Friday, January 12, 2018

David N. Dinkins Remembers Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

I am thankful that each year begins anew with Dr. King’s birthday falling right at its dawning.  It serves as a reminder of how far we have come and a renewal of our commitment to go the next mile with the new year ahead.

This April 4th will mark 50 years since that fateful day in Memphis, Tennessee.  Some, regrettably, only think about Dr. King’s vision when his birthday rolls around, others, only once-in-a-while.  I believe, however, that most decent people share his vision and keep it alive in our hearts and minds every day.  It is a very real vision to many of us.  And no one sees it more clearly than those for whom he gave his last measure – the working class.

Dr. King set a moral tone for our people, our nation, and the world, when he chose to dedicate his life to the long slog of moving all of us out of the crushing divides of that time and fully into the light.  As he put it on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963:

“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed ‘we hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal.”

Some believe it was God’s will that Dr. King was with us for a mere 39 years.  He seemed to carry an acute awareness of the fact that he would not get to the Promised Land alongside his people, he told us that he feared no man because, as he said, he had been to the mountaintop.  His eyes, he said, had “seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”  We must stand up for the vision he held for ALL OF US.

While these are strange times we currently find ourselves living through -- tremendously disappointing and upsetting, they should inspire us to attend to the unfinished business of the Civil Rights Movement and move us forward to continue to demand solutions. Dr. King wrote:

"We will have to repent in this generation, not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people."

The relentless character of intolerance, racism, and division in our society today is appalling, but even more disheartening is the often accompanying silence.  During slavery, it was good people who acknowledged the humanity of slaves and offered support during their struggle for freedom.  There must always be good people willing to speak out against racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia, but oftentimes, too many remain silent:

...Too many good people were silent when a ship named the Saint Louis, filled with people desperately trying to escape the horrors of the holocaust, was turned away by American immigration authorities.

...Too many good people were silent during World War II, when 120,000 Japanese-Americans were imprisoned, and their property summarily confiscated, solely because of their ethnic heritage – a fate that, it is important to note, did not befall Italian Americans or German Americans.

...Too many good people were silent when a deranged United States senator named Joseph McCarthy built a false reputation for himself by destroying the reputations of others. 

...Too many good people were silent when a form of legalized slavery was instituted in South Africa.  Our government called that period of apartheid “constructive engagement.” And while people knew it was wrong, they were silent.

...Too many good people were silent, as the United States government shamefully rejected Haitian refugees in the early 1990’s.  If these refugees made it through the shark-infested waters, they were confined in something akin to concentration camps, while those from elsewhere in the world were greeted with resettlement assistance.

Too many have been too silent for too long, and too many others have paid the price for that silence. Breaking the silence is uncomfortable, and may involve some risk.  But again, the words of Dr. King come to mind:

"the ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy." 

It’s also important to recognize that we do not stand alone when standing up.  I have been fortunate to have received the support and encouragement of many good people throughout and beyond my life in public service. Not one of us managed to get to where we are without the help of those who came before us.

We say that everybody stands on somebody’s shoulders… We must each be sure to give back some measure of that which we have received – whether in the daily conduct of our professions, or in nurturing a younger person, participating in a community program, or building movements toward broader sweeping change.  However we choose to give ourselves to others, it matters.  It is in this way that we pay homage to those who went before us…by resolving to draw upon their legacy to build a better future for those who come after us.

Dr. King helped pave the road for our world go from one where people of color were sent to the back door and back of the bus…to one where the American people elected a person of color to the highest office in the land and where he and his family entered the White House – their 8-year-residence –  through the front door!  Dr. King’s vision still guides us down freedom’s road towards the promise of America, as he taught us to have faith.  When Dr. King accepted the Nobel Peace Prize on October 14, 1964, he said:

“I accept this award with an abiding faith in America and an audacious faith in the future of mankind.  I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history.  I refuse to accept the idea that ‘isness’ of man’s present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the ‘oughtness’ that forever confronts him… I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality.”

“I refuse to accept the cynical notion that nation after nation must spiral down a militaristic stairway into the hell of thermonuclear destruction. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant.”

Again, I am thankful that each year begins anew with Dr. King’s birthday falling right at its dawning.  It serves as a reminder of how far we have come and a renewal of our commitment to go the next mile with the new year ahead.  His was a dream so strong that death could not diminish it, and his life continues to inspire us today, and every year, to do our part to move it forward.

Let January 15, 2018 remind us of our mission to carry his vision forward to our youth, to refresh their hearts and souls with the basic idea that we are our brothers’ keepers, and to remind us that we must all act to preserve, protect and promote the right of every human being to the full enjoyment of life.

Let January 15, 2018 remind us to pierce the silence and move into the light.

David N. Dinkins, 106th Mayor, City of New York

Mumia Abu-Jamal: Review of Case Gains International Support

Mumia Abu-Jamal is pictured with Mireille Fanon

The following statement was submitted by Noelle Hanrahan, a private investigator and the director of Prison Radio

International organizers in France have written a powerful statement sponsored by the Frantz Fanon Foundation and distributed by organizers worldwide.

The statement is addressed to Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf and Philadelphia DA Larry Krasner, and demands a release of the DA and police files relevant to Mumia Abu-Jamal's criminal case.

Click here to read the statement.

We hope to see throngs of people for Mumia's open court hearing on January 17 at 9 a.m., which will be conducted at Judge Leon Tucker's Courtroom 1108 - 1301 Filbert Street, Philadelphia, PA.

In this case, the district attorney is being held accountable for producing evidence that could have caused the recusal of former PA Supreme Court Justice and Philadelphia DA Ron Castille from Mumia's appeals. The court is demanding answers. Mumia's appeals could be reinstated and his criminal conviction thrown open. 

Cady McClain Provides Update on 'Seeing Is Believing: Women Direct'

January 2018 Update!

Dear Amazing Backers of SIBWD!

I am heartened by the fact this film on women directors (that YOU helped make happen) is having a terrific festival run! I hope we can meet at one of these amazing upcoming festivals.

Right around the corner is the Oxford Film Festival in Oxford, Mississippi on February 9th at 10:30 a.m. Following the screening there will be a panel discussion with amazing women directors!

After that is the Sedona Film Festival in Sedona, Arizona with two screenings!

Monday, February 26 at 1:00 p.m. and Thursday, March 1 at 4:20 p.m.

So far we have additionally brought the film and it's mission to Johnson County Community College in Kansas City, Webster College in St Louis, and Los Angeles City College here in good old California. If you are interested in bringing a screening to your community, let us know!

I am excited to share we have had several offers from distributors! What a intense learning curve that world is... More news soon!

Thank you so much for your support of this important project. My goal has always been to help inspire and encourage more women to tell their stories. If you feel inspired to help our continued mission, please check out our new Indiegogo page and consider supporting us with your tax deductible contribution.

Our distribution phase will require some major marketing dollars just to get the word out about the film. Every dime goes back into this project.

Meanwhile, your like and follow of our FB page helps us so much.


Wishing you an amazing 2018!



New Yorkers Urged to Prepare for Multiple Weather Hazards

New Yorkers across Upstate are being urged to prepare for potential flooding, rain, icy conditions, and accumulating snow through the weekend. Temperatures will fall rapidly Friday evening and the rain will change to a wintry mix of sleet and freezing rain through Friday night and then transition to an accumulating snow Friday night and Saturday. Snow will begin to taper off on Saturday but will continue into Sunday south of Lake Ontario. The National Weather Service has issued Flood and Winter Weather Watches and Warnings throughout the entire state. Monitor local forecasts for the most up to date information.

"Freezing rain followed by heavy snowfall, will make roadways extremely slippery so I urge travelers to be prepared for more dangerous travel conditions—especially those traveling for the long weekend or heading back to school," Governor Cuomo said. "I have directed State resources to be ready for the forthcoming conditions and I am advising New Yorkers to limit road travel and to prepare their vehicles and homes."

Minor ice jam flooding has already been reported throughout the state, especially in the vicinity of rivers and streams. Flooding potential will continue through Saturday near rivers and streams and in low lying or urban areas where there is poor drainage.

Heavy, wet snow is expected to fall at rates of one to two inches per hour, with a possible nine to 15 inches of accumulation in Western New York. Snow will cover most of Upstate, with six to 10 inches of accumulation forecast for Central New York and one to five inches of snow in the Capital Region over the course of the weekend. Temperatures will drop 30 degrees from Friday and winds are expected to be moderate to strong, with gusts to 40 mph at times. Sunday will be partly cloudy and dry though significantly colder as an area of high pressure builds in. Highs in northern New York are expected to remain below 20 degrees, with overnight lows near and below 0 degrees.

Click here for additional information.

Source: Press Office, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

Journalist Warns GOP: You Are Judged By The Company You Keep

For those expecting the Republican Party to suddenly find their collective conscience and denounce Donald Trump’s reported outrageous ‘shithole’ statements reference Haiti, El Salvador and the continent of Africa – don’t hold your breath.  These elected officials had no problem either cosigning his many other racist statements/policies or simply ignoring them in order to get a win and get their agenda through.  Whether it was referring to Mexicans as “rapists” and people who brought drugs and crime, or calling for a “total and complete shutdown” of Muslims entering the country, or stating that there were “some very fine people on both sides” in Charlottesville and so much more, Trump gave the GOP every opportunity to disavow him and distance themselves from him and yet they did anything but.  Some feigned outrage at times, a few stated that he did not represent the Party, but you know what?  In the end, they realized that he was their ticket to get what they wanted and they all subsequently obeyed the marching orders.  It’s like the old adage goes:  Democrats want to fall in love; Republicans just fall in line.

Last weekend at Camp David, Trump and GOP leaders held a presser in which Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell stated the following: “From a right-of-center point of view, 2017 was the most consequential year in the many years that I’ve been here in Congress.” That’s a hell of a statement.  There is however a harsh reality to these words that gets lost in the daily endless focus on Trump’s tweets, outbursts and the Administration’s own self-made drama.  Granted, some of that does deserve a spotlight and a response (i.e. these latest despicable comments), but also remember that while everyone’s attention is preoccupied, social progress in this country is being stripped away, the divide between the wealthy and the rest of us has expanded ever more, courts are being shaped with increasingly conservative judges (including the Supreme Court of course), the safety net hangs in limbo, civil rights and voting rights are regressing, net neutrality is a thing of the past, all kinds of governmental protections are being eliminated and new mechanisms for disenfranchising voices are being concocted every single day.  And that was just 2017.

Trump set a record for the most federal appeals court judges confirmed in the first year of a Presidency with 12 appointments (for context, Obama confirmed only 3, Bush 6).  Or as McConnell put it, “the most in the first year of any Presidency since the circuit court system was set up in 1891.” These judges – many of them young and therefore able to serve at length – will help craft the outcome of important cases for years and years to come.

Click here for the full article. 

Source: The Huffington Post

'Time's Up' Activists Warn Trump's 'Shithole Countries' Remark Will Embolden White Supremacists

Source: Democracy Now!

NYPD Violently Arrests Protesters After ICE Detains Immigrant Leader Ravi Ragbir

Exclusive Footage from 'Democracy Now!'

Democracy Now! was there this morning when New York City police officers violently shoved protesters and city council members aside as they escorted an ambulance away from 26 Federal Plaza with detained immigrant rights leader Ravi Ragbir inside to an ICE detention center. Ragbir, head of the New Sanctuary Coalition of New York, was detained when he checked-in with ICE, as hundreds held a silent Jericho prayer walk outside. An ambulance was called after Ragbir reportedly fainted when told he would not be released.

This report was broadcast on January 11.

NAN to Host Nationwide Events Honoring Martin Luther King, Jr.

Rev. Al Sharpton and National Action Network (NAN) will welcome elected officials and civil rights leaders at events all over the country on Monday to honor the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy.

In Washington, D.C., one of the original 1968 sanitation strikers from Memphis AFSCME Local 1733 where Dr. King was killed will be honored.

NAN chapters across the United States will recognize the holiday with civil rights events in New York City, Newark, N.J., Cleveland, Ohio, Charleston, S.C., Macon, Ga., and San Diego, Calif. Rev. Sharpton will attend the following events:

Martin Luther King Day Civil Rights Breakfast
Mayflower Renaissance Hotel
1127 Connecticut Ave.
Washington, D.C. 20036
8:30 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.

Attendees: Tom Perez, Chair of the Democratic National Committee, Martin Luther King III, eldest son of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Randi Weingarten, President, American Federation of Teachers, Janaye Ingram, Director National Partnerships, Airbnb, Baxter Leach, 1968 Sanitation Striker, Memphis AFSCME Local 1733, and Joe Madison, Civil Rights Activist and Radio Talk Show Host, SiriusXM Urban View

Martin Luther King Day Public Policy Forum
National Action Network House of Justice
106 W. 145th St.
New York, NY 10039
1:00 p.m.

Attendees: Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Sen. Chuck Schumer, Rep. Adriano Espaillat, Rep. Carolyn Maloney, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, Rep. Gregory Meeks, Rep. Yvette Clark, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, New York Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, New York Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, New York Senator Jeff Klein, Mayor Bill de Blasio, New York City Public Advocate Letitia James, New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, New York City’s Parking Production Assistants (PPAs), with support from the Communications Workers of America (CWA), State and local elected officials and clergy

Martin Luther King Day Inaugural Newark Event
Metropolitan Baptist Church
149 Springfield Ave
Newark, NJ 07103
3:00 p.m.

Attendees: Rev. Dr. David Jefferson, Chairman, NAN New Jersey, Ras Baraka, Mayor of Newark, and local elected officials and community leaders

Source: Mercury

Jennifer Holliday to Perform at Annual MLK Memorial Observance


RoAnn Destito, Office of General Services Commissioner, today announced that the New York State celebration of the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. will be held on January 15, 2018 at 9:15 a.m. in the Empire State Plaza Convention Center. Lola Brabham, Acting Commissioner of the New York State Department of Civil Service, and SUNY Chancellor Kristina M. Johnson will present remarks during the program. The public is invited to attend the free program in observation of Dr. King’s birth. The Be a King Volunteer Fair will begin at 8:30 a.m. at the base of The Egg; a musical prelude will start in the Convention Center at 9:15 a.m.; and the program will begin promptly at 9:45 a.m.

“I join Governor Cuomo in inviting everyone to come to or watch the live video of this important New York State tradition at the Empire State Plaza of celebrating the life of Dr. King and Mrs. Coretta Scott King and enjoying the talented performers and inspiring speakers who come to this event to honor our nation’s most important civil rights leader,” Commissioner Destito said. “The global theme for this year’s commemoration is ‘MLK50 Forward: Together We Win With Love For Humanity,’ marking the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s assassination and the founding of The Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change. It is a perfect time to recommit ourselves to keeping Dr. King’s dream alive.”

“I am pleased to join Governor Cuomo and OGS Commissioner RoAnn Destito in inviting everyone to the Annual MLK Memorial Observance to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his unrelenting commitment to civil rights and human dignity,” said Acting Civil Service Commissioner Lola W. Brabham. “Today and every day, let us recommit ourselves to the values Dr. King championed and follow his example by making a positive difference in our own communities.”

This year’s celebration will include a special performance by Ms. Jennifer Holliday. The Grammy and Tony Award-winning Ms. Holliday has been proclaimed a Broadway legend by critics and fans alike. Her show-stopping, heart-wrenching performance of the torch ballad “And I am Telling You, I’m Not Going” in the 1981 smash hit “Dreamgirls” is considered one of the all-time best performances in a Broadway musical. The iconic role made Holliday a household name and introduced her big, soulful voice to the world.

This year’s keynote speaker is Dr. Wintley Augustus Phipps. Born in Trinidad, West Indies and raised in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, Dr. Phipps is a world-renowned vocal artist, pastor, motivational speaker, and education activist. He is the founder, President, and Chief Executive Officer of the U.S. Dream Academy, Inc., a non-profit, national after-school program that provides mentoring and tutoring around the country to children of incarcerated parents and children falling behind in school.

Click here to review the full list of scheduled events. 

Source: NYS Office of General Services

Sanders Against Trump's Changes to Community Reinvestment Act

New York State Senator James Sanders Jr. today condemned President Trump’s proposal to revamp or rescind the Community Reinvestment Act something that would be detrimental to low-income and working class families.

The CRA is legislation, which states that banks should lend a certain amount of money to people who live in the neighborhoods where the banks are located. Prior to this legislation, redlining was a common practice. Banks literally drew a red line around neighborhoods that they did not want to lend to – minority and so-called “high risk” neighborhoods – places where people had the most need.

“I would suggest that those in need of a loan get one right away, before the protective regulations of the CRA all come crashing down,” Sanders said. “Banking systems are necessary, but we must examine how much is profit and how much is greed.”

The CRA has attempted to remove red-lines and held banks accountable for who they were lending to by making them report how many loans went where and to whom. Complex grading systems analyze and rate how banks have addressed the borrowing needs of the surrounding community; all while maintaining practical lending standards, of course. A bad grade could hurt a bank’s ability to merger and restrict other activities.

“The primary question every bank should be asking is - can you pay back the loan at a reasonable rate, in a reasonable amount of time? That should be the bank’s primary question, not how to make the most profit without considering the needs of the poor and middle class.”

The CRA system is not perfect and has been updated nine times between 1989 and 2008, however, it is a great improvement over the old days when banks were basically closed to poor people and people of color, except for taking their money in the form of deposits.

“Even if you are a property owner who has gotten the cold shoulder from banks before, and even if you are skeptical how different things could be under President Trump, my advice to those looking to buy a home is to borrow the money while the CRA is still around,” Sanders said.

Proposed changes to the CRA could expand the types of loans that could qualify to include small business loans and infrastructure loans, thereby diluting community development loans that cover affordable housing and help the everyday folks.

The CRA gets in the way of banks making more money through interest rates and through backing large investment firms like Blackstone, which can snatch up foreclosed properties and rent them at an inflated rate.

These possible changes to the CRA, or worse the repeal of the CRA, would be devastating to communities like Southeast Queens, which was the epicenter of the foreclosure crisis from 2008-2013. It would hinder new home ownership, a central part of building economic development.

“Communities where residents own homes and businesses are strengthened by that investment,” Sanders said. “It promotes deep roots and generational growth. We want to have that pride of ownership in this district and I have several initiatives that I will be rolling out to advance that goal, but we need the solid foundation of the CRA to help us achieve our mission.”

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

It’s Time to Censure Trump for ‘Conduct Unbecoming’ of a President

There is a way to punish President Trump for his ignorant, racist words without resorting to impeachment. He should be censured by Congress.

On Dec. 28, Army Pvt. Emmanuel Mensah rushed twice into a burning building in the Bronx and rescued four people. On his third trip in, he died. Mensah was from Ghana, one of President Trump’s “shithole countries.”

Trump’s comment was racist: He was referring only to countries with dark-skinned people. That makes the Fox News blowhards who endorse it racists, too.

It was stupid: We need the help of those nations to fight terrorism and pursue other national interests. Trump just did another huge favor for China, which is already moving aggressively in Africa.

And it was un-American: Immigrants from dysfunctional countries, including those like Trump’s grandfather, who came from impoverished Germany in 1886, built the United States. You can look it up.

Another thing to research: Article 133 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. All senior U.S. military personnel—including women— are subject to a court martial for “conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman.” Such conduct includes dishonest, indecent, cruel and dishonorable acts. Article 133 charges require no proof of law-breaking. They can be brought for merely “indecorous” behavior, which means acting like an asinine ignoramus.

Click here for the full article. 

Source: The Daily Beast

'Flashback Friday': The Brutal Lynching Of Mary Turner (1918)

This video was published on YouTube on October 21, 2017. 

Parking Production Assistants to Announce Plans to Unionize

50 Years After Dr. King’s Death, PPAs to Organize and Fight for Dignity and Respect

With the 50th anniversary of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. fast approaching, New York City’s Parking Production Assistants (PPAs) – the TV and film industry workers of  predominantly African-American and Hispanic descent who strive to keep the streets clear of cars when TV and  film studios do shoots, including placing signage at site locations – will join Rev. Al Sharpton and the National Action Network (NAN) to announce their plans to unionize on Martin Luther King Day, January 15, at 12pm at NAN’s House of Justice, 106 West 145th Street in Harlem. PPAs will embody the spirit of Dr. King, who died fighting for invisible laborers who weren’t recognized by their own union in Memphis, Tennessee on April 4th, 1968.

PPAs are consistently forced to work long hours for low wages in extremely deplorable conditions. PPA’s suffer inhumane conditions on the job, aren’t allowed to leave sites when there is inclement weather, and the on-location bathroom is usually not made available to them. There is no labor union for PPAs dedicated to protecting member interests and improving wages, hours, or conditions.

Last month, the Communications Workers of America (CWA) filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to seek union elections for all PPAs who work for SONY, NBC/Universal, ABC Studios, HBO, and CBS/Viacom. The petition included signatures from an overwhelming majority of PPAs who wish to join the union. The National Labor Relations Board will be mailing out ballots on January 26th to all eligible employees.

“Allowing Parking Production Assistants to unionize is clearly the right thing to do,” said NAN President and Founder Rev. Al Sharpton. “It is time these hardworking individuals struggling to make ends meet get the support they deserve, and I am proud to have them join me at NAN on King Day. An effort like this, in the spirit of Dr. King, is long overdue.”

“Right now, many workers of color in film are finding themselves working long hours for low wages in disgraceful conditions,” said Martin Luther King III, a supporter of the effort. “New York City and the film industry have allowed this injustice to continue for far too long, and in one of the most progressive cities in the nation, New York needs to take the lead in unionizing PPAs.”

The effort by PPAs to unionize comes on the heels of a 2016 class action lawsuit between production assistants and Paramount Pictures, where PPAs claimed in their initial January 21, 2016 filing that “many of the plaintiffs are forced to urinate and defecate into bottles and buckets in their vehicles.” In September, the lawsuit was settled for $700,000.

“The legacy of Dr. King’s dream is not limited to the political liberation of people of color, but extends also to social and economic liberation. As the Chair of the State Senate Labor Committee and a champion for greater diversity in the film and TV industry, I am proud to stand with The National Action Network, CWA, and these brave workers in their fight to unionize,” said New York State Senator Marisol Alcantara. “New York City’s Parking Production Assistants deserve the same workplace representation afforded to other sectors of the entertainment industry, and I stand with them.”

“With support from activists like us, Parking Production Assistants can start a coordinated and effective campaign to finally get a voice for their interests in the form of a union,” said Hazel Dukes, President of the NAACP New York State Conference. “It is time to move forward.”

Source: Mercury

Rev. Al Sharpton: Donald Trump Has Built A Whole Presidency On Race

This report was broadcast on January 11. 

History Brief: African Americans in the Revolutionay War

This video was published on YouTube on October 10, 2015. 

Source: Reading Through History

Trailblazers in Black History: Samuel L. Kountz

Samuel Lee Kountz Jr. was a physician and pioneer in organ transplantation, particularly renal transplant research and surgery. An Arkansas success story, he overcame the limitations of his childhood as an African American in the Delta region of a racially segregated state to achieve national and world prominence in the medical field.

Sam Kountz was born on October 20, 1930, in Lexa (Phillips County) to the Reverend J. S. Kountz, a Baptist sminister, and his wife, Emma. He was the eldest of three sons. Kountz lived in a small town with an inadequate school system in one of the most impoverished regions of the state. He attended a one-room school in Lexa until the age of fourteen, at which point he transferred to a Baptist boarding school in the same town; he later graduated from Morris Booker College High School in Dermott (Chicot County).

Kountz applied to Arkansas Agricultural, Mechanical and Normal College (AM&N), now the University of Arkansas as Pine Bluff, in 1948, but he failed the entrance examination. Undaunted, he applied directly to Lawrence A. Davis Sr., president of Arkansas AM&N, who was so impressed by Kountz’s ambition, his inquiring mind, and his determination to become a physician that he admitted him despite his scores. During Kountz’s senior year, he conducted a tour of the campus for Senator J. William Fulbright, who encouraged him in his goal of becoming a physician. Kountz earned a BS in chemistry in 1952, graduating third in his class. 

Click here for additional information. 

Source: The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture

'Black Panther' Sets Fandango Record as Top Early Pre-Selling Marvel Movie

by Variety

LOS ANGELES - Advance sales for Disney-Marvel's "Black Panther" have set a new record for Fandango as the top seller among Marvel Cinematic Universe movies in the first 24 hours, topping "Captain America: Civil War."

Sales launched Monday night after a national spot aired during the telecast of the College Football Playoff National Championship. Chadwick Boseman stars as T'Challa, who takes over as the king of Wakanda after his father T'Chaka is killed, as shown in "Captain America: Civil War." The film also stars Angela Bassett's Ramonda, Forest Whitaker's Zuri, and Michael B. Jordan's Erik Killmonger.

The film opens on Feb. 16.

Click here for the full article. 

Source: NBC News 

Major Rally and Press Conference to Be Held at FERC

 Click on the flier to increase its size.

The following statement was submitted by Beyond Extreme Energy and the Pipeline Protection Network, which are organizing the event. 

After almost a year without a quorum at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, we now have a Commission with four Trump appointees already rubber-stamping permits to expand gas pipelines. There are moves to further subsidize coal, gas and nuclear over renewable energy. There are moves to take away the power of states to grant or reject air and water quality permits. And now the new FERC leadership is saying they want to review the process of considering applications for gas permits, which could make a bad situation even worse.

Join us at 9 a.m. on January 18 in front of FERC for a rally and press conference announcing our 8-point plan for how to enact a pipeline review process as if people and the planet mattered!! After presenting our plan, we’ll post copies of our 8-point plan on FERC’s front door.

And if you’re interested in going into the FERC Commissioners meeting, which begins at 10 am, email

'Iron Jawed Angels': If You Want to Change the World, See It

Alice Paul

A Movie Review

By Ted Glick

There are a lot of good movies which are inspiring and educational for those of us who want to change the world. One of the very best, imho, is the movie Iron Jawed Angels. What is especially good about the movie is the accurate picture it paints of how social change happens.

Iron Jawed Angels came out in 2004, and it received positive reviews at the time. At today, it has an 89% positive audience rating. It’s a well-constructed movie.

The star is early 20th century feminist leader Alice Paul, played in the movie by Hilary Swank. It covers the period between 1913 and 1920 when the many-decades-long battle for the right of women to vote in the USA achieved success with the passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The heart and soul of the movie, the last third or so of it, is the gripping story of the National Women’s Party’s organization of picketing actions in front of the White House beginning in January, 1917, after Woodrow Wilson was re-elected. When he took the US into World War I in April, anger against the continuing pickets at the White House led to government arrests on the charge of “obstructing traffic.”

Alice Paul was one of those arrested, and upon her arrival at the Occoquan Workhouse in northern Virginia where her sister comrades were being held, she led a hunger strike against brutal conditions in the jail. She and others were eventually force-fed, causing internal injuries that she suffered from for the rest of her life.

Word of their mistreatment got out and was publicized in the mainstream press, which led to great pressure on Wilson, particularly from the more staid and less radical elements of the women’s suffrage movement. Wilson felt that he had to call for a women’s suffrage amendment to the Constitution, which, after he did, passed Congress and, eventually, in 1920, in the 34 states necessary for it to become law.

The movie portrays the reality that within movements for change there are the more radical, usually younger, willing-to-take-risks activists, and there are the more moderate, usually older, don’t-rock-the-boat-too-much activists. Sometimes they work together OK, and sometimes they don’t, and there is tension over their differences. But victories often require, eventually, all taking action together, even if different types of action.

“Angels” humanizes activists and organizers, shows them as people with fears, insecurities and doubts co-existing with anger, commitment and passion for change.

The movie shows that risk-taking direct action and a willingness to sacrifice for the cause are necessary if the cause is going to win its objectives.

It shows how people can change; in this case, women initially afraid of angering their husbands by activist involvement, and patronizing men who have their consciousness raised by women they love asserting their rights.

And it shows that, eventually, we can win.

It is so easy to feel, in the face of dangerous climate change and Trump and deportations and sexual harassment and white supremacy and economic injustice and everything else, that it’s just too hard, we’ll never see the kind of changes we need. I feel like that a lot. That’s when I think of all those before me, Alice Paul and her sisters in struggle among them, who never gave up, who faced conditions much harsher than most of us face today.

And that’s when I’ll read or watch something inspiring to restore my fighting spirit. Iron Jawed Angels, for sure, is a movie to watch at those challenging times.

Ted Glick has been a progressive activist and organizer since 1968. Other writings and information can be found here, and he can be followed on Twitter here.

Keep These Cough Medicines Away from Kids, FDA Says

Cough medications that contain opioids like codeine should never be given by kids, and the medicines will now need to be labeled to make that clear, the Food and Drug Administration said Thursday.

They’ll also carry bigger warnings about their dangers to adults, the FDA said.

"The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is requiring safety labeling changes for prescription cough and cold medicines containing codeine or hydrocodone to limit the use of these products to adults 18 years and older because the risks of these medicines outweigh their benefits in children younger than 18," it said in a statement. 

Click here for the full article.

Source: NBC News 

Steve Bannon Will Testify Before House Intelligence Committee Next Week

This report was published on YouTube on January 11. 

Source: Wochit Politics

Obama: Innovations That Helped Elect Me Now Dividing the Country

WASHINGTON — Former President Barack Obama says the same innovations in technology that helped make his historic election possible have now evolved to exacerbate the nation’s political divides, keeping many Americans inside partisan "bubbles" of their own making.

In a rare extended interview, Obama tells David Letterman that social media and the increasing personalization of many Americans’ information streams has led to the reinforcing of biases.

"One of the biggest challenges we have to our democracy is the degree to which we don’t share a common baseline of facts," the 44th president told Letterman for his new Netflix series, "My Next Guest Needs No Introduction."

"What the Russians exploited but it was already here is we are operating in completely different information universes. If you watch Fox News, you are living on a different planet than you are if you listen to NPR," Obama continued. 

Click here for the full article. 

Source: NBC News 

Treasury Begins Tax Plan Roll Out

This report was broadcast on January 11.

Source: CBS News

Iran Nuclear Deal: Brussels Meeting to Put a United Front as Trump Refuses to Endorse Agreement

Source: FRANCE 24 English

Germany: 'The Social Democratic Party is Very Divided, in an Existential Crisis'

Source: FRANCE 24 English

Trump Criticised Over ‘Shithole Countries’ Remark

Nigeria's Mass Burial: Violence Over Farmland Worsens

Pakistan: Rape, Murder of 6-Year-Old Zainab Stirs Snger

Sudan Protests: Three Dead in 'Bread Protests'

Syria: UN Concerned as Government Attacks Intensify

Child Dies From Flu as Cases Skyrocket Across New York

The number of influenza cases has risen sharply across New York as the state reported its first child death from the flu this season.

Cases of the flu rose by 37 percent over the past week and new cases were reported in 61 of the state’s 62 counties, Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said.

Click here for the full article. 

Source: NBC News 

Mayor de Blasio and First Lady McCray Hosts Annual Interfaith Breakfast

This video was published on YouTube on January 11. 

Source: NYC Mayor's Office

Gillibrand Plans to Stop Trump's Pick for US Attorney in New York

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) plans to try and block President Trump’s pick for U.S. attorney in New York’s southern district, The New York Times reported Wednesday.

Gillibrand, a frequent and vocal critic of the president, will likely use her “blue-slip prerogative” to oppose the nomination of Geoffrey Berman. Senators from the home state of a nominee — in  Berman’s case New York — are required to sign off on blue slips for a nominee to be considered. 

Gillibrand’s spokesman told The New York Times that the senator would block the nomination over concerns that Trump interviewed Berman for the post directly.

Click here for the full article.

Source: The Hill (via Empire Report New York) 

Bronx DA Eyes Illegal Tricks Behind Cops' Surging Gun Arrests

By Rocco Parascandola

Prosecutors are investigating whether cops in a Bronx precinct that has been praised for its surge in gun arrests broke the law to make some of those busts, the Daily News has learned.

The months-long probe by the Bronx district attorney’s office has led to some gun cases being shot to bits.

Some cops could be indicted for perjury and official misconduct, police sources said. The NYPD may transfer others or bring them up on departmental charges, the sources said.

“Our Public Integrity Bureau is investigating the allegations,” DA spokeswoman Patrice O’Shaughnessy confirmed.

Click here for the full article.

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

Now Pursuing Diversity, New City Council Speaker Has Employed Mostly White Men

Corey Johnson’s ascension to speaker of the New York City Council came amid concerns by elected officials and activists that yet another white man would be in a seat of leadership in a majority-minority city where the mayor and comptroller, two of three citywide elected officials, are also white men. During his pursuit of the position against several men of color and amid citywide outcry over the gender imbalance in the City Council, Johnson promised to ensure a diverse senior leadership team and central staff, and early indications are that he is following through on that pledge.

However, before rising to speaker, on his Council staff and his reelection campaign, Johnson has seemingly surrounded himself with almost exclusively other white men, in positions from communications to chief of staff.

Click here for the full article.

Source: Gotham Gazette (via Empire Report New York) 

Columbia University Official Busted in $350G Financial Aid Kickback Scheme

By Erin Durkin

A Columbia University official fraudulently pocketed $350,000 in financial aid funds in a years-long kickback scheme with three students, prosecutors charged Thursday.

Melanie Williams-Bethea, the former director of financial aid at Columbia’s Teachers College, and the students were arrested and hit with bribery, conspiracy, and wire fraud charges.

Since 2008, Williams-Bethea had been falsifying documents to get the students financial aid they didn’t deserve — and then taking a portion of the money as a kickback for herself, according to a criminal complaint.

Click here for the full article. 

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

Will New York Finally Consider Legalizing Cannabis This Week?

By Janet Burns

This week, Vermont and New Hampshire moved to legalize cannabis for adult use, signifying a major step in states' acceptance of the plant along the East Coast, and in their opposition to Attorney General Jeff Sessions' tenacious stance.

In New York, where legislators have largely left drug laws unchanged since the '70s, and where marijuana arrest rates continue to lead the nation, a panel of lawmakers will now hear testimony from some of the state's most experienced--and patient--advocates for reform.

On Thursday morning, the New York State Assembly Standing Committees on Codes, Health, and Alcohol and Drug Abuse will convene a public hearing to discuss the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA), aimed to legalize the use, distribution, and production of cannabis for adults aged 21 and over.

As part of their research on the bill, which was floated to little effect in previous assembly sessions, the legislative panel will hear testimony from a range of medical, legal, and policy experts in the state who are calling for an end to the ban (with livestreamed video available from 10:30 EST, and after the fact here).

Click here for the full article.

Source: Forbes (via Empire Report New York)

DeRosa, Hochul Roll Out Cuomo's 30-Point 2018 NY Women's Agenda


Two of the most powerful women in New York state government unveiled Gov. Andrew Cuomo's 30-point plan to address issues ranging from child care and equal pay to contraception coverage and maternal depression.

At an event in New York City Thursday, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul and Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa detailed the 2018 Women's Agenda. It contains several proposals already announced by Cuomo — codifying Roe v. Wade into the state law and constitution, banning domestic abusers from possessing firearms and reauthorizing the state's Minority and Women-Owned Business program.

DeRosa, who as secretary to the governor is Cuomo's top aide, recalled how she and many other women felt in the aftermath of Donald Trump's win in the 2016 presidential election. She mentioned the women's marches that were held in New York last January and the scores of women who, through the #MeToo movement, shared their stories of being sexually assaulted or harassed.

"Yes, 2017 was the year when women spoke up," DeRosa said. "But 2018 needs to be the year when society responds."

Click here for the full article. 

Source: NYGovCuomo and (via Empire Report New York)