverty line—roughly $37,000 a year—will be eligible for coverage under the program.
“A dozen years after passage of Obamacare, there is still ideological opposition among many red state politicians to expanding Medicaid,” noted Larry Levitt, executive vice president for health policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation. “When voters have been able to weigh in directly like in South Dakota, the results are different.”

Newswire : CIA Director and Russian counterpart discuss Brittney Griner, Paul Whelan

Brittney Griner playing basketball in the WNBA

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

CIA director Bill Burns and Russia’s spy agency boss Sergey Naryshkin planned to meet this week to discuss potential consequences if nuclear weapons are used in the war against Ukraine.
But U.S. officials said Burns and Naryshkin, scheduled to meet on Monday, Nov. 14, also were expected to discuss the potential release of WNBA Star Brittney Griner and former U.S. military veteran Paul Whelan, both deemed by America as unlawfully detained citizens. The Biden administration has maintained its determination to bring home Griner and Whelan.
Russian authorities recently transferred Griner to the country’s dreaded penal colony, where many prisoners have detailed abuse along with a multitude of other human rights violations.
Russian officials jailed Griner in February when authorities arrested her at a Moscow airport after finding a small amount of cannabis oil in her luggage.
A court convicted Griner in August of trying to smuggle narcotics. She received a nine-year sentence, which an appeals court upheld last month.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said last week that President Biden had directed all in the administration to prevail on her “Russian captors” to improve Griner’s treatment and the conditions many must endure in the country’s penal colony.
Individuals who’ve spent time at one of Russia’s infamous penal colonies reported that prisoners aren’t allowed outside contact for weeks. The colonies are notorious for corrections officers’ repeated abuse of prisoners, violence among inmates, lack of food, and inadequate sanitation.
Confirmed reports said the United States government had offered to swap the so-called “Merchant of Death” Viktor Bout for Griner and another imprisoned American, Paul Whelan. Bout, who’s serving a 25-year federal prison sentence and notorious for his desire to kill Americans, reportedly has been at the top of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s wish list.
“We communicated a substantial offer that we believe could be successful based on a history of conversations with the Russians,” a senior administration official said earlier this year. “We communicated that many weeks ago, in June.”
The families of Whelan, who Russia has held for alleged espionage since 2018, and WNBA star Griner, jailed in Moscow for drug possession since February, have urged the White House to secure their release, including via a prisoner exchange, if necessary, the report stated.
During her court testimony, Griner said she’s still unsure how cannabis oil ended up in her luggage. She said a doctor recommended cannabis oil for her injuries on the basketball court.
“I still don’t understand to this day how they ended up in my bags,” Griner said, adding that she was aware of the Russian law outlawing cannabis oil and that she had not intended to break it. “I didn’t have any intention to use or keep in my possession any substance that is prohibited in Russia,” Griner said.
U.S. officials continue to wait for word from the Russian government on whether they will accept the swap, and now some are hoping that the planned meeting between the two Intelligence officials could yield results.

Newswire: Noose found at Obama Presidential Center site, pausing construction, builders say

 
The Obama Presidential Center under construction on Nov. 10, 2022. Brian Cassella / Chicago Tribune via Getty Images

By Phil Helsel, NBC News

Construction has been suspended at the Obama Presidential Center after a noose was found at the site on Chicago’s South Side, the builders said last Thursday, condemning what they called an “act of hate.”
“We are horrified that this would occur on our site,” the Lakeside Alliance, the group of construction companies building the center, said in a statement.
The Lakeside Alliance said it was informed Thursday morning about the discovery at the project site and reported it to police.  A Chicago police spokesperson said the department is investigating.
The Lakeside Alliance said it is pausing construction and offering a $100,000 reward to help find the person or people responsible.
“We have zero tolerance for any form of bias or hate on our worksite. Anti-bias training is included in our onboarding process and reiterated during site-wide meetings,” it said in a statement. “We are suspending all operations onsite in order to provide another series of these trainings and conversations for all staff and workers.”
The Obama Foundation said in a statement that its priority is the health and safety of its workforce.“This shameless act of cowardice and hate is designed to get attention and divide us,” the foundation said.
The center, which will commemorate and preserve materials from Barack Obama’s presidency, will include a museum, a plaza, a rooftop garden and a new branch of the Chicago Public Library, among other features, according to its website.
The project broke ground in September 2021 and is expected to open in 2025, according to the center.