i am

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harlem, usa
same-gender-loving contemporary descendant of enslaved africans. community activist, feminist, health educator, independent filmmaker, mentor, playwright, poet & spiritual being. featured at, in & on africana.com, afrikan poetry theatre, angel herald, bejata dot com, bet tonight with tavis smiley, blacklight online, black noir, brooklyn moon cafe, gmhc's barbershop, klmo-fm, lgbt community services center, longmoor productions, nuyorican poets cafe, our corner, poz, pulse, rolling out new york, rush arts gallery, saint veronica's church, schomburg center for research in black culture, sexplorations, the citizen, the new york times, the soundz bar, the trenton times, the village voice, upn news, uzuri, venus, vibe, wbai-fm, wnyc-fm & wqht-fm. volunteered with adodi, bailey house, inc., black men's xchange-new york, colorofchange.org, drug policy alliance, east harlem tutorial program, imagenation film & music festival, presente.org, save darfur coalition, the enough project, the osborne association, the sledge group & your black world. worked on films with maurice jamal & heather murphy. writing student of phil bertelsen & ed bullins. mjt975@msn.com.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Macy's faces another discrimination lawsuit

in a discrimination lawsuit filed on friday, an african-american shopper said macy's security personnel stopped him after he bought a $2,400 louis vuitton bag and an alarm went off as he tried to exit the store.

club promoter halim sharif said he was detained, and his bag was searched. yet a half-dozen white customers left the store - at the same time - without being detained or searched. sharif said those very same customers also set off alarms at the macy's flagship store's west 34th street exit.

the incident happened april 19, 2013. sharif said he was the only person stopped. he said he has cellphone audio and video to prove his claim. he told the new york times, "it was as clear as black and white. there was no gray area. i saw people exit before me and after me, and none of them looked like me. they lacked pigmentation."

the 37 year-old promoter, who indicated he's suing macy's for unspecified damages, said he decided to speak up after reading accounts of four alleged instances of racial profiling at macy's, and another retailer: privately owned barney's new york. 

brooklyn resident kayla phillips, who alleged she was racially profiled at barney's in february, also filed a discrimination lawsuit on friday in brooklyn supreme court, according to the daily news. macy's, through a representative, said the company was looking into sharif's allegation, but would have no comment due to pending litigation.

according to the representative, "macy's has a zero tolerance for discrimination of any kind. if macy's policies have not been upheld, we will take swift and immediate action." both stores named in the lawsuits said new york city police department officers were the culprits in earlier incidents targeting black shoppers, including phillips, rob brown, trayon christian and art palmer. the nypd said its officers were merely acting on information provided by store employees.

macy's joined several retailers whom signed a customer 'bill of rights' earlier this month. civil rights leaders, including rev. al sharpton, met with retailer representatives to draft the document, which is to be posted on participating department store websites. other signatories include barney's new york, macy's-owned bloomingdale's, and hudson's bay company subsidiaries lord & taylor, and saks fifth avenue.     



Wednesday, December 25, 2013

NYC Mayor-elect De Blasio's daughter reveals substance use issues

chiara de blasio, daughter of new york city mayor-elect bill de blasio, released a five-minute video detailing her struggles with anxiety, depression, alcohol and marijuana. the free-spirited 19 year-old spoke openly about her personal struggles with courage, grace and humility.

a college sophomore who played a central role in her father's successful campaign, chiara de blasio was candid about her painful past. she said, "it made it easier, the more i drank and did drugs, to share some common ground with people. it didn't start out as, like, a huge thing for me, but then it became a really huge thing from me."

de blasio said she thought she could leave the problem behind when she went to college in california, only to realize her "physical insecurity" got worse. she said, "my mom was trying really hard to help me and my dad was really busy. they were both very emotionally committed to trying to find out some way to get me better."

she said she eventually found success in group therapy at a treatment center in new york. de blasio said, "removing substances from my life opened so many doors for me. i was actually able to participate in my dad's campaign. getting sober is always a positive thing, and by no means is it easy - it's the hardest thing i've ever done - but it's so worth it." 

in a statement accompanying the video, bill de blasio and his wife, chirlane mccray, said they were "so proud of chiara and love her deeply." they said, "as parents, our instinct has been to protect our daughter and privately help her through a deeply personal struggle. but not only has chiara committed to own her health, she is also committed to helping young people everywhere who face similar challenges."

the campaign did not say what prompted it to release the video on christmas eve, a day when many news consumers are more concerned with family, money, shopping or traveling - instead of current events. but the announcement was framed in a way to help other families who struggle with depression and substance use during the holiday season.

during the campaign, de blasio spoke about his father's battle with substance use, particularly alcohol. his father later committed suicide. white house drug policy director gil kerlikowske released a statement late tuesday praising chiara de blasio's decision "to give voice to the millions who suffer from substance abuse disorders."  

Friday, December 20, 2013

President Obama Commutes Eight 'Unduly Harsh' Drug Sentences

president obama on thursday commuted the sentences of eight federal inmates throughout the united states. all eight were convicted of non-violent crimes involving crack cocaine. each inmate spent more than 15 years in prison.

at the time of the convictions, mandatory sentencing laws required severe punishment for drug offenders who possessed, sold or used crack cocaine. however, the sentencing guidelines for drug offenses involving powder cocaine were far less oppressive.

in 2010, obama signed the fair sentencing act, which lessened the punishment for crimes involving crack cocaine. the new guidelines made sentencing similar for both forms of the drug. after the laws changed, numerous inmates remained incarcerated with long sentences for their previous crimes.

as reported by cnn, obama commuted the eight drug offenders' sentences as they were "unduly harsh and issued outdated sentencing regime." obama also said releasing the inmates is "an important step toward restoring fundamental ideals of justice and fairness."

a bi-partisan bill introduced by senators richard j. durbin and mike lee allows for the release of inmates sentenced before the fair sentencing act was signed. if the bill passes, the law would provide inmates with an opportunity to have their cases reviewed for early release. 

the new york times reports families against mandatory minimums estimates nearly nine million inmates will qualify for early review if the bill gets legalized. under current law, the inmates would have been released years ago, saving the taxpayers thousands of dollars. the president's actions foster an urgency to relax sentencing guidelines filling u.s. prisons with non-violent offenders.    

the bureau of prisons was given 120 days to release the six men and two women. one inmate was sentenced to 20 years, another was sentenced to 24 years. four were sentenced to life, one was sentenced to life at age 17 and another was sentenced to three life terms at age 22. obama's bold and compassion decision gives each inmate an opportunity to reunite with their families and become productive members of society.     

Friday, December 06, 2013

TransAfrica Mourns Nelson Mandela

the entire transafrica family is saddened by the loss of nelson rolihlahla mandela on thursday. we wish to take this opportunity to express our sincere condolences to the people of south africa and the mandela family. the african world has lost an unparalleled leader and hero. mandela inspired people in every corner of the globe, and that is why the loss of this great man echoes around the world.  

nelson mandela, the nobel peace prize laureate and first president of a multi-racial democratic south africa, persevered and inspired others in the pursuit of truth and justice until his final days. whether it was leading the struggle against apartheid regime, championing the cause of people with hiv/aids, or challenging the great powers of the globe to build a better world: mandela continuously gave us strength to speak truth to power.

nicole lee, president of transafrica said, "we will continue to carry on mandela's legacy of courageous activism. even when unjustly imprisoned on robben island by the apartheid government, he and his fellow activists in the liberation movement inspired us all with their vision of a free, just and democratic south Africa. no obstacle was too great for nelson mandela in his quest for a brighter tomorrow. as we work to change powerful systems that perpetuate economic and social injustice, we are reminded of madiba's courage."

danny glover, actor, activist and chair of transafrica's board of directors said, "today, i join with the people of south africa and many millions around the world in mourning the loss of nelson rolihlahla mandela. let not sadness overcome us, let us rejoice in his life-long sacrifice for freedom, and retain his living memory as we remain forever vigilant in sustaining freedom, democracy and human dignity. madiba treated me like a son and i am forever grateful for his personal guidance and wisdom."

to mandela, attaining a free and just south africa did not mean taking over power and forgetting the poor and disenfranchised. both during his time in office and out, mandela worked tirelessly to resolve conflicts within the  african continent. throughout his life, mandela embodied the sentiment "another world is possible," and this was most eloquently illustrated with his statement at the rivonia trial in april, 1964: 

"during my lifetime i have dedicated myself to this struggle of the african people. i have fought against white domination, and i have fought against black domination. i have cherished the idea of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. it is an ideal which i hope to live for and to achieve. but if it needs be, it is an ideal for which i am prepared to die."

even in his final days mandela challenges us. he said, "if we are to stop the aids epidemic from expanding we need to break the cycle of new hiv infections. all of us working together with government, communities and civil society can make the difference that is needed. together we have the power to change the course of destiny."

Friday, November 29, 2013

Derrick Rose out for the season

chicago bulls point guard derrick rose will miss the rest of the 2013-14 nba season after undergoing knee surgery monday. the 2010-11 most valuable player had the medial meniscus repaired in his right knee at rush university medical center in chicago. the surgery was successfully performed by dr. brian cole, who performed the acl surgery on rose's left knee in may 2012.

the disappointment in the bulls' locker room has been evident since rose injured his right knee in the third quarter of a game (they ultimately lost) with the portland trailblazers last friday. but bulls coach tom thibodeau, who won coach of the year in 2011, has tried to help his players focus on the present challenges and not their past circumstances.

thibodeau said, "'i texted him. the surgery was a success. so he obviously has to focus in on the rehab. and our team, we have to lock into our improvement and getting wins. the big thing for him, is he just has to focus in on his rehab. the fact that he's already done it once, he has great mental toughness, he'll be fine. this will be another bump in the road, he'll get past it. we expect him to make a full recovery." 

rose's teammates and former coaches were understandably sad. forward mike dunleavy, acquired this year from the indiana pacers said, "my reaction was gosh, i hope it's not anything related to the surgically repaired knee. he's going to miss the whole season so ultimately you just feel for him. he's such a great guy, great teammate and you're disappointed for him."

robert smith, who was rose's coach at simeon career academy in the windy city, said the high school held a moment of silence on monday to pray for rose's recovery. smith said, "watching him the last couple games, seeing him start to turn the corner and have another freak injury like that, that's hard. but derrick is strong. he'll get back in there and get his body right to be able to get back there and play."

kentucky's john calipari, who coached rose his freshman year (rose entered the draft after one season) at memphis tweeted on monday: "if there's anyone who can bounce back from this, it's drose. my message to derrick would be to stay strong and stay focused. love you, kid."   

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Djokovic beats Nadal to win ATP Finals

world #2 novak djokovic of serbia defeated world #1 rafael nadal of spain 6-3, 6-4 on monday to win the barclays atp world tour finals in london. djokovic successfully defended his title by capping off the year with his 22nd consecutive victory. his run started after nadal beat him in the us open final and replaced him atop the rankings.

afterwards, djokovic said, "the most positive thing that i can take from those two and a half months is the fact that i managed to regroup after few big losses against nadal, especially in roland garros, us open final and wimbledon final." djokovic became the seventh player to win the season-ending tournament of the world's elite eight three times.

djokovic has beaten nadal 10 out of 19 finals and is 13-7 against him on hard courts. djokovic said, "year-end number one is deservedly in nadal's hands because he had two grand slam wins, the best season out of all players, the most titles. i think that's no doubt, cannot question that. i tried to put aside the calculations and the rankings after the us open and just tried to focus on one tournament at a time, one day at a time. that kind of attitude has helped me to get to where i am this moment."

the affable serb is poised to reclaim his #1 ranking at the first major in 2014. djokovic is the three-tine defending champion at the australian open. he served well, returned well and volleyed well to a resounding win in straight sets - the only tournament missing from nadal's resume. the two have played each other 39 times: more than any male players in the open era, with nadal leading 22-17.  

nadal had an opportunity to join andre agassi as the only players to have won all four majors, olympic gold, the davis cup and the year-end tournament. nadal said, "it's not going to change my career, winning or losing today. i am not very disappointed. i know that i was not the favorite for the match, even if i tried with the right attitude, in my opinion, fighting for every moment, trying to be positive in every moment, even if the match was not going the way that i would like."

the popular spaniard's return to the #1 ranking came on the heels of a stunning comeback from a career-threatening knee injury - sidelining him for seven months. nadal played his first match in february and finished 2013 with a 75-7 record. the charismatic lefty won ten titles, including the french open, the us open and five masters 1000 titles. 

Thursday, November 07, 2013

ENDA Passes Senate 64-32

the u.s. senate voted today, 64 to 32, to pass the employment non-discrimination act (enda) for the first time in the legislation's two-decade history. all senate democrats joined ten senate republicans to approve the landmark bill aimed towards empowering the lgbt community.

human rights president chad griffin said, "today, a strong bipartisan majority of the united states senate made history by standing up for a fundamental american truth. each and every american worker should be judged based on the work they do, and never based on who they are. this broad senate coalition has sent a vital message that civil rights legislation should never be tied up partisan political games."  

griffin further stated, "we firmly believe if the house of representatives were freed by speaker john boehner to vote its conscience, this bill could pass immediately. it's unconscionable that any one person would stand in the way of this crucial piece of the civil rights puzzle." 

house speaker john boehner, a republican, suggested earlier this week he won't bring enda to the floor for an up-or-down vote. but his views have drawn public criticism - within the gop. charlie dent (r-pa) said, "i believe the speaker should allow a vote on this bill...i believe the american public wants to make sure people are not discriminated against."

dent also stated, "with today's vote in the senate, majority leader reid, chairman harkin, lead sponsors (senators) merkley and kirk, and senators collins and baldwin have shown us all what leadership looks like. now, speaker boehner should take up the mantle of leadership and allow the house to join them."

president obama has indicated his willing to sign a long-pending executive order protecting the employees of federal contractors from discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation. the human rights campaign says obama, by signing the order, can extend labor security to over 16 million American workers.

said griffin, "we urge the house of representatives to pass enda immediately, and we call on president obama to send a clear message in support of workplace fairness by signing this order." 

Thursday, October 31, 2013

2013 AL and NL Gold Glove Winners

the following athletes were recently awarded gold glove winners for their outstanding defensive play in the 2013 major league baseball season:

american league

pitcher - r.a. dickey, toronto blue jays.
catcher - salvador perez, kansas city royals.
first base - eric homer, kansas city royals.
second base - dustin pedroia, boston red sox.
third base - manny machado, baltimore orioles.
shortstop - j.j. hardy, baltimore orioles.
left field - alex gordon, kansas city royals.
center field - adam jones, baltimore orioles.
right field - shane victorino, boston red sox.

national league

pitcher - adam wainwright, st. louis cardinals.
catcher - yadier molina, st. louis cardinals.
first base - paul goldschmidt, arizona diamondbacks.
second base - brandon phillips, cincinnati reds.
third base - nolan arenado, colorado rockies.
shortstop - andrelton simmons, atlanta braves.
left field - carlos gonzalez, colorado rockies.
center field - carlos gomez, milwaukee brewers.
right field - gerardo parra, arizona diamondbacks.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Serena Williams Crowned WTA Champion

serena williams defeated li na of china, 2-6, 6-3, 6-0 to win the wta championships in istanbul, turkey. the world #1 capped off the best year in her illustrious career. she became the eighth woman to win 11 or more titles in a year, and the first since martina hingis won 12 titles in 1997.

williams said later, "it was an awesome year of tennis." the victory brought williams' prize money total for the year to $12,385,572. the only player, male or female, to earn more in a year was world #1 novak djokovic of serbia. he won $12,803,737 last year, and $12,619,803 in 2011.

williams finished 2013 with a 78-4 record. she ends the year #1 for the third time, after doing so in 2002 and 2009. her incredible season included two majors - the french open and the u.s. open - giving her a total of 17 majors. williams' remarkable winning percentage of .951 is the best on the tour since martina navratilova had an historical 86-1 record and .989 percentage in 1983.

despite her amazing year, williams remains a perfectionist. in fact, she said she would have preferred to win more majors. "i live to win slams. i mean, obviously, i'm so excited to be the wta champion. i can't say it's the best season. i can't say it's not the best. i don't know. i really don't know."

the thrilling final showcased two players over 30 for the first time in the championships' 43-year history. williams is 32, and li is 31, yet both women are playing the best tennis of their careers. li said, "after a set and a half, i was feeling no more energy left. it's a tough tournament, because i played five days in a row. every opponent is in the top eight, so you never have an easy match in this tournament." 

the year-end championships features the top eight women in the world, including two alternates, ranked nine and ten. williams is the first to repeat as wta champion since justin henin in 2007. the african-american won the event for the fourth time in her career, victorious in her 2001 tourney debut, as well as 2009 and 2012.   

Thursday, October 24, 2013

End Obama's Immigration Imprisonment Quotas

president barack obama's 2015 budget requests a dangerous and wasteful policy indiscriminately warehousing immigrants into private prisons. immigrants who've committed no crimes, or only minor crimes, are put in prisons to meet an arbitrary immigrant body count quota passed by the house of representatives in 2006.

immigration and customs officials (ice) have a sick incentive to give billions of dollars away to private prison corporations, patrol latinos in border communities and rip immigration families apart. but obama can end this racist initiative by promptly removing it from his budget - demonstrating his care and concern for all americans. 

some people call it the "bed mandate." others call it the immigration imprisonment quote. ice is required to hold at least 34,000 immigrants each day in private detention centers. the quota is the primary reason so many immigrants who haven't committed any crimes are arrested and detained by ice.

it costs $160 each day, or $2 billion per year, to put someone in a private detention center. private prison companies like the geo group benefit from the dehumanization of proud latino communities. however, alternatives to incarceration cost as little as $17 per day, they're progressive and they keep families unified while they wait for their due process.  

in september of this year, 65 members of the house sent the president a letter opposing his policy. entitled, letter to president obama - end immigration detention bed mandate debate, they urge him to remove a budget request for the department of homeland security (dhs) mandating ice have over 30,000 immigrants in detention at all times.

illinois congressman bill foster said, "mandatory detention comes at a high cost both for taxpayers and immigrant families who are needlessly torn apart. not only is the quota fiscally irresponsible, but it makes it impossible for dhs to make rational decisions about detention based on enforcement priorities and needs. it is time to end this costly and unjust practice."

florida congressman ted deutch said, "it would be unimaginable for congress to mandate to other law enforcement agencies how many people they must jail on a daily basis, but that is exactly what this detention bed mandate does to ice. it is time to bring ice offices across the country in line with the best practices of other law enforcement agencies, which apprehend and detain individuals based on actual needs as opposed to a mandate from washington."

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Black teenager sues over arrest for $350 designer belt

a 19 year-old college student from queens says he was handcuffed and locked in a jail cell after buying a $350 designer belt from barney's on new york's madison avenue. the teenager says the arrest occurred because he is "a young black man."

trayon christian told nbc 4 new york on wednesday he saved up from a part-time job for weeks to buy a salvatore ferragamo belt in april. he also said the clerk asked to see his identification. after the sale went through and he left the store, he was approached by police about a block away, and asked, "how a young black man such as himself could afford to purchase such an expensive belt," according to a lawsuit filed tuesday in manhattan court.

officers hauled christian to the local precinct, where he showed police his identification, as well as his debit card and the receipt for the belt, the lawsuit says. police believed his identification was fake, and eventually called the bank, which verified it was his, according to the complaint. the teenager, who has no prior arrests, was released.

christian told nbc 4 new york many questions were racing through his mind  while he went through the painful experience of being handcuffed and taken to a cell. "why me? i guess because i'm a young black man, and, you know, people do a credit card scam so they probably thought that i was one of them. they probably think that black people don't have money like that," he said.

he later returned the belt to barney's because he says he "didn't want to have nothing to do with it." christian is suing the city and barney's for unspecified damages as a result of "great physical and mental distress and humiliation." his attorney, michael palillo, told the post, "his only crime was being a young black man."

barney's, the luxury department store, in a statement on wednesday, said none of its employees were involved in any action with christian - other than the sale - adding the store "has zero tolerance for any form of discrimination."  

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Black Farmers to Receive $1.2 Billion Federal Lawsuit Settlement

after years of protests and lawsuits, black farmers in the south will begin receiving payments this week as a result of a landmark $1.2 billion settlement in their discrimination case against federal agriculture officials. about 18,000 farmers expect to receive checks over the next few days.

this is the second round of funding for black farmers. thousands received payments in 1999 as part of a settlement in a class-action suit over allegation of widespread discrimination by federal officials  who denied loans and other assistance to black farmers on the basis of their race.

"after all these years and all the fighting, this is what it's all about," says john boyd, president of the national black farmers association, which pushed congress for the settlement. "it doesn't take away what the government has done to us, but for those who receive the payments it will make a difference in their lives," said boyd. 

about 40,000 black farmers filed claims in the settlement, ending a discrimination case against the u.s. department of agriculture. in 2010, president obama signed the bill authorizing compensation for discrimination in farm lending by federal officials. black farmers will receive payments of $62,500, which includes $50,000 for the claim and $12,500 for taxes. about $91 million of the settlement was approved for attorney fees.

"i am pleased this chapter of discrimination in the history of the department of agriculture is closed and bureaucracy will no longer keep these farmers from receiving their due justice," said representative marcia fudge (d-ohio). fudge also serves as chairwoman of the congressional black caucus.  

the payments could lead to an infusion of investment dollars back into farming, adds adell brown, jr., vice chancellor for research at southern university agricultural research and extension center. the center has worked with black famers in louisiana who filed claims in the first and second cases.

many farmers who filed claims have since died. of the 18,000 claims approved, about 4,000 to 5,000 were estate claims. the national black farmers association is working with some families whose deceased parents filed claims. said boyd, "this is not a great trade-off by any means, but i think the funds will make a difference. it's a bittersweet victory."  

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

19 Male Sexual Abuse Survivors Settle With Penn State Amidst Jerry Sandusky Case

at least 19 young men have settled with penn state over assertions of sexual abuse by former assistant football coach jerry sandusky, according to lawyers for the claimants. many, if not all, have received checks from the university, the attorneys said over the past two days. the school set aside $60 million to pay claims, though several lawyers say the settlements prevent them from disclosing details, including the amounts their clients were paid. 

"they're getting the resources they need to navigate hurdles which have been thrown in front of them," said harrisburg lawyer ben andreozzi, part of a group of four lawyers who have resolved nine claims. they have three other cases, including two yet to be presented to penn state. "does it wipe out all their problems? no," andreozzi said. "does it give them the resources they need to get their lives back on track? yes," he said.

among those who reached settlements were some who testified at sandusky's provocative trial last year. sandusky, the prestigious school's longtime assistant football coach under their legendary head coach joe paterno, is currently serving 30 to 60 years in prison for sexually abusing ten boys over a 15-year period.   

harrisburg attorney chuck schmidt confirmed his client has settled, as did williamsport attorney clifford rieders. "he is a very responsible, thoughtful, intelligent man," rieders said tuesday of his client. "his reaction is that this was a terrible tragedy and he'd like to move on with his life and get the help he needs for a meaningful life." rieders said his client was paid september 30. schmidt said his client received a check two weeks ago.

philadelphia attorney tom kline previously announced his client had settled, as did the philadelphia firm ross feller, which represents seven clients. st. paul, minnesota lawyer jeff anderson said his two cases remain unresolved, as did a spokeswoman for baltimore attorney howard janet, who represents one claimant. two other lawyers who have clients in the sandusky civil claims did not return phone messages.

a penn state spokesman declined to comment, but the school has said it plans to eventually release the number of claimants and the total amount of money they have been paid. lawyers for the school say at least 31 men have come forward, but it's unclear who some of the men are, or whether they have lawyers.  


Monday, September 30, 2013

Vote Count Officially Completed for New York City Primary

almost three weeks after new york city's primary for mayor, election officials have finished counting votes, and bill de blasio has avoided a runoff. mr. de blasio, a democrat, finished with 40.81% of the votes. he exceeded the 40% threshold by about 5,600 votes.

the september 10 election showed de blasio with a little over 40% of the vote. but tens of thousands of paper ballots remained to be examined, leaving a plethora of unanswered questions about whether or not a runoff would be necessary.

bill thompson finished in second-place with 26.14% of the vote. thompson reluctantly conceded six days after the primary. he also criticized the city's board of elections, stating the pace of the vote count left him with no reasonable way to wage a viable campaign given the uncertainty of the election results.

in four of the five boroughs, election officials finished tallying votes two weeks after the primary. the results from manhattan were certified three days after the other boroughs were done, a board of elections spokesman said. christine quinn, city council speaker garnered 15.74% of the vote, john liu, city comptroller had 6.84% and anthony weiner, former congressman had 4.94%. 

in the republican primary for mayor, joe lhota, former chairman of the metropolitan transit authority, won with 52.75% of the vote. lhota was followed by john catsimatidis, the billionaire owner of the gristedes supermarket chain with 40.69% and george mcdonald, the founder of the doe fund, with 6.38%.

tuesday, october 1, there will only be one race on the ballot: a runoff for the democratic nomination for public advocate between councilwoman letitia james and state senator daniel squadron. overall, voter turnout was small, as expected, roughly 22%. about 692,000 of the city's 2.97 million registered democrats voted, or 23%. among republicans, the turnout was even less. about 61,000 of the city's 471,000 republicans voted, or 13%.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Planned Parenthood Sues Texas Over Controversial New Law Restricting Abortions

the nation's largest provider of abortions sued the state of texas on friday over a controversial new law restricting abortions. planned parenthood, which has nearly 750 affiliate health centers, faces a loss of a large number of their centers in texas due to new provisions within the new law, the organization's officials argue.

the lawsuit challenges a provision stating doctors who provide abortions must have admitting privileges at a local hospital. another provision requires direct supervision of a doctor for women to receive the so-called "abortion pill" ru-486.

"we're in court today to stop a terrible situation for women in texas from getting even worse," cecile richards, president of planned parenthood federation of america, said in a statement. the texas attorney general's office had no immediate comment on the lawsuit.

opponents argue the new law could make it difficult for women to get an abortion in rural areas of the state. they also say the procedure requires very few women to be admitted to a hospital. patricio gonzales, president and ceo of planned parenthood association in hidalgo county, texas, shared his concerns with nbc news.

gonzales said, "it's going to drive poor women to illegal means or ways to terminate the pregnancy, which puts them at risk health-wise. this bill doesn't do anything to prevent abortions. it's going to harm more than do any good." he further added some of the illegal medications available in mexico cause serious hemorrhaging and bleeding, sending women to texas emergency rooms.

the new provisions will not go into effect until october 29. but this polarizing issue has dominated texas politics - and helped to elevate the profile of a leading democratic critic, state senator wendy davis. earlier this year, davis made headlines staging a nearly 11-hour filibuster against abortion restrictions and told supporters she may run for governor.   

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

WNBA 2013 Year-End Awards

the following individuals were recently acknowledged by the women's national basketball association (wnba) for their outstanding achievement in 2013:

most valuable player - candace parker, los angeles sparks
rookie of the year - elena della donne, chicago sky
defensive player of the year - sylvia fowles, chicago sky
most improved player - shavonte zellous, indiana fever
coach of the year - mike thibault, washington mystics
kim perrot sportswoman - swin cash, chicago sky;
                                          tamika catchings, indiana fever

first team all-wnba

candace parker. los angeles sparks
diana taurasi, phoenix mercury
sylvia fowles, chicago sky
maya moore, minnesota lynx
lindsey whalen, minnesota lynx

second team all-wnba

seimone augustus, minnesota lynx
tamika catchings, indiana fever
tina charles, connecticut sun
elena della donne, chicago sky
angel mccoughtry, atlanta dream

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Life Goes On: The Historic Rise in Life Sentences in America

serious crime rates have been declining in the united states for the last 20 years, yet the number of prisoners serving life sentences has more than quadrupled since 1984. senior research analyst ashley nellis documents in her powerful new report, life goes on: the historic rise in life sentences in america, over 159,000 people were serving life sentences in 2012, with nearly 50,000 serving life without parole.

some of the key findings in her report include: one of every nine people in prison is serving a life sentence. approximately 10,000 lifers have been convicted of nonviolent offenses. nearly half of lifers are black and one in six are latino. more than 5,300 (3.4%) of the life-sentenced are female.

more than 10,000 life-sentenced people have been convicted of crimes which occurred before they turned 18 and nearly one in four of them were sentenced to life without parole. the population of prisoners serving life without parole has risen more sharply than those with the possibility of parole: there has been a 22.2% increase in life without parole since 2008.

the report recommends eliminating life without parole, increasing the use of executive clemency, preparing prisoners sentenced to life for release from prison and restoring the role of parole in prisoner release. these progressive initiatives are intended to promote public safety, reduce the high cost of mass incarceration and reshape our crime policies to facilitate rehabilitation.  

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal Win 2013 US Open Singles Titles

world #1 serena williams of the united states defeated world #2 victoria azarenka of belarus 7-5, 6-7, 6-1 to win her fifth us open women's singles crown. fiercely battling her opponent's competitive spirit, the swirling wind and quite often her own nerves, williams prevailed in a repeat of last year's hard-fought title bout with azarenka, which also went three sets.

the two women later shared their mutual respect. williams said, "vika's such a great opponent, such a great fighter, and that's why she's been able to win multiple grand slams. that's why it was never over until match point." azarenka replied," she's a champion, and she knows how to repeat that. she knows what it takes to get there. i know that feeling, too. and when two people who want that feeling so bad meet, it's like a clash."

williams turns 32 on september 26, and is playing the best tennis of her life. in the longest women's final since 1980 - two hours and 45 minutes - williams served nine aces, including one at 126 mph, en route to improving her amazing 2013 record to 67-4. she has nine titles this year, captured four of the last six major singles titles and became the first woman to earn $50 million in career earnings.

the fashionable, intense & perfectionist black woman now has 17 major singles titles, one behind chris evert & martina navratilova. she equaled steffi graf's five us open victories, one less than evert's all-time record of six in the open era, which began in 1968. williams never won consecutive us opens, but she did on sunday. her first us open triumph came as an unheralded teenager in 1999. since her shocking first-round loss at the 2012 french open, she is 98-5 with 14 titles.

world #2 rafael nadal of spain defeated world #1 novak djokovic of serbia 6-2. 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 to win his second career us open men's singles crown. this was their 37th match against each other - the most between any two men in the open era - and nadal has won 22. it was also their third head-to-head us open final in the last four years. nadal won in 2010 and djokovic won their rematch in 2011.

nadal said afterwards, "this is probably the most emotional one in my career. i know i had to be almost perfect to win. probably nobody brings my game to the limit like novak." said djokovic," he was too good. he definitely deserved to win this match today, and this trophy. obviously disappointing to lose a match like this. thirteen grand slams for a guy who is 27 years old is incredible. whatever he achieved so far in his career, everybody should respect, no question about it."

although he missed about seven months on the tour - including the 2012 olympics and two majors - the charismatic, left-handed warrior is playing the best tennis of his career. nadal is 60-3 overall this year, including a remarkable 22-0 on hard courts. he's won 10 tournaments, among them a record eighth french open, which made him the first man in the open era to win a major singles title in nine consecutive seasons.

their hard-fought, three hour and 21 minute battle drew standing ovations in the middle of some games. most of the rallies went 15-25 shots, with one more than 50 strokes. with his thrilling victory, nadal ranks third on the all-time list with 13 major championships, behind roger federer with 17 and pete sampras with 14. in addition to his eight french open titles, he's won two wimbledon titles, two us open titles and one australian open title. 

Monday, September 09, 2013

Global AIDS mortality fell by over 20% in the last five years

the overall death rate from aids-related complications has fallen by 21% since 2006, the most recent study in the global burden of disease (gbd) series shows. however, while a number of countries with large hiv burdens have significantly reduced the pandemic's death and disability toll, there is huge disparity in progress between different regions and neighboring nations.

the report also finds in 22% of the 182 countries with documented cases of aids, aids-related mortality and hiv-related disability is still rising. in most cases this is because the countries still have very low prevalence, or in some cases, hiv has arrived very late.

yet there are several counties, most notably the democratic republic of congo (drc), ukraine and russia who have high aids mortality and large numbers of cases where there is little sign of mortality falling. similarly, there are still eight countries in the world - small, mainly pacific nations - who have never had a single recorded case of aids.

the gbd study compiles causes of death and disparity. it computes the number and proportion of disability-adjusted life years (dalys) lost to individual conditions, the proportion of dalys lost, the percentage of deaths attributable to the condition and the proportion of global death and disability due to the condition occurring in each country. from these statistics, it computes a ranking for each condition, globally and per country, in terms of the proportion of death and disability it causes.

the 2010 study found ischaemic heart disease is the number one killer worldwide, and strokes are at number three, meaning cardiovascular diseases in general cause 9.3% of all dalys lost worldwide. while overall mortality and disability rates have fallen, the proportion due to heart disease has risen by 29% and strokes by 19% since 1990.

lower respiratory infections (pneumonia) and diarrhoeal diseases are at number two and four respectively: in 1990 they were numbers one and two, and their death and disability ranking has fallen by 44% and 51% respectively.

hiv and aids are the number five condition. death and disability due to hiv increased by 354% during that time. since 1990, no other condition's disease burden increased more than the 69% rise in diabetes. the disease burden of malaria and tuberculosis, which are at number seven and 13 respectively, fell by 20% since 1990.

furthermore, hiv is responsible for 3.3% of all dalys lost worldwide, though in high-prevalence countries such as south africa it is responsible for up to 40% of dalys lost. hiv and aids are exceptional for its age profile. whereas most other conditions disproportionately affect the old and the very young, hiv is the number one cause of dalys lost for women aged 25-45 and men aged 30-45.

the gbd study revealed which countries are most affected by hiv. as such, hiv is the number one cause of death and disability in a swathe of eastern and southern african countries stretching from somalia to south africa. its also the worst health problem in the west african countries of equatorial guinea and gabon, and number two in the populous countries of cameroon, ghana and nigeria.

hiv is the number one cause of dalys lost in a cluster of caribbean countries, including the bahamas, belize, jamaica and suriname. hiv is number two in nearby guyana and panama, and in the top five in colombia and venezuela. in south-east asia, hiv is most notably the biggest cause of death and disability in thailand, but its also in the top five in nearby malaysia, myanmar and vietnam. in eastern europe, its the third and fourth most significant cause of death and disability in ukraine and russia, respectively.

india and russia, because of their size, contribute more to the global burden of disease in absolute numbers than in prevalence - they are the only two countries in the top ten in terms of numbers of dalys lost not in africa. india is number two after south africa, even though hiv is only the 15th most significant cause of death and disability there. similarly, china, where hiv is the 38th most significant cause of illness, loses as many dalys to hiv than zambia.

the proportion of dalys lost to hiv-related illnesses is generally correlated with how far up the list hiv is in terms of the country's ranking of diseases, but not entirely: it depends how the country's disease burden is distributed. thus, hiv is the number one cause of death and disability in kenya, south africa and thailand, but the proportion of total dalys lost attributable to hiv is 40% in south africa, 15% in kenya and 5.6% in thailand.

among the study's most interesting findings are how each country's hiv burden correlates with the reduction in dalys lost to hiv since aids deaths were at their peak. this peak could have happened anywhere between 1996 - when antiretroviral therapy (art) started becoming available in developing countries - and last year. 

countries who demonstrated progress in lifting their aids burden fell into two types: they were either high-income countries who controlled their hiv burden early, or low-income countries with good art programs instituted more recently. eight countries where dalys lost due to hiv fell by more than 80% from their peak are cambodia, france, haiti, japan, netherlands, new zealand, rwanda and spain.  

the united kingdom had a 63.5% fall in dalys lost to hiv. botswana, germany and the u.s. had a 75% fall in dalys lost to hiv. by contrast, ethiopia showed a 68% fall in dalys lost to hiv, compared with the countries on either side, somalia and sudan, which have seen no fall. in india, dalys have fallen by 8.6% but in south Africa, 11 billion dalys were lost to hiv (500 times as many as the uk), which is remarkable considering the daunting pandemic they face.

in vietnam, dalys lost to hiv have yet to fall, yet hiv is the sixth most significant cause of death and disability there. vietnam may be an example of a country where hiv arrived quite late and is only now going through its phase of expansion. other examples include afghanistan, china, pakistan and the philippines. most of these countries are currently seeing rapid hiv prevalence increases in gay men, men who have sex with men or in people who inject drugs.

unfortunately, some countries where there has been a significant hiv presence for some time have not succeeded in bringing down aids deaths and hiv disability. these countries include the drc with a 2.7% fall in dalys, Ukraine with a 2% fall, Russia with a 0.5% fall, and Indonesia, where there has been no fall at all.  

some countries miserably fail to address their hiv crises. publicly, they blame many reasons why, but two factors have emerged: hiv treatment unsurprisingly lags behind in countries recently torn apart by war (Liberia and sierra leone are prime examples); others where treatment does not get to high-prevalence is largely because of their highly stigmatized populations.

corruption and gross economic inequality are other factors contributing to human misery. hiv death and disability has fallen disproportionately little in the oil-rich but extremely unequal states of angola and equatorial guinea - the latter is the only country in the world where hiv is the number one cause of death and disability but which has seen no fall in dalys lost to hiv.

in Europe, economic decline may be a factor, with Greece and Portugal only seeing relatively poor 29% and 33% declines in dalys lost respectively, compared to at least twice those numbers with their european neighbors. papua new guinea, which a few years ago saw alarming rises in hiv prevalence, was being talked about as the possible site of the first hyperepidemic outside Africa. in the last few years, it has seen a 51% fall in hiv-related death and disability.     


Thursday, September 05, 2013

KKK and NAACP Representatives Hold Secret Meeting in Casper, Wyoming

a secret meeting was held on saturday between jimmy simmons, president of the casper naacp, and john abarr, a ku klux klan organizer from great falls, montana. the meeting took place at a hotel in casper, wyoming under tight security, the casper star-tribune reported.

the southern poverty law center and the united klans of america (uka) said tuesday the meeting was a first. abarr told the associated press on tuesday he filled out an naacp membership form so he could get the group's newsletters and some insight into its views. he said he paid a $30 fee to join the naacp - the nation's oldest civil rights organization - plus a $20 donation.

simmons said he asked for the meeting after receiving reports kkk literature was being distributed in gillette, about 130 miles north of casper. he also wanted to discuss race relations, including what he said were reported beatings of black men; details were not provided. abarr said he knew nothing about the hate crimes or the literature, which was distributed in a residential neighborhood of gillette in october.

gillette police lt. chuck deaton said there have been 10 hate or bias crimes reported in the past five years involving name-calling but no assaults on black people. deaton also said police were unable to speak with a young man distributing the literature, and he was chased away by neighbors. "in the 21 years that i've been here, that's the first i heard of the klan in gillette," deaton said.

eric wingerter, a spokesman for the naacp's national headquarters, told the star-tribune local chapter leaders aren't required to get permission to arrange meetings. united klans of america imperial wizard bradley jenkins of birmingham, alabama said in a telephone interview he sanctioned the meeting and called it a first between the kkk and the naacp.

abarr said, "i don't know if we accomplished too much. we're not about violence. we're about being proud to be white." mark potok, a senior fellow at the southern poverty law center, said there have been meetings between white and black groups, but nine between the kkk and the naacp.

he called the united klans of america a "copycat wannabee" group that's not the group responsible for violence during the civil rights movement  of the 1960s, including the deaths of four black girls at a baptist church in birmingham. the original uka was dismantled in the 1980s following a lawsuit by the southern poverty law center.   

potok said of the historic meeting, "i think it's outrageous and counterproductive. it gives legitimacy to the klan as an organization you can talk to." but simmons insisted the meeting was worth it. he said, "it's about opening dialogue with a group that claims they're trying to reform themselves from violence. they're trying to shed that violent skin, but it seems like they're just changing the packaging." 

Monday, August 12, 2013

Federal Judge Says NYPD 'Stop & Frisk' Tactics Violates Constitutional Rights

on monday a federal judge said the new york police department's (nypd) controversial 'stop and frisk' tactics violates an individuals constitutional rights. over the last decade the nypd have questioned millions of mostly black and latino people, a tactic many people view as racial profiling.

the judge, shira scheindlin of manhattan federal court, ordered an independent monitor to oversee the program. but she did not order an end to the tactic. four men have sued the city, saying they were unfairly targeted by the nypd. scheindlin ruled their fourth and 14th amendment rights were violated.

the fourth amendment protects against unreasonable searches, and the 14th amendment guarantees equal protection under the law. scheindlin found the police had used the tactic 4.4 million times between 2004 and 2012 - 80% of the people stopped were black and latino.

scheindlin wrote, "the city's highest officials have turned a blind eye to the evidence that officers are conducting stops in a racially discriminatory manner. in their zeal to defend a policy that they believe to be effective, they have willfully ignored overwhelming proof that the policy of targeting 'the right people' is racially discriminatory and therefore violates the united states constitution."

to stop someone, she wrote the police need more than an "unparticularized suspicion or hunch." and to proceed to a frisk, the officer must reasonably suspect the person is armed and dangerous, she wrote. scheindlin noted 88% of the stops resulted in no arrests or tickets. but she emphasized she was making no ruling about the effectiveness of the tactic in fighting crime, only its unconstitutionality.

scheindlin wrote, "many police practices may be useful for fighting crime - preventive detention or coerced confessions, for example; but because they are unconstitutional they cannot be used, no matter how effective." outgoing mayor michael bloomberg planned a press conference monday afternoon to address the ruling. he has vigilantly defended the tactic.

in april, bloomberg said, "there is no doubt that stops are a vitally important reason why so many fewer gun murders happen in new york than in other major cities, and why we are the safest big city in america." scheindlin stressed she was not halting the 'stop and frisk' practice, only trying to make sure it was carried out to protect the liberties and rights of new yorkers. she appointed an outside lawyer to study the program, report back to the court, and to issue public reports every six months. 


Thursday, August 01, 2013

The Durbin-Lee Smarter Sentencing Act

after decades of "get tough" rhetoric, democrats and republicans are unifying their efforts in the spirit of equality, fairness and justice. the smarter sentencing act, s. 1410, introduced today by senators durbin, and lee, takes two significant steps forward.

first, it reduces overly harsh penalties for drug offenses and allows judges greater flexibility in sentencing. second, it extends the more equitable crack cocaine provisions of the fair sentencing act retroactively to individuals serving prison terms under the now discredited 100-to-1 sentencing disparity.

the smarter sentencing act recognizes what advocates, practitioners and scholars have long understood: ever increasing criminal penalties are not an effective way to keep americans safe. nowhere is this more true than in the area of mandatory minimum penalties, which apply a one-size-fits all approach prohibiting federal judges from assessing cases on an individual basis.

not only are mandatory minimums a primary driver of skyrocketing federal prisons, but they result in racial unfairness. the toxic combination of the so-called war on drugs and diminishing judicial discretion has filled more than half of our federal prisons with individuals convicted of drug offenses, few of whom are kingpins of the drug trade.

this bill does not eliminate mandatory minimums. by reducing penalties and restoring discretion to judges, it will help to mitigate their harshest effects. s. 1410 compliments the fair sentencing act to reduce the disparity in sentences for crack and powder cocaine offenses  - a disparity which disproportionally penalizes African-American communities. the senate should pass this legislation to address unjust criminal justice system penalties which fuel racial disparities in sentencing.    

Monday, July 29, 2013

Fast Food Workers Strike For Higher Wages Around The Country

thousands of workers in seven american cities went on strike, demanding wages for $15/hour and the right to unionize. building on the momentum of an initial strike last november in new york city, organizers say dozens of restaurants in chicago, detroit, flint, kansas city, milwaukee, new york city and st. louis will be affected by waves of worker walkouts over the course of the week.

"these workers need a raise and they need representation in the workplace," said martin rafnan, community director for stl735. the acronym stands for "st. louis can't survive on $7.35," referring to missouri's minimum wage. rafnan said the group, which plans to strike today and tomorrow, hopes to build on a strike last may, when about 100 workers walked off the job.

rafnan said, "in this particular set of actions this week, we're expecting to strike 50 stores and between 100 and 200 workers." he added the response to the strike in may was greater than anticipated - the group only expected 40 or 50 workers to walk out. rafnan said, "it ended up being a much bigger thing."

today's action could see 500-plus workers at dozens of new york city fast food restaurants abandoning their posts for picket lines, said jonathan westin, director of fast food forward and executive director of new york communities for change. at a mcdonald's across the street from yankee stadium, several dozen people chanted, "we can't survive on $7.25."

in april, 400 fast food employees walked off the job in new york. at twice the size of the group's inaugural walkout last november, local organizers called that event the biggest fast food strike in the country - until now. these actions are designed to call attention to "the contradictions between the folks at the top...and the workers themselves living in poverty," westin said.

spokespeople from mcdonald's and yum brands (parent company of kfc, pizza hit and taco bell) referred questions to their trade group, the national restaurant association. bob bertini, a company spokesperson, said, "burger king restaurants offer compensation and benefits that are consistent with the qsr industry." he also said, "wendy's is still assessing the situation...we have no additional comment."    

this week's actions were fueled by a publicly criticized budget guide for mcdonald's workers recommending they get a second job and save $20/month for health insurance. also, a report by the national employment law project shows the vast majority of fast food positions are dead-end jobs. the group's earlier research found nearly 60% of post-recession job creation was for work paying $13.83/hr. or less. 

an open letter was signed by more than 100 economists and published this month by the university of massachusetts, amherst's political economy research institute. the letter is titled, "economists in support of a $10.50 u.s. minimum wage." the economists strongly believe raising wages would add just five cents to the price of a big mac.

the general perception of a fast food worker is a teenager with extra spending money. but the average age of today's fast food worker is 32, the letter said, which has much grimmer implications. "if a worker today is employed full time for a full 52-week year at a minimum wage job today, she or he is making $15,080. this is 19% below the official poverty line for a family of three," the letter also said.





Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Stevie Wonder Boycotts Florida After Zimmerman Verdict

grammy-award winning singer, humanitarian and worldwide superstar stevie wonder has vowed to never perform in the state of florida until a controversial self-defense law is abolished. the international icon went public following the acquittal of george zimmerman, who shot and killed trayvon martin, an unarmed black teenager, february 26, 2012.

zimmerman is a volunteer neighborhood night watchman. on saturday he was found not guilty of murder and manslaughter charges by an all-female (five white, one latina) jury in sanford, florida. he claims he shot martin in self-defense. his defense lawyer mark o'mara said race was not a factor in the confrontation and if zimmerman were black he never would have been arrested. zimmerman is latino and white.

although the state's "stand your ground" law was not used in this trial, the polarizing law has come under civil, legal and media scrutiny. the law establishes law-abiding residents and visitors may legally presume the threat of bodily harm or death from anyone who breaks into a residence or occupied vehicle and may use defensive force, including deadly force, against the intruder.

additionally, the law states, in any other place where a person "has a right to be," that person has "no duty to retreat," if attacked and may "meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another to prevent the commission of a forcible felony."

wonder announced he'll boycott florida and the 22 other u.s. states carrying similar laws, until those laws are overturned. speaking to fans at a show in quebec city on sunday, the legendary singer said, "i decided today that until the stand your ground law is abolished in florida, i will never perform there again. as a matter of fact, wherever i find that law exists, i will not perform in that state or in that part of the world."    

wonder continued, "the truth is that for those of you who've lost loved ones in the battle for justice, we can't bring them back. what we can do is we can let our voices be heard. and we can vote in our various countries throughout the world for change and equality for everybody. that's what i know we can do."

zimmerman's acquittal sparked mass protests across the u.s. some artists publicly spoke out against the verdict. they include beyonce, her sister solange knowles, chris brown, miley cyrus, rihanna and russell simmons. veteran soul singer lester chambers was hospitalized on saturday after he was attacked by a woman at the hayward russell city blues festival in california for dedicating a song to martin.


Monday, July 15, 2013

George Zimmerman Found Not Guilty

yesterday in florida an all-female jury (five white, one latina) found george zimmerman not guilty on charges of second-degree murder and manslaughter for fatally shooting trayvon martin, an unarmed black teenager, february 26, 2012. 

zimmerman is a 28 year-old volunteer neighborhood watchman in the gated community of sanford. martin was walking back to his father's house on a dark and rainy night after buying a bag of skittles and a can of ice tea. 

i wanted to write about this yesterday. i really did. but i couldn't. i was unable to find the courage to articulate my emotional turmoil and spiritual warfare. until i saw a tweet by the activist, humanitarian and singer john legend. his tweet said, "my heart hurts."

i felt such profound sadness yesterday. spirit knew i needed to talk to somebody about how i was feeling. but i lacked the humility to pickup the phone and call someone. anyone. my heart was hurting so bad. i feel compassion and empathy for the martin family and their allies worldwide.

i've never had faith in the criminal justice system. i distrust the stand your ground law. i'm resentful towards the secretive right-wing american legislative exchange council and the koch brothers, who fund their oppressive efforts. i'm disgusted with the prosecution for their horrible incompetence. they were a non-mother fucking factor! 

and my heart hurts.

i'm disappointed with the judge and the special prosecutor for not educating the jury on the etymology of the term, cracker. while on the witness stand, rachel jentael, martin's friend - the last person to speak with martin - said martin called zimmerman a "creepy cracker." in the south, the term cracker is neither derogatory nor racist.

i detest zimmerman's trial lawyer, mark o'meara, for suggesting, after his client was acquitted, if zimmerman were black there would be no trial. i wanted to punch him the face for his insensitive remarks. racial profiling was not discussed in the trial, yet martin was racially profiled and stalked by zimmerman: even after law enforcement instructed him to get back in his car.

yes, there have been peaceful marches throughout the country in both large and small cities. a plea for calm has been issued by president obama, martin's parents, florida law enforcement agencies, governors, senators, community-based organizations, non-profit institutions, athletes, celebrities, social media people and progressive folk everywhere. 

and my heart hurts.

trayvon martin was found dead. george zimmerman was found not guilty. fuck the evidence! fuck the law! and we're supposed to do what? pray? turn the other cheek? give it to god? hope this doesn't happen again? is this what a post-racial america looks like? no, this is the real america. this is america's his-tory and enslavement and con-stitution and declaration of independence and jim crow. apartheid has reared its ugly head. again.  

dred scott. emmitt till. fred hampton. rodney king. michael griffith. yusef hawkins. amadou diallo. patrick dorismond. oscar grant. sean bell. ramarley graham.

today, in new york city, there are hundreds of cops on the street everywhere - but young, black men don't feel safe. after trayvon, who's next? is there justice for young, black men in america? or, in the words of richard pryor, is it, just us? 

and my heart hurts... 

Monday, July 08, 2013

Marion Bartoli and Andy Murray Win 2013 Wimbledon Singles Titles

marion bartoli of france defeated sabine lisicki of germany 6-1, 6-4 on saturday to win the 2013 wimbledon singles championship. the 15th-seeded bartoli achieved her first major singles crown at the all-England club. she did not lose a set during the two-week tournament.

bartoli was a runner-up to venus williams six years ago. in a tender display of compassion after the match, she said to her tearful opponent, "i was there in 2007 and i missed it. i know how it feels, sabine, and i'm sure you will be there one more time. i have no doubt about it."

lisicki upset world #1 serena williams in the fourth round. she also beat two other major champions, fransesca schiavone and samantha stosur, earlier in the tournament. said lisicki, "i was just overwhelmed by the whole situation but credit to marion she's been in this situation and she handled it well."   

bartoli served out the final game at love with an ace on match point and dropped to her knees to actualize a childhood dream. she climbed up the wall into the players box to celebrate with 2006 wimbledon champion amelie maursemo - the last frenchwoman to win a major singles crown - and her friends and family. bartoli received $2.4 million for the victory.

andy murray of england defeated world #1 novak djokovic of serbia 6-4, 7-5, 6-4 on sunday to win his first wimbledon singles crown. muray's victory ended an almost 80-year drought by male british players: fred perry was the last to win at the all-england club in 1936.   

the world #2 was asked how the burden of a nation was finally lifted. murray said, "i think i persevered. that's really been it, the story of my career probably. i don't know how i managed to came through that last game. it was unbelievable."

sevens were wild on a warm sunday afternoon in england. murray became the first player from england in 77 years to win at wimbledon. virginia wade won the wimbledon women's singles championship in 1977. the date for yesterday was 7-7. 

murray and djokovic are now the game's top rivalry. federer has slipped to #5. nadal has unreliable knees. both were upset early in the tournament. murray beat djokovic in the us open men's final in 2012. it was his first major victory after enduring four losses. in fact, the two players have faced each other in three of the last four major finals. 

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Patents Keep New HIV Meds Too Expensive

doctors without borders, a leading medical aid group, said on Tuesday rising intellectual property rights are blocking the generic production of newer drugs to treat HIV and are keeping them out of reach for developing countries.

at an international aids meeting in kuala lumpur, Malaysia, the group said prices of older drugs long used to treat patients have fallen sharply as india and other countries make generics. but newer, more effective drugs against the aids virus are too expensive, costing up to 15 times more.

"it's good news that the price of key hiv drugs continues to fall as more generic companies compete for the market, but the newer medicines are still priced far too high," said Jennifer cohn, medical director for doctor without borders' access campaign. she said, "we need the newer treatments for people that have exhausted all other options, but patents keep them priced beyond reach."

according to doctor without borders, the governments of Thailand and Jamaica pay $4,760 and $6,570, respectively, a year per patent for the new drug, darunavir alone. Paraguay pays $7,782 for etravirine, while Armenia pays $13,213 for raltegravir. by comparison, a cocktail of older generic drugs costs as little as $139 per person a year.

the group also said the world health organization's new guidelines, which recommend earlier treatment for adults, means an additional nine million people in developing countries will now be eligible for treatment. currently, only about 60% of those who need the drugs are getting them.

arax bozadijan, an hiv pharmacist for doctors without borders, said, "scaling up hiv treatment and sustaining people on treatment for life will depend on bringing the price of newer drugs down." the trans-pacific pact countries account for nearly 40% of global gdp and about a third of world trade; any agreement could significantly impact prices. the obama administration says it hopes to wrap up talks by the end of the year.      

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Hundreds Protest Obama's Visit to South Africa

hundreds of protesters marched to the u.s. embassy in south Africa on Friday in a peaceful protest against the impending visit by president barack Obama. the demonstrators opposed drone strikes, global warming, the war in Afghanistan, u.s. policy on cuba, and other issues.

the protesters want to raise public awareness and warn American citizens about human rights violations committed by the Obama administration, which include the non-closure of the Guantanamo bay prison holding terrorism subjects, remarked campaign coordinator mbuyiseni ndlozi. said ndlozi, "their administration's government is not welcome, and is being received with antagonism. therefore they'll have to rethink the standards by which they hold their government."

protesters carried signs which read, "no, you can't Obama," a message inspired by the "yes, we can" campaign slogan adopted by obama during his historical presidential run in 2008. Obama and his family arrived in south Africa later Friday as part of a tour of three African countries. their three-day trip includes a visit to cape town's robben island, where former president nelson mandela spent 18 of his 27 years imprisoned by the apartheid government.

demonstrators staged a similar protest outside the parliament building in cape town where Obama's record on human rights and trade relations in Africa were questioned. protesters also plan to rally Saturday at the university of Johannesburg's Soweto campus, where Obama will address students and receive an honorary law degree, and on sunday at the university of cape town.

despite his global popularity, Obama is not free of criticism, even from people of African-descent. one of the protesters, abdurahman kahn said, "he's coming here to plunder African and south Africa. he's coming for the wealth and resources, for the gold mine and diamonds, while the majority of Africans and south Africans are suffering."


Friday, June 28, 2013

New York City Council Votes to Increase Oversight of NYPD

over the objections of mayor michael bloomberg and police commissioner ray kelly, the new york city council early thursday morning approved by veto-proof majorities a pair of bills aimed at increasing oversight of the new york police department (nypd) and expanding new yorkers' ability to sue over racial profiling by officers.

the two bills, known together as the community safety act, passed during a late-night meeting of the council. the meeting began after 11:00 pm and lasted more than three hours. members also voted to pass the city's budget and override a mayoral veto of a law on paid sick leave.

the two policing bills, for months, have stirred a heated public debate between its supporters - who seek a legal means to change the nypd's controversial stop and frisk program - and its detractors, among them, bloomberg and kelly, who both warned these measures would hamstring police officers and lead to a dangerous increase in crime.

one bill, known as intro 1979, would create an independent inspector general to conduct investigations, monitor and review police policy, and recommend changes to the department. the monitor would be part of the city's investigation department alongside the inspectors general for other city agencies. the law would take effect january 1, 2014, leaving the matter of the monitor to the next mayor.

the other bill, intro 1980, would expand the definition of bias-based profiling to include age, gender, housing status and sexual orientation. it also would allow individuals to sue the nypd in state court, not only for individual instances of bias, but also for policies which disproportionately affect people in any projected categories without serving a significant law enforcement goal.

both measures passed the 51-member city council with the votes needed to override a mayoral veto. after these landmark bills passed, just after 2:20 a.m., scores of supporters who had filled the chamber's gallery and waited hours through the debate erupted into loud cheers.

bloomberg, who has promised to veto both measures and this week called his opposition to them a matter of "life and death," said after the vote, "i will veto this harmful legislation and continue to make our case to council members over the coming days and weeks." an override of his veto would extend the conflict between the mayor and the council over policing. the process could take more than two months, putting the override veto only weeks before the mayoral primary.

christine quinn, the council speaker who faces a growing challenge to her early front-runner status for mayor, supported intro 1979, which passed 40-11. but she opposed intro 1980, which passed 34-17. before casting her vote she said, "i worry about having too much judicial involvement." quinn believes intro 1980 would not make new yorkers less safe.

despite her earlier stated opposition, she allowed both bills to move forward, and on monday presided over a so-called discharge vote - the first since the current structure of the council was established in 1989 - to bring the legislation out of committee, where it has stalled. the two bills were first introduced as a package last year by councilmen brad lander and jumaane williams.

the mayor has 30 days to veto the bills. the city council has 30 days from its next full meeting to hold an override veto. kelly sent a letter on tuesday to each council member urging them to vote against it. kelly argued intro 1980 could be used to force the removal of surveillance cameras. he wrote, "the bill would allow virtually everyone in new york to city to sue the police department and individual police officers over the entire range of law enforcement functions they perform."

councilman williams, responding to kelly's letter, said, "if the cameras were put in high crime neighborhoods as a response, that's good policing. if he put them there because black people live there, that's a problem." at least one council member received a call from his local police commander to protest the legislation ahead of the vote.

"they were deeply concerned about 250s and said they would be unable to perform them because of the profiling part of the reform," said councilman daniel dromm of queens, referring to the police form used for street stops. dromm said, "but for me, it's the teeth of the reform; it's the needed piece." he voted for both bills.

peter vallone, jr., the chairman of the public safety committee, said, "new yorkers went to bed a long time ago, safe in their beds. but they are going to wake up in a much more dangerous city." vallone, jr. voted against both measures.



Supreme Court Disables Voting Rights Act

in a 5-4 decision, the united states supreme court on tuesday held section four of the voting rights act (vra) was unconstitutional. in one fell swoop, the court severed section four and the historical section five, which is widely regarded by progressive folk as the heart of the voting rights act.

section four provides the "coverage formula" for the "covered jurisdictions" under section five. the "covered jurisdictions" included certain states and other locales, among them in new york city, the bronx, kings and new york counties. section five required the "covered jurisdictions" to submit any change in voting procedures for preclearance to the department of justice, or alternatively, the federal district court in washington, dc.

the supreme court concluded the "coverage formula" in section four was inconsistent with current conditions and therefore, unconstitutional. the "coverage formula" was based on whether or not a jurisdiction had a voting test in the 1960's or 1970's, or had low voter registration or lower turnout. the court stated, "we issue no holding on section five itself, only on the coverage formula. congress may draft another formula based on current conditions." their decision renders section five moot.

esmeralda simmons, attorney and executive director of the center for law and social justice (clsj) at medgar evers college, said, "section five of the voting rights act has been the most powerful civil rights law ever enacted in the united states. right here in new york city, the center, for over two decades, has used section five of the voting rights act to prevent voting rights discrimination against black, latino and asian new yorkers."

simmons continued, "that was the beauty of the voting rights act: unlike most civil rights laws where you have to be discriminated against before you can file a claim, under section five, changes had to be "pre-cleared" by the federal government or a court before they could be put into practice. the center will fight to reinvigorate the voting rights act. we will join with others who believe that the protection of voting rights is critical to the defense of democracy in the usa."

 the vra decision came as a result of a challenge to constitutionality of section four and section five - both filed by shelby county, alabama. ironically, alabama is the home of selma, the site of the "bloody sunday" beatings of civil rights demonstrators which served as the catalyst of the vra's enactment. between 1982 and 2005, alabama had one of the highest rates of successful cases under section two of the vra.

more recently, state legislators cooperating with fbi investigation captured conversations between members of the state legislature and their political allies discussing a gambling referendum derisively referring to black people as "aborigines" and expressing concern if the measure on the ballot "every black, every illiterate would be bused to the polls on hud financed buses."

the federal district judge presiding over the trial where the recordings were introduced said, "the recordings represent compelling evidence that political exclusion through racism remains a real and enduring problem in alabama."

the vra decision came a day after three other provocative civil rights decisions. in the most watched case - fisher v. university of texas - the court raised the standard institutions of higher education with affirmative action programs must meet to survive legal challenges. the court mandated colleges must show there was no "available workable race-neutral" alternative available to them. finding the university of texas had not shown this, the court returned the case to the lower courts.

the other two cases involved claims of employment discrimination under title vii of the civil rights act of 1964. the court's subsequent ruling now makes it harder for workers to prove they have suffered employment discrimination under the law.

in vance v. bell, a black woman accused her supervisor of racial harassment. the court held the person she accused was a co-worker and not a supervisor -a distinction requiring a higher burden of proof. the court rejected the definition of "supervisor" employed by the equal employment opportunity commission.

in the second case, university of texas southwestern medical center v. nassar, a physician of middle eastern descent alleged he retaliated after complaining of hostile treatment from a hospital supervisor because of his cultural and religious background. writing for the majority, justice kennedy noted retaliation cases should have a higher standard than regular discrimination cases and declared employees in such cases must prove retaliation was not just a motivating factor, but the determinative factor in negative employment actions such as a demotion,

joan gibbs, clsj general counsel, said, "the shelby, fisher, vance and nassar cases vividly demonstrate the reasons why black people must stay on freedom and justice, to defend the gains of the past while challenging current issues such as voter suppression, and stop and frisk."

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Supreme Court Overturns 1996 Federal Defense of Marriage Act

the supreme court on wednesday ruled the federal defense of marriage act (doma), which defines marriage as a union between one man and woman, is unconstitutional. doma was signed into law by president bill clinton in 1996. the law bars federal recognition of same-sex marriages for purposes such as immigration, insurance benefits, social security survivors' benefits and tax filing.

section three of the law defines marriage as "a legal union between one man and woman as husband and wife" and a spouse as "a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife." that provision had been struck down by eight lower courts before the supreme court's 5-4 ruling in united states v. windsor settled the matter for good. 

this historical decision means legally married same-sex couples are now entitled to the same federal benefits as married opposite sex couples. the majority opinion was written by justice anthony kennedy and joined by justices stephen breyer, ruth baden ginsburg, elena kagen and sonia sotomayor. chief justice john roberts and justices samuel alito, antonin scalia and clarence thomas dissented.

president obama praised the ruling. obama said, "we welcome today's decision, and i've directed the attorney general to work with other members of my cabinet to review all relevant federal statutes to ensure this decision, including its implications for federal benefits and obligations, is implemented swiftly and smoothly."

obama further stated, "on an issue as sensitive as this, knowing that americans hold a wide range of views based on deeply held beliefs, maintaining our nation's commitment to religious freedom is also vital. how religious institutions define and consecrate marriage has always been up to those institutions. nothing about this decision - which applies only to civil marriages - changes that." 

attorney general eric holder said, "the court's ruling gives real meaning to the constitution's promise of equal protection to all members of our society, regardless of sexual orientation." the ruling impacts a "broad array of federal laws" holder added, saying the justice department will begin working to implement it. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Supreme Court Sends Affirmative Action Case Back To Lower Court

the u.s. supreme court on monday sent back a texas case on race-based college admissions to a lower court for another look. the court's 7-1 decision leaves unsettled many of the basic questions about the continued use of race as a factor in college admissions.

justice anthony kennedy, writing for the court, said a federal appeals court needs to subject the university of texas admission plan to the highest level of judicial scrutiny. the compromise ruling overturns the decision by the new orleans-based fifth u.s. circuit of appeals, which upheld the plan.

kennedy said the appeals court did not test the texas plan under the most exacting level of judicial review. he said such a test is required by the court's 2003 decision upholding affirmative action in higher education. justice ruth bader ginsburg was the lone dissenter. justice clarence thomas said he would have overturned the high court's 2003 ruling.

the landmark case involves abigail fisher, a white texan who sued the university after she was denied a spot in 2008. fisher has since received her undergraduate degree from louisiana state university. the challenge to the texas plan gained impetus partly because the makeup of the court has changed since the last time the justices ruled on affirmative action in higher education.

in 2003, justice sandra o'connor wrote the majority opinion which held colleges and universities can use race in their quest for diverse student bodies. o'connor retired in 2006, but her replacement, samuel alito, has shown himself to be more skeptical when considering race as factor in a potential student's desire for higher education.

fisher's lawsuit was also fueled by a 1990s state law signed by then, governor george w. bush. the law automatically offers about 75% of its spots to graduates in the top 10 percent of their texas high schools - as was fisher. the admissions program has since been changed; now, the top eight percent gain automatic admission. 

according to university statistics, over 80% of black and latino students who enrolled at the flagship campus in austin in 2011 were automatically enrolled. both sides acknowledge the use of race is modest. in all, black and latino students encompass over 25% of the incoming freshman class. white students constituted less than half the entering class when students of asian descent and other ethnicities were added in.  

the university said the extra measure of diversity it gets from the slots outside automatic admission is crucial because too many of their classrooms have, at best, only token minority representation. but at the same time, texas argued race is one of many factors considered, and whether race played the key factor is too impossible to tell.

the Obama administration, 57 of the fortune 100 companies, as well as large numbers of private and public colleges backed the texas program. one of the benefits of affirmative action, the administration said, is it creates a pipeline for diverse officer corps it called "essential to the military's operational readiness." in 2003, the court cited the importance of a similar message from military leaders.  

Friday, June 21, 2013

Miami Heat Wins 2013 NBA Title

the miami heat defeated the san antonio spurs 95-88 in a hard-won, highly competitive game seven to repeat as 2013 nba champions. miami capped their best season in franchise history with their third consecutive finals appearance. they won 27 straight games - second to the lakers' 33 straight in 1969 - and finished the season at 66-16.

lebron james was named finals mvp for the second year in a row, joining hall-of-famers michael jordan and bill russell as the only men to win back-to-back finals mvp. james had 37 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and two steals. all five of his three-pointers were timely and his defense on spurs guard tony parker limited their successful pick and roll offense. 

in the last 12 months james has two nba titles and an olympic gold medal. pundits have questioned his field goal shooting since his rookie year in cleveland. but afterwards james said, "i work on my game a lot throughout the offseason. i put a lot of work into it and to be able to come out here and have the results happen out on the floor is the ultimate. the ultimate. i'm at a loss for words."

dwayne wade, miami's franchise player and '06 finals mvp, finished the game with 23 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks. the three-time nba champion was noticeably hobbled by knee injuries the last two years and struggled with inconsistent play in this year's playoffs. but the proud father and newly author was all smiles during the post-game press conference. 

wade said, "it took everything we had as a team. credit to the san antonio spurs, they're an unbelievable team, an unbelievable franchise. this is the hardest series we ever had to play. but we're a resilient team and we did whatever it took." wade came into the league with teammates james & chris bosh, yet at 31, he's a couple of years older and his knees might hinder a potential dynasty.

bosh, part of the big three and subject to trade rumors during the playoffs, was scoreless, as was ray allen, who hit the game-tying three-pointer with five seconds left during regulation of game six. shane battier was benched during games four and five, but hit six three-pointers to finish with 18 points. he said, "it's better to be timely than good." mario chalmers scored 14 points for the heat.

san antonio sought to become the first team to win a game seven on the road since washington beat seattle in 1978. the spurs lost game six in overtime, blowing a five-point lead with 28.2 seconds in the game. tim duncan finished with 24 points and ten rebounds. kawhi leonard had 19 points and 16 rebounds. manu ginobli scored 18 points and parker scored 10 points on just 3-of-12 shooting.

duncan said," just give credit to the miami heat. lebron was unbelievable. dwayne was great. i just think they found a way to get it done. we stayed in the game. we gave ourselves opportunities to win the game, we just couldn't turn that corner." ginobli said, "in my case i still have game six in my head. today we played an ok game, they just made more shots than us. lebron got hot, shane (battier), too. those things can happen. but being so close and feeling that you are about to grab that trophy, and seeing it vanish is hard."    

Monday, June 17, 2013

Supreme Court Strikes Down Arizona Law Requiring Proof of Citizenship To Vote

the supreme court on monday struck down an arizona law requiring people to submit proof of citizenship when they register to vote. the vote was 7-2. justices samuel alito and clarence thomas, two of the court's conservative wing, both dissented.

justice antonin scalia, writing for the majority, said a 1993 federal law known as the motor voter act takes precedence over the arizona law. scalia said the motor voter act requires states to "accept and use" the federal voter registration form. 

a few states have similar laws, which they say are meant to reduce voter fraud. but civil rights groups say the arizona law intended to discourage voting by legal immigrants - they worried more states would follow suit if the court upheld. groups opposed to the arizona law said the court blocked an attempt at voter suppression.

"today's decision sends a strong message that states cannot block their citizens from registering to vote by superimposing burdensome paperwork requirements on top of federal law," said nina perales, vice president of litigation for the mexican-american legal defense and education fund.

citizenship is a requirement to vote in any federal election, and the federal registration form requires people to state, under perjury, they are american citizens. states can use their own forms, but they must be equivalent to the federal form.

the arizona law, known as proposition 200 & and adopted by arizona voters in 2004, went further than the federal form by requiring applicants to provide proof of citizenship. according to the brennan center for justice, arizona has used the law to reject 30,000 voter applicants.

challengers to the law argued using a naturalization document as proof would require an applicant to register in person, as opposed to through the mail, because federal law opposes copying the document. a federal appeals court said arizona went too far - essentially rejecting the federal form. but arizona contends prop 200 is similar to asking for id at an airport, which is not a rejection of a plane ticket.    

the supreme court ruling pointed out arizona still has an option: it can ask the federal government to include state-specific instructions on the federal form, and go to court if the government says no. alabama, georgia and kansas have laws almost identical to arizona's and joined prop 200 in urging the court to uphold the additional proof of citizenship.

at an oral argument in march, thomas horne, a lawyer for arizona, told the justices the state had a right to ask for additional information beyond the federal form. horne said, "it's extremely inadequate. it's essentially an honor system. it does not do the job." justice sonia sotomayor replied, "well, that's what the federal system decided was enough."

scalia said during the argument federal law empowers states to take additional action to assess a potential voter's eligibility. he said, "under oath is not proof at all. it's just a statement." patricia millett, a lawyer for groups opposed to prop 200 countered, "statements under oath in a criminal case are proof beyond a reasonable doubt" in criminal cases resulting in execution. she said, "it's a very serious oath."