In NYC, Birthplace Of Climate March, A Reminder Of Who Suffers Most From Pollution

QUEENS, N.Y. ― Jerome Nathaniel, 27, looks small standing in front of Ravenswood Generating Station, its four smokestacks looming like colossal candy canes over the power plant’s gated bramble of pipes and machinery. But his protest chant, soundtracked by a big speaker blasting Public Enemy’s anthem “Fight The Power,” rings loud.

“This is what democracy looks like,” he shouted as protesters, marching in New York City’s only official climate march on Saturday afternoon, streamed past the power plant.

The People’s Climate March began in 2014 as a massive protest in Manhattan. But this year, with environmental regulations under assault from a new president who dismissed climate change as a hoax, organizers encouraged as many people as possible to join thousands for a mass march in Washington, D.C.

Knowing not everyone could make the trip, Nathaniel, a community organizer in Queens for nonprofit food pantry City Harvest, assembled a sister march through New York City’s biggest and most diverse borough. The march began outside a public housing development in Queens’ Woodside neighborhood and snaked through the borough’s otherwise quiet residential streets, stopping off at four different public housing projects.

“This is bigger than one block, two blocks, one NYCHA development or four NYCHA developments,” Nathaniel told HuffPost, using the acronym for the New York City Housing Authority. 
The last stop, the Jacob A. Riis Neighborhood Settlement, served as a microcosmic example of the larger environmental problem about which Nathaniel hoped to raise awareness: that low-income people and communities of color often suffer the worst effects of the greenhouse gas pollution warming the planet and rapidly changing the climate. The housing project sits sandwiched between the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge, where a steady stream of vehicles spew exhaust all day, and the one of the dirtiest power plants in New York State.

Ravenswood produces about 2.3 million metric tons of emissions each year, according to figures the Queens Tribune cited. That’s equivalent to about 500,000 cars. Unlike many plants that run on cleaner-burning natural gas alone, the power station burns 3,264,000 gallons of fuel oil per year. Under a law passed in 2015, the plant has until 2020 to switch over to a cleaner fuel. But lawmakers have recently stepped up efforts to probe emissions from the plant, citing health problems for people who live nearby. 

“For decades, power plants in our communities here in western Queens have strongly contributed to increased asthma rates and increases in hospitalizations and ER visits that exceed the average in Queens,” said Costa Constantinides, a Democrat who represents the area on the city council, in December. “Our city has made great progress on ending the use of dirty fuel oil in buildings. Now more than ever, these plants must become better neighbors and stop the practice.”

The march wasn’t locals only. Protesters came from around the city and surrounding suburbs. Tina Nannaroni, who lives in the Forest Hills area of Queens, said she got up at 5 a.m. to take a bus to Washington, D.C., only to learn her ride had been mysteriously canceled. 

Jerome Nathaniel, 27, of Bed-Stuy, organized the NYC #climatemarch. Here's his takeaway: pic.twitter.com/N6ol65LLJd

— Alexander Kaufman (@AlexCKaufman) April 29, 2017

“In 1965, they sabotaged the anti-Vietnam marches by canceling the buses,” she said. “I don’t know if that’s what happened, or if it’s just incompetence.” 

Evelyn Fenick and Stephen Judd took the train in from Connecticut to march with matching signs that read “Just Cuz The Climate Killed The T. Rex Doesn’t Mean Rex T. Gets To Kill The Climate,” a reference to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who previously served as chief executive of Exxon Mobil Corp. 

“It blew up,” Nathaniel said. “This is urgent, it’s important for a lot of people, you can no longer work in silos. It’s all community, it’s all climate justice.”  

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100 Ways In 100 Days: Here’s How Trump Has Threatened Human Rights Around The World

Activists at Amnesty International have catalogued 100 ways Donald Trump’s administration has threatened human rights at home and abroad during the first 100 days of his presidency. Assembling the list, according to the group’s U.S. head, “didn’t take long.”

Amnesty USA executive director Margaret Huang said the new list of Trump threats highlights a “level of abuse and fear” that’s unprecedented in the grassroots organization’s 55-year history. It stands in stark contrast to a White House tally of claimed accomplishments since Trump’s inauguration in January.

“Unlike his predecessors, who have at least rhetorically talked about the importance of human rights as a U.S. national interest, this president has been dismissive of human rights, dismissive of communities who’ve been subjected to some of the worst violations, and has rejected efforts to hold other governments or his own appointments accountable for protecting human rights,” Huang told HuffPost on Thursday.

It took Amnesty staffers just “a few days” in “a really easy effort” to assemble 100 human rights threats by the Trump administration, Huang said. In fact, “we had to pare it down,” she added.

Trump has armed, emboldened and repeatedly failed to condemn human rights abusers. He has downplayed hate crimes and proposes potentially devastating funding cuts to foreign aid. He also has issued direct threats to some demographics, including those within the U.S.

Here are some of the groups whose rights have been threatened under Trump, according to Amnesty: 

Black Americans

Trump picked Jeff Sessions as attorney general, despite damning allegations against the former Alabama senator of racism toward black people. A Senate committee had previously denied Sessions a federal judgeship after multiple reports of racist remarks, including using a racial slur and joking about the Ku Klux Klan. Sessions has dismissed the accusations as false.

Since taking office, Sessions has moved to roll back Justice Department oversight of local police forces that was meant to curb such abuses as racial profiling and brutality.  

Follow HuffPost’s Black Voices coverage for more.

Immigrants And Refugees

Little more than a week after taking office, Trump signed an executive order banning residents of seven Arab nations from entering the U.S.

International panic ensued as family members were separated, and foreign governments scrambled to respond. The ban was delayed by a federal court amid concerns that it was unconstitutional. The Trump administration modified and reissued the ban, but that version, too, was blocked by courts.

Under the latest Trump policy, refugees are temporarily blocked from resettling in the U.S. The number of annual refugee admissions has been slashed from 110,000 to 50,000.

Trump during his campaign regularly demonized Syrian refugees, and vowed to deport Syrians who had already resettled in the U.S.: “I’m putting people on notice,” he threatened. “If I win, they’re going back!”

Follow WorldPost’s coverage for more.

"@DiCristo13: @realDonaldTrump let's have the policy speeches on immigration, economy, foreign policy, and NATO! pic.twitter.com/Uuit2hWmhW"

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 8, 2016

Trump also has taken aim at Mexican immigrants, especially those who are undocumented. Despite international condemnation, Trump’s administration is moving forward with plans to construct a multi-billion-dollar wall along the southern border.

Trump infamously said during the campaign that when Mexico “sends its people … they’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

Trump has given broader powers to deport people to Immigration and Customs Enforcement without adequate oversight, Amnesty notes. The rights group asserts that increased patrols along the U.S.-Mexico border have done little to prevent asylum-seekers from crossing into the country illegally.

“Cartels and gangs prey upon immigrants waiting to enter the U.S., leaving them vulnerable to kidnapping and sexual assault,” Amnesty’s report says. “Instead of deterring people from making a dangerous journey, the administration is placing them in greater jeopardy.”

Follow HuffPost’s Latino Voices coverage for more.

Indigenous Peoples

Trump’s proposed border wall threatens to separate indigenous communities along the U.S.-Mexico border from their religious and cultural sites.

Moreover, his administration granted permission for the Dakota Access Pipeline to drill under the Missouri River north of Standing Rock to complete the petroleum pipeline. Opponents say the project poses a risk to the water source for the Standing Rock Sioux and other downriver tribes.

According to Amnesty, this could “destroy Native America cultural sites,” and it “totally [ignores] the rights of Indigenous Peoples to consent to such projects.”

See HuffPost’s Standing Rock coverage for more. 

Jewish People

The Trump administration was slow to condemn a string of anti-Semitic hate crimes against Jewish Community Centers throughout America, inaction that was “contributing to a climate of impunity for hate-based violence,” according to Amnesty.

Trump’s team also failed to mention Jews during a statement about this year’s Holocaust Remembrance Day. More astonishing, White House press secretary Sean Spicer falsely said Adolf Hitler didn’t use chemical weapons during WWII, suggesting Hitler wasn’t as cruel as Syrian dictator Bashar Assad. In fact, Hitler’s Nazis gassed millions of Jews.

Follow HuffPost’s continued JCC coverage for more.

Journalists And Activists

Trump’s persistent media bashing has already damaged press freedom in the U.S., according to Reporters Without Borders.

The president has unleashed a barrage of insults and threats against members of the press, even dismissing some major news outlets as “fake news” and “the enemy of the American people.” 

The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 17, 2017

He vowed to “open up” libel laws, warning those who offend him, “We’re gonna have people sue you like you never got sued before.”

The Committee to Protect Journalists labeled Trump a threat to press freedom before he was even elected.

His administration has revoked press credentials for certain news organizations that have produced unflattering coverage, and has threatened to punish others.

Trump’s actions have provoked protests across the nation, but he seems to believe his rights are more important than citizens’.

As Amnesty points out, Trump’s lawyers argued that his First Amendment rights were infringed by protestors who interrupted a campaign stop in Louisville, Kentucky, in 2016.

This sets “an ominous precedent for how the president interprets free expression,” Amnesty warns.

Follow HuffPost Media’s coverage for more.

LGBTQ People

Trump reversed federal protection for transgender students that allowed them to use bathrooms corresponding to their gender identity. For transgender children, “this revocation puts them at increased risk for violence and harassment,” Amnesty said.

Trump also rescinded protections implemented under his predecessor, Barack Obama, that helped ensure federal contractors could not discriminate against employees on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Roger Severino, Trump’s appointment to head the Office for Civil Rights, has been a vocal critic of policies protecting LGBTQ rights, as has Trump’s vice president, Mike Pence.

Follow HuffPost’s Queer Voices coverage for more.

Muslims

Trump’s travel ban was widely characterized as a Muslim ban, because it directly targeted residents of Muslim-majority countries. He also issued a laptop ban affecting passengers on flights between the U.S. and several North African and Middle Eastern countries.

The number of anti-Muslim hate crimes since Trump’s election has been “staggering,” according to ThinkProgress, which has been carefully monitoring such incidents.

Amnesty says this is largely because Trump’s ban and rhetoric “appear to have emboldened anti-Muslim behavior and attitudes.”

When asked about increased reports of Islamophobia and other hate crimes during an interview with CBS’ “60 Minutes,” Trump said simply: “Stop it.”

See HuffPost’s Islamophobia tracker for more.

Scientists And Environmentalists

Any threat to the environment is a threat to human rights.

Trump’s “America First” budget blueprint proposes massive funding cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency, sparking intense backlash. The agency’s new head, Scott Pruitt, has already started to roll back environmental regulations.

To the alarm of scientists, Pruitt ― America’s top environmental official ― said human activity is not “a primary contributor” to global warming.

The Trump administration also has been accused of muzzling the government’s environmental scientists and attempting to limit their communication with the public. 

Follow HuffPost Green’s coverage for more.

Students, Youth And Children

Trump’s secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, has no personal experience with public education. The billionaire’s lack of experience and understanding of issues surrounding education in America were put on clear display during her confirmation hearing in January, when she struggled to answer question after question.

Devos has backed Trump’s proposed $9 billion budget cuts to the Department of Education, which would curb after-school programs for low-income children that provide additional instruction and food aid.

“Such cuts could have far-reaching impact on the human rights to education and freedom from hunger enshrined in international law,” notes Amnesty.

Follow HuffPost Education’s coverage for more.

Women And Girls

On his third day as president, Trump swiftly reinstated the Global Gag Rule, which restricts U.S. foreign aid for groups that offer abortion services, including education on safe abortions. He also signed a bill enabling states to withhold government money from organizations that offer abortion services, like Planned Parenthood.

As a result, Amnesty says, “thousands of people — particularly low income women and girls — will not be able to access basic health care, including cancer screenings, pregnancy health, birth control, and safe abortion services.”

Trump also revoked the previous administration’s Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces executive order, which had been implemented to eliminate wage disparity between men and women, and ensured protection for parental leave as well as fair processes surrounding workplace sexual harassment.

Follow HuffPost Women’s coverage for more.

Huang said the resistance to Trump’s anti-human rights words and actions has been “incredible.”

“From the Women’s March the day after his inauguration, to the spontaneous protests at airports after the refugee ban, to the ongoing protests that are happening across the country ― it’s a reflection of a recognition that the only way to stand up to this sort of rhetoric and bad policy is for people to take action,” she said.

Read Amnesty’s full list of 100 threats by Trump and ways to take action here.

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People Of Color Bear The Brunt Of Fast-Food Explosion

It is no secret that America’s profusion of more than 200,000 fast-food restaurants has probably gone too far, forcing us to pay a heavy toll for easy access to all that cheap, convenient and tasty food with still-growing rates of obesity and diet-related, life-threatening conditions like diabetes.

But it’s often overlooked that urban, African American neighborhoods have been disproportionately targeted by the continued expansion of fast-food chains.

According to Chin Jou, an American history lecturer at the University of Sydney, this didn’t happen by accident.

Jou’s new book, Supersizing Urban America: How Inner Cities Got Fast Food with Government Help, details how the U.S. government has helped subsidize the growth of fast-food outlets in minority communities through Small Business Administration grants, as well as urban revitalization and minority entrepreneurship initiatives that prioritize fast-food establishments over other industries.

These efforts — along with a heavy advertising push from the industry itself — have pushed many African American families a long way from the healthier diets of previous generations. As a result, Jou points out, minority communities are disproportionately affected by obesity and related health issues.

African Americans are 1.5 times more likely to be obese than white Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These disparities in obesity rates start in childhood. Not coincidentally, fast-food companies are more likely to promote their foods to minority children than to whites, potentially shaping diet preferences from a young age.

It won’t be easy to reverse this trend, especially as the industry increasingly looks to Latino neighborhoods and other minority communities to boost sales. But Jou said there’s hope.

HuffPost recently spoke with the author about how our American diet took such a turn and how to get nutrition back on track — even with a fast food-loving president.

Your book begins with an excerpt from Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation discussing the role the SBA has played in the fast-food industry’s expansion. Why did this capture your curiosity? Why did you feel this was a story worth telling?

I reread the Fast Food Nation excerpt in 2010. At the time, I was studying the history of obesity as a postdoctoral fellow at the National Institutes of Health, so obesity was on my mind a lot. The Fast Food Nation excerpt, which was about the federal government’s loan guarantees to fast-food franchises, struck me because it occurred to me that such policies may have inadvertently and indirectly contributed to the obesity epidemic ― an epidemic that the government was in the process of trying to reduce with initiatives like Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move.”

The notion that the government may have indirectly contributed to the obesity epidemic was not a new idea ― Michael Pollan is perhaps most famously associated with promulgating the idea that agricultural subsidies for crops like corn and soy contribute to the relatively low costs of processed foods made from these items. But before reading that excerpt, I hadn’t realized that the federal government also supported fast-food franchises through Small Business Administration loan guarantees.

What do you think is the most troubling aspect of the SBA’s fast-food support? Why might readers be alarmed by this?

A troubling aspect of the SBA’s fast-food support (and of the government’s various urban renewal initiatives since the 1960s) is that this contributed to the historical development of what has been called “food swamps,” or places that have a preponderance of fast food and junk food relative to affordable healthy foods. The development of these “food swamps” wasn’t inevitable.

I was struck by how some of the factors contributing to the fast-food explosion in minority communities were often well intended — like the Clinton administration’s Enterprise Zone-Enterprise Community urban renewal initiative. There aren’t really any pure “bad guys” here, are there? 

Absolutely, the urban renewal initiatives have been well intentioned, and there are no clear villains in this story. Rather, this is a story of unintended consequences. I don’t know if it would have been easier to write this narrative if there were obvious bad guys, but this is a complicated story that, in my view, did not warrant the drawing out of unequivocally evil characters throughout the narrative.

As you touch in the conclusion, anti-obesity messaging is sometimes critiqued as elitist. How do we combat that tendency, addressing the problem without looking down on people?

You bring up a really important point. First, anti-obesity public health campaigns should not engage in any form of fat-shaming. There have been studies published in prestigious peer-reviewed journals which have found that public health campaigns employing fat-shaming (or “weight stigma”) are actually counterproductive to people losing weight, and can lead to a cascade of pernicious effects, including bullying, stress, depression, and even suicide. Needless to say, fat-shaming is also just plain cruel and sets a bad example for children.

As for how to combat obesity without fat-shaming, I think we need to get away from stigmatizing large bodies and particular food habits, and focus instead on developing policies that make heathy foods more affordable, accessible, and appealing. 

These sorts of policies, which you also outlined at the end of the book, would all come with a price tag. Given the political climate, are you at all optimistic these solutions could realistically be on the table?

Facilitating access to healthier foods for all Americans would probably cost relatively little compared to the current administration’s plans for defense spending, business tax reductions, and even the proposed wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Even so, I’m not optimistic that healthier diets for all Americans will be a priority for the current administration. We have a president that has not been shy about publicizing his affinity for McDonald’s, KFC, and, of course, the taco bowls at his own Trump Grill, not to mention the fact that his first nominee for labor secretary, Andrew Puzder, was head of the restaurant group that owns Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s.

The book touches on so many important and timely issues, were you surprised that no one had beat you to this topic?

I was very surprised, which is why I dropped the book project I had been working on and decided to pursue this. While in the last stages of completing my book, I learned that a historian at Georgetown named Marcia Chatelain is working on a book on a similar topic, but focusing on McDonald’s franchise owners and the issue of civil rights. Needless to say, I’m very much looking forward to the publication of her book. Another forthcoming book I’m looking forward to reading is by a professor of Africana studies and human ecology at Rutgers named Naa Oyo Kwate.

By pointing to these two scholars’ work, I am suggesting, of course, that while the development of fast food in African-American communities is one that may have been overlooked by historians and other scholars in the past, that’s no longer the case. 

A broader societal shift is taking on poverty in addition to other factors that contribute to obesity. Do you see any other reasons for hope that we might yet make progress on this?

Nationwide and among adults, obesity rates have plateaued or risen slightly for roughly the last decade, depending on which age cohort we’re looking at. But there have also been declines among children in particular age categories, and in particular states, which give some reason for hope, since those children will become adults, of course. The CDC issued a report in 2013 showing that obesity rates fell between 2008 and 2011 among preschool-aged children in 19 states and U.S. territories. The children referenced in this report participated in federal nutrition programs, which points, perhaps, to how investments in improved nutrition by the government can be effective.

The most encouraging development was from a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2014 showing a 43 percent decline in obesity rates between 2004 and 2012 among children ages 2 to 5. When asked about their response to such studies, obesity experts tended to say that such findings were grounds for optimism, but that there should be continued vigilance and support for childhood obesity interventions. I would share that sentiment.

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

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Joseph Erbentraut covers promising innovations and challenges in the areas of food, water, agriculture and our climate. Follow Erbentraut on Twitter at @robojojo. Tips? Email joseph.erbentraut@huffingtonpost.com.

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Patton Oswalt: Donald Trump Is America’s ‘Racist Palate Cleanser’

Patton Oswalt says President Donald Trump’s election victory shows that America is “not as progressive as we thought we were.”

Trump has profited from former President Barack Obama’s eight years in office, the comedian and actor told late night TV host Conan O’Brien.

Under Obama, Oswalt said there was a “lot of back-patting going on.” “It was like, ‘Yeah, check it out, black president. ‘Yeah you’re welcome, we’re pretty cool, America 21st century, pretty nice,’” he said.

But when presented with the choice of voting for an “insanely qualified woman” and a “racist scrotum dipped in Cheeto dust,” Oswalt said the country decided to “see what the scrotum has to say.”

It was as if citizens couldn’t handle so much diversity and so Trump was, according to Oswalt, America’s “racist palate cleanser.”

Check out the full interview above.

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Jeff Sessions Isn’t Telling The Truth About ‘Sanctuary Cities’

WASHINGTON ― The Trump administration has fought a long campaign against so-called sanctuary cities, where local law enforcement limits its cooperation with deportation efforts.

A centerpiece of the campaign has been a focus on alleged victims of the “sanctuary” policy ― none more than Kate Steinle, a 32-year-old fatally shot in 2015 in San Francisco. The undocumented man charged in her murder had been released by San Francisco authorities a few months earlier, despite Immigration and Customs Enforcement requests to hold him.

What happened was tragic. But what San Francisco did wasn’t illegal: Jurisdictions are allowed to deny ICE “detainer” requests, and they have good reasons for doing so.

On Friday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions seemed to suggest that it is illegal, contradicting his own department’s acknowledgement that it’s not.

“No jurisdiction has a right to violate federal law, especially when that violation leads to the death of innocent Americans, like Kate Steinle,” Sessions said in a speech, according to prepared remarks.

The Justice Department couldn’t say what law Sessions was referring to. “The AG didn’t say that San Francisco broke the law by not honoring a detainer request,” a spokesperson, who would not comment by name, said in an email. The official declined to provide further clarification on his remarks.

Creating this sort of confusion and ambiguity has been a hallmark of President Donald Trump’s administration, and it has served its goals. The strategy has been particularly striking during the fight on sanctuary cities, as Trump and Sessions have repeatedly misled about the law and court rulings in order to make a broader case that jurisdictions that don’t comply with ICE’s requests are putting Americans in danger.

It’s either that they don’t understand these issues at a very elementary level or that they’re intentionally inserting red herrings into their argument because they know that they can’t win on the merits.
Omar Jadwat, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Immigrants’ Rights Project

There are only a few possibilities for why they’d do such a thing, and all of them are troubling.

“It’s either that they don’t understand these issues at a very elementary level or that they’re intentionally inserting red herrings into their argument because they know that they can’t win on the merits,” said Omar Jadwat, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Immigrants’ Rights Project. “Either way, it’s not what you would expect from the top law enforcement official in the country.”

The Trump administration seems to be taking advantage of the fact that immigration law is complicated. Officials throw out mentions of Statute 1373 of Title VIII of the U.S. Code and then immediately refer to detainers, a conflation that hides the fact that the law says nothing about jurisdictions holding people on ICE’s behalf. In fact, the law is relatively narrow: It prohibits local officials from preventing or restricting the sharing of immigration status with the federal government.

The statute came up in a civil case against the city and county of San Francisco filed by Steinle’s family over her death. In the ruling dismissing that case, the judge wrote that “no plausible reading of [the statute] encompasses the release date of an undocumented inmate” ― meaning San Francisco’s failure to notify ICE that it was set to release the man did not violate Statute 1373.

Trump’s executive order threatening funds for sanctuary cities targets not just jurisdictions that violate Statute 1373 but also those that have “in effect a statute, policy, or practice that prevents or hinders the enforcement of Federal law.” Sessions and Trump often use San Francisco and Steinle’s death as examples.

After legal challenges from San Francisco and the Bay Area’s Santa Clara County, Justice Department attorneys argued in U.S. District Court in San Francisco that it would in fact be applied narrowly based on the statute and acknowledged that detainers aren’t mandatory.

On Tuesday, the federal judge sided with the two sanctuary jurisdictions anyway and blocked the order, ruling that the government could enforce the statute regarding information-sharing but that the broad wording of the order was likely unconstitutional.

The federal government can’t legally force local governments to do its bidding. And local governments, including San Francisco’s, say sanctuary policies are important for both public safety and their budgets. Making immigrant communities fearful of police hurts their ability to work with them as witnesses or victims, they argue, and it’s expensive to hold people they’d otherwise release. There’s also legal liability: Courts have ruled that it’s unconstitutional to continue to detain people without a warrant and solely based on ICE’s requests.

That’s why the Trump administration’s efforts to force jurisdictions to honor detainer requests are unlikely to prevail in court. But there’s another way they could take down “sanctuary” policies: by convincing the public that the policies are dangerous and illegal so that local officials will be pressured into dropping them on their own.

“I think that what we’re seeing is there is a desire to scare cities and counties into cooperating with the federal government’s immigration practices, even when there is no legal requirement that those cities or counties do so,” said César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández, an assistant professor at the University of Denver’s Sturm College of Law who specializes in immigration law.

“The attorney general has a large bully pulpit,” he said. “It’s not as big as the president’s, but it’s a megaphone nonetheless, and the saber-rattling that Attorney General Sessions is repeatedly engaging in has the power to bring some jurisdictions along.”

As the Trump administration attempts to ramp up its deportations, one way to do so will be by getting more help from local law enforcement. That means the administration has every incentive to cajole local officials into doing what it wants, even if it can’t back up its threats.

“The federal government can’t execute these mass deportations without the help of local law enforcement, and so they’re doing what they can to threaten these jurisdictions around the country to do their job for them and help them implement deportations,” said Angie Junck, an attorney at the Immigrant Legal Resource Center in San Francisco. “They know that it’s critical, and their whole strategy is to bully because the law clearly has not been on their side.”

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Jeff Sessions Isn’t Telling The Truth About ‘Sanctuary Cities’

WASHINGTON ― The Trump administration has fought a long campaign against so-called sanctuary cities, where local law enforcement limits its cooperation with deportation efforts.

A centerpiece of the campaign has been a focus on alleged victims of the “sanctuary” policy ― none more than Kate Steinle, a 32-year-old fatally shot in 2015 in San Francisco. The undocumented man charged in her murder had been released by San Francisco authorities a few months earlier, despite Immigration and Customs Enforcement requests to hold him.

What happened was tragic. But what San Francisco did wasn’t illegal: Jurisdictions are allowed to deny ICE “detainer” requests, and they have good reasons for doing so.

On Friday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions seemed to suggest that it is illegal, contradicting his own department’s acknowledgement that it’s not.

“No jurisdiction has a right to violate federal law, especially when that violation leads to the death of innocent Americans, like Kate Steinle,” Sessions said in a speech, according to prepared remarks.

The Justice Department couldn’t say what law Sessions was referring to. “The AG didn’t say that San Francisco broke the law by not honoring a detainer request,” a spokesperson, who would not comment by name, said in an email. The official declined to provide further clarification on his remarks.

Creating this sort of confusion and ambiguity has been a hallmark of President Donald Trump’s administration, and it has served its goals. The strategy has been particularly striking during the fight on sanctuary cities, as Trump and Sessions have repeatedly misled about the law and court rulings in order to make a broader case that jurisdictions that don’t comply with ICE’s requests are putting Americans in danger.

It’s either that they don’t understand these issues at a very elementary level or that they’re intentionally inserting red herrings into their argument because they know that they can’t win on the merits.
Omar Jadwat, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Immigrants’ Rights Project

There are only a few possibilities for why they’d do such a thing, and all of them are troubling.

“It’s either that they don’t understand these issues at a very elementary level or that they’re intentionally inserting red herrings into their argument because they know that they can’t win on the merits,” said Omar Jadwat, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Immigrants’ Rights Project. “Either way, it’s not what you would expect from the top law enforcement official in the country.”

The Trump administration seems to be taking advantage of the fact that immigration law is complicated. Officials throw out mentions of Statute 1373 of Title VIII of the U.S. Code and then immediately refer to detainers, a conflation that hides the fact that the law says nothing about jurisdictions holding people on ICE’s behalf. In fact, the law is relatively narrow: It prohibits local officials from preventing or restricting the sharing of immigration status with the federal government.

The statute came up in a civil case against the city and county of San Francisco filed by Steinle’s family over her death. In the ruling dismissing that case, the judge wrote that “no plausible reading of [the statute] encompasses the release date of an undocumented inmate” ― meaning San Francisco’s failure to notify ICE that it was set to release the man did not violate Statute 1373.

Trump’s executive order threatening funds for sanctuary cities targets not just jurisdictions that violate Statute 1373 but also those that have “in effect a statute, policy, or practice that prevents or hinders the enforcement of Federal law.” Sessions and Trump often use San Francisco and Steinle’s death as examples.

After legal challenges from San Francisco and the Bay Area’s Santa Clara County, Justice Department attorneys argued in U.S. District Court in San Francisco that it would in fact be applied narrowly based on the statute and acknowledged that detainers aren’t mandatory.

On Tuesday, the federal judge sided with the two sanctuary jurisdictions anyway and blocked the order, ruling that the government could enforce the statute regarding information-sharing but that the broad wording of the order was likely unconstitutional.

The federal government can’t legally force local governments to do its bidding. And local governments, including San Francisco’s, say sanctuary policies are important for both public safety and their budgets. Making immigrant communities fearful of police hurts their ability to work with them as witnesses or victims, they argue, and it’s expensive to hold people they’d otherwise release. There’s also legal liability: Courts have ruled that it’s unconstitutional to continue to detain people without a warrant and solely based on ICE’s requests.

That’s why the Trump administration’s efforts to force jurisdictions to honor detainer requests are unlikely to prevail in court. But there’s another way they could take down “sanctuary” policies: by convincing the public that the policies are dangerous and illegal so that local officials will be pressured into dropping them on their own.

“I think that what we’re seeing is there is a desire to scare cities and counties into cooperating with the federal government’s immigration practices, even when there is no legal requirement that those cities or counties do so,” said César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández, an assistant professor at the University of Denver’s Sturm College of Law who specializes in immigration law.

“The attorney general has a large bully pulpit,” he said. “It’s not as big as the president’s, but it’s a megaphone nonetheless, and the saber-rattling that Attorney General Sessions is repeatedly engaging in has the power to bring some jurisdictions along.”

As the Trump administration attempts to ramp up its deportations, one way to do so will be by getting more help from local law enforcement. That means the administration has every incentive to cajole local officials into doing what it wants, even if it can’t back up its threats.

“The federal government can’t execute these mass deportations without the help of local law enforcement, and so they’re doing what they can to threaten these jurisdictions around the country to do their job for them and help them implement deportations,” said Angie Junck, an attorney at the Immigrant Legal Resource Center in San Francisco. “They know that it’s critical, and their whole strategy is to bully because the law clearly has not been on their side.”

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Jeff Sessions Says Prosecuting Immigrants Will Reduce Violence. It Won’t.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions continues to insist that by more aggressively prosecuting immigrants for the crime of crossing the border illegally, the Justice Department is somehow cracking down on violent crime.

But data he cites himself indicate the opposite is true.  

You wouldn’t know it hearing Sessions’ words to a group of law enforcement officials at Central Islip, New York, on Friday. His speech focused heavily on illegal immigration, conflating it with the problem of transnational criminal gangs like MS-13 who make up a minuscule portion of the undocumented population of 11 million. The President made a promise to make America safe again,” Sessions said, according to a draft of his prepared remarks. “And that is exactly what we are doing at the Department of Justice.”

Except when they aren’t. In reality, about half the federal criminal docket is clogged with immigration prosecutions that largely duplicate the work of the civil enforcement system. Sessions wants to prioritize those prosecutions even further, painting undocumented immigrants as disproportionately criminal, despite evidence to the contrary.

“The Bureau of Justice Statistics just released a report showing that 42 percent of defendants charged in U.S. district court were non-U.S. citizens,” Sessions’ remarks read. “And according to the U.S. Sentencing Commission, in 2013, 48 percent of all deported aliens who were convicted for coming back to the United States illegally were also convicted of a non-immigration related crime.”

A closer look at the details in the BJS report he cites shows that Sessions uses incomplete data and twisted logic to craft a misleading argument. 

The fact that 42 percent of those charged in U.S. district court were non-citizens should disturb Americans, but not for the reasons Sessions argues.

The truth behind that statistic is that the federal courts don’t prosecute much in the way of violent crime at all. Only 1.9 percent of federal prosecutions involved violent crime in 2014, according to the BJS. Instead, DOJ focuses on the crimes of “illegal entry” (a misdemeanor) and “illegal re-entry” (a felony). 

But Sessions’ comments elide even that basic reality. Let’s start with the fact that it’s clear he focuses his remarks on undocumented immigrants, who actually made up 37 percent of the defendants in U.S. District Court in 2014.

That figure in itself is misleading. Most illegal re-entry cases are pled down to misdemeanor illegal entry charges and disposed of in Magistrate Courts near the border as petty offenses, despite the fact that virtually all of them result in conviction and carry a jail sentence. Around seven in 10 immigration prosecutions in 2014 took place in Magistrate Court, not U.S. District Court.

Had Sessions chosen to present a fuller picture of the data, his audience would hear that immigration prosecutions made up 53 percent of the federal criminal docket in 2014. 

If he had, those listening might have wondered why DOJ spends its time that way, rather than going after more serious cases involving violence or white-collar crime. Millions lost their homes in the wake of the fraud-plagued 2007 housing crisis, but the Justice Department didn’t spend half its time prosecuting that.

At any rate, Sessions sticks with the U.S. District Court data, which generally means felony re-entry cases. They often involve people living far from the border, many of whom established their lives here years ago. And he uses the stats to make the related point that about half of those defendants had some other non-immigration crime on their record, citing the U.S. Sentencing Commission.

There’s a few problems with this. First, we don’t know how many of those criminal records include petty offenses like marijuana possession or more serious crimes like homicide.

If pressed, Sessions would be forced to admit that last year only 4.4 percent of illegal re-entry offenders last year had criminal histories that put them in the most serious level of Category VI, according to the Sentencing Commission. The most common criminal history level, at 28.6 percent, was Category I, the least serious. And regardless of what they include, a person with a conviction who has served a jail sentence has done their time. But enhancements defined in federal law can boost the maximum sentence for illegal re-entry from two years all the way up to 20.

Second, disregarding the Magistrate Court data means leaving 69 percent of the total 2014 caseload for immigration prosecutions out of the picture. That results in Sessions wildly elevating the number of people with criminal records unrelated to immigration. Those who end up in U.S. District Court facing illegal re-entry charges were often targeted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement and later referred for prosecution precisely because they had some sort of criminal record.

That leads to the third and most important problem with Sessions’ assertion. Another way to phrase what he said is that just over half of the felony re-entry prosecutions in U.S. District Court for 2013 involved someone with no criminal record at all, with the possible exception of an immigration offense. The fact that the Justice Department prioritized cases like those well before President Donald Trump took office shows the degree to which the federal courts have transformed into a parallel immigration enforcement system that often punishes offenders more harshly than the detention and deportation system run by ICE and Border Patrol.

The federal courts and the penitentiary system are both finite resources. But every president since Bill Clinton has chosen to increase the DOJ’s attention on the crimes of crossing the border illegally and returning to the United States after deportation.

Half the federal criminal caseload isn’t good enough for Sessions. He sent a memo this month to U.S attorneys in all 94 districts directing them to consider bringing felony re-entry charges for any person apprehended with a deportation on his or her record. The only thing they need to lock someone up for illegal re-entry is to show a federal judge proof that a defendant has been deported in the past.

This is easy work for the Justice Department. But don’t expect it to make the country safer.

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George Takei Sounds Off About Trump’s First 100 Days

NEW YORK ― George Takei walks into the room and you’d swear he has a halo of Twitter birds floating overhead. The social media activist and actor had arrived to receive a social justice award at The Opportunity Agenda’s 2017 Creative Change Awards in Midtown Manhattan. 

HuffPost Asian Voices talked to Takei (in the video above) about a number of issues he’s been outspoken about, including immigration, LGBTQ rights, North Korea and his New York noodle rec. He also shared personal stories about living on Skid Row and finding solidarity and acceptance as the only Asian-American in a Mexican-American neighborhood in Los Angeles ― it’s that America that gives him hope.

The interview below has been condensed. Watch the full clip above. 

On Trump’s first 100 days 

Well, I think every day of his tenure so far, and I think it’s going to be abbreviated, has been a disaster — one chaos after another disaster.

Well, I think every day of his tenure so far, and I think it’s going to be abbreviated, has been a disaster — one chaos after another disaster. He twice tried to sign an executive order, and we Japanese-Americans know about those executive orders, where he tries to discriminate and characterize a whole group of people as being one thing.

We had an executive order 75 years ago in 1942, February of 1942, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an executive order characterizing all Japanese-Americans as the enemy. We were rounded up at gunpoint and put into barbed-wire American prison camps. I grew up four years of my life in one of those camps, two of those camps, as a matter of fact. And this President Donald Trump again attempted something like that. We’ve learned from our historic past. And we have a changed America today.

On Attorney General Jeff Sessions

The top man in the Justice Department doesn’t understand our federal justice system.

The change that’s happened from 75 years ago to today is dramatic because this time, when those executive orders were signed, thousands of people ― massive numbers of people ― rushed to the airports to protest and resist that executive order. And we had a court system now who put a stay on that.

Our attorney general, Sessions, made that statement about “a judge on an island in the Pacific” ― the top man in the Justice Department doesn’t understand our federal justice system, so we have that kind of administration.

It is not a joke to those people who are being affected by it. And we will resist, seriously, not as a joke.

Takei on his tweet comparing Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un

What is the essential quality of those two men? They both have access to dangerous power. One more dangerous than the other. The United States is certainly a much more armed nation than North Korea. They are both very volatile people, unpredictable and prone to taking damaging actions. I think there is a parallel there. And it should not be looked at as simply a joke. We have an unpredictable president.

On moving to L.A.’s Skid Row after living in a prison camp

That was the only place we could find housing. We spent about two or three months on Skid Row, and that was, to us kids, even more horrifying than being behind barbed-wire fences because imprisonment is routine. 

My baby sister, who wasn’t even a year old, all that she knew of life was behind barbed wire. Coming into the chaos of Skid Row was terrifying. When that derelict collapsed in front of us and barfed, she said, ‘Mama, let’s go back home,’ meaning behind a barbed-wire fence, because coming back home to Los Angeles was so terrifying. 

My sister was 9 months old [in 1942]. So four years of her life were spent behind those barbed-wire fences.

The government took everything we owned away from us and imprisoned us for four years. So we were impoverished.

On facing racial discrimination

So that’s what we came home to ― Skid Row and teachers who called you a Jap.

I went to school, and the teacher, the teacher, called me the “Jap boy” constantly. If I had the courage to raise my hand when I had a question, she always ignored me and looked the other way. So I knew she hated me and I hated her right back. But, you know, she’s a teacher, and what had I done to her to get her enmity? But then as an adult, I think back maybe she had a husband in the Pacific or a son in the Pacific.

So that’s what we came home to ― Skid Row and teachers who called you a Jap.

On finding acceptance in a Mexican-American neighborhood 

After Skid Row, we moved into the all Mexican-American neighborhood of Los Angeles ― the only Asian-American family, much less the only Japanese-American family among Mexican-Americans. And they embraced us. They welcomed us. Our neighbor, Mrs. Gonzales, and my mother became very good friends. My mother learned how to cook Mexican, and she was the best tacos and enchiladas cook in all of East L.A., as far as I’m concerned.

I walked home from school with my Mexican-American friends, and sometimes they would invite me into their mother’s kitchen, and I’d be greeted with the warm scent of fresh tortillas that she had made. And she’d take a ladle of frijoles, beans, and spread it on the tortilla and roll it up, and we’d have our after-school snack.

On the repeal of LGBTQ rights worldwide

The transgender issue — the bathroom now is the battleground.

The transgender issue — the bathroom now is the battleground. These people have now passed a law that still is to be dealt with, where people have to go to the bathroom of their birth certificate.

It’s a fake issue created by politicians who want to create an issue. It really was not an issue until they made it that.

Here domestically, we have that battle to fight. But we’ve been reading about what’s been happening in Chechnya. And we live in a global society now. We are all interconnected whether in the United States or in Chechnya. Gay men are being rounded up and tied to a chair and interrogated for their friends, other gays, and they are tortured, and a few have even died under those circumstances of torture.

So we have made great progress, but we still have a long ways to go. So we live in a global society, and so we have to act like global people. So when we see something like that in Chechnya, we will respond to that. We have to throw a spotlight on it and respond to it.

On the LGBTQ rights movement as an earlier resistance

We have made enormous advances from the time LGBT people were criminalized. You know, just being in a gay bar when I was in my 20s was a criminal act.

On the optimistic side first, we have made enormous advances from the time LGBT people were criminalized. You know, just being in a gay bar when I was in my 20s was a criminal act. Police raided gay bars and put them in paddy wagons, took them to police stations, fingerprinted them, photographed them and put their names on a list. We were criminals simply for being gays. Not unlike being of Japanese ancestry. They put us in these barbed-wire prison camps. We’ve made great advances from that time now. In 2008, we got marriage equality in California, and I was able to marry my longtime love and partner of 21 years at that time, Brad. 

At the beginning of the LGBT movement, most people didn’t think of LGBT issues, but when activists started speaking out on it, more people started thinking about it and then making discoveries ― their own son or daughter might be gay, or their brother or their sister. So it became difficult to make it us and them.

It’s the connections that are important that lead the way to humanizing an issue.

And, finally, Takei on his noodle recommendation

We came upon a fantastic ― not a ramen restaurant but an udon restaurant. First of all, it’s very classy looking, beautiful, kind of modern Tokyo sort of setting. It’s called TsuruTonTan.

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Watch The Emotional Moment This Dreamer Is Surprised With A Full Scholarship

Yesica Calderon received a life-changing surprise this week.

The undocumented immigrant and senior at East Boston High School may have a 4.8 GPA, but her immigration status made it difficult for her to fulfill her dream of going to college.

That all changed when Calderon unexpectedly received a full four-year scholarship to Regis College on Tuesday. A teacher had asked her to go to a study space in the library designated for student athletes, but when Calderon opened the door she found teachers, family, classmates, her coach and the media waiting to give her the good news.

A NowThis video posted Thursday shows the moment Calderon entered the room and her emotional reaction after being given the scholarship, which was made possible thanks to both Regis College and the non-profit Boston Scholar Athletes.

“Some nights I would cry, not knowing what I would do with my future,” she told the room.

Many other schools had given Calderon very little financial aid and the high school student could not apply for government loans due to her immigration status.

“If it wasn’t for this scholarship I probably would not have been able to afford college at all,” she said, according to the Boston Globe. 

This fall Calderon is expected to join the Regis class of 2021 as a freshman, and she says she plans to study to become a social worker. 

Phillip Brangiaforte, headmaster of East Boston High School, told ABC News it was Scholar Athletes’ idea to plan the ceremony to present Calderon with the scholarship.

“We are all very happy for her,” Brangiaforte said. “She definitely deserves it, you know. Yesica is so smart and she’s such a great kid.” 

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The Unrelenting Fight For Black Lives 25 Years After The LA Riots

Alicia Garza was just 11 years old when riots erupted in the streets of Los Angeles 25 years ago ― but her memories of the events that unfolded are vivid.

Garza, who is one of the co-founders of Black Lives Matter, was born and raised in the Bay Area and currently lives in Oakland, California. She credits the rebellion as one of the reasons why she has since committed her life’s work to the fight for justice for black Americans.

She remembers the video that captured four police officers violently beating Rodney King, a black man who was pulled over after a high-speed chase; the trial and the ultimate acquittal of all officers involved that prompted immediate outrage; the videos that showed L.A. in flames, stores set on fire and “shit hitting the fan”; the tensions between the city’s communities of color following the killing of Latasha Harlins, a black teen who was fatally shot by a Korean store owner just months before the riot; the images both of people helping each other and pushing back against the police; and, most distinctly, she remembers how black protesters were demonized for the anger they expressed in the aftermath of such a gross act of racial injustice.

“I remember all of the stories,” she told HuffPost in an interview this week. “I remember this went on for days; it changed the course of history.”

Saturday marks 25 years since one of the most profound and violent acts of protest in modern American history, which involved days of rebellion largely led by L.A.’s black residents. Fights broke out, buildings were burned, more than 50 people were killed, over 2,000 were injured and the city suffered $1 billion in property damages. The overarching narrative of the unrest is complex, with some people who say it was useless and destructive, while others believe the demonstration was to be expected considering the oppressive conditions black people lived under. 

Decades later, the conditions have not changed much: Police brutality against black Americans is rampant, and the relationship between cops and communities of color requires much more work. Cameras and social media have helped to rapidly amplify news of the police killings of black men and women and revolutionize the ways in which residents respond ― much of which is a result of efforts by Garza, along with Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi, who collectively birthed the Black Lives Matter movement.

“[Let’s] figure out together how to … build a strategy that helps us get us from where we are to where we deserve to be.”
Alicia Garza

As someone who has stood on the front lines of countless black-led protests, Garza understands the significance of the L.A. riot. But she also strongly believes that in order to understand the anger and rage that was displayed at the time, it is important that we unpack the circumstances that led to such levels of outrage ― as seen in L.A. and cases around the country ― and continue to identify ways to channel that outrage into more impactful and productive outcomes.

“We should be pissed off about people getting shot down in the street, we should be pissed off that police officers are abusing their power and raping poor black women, we should be pissed off that the murders of black trans women go completely unnoticed, unrecognized and uncared for ― and if we’re not pissed about that then we’re not human,” she said. “And at the same time, rage and anger is not sustainable, it is not a sustainable way to fuel a movement. Rage and anger can actually just burn you out and make you not able to keep fighting and that’s a larger consequence for our movement.”

“What’s important is that we are able to figure out how to channel the rage and anger ― not to get rid of it, but instead how to channel it into sustained resistance and really clear and sharp strategies that allow us to actually change our conditions,” Garza added. “I’m really an advocate of letting that anger and that rage fuel you into action and we then figure out together how to transform that into a vision for the world that we actually wanna live in and build a strategy that helps us get us from where we are to where we deserve to be.”

BLM has made promoting peace a central part of its mission while still acknowledging the pain, anger and frustration that comes with being black in America. The organization was founded in 2012 following the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman. Since then, countless black men and women have died at the hands of police, and BLM has grown in prominence and expanded its efforts to dismantle systemic racism.

King’s beating was unprecedented at the time in that it was one of the first instances where police brutality was captured on camera and shared publicly. Now, people anywhere can instantly access video footage of the police killings of black Americans like Eric Garner, Walter Scott, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.

But the fight for justice and liberation for black lives also requires an understanding that the experience of black people in America is not monolithic. L.A. itself has one of the highest populations of black immigrants, which includes a diverse community of Nigerians, Ethiopians, Afro-Mexicans, Afro-Latinx people and black Central Americans who identify as Garifuna, as well as people from Caribbean countries like Jamaica and Haiti, says Tia Oso, the national organizer for the Black Alliance for Just Immigration. There are more than 2.1 million African immigrants in America alone (that number is steadily climbing), and BAJI ― where Tometi is the executive director ― fights for the racial, social and economic justice of all black immigrants.

“Just as African Americans, black immigrants face issues of racial discrimination and state violence,” Oso told HuffPost, noting the recent police killing of Zelalem Eshetu Ewnetu, who migrated from Ethiopia just eight years ago. “Systemic oppression hits black immigrants and African Americans at the same pressure points.”

Organizations like BLM and BAJI embrace the diversity among blackness and, now more than ever, deliberately seek to amplify the intersecting struggles people of color face in America. In doing so, these organizations are part of a long history of black-led liberation movements, and have learned valuable lessons from past activists ― and historic moments like the L.A. riots ― to apply in the future.

“The L.A. riots impacted black activism in a way that keeps the movement honest and accountable to the plight of people who are living on the margins, living in poverty, living under the most violent oppression,” Oso said, noting that California is home to the country’s deadliest police force. “The uprising in L.A., similar to the Black Panther shootout with LAPD in the ‘60s, shows us that, though we champion policy remedies and reforms to solve our issues, that sometimes conditions in our communities reach a boiling point. It reminds us that reforms are not enough, and that the system must be transformed.”

Transforming the system requires focusing on much more than just police brutality, and both BLM and BAJI have identified ways to better holistically combat several forms of injustice against black lives. Both organizations elevate the experiences of black people ― including those who identify as queer, women, immigrant, trans and disabled ― and help to tackle issues that disproportionately affect these communities, such as deportation, poverty and incarceration.

“We’ve always said Black Lives Matter is in a long tradition of resistance to violence against black people. In essence Black Lives Matter then is not a new idea, it’s instead an idea and a movement whose time had come,” Garza said.

And the timing could not be more pressing. With Donald Trump as president and a Justice Department led by Jeff Sessions, the stakes are higher and the consequences more dire for communities of color. 

“When you look at Jeff Sessions’ record and what he’s done in the last 100 days, what you see is that he’s moving an aggressive agenda, really quietly … to give police more power, more secrecy and more leniency, and we haven’t yet seen the impact of what that will do but we will soon,” she added. “My plea to all of us would be: We have to move quickly to stop that from happening because at the end of the day, when the police are allowed to be judge, jury and executioner, everybody loses.”

“Black Lives Matter then is not a new idea, it’s instead an idea and a movement whose time had come.”
Alicia Garza

Time and again, America has witnessed racial outrage.

“Whether it’s the Rodney King trials, the L.A. uprising or Hurricane Katrina, we have these flash points where the inner workings of America get laid bare for everyone to see,” Garza said. “That’s why I emphasize that anger and rage are important, [but] how do we channel that anger and rage into resilience and vision and strategy so that we don’t have to spend our lives being angry?”

Speaking out doesn’t necessarily mean doing it through street protests ― Garza said it can also mean using your resources, voice, power and position of privilege to denounce the treatment of marginalized groups and address racial issues before they fester and lead to unfavorable consequences. If there is a collective push to transform the way America functions, then there is greater potential for the progress we all hope to achieve.

“I’m somebody who believes protest is important, and I’m somebody who believes protest is not enough,” Garza said. “It’s also important to change culture, to change the way we understand what’s happening around us, to change social norms, to change our values ― and there’s a role for everybody to play in that.”

“Let’s explore what we can do to spend our lives changing the world and moving towards the world we actually want to live in,” she said, “as a resilience strategy, as a way to come back to ourselves, to be present in our bodies, to be present in our relationships with other people and to be present in the vision that we have for what the world can look like.”

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Venezuela And The OAS: The Logic Of Withdrawal

Venezuela’s announcement that it would withdraw from the Organization of American States (OAS) has been greeted with the usual derision in the U.S. media, most of which long ago abandoned any pretense of journalistic neutrality on that country.

But if we step back a bit from the major media narrative, there is a logic to Venezuela’s decision. The OAS, especially under its current secretary general, Luis Almagro, is not the multilateral body that it pretends to be. Almagro, with backing from the U.S., has been on a jihad against Venezuela for years now. In 2015, he spent months trying to delegitimize the Venezuelan National Assembly elections, claiming that they would be stolen without “help” from OAS observers.

His behavior was so out-of-bounds and repugnant that José Pepe Mujica, ex-president of Uruguay, denounced Almagro, his former foreign minister. “I regret the line you have taken and I know it’s irreversible, so now I formally say goodbye,” wrote Mujica, who is widely loved and respected in South America for his honesty and integrity. Almagro turned out to be completely wrong, as the Venezuelan elections were conducted without problems, with the opposition winning 56 percent of the vote.

So, from any objective viewpoint ― regardless of what one may think of either side of the conflict in Venezuela ― the OAS intervention is difficult to see as anything other than a partisan, Washington-driven initiative. In fact, this would never have happened a few years ago, when most South American governments had an independent foreign policy. But now Brazil, Argentina, and Peru have right-wing governments that are strongly aligned with Washington.

In 2013, when the Venezuelan opposition launched violent protests to reverse the result of a democratic presidential election in Venezuela, the then secretary general of the OAS, José Miguel Insulza, joined the U.S. government and the right-wing government of Spain as the only diplomatic actors in the world who would not recognize the results ― despite there being absolutely no basis for opposition claims of fraud. But Spain and Insulza had to back down under pressure from South America, and then secretary of state John Kerry subsequently gave in.

The U.S. has successfully manipulated the OAS numerous times to get rid of governments that it did not like. Recent examples include Haiti in 2011, when an OAS commission illegitimately reversed the results of the first round of Haiti’s presidential elections; and the coup in Haiti in 2004, which was the culmination of a four-year effort by the U.S. and its allies ― with help from the OAS ― to topple the democratically elected government there. The U.S./OAS role in the destruction of Haitian democracy has passed mostly without notice because most Haitians are poor and black.

Latin American governments put up a fight over Honduras in 2009, when the U.S. was trying to legitimize the government that came to power there in a military coup. But in the end, Washington was able to block the OAS from taking the position that the majority wanted: that the OAS should not recognize the post-coup elections until the democratically elected president, Mel Zelaya, was returned to office. Hillary Clinton (then secretary of state) admitted that she successfully blocked Zelaya’s return, in her 2014 book, “Hard Choices.”

Washington’s manipulation of the OAS in 2009, in support of the coup government in Honduras, moved the rest of the hemisphere to create a new organization that excluded the U.S. and Canada.

But the worst part about the current Trump/OAS effort to delegitimize the government of Venezuela is that it appears to be geared toward extralegal regime change. This is a standard playbook ― delegitimation followed by overthrow ― and it encourages violence where negotiations are necessary. This is especially true with an opposition that since the U.S.-supported military coup of 2002 has been divided on whether to use peaceful or violent tactics. People who say that these are efforts to put constructive “pressure” on the Venezuelan government are delusional or dishonest — especially when the pressure comes from an OAS that is so openly partisan and dominated by Washington, and therefore lacks legitimacy of its own.

Venezuela needs a negotiated solution because it is still a polarized society. Despite 400 percent inflation, widespread shortages of food, and a 17 percent decline in GDP last year, President Maduro still has an approval rating of 24 percent, according to the most reliable antigovernment pollster (Datanalisis). For comparison, that is better than the presidents of Brazil (10 percent), Colombia (16 percent), and Mexico (15 percent). There is a base of Venezuelans that support the governing party and fear what might happen if the opposition seizes power; and it includes the military.

Violent regime change often has unforeseen and terrible consequences ― we can see what happened when the U.S. pursued this strategy in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Haiti, and elsewhere. Venezuela needs change ― both economic and political ― but it must come about peacefully, through dialogue, negotiations, and elections. The U.S. strategy of manipulating the OAS for political purposes will make this much more difficult, and it encourages more political violence in Venezuela.

The current president of the Dominican Republic, Danilo Medina, recently asked for an apology from the OAS for approving the U.S. invasion of his country in 1965. Some things never change.

Mark Weisbrot is Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C., and the president of Just Foreign Policy. He is also the author of “Failed: What the ‘Experts’ Got Wrong About the Global Economy” (2015, Oxford University Press). You can subscribe to his columns here.

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Roger Goodell Thinks Marijuana Is ‘Addictive’ And Bad For NFL Players. He’s Wrong.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell thinks marijuana is “addictive” and generally bad for football players, and won’t change his stance until his advisers prove that it’s medically beneficial.

Goodell wouldn’t budge when questioned on ESPN Radio’s “Mike and Mike” Friday morning, claiming that he had the players’ safety in mind.

Listen, you’re ingesting smoke so that is not usually a very positive thing … it does have an addictive nature,” he said. “There are a lot of compounds in marijuana that may not be healthy for the players long-term. All of those things have to be considered.”

He’s long been criticized for his strict handling of marijuana use in the league. The NFL Player’s Association is down with dope as a tool for pain management, as are many NFL coaches. Heck, most of the nation is pretty lax about marijuana use these days. 

But Goodell is known to hand down extreme suspensions for any hint of THC in a player’s bloodstream. All the while, players are complaining that they’re being fed huge amounts of highly addictive prescription painkillers for pain management, according to Deadspin.

Research shows marijuana may be the least dangerous of recreational drugs, including tobacco and alcohol, and can be even less addictive than caffeine. Painkillers like Vicodin, meanwhile, are classified as potentially very habit-forming.

Apparently, Goodell needs his medical advisers to prove not only that weed isn’t that bad, but that it has medical benefits for football players. He told “Mike and Mike”:

We look at it from a medical standpoint. So if people feel that it has a medical benefit, the medical advisers have to tell you that. We have joint advisers, we also have independent advisers, both the NFLPA and the NFL, and we’ll sit down and talk about that. But we’ve been studying that through our advisers. To date, they haven’t said this is a change we think you should make that’s in the best interests of the health and safety of our players. If they do, we’re certainly going to consider that. But to date, they haven’t really said that.

The health and safety of NFL players has indeed been a topic of interest over the past few years, but not because of reefer. Traumatic brain injuries are a growing problem among players, and Goodell is consistently raked over the coals for his apparent inability to focus his attention on concussions and CTE.

But then again, weed.

To be fair, Goodell did open the floor for later discussion about marijuana, likely due to the fact that seemingly everyone else is on board.

“Medical marijuana is something that’s evolving,” he said, “and that’s something that at some point the medical advisers may say this is something you should consider.”

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