Newswire: Abrams blasts Trump, McConnell for ‘power grab’ after State of the Union Address

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

Stacey Abrams


Stacey Abrams may not be the governor of Georgia, but she did make history on Tuesday, Feb. 5.
After patiently waiting in the wings as President Donald Trump used 90 minutes to deliver what was supposed to be a 45-minute State of the Union Address, Abrams provided a scathing Democratic rebuttal to the president’s highly-scripted speech to Congress on Tuesday, Feb. 5.
In doing so, Abrams became the first Black woman for either party to deliver a formal response to the State of the Union. Speaking firmly and with a fervor that has earned her the national stage, the former Georgia Gubernatorial candidate said the “hopes of American families are being crushed” by Republican political leadership.
“In Georgia and around the country, people are striving for a middle class where a salary truly equals economic security,” Abrams said. “But instead, families’ hopes are being crushed by Republican leadership that ignores real life or just doesn’t understand it.”
The response is a tradition undertaken by a representative of the president’s opposing party, who gives a speech immediately after the State of the Union to rebut claims made in his address.
According to CBS News, the first rebuttal was delivered by Republican Sen. Everett Dirksen and Rep. Gerald Ford in response to President Lyndon B. Johnson’s 1966 State of the Union. Since 2011, there have been responses in English and one in Spanish given by a separate speaker.
The address has usually been given by a member of Congress or a sitting governor, making Abrams an intriguing choice given she doesn’t currently hold a political office.
Only one other time has an elected official not holding statewide or federal office given their party’s response: Elizabeth Guzman, a Democratic member of the Virginia House of Delegates, delivered the Spanish-language response for Democrats in 2018, CBS reported. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra gave the Spanish address this year.
However, since losing her gubernatorial bid, Abrams has said she is open to running for political office again. Abrams talked about family values – taught by her parents. In one instance on a cold winter night, her family went looking for her father and when they found him walking along a road, he was shivering and without a coat.
“He had given his coat to a homeless man,” Abrams said. “I knew he would still be alone when I left him, but I knew you were coming for me,” she said, relating her father’s words. “I hold fast to my father’s credo, we are coming for a better America,” Abrams said.
Abrams railed against Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell over the government shutdown. Abrams noted McConnell’s recent verbal assaults on a House Democratic voting rights and an election bill that he has labeled a Democratic “power grab.”
“Voter suppression is real … we can no longer ignore these threats to Democracy. We cannot accept efforts to undermine our right to vote,” Abrams said. “This is the next battle for our democracy, one where all eligible citizens can have their say about the vision we want for our country,” she said. “We must reject the cynicism that says allowing every eligible vote to be cast and counter is a ‘power grab.’”
She blasted Trump and McConnell noting the missed paydays and the struggles of more than 800,000 federal workers who could still face another shutdown in just a couple of weeks because Trump wants to build a $5 billion wall on the southern border.
“Just a few weeks ago, I joined volunteers to distribute meals to furloughed federal workers. They waited in line for a box of food and a sliver of hope since they hadn’t received a paycheck in weeks,” Abrams said. “Making their livelihoods a pawn for political games is a disgrace,” she said.
Further driving home her point, Abrams continued: “The shutdown was a stunt engineered by the president of the United States, one that defied every tenet of fairness and abandoned not just our people, but our values.”
Trump, who continues to garner headlines over a myriad of alleged misdeeds, misstatements, and the division that’s enveloped the country since he took office, called for bipartisanship in his address.
He claimed outstanding records on jobs and the economy and America’s global standing. He also again took credit for low African American and Latino unemployment, saying more people – 157 million – are working now than anytime in the past in America.
The president also talked about the 300 or so judicial nominees that are in the Senate, ignoring that President Barack Obama’s high court choices were blatantly disregarded by the Republican-controlled Senate.
Abrams, who was once the Democratic Leader in the Georgia House of Representatives, dismissed those claims. Abrams also firmly rebutted the notion that the Trump administration has the best ideals for the country going forward. “We may come from different sides of the political aisle, but our joint commitment to the ideals of this nation cannot be negotiable,” she said.
“The Republican tax bill rigged the system against people. Wages struggle to keep pace with the cost of living. We owe more to the folks who keep our country moving.”
“We know bipartisanship can craft a 21stcentury immigration plan, but this administration chooses to cage people. Democrats stand ready to secure our borders, but we must understand America is made stronger by immigrants, not walls.”

Newswire : President announces end to Shutdown

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

U. S. Capitol with shutdown sign


The longest government shutdown in American history is over – and President Donald Trump did not get his Wall.
Trump announced on Friday a short-term deal to temporarily reopen the government. NBC News was the first to report that a stop-gap agreement with congressional leaders will last three weeks, until Feb. 15, and would allow talks to continue over security on the southern border.
The deal includes no money for his border wall. “In a short while, I will sign a bill to reopen the government for three weeks until Feb. 15,” Trump said in the Rose Garden, according to NBC News.
“I will make sure that all employees receive their back pay very quickly or as soon as possible.”
Trump announced the deal 35 days into the longest-ever partial government closure that has left an estimated 800,000 federal employees without pay and created a host of problems.
On Thursday, the president said that if Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., were about to reach a reasonable agreement to end the shutdown, he would support it.
The shutdown began just before Christmas and has left approximately 400,000 workers home from work without pay, while another 400,000 were required to be on the job without pay. The workers will receive back pay, under the agreement.
Trump and congressional Democrats have been at a standoff over the president’s demand for $5.7 billion to build his wall along the southern border.
The news was met with joy from government workers, including the thousands of African Americans who have gone without pay since the shutdown began.
“Are you serious?” Sharon Clifford, a TSA worker who sought babysitting jobs during the shutdown, told NNPA Newswire. “Thank God,” said Clifford, who said she was visiting her parents in North Carolina to ask for a loan to get her through the end of the month.

Newswire : Global voter suppression efforts against Black Americans are confirmed in new report

Written By Nigel Roberts, Newsone
A new report detailed how the Russians specifically targeted African-American voters in the 2016 election to help President Donald Trump win—adding to domestic efforts to suppress the Black vote.
The New York Times obtained an advanced copy of the report that was released on Monday, and it found that a Russian-backed team used an array of tactics to suppress turnout among Democrats through social media outlets, especially Instagram and Facebook.
In response, the NAACP called on Congress to conduct additional investigations into Facebook. Derrick Johnson, the organization’s president and CEO, told NewsOne that the report added urgency to its “LogOut Facebook” digital protestplanned for Dec. 18.
“We’re raising awareness about an attack on Black and brown users, which Facebook was in part complicit with. The Russian interference during the 2016 election called into question the integrity of the voting processes that took place, and overwhelmingly, people of color have suffered the most as a result of that election,” he stated.
A U.S. Senate committee commissioned the study that was produced by New Knowledge, a cybersecurity company based in Austin, Texas, along with researchers at Columbia University and Canfield Research LLC.
The efforts through Facebook and Instagram focused on developing Black audiences and disproportionately recruited unwitting African-American activists who were sometimes paid to stage rallies to create turmoil.

        “As Russia takes aim at African-American voters, we can’t ignore the fact that people of color remain the primary targets for voter suppression schemes right here on American soil. In setting its main target on African Americans, Russia is taking a page out of the U.S. voter suppression playbook; by allowing voter suppression domestically, we send a dangerous message to bad actors such as Russia that Black votes don’t matter,” Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said.
        America’s long history of suppressing the Black vote also impacted the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. For example, after the Republican-led statehouse in Wisconsin changed its voter registration law mandating stricter identification, more than 200,000 voters, mostly African Americans, were not able to vote, according to a study from Priorities USA that was reported in The Nation.
        The progressive voting rights organization found that Wisconsin’s voter-ID law reduced turnout by 200,000 votes. Trump won the state by only 22,748 votes.
        A St. Petersburg company called the Internet Research Agency operated the influence campaign. It was owned by businessman Yevgeny V. Prigozhin who has a close connection to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
        The company created a dozen fake websites using names that would appeal to African Americans, such as blackmattersus.com, blacktivist.info, blacktolive.org and blacksoul.us. It operated a YouTube channel that covered the Black Lives Matter movement and police brutality.
        On Facebook, ads targeted users who showed an interest in certain topics like Black history or the Black Panther Party.
        The NAACP called for its digital protest of Facebook ahead of Monday’s release of the report. Over the past year, the organization said it expressed concern about the company’s multiple data and privacy breaches, as well as the lack of employee diversity at large tech companies.
        “We’re holding Facebook accountable for the role it played in the proliferation of propaganda against people of color. The hackers preyed on the vulnerability of racial tensions in America, and Facebook fed them our information on a silver platter. As a corporation, Facebook needs to acknowledge this negligence, and we’re empowering people to use #LogOutFacebook as a means to express their discontent,” Johnson stated.

Newswire: Mississippi campaign heats up after ‘Lynching’ Remark’

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent@StacyBrownMedia

 Mike Espy

It’s a campaign that flew quietly under the radar – though the outcome could not only make history but change the dynamics in the United States Senate. Down in the Delta – where the public lynching of African Americans was the rule and not the exception and the Ku Klux Klan was usually law enforcement, judge, jury and executioner – Mike Espy, a Black man, has forced a runoff against Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith. As stunning as Espy’s rise in one of the classic “Good Ole Boys” states, Hyde-Smith, perhaps in a fit of desperation or a time lapse, helped to shine the spotlight on the race that had taken a back seat to the historic runs for governor in two other southern states, Florida and Georgia. “If he invited me to a public hanging, I’d be on the front row,” Hyde-Smith said as she was surrounded by cattle rancher Colin Hutchinson and other supporters at a gathering in Tupelo. Hyde-Smith later tried to walk back the inflammatory comment, saying “In a comment on Nov. 2, I referred to accepting an invitation to a speaking engagement. In referencing the one who invited me, I used an exaggerated expression of regard, and any attempt to turn this into a negative connotation is ridiculous.” If the comment was an exaggerated expression of regard, many in the one-time civil rights hotbed — and many more from across the nation — didn’t see it that way. It not only ignited interest in the under-the-radar Senate race, it galvanized Espy’s supporters. “Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith’s shameful remarks prove once again how [President Donald] Trump has created a social and political climate that normalizes hateful and racist rhetoric. We’ve seen this in Florida from Ron DeSantis and others during this election season and denounce it,” NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson said in a statement. “Hyde-Smith’s decision to joke about ‘hanging,’ in a state known for its violent and terroristic history toward African Americans is sick. To envision this brutal and degenerate type of frame during a time when Black people, Jewish People and immigrants are still being targeted for violence by White nationalists and racists is hateful and hurtful,” Johnson said. According to the NAACP, Mississippi had 581 lynchings between 1882 and 1968, more than any other state. The state’s population has the highest percentage of African-Americans of any state, 37 percent according to the last census. “Any politician seeking to serve as the national voice of the people of Mississippi should know better. Her choice of words serves as an indictment of not only her lack of judgement, but her lack of empathy, and most of all lack of character,” Johnson said. Senator Hyde-Smith’s remark that she would “be on the front row” of a “public hanging” is repulsive and her flippant disregard for our state’s deep history of inhumanity tied to lynching is incensing,” said Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba. “What is worse is her tone-deaf justification for the comment,” said Lumumba, who’s African-American. The ACLU of Mississippi released a statement calling Hyde-Smith’s comments “Despicable and abhorrent.” “We expect and demand that Mississippi leaders represent and remain committed to inclusion and diversity. Sitting senators should not be referencing public hangings unless they are condemning them,” The ACLU’s statement said. Espy himself weighed in. “Cindy Hyde-Smith’s comments are reprehensible. They have no place in our political discourse, in Mississippi, or our country,” Espy said. “We need leaders, not dividers, and her words show that she lacks the understanding and judgment to represent the people of our state.” The race for the Senate out of Mississippi has grown in its importance since election day. With the Democrats taking control of the House, the party has continued to narrow the majority in the Senate. After a stunning victory in Arizona by Democrat Kyrsten Sinema, and Rick Scott’s win in Florida after a recount, Republicans hold a narrow majority of 52 to 47, with the Mississippi election to determine the final result. Espy once served as agriculture secretary under Democratic President Bill Clinton and, in 1986, he became the first African-American from Mississippi elected to Congress since Reconstruction. Born in Yazoo City, Mississippi, Espy received a B.A. from Howard University in 1975 and then attended law school at the University of Santa Clara where he received his J.D. degree in 1978. Espy returned to Mississippi after law school and worked as an attorney for Central Mississippi Legal Services from 1978 to 1980, according to blackpast.org. Between 1980 and 1984 Espy served as assistant secretary of the Public Lands Division for the State of Mississippi and then took the post of assistant State Attorney General for Consumer Protection, a position he held until 1985. The following year Mike Espy won the 2nd Congressional District seat which included much of the Mississippi Delta, becoming the only black Congressman to represent a predominately rural district. Now, Espy is trying to unseat Hyde-Smith, whose comments have those outside of Mississippi rallying for him as the runoff approaches on Nov. 27. “North Mississippi and Memphis are connected at the hip,” said Corey Strong, the Shelby County Democratic Party Chair in Memphis.“We are looking at potentially having a day of action for members of Shelby County and a concerted effort to go down and support Mike Espy in that race,” Strong said.

Two-thirds of Alabama voters cast straight party tickets

By The Associated Press MONTGOMERY Nearly two-thirds of Alabamians voted a straight-ticket — either all Republican or all Democratic— when they went to the polls 0n Tuesday, November 6, a record number that reflects political polarization and likely boosted Republicans in their easy sweep of state races. According to the Alabama Secretary of State’s office, about 1.1 million of the 1.7 million ballots cast on Tuesday were straight-ticket votes, where voters checked one box to vote for all of a party’s candidates. Of those straight- ticket votes, 661,898 were for the Republican Party and 460,408 were for Democratic Party. Another 135 were for the Libertarian Party. In Greene County, 3, 228 (89.8%) voted straight Democratic and 367 (10.2%) voted straight Republican. Secretary of State John Merrill said that is a record high for straight party ticket voting in the state. “This is a very high, high number,” Merrill said. “It tells me that people are becoming more polarized.” Republicans swept all statewide and contested congressional races, holding Democrats to about 40 percent of the vote. Republicans also picked up six seats in the Alabama Legislature. Alabama is one of eight states that allow or offer straight-ticket voting, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. A number of states have abolished the option in recent years. The other states in addition to Alabama are:  Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Texas. Political scientist Jess Brown said Wednesday that party label and national politics appeared to be increasingly on voters’ minds as they went to the polls. According to AP VoteCast, a national survey of the electorate and nonvoters, more than half of Alabama voters said a reason for their vote was to express support for or opposition to President Donald Trump Thirty-seven percent of voters said a reason for their vote was to express support for Trump, and 21 percent said they voted to express opposition to Trump. By comparison, 42 percent of Alabama voters said Trump was not a factor they considered while casting their votes. Immigration was at the forefront of voters’ minds: 31 percent named it as the most important issue facing the nation in this year’s midterm elections.

Newswire: NAACP: Mississippi candidate’s ‘public hanging’ remark is sick, shameful

 By Hazel Trice Edney

 Mike Espy, Democratic candidate for Mississippi U. S. Senate seat

(TriceEdneyWire.com) – The NAACP has issued a stinging rebuke to Republican Mississippi Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, who recently invoked a reference to a “public hanging” amidst her campaign against African-American Democratic candidate Mike Espy. Referring to a glowing endorsement from Mississippi cattle rancher Colin Hutchinson, Hyde-Smith said, “If he invited me to a public hanging, I’d be on the front row.” The remarks drew laughter and applause, but she apparently did not know the comments were being videotaped by journalist Lamar White Jr. After public release of the video, Hyde-Smith issued a statement saying, “In a comment on Nov. 2, I referred to accepting an invitation to a speaking engagement. In referencing the one who invited me, I used an exaggerated expression of regard, and any attempt to turn this into a negative connotation is ridiculous.” She has refused to make any further comment or apologize for the remark, which clearly invokes painful images of thousands of Black people who were lynched or killed by White supremacists in the Deep South with Mississippi being a leading offender. The highest number of lynchings in the U. S. took place in Mississippi from 1882-1968 with 581, according to the NAACP. “Georgia was second with 531, and Texas was third with 493,” says a report by the civil rights organization, adding that 79 percent of lynching happened in the South. Among the best known killings of Black people by White supremacists, Emmett Till and Medgar Evers, occurred in Money and Jackson, Mississippi respectively. Further exacerbating the impact of Hyde-Smith’s remark is the fact that she has been endorsed by President Donald Trump, who has made no public comment on the issue. “Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith’s shameful remarks prove once again how Trump has created a social and political climate that normalizes hateful and racist rhetoric. We’ve seen this in Florida from Ron DeSantis and others during this election season and denounce it,” said NAACP President Johnson in a statement. Ron DeSantis, Republican nominee for Flordia governor, also drew a fire storm of criticism when he said in a television interview that Florida voters should not “monkey this up” by electing Andrew Gillum, his opponent, who would be the state’s first black governor. That campaign is amidst a recount. “Hyde-Smith’s decision to joke about ‘hanging,’ in a state known for its violent and terroristic history toward African Americans is sick. To envision this brutal and degenerate type of frame during a time when Black people, Jewish People and immigrants are still being targeted for violence by White nationalists and racists is hateful and hurtful,” Johnson said. “Any politician seeking to serve as the national voice of the people of Mississippi should know better. Her choice of words serves as an indictment of not only her lack of judgement, but her lack of empathy, and most of all lack of character.” Espy himself has released a statement calling Hyde-Smith’s comments “reprehensible” and saying, “They have no place in our political discourse, in Mississippi, or our country. We need leaders, not dividers, and her words show that she lacks the understanding and judgment to represent the people of our state.” Joining the rebuke of Hyde-Smith, Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson described her comments as “beyond disrespectful and offensive.” He pointed out that Mississippi has “one of the highest numbers of public lynching, that we know of, than any other state in this country.” Hyde-Smith has refused to speak further on the issue, saying, “I put out a statement yesterday, and that’s all I’m going to say about it.” It is not clear how or whether this new controversy will affect her Nov. 27th run-off against Espy. They both received about 41 percent of the vote in a four-way race Nov. 6. Espy, a former member of the U. S. Congress who served from 1987 to 1993, would become the first black senator to represent Mississippi since Reconstruction. From 1882-1968, 4,743 lynchings occurred in the United States. Of these people that were lynched 3,446 were Black. The Blacks lynched accounted for 72.7 percent of the people lynched. These numbers seem large, but it is known that not all of the lynchings were ever recorded. Out of the 4,743 people lynched only 1,297 White people were lynched. That is only 27.3 percent. Many of the Whites lynched were lynched for helping the Black or being anti-lynching and even for domestic crim

Newswire : ‘Morally Wrong’: former UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon condemns US for not having Universal Health Care

 By Amanda Michelle Gomez, ThinkProgress

Former UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon

Failing to provide health care to 29.3 million people is “unethical” and “politically wrong, morally wrong,” said former United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in an interview with the Guardian. The U.S. is the only wealthy country without universal coverage — and Ban faults “powerful” interest groups within the pharmaceutical, hospitals, and doctors sector. “Here, the political interest groups are so, so powerful,” Ban said. “Even president, Congress, senators and representatives of the House, they cannot do much so they are easily influenced by these special interest groups.” Ban is hardly alone in his disillusionment with the U.S. health care system and is definitely not the first foreign leader to call the United States out. When President Donald Trump attacked Britain’s health system to slam Democrats running on universal health care, U.K. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt blasted him back on Twitter, saying no one in his country “wants to live in a system where 28m people have no coverage.” It’s a well-known fact that the U.S. is an outlier in the developed world, as we spend more on health care but have worse health outcomes than other countries. Indeed, health spending is projected to rise 5.5 percent, on average, annually from 2017 to 2026 according to the federal health department. And while health spending is expected to make up nearly 20 percent of the U.S. economy in 2026, the uninsured population is also expected to rise. “It seems with Trump just undoing Obamacare, people were not happy first of all,” said Ban about the Trump administration’s reforms that, so far, have undermined the Affordable Care Act (ACA). “Ironically, it might have motivated people to think other ways, and influence their senators, and their Congressman to think the other way.” Ban’s observations hold. A recent poll finds a majority of the public favors single-payer, meaning they’d want to replace the current private-public insurance patchwork system with a single government plan. Support for single payer or Medicare for All became especially pronounced after Republicans tried to repeal and replace the ACA, jeopardizing quality insurance particularly for those with pre-existing conditions. Since Medicare for All garnered critical support from likely 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, health care industry groups launched a lobbying group against single-payer plans. The Partnership for America’s Health Care Future is comprised of major players including America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), the American Medical Association, and the Federation of American Hospitals. Ban hopes California and New York will ultimately pass single-payer bills currently stalled in each state’s legislature, sparking a national wake-up call. “It will be either California or New York who will introduce this system,” he told the Guardian. “Then I think there will be many more states who will try to follow suit. I think that’s an encouraging phenomenon we see.” Ban made his comments as a member of The Elders, a peace and human rights organization launched by Nelson Mandela to promote ideas like universal health care. His interview with the Guardian isn’t the first time he’s criticized Trump for undermining coverage and urging states like California to embrace single payer. He recently spoke at the Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, where he also said, “the good news is that at a state level things appear to be changing for the better.”

Newswire : Trump World finally crumbling

By Hazel Trice Edney (TriceEdneyWire.com) – For the first time since his election, the world of President Donald Trump appears to be actually crumbling. In one day, Thursday, August 21, his former lawyer Michael Cohen confessed that he conspired “in coordination” with Trump to pay two women to keep quiet about their affairs with Trump. In the plea, entered at the Manhattan federal courthouse, said Trump directed him to break the law in order to influence the 2016 election. Cohen says he did so, “in coordination and at the direction of a candidate for federal office,” meaning Donald Trump. Cohen also pled guilty to violating eight laws pertaining to bank, tax evasion and campaign finance, including the payoffs of the women. Meanwhile, in a Northern Virginia federal courthouse, after a jury deliberated the fourth day, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was found guilty of eight of 18 charges against him. The eight convictions include filing five false tax returns; not disclosing a foreign bank account; and two instances of bank fraud in order to obtain a combined 4.4 million in loans from two banks. The jury was deadlocked on 10 other counts. U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III, prosecutors and defense lawyers will discuss the possibility of a retrial on those counts. The Manafort verdict was announced just before the Cohen plea deal. At Trice Edney deadline, the double news blasts, along with analysis, had only begun to permeate the airwaves and social media. The news stories appear to represent the undoing of an administration that has heretofore seemed immune to political damage regardless of how egregious the offense – including Trump’s constant racial insults and dog whistles to White supremacists. Two Trump confidants, Elliot Weisselberg, CFO of the Trump Organization and Foundation, and George Pecker, Publisher of the Enquirer Magazine have been granted immunity by prosecutors in exchange for their testimony in the cases against Trump in the Southern District of New York. So far, Trump’s responses to the announcements of the two felony convictions have leaned toward his reframe that the investigation by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III has still not turned up any Russian collusion, the basis for the original investigation. But the investigation now continues as members of Congress watch closely. As mid-term elections draw closer, a Democratic majority in the House could spell certain impeachment for the President if there is sufficient evidence of criminal activity on his part. Trump said, “This is a witch hunt that ends in disgrace.”

Newswire :  National prison strike sheds light on harsh inmate treatment

By Barrington M. Salmon

 

 

(TriceEdneyWire.com) – In an extraordinary display of defiance, inmates from penal institutions in 17 states and Canada have gone on strike to protest treatment by prison guards and rejection of a system they condemn as brutal and abusive. Prison reform advocates say the 19-day strike is the biggest of its type in history. Among the protestors’ 10 demands are that they be treated like human beings, that the arbitrary use of force and punitive measures by guards be scaled back and that prison officials put in place measures that will give them a greater say in affairs that concern and affect them. The strike began on August 21 and is slated to end on Sept 9. The 19 days of peaceful protest was organized largely by prisoners themselves, said a spokesman for Jailhouse Lawyers Speak (JLS), steered by an abolitionist coalition that includes Jailhouse Lawyers Speak, the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC), the Fire Inside Collective, Millions for Prisoners and the Free Alabama Movement. JLS activists began preparing the action in April after prison officials in South Carolina put rival gangs in the same dormitory which ignited an outbreak of violence leaving seven inmates dead. Representatives of the largely Black population of striking prisoners said inmates are refusing to work in prison buildings, kitchens, laundries and on prison grounds. Palestinian inmates have expressed solidarity and about 300 prisoners in Nova Scotia, Canada also joined the strike. Nicole Porter, director of Advocacy for The Sentencing Project, called the strike unprecedented, saying that it’s a cry by inmates to be seen and heard. “We’ve had strikes and prison actions in the past, but the scale of this strike is new. We’ve seen incidents of in-prison activism and organized acts of resistance but we’re in new territory for this,” she said. “This strike is important to look at because it is a response to clashes in a South Carolina prison and severely inhumane conditions there and elsewhere. We need to recognize that people don’t lose humanity when they’re behind bars. Resistance is a part of US history. They carry history and the history of activism. It’s important for officials to listen to these activists and seriously consider some of their recommendations.” A JLS statement released before the strike, said, “Fundamentally, it’s a human rights issue… Prisoners understand they are being treated as animals. Prisons in America are a warzone. Every day prisoners are harmed due to conditions of confinement. For some of us, it’s as if we are already dead, so what do we have to lose?” Bill Fletcher, Jr., a veteran labor union organizer, said the strike highlights the problem of widespread abuses in the prison system that generally go unnoticed by the larger society, which he believes harbors a deep-seated bias against people behind bars. “I think this is really quite phenomenal,” he said of the strike action. “The problem is that it has gotten so little attention but the attention it has gotten is significant. The larger problem is that we are a society that believes in vengeance, not justice. People’s general position is, ‘Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time.’” Fletcher adds, “A related issue is that the prisoners, because they are for the most part people of color, they are denied their human rights and humanity.” Fletcher, a talk show host, author and racial justice, labor and international activist, said there has been a slow erosion of prisoner rights since the 1970s and the emergence of the belief that rehabilitation is a waste of time and unfair to those who aren’t in prison. In an August 22 press conference, media representatives of the striking inmates said information about the scope of the strike would trickle in slowly. “We want to note that although there aren’t widespread reports of actions coming out of prisons, people need to understand that the tactics being used in this strike are not always visible,” said Jared Ware a freelance journalist who was asked to be part of team that coordinated with the press. “Prisoners are boycotting commissaries, they are engaging in hunger strikes which can take days for the state to acknowledge, and they will be engaging in sit-ins and work strikes which are not always reported to the outside. As we saw in 2016, Departments of Corrections are not reliable sources of information for these actions and will deny them and seek to repress those who are engaged in them.” Ware said, “We have spoken with family members who have suggested that cell phone lines may be jammed at multiple prisons in South Carolina. And New Mexico had a statewide lockdown yesterday. The departments of corrections in this country are working overtime to try and prevent strike action and to try and prevent word from getting out about actions that are taking place.” Although the United States represents one-fifth of the world’s population, 2.3 million people are incarcerated, the highest in the world. Estimates are that about 60 percent of that population is African-American or Latino. Those numbers could ratchet up with Attorney General Jeff Sessions, at the behest of President Donald Trump, relaunching the failed War on Drugs and giving state attorneys and law enforcement the green light to crack down on criminal suspects even for non-violent crimes, critics believe. The Prison-Industrial Complex is a sprawling entity that relies heavily on inmates’ labor to produce goods and services for an assortment of companies, including major businesses and corporations such as Whole Foods, Starbucks, McDonalds, Wal Mart, Victoria’s Secret and AT&T. While it is a more than $2 billion enterprise, many inmates literally work for pennies and others labor for free, said Dr. Kim Wilson. “Exploitation of prison labor is at the heart of this strike,” said Dr. Wilson, a prison abolitionist and co-host of the podcast, ‘Beyond Prisons.’ I don’t want people to get the idea that this is an at-will job. It isn’t a system where people have a choice to work. Some people are making zero and nearer to the release date, you are expected and required to work.” Courtney Stewart, a prison reform advocate released from prison in 1985 and chair of the National Reentry Network for Returning Citizens in Washington, DC, said the prisoners who went on strike had no choice. “The thing is that these people, the corporations who make up the Prison-Industrial Complex, have been getting away with murder for a long time,” Stewart said. “They’ve been able to sustain the Prison-Industrial Complex and they have ruined generations and generations of the Black community. It’s been so devastating and we still haven’t recovered.” “Using the school-to-prison pipeline and the War on Drugs, these people are criminalizing and have imprisoned Black men, women and children. It’s profit over people and power and money in this capitalist, white-privileged society we live in. They don’t see any value in the black family or Black people. They always throw pennies when it comes to fixing the African American community. We have to address this with force and radicalism. There has to be a radical revolution in how to address this.” Dr. Wilson agreed. “I’m a prison abolitionist. I see prisons as part and parcel of problem,” said Dr. Wilson, who has two of her sons serving life sentences at Vaughn Correctional Facility in Delaware. “I don’t know how they (prison guards) sleep at night. But those individual people are part of a larger system. I’m more concerned with the system as a whole.” “We want an end to the physical places we call prisons and conditions that make it possible in our society. But we can’t do that without addressing the underlying issues of racism, anti-blackness, capitalism, gender violence, ableism and other issues deeply implicated in the broader prison system. We must take seriously the things the prisoners are saying.”

Newswire : Sarah Sanders can’t guarantee Trump hasn’t used N-word

By: Associated Press

Washington, D. C., August 14, 2018: White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders says she cannot guarantee that President Donald Trump has never used a racial slur. Sanders said, “I haven’t been in every single room,” when asked if she can say with certainty that Trump has never used the N-word, but she added that Trump has been a high-profile businessman for decades and the allegations are only just now being made.

Ex-Trump aide Omarosa Manigault Newman has alleged she has heard Trump on tape using the slur. Trump said Monday on Twitter that he doesn’t “have that word in my vocabulary, and never had.” Sanders says she “can’t guarantee” Trump has never used the word, but calls Manigault Newman’s claims “salacious and ridiculous.” Sanders told reporters that Manigault Newman has “shown a complete lack of integrity” with her criticism of Trump in her new book, adding that Trump’s tweets referring to Manigault Newman as “crazed” and a “dog” reflect his “frustration” with her comments. Manigault Newman has responded that Trump has “absolutely no respect” for women or African-Americans. Sanders says Trump hired Manigault Newman as an assistant to the president because he “wanted to give her a chance.” She was a contestant on his reality show “The Apprentice” and a former campaign aide. Manigault Newman has been releasing audio recordings of private White House conversations as part of her book roll-out tour. She was fired in December. © Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.