Saturday, March 7, 2009

No. 3 Pitt downs No. 1 UConn

Sam Young had 31 points and 10 rebounds, as third-ranked Pittsburgh downed top-ranked Connecticut in a Big East showdown at Petersen Events Center.

Levance Fields overcame a bruised tailbone to finish with 10 points and 12 assists -- to only two turnovers -- for Pitt (28-3, 15-3 Big East), which jumbled the conference standings.

UConn (27-3, 15-3) could have clinched at least a share of the Big East regular season title with a win. Now the Huskies are tied with Pittsburgh, as the door is opened for No. 6 Louisville, which owns a 15-2 conference mark and plays at West Virginia later Saturday.

Brad Wanamaker ended with 13 points and DeJuan Blair added eight points and eight boards for the Panthers, who ended the season with a perfect home record of 19-0.

Pitt capitalized on numerous transition opportunities to get its third consecutive win and to complete the sweep of the season series with the Huskies. Pitt defeated UConn, 76-68, in Hartford on February 16, when the Huskies were also the No. 1 team in the country.

"The difference was fouls," said Blair. "This game was called a lot tighter than the last time, and I kind of had to watch myself a little more closely. Thankfully I was still able to do what I had to do to get us a win."

A.J. Price made 4-of-8 three-point attempts and finished with 19 points for UConn, which had a three-game win streak broken. Hasheem Thabeet ended with 14 points, 13 boards and five blocks, while Jeff Adrien added 11 points and eight rebounds for the Huskies.

"I've never been to a game that we've lost the ball as much as we did today," said UConn coach Jim Calhoun. "The ball seemed to slip out of our hands a lot. They'd get the ball out of our hands, legally. We fought an uphill battle being on the road against a team that matches our caliber and it was Pitt's senior day. We know that we can beat them, although I don't have any evidence of it considering that we're zero-and-two against them."

Wanamaker's layup gave Pitt a 52-38 lead with 12 1/2 minutes to play, but UConn stormed back with a 12-0 run. Price fueled the surge with eight points, including a pair of threes, and Stanley Robinson ended it with a dunk to bring the Huskies within 52-50 with 8 1/2 minutes to go.

Price connected on another three-pointer several minutes later to cut his team's deficit to 56-53, but Pitt pulled away with seven consecutive points. Jermaine Dixon had a layup and Young followed with a dunk, and was fouled on the play. He made the free throw, and after Price missed a three, Fields sank a layup, giving the Panthers a 63-53 lead with four minutes to go.

It was a back-breaking stretch for UConn, which didn't get closer than eight points the rest of the way.

Pitt used a similar burst to get a double-digit lead early in the first half. A nine-point run, capped by a Wanamaker three, put the Panthers ahead 23-13. UConn didn't let the deficit grow larger, and Young's layup in the waning seconds gave Pitt a 38-28 lead at the break.

Thabeet was the Huskies' driving force in the first half, scoring 14 points, but did not score once over the final 20 minutes.

Young and Blair began the second half with back-to-back baskets for a 14-point advantage. UConn got the Pitt lead down to eight with three consecutive baskets, but Young drilled a three in transition to make it a 45-34 game nearly five minutes in.

Game Notes

While Price made 4-of-8 three-point attempts, the rest of his team went 0- for-6. UConn shot 37.7 percent overall, and 10-of-19 from the foul line...Pitt made 44.1 percent of its shots, but only 4-of-20 three-pointers. Young had three of them, out of five attempts. The Panthers took only nine free throws, making six...Pitt went undefeated at home for the fourth time in school history. The Panthers also accomplished the feat in 2002-03 (16-0), 1973-74 (13-0) and 1974-75 (10-0).

US 'not winning in Afghanistan'

US President Barack Obama has said the US is not winning in Afghanistan, saying it is more complex than Iraq.

In an interview with the New York Times, he said reaching out to the Taleban could be an option, in the same way outreach had worked in Iraq.

However, the "fierce independence among tribes" in Afghanistan presented different challenges, he said.

A month into his presidency, Mr Obama authorised the deployment of up to 17,000 extra US troops to Afghanistan.

Asked if the US was winning in Afghanistan, Mr Obama replied: "No."

Mr Obama and his advisors are reviewing the US strategy on Afghanistan, and have looked at what has worked in Iraq.

"There may be some comparable opportunities in Afghanistan and in the Pakistani region," he said on board Air Force One.

Mr Obama, referring to the US policy in Iraq, said: "If you talk to General [David] Petraeus, I think he would argue that part of the success in Iraq involved reaching out to people that we would consider to be Islamic fundamentalists, but who were willing to work with us because they had been completely alienated by the tactics of al-Qaeda in Iraq."

However, Afghanistan could be a different situation.

"The situation in Afghanistan is, if anything, more complex," he told the newspaper.

"You have a less governed region, a history of fierce independence among tribes.

"Those tribes are multiple and sometimes operate at cross purposes, and so figuring all that out is going to be much more of a challenge."

Terror suspects

He also discussed what the US would do if a terror suspect appeared in a country without an extradition arrangement with the US.

"There could be situations - and I emphasise 'could be' because we haven't made a determination yet - where, let's say that we have a well-known al-Qaeda operative that doesn't surface very often, appears in a third country with whom we don't have an extradition relationship or would not be willing to prosecute, but we think is a very dangerous person," he said.

"I think we still have to think about how do we deal with that kind of scenario," he added.

NASA planet hunter blasts into night sky

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — NASA's planet-hunting spacecraft, Kepler, has blasted off aboard a rocket from Cape Canaveral.

The Kepler telescope rocketed into the night sky late Friday on a historic voyage to track down other Earths in a faraway patch of the Milky Way galaxy. The $600 million mission will last at least three-and-a-half years.

Once it's settled into an orbit around the sun, Kepler will stare nonstop at 100,000 stars. The telescope will watch for any dimming, or winks, in the stellar brightness that might be caused by orbiting planets. It's the first NASA mission capable of detecting Earth-size planets around stars like our sun.

Kepler is named after the German 17th-century astrophysicist.

Terrell Owens: Takes His Act to Buffalo

Owens has in fact signed a one-year, $6.5 million guaranteed deal with the Bills, The Buffalo News reports.

Get your chicken wings ready. Never in a million years did we think the Bills would sign a disruptive force like Owens, as they are normally a quiet team in free agency and very rarely sign the headline makers. It looks like after not seeing the playoffs since 1999 and having Lee Evans being constantly double-teamed, they're willing to try to spice up the party by inviting the wild and crazy kid from down the street. The funny thing is the move should actually work, as they're only on the hook for one year and that's the one where T.O. is usually on his best behavior. The Bills could have a decent offense in 2009, with Owens, Lee Evans, Marshawn Lynch and Trent Edwards.

Peanut processor filing has no money for injuries

ROANOKE, Va. (AP) — Sickened consumers who sued the peanut processor blamed for a national salmonella outbreak could have trouble recovering damages from company accounts because assets listed in a bankruptcy filing Friday will likely go to other businesses that bought its products.

Lynchburg-based Peanut Corp. of America filed documents listing nearly $11.4 million in assets and debts of $4.8 million Friday in U.S. Bankruptcy court. However, more than $7 million listed as assets was in insurance that covers the company's products and will not be used for claims by consumers. Among the uses for that money would be compensating businesses that had bought Peanut Corp. products that were recalled, trustee Roy V. Creasy said.

However, the consumers who filed lawsuits aren't necessarily out of luck, said a Seattle lawyer who has filed several suits against Peanut Corp. Attorney Bill Marler said he expects his 85 clients to be paid through the company's personal injury insurance policy, which is separate from the assets tied to the product insurance.

Hartford Casualty Insurance Co. has asked for a ruling on whether its $12 million personal injury coverage of Peanut Corp. includes salmonella claims. Hartford has argued that Peanut Corp.'s actions may have negated its insurance coverage.

Peanut Corp. filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy last month amid growing fallout from the outbreak, which was sickened more than 650 people, may have caused nine deaths, and led to one of the largest product recalls in U.S. history.

The Food and Drug Administration has said that more than 2,670 peanut products have been recalled.

Companies file Chapter 7 to liquidate their assets and distribute the proceeds to creditors.

The filing Friday by attorney Andrew S. Goldstein listed more than a dozen lawsuits against the company related to the outbreak. It also listed more than 475 businesses with claims against the company.

Marler said he expects claims on behalf of those who were sickened to be paid.

"The personal injury cases will not be shunted aside," he said.

Marler is hopeful that a mediation process can be worked out to compensate individuals, but said even then the insurance money may not be enough to cover all the losses.

Marler and other food safety lawyers have also lawsuits against Solon, Ohio-based King Nut Co. and Battle Creek, Mich.-based Kellogg Co., which they say used the tainted ingredients in their products. Marler also has sued Peanut Corp.'s president, Stewart Parnell.

The only real estate that Peanut Corp. listed in the court documents was its plant in Blakely, Ga., identified by the FDA as the source of most of the illnesses. Inspectors there found roaches, mold and a leaking roof.

The plant was valued at $2 million, with a $1 million lien. The company also listed $2 million worth of equipment at the plant.

Salmonella also was found in products from Peanut Corp.'s Plainview, Texas, plant. It and a leased Suffolk, Va., blanching operation were listed as having unknown values.

The company reported about $19.7 million in gross income for the fiscal year that ended last Sept. 30.

The FBI is conducting a criminal investigation of the company, and Peanut Corp.'s statement of financial affairs included a $100,000 payment for corporate criminal legal representation.

Stimulus Targets Urban Development, Black Neighborhoods

It's been nearly two years since 23-year-old Keisha Smith last worked a full-time job.

As the northeast Washington, D.C. woman plodded away from the One-Stop job training center on Franklin Street, where the lobby was crammed mostly with African Americans applying for unemployment benefits and searching for jobs, Smith, who has her sights set on a secretarial career, said her hopes remain high.

“I have no choice but to remain optimistic,” she told the AFRO. “The economy is a mess, but I’ve got to keep looking.”

For people like Smith, the stimulus and investment package signed by President Obama this week could be particularly beneficial, economists and other experts say.

“This is the largest amount of money that will pass through our community in a long time,” said Ron Walters, a professor of government and politics at the University of Maryland, College Park, who specializes in Black issues.

Marc Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League, an organization dedicated to the economic empowerment of Blacks, agreed.

“This is a big, complex package with many opportunities for urban and African American communities,” he said.

The $787 billion measure is part of the administration’s remedy for an ailing economy though, it’s no cure, Obama said Tuesday.

“Today does not mark the end of our economic troubles. Nor does it constitute all of what we must do to turn our economy around,” he said during the bill signing ceremony in Denver. “But it does mark the beginning of the end – the beginning of what we need to do to create jobs for Americans scrambling in the wake of layoffs; to provide relief for families worried they won’t be able to pay next month’s bills; and to set our economy on a firmer foundation, paving the way to long-term growth and prosperity.”

The administration said the plan will save or create about 3.5 million jobs. Still, the months ahead will be grim, economists predict. Millions more jobs could be lost in addition to the 3.6 million lost in the past 13 months, driving the national unemployment rate past its already 14-year high of 7.6 percent.

“In April we will be back exactly where we were in 2000…no new jobs—zero; no new income—zero,” predicted economist William E. Spriggs, chairman of the Economics Department at Howard University. He added, “Unemployment will still be high two years from now—the damage has already been done. This is just to stop the hemorrhaging.”

For the Black community the forecast is even direr.

“African-Americans are going to be clobbered,” said Dedrick Muhammad, a research associate with Washington think tank, Institute for Policy Studies.

Already, Blacks top other groups in the number of unemployed persons at 12.6 percent, and the rate is actually higher when those who are underemployed or who have stopped job searching are factored in.

Disproportionate rates of imprisonment, especially among males, also weigh on the economic well-being of Black communities.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, Black men account for 36.3 percent of the overall sentenced population and they lead in the imprisonment rate at 3,138 prisoners per 100,000 U.S. residents, which is 6.5 times that of White males and 2.5 times that of Hispanic males.

“Massive incarceration rates for Blacks hide how bad unemployment is,” said Muhammad. “It factors out thousands of African Americans, who, when they do come out of prison are marginalized into least-paying and first-cut jobs.”

Black jobless rates could reach as high as 20-30 percent, some economists predict, but then the African American community has long suffered under stifling and disproportionate rates of unemployment.

“The biggest problem we have is that policy makers consider double-digits of unemployment rates among Blacks to be normal,” Walters said. “It’s only when the majority has unemployment in the double digits that everything goes into a twitter.” He added, “We’ve been suffering all along. We needed these resources all along but we needed them to be targeted.”

Several provisions of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act seem targeted to the unemployed and working poor in urban and lower-income communities, several experts said.

Provisions that could likely create jobs or aid the unemployed include:

- $4 billion for retrofitting HUD properties

- $7 billion to extend the broadband grid to undeserved rural and urban communities

- 65 percent subsidy on health care premiums for laid-off workers for nine months

- $200 million for college work study

- $27.5 billion for modernizing roads and bridges

- $16.4 billion for investments in public transit and high-speed rail

- $25 per week increase in unemployment benefits for 20 million jobless workers and an extension of the relief program through December

- Suspension of taxes on unemployment benefits

- $350 million of community organizations that aid the needy

- $19.9 billion for food stamps

- $3.95 billion for job training, including $1.2 billion for 1 million youth summer jobs

- Spriggs, the Howard economist, said the portfolio of tax cuts — a $400 tax cut for individuals, $2,500 college tuition credit, $8,000 first time homebuyer credit, expansion of the child tax credit and more — will be particularly effective.

“It’s a fair tax cut,” he said. “When Bush tried to stimulate the economy by passing his tax cuts, he didn’t make it balanced and fair. Now, we (African Americans) actually will see the tax relief this time.”

The $53.6 billion outlay to states will also prove beneficial to Blacks, who tend to gain managerial positions and employment in general in health, education and the public sector, Spriggs added. “That goes a long way to maintaining the Black middle class.”

That segment of the community would need a bolster said, Muhammad, co-author of a report, “State of the Dream 2009,” which predicted a 33 percent decrease in the Black middle class.

“The African American community never really emerged from the 2001 recession,” Muhammad said, adding that the length and severity of this Black economic malaise qualified it as a “depression.” “During the supposed ‘good years’ African Americans were not doing well and now that we’ve shifted to the ‘bad years,’ they’re declining in employment and income rates.”

Blacks make $0.60 of every $1 of White in income. And, more devastatingly, compared to Whites they hold a mere 15 percent of wealth—savings, investments, assets—most of which has been decimated by the foreclosure crisis.

“Wealth is what gets you through the tough times,” and this bill didn’t sufficiently address the racial wealth divide, said Muhammad.

Morial said many Congressional Black Caucus members fought for more investment in education and health care with an eye to bridging that wealth divide but were forced to accept cuts in those programs as part of the Senate-House compromise.

“Those types of programs, we really wanted to fight for,” said CBC member Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., on an ABC News talk show Sunday about investments in school construction. “We thought not only does that create jobs, it’s an investment in our future.”

“We lost on some of it,” she added, “but it’s a big win for American families.”

Waters and others said the $87 billion in federal matching funds for Medicaid and state monies for school upgrades, $13 billion for Title I grants and $2.1 billion for Early Head Start and Head Start is a start in terms of investment in the lower-income, inner-city communities.

To really capitalize on the potential of this stimulus bill, though, local leaders in the Black community ought to be readying people through information, preparation and organization, Walters said, something he hasn’t yet seen.

“This is not one of those positions where you can wait on the mayor to hand you a job,” he said. “As those shovel-ready projects begin you have to be already in line to pick up the shovel, already in the union hall and wherever else. “If people are not prepared to take advantage of this, this whole train can pass us by.”

Black Waters No More

It's official: The first shot has been fired in the legislative battle to end the devastating practice of mountaintop removal mining in central Appalachia.

With the quickly growing and extraordinary nationwide support of over 100 co-sponsors, , John Yarmuth (D-KY) joined Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Dave Reichert (R-WA) in reintroducing the Clean Water Protection Act on March 4.

The Clean Water Protection Act challenges the executive rule change by the Bush administration to redefine “fill material” in the Clean Water Act, which has since allowed coal companies to blast hundreds of mountains to bits, dump millions of tons of “excess spoil” into nearby valleys, and bury hundreds of miles of streams. An estimated 1,200 miles of waterways have been destroyed by this extreme mining process.

The end result: Toxic black waters and poisoned aquifers that have denied people in the coalfields the basic right of a glass of clean water.

The timing couldn’t be more urgent: On the heels of a 4th U.S. Circuit Court decision that overturned greater environmental review of mountaintop removal actions by coal companies, scores of mining permits have flooded the gates of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers this month.

“Congress meant for the Clean Water Act to protect our nation's water resources; the administrative rule change endangers those resources,” said Rep. Pallone, the author of the legislation. “The dangerous precedent set by the Bush Administration's rule change undermines the Clean Water Act.”

The breakthrough role of Yarmuth, a Democrat from Louisville, has Kentuckians on their feet with applause.

“I am so thankful that one of Kentucky's politicians is stepping forward and showing true moral courage,” said bestselling author Silas House. “It's just a shame that the act isn't receiving support from Eastern Kentucky's politicians, where the water is most endangered. They should be ashamed that Yarmuth is having to do their job and his, too.”

George Brosi, a long-time Appalachian activist from Berea, Kentucky, also praised the co-sponsorship of Rep. Ben Chandler from central Kentucky: “They are dramatically demonstrating that those who live downstream from the scourge of mountain top removal mining must protect their water supply even if it means standing up to the most rich and powerful private interest in their state – the coal industry.”

“Unlike some other members of this state, Yarmuth isn't being cowed by the coal industry," noted Stephanie Pistello, an eastern Kentucky native and legislative associate for Appalachian Voices in Washington, D.C. He understands the devastation being wrought upon his state by this horrific method of mining. He is showing the courage to do what's right for the people of our great state and nation.”

Pistello added that Lexington's consumption of high-burning coal fuel was singled out recently by a Brookings Institution study that ranked it as one of the cities with the worst carbon footprints in the nation.

As blasting continues to shatter peace and prosperity in the coalfields of West Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee today, anti-mountaintop removal advocates continue to make their appeal to President Barack Obama, who lambasted the current practice at a 2007 campaign rally in Lexington.

The Ghost of Ronald Reagan

AS PRESIDENT RONALD REAGAN visibly aged in office, skin wrinkling and memory fading, his abundant hair remained deep black and glossy—a perennial topic of wonder to gossip columnists and shallow journalists. But late-night TV host Johnny Carson offered a novel explanation: “Reagan doesn’t dye his hair—he bleaches his face.”
Now, if there was anything Ronald Reagan didn’t need, it was whitenizing. The one-time New Deal Democrat and former Screen Actors Guild president had, by the mid-1960s, evolved into the most effective spokesman for white supremacy in postwar years. Through the skillful use of imagery, code words and political action, the Reagan administrations—in both California when he was governor and then in Washington—managed to thwart and even reverse Black aspirations and goals in the United States and in Africa.

Reagan struck a deep chord with whites who felt their position threatened, as well as with others who were simply fearful of Black anger. They wanted an escape from this new, changing America, and Reagan offered it to them. His most famous campaign TV commercial was “It’s Morning in America,” an idyll set in a peaceful, dewy, vaguely pre-integration neighborhood that implied the real America. The fact that such an America never existed made no difference.

Now, if there was anything Ronald Reagan didn’t need, it was whitenizing.

All this would be quaint history were it not for the fact that Reagan, who died in 2004, remains a living icon. Current Republicans can’t mention him often enough. In recent Republican presidential debates, Reagan’s name was reverently invoked 40 times as each candidate sought to claim his crown as leader of the right.

Reagan’s image and his policies remain the inspiration and the blueprint for conservatives today, including John McCain. Despite a genuine Blue Tide that started with the 2006 midterm election and an emboldened movement, every progressive politician and Democratic candidate has to deal with the ghost of Reagan. He initiated aggressive dismantling of both the New Deal–inspired social safety net and government support for racial justice. Congressional conservatives can be expected to continue that course.

The remarkable success of the Obama candidacy to date shows a widespread desire to break out of America’s 400-year racial trap, but the campaign has not been Reagan-free. As this issue of ColorLines went to production in September, political observers were noting that Obama’s run to the White House depended largely on the votes of the so-called Reagan Democrats. Those formerly reliable blue-collar Democratic voters, threatened by social change and Black gains, switched to Reagan in 1980 and continue to vote against their own economic and sociopolitical interests.

Reagan was and remains the embodiment of modern conservatism. Among other things, he managed to advance a strategy of racial containment—paralleling the international doctrine of communist containment—by couching it in social and economic language: welfare, school choice, privatization, personal freedom and responsibility, and, above all, crime. By cloaking these concepts in his benign personality, Reagan used these seemingly race-neutral principles to attack communities of color and the Black community in particular with devastating results. But this has been forgotten by many Americans as Reagan has become an icon for conservatives.

Conservatives have had such a monopoly on his image that few Americans today remember that while running for governor in California in 1966, Reagan promised to dismantle the Fair Housing Act, saying, “If an individual wants to discriminate against Negroes or others in selling or renting his house, he has a right to do so.”

And few remember the event that Sidney Blumenthal wrote about in The Guardian in 2003: “After the Republican convention in 1980, Reagan traveled to the county fair in Neshoba, Mississippi, where, in 1964, three Freedom Riders had been slain by the Ku Klux Klan. Before an all-white crowd of tens of thousands, Reagan declared: ‘I believe in states’ rights’.”

Two Words That Can Get You Life in Prison

If you cannot view the video, click here.
BEFORE REBECCA RIVERA ENTERED the California courtroom to hear if her son, Joshua Herrera, was going to face a life sentence in prison, she gathered with 40 or so supporters, who were bustling with nervous tension.

“I talked to Joshua last night,” she said, “and he wanted us all to know that whatever happens in there—he is coming home.” She began to weep, then collected herself and walked into court.

The only time a mother can celebrate her son being sent to prison for 19 years is when it could have been for life.

Rivera had done everything a mother could do to prevent her son from receiving a life sentence. She had brought his story to politicians, students, church congregations and biker clubs. She had organized marches, rallies and press conferences, and she had facilitated a letter-writing campaign. It paid off. Sort of.

In the courtroom, Judge Arthur Bocanegra delivered Herrera’s sentence: 19 years. Rivera’s deepest fears vanished. The only time a mother can celebrate her son being sent to prison for 19 years is when it could have been for life.

With no significant criminal record, no history of violence and a promising future as a firefighter, 24-year-old Herrera had faced a life sentence in a level-four prison. The stiff sentence was based on what is called a “gang enhancement,” which was tacked onto charges against Herrera as a result of a get-tough-on-gangs law passed in Sacramento, California, in 1988.

Herrera’s case is emblematic of the deep flaws inherent in that law, the Street Terrorism Enforcement and Protection (STEP) Act. Critics say the legislation, which targets and defines people as “gang members”—a politically charged and legally ambiguous term—has resulted in sentences disproportionate to the crimes.

Since the inception of STEP in California, more than half of all states and the District of Columbia have passed similar gang laws. And Congress has recently begun introducing legislation to make gang-related crimes a federal offense. There are at least eight proposals to address gang violence pending in the House and Senate. Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s Gang Abatement and Prevention Act of 2007 (S. 456) has already passed the Senate, and the bill’s language draws heavily from that found in STEP. A similar bill—the Gang Prevention, Intervention and Suppression Act (HR 3547)—has been introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Adam Schiff, a Democrat from California. If voted into law, it would create federal criminal penalties for gang crimes.
In 2003, Joshua Herrera, then 19 years old, returned to his hometown of San Jose. Tall and lanky, he had grown up there with his mother, who worked a full-time job and took night courses on business management. His uncles were active in the Latino community, serving as ministers and working as school principles. Herrera spent his summers doing jobs at the law firms where his mother was employed. He finished his high school years in Florida, where he lived with his father, and then enrolled in an Emergency Medical Technician program. After finishing the program, Herrera decided to become a firefighter, moved back to San Jose and enrolled in Mission College’s firefighter academy. His family bought him a car so he could transport his firefighter gear to school and back.

Five months after his return home, Herrera was out one night with friends. He drove three of them to the home of Thomas Martinez, a boyfriend of one of the young men’s mother. The men wanted to confront Martinez, who had allegedly abused the mother, and retrieve her belongings from the house.

Herrera stayed in the car while his friends entered the home. Martinez fled the scene and later claimed that one of the defendants had a shotgun. According to court testimony, Martinez was assaulted by one of the defendants, Richard Rodriguez. According to police reports, the young men returned to the car with a safe and two ounces of methamphetamines.

After dropping off his friends, Herrera was pulled over by police three blocks from his family home. His car, it would later be revealed, had been under surveillance by detectives investigating one of Herrera’s friends. He was arrested on the spot.

A Fragile Union

From the digital archives: Commentator Tammy Johnson's take on gay Black alliances and author Rinku Sen's reflections from 2008 when California began marrying same-sex couples.

You can learn a great deal about the state of gay politics by walking along Manhattan’s West Side Highway late in the day on the first Sunday of any June. Like the surrounding West Village neighborhood, the highway’s promenade will be packed, cheek-by-jowl, with reveling queers who have just marched through the city in honor of gay pride. But you’ll quickly notice something distinct about the post-parade mass crammed between the highway and the Hudson River: It will be overwhelmingly Black and Latino.

Travel a few blocks west or north, into the heart of the city’s gay neighborhoods, and the demographics change starkly. The crowd suddenly turns lily white, as house music drowns out hip-hop, and muscled, tanned torsos replace voguing Black and Latino youth. The transformation is so dramatic that it begs the question of whether the two scenes are even related. As a white friend earnestly asked me the first time he ventured to the side of the parade tracks, “Are these people all gay?”

The visual and cultural dissonance of the world’s largest gay pride celebration reveals a stubborn reality about gay life—and thus gay politics—40 years into the movement for sexual freedom: Once the marching and the chanting is done, the multihued cry against a universally felt oppression usually breaks down into deeply segregated, often opposing parts. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community organizers have for years debated whether that reality matters to their political goals, whether the community’s divisions are meaningful enough to cripple efforts to create equality on everything from marriage rights to schoolyard safety.

Last year’s ugly fight over marriage in California ought to finally settle the question.

From the campaign’s first days to its lingering post-election recriminations, an inability to deal with race undermined California’s struggle for same-sex marriage every step of the way. Throughout the campaign, activists of color, both inside and outside of the LGBT community, complained that its leaders failed to take people of color seriously and that they’d be punished on election day for doing so. Since the campaign’s end, polls suggesting those activists were correct have ignited outrage among white gays and lesbians directed at people of color, Blacks in particular. As Stephen Colbert quipped a few days after the election, “The new conflict is gay versus Black, Black versus gay!”

All of it has left gay and lesbian Americans reeling. It’s highlighted the fact that the more important word in the phrase “gay American” may well be American—people who are circumscribed and hamstrung by all of our unexplored fears and unfinished battles over race.
California’s Proposition 8 served up what is arguably one of the gay rights movement’s largest setbacks ever—because it changed so much, so fast in a state of such great consequence to national politics and culture.

“The electorate has forced us to take a look at ourselves. Our whole progressive community is going to be strengthened if we do that.” ­—Dolores Huerta, United Farm Workers cofounder

Last May, gays and lesbians across the country celebrated a historic victory when California’s Supreme Court ordered that the state law defining marriage make room for same-sex couples. That made California only the second state, along with Massachusetts, to open up civil marriage. (Connecticut has since done the same.)

Targeting Another Generation of Black Men

Gary King Sr. tries to avoid idle moments. When he’s not working as a drywaller, he keeps himself busy refurbishing his tidy, single-family house on Congress Avenue in Oakland, California. Sometimes he drums for hours, his hands a blur as they beat out a rhythm. If he is still for too long, the memories of his eldest son’s death come flooding back.
“It’s like it was yesterday,” he said. “It’ll always be yesterday for me.”

His son, Gary King Jr., was killed on Sep. 20, 2007, by Sgt. Patrick Gonzales of the Oakland Police Department. Gonzales, who allegedly stopped King Jr. because he looked like a suspect in a month-old homicide, stunned him with a Taser and then shot him twice in the back. Gonzales says he felt a gun on the youth and fired because he feared for his life.

Since 2003, Oakland has paid an average of $2,403,877 every year to settle lawsuits against the police.
Witnesses and relatives are not sure whether King Jr. was armed. Police say they recovered a revolver of unspecified caliber and make from the scene. However, no one claims the victim pulled a gun, and witnesses say the 20-year-old was fleeing when Gonzales fired.

In May 2008, the King family filed a federal civil rights suit against the city of Oakland, claiming Sgt. Gonzales used deadly force unlawfully. The trial is set for this September.

The King case is one of three wrongful-death suits against the Oakland Police Department currently in court. The families of Andrew Moppin, 20, and Mack “Jody” Woodfox III, 27—both killed by rookie officer Hector Jimenez in separate incidents in 2008—have also filed federal civil rights suits. Both men were reportedly unarmed at the time of their death. An Internal Affairs investigation cleared Sgt. Gonzales of all wrongdoing in King Jr.’s death, and Jimenez was also cleared in Moppin’s death. The Woodfox case was still under review as this issue of ColorLines went to print.

In 2008, nine people were shot by Oakland police, with six fatalities. In 2007, there were 12 police shootings and five deaths.

Other law enforcement agencies in Oakland have also killed young men of color. This last New Year’s Day, BART police officer Johannes Mehserle shot and killed 22-year-old Oscar Grant in the Fruitvale station. Grant was unarmed. His family has filed a $25 million claim with BART.

These shootings and subsequent lawsuits have raised more questions about the department’s training and oversight and further exacerbated long-standing tensions with communities of color. Historically, the violence by
Oakland police served as an impetus in the rise of the Black Panther Party, whose 1966 platform included a demand for “an immediate end to police brutality and murder of Black people.” Although the police force today is significantly more multi-racial than in those years, residents say officers continue to misue their power.

Oakland police have been under the supervision of a federal judge since 2003, when a settlement was reached in the “Rough Riders” lawsuit in which a group of officers was accused of assaulting suspects, planting evidence and falsifying reports. A team of independent monitors created by the Negotiated Settlement Agreement is supervising an overhaul of departmental policies. Attorneys for all three families mentioned previously say that in the absence of effective, independent oversight, litigation is the only means to compel the department to change its policies.

“The most effective check on the Oakland police has been civil rights lawsuits,” said attorney Michael Haddad of Haddad & Sherwin, who represents the King family.

Indeed, litigation filed after Oakland police officers attacked antiwar protestors at a 2003 rally outside the Port of Oakland led to a new crowd control policy with stricter regulations on the use of non-lethal force. In 2008, a federal judge struck down a departmental policy authorizing officers to conduct strip searches in public.

“Whenever you have to go to the courts to fix your police department, that’s a problem,” said Eugene O’Donnell, a former New York Police Department officer and professor of criminology at the City University of New York-John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

Since 2003, Oakland has paid an average of $2,403,877 every year to settle suits against the police.

It’s not a new generation of Black leaders. It’s a new politic.

The Breakthrough began its public life as a putative scandal during the 2008 presidential campaign. John McCain’s cadaverous team tried to suggest that PBS journalist Gwen Ifill could not be neutral in the debate between Republican Sarah Palin and Democrat Joe Biden, pretty much on the strength of this forthcoming book. Extracts from it (including a frothy story in the September 2008 issue of Essence) and hype from the publishers convinced the McCain team and the right-wing blogging machine that Ifill would favor Joe Biden.
What everyone seemed to worry about, it seemed to me, was that both long-winded, windy Biden and intense, insipid Palin would pale in comparison to the witty Ifill. I was excited to read the book.

Ifill is plainly thrilled with the ascent of President Barack Obama. But Obama, for her, is not an isolated example. He exemplifies something broader: a generation of mainly Black men who have risen to positions of state power. These are also men who are not restricted to districts with a majority Black population, congressional districts and cities that have been the safe boroughs of the Congressional Black Caucus and the National Conference of Black Mayors.

Review of The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama by Gwen Ifill (New York: Doubleday, 2009).
Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, Newark Mayor Cory Booker and Alabama Congressman Artur Davis are the main figures whom, along with Obama, have broken through—have made it to the higher echelons of political power. It is their remarkable journey not as individuals, but as members of a generation, that Ifill hopes to chronicle in The Breakthrough.

And she also hopes to prove that the success of these three men means whites are now comfortable electing Blacks to political office.

This might ring true in the case of Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick whose 2006 electoral victory was monumental: with Blacks making up only 7 percent of the population, Massachusetts can’t be seen as a “Black seat.” Patrick won the election with 56 percent of the vote, benefitting from an inept Republican challenger, a largely Democratic population fed up with a string of hapless Republican governors (Jane Swift, Mitt Romney) and a Democratic party that for once stood behind its candidate.

But Ifill’s other two choices are not unusual in the history of Black politics. Cory Booker is the mayor of a majority Black city and Artur Davis is the Congressman from a predominantly Black district (the 7th in Alabama). None of this is to lessen the enormity of each of their triumphs, but it does make it hard to establish (apart, that is, from Obama and perhaps Deval Patrick) that whites have changed on the matter of Black political candidates.

Only Deval Patrick won more than half the white vote in any election contest (but he contested in one of the most liberal states in the United States). Obama won only 43 percent of the total white vote (no Democrat has won more than 50 percent of the white vote since 1964). Obama wins, but not so much because of a plurality of whites as much as massive majorities in the ballot box from people of color (Blacks by 96 percent, Latinos by 67 percent and Asians by 63 percent).

What this says is that people of color have become a sizable bloc in certain crucial states. Ifill ignores this, preferring to suggest that the ascent of Obama and Patrick occurs mainly because whites are now comfortable voting for Black candidates. This is partly true, but it is not the whole story.

Ifill is diverted by the idea of the breakthrough, but fortunately she is also interested in another, altogether more interesting problem: which is the debate over whether these are post-racial times, and whether these are post-racial candidates.

It is quickly apparent to her that the term “post-racial” is misleading.

What is more useful, she finds, is the concept of “post-Civil Rights” (she gets this from scholar Eddie Glaude Jr.). The term “post-Civil Rights” is now in vogue but its meaning is as yet unstable. Ifill sometimes uses it to indicate that with the victory of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act in 1964-64, the Jim Crow problems have been largely superseded, so the Civil Rights movement, strictly speaking, is now over.

Rapper Coolio facing drug charge

Rap star Coolio has been charged with drug possession after being arrested at Los Angeles International Airport.

The 45-year-old, whose real name is Artis Leon Ivey Jr, was later released on $10,000 (£7,000) bail.

The singer's manager, Susan Haber, told the AP news agency that she had not spoken to the rapper since his arrest on Friday and could not comment.

The Grammy-award winner is best known for his 1995 hit Gangsta's Paradise and for appearing in Celebrity Big Brother.

He was a controversial figure in the British reality TV show, provoking strong reaction to his behaviour from some of his fellow housemates and members of the public.

He was accused by some of making offensive jokes and comments, both of a racist and sexist nature.

However, he stayed the course of the show and eventually came third.

He was beaten by Terry Christian and overall winner Ulrika Jonsson.

NY 'mafia cops' get life in jail

Two men have been sentenced to life in prison after being convicted of eight murders as well as other crimes while they were New York policemen.

Stephen Carapacca, 67, and Louis Eppolito, 61, had 44 years' police experience between them.

But they were also secretly on the payroll of Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso, the second-in-command of New York's Lucchese mafia family, a court found.

They were convicted in 2006, but legal twists and turns delayed sentencing.

Eppolito was given life in jail plus 100 years and a $4.7m fine (£3.3m), while Carapacca got a life term plus 80 years, with a $4.2m fine.

They have no possibility of early release, Judge Jack Weinstein told a federal court in Brooklyn.

Police credentials

The two men were convicted in 2006 of eight murders, attempted murder, blackmail, drug trafficking, money laundering, and passing information to the Lucchese family, one of New York's most notorious mafia families.

One tactic they employed was to use their police credentials to flag down cars so that they could then kill the driver.

But their convictions were initially thrown out in 2006, after a judge ruled that the statute of limitations had expired on the murders.

Last year, an appeals court reversed that decision, reinstating the convictions and paving the way for the sentencing.

"The sentences imposed today bring some measure of closure for the families of the victims of these defendants' unspeakable crimes and for the citizens of the city, whose trust these men betrayed," US Attorney Benton Campbell said after sentencing.

"We are gratified that the defendants will spend the rest of their lives behind bars."

Both men continue to involvement in any crime. Mr Eppolito - who had a small role in the 1990 gangland film Goodfellas - told Judge Weinstein:

"I was a hard-working cop. I never hurt anybody. I never kidnapped anybody... I never did any of this."

634 Billion will not come close for Health Care Reform


The goal of Obama’s health care reform is to insure all Americans have access to affordable health care. There is not enough money in the Federal treasury to reach such a goal. President Obama will be frustrated in trying to extract the savings he desires by eliminating duplications and errors. Computerized electronic records will not result in budget savings to the extent that the administration desires. The laws of economics will rule the day and the President’s desire to solve both healthcare prices and access to care at the same time will fail


As quoted in the article, “Obama puts health care reform at heart of budget”, Senator Ted Kennedy said “With this budget, the president also makes an historical commitment to the goal of quality, affordable healthcare for all Americans.” This goal states that the administration desires to solve both the healthcare price problem and healthcare access problem simultaneous while insuring quality healthcare is provided. These goals are not mutually solvable at the same time. Quoting from a Wall Street Journal article dated 5/04/1993 related to President Clinton’s health care reform task force by Rick Wartzman and Hilary Stout, “James Ukockis, a Treasury department economist, recalls a trip he took to Paris some years ago when the French government put price controls on croissants. Bakers simply halved the size so that customers had to buy twice as many to get their fill. ‘You can’t repeal the laws of economics sufficiently enough to control both price and quantity.’” The problem with health care reform goals stated like Senator Kennedy's quote above is that there is not enough money to pay for all the healthcare that the people of the United States desire. During the 90’s while universal coverage was being debated, I worked at a hospital close to the Canadian border. We had many patients from Canada. In an article printed in The Daily Interlake, Kalispell Montana, November 27, 1995 on 'Demoralized Canadian doctors leave home for more cash in U.S.', a Dr. Ivan Krajbich described the conditions in Canada as “In Canada, everybody was overworked, demoralized.” The problem, according to the article, is “While the Canadian system provides free heathcare to all citizens, many doctors say a shortage of government money has translated into longer waits, a lack of hospital beds and difficulty accessing specialist such as Krajblich.” This scenario has been duplicated in other industrial nations that have socialized healthcare. While the citizens have access to healthcare regardless of their ability to pay, the lack of funds available to pay for all the healthcare the citizens desire results in rationing of care and shortages with their corresponding long waiting periods for care. The Communist governments found this to be the case. When you drop the price people have to pay, demand grows to a point where huge shortages develop and in the long run, access to healthcare is actually worse than if the industry were left alone. President Obama has a goal of achieving savings in the healthcare industry by eliminating duplication, errors, and medically unnecessary procedures or tests. He plans to implement this goal through the use of national electronic health records. Hospitals and doctors would be required by 2015 to install certified electronic health records, or else their payments from Medicare would be lowered. As an incentive to install certified systems, early adopters will receive incentive payments and hospitals will be given additional payments to cover the high cost of installing the new system. We estimate the cost to our hospital of converting to a new system to be around $2.4 to $2.8 million, with the government paying close to 70% of the conversion costs. These certified systems will communicate with Medicare offices allowing Medicare employees to review a patient’s health records and make decisions on approving the care of a patient. Many insurance companies have pre-authorization requirements and Medicare intends to implement a pre-authorization system nationally using certified electronic health records. Currently hospitals and physicians have a well defined system of rules specifying “medical necessity” that they have to comply with. These rules often result in denying needed health services to Medicare patients. In this case, a physician’s best medical judgment is being overruled by arbitrary rules. For instance, a physician may feel that a patient is at risk for a surgery and order a pre-operative EKG. Medicare says that pre-operative EKG’s are not medically necessary unless the patient has a history of heart problems. A physician, while examining a patient, may suspect a heart problem where none existed before. I would much rather have healthcare in a system where the physician’s judgment overrules the computer than the other way around. To get around this rule, physicians have learned how to code a case to skirt the medical necessity rules and get the test paid for by Medicare anyway. Physicians are bright and will learn to do the same with certified electronic health records, frustrating the President’s goal of achieving savings. As Mr. Ukockis pointed out, above, when the demand is there, no set of rules can hold back the tide. The same Wall Street Journal article cited above stated “history shows that by distorting the normal functioning of the marketplace, controls can stifle innovation, lead to shortages, require an enormous bureaucracy to enforce – and often backfire by causing prices to zoom up once the lid is lifted.” The wage and price controls of the Nixon administration, as well as the failings of the Communist governments proved this to be the case, and it amazes me our country fails to learn from even our recent history.