Saturday, January 7, 2017

Heroes of America: A Tribute Series Honoring U.S. Veterans

Sifu Andre Butler: United States Marine and Martial Arts Icon

By Gary 'The G-Man' Toms

In the early to mid-80s, Andre Butler was a member of both the New York City Chapter of the Guardian Angels and the United States Marine Corp. While his stint with the Guardian Angels helped him develop his sense of community service, the Marine Corp offered him the opportunity to travel and develop a clear vision of the future. Over the next seven years, as a Marine, Butler served with a couple of units and details.

In addition to his assignment with the Marine Expeditionary Unit Special Operations Capable (MEUSCO), he spent five years as a special hand-to-hand combat instructor. Many years of martial arts training as a youth, in Hung Gar (the five animal systems), Wing Chun, and Monkey Kung Fu afforded him this opportunity.

"I have been to many countries and places, such as Arizona, Nevada, California, Washington, Virginia, Florida, Hawaii, Japan, Korea, Thailand, the Philippines and Hong Kong," said Butler. "I spent time training units to go over to the Persian Gulf for "Desert Shield", where I spent a five month tour of duty. After the war, we came home, and I was temporarily assigned to teach on an ROTC Anti-Armor committee."

Sifu Butler describes the early 90's as his most productive years. In 1991, he became the proud father of a baby girl, Alexis, and moved to Florida so she could be close to her grandmother.

"I started teaching a private kung fu class to make ends meet. I also formed the 'Thunder Mountain Family Kung Fu Association." To date, the organization has membership in Colorado, Florida, Maryland, California, Arizona, Texas, New York and Puerto Rico," said the instructor.

Butler noted that he took on extra work as a nightclub bouncer and security specialist in a number of venues. In 1994, he took a position with the Broward County Sheriff's Office, but left after only three years of service.

"I got burnt out from the job and the politics of the job. So, I went back to working as a bouncer. There were no politics there, and it was a lot more fun," he mused.

In 2000, Butler was nominated to the Eastern USA International Martial Arts Association Hall of Fame, but declined the nomination.

"I cannot deny the fact that I was nominated because it was a truly an honor. I didn't accept the nomination for personal reasons, but I am very appreciative of the fact that I was chosen."

Sifu Butler's accomplishments include the following: 

Three-time United Florida Sport Karate Association (UFSKA) State Champion - Black belt (weapons category- soft style)

Two-time UFSKA State Champion - Black belt forms (soft style)

He has trained five Florida state champions: Edgar Johnson, Jeanette Dice, Echo Uzzi, Nicki Santisteban, and Arturo Williams.

He has trained a student who was a first place candidate for the Colorado Karate Association State Championship title in 2002.


Butler currently works as a law enforcement representative in the state of Colorado.  

From The G-Man proudly salutes Andre Butler as .... a hero of America. 

Note: If you're a veteran, "From The G-Man" would like to honor you in this special feature. Just email and briefly share details about your record of service. Be sure to include your military photo as well. 

Thank you.

President Obama's Weekly Address

West Wing Week: 01/06/17

Friday, January 6, 2017

The Power of the Pen: New Bills Signed into Law

On Friday, January 6, 2017, the President signed into law:

S. 3084, the "American Innovation and Competitiveness Act," which amends and establishes new authorities for various programs at the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, as well as Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education authorities. 

Source: The White House, Office of the Press Secretary

President Obama to Deliver Farewell Address in Chicago

WASHINGTON, DC - On Tuesday, January 10, the President will travel to Chicago, Illinois to deliver his farewell address to the American people, where he will thank his supporters, celebrate the ways we have changed this country for the better these past eight years, and offer his vision on where we all go from here. The First Lady, the Vice President, and Dr. Biden will also attend.  

Source: The White House, Office of the Press Secretary

First African-American Astronaut To Board The International Space Station

By Lilly Workneh

Astronaut Jeanette Epps made African-American history on Wednesday when NASA announced that she’ll be the first black American astronaut to board the International Space Station. 

While NASA has sent 14 black astronauts into space over the decades, none have ever stayed aboard the ISS as a crew member. Epps will be the first African American and the 13th woman to call the ISS home since the space station was founded in 1998. Epps, who is from Syracuse, New York, will join astronaut Andrew Feustel as a flight engineer on Expedition 56 in May 2018, according to NASA. She will also stay on board for Expedition 57.

Click here for the full article. 

Source: The Huffington Post

President Obama Sits Down with Vox's Ezra Klein on the Affordable Care Act

The First Lady Honors the 2017 School Counselor of the Year

The Record: President Obama on Social Progress and Equality

Yes We Can: People Share Their Most Memorable Moments from the Obama Presidency

It's on Us Campus Sexual Assault Summit

Stonewall Democratic Club of NYC Endorses Michael Blake for DNC Vice-Chair

NEW YORK, NY – Today, Stonewall Democratic Club of NYC, the largest LGBTQ democratic club in New York State and one of the largest in the country, announced its support of Assemblymember Michael Blake for Vice Chair of the Democratic National Committee. 

"Assemblymember Michael Blake is a voice we need at the DNC," said Eunic Ortiz, President of the Stonewall Democratic Club of NYC. "During his time serving in the Assembly and in the White House, he has been a constant and consistent ally that has stood by our community. The next Vice Chair in the DNC must be someone who - among many things - has real experience working with the LGBTQ community, understands our struggles, and knows what we need to do to achieve 100% equality for everyone - and that person is Michael Blake.”

Assemblymember Michael Blake offered the following response to the Stonewall Democrats statement of support.

“Stonewall is iconic and ever present in the LGBTQ movement, and, I'm honored to have their full support to become a Vice-Chair for the DNC.  We must stand up for our LGBTQ community as too many voices are silent in the face of justice. Whether it's marrying who you love or not facing discrimination for who you are, I will be a consistent advocate for our LGBTQ brothers and sisters, and, I'm so grateful and will ensure that your voice is always at the table.” 

Source: The Office of Assemblyman Michael Blake

Eight Years of Labor Market Progress and the Employment Situation in December

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

Summary: The economy added 156,000 jobs in December, extending the longest streak of total job growth on record, with U.S. businesses adding 15.8 million jobs over the recovery.

Employment grew at a solid rate of 156,000 jobs in December as the longest streak of total job growth by far on record continued. Average hourly earnings for private employees increased 2.9 percent in 2016, the fastest twelve-month pace since the financial crisis. U.S. businesses have now added 15.8 million jobs since early 2010 amid the U.S. economy’s strong recovery from its worst crisis since the Great Depression. The unemployment rate—4.7 percent in December—has been cut by more than half since its peak, falling much faster and further than expected, and nearly all measures of labor underutilization have fallen below their pre-recession averages. Real wages have grown faster over the current business cycle than in any since the early 1970s, and in 2015 U.S. households saw the largest increase in real median income on record. Since 2010, the United States has put more people back to work than all other G-7 economies combined. Thanks in part to the forceful response to the crisis and policies throughout the eight years of the Obama Administration to promote robust, shared growth, the U.S. economy is stronger, more resilient, and better positioned for the 21st century than ever before. Even with this remarkable progress, it remains important to build on these efforts to support further job creation and real wage growth in the years ahead.


1. U.S. businesses have now added 15.8 million jobs since private-sector job growth turned positive in early 2010. Today, we learned that private employment rose by 144,000 jobs in December. Total nonfarm employment rose by 156,000 jobs, slightly below the monthly average for 2016 as a whole but 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. The unemployment rate ticked up to 4.7 percent in December, less than half its peak during the recession, while the labor force participation rate—which has been largely unchanged over the past three years despite downward pressure from demographic trends—increased to 62.7 percent. Average hourly earnings for all private workers increased 2.9 percent over the past year, the fastest twelve-month pace since the end of the recession and above the pace of inflation in 2016.

 Click on the chart to increase its size.

Click here for the complete statement. 

Source: The White House, Office of the Press Secretary

Trailblazers in Black History: Kobe Bryant

'Flashback Friday': The Kidnapping of Patty Hearst

This video was published on YouTube on August 3, 2016.

Source: CBS This Morning

Fort Lauderdale Shooting: Gunman Opens Fire at Airport, Killing 'Multiple People'

A shooter opened fire Friday afternoon at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in Florida, leaving "multiple people dead" and injuring several others as panicked travelers took cover, the Broward County sheriff said.

A gunman was in custody, local law enforcement sources told NBC News.

Intelligence Officials Brief a Skeptical Trump on Russian Hacking

Donald Trump on Friday called the furor over Russian inference in the 2016 campaign a politically motivated "witch hunt" just hours before top U.S. intelligence officials met with the president-elect about the cyber intrusions.

Intelligence officials are presenting a skeptical Trump with what they say is a compelling case that Russia waged cyberattacks on U.S. political institutions to influence the presidential election.

Tensions between the president-elect and intelligence community have grown as Trump continues to publicly cast doubts over the findings. He told the New York Times on Friday the conclusions were part of a political "witch hunt" orchestrated by those hoping to undermine his victory. 

Click here for the full article. 

Kerry: Russia's Actions 'Totally Unacceptable and Dangerous'

4 Teens Arrested in Connection to Attack Shown on Facebook Live


Dr Boyce Watkins: Tomi Lahren is Racist White Trash Who Attacks Black People for Attention

This video was published on YouTube on December 7, 2016. 

Note: Segments of the video contain strong language.

The Dr Boyce Watkins Channel is an all-black news and commentary channel that features a number of African American thinkers, commentators and speakers. The views of each video are not necessarily representative of those of Dr Boyce Watkins himself. 

Queens Assemblyman's Plan to Address Homeless Crisis Gains Bipartisan Support

A New York Daily News Exclusive

By Kenneth Lovett

A Queens state assemblyman's plan to address the homeless crisis is gaining bipartisan steam in both houses of the Legislature.

Andrew Hevesi has been pushing a plan, first reported by the Daily News in September, that he calls the Home Stability Support program. It’s intended to reduce reliance on homeless shelters by creating a new rent subsidy to keep people in their homes.

This week, Hevesi and 110 of his Democratic and Republican Assembly colleagues — including Dem Majority Leader Joseph Morelle and GOP Minority Leader Brian Kolb — sent a letter to Gov. Cuomo pushing for its enactment.

"The problem of homelessness has reached a critical juncture, and the costs to our communities are unsustainable," Hevesi and his 110 colleagues wrote to Cuomo. “It is time to boldly and adequately attack the preventable causes of record homelessness." 

Click here for the full article. 

Source: The New York Daily News (via The Empire Report)

New Yorkers Sign Up for Obamacare in Droves as Republicans Vow to Replace It

ALBANY, N.Y. -- As Republicans in Congress push to dismantle Obamacare, New Yorkers are signing up for insurance available under the federal law in droves.

More than 3.4 million people, nearly 18 percent of the state's population, had enrolled in coverage through the New York health insurance exchange as of Dec. 24, the state health department announced today.

Enrollment has increased more than 22 percent since the last open enrollment period ended Jan. 31, 2016. The 2017 open enrollment period will close at the end of this month.

The state said enrollment in the Essential Plan, a low-cost government-funded plan for the working poor that debuted last year, has increased 67 percent. As of Dec. 24 nearly 634,000 people had enrolled in the Essential Plan, up from 380,000 at the end of the 2016 open enrollment period. 

Click here for the full article.

Source: (via The Empire Report)

Free NYC Mission Society Program Offers Kids Chance to Larn African, Latin and Jazz Music


This report was originally published on December 9, 2016. 

“It’s like a feeling of being able to be myself," Alyza Tavaras said. “I’m releasing all this tension I was carrying throughout the day.”

Tavaras makes every moment matter to appreciate, learn and improve her craft.

“I’m still shocked that I’m actually playing right now,” she smiled.

Last year, the eighth-grader started coming to the New York City Mission Society’s free music program.

“The only way I ever saw an instrument was through the internet," she explained. "My school's never had a music program."

The centuries old anti-poverty nonprofit wanted to fill the gap created by the diminishing funding given to art education. 

Click here for the full article/video. 

Source: Abena Smith, President, 32nd Precinct Community Council

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Inside the Russian Hacking Report That President Obama Received Thursday

Letters to the President: Aleena from Maryland

Speaker Ryan Promises Health Care Bill, Unclear About Enactment Timing

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) responds to reporters' questions on his party’s legislative agenda, including the timing of repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act. He also weighs in on Russia’s role in election-year hacking.

Click here for video.

Source: C-SPAN

Senate Leaders Differ on Timing of Health Care Law Replacement

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell opens Thursday's debate on repealing the Affordable Care Act, saying repeal is only the first step and that Republicans will have a replacement plan after a period of transition. His Democratic counterpart, Senator Chuck Schumer, responds by saying that a replacement needs to be in place before the law is repealed.  

User-Created Clip
by etouhey
January 5, 2017

Click here for video.

Source: C-SPAN

Congressional Homeland Security Chairmen Present Cybersecurity Recommendations

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Representative Michael McCaul (R-TX) speak to reporters about their cybersecurity recommendations as President-elect Donald Trump prepares to take office. 

Click here for video.

Source: C-SPAN

Senate Democrats on Call for Ethics Investigation of Representative Tom Price

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) call on the House Office of Congressional Ethics to investigate HHS secretary nominee Representative Tom Price’s (R-GA) stock trades while in Congress.

Click here for video.

Source: C-SPAN

The Black Panthers Revisited: Confronting Police Violence

This video was published on YouTube on January 23, 2015. 

This short documentary explores what we can learn from the Black Panther party in confronting police violence 50 years later. 

Trailblazers in Black History: Rita Dove

Rita Frances Dove is an American poet and essayist. From 1993 to 1995 she served as Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress. 

She is the first African-American to have been appointed since the position was created by an act of Congress in 1986 from the previous "consultant in poetry" position (1937–86). Dove also received an appointment as "special consultant in poetry" for the Library of Congress's bicentennial year from 1999 to 2000.

Dove is the second African American to receive the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, in 1987, and she served as the Poet Laureate of Virginia from 2004 to 2006. 

Additional information is available here.

Source: Wikipedia

Mumia Abu Jamal: 'Hepatitis C Get's a Knock Out Punch'

This commentary was recorded on January 4, 2017, and provided by Prison Radio.

'Nothing Wrong With Me Psychologically,' Dylann Roof Tells Jury

Every New Policy Stance Trump Has Taken Since Election

President-elect Donald Trump's policy platform continues to evolve and change dramatically as he prepares to be sworn into office, making a complete and detailed understanding of his governing agenda difficult to discern.

In the two months since being elected, Trump has taken 15 new policy stances on nine different issues.

Call it the post-platform era: the president-elect ran and won a campaign in which he took 141 distinct policy position on 23 issues over the course of 511 days. Trump defended this as being "flexible" and unpredictable, something he argued the country needs more of to better represent itself on the world stage. His supporters championed him as a refreshing break from politicians with carefully-calculated agendas and voting records to back them up, while his detractors argued this was a sign of wildly unprepared and unserious candidate.

In order to better understand the president-elect, we'll track Trump's new policy pronouncements from Election Day forward, along with any potential changes and explanations he offers for such change.