Saturday, December 3, 2016

Sean Penn: Hollywood, Havana and Me

Trying to discern common sense and common humanity through the fog of sensation and anger

Deep breath. Exhale. Out with the bad…

I was an American abroad, working overseas on this recent election night 2016. By midnight Dublin-time, having watched tidbits of news coverage, I was able to put myself to sleep, confidently, arrogantly, supremely certain that the election would go to Hillary Clinton, if not the Democrats at large.

When I woke, I woke to the new norm. Donald Trump, a petty, narcissistic, hate-mongering, reality show star who had spent his entire business life ripping off the less-privileged had prevailed. I went numb, then got up and like many, I suppose, dragged myself through a day of utter bewilderment.

Somewhere deep, deep inside though, I knew I should’ve known better. I’d spent much of my October promoting a book by author Pappy Pariah that predicted Trump’s victory. Its protagonist is seemingly defeated and in an imagined post-election epilogue, checks himself into a retirement home “branded with the new president’s name.” The implication was clear. Yes, Pariah knew what I couldn’t. Wouldn’t.

Now, I’ve just returned to the United States and the dark reality is settling in. But this is less an article from a defeated liberal’s view of American politics, pollsters, premonitions, or the decline of journalism, than it is a musing on the state of our country’s mental health.

One need not look far to see the delusional go-tos of a human nature that will always first seek comfort. I know what my colleagues in the movie business are doing. Most of them anyway. Those who lean left and care little. Some will say, “Maybe this will be a good thing after all.” It won’t. For others, the election of Donald Trump will be an opportunity to bitch about how stupid our “hick” country is. Some may even take the Monday morning opportunity to bitch about Hillary Clinton, a woman who offered her exceptional mind and experience, and bravely took a bashing like no other simply to serve the American people. And then there will be the worst of the lot. The self-righteous liberals who refused to back Clinton if only to block Trump. (Noam Chomsky had some choice words for them.)

Click here for the full article.

Source: The Daily Beast 

Weekly Address: Pass the 21st Century Cures Act

FaceBook Live with President Obama

West Wing Week: 12/02/16

A Song for the Soul: 'Imagine', by John Lennon

Stop Playing Defense on Hate Crimes

Studies have shown that influencers and communities can de-legitimize violence.

Intimidation and harassment have spiked throughout the country following the recent election. Women, people of color, immigrants, Muslims, Jews and LGBTQ folks, including many of our own students, report palpable fear.

On Nov. 13, a man threatened to set fire to a University of Michigan student if she did not remove her hijab. 

On Nov. 16, a man in Sarasota, Florida reported being physically attacked by a person who said, “You know my new president says we can kill all you f-ggots now.” On Nov. 17, a Puerto Rican family’s car was vandalized in West Springfield, Mass., with the words “Trump” and “Go home” scratched into the car, and there have been multiple reports of immigrants being told to “go back where you came from.” The Southern Poverty Law Center collected more than 400 reports of “hateful intimidation and harassment in less than a week following election day. 

How do we stop this violence? Looking in from the outside and reporting events after they occur is not enough. We must understand the perpetrators’ motivations.

Click here for the full article. 

Source: TIME Magazine

Ten Days After: Harassment and Intimidation in the Aftermath of the Election

Just a week before the November 8th election, attackers set a church in Greenville, Mississippi, on fire. The historically black church was targeted in what authorities believe was an act of voter intimidation, its walls spray-painted with the phrase “Vote Trump.”

“This kind of attack happened in the 1950s and 1960s,” Greenville’s mayor said, “but it shouldn’t happen in 2016.”

The incident was just a harbinger of what has become a national outbreak of hate, as white supremacists celebrate Donald Trump’s victory.* In the ten days following the election, there were almost 900 reports of harassment and intimidation from across the nation. Many harassers invoked Trump’s name during assaults, making it clear that the outbreak of hate stemmed in large part from his electoral success.

People have experienced harassment at school, at work, at home, on the street, in public transportation, in their cars, in grocery stores and other places of business, and in their houses of worship. They most often have received messages of hate and intolerance through graffiti and verbal harassment, although a small number also have reported violent physical interactions. Some incidents were directed at the Trump campaign or his supporters.

Of course, hate crimes and lower-level incidents of racial or ethnically charged harassment have long been common in the United States. But the targets of post-election hate incidents report that they are experiencing something quite new. 

Click here for the full article.

Source: The Southern Poverty Law Center

Racism With No Racists: The President Trump Conundrum


by Tressie McMillan Cottom 

President-elect Donald Trump ran on a fundamentally racist platform.

President-elect Donald Trump promulgated the idea that Mexicans are rapists, blacks are trapped in inner cities, Muslims are terrorists and that America could only be great “again” by becoming what it was in the 1950s when all manner of de facto and de rigeur racism was common.

That is probably why noted and admitted white racist groups supported his candidacy, celebrate his election and congratulate themselves for winning.

For the media, this presents a special kind of problem for which modern media is poorly equipped. 

I said over two years ago that media style guides precluded major newspapers from calling something racist.

Then I asked around and professional media people told me that there isn’t a style convention on this matter so much as an informal culture. The general rule, I was told, is to never call anything racist and certainly to never call anyone racist. At best, they might quote someone calling something or someone racist.

The implication is that there is no such thing as objectively racist. Racism, according to many mainstream media producers and gatekeepers, can only be subjective.

There is a lot of research on this.

The most cited and widely recognized is Eduardo Bonilla-Silva’s theory of colorblind racism in which there is racism but no racists. It is worth noting Sarah Mayorga-Gallo’s etymology of the term, attributing first usage to Grace Carroll Massey, Mona Vaughn Scott and Sanford M. Dornbusch’s 1975 article. But, recent scholarship tends to start with Bonilla-Silva.

Using a variety of survey and discourse analysis methods, Bonilla Silva (also later writing with Tyrone Foreman and David Embrick) traces the discursive moves that whites use to de-center racism in their everyday race talk. This discursive distancing takes several forms. Whites attribute race to some unknown other. Sometimes they locate race and racism in biology or nature, attributing any racism to a deity or natural order. The most common tactic, according to research by Teun a van Dijk, is whites using euphemisms.

Click here for the full article. 

Tressie McMillan Cottom is professor at Virginia Commonwealth University and former fellow at the Microsoft Social Media Collective and the Center for Poverty Research at the University of California, Davis. She has written for the New York Times , Washington Post , and the Atlantic.


Friday, December 2, 2016

President Obama and UN Secretary General Guterres

First Family Attends The Christmas Tree Lighting

Veep Meet & Greet: President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia

The Vice President met last night with President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia in Cartagena, Colombia to discuss bilateral cooperation between the United States and Colombia and the next steps in the Colombian peace process. 

The Vice President congratulated President Santos on yesterday's vote in the Colombian congress to approve the peace accord negotiated between the Colombian government and the FARC. The Vice President also praised the Colombian people who have worked with courage and unflagging determination to reclaim their country, and whose representatives have now voted to ratify the Colombian peace accord and officially end the longest-running armed conflict in the Americas.  

The Vice President reiterated the commitment of the United States to support implementation of the peace accords, including demobilization and disarmament of FARC combatants, protection of victims' rights, and application of the transitional justice framework in a transparent manner with the full engagement of civil society.  

The Vice President emphasized that continuing to engage critics of the peace accord, as well as a renewed focus on counternarcotics, will be essential to maintaining and broadening support for the peace agreement in Colombia and the United States.  

The Vice President underscored the administration's continuing commitment to its Fiscal Year 2017 budget request of $450 million, which includes $391 million in foreign assistance to implement President Obama's "Peace Colombia" strategy.  Both leaders hailed the fact that, after 52 years of violence, it is now possible to envision a hemisphere fully at peace. 

Source: The White House, Office of the Vice President

Statement on the Employment Situation in November

WASHINGTON, DC – Jason Furman, Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, issued the following statement today on the employment situation in November. 

Summary: The economy added 178,000 jobs in November, extending the longest streak of total job growth on record, as the unemployment rate fell to 4.6 percent.

The economy added a solid 178,000 jobs in November as the longest streak of total job growth on record continued. U.S. businesses have now added 15.6 million jobs since early 2010. The unemployment rate fell to 4.6 percent in November, its lowest level since August 2007, and the broadest measure of underemployment fell for the second month in a row. Average hourly earnings for private employees have increased at an annual rate of 2.7 percent so far in 2016, faster than the pace of inflation. Nevertheless, more work remains to ensure that the benefits of the recovery are broadly shared, including opening new markets to U.S. exports; taking steps to spur competition to benefit consumers, workers, and entrepreneurs; and raising the minimum wage.


1. U.S. businesses have now added 15.6 million jobs since private-sector job growth turned positive in early 2010. Today, we learned that private employment rose by 156,000 jobs in November. Total nonfarm employment rose by 178,000 jobs, in line with the monthly average for 2016 so far and substantially higher than the pace of about 80,000 jobs per month that CEA estimates is necessary to maintain a low and stable unemployment rate given the impact of demographic trends on labor force participation.

In November, the unemployment rate fell to 4.6 percent, its lowest level since August 2007. The labor force participation rate ticked down, though it is largely unchanged over the last three years (see point 3 below). The U-6 rate, the broadest official measure of labor underutilization fell 0.2 percentage point for the second month in a row in part due to a reduction in the number of employees working part-time for economic reasons. (The U-6 rate is the only official measure of underutilization that has not already fallen below its pre-recession average.) So far in 2016, nominal hourly earnings for private-sector workers have increased at an annual rate of 2.7 percent, faster than the pace of inflation (1.6 percent as of October, the most recent data available). 

Click here to review the complete statement. 

Source: The White House, Office of the Press Secretary

'Flashback Friday': Thousands Protest Bush's 1st Inauguration (2001)

Trailblazers in Black History: Jane Matilda Bolin

Jane Matilda Bolin LL.B. was the first African-American woman to graduate from Yale Law School, the first to join the New York City Bar Association, and the first to join the New York City Law Department

She became the first Black woman to serve as a judge in the United States when she was sworn into the bench of the New York City Domestic Relations Court in 1939. 

Additional information is available here

Source: Wikipedia

Veterans to Stand with North Dakota Access Pipeline Protestors

Donald Trump Reveals Pick of James 'Mad Dog' Mattis for Secretary of Defense

Serial Sex Offender Arrested, Charged After Rubbing Against Woman in Harlem Subway Station: NYPD

A Queens man has been arrested and charged following an assault in a Harlem subway station on Thursday. 

Rodney Pierre, of Jamaica, was arrested by officers Thursday evening. The 50-year-old was charged with persistent sex abuse, forcible touching and sex abuse, police said. 

Click here for the full article. 

Source: NBC News

Why Did a Cop Follow a Man Home Before Killing Him With an AR-15?

Video shows why Lt. Daniel Stephenson was justified in shooting Todd Browning, but no one has explained why he was there in the first place. 

By Justin Glawe

Authorities in Tennessee won’t explain why a police officer followed a man to his home before he shot him at close range with an assault rifle.

Todd Browning died as a result of the Aug. 19, 2015, shooting, carried out by East Ridge police lieutenant Daniel Stephenson. While dashcam video released this week shows Browning approaching Stephenson with a metal rod before being shot, the district attorney who found the shooting justified hasn’t explained why Stephenson was there in the first place.

Capt. Tim Mullinax of the East Ridge Police Department told The Daily Beast that Stephenson was called to an AutoZone near Browning’s home just before 6 p.m. that day, where Browning was allegedly acting erratic and threatening employees with a knife. After 30 seconds inside the store, Stephenson emerges and appears to be talking to Browning.

Click here for the full article. 

Source: The Daily Beast 

Senator James Sanders Jr. Concludes Successful Haiti Hurricane Relief Drive

Garry Dorlean, press attaché to the Haitian Consulate, and Ronald J. Etienne, Vice-Consul Logistics Coordinator with the Hatian Consulate picked up the donations today to ship to Haiti.

State Senator James Sanders Jr. (D-Rochdale Village, Far Rockaway) hosted a successful Haiti Hurricane Relief Drive over the last few weeks, collecting items for the victims of Hurricane Matthew. It culminated today with the donations being picked up  by representatives of the Consulate General of Haiti in New York, who will ship it to the storm ravaged country.

“We have all seen the terrible images of the destruction caused by Hurricane Matthew, and we could not stand idly by knowing that there were people in need,” Sanders said. “The success of this relief drive is a testament to the generosity and good will of the people in this community.  Whether they were compelled to donate because they are of Haitian descent, or because they themselves received help after Hurricane Sandy, or if it was just a simple act of kindness – the point is, they gave, and now many will benefit.”

Donated items including many dozens of boxes and bags of non-perishable food, clothing, and toiletries. There were so many goods that the consulate representatives were able to fill an entire U-Haul Truck. It will be taken to their warehouse in Deer Park Long Island, after which they will work with Governor Cuomo’s office to ship it to Florida, where it will be packed and stacked in containers and then loaded onto a boat headed to Haiti.

“I would like to thank you for being so generous to our country,” Garry Dorlean, press attaché to the Haitian Consulate said. “We would like God to bless all the people who made donations. The people in Haiti need food, clothes and shelter after Hurricane Matthew left a sour taste in their mouth. We know Mother Nature sometimes hits places on earth. One day Haiti will stand up and do her part to help other people the way they have helped her.” 

Source: The Office of State Senator James Sanders, Jr.

ISIS' Aftermath Leaves Iraqi Town Ablaze

CNN's Phil Black visits an Iraqi town left to suffer months after ISIS set several oil wells on fire.
Source: CNN

Plane Crash Victims to Be Returned to Brazil

Most of the bodies from the plane crash in Colombia are set to be returned to Brazil. 

Click here for video.

Source: CNN

France's Hollande Will Not Seek Re-election

France's President Francois Hollande announced Thursday he will not seek a second term in office.

Source: CNN

Italy FM: Vote About More Than Just Referendum

Ahead of a referendum on constitutional reforms proposed by the Italian Prime Minister, Paolo Gentiloni says it is about being "stronger in Europe."
Source: CNN

North Korea Shows Defiance After New Sanctions

North Korean state media has released images of leader Kim Jong Un commanding military drills after the UN imposed new embargoes. 

Source: CNN

Students Run Against Slavery

In Hong Kong's Victoria Peak over 800 high school students recently ran a 24-hour endurance race raising funds and awareness for anti-slavery charities. 

Source: CNN

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Veep Talk: Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi of Iraq

The Vice President spoke today with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi to discuss progress in the Iraqi-led campaign to liberate Mosul from the terrorist group ISIL.  The Vice President commended Iraqi Security Forces for their battlefield successes, expressed condolences for all Iraqi lives lost in the fight against ISIL, and thanked Prime Minister Abadi for his leadership in the battle to liberate Mosul.  The Vice President also welcomed the close cooperation between the Iraqi government and Kurdistan Regional Government to bolster security and ensure ISIL's lasting defeat in northern Iraq.  The two leaders emphasized their respect for Iraq's sovereignty and territorial integrity and underscored their mutual commitment to the long-term strategic partnership between the United States and Iraq pursuant to the U.S.-Iraq Strategic Framework Agreement. 

Source: The White House, Office of the Vice President

Why Is My Sister Dead, Sheriff Clarke?

The Milwaukee County sheriff might become Donald Trump’s Secretary of Homeland Security. But the families of three inmates and one newborn baby can’t get answers for why they died in his jail—including a man who died of thirst.

By Casey Tolan 

MILWAUKEE—On July 18, Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke Jr. strode onto the stage of the Republican National Convention. In a fiery speech, he called Black Lives Matter protests “anarchy,” praised Donald Trump’s “belief in our American system of justice,” and declared, “I would like to make something very clear: blue lives matter.”

Four days earlier, Shadé Swayzer was giving birth in the jail that Clarke runs. She went into labor in a solitary confinement cell, and when she cried for help, according to a recently filed lawsuit, a guard laughed at her and left her alone. By the time medical staff checked on her the next morning, the lawsuit reads, her newborn baby was dead.

Swayzer’s baby wasn’t the only person to die in the Milwaukee County Jail. Since April, as Clarke has campaigned around the country for Trump, three other inmates have died in his custody. One was a 38-year-old with mental health issues who died of “profound dehydration”—thirst—after guards apparently turned off the water in his cell.

Now Clarke, a darling of the Tea Party and Fox News and known for his inflammatory statements, is reportedly in the running to be Trump’s Secretary of Homeland Security. He met with the President-elect at Trump Tower on Monday afternoon, decked out in his trademark cowboy hat.

Kristina Fiebrink, 38, was found unresponsive in her cell on August 28. Inmates who talked to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel said they heard her screaming for help overnight but no guards came to check on her. 

Fiebrink’s brother Leon Limon said it was hard to imagine Clarke running detention centers around the country.

Click here for the full article. 

Source: The Daily Beast 

2,000 Veterans To Form ‘Human Shields’ To Protect Standing Rock Protesters

By Taryn Finley

The protestors of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota are about to get some major support. 

More than 2,000 veterans have agreed to act as “human shields” to protect protesters from December 4 to 7, according to a Facebook event. They launched the effort, called Veterans Stand for Standing Rock on Tuesday and after months of protesters clashing with the police over the construction of the Dakota Access pipeline.

The same day the group announced its initiative, state officials threatened to impose fines and block supplies from reaching a nearby camp where protesters reside. Though officials backed away from the threat, Gov. Jack Dalrymple’s mandatory, immediate order for evacuation due to “anticipated harsh weather conditions,” announced Monday, still stands.  

Click here for the full article.

Source: The Huffington Post 

Rev. Al Sharpton Receives Call from President-elect Donald Trump

Civil rights leader Rev. Al Sharpton was convening a national National Action Network board meeting this morning and was surprised in the middle of the meeting to get a call from President-elect Donald Trump. Despite their sharp differences, Mr. Trump thanked him for saying nice things about his outer-borough business achievements while on MSNBC’s Morning Joe this morning. 

Source: Mercury

President Obama Meets with the 2016 American Nobel Prize Winners

White House Convening on Criminal Justice Reform

Mr. President-Elect: Forget Jimmy Carter! Here is How Your Administration Can Advance Mideast Peace

By Rabbi Marvin Hier and Abraham Cooper
Dean and Founder and Associate Dean, Simon Wiesenthal Center

Jimmy Carter is at it again. As a former President he should know better than to rain on someone else’s parade, but when it comes to the Middle East, Jimmy knows best. In a New York Times Op-ed, he urges lame duck President Barack Obama to recognize ‘Palestine’ before he leaves office. While never once denouncing ongoing Palestinian terrorist attacks against Israelis, Carter found the space to slander the 600,000 Jews living in communities in historic Judea/Samaria (aka West Bank) as “colonists.”

It’s not clear whether in the waning days of his presidency, Barack Obama will heed the advice from the person who has been the chief leader in whitewashing the Hamas terrorist organization as a legitimate “political actor.”

But whatever happens in the next six weeks, starting January 20th, it will be President Trump and his Secretary of State’s turn to put his imprint on the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.

Respectfully, here are some suggestions:

First. 68 years is enough! It’s time for the US to finally recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move our embassy there.

 Second. Put an end to the mantra that it is Israeli settlements that are preventing a Two-State Solution. Instead call for an end to Hamas’ tyrannical terrorist rule in Gaza. As long as Hamas remains in power, what you have is a Three-State Solution with two separate Palestinian states, one in Ramallah and the other in Gaza that hate each other almost as much as they hate Israel.

For decades, Hamas has been totally committed to a genocidal end to the Jewish State. They cynically place the people of Gaza in harm’s way as they intertwine the civilian population with their military/terrorist complex. They steal construction materials earmarked for civilian reconstruction to expand a vast underground terrorist highway threatening Israel’s southern communities. All this has failed to raise serious protests from the civilized world and international aid continues to pour in. Hamas’ leaders continue their calls to “remove all Jews” from ‘Palestine’.

Third. Send a message to the UN. Stop abusing Israel as a whipping boy for the Arab and Muslim Blocs’ fanatic anti-Jewish hatred or America will re-evaluate its future in the UN Human Rights Council, UNESCO, and UNWRA.

Mr. President-elect, look beyond the UN to forge a peace deal. You know its treacherous record on the Holy Land, its ineffectiveness in stopping the slaughter in Syria, its silence over ethnic cleansing of Christians in Iraq. Why should you go down a road previously traveled by former presidents, a road strewn with eloquent words, empty promises, and false dawns that have only multiplied murder, mayhem, and destruction in the Middle East?

Despite the humanitarian catastrophes in the region, it is only the Israelis- not Assad or the Ayatollahs― who continuously suffer serial diplomatic assaults. The Jewish state was recently targeted by 10 UN resolutions in one day!

UNESCO, the UN’s anointed protector of world cultural and historic heritage, succumbed to Arab pressure and just voted to erase Jewish history by recasting Judaism’s holiest sites—held holy also by Christians—as Muslim.

Fourth. Mr. Trump, tell the French you will veto any Security Council resolution demanding Israel to withdraw to its pre-June 1967 borders. Those lines, dubbed “Auschwitz borders” by the late Foreign Minister Abba Eban, would immediately put 8 million Israeli citizens within range of cross-border suicide bombers and over 100,000 missiles. No nation would ever place its people in such jeopardy. And no Israeli leader will.

Fifth. Demand that the’ Palestinian Authority (PA), start behaving like they want peace:

Peace partners do not name schools in honor of murderers! What message do Israelis get from the PA’s announcement naming a new public school for the leader of the Black September group that murdered eleven Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

Tell President Abbas that there will be no more US funds for PA curricula that fail to teach coexistence with their Jewish neighbors. In 2016, Palestinian textbooks are rife with anti-Jewish invective, a fact overlooked by an approving Obama White House memo.

And shouldn’t recipients of America’s and Europe’s largess hold accountable the adults who gave two eight-year-old Palestinian children knives, then drove the kids to Nahal Oz and told them to go kill Jews?

Mr. President- Elect: All eight-year-olds, Jewish, Christian, and Muslim, deserve a peaceful future.

To achieve that lofty goal you can begin to build a new paradigm for peace in the Holy Land by doing something no previous US President has ever done: Deliver some tough love to the Palestinians.

You can bring real hope to the Holy Land by speaking the truth and making it clear that there is only one main obstacle standing between Palestinians and a peaceful future: Hate!

World AIDS Day: An Update on Efforts to Stop the Disease


On World AIDS Day, Dr. Deborah Birx talked about funding for HIV and AIDS research, as well the status of the global fight to end the epidemic. 

Click here for video. 

Source: C-SPAN

Civil Rights, Racism and Hate Crimes

Representatives of the Southern Poverty Law Center and other civil rights advocacy organizations hold a news conference about the documented rise in hate crimes since the 2016 election.

The event was originally broadcast on November 29. 

Click here for video.

Source: C-SPAN

House Speaker Paul Ryan Briefs Reporters on Continuing Resolution

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) briefs reporters on Capitol Hill about his party’s legislative agenda in the lame-duck session and the upcoming 115th Congress, including an update on the timing of a Continuing Resolution to fund the government. 

Click here for video.

Source: C-SPAN

Oval Office Chat: Governor Bill Haslam of Tennessee

On November 30, The President spoke by phone with Governor Bill Haslam of Tennessee to express concern and offer his support for the residents of Tennessee who are gravely affected by the devastating Chimney Top Fire. The President expressed his deepest condolences for the lives lost in the fire as well as his sympathies for the affected residents who may have lost their homes or businesses. The President asked the Governor for an update on the ongoing response, and committed to providing the assistance necessary to combat this fire.  

Earlier this week, FEMA approved a fire management assistance grant to the state of Tennessee to help mobilize the resources necessary for an effective response. The President also expressed concern about the recent tornadoes that have hit the southeastern portion of Tennessee. 

Source: The White House, Office of the Press Secretary