Newswire : African-Americans taking brunt of oil industry pollution: report

Oil frefinery
 Smoke is released into the sky at a refinery in Wilmington, California March 24, 2012. REUTERS/Bret Hartman/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – African-Americans face a disproportionate risk of health problems from pollution caused by the oil and gas industry, and the situation could worsen as President Donald Trump dismantles environmental regulations, according to a report issued on Tuesday by a pair of advocacy groups.

The report, issued by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People civil rights group and the Clean Air Task Force, said more than a million African-Americans live within half a mile (0.8 km) of an oil and gas operation, and more than 6.7 million live in a county that is home to a refinery.

“African-Americans are exposed to 38 percent more polluted air than Caucasian Americans, and they are 75 percent more likely to live in fence-line communities than the average American,” the report said, referring to neighborhoods adjacent to industrial facilities.
“In the current regulatory environment, the disproportionate burden of pollution will only increase for low-income communities and communities of color,” the report added
Trump’s administration has begun to unravel Obama-era environmental regulations limiting emissions of carbon dioxide and other pollutants, arguing they are overly costly for industry and unnecessary to protect public health.
A White House official declined to comment on the NAACP-CATF report. But Trump has said his pro-energy industry policies are good for blacks and other minorities because they will create jobs.
Officials for the American Petroleum Institute and the American Fuel and Petrochemicals Manufacturers, which represent the country’s largest fossil fuels companies, did not immediately comment on the report.
CATF and NAACP said in the report that communities should pressure their political representatives for strong environmental regulation.
“Defending the safeguards finalized during the Obama administration and pushing for additional protections against pollution from the oil and gas industry will help improve the health of many African American communities,” the report said.
It added that communities should lobby to have their nearby oil and gas facility shut down: “We must all learn about the oil and gas facilities that are located in our communities, and advocate for their decommissioning or removal.”
The Boston-based Clean Air Task Force issued a similar study in 2016 that linked ozone smog from natural-gas industry pollution to some 750,000 summertime asthma attacks in children, and 500,000 missed school days, per year.
Reporting and writing by Richard Valdmanis; Editing by Peter Cooney
Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Newswire : Democrats win governor’s races in Virginia, New Jersey; provide hope for Alabama special election – Dec. 12

By: John Whitesides, Reuters-Thompson

Fairfax and Northam
Justin Fairfax and Ralph Northam Celebrate Victory

16 WASHINGTON, Nov 7 (Reuters) – Democrat Ralph Northam won a bitter race for Virginia governor on Tuesday, beating a Republican who embraced some of President Donald Trump’s combative tactics and issues in a potential preview of next year’s midterm election battles.

Northam, the state’s lieutenant governor and a pediatrician, overcame a barrage of attack ads by Republican Ed Gillespie that hit the soft-spoken Democrat on divisive issues such as immigration, gang crime and Confederate statues. Justin Fairfax, an African-American, was elected as Lieutenant Governor in Virginia.
The Northam victory in a state that Democrat Hillary Clinton won by 5 percentage points in the 2016 presidential election was a boost for national Democrats who were desperate to turn grassroots enthusiasm to resist Trump into election victories.
Tom Perez, Chair of the Democratic National Committee, said, “We invested more in boots on the ground and grassroots and digital organizing than in any “off-year” before. Good old-fashioned organizing paired with the latest technology and tools helped put our candidates over the top.

“I am so proud of the campaigns run by Virginia’s Ralph Northam, Justin Fairfax, and Mark Herring, New Jersey’s Phil Murphy and Sheila Oliver, and Democrats all over the country, up and down the ballot. These candidates worked hard day in and day out fighting to represent their states, and I know that they will take that same spirit and fight into their terms.

“We are going to keep investing in state parties and supporting Democrats from the school board to the Oval Office. And if we continue to channel our energy into powering this movement, there’s no doubt in my mind that we will see wins like this in 2018, 2020, and beyond.”

Perez and other Democratic leaders pointed to the upcoming Special Election in Alabama on December 12, as another race that can be won by Democratic candidate, Doug Jones, with strong grassroots support.
While Democrats had already lost four special congressional elections earlier this year, Tuesday’s results seem to signal a change in the national political mood.
In a sign of the high stakes, Trump took a break from his Asia visit to send tweets and record messages on behalf of Gillespie, a former chairman of the national party. Trump had endorsed Gillespie but did not campaigned with him.
The Virginia race highlighted a slate of state and local elections that also included a governor’s race in New Jersey, where Democrat Phil Murphy, a former investment banker and ambassador to Germany, defeated Republican Kim Guadagno for the right to succeed Republican Chris Christie.
Murphy had promised to be a check on Trump in Democratic-leaning New Jersey, and Guadagno, the lieutenant governor, was hampered by her association with the unpopular Christie.
In Virginia, Democrats had worried that if Gillespie won, Republicans would see it as a green light to emphasize cultural issues in their campaigns for next year’s elections, when all 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and 33 of the U.S. Senate’s 100 seats come up for election. Republicans now control both chambers.
In Virginia on Tuesday, grassroots campaigners fueled the victory of Justin Fairfax in his historic race for Lieutenant Governor — only the second Black candidate ever elected to statewide office in Virginia. Justin’s huge win was driven by a multiracial grassroots coalition, including DFA and Indivisible volunteers on the ground and on DFA Dialer — the largest national volunteer-led calling program in the country focused on mobilizing sporadic Democratic voters to the polls.
In a significant shift in power in Virginia’s House of Delegates, as of right now 14 out of 16 DFA-endorsed candidates — including progressive fighters like Jennifer Carroll Foy, Donte Tanner, Chris Hurst, Jennifer Boysko, and Hala Ayala — have defeated NRA-backed candidates in several critical races, setting the stage for Democrats potentially taking back control of the chamber.

Of particular note in Virginia are the history-making victories of Danica Roem, who will be the nation’s first transgender state legislator, and Elizabeth Guzman, who will be the first Latina and one of the first first-generation immigrants to serve in the Virginia General Assembly.

Newswire : Sens. Lamar Alexander, Patty Murray reveal outline of health insurance deal

By: Associated Press
Sens. Patty Murray and Lamar Alexander
Senator Patty Murray and Senator Lamar Alexander

Two leading senators said Tuesday they have the “basic outlines” of a bipartisan agreement to resume federal payments to health insurers that President Donald Trump has blocked. The agreement also includes funding for advertising and navigators for the ACA healthcare marketplaces that were also cut by the President. Both Senators said in separate interviews that they still have unresolved issues but expressed optimism that a compromise was near.
The agreement would involve a two-year extension of federal payments to insurers that Trump halted last week, said Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn. Unless the money is quickly restored, insurers and others say that will result in higher premiums for people buying individual policies and in some carriers leaving unprofitable markets.
In exchange, Republicans want Congress to give states “meaningful” flexibility to ease some coverage requirements under President Barack Obama’s health care law. “The definition of meaningful,” Alexander said when asked what the remaining stumbling blocks were.
Alexander agreed with his negotiating partner, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., who said the two lawmakers “have the basic outlines” of an agreement but have differences to bridge.
The two senators planned to brief colleagues in separate GOP and Democratic Senate lunches. Alexander chairs the Senate health committee and Murray is that panel’s top Democrat.
Murray and Alexander began talks on extending the payments months ago, when Trump was frequently threatening to stop the subsidies. Both said they were close to a deal, but GOP leaders shut the effort down in September when the Senate revisited the Republican drive to repeal Obama’s law. The repeal effort failed, as did an earlier GOP attempt to dismantle the law in July.
Trump’s halt of the payments and worries about its impact have galvanized lawmakers in both parties to take action to prevent it.
Even so, strong opposition by some conservatives means the congressional fate of a compromise would be uncertain. For their part, Democrats believe Republicans in control of Washington will be blamed by voters for future health care problems and are reluctant to bend too far toward GOP demands for opening loopholes in Obama’s law.
Alexander said Trump has twice in recent days urged him to reach a deal with Murray. “He says he doesn’t want people to be hurt in this interim,” said Alexander, a reference to Trump’s desire to revisit the effort to scrap Obama’s statute next year.
Trump repeated his gloomy assessment of a law that’s expanded health coverage to 20 million people and required insurers to cover specified services and limit costs, but has also seen premiums rise and limited competition in some regions.
“Obamacare is virtually dead. At best you could say it’s in its final legs. The premiums are going through the roof. The deductibles are so high that people don’t get to use it. Obamacare is a disgrace to our nation and we are solving the problem of Obamacare,” he told reporters in the Oval Office.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Trump’s stoppage of the payments “showed that he’s willing to take a wrecking ball to our nation’s health care for the sake of politics.” He said congressional support for an agreement between Alexander and Murray would show lawmakers have “no intention of going along with President Trump’s reckless sabotage of the nation’s health care law.”
Under Obama’s 2010 overhaul, the government must pay insurers for reducing out-of-pocket expenses for lower-earning customers. A federal judge has ruled that Congress hadn’t legally approved the payments, but Obama — and initially Trump — continued them anyway. Trump halted them last week, even though by law insurers must continue reducing costs for lower-income consumers.
Trump and some Republicans consider the payments to be bailouts to carriers. But Democrats and some Republicans say halting them will create chaos in insurance market places.
The so-called cost-sharing reductions cost around $7 billion this year and lower expenses like co-payments and deductibles for more than 6 million people. The people receiving this marketplace subsidy live in states carried by Trump in the 2016 Presidential election.

Newswire : Kamala Harris: U.S. isn’t as split as it seems

Bill Barrow, Associated Press

 

Senator Kamala Harris
 California Senator Kamala Harris

ATLANTA (AP) — Making her first high-profile foray into the Southern Black church, California Sen. Kamala Harris told a Georgia congregation founded by former freed slaves that the United States remains wracked by racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination that flout the nation’s core values.
But the rising Democratic Party star added that Americans aren’t as split as “forces of hate and division” suggest. “I believe it is time we replace the divide-and-conquer,” she said from the pulpit of First Congregational Church in downtown Atlanta, adding that national unity comes from citizens’ recognizing their share priorities while still honoring diversity.
A 52-year-old, first-term senator widely mentioned as a potential national candidate, Harris did not mention President Donald Trump in her remarks.
Yet her approach highlights a complex political task for Democrats as they try to counter Trump’s economic appeals to working-class whites, while honoring their core supporters among nonwhites, to rebuild the electoral coalitions that twice elected President Barack Obama. And the choice of venue — a congregation that includes business, civic and political players in Atlanta’s black community — also nods to a Democratic constituency that helped sway the party’s last two presidential nominating battles.
Harris’s future prospects dominated her appearance as the invited keynote for the 150th anniversary of First Congregational Church’s founding.
Introducing Harris, church member and personal friend of the senator Eugene Duffy called the occasion “a day of projection and reflection.” At the word “projection,” Duffy pointed at the senator.
Duffy also dispensed with Harris’s avoidance of lambasting the Trump administration, praising her for her aggressive questioning of “that white supremacist Jeff Sessions,” the nation’s attorney general. He said Harris “pulled (Sessions’) sheet off” at hearings on Capitol Hill.
Harris smiled but did not clap as did many congregants when Duffy blasted Sessions.
From the pulpit, Harris criticized “the attorney general,” without naming Sessions, for renewing the push for harsher sentences in nonviolent drug crimes and for rolling back some of policing overhauls from the Obama administration.
A former local prosecutor and California attorney general who opposes the death penalty, Harris says she advocates a criminal justice system that honors “the concept of redemption.”
Separately, Harris called for a more effective U.S. response to hurricane devastation in Puerto Rico. She did not mention health care. She’s recently signed on as a co-sponsor of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ “Medicare-for-all” bill.
Harris, the daughter of immigrants from Jamaica and India, does not publicly embrace speculation about her 2020 intentions. Her calendar is noticeably devoid of visits to the early nominating states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. But she’s also met in recent months with key Democratic donors and hired aides who worked for 2016 presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
And her path to the Democratic nomination would certainly run through voters like those she addressed Sunday in Atlanta. Obama in 2008 and Clinton in 2016 each lost the cumulative white vote in Democratic primary states, according to exit polls, but both of the eventual nominees won black voters overwhelmingly, propelling them to key victories in Southern states that gave them early delegate leads they never relinquished.

Newswire : The real story behind that ‘Blacks for Trump’ guy at the Arizona rally

Maurice Symonette pushes wild conspiracy theories and once followed a killer cult leader.

By Nina Golgowski, Huffington Post
Blacks for Trump.jpg

Black man with sign and T-shirt at Arizona rally

Waving a “Blacks for Trump” sign behind President Donald Trump on Tuesday night, he was impossible to miss. Maurice Symonette, who has also called himself “Michael the Black Man” and Maurice Woodside, was an eye-catching figure during the rally in Phoenix. Trump supporters lauded him on social media for his T-shirt reading “Trump & Republicans Are Not Racist.”
Perhaps they should have checked him out first.
Between his signs and his shirt that night, Symonette was also showcasing two websites: blacksfortrump2020.com and gods2.com. Click on either and you’ll be taken to honestfact.com, which spews a range of rambling conspiracy theories.
One claims to link Hillary Clinton with the Islamic State and the criminal gang MS-13. Another declares that “Cherokees are the real KKK Racist Slave Masters, not White Gentiles who are Black Peoples Republican Emancipators!”
Symonette has uploaded a number of long-winded videos on YouTube, often as “Michael the Black Man.” There he discusses his theories on race wars involving Democrats, gentiles, Canaanites and the Cherokee.
Speaking to a Chicago radio station on Wednesday, Symonette said that he arrived early at the Phoenix rally and that allowed him to secure a prominent place close behind the president.
“I wasn’t placed [behind Trump], I put myself there,” he told WLS-AM 890. “I’m glad I was there so I could get the message out, tell people what’s going on with Democrats and the Cherokee Indians that are absolutely destroying the black man and the white man of America.”
When the radio hosts expressed surprise that he would get such a coveted seat, Symonette added, “I don’t really know how it works. They have seen me a lot of times.”
Photos posted online certainly support that statement. Symonette’s Facebook page shows pictures of him posing with a number of high-profile Republican politicians and Trump supporters, including Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and the president’s oldest son, Donald Trump Jr. There are also videos of him at a rally with Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) and celebrating with Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway outside what appears to be Trump Tower in New York City.
And last year, the Miami New Times reported that Symonette and his signs had scored prime seating at more than one Trump rally in Florida.
Symonette has popped up in a number of mugshots as well. His rap sheet lists arrests for racketeering, firebombing, conspiracy in 14 murders, and grand theft auto, the New Times reported in 2011. None of the charges stuck, however.

In the early 1990s, Symonette, who then went by the name of Maurice Woodside, was arrested along with other members of an African-American cult called the Temple of Love, the New Times reported. Its leader, Yahweh ben Yahweh (formerly known as Hulon Mitchell Jr.), was later sentenced to 20 years in federal prison for conspiring to commit murder. Symonette was acquitted.
During Wednesday’s radio interview, Symonette defended Yahweh ben Yahweh as “not violent.” He had told the New Times that he was 21 when he met the Temple of Love leader and became enthralled by the man’s preachings. “He got me by just walking up and saying, ‘All white people are the Devil,’” Symonette recalled. “I was a real militant race warrior right then, so I said, ‘Whoa! Yeah, that’s right!’”
Symonette has said he started following Yahweh ben Yahweh, after the cult leader came up to him and declared “all white people are the Devil.”
Symonette’s views have changed over the years. Long after Yahweh ben Yahweh went to prison, his former follower started participating in political protests against Barack Obama. In 2008, Symonette reportedly claimed that then-Sen. Obama had tried to have him assassinated.
Last year, he tried to paint Hillary Clinton as the presidential candidate who was too close to racists, by accusing her of once “kissing the head of the Ku Klux Klan” and saying, “That’s my mentor.” The trouble with that conspiracy theory was that the man Clinton greeted was the late Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), who by the time she praised him had long since evolved from a one-time member of the KKK to a strong supporter of advancing civil rights.

Newswire : President Obama’s policies still drive economic growth

By Lauren Victoria Burke (NNPA Newswire Contributor)

obamaeconomy_fallen_web120_0155.jpg
Former President Barack Obama
In May of 2017, the Black unemployment rate hit its lowest level in 17 years: 7.5 percent. Then, in June, the jobless rate for Blacks fell to 7.1 percent, before rising to 7.4 percent in July, according to the latest jobs report.
The jobs numbers over the last six months have generally been impressive. It’s fascinating to note that, suddenly, all the accusations that low jobs numbers were “fake” when President Barack Obama was in office have suddenly vanished.
The Black unemployment rate hit 16.7 percent in September 2011—the highest Black unemployment since Ronald Reagan was in office pushing “trickle down” economics. Overall, the Black unemployment numbers were higher, on average, under President Obama than President George W. Bush or President Bill Clinton.
The 30 year-high for Black joblessness in late 2011 prompted members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) to embark on an August 2011 jobs tour. That same year, President Obama barked at members of the CBC at their annual gala to “put on your marching shoes…and stop whining and complaining.”
The Black unemployment rate, in general, was lower under President George W. Bush than it was under President Obama. Economists agree that the high jobless numbers, under President Obama, were largely driven by the economic downturn known as the Great Recession. Now, Obama’s economic policies are continuing to bear fruit during Trump’s first six months as the Black jobless numbers improve.
Black unemployment still remains double than it is for Whites. July’s numbers showed Black unemployment at 7.4 percent, Hispanics at 5.1 percent and Whites at 3.8.
In 2013, AFL-CIO Chief economist Bill Spriggs wrote: “A big puzzle in looking at the changes in the Black unemployment rate is the fact the Black labor force is older now than during past major downturns in the mid-1970s and early 1980s. In 1975, the Black unemployment rate spiked to 15.4 percent. In 1982 and 1983, the Black unemployment rate skyrocketed to above 20 percent for a nine-month period starting in October 1982.”
Several political observers pointed out that many jobs being added to the U.S. economy are in the service sector, such as restaurants and healthcare. “Ensuring workers have better jobs and better wages also means they should be trained with the tools they need to succeed in our economy,” said Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) the top Democrat on the Education & Workforce Committee in the House, in a statement on August 4.
The economy added 209,000 jobs in July.
Though the reasons for rising and falling Black unemployment over the last six months are not clear, it is clear that the current numbers reflect Obama’s economic policies; President Donald Trump has yet to implement any economic strategy and his proposed budget won’t take effect until next year, at the earliest. Additionally, Congress has passed nothing related to the economy regarding taxes or jobs.

 

 

Newswire : Black police executives reject Trump’s encouragement to rough up suspects

By Hazel Trice Edney

assistant chief perry tarrant - noble

Assistant Police Chief Perry Tarrant, surrounded by members of NOBLE. PHOTO: NOBLE website.
(TriceEdneyWire.com) – The Nation’s premier association of Black police executives – convening in Atlanta this week – has responded to rogue statements made by President Donald Trump encouraging police officers to “please, don’t be too nice” to suspects being arrested for violent crimes.
Speaking to law enforcement officials in Ronkonkoma, N. Y. about the brutal MS-13 gang, Trump said, “And when you see these towns and when you see these thugs being thrown into the back of a paddy wagon — you just see them thrown in, rough – I said, please don’t be too nice. Like when you guys put somebody in the car and you’re protecting their head, you know, the way you put their hand over? Like, don’t hit their head and they’ve just killed somebody – don’t hit their head. I said, you can take the hand away, okay?”
Many of the officers laughed and even applauded the comments. The White House has since attempted to downplay the statements claiming the President was only joking. But, his words caused chills for those recalling the string of police brutality cases across the nation that resulted in the deaths of Black people. Those cases include that of Baltimore’s Freddie Gray who died after a police paddy wagon ride that somehow led to a broken neck two years ago. The Freddie Gray case resulted in an uprising that included fires, millions of dollars in property damage and hundreds of arrests.
In a statement issued to the Trice Edney News Wire, Perry Tarrant, president of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE), reasserted principles to which all police officers must adhere when making an arrest – regardless of the charge.
“As NOBLE convenes its 41st Annual Training Conference in Atlanta, it reminds the nation of one of the bedrock’s of our democracy, equal protection under the law. All law enforcement officers play a critical role in determining the appropriate levels of use of force as they police communities across this nation,” Tarrant said. “As NOBLE continues its efforts to build one community (law enforcement is part of the community), we must always be vigilant in ensuring that the human rights of those in custody and/or suspected of crimes are protected.”
Trump’s statement was made during a season in which the clearly unwarranted killings of Black people by police have wreaked havoc across the nation. Mike Brown of Ferguson, Mo., Philando Castile of Falcon Heights, Minn., Eric Garner of Staton Island, N.Y., and Tamir Rice of Cleveland, Ohio are just a few of the dead who have become iconic cases for police brutality in America.
Tarrant, elected NOBLE president last year, is well acquainted with the historic conflicts between police and the Black community. Upon his rise to the NOBLE presidency last year, he cited the need for trust and conversation between police and community.
Tarrant currently serves as assistant chief of the Special Operations Bureau for the Seattle Police Department. He spent 34 years with the Tucson, Ariz., Police Department, where he worked in patrol, the K-9 unit, SWAT team, bomb squad, aviation and internal affairs.
For 41 years, NOBLE has described itself as “the conscience of law enforcement by being committed to justice by action.” The organization represents “3,000 members internationally, who are primarily African-American chief executive officers of law enforcement agencies at federal, state, county and municipal levels, other law enforcement administrators, and criminal justice practitioners.”
In addition to NOBLE, a string of police bureaus and organizations across the nation publicly distanced themselves from the statements by Trump.
The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) also issued a statement saying, “Managing use of force is one of the most difficult challenges faced by law enforcement agencies. The ability of law enforcement officers to enforce the law, protect the public, and guard their own safety, the safety of innocent bystanders, and even those suspected or apprehended for criminal activity is very challenging. For these reasons, law enforcement agencies develop policies and procedures, as well as conduct extensive training, to ensure that any use of force is carefully applied and objectively reasonable considering the situation confronted by the officers.
The IACP concluded, “Law enforcement officers are trained to treat all individuals, whether they are a complainant, suspect, or defendant, with dignity and respect. This is the bedrock principle behind the concepts of procedural justice and police legitimacy.