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|Mon, November 18, 2019 at 5:01 AM|Send Blog · Share on Facebook · Bookmark on Delicious
WASHINGTON (AP) - Former President Barack Obama on Friday warned the Democratic field of White House hopefuls not to veer too far to the left, a move he said would alienate many who would otherwise be open to voting for the party's nominee next year.
Though Obama did not mention anyone by name, the message delivered before a room of Democratic donors in Washington was a clear word of caution about the candidacies of Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. The two have called for massive structural changes - and in Sanders' case "revolution" - that would dramatically alter the role of government in people's lives.
The centrist wing of the party has warned for months that a far-left nominee could alienate moderate Republicans and independent voters needed to oust President Donald Trump.
"The average American doesn't think we have to completely tear down the system and remake it. And I think it's important for us not to lose sight of that," Obama said. "There are a lot of persuadable voters and there are a lot of Democrats out there who just want to see things make sense. They just don't want to see crazy stuff. They want to see things a little more fair, they want to see things a little more just. And how we approach that I think will be important."
Obama has largely refrained from publicly opining on the Democratic primary, which has exposed a growing rift between an ascendant progressive wing of the party and old-guard centrists like his former vice president, Joe Biden. But on Friday he said he felt compelled to weigh in because some of the loudest and most strident voices, particularly on social media, aren't representative of where most in the party are at.
Immigration and health care are two issues he cited as cases where Democratic candidates are out of sync with public sentiment.
"Even as we push the envelope and we are bold in our vision, we also have to be rooted in reality and the fact that voters, including the Democratic voters and certainly persuadable independents or even moderate Republicans, are not driven by the same views that are reflected on certain, you know, left-leaning Twitter feeds," Obama said.
Obama delivered his remarks at a gathering of the Democracy Alliance, a group of wealthy Democrats who raise large sums for the party. He was interviewed by Stacey Abrams, a rising star in the party who narrowly lost the Georgia governor's race last year.
He also sought also to ease jittery Democrats who have been wringing their hands over the size of the sprawling field, which some worry will lead to a prolonged contest that will leave the eventual nominee with limited time to prepare for the general election.
"I just have to remind you that I had a very robust primary," Obama said. "Not only did I win ultimately a remarkably tough and lengthy primary process with Hillary Clinton, but people forget that even before that we had a big field of really serious, accomplished people."
|Sun, November 17, 2019 at 5:00 AM|Send Blog · Share on Facebook · Bookmark on Delicious
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - Mississippi Democrat Mike Espy announced Tuesday that he's running again for U.S. Senate against Republican incumbent Cindy Hyde-Smith, setting up a 2020 rematch of a race that churned up the state's painful racial history.
"I can and will do a better job for the people of Mississippi and the United States," Espy told supporters by email, after telegraphing the move for months.
A former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and U.S. House member, Espy lost their 2018 special election race to fill the last two years of retired Sen. Thad Cochran's six-year term. Hyde-Smith, who was Mississippi's agriculture commissioner when Gov. Phil Bryant appointed her to temporarily take Cochran's place, became the first woman elected to Congress from Mississippi.
The campaign was rocked by a video showing Hyde-Smith praising a supporter by saying she'd attend a "public hanging" if he invited her. She called it an "exaggerated expression of regard."
The comment made Mississippi's history lynching history a central theme in the race. Espy took a shot at that history in his announcement video, saying "Cindy Hyde-Smith is hurting Mississippi - our progress and our reputation - and we simply must replace her."
If elected, Espy would be Mississippi's first African American U.S. senator since Reconstruction. The Democrat says he wants to focus on reducing poverty and increasing well-paying jobs in Mississippi, improving schools, ending Trump's trade war that's pressuring farmers financially and making health care more affordable.
Qualifying for next year's party primaries begins Jan. 2. They'll be held on March 10, the same day Mississippians vote in presidential primaries. Party runoffs, if needed, will be March 31, leaving a long stretch for nominees to face off before the November general election.
No Republicans have made any public moves to challenge Hyde-Smith in the GOP primary. During her time in office, Hyde-Smith has often been focused on rural issues and has remained loyal to President Donald Trump.
Espy's announcement comes a week after Democrat Jim Hood lost the governor's race to Republican Tate Reeves, highlighting continuing weakness for Democrats in Mississippi. More voters actually turned out for the runoff between Espy and Hyde-Smith than for the 2019 general election, and other Democrats also lost badly in statewide races.
As he did in the 2018 campaign, Espy said he'll be independent and put Mississippi's needs over loyalty to a party.
"Cindy Hyde-Smith has done little to truly help the Magnolia State," Espy said in his statement. "It feels like a new crisis dominates the headlines every day but does nothing to create jobs or improve our communities. Too often, our current senator puts party over country instead of doing what's best for our state and even our national security."
A spokesman for Hyde-Smith didn't immediately respond to a request for a comment. She's likely to have a substantial financial advantage over Espy. Federal Election Commission data shows Espy raised $100,000 through Sept. 30 and had $131,000 on hand, while Hyde-Smith raised nearly $1 million and had $583,000 on hand.
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|Sat, November 16, 2019 at 5:00 AM|Send Blog · Share on Facebook · Bookmark on Delicious
BALTIMORE (AP) - The widow of U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings has resigned as Maryland's Democratic Party chair to run for her late husband's congressional seat.
Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, 48, is expected to formally announce her campaign at her Baltimore home Tuesday morning, news outlets reported. Congressman Elijah Cummings died last month at the age of 68.
"I am, of course, devastated at the loss of my spouse, but his spirit is with me," Rockeymoore Cummings told The Baltimore Sun . "I'm going to run this race and I'm going to run it hard, as if he's still right here by my side."
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She says Cummings told her he wanted her to succeed him if he died. She said he was conflicted about whether he should to resign or stay in office.
Rockeymoore Cummings also said she will undergo a preventative double mastectomy Friday. She expects her recovery to take up to four weeks. Her mother died from breast cancer in 2015 and her sister was diagnosed with the disease last year, according to the newspaper. She said the surgery had been planned since before her late husband died.
She's joining a crowded race for the 7th District congressional seat. At least six Democrats and three Republicans have filed for the position.
Rockeymoore Cummings, who resigned Monday as party chair, is a public policy consultant who founded the Washington consulting firm Global Policy Solutions LLC. State senator and party vice chair Cory McCray will take over as interim chair.
The special primary for the congressional seat is Feb. 4. The special election is April 28. The winner will fill the rest of the congressman's term, until January 2021.
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|Fri, November 15, 2019 at 5:00 AM|Send Blog · Share on Facebook · Bookmark on Delicious
Kamala Harris got a much needed boost this past week when the California senator picked up the endorsement of Higher Heights, the country's largest political organization aimed at electing black women.
But Elizabeth Warren would not be outdone. A day after Harris' announcement, the Massachusetts senator won the backing of more than 100 black female activists. She also picked up the coveted endorsement of Rep. Ayanna Pressley, a black woman from her home state and the only member of the so-called squad of progressive lawmakers not to side with presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.
Dueling endorsements signal an emerging battle between Warren and Harris for the support of black women, who are the Democratic Party's most loyal and consistent voters. Both White House hopefuls are struggling with black voters, who have sided with Joe Biden by large margins. But as the election moves into a critical phase with just months before voting begins, the announcements this week highlight the contrasting styles of the surging progressive firebrand and the lone black woman in the Democratic field.
"We're still on a long road, and black women are still shopping," said Higher Heights co-founder Glynda Carr. Harris is "exactly what our organization was built on, to be able to help support and invest in qualified black women to run for offices at all levels. At the end of the day, even if she ends up not being your top choice, black women should be celebrating this moment."
Both candidates are expected to keep up their outreach in the weeks ahead. Warren will deliver a speech about the legacy of black female workers at historically black Clark Atlanta University later this month. Around the same time, Harris also plans to participate in a South Carolina town hall with Higher Heights.
They've both courted black women almost since the beginning of their campaigns.
When Harris launched her presidential bid on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, many observers assumed her bona fides as a graduate of historically black Howard University and a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha - the nation's oldest black sorority - would give her an advantage among the throng of candidates. Many young black women were especially excited about her candidacy. But that hasn't yet translated into support as Harris falls in the polls.
In a call with reporters this week, Harris acknowledged the campaign still has work to do to win black women.
"I am fully aware that we are asking people to believe in something that they've not seen before," Harris said. "This is the challenge I've faced in every office I've run for."
Marcia Fudge, a Democratic congresswoman from Ohio and a Harris surrogate, said the senator is running a campaign of belief that is common for black women.
"We kind of get counted out an awful lot," Fudge said. "Our culture just is not a very trusting culture. We have to convince black women, in particular, that if we support her, we can win. Black women want to support another woman. She's the only other choice. If they believe Kamala is not viable, (Warren) is the fallback position."
Warren began attracting attention from black women this spring after announcing her plan to address racial disparities in maternal mortality at a town hall for female voters of color. At a campaign stop this week at North Carolina A&T University - another HBCU - she was the guest on political strategist Angela Rye's podcast. Pressley also joined her for the event.
As a white woman, Warren, however, faced skepticism from black activists.
"We have experiences on the day-to-day that remind us that white women are likely to throw us under the bus if it means protecting themselves," said Angela Peoples, the director of the organizing group Black Womxn For. She was photographed during the 2017 Women's March sucking a lollipop and holding a sign that read: "Don't Forget White Women Voted For Trump."
But Warren's policy proposals were getting attention. Leslie Mac, another activist involved in organizing this week's endorsement of Warren, said her group text chat with black girlfriends began buzzing about Warren over the summer.
"There was literally that question of 'Have y'all been looking at Elizabeth Warren?'" Mac recalled. "'Is she for real? If we wanted to meet with her, would she come?'"
Warren met with the activists at the Netroots conference in July. Sitting across the table from Warren, they questioned her candidly on her policies and, more fundamentally, whether they could trust her to advocate for them. The senator ultimately committed to several requests from the group to address inequality and promote diversity in her would-be administration.
Mac said her decision to back Warren came down to choosing a candidate who is "organizable and that can be held accountable."
"She has strong plans that will positively affect the material lives of black people," Mac said. "I can appreciate the work Sen. Harris has done in her career and campaign and also feel that she is not the candidate for me."
Charlene Carruthers said despite also being a black woman, Harris was never on her radar because she doesn't view the California Democrat's record or platform as progressive, but said her presence in the race could be a conflict for black women weighing whether to support Warren.
"There is a recognition that her candidacy is important, significant and it matters," said Carruthers, a Chicago-based activist who led a roundtable with Warren and activists in the city earlier this year. "Should (Harris) win the primary, we're in a much different conversation."
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|Thurs, November 14, 2019 at 5:01 AM|Send Blog · Share on Facebook · Bookmark on Delicious
LOS ANGELES (AP) - The widow of a passenger who died in a fiery dive boat disaster that killed 34 people in the waters off California sued the vessel's owners Monday.
Christine Dignam, whose husband, Justin Dignam, died when the Conception caught fire Sept. 2 off the Santa Barbara coast, claimed that the boat was unsafe.
The vessel didn't have adequate smoke detectors or firefighting equipment, it lacked enough emergency exits, and a required night watch was not on duty when the flames broke out in the middle of the night, according to the wrongful-death lawsuit filed in federal court in Los Angeles.
U.S. authorities are conducting criminal and safety investigations into the fire that killed all 33 passengers and one crew member sleeping below deck. The blaze's cause has not been determined.
The lawsuit against Santa Barbara-based Truth Aquatics Inc. is the first from a relative of the victims who died. A crew member who was injured trying to escape the flames previously sued.
Dignam's case is a counterclaim to a lawsuit filed pre-emptively by the boat owners to protect them from liability under a quirk of pre-Civil War maritime law. The limitation of liability lawsuit put anyone with a claim on notice that they have until July 1, 2020, to contest the action.
For lawsuits by families and others to move forward, lawyers will have to show that the boat's owners, who were on shore, should have known the boat was unsafe at the time of the fire.
Boat owners Glen and Dana Fritzler said in their lawsuit that they "used reasonable care to make the Conception seaworthy, and she was, at all relevant times, tight, staunch, and strong, fully and properly manned, equipped and supplied and in all respects seaworthy and fit for the service in which she was engaged."
Coast Guard records show the boat had passed its two most recent safety inspections without violations, but authorities said all six crew members were asleep when the pre-dawn fire started. That goes against Coast Guard regulations requiring a "roving" night watch.
While the fire's cause remains under investigation, the new lawsuit hints at the mess of electrical wires and cables where passengers charged their phones, video cameras, strobe lights and other battery-powered equipment. The equipment was in the galley above the guest sleeping quarters.
The lawsuit said the boat was not equipped with a safe electrical system.
Truth Aquatics voluntarily suspended its fleet last month. Lawyers for the boat company did not immediately respond to emails seeking comment on the lawsuit.
Justin Dignam, 58, of Anaheim Hills, has a teenage daughter and son. He was a veteran water polo player and coach who was chief executive officer at a payroll company he founded.
|Wed, November 13, 2019 at 5:00 AM|Send Blog · Share on Facebook · Bookmark on Delicious
SAN ANTONIO (AP) - Boris Diaw was rightly concerned about the well-being of a scrawny 19-year-old kid moving to a new country and attempting to compete against the game's best in the NBA. One odd Christmas dinner that turned into an impromptu film session helped Diaw realize his friend and French teammate, Tony Parker, was going to be just fine.
The seeds of that evening came to full fruition as the San Antonio Spurs retired Parker's No. 9 jersey on Monday night in a stirring ceremony.
The sting of a 113-109 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies was quickly forgotten as a sell-out crowd celebrated the career of San Antonio's mercurial point guard.
Accompanied by his wife, Axelle, and sons Josh and Liam, Parker celebrated his career with former teammates and coaches along with the Spurs fans.
Parker became the 10th player in franchise to have his number retired, joining fellow Big Three members Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili in having their jerseys lifted to the rafters of the AT&T Center.
"It was an honor to play for you guys, to play together," Parker said. "You have no idea how much impact you two had in my life. You inspire me every day."
Parker, Duncan and Ginobili teamed to win four of the franchise's five NBA championships and are the winningest trio in league history with 541 wins.
"He grew so quickly," Duncan said. "I had no idea that this kid would be my point guard, the point guard that I loved to play with for the rest of my career."
That success and friendship came after a dubious start.
Parker had a self-described "horrible" first workout with the Spurs prior to the 2001 NBA draft that drew the ire of San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich. A second workout convince Popovich and the Spurs to take a chance on the French point guard and he rewarded them by earning NBA Finals MVP in 2007, six All-Star selections and becoming the franchise's leader in assists (6,829).
"Tony I want to apologize for all the physical and mental abuse I gave you over the years," Popovich said to the roar of laughter. "Thank you. I've been wanting to say that for a long time."
Not that Parker needed an apology. The relationship between Parker and Popovich grew from a coach and player to paternal.
"The impact that you had in my life," Parker said. "I have an unbelievable dad, but you were an unbelievable second dad to me. The way you taught me stuff, the way you helped me understand the game and make me better."
Diaw got a glimpse of the impact Popovich would have on Parker in December 2017.
Parker invited Diaw to San Antonio to celebrate the holidays and they both went to Popovich's home for Christmas dinner. Diaw began searching the home after both disappeared following a great meal and dessert.
"I see Pop viewing film with Tony about the game the night before," Diaw said. "I'm like, 'It's Christmas.' And Pop was yelling at Tony. 'You missed the shot and you're turning over the ball and you do that.' Wow. So, on the same night you could have the family setting, all the love and the care, and at the same time caring about making Tony a better player. That's when I knew Tony was good in hands."
And so were the Spurs.
"I've been the luckiest guy in the world to see you from age 19 to this day," Popovich said. "So, it's from a young kid who I just gave the ball to and said, 'Ok, you're gonna run the show,' and pretty soon we're going to be there when you enter the Hall of Fame."
|Mon, November 11, 2019 at 5:00 AM|Send Blog · Share on Facebook · Bookmark on Delicious
MCLOUD, Okla. (AP) - An Oklahoma woman who failed to report her boyfriend for abusing her children and who spent about 13 years longer in prison than he did for the abuse was released Friday.
Tondalao Hall left a women's prison in McLoud, Oklahoma, after serving 15 years behind bars.
"First and foremost, I want to thank God for making a way and for keeping me safe and sane during this season of my life," said Hall, 35, in a statement. "Secondly, for all the people God has placed in my life, my children and my family for sticking by me. Time and space cannot accommodate the list of people who have loved, helped, and supported me through all of this, so, to everyone who has, thank you and God bless you!"
The Oklahoma Department of Corrections said Thursday that Gov. Kevin Stitt signed the order to commute her sentence. Her release comes about a month after the state Pardon and Parole Board voted unanimously to recommend that Stitt commute her sentence to time served.
The case has outraged women's rights groups and brought further attention to Oklahoma's high rate of incarceration, particularly of women.
Hall was sentenced to 30 years in prison in 2006 after pleading guilty to failing to protect two of her children. The boyfriend, Robert Braxton Jr., pleaded guilty to abusing the children and was released on probation having been given credit for the two years he had already spent in jail.
The disparity of the sentences outraged women's rights advocates and brought further attention to Oklahoma's high rate of incarceration, particularly of women.
The American Civil Liberties Union in 2017 filed a lawsuit challenging what it said was a disproportionate sentence because Braxton was also abusing Hall.
While living with Braxton, Hall's young children suffered broken bones, but no evidence ever indicated Hall committed any violence or harmed her children, ACLU officials said.
Hall's release comes days after more than 450 state inmates convicted of drug and property crimes were released Monday. That group was the largest single-day mass commutation in U.S. history. Hall's commutation came separately.
|Sun, November 10, 2019 at 5:00 AM|Send Blog · Share on Facebook · Bookmark on Delicious
The infamous Popeyes chicken sandwich returned last week and folks have been acting a damn fool about it at locations across the country.
Sadly, one man was killed for cutting another man in line for the sandwich, and another wild scene from a Popeyes location in south L.A. shows extreme rage at a drive-thru when a car was damaged.
This week, a new viral video shows a white man repeatedly hurling the n-word at another customer in a Popeyes packed with Black patrons.
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The clips starts with the man screaming "fu*k you" in the restaurant, via Complex. He then yells at the customer, "Don't you motherfu*ker, don't you! Don't you n****r!"
"Fucking n****r-ass motherfu*ker, fucking get out of my way!," the angry white man screams while exiting the eatery.
Another clip shows him catching some heat outside the store and made to apologize.
"Say sorry right now!" a Black man says while the white man is on the ground: "I'm sorry!" he shouts as directed.
There are some reports that his chicken sandwich was also stolen during the moment.
Watch the madness unfold below via the Twitter video embeds below.
|Fri, November 8, 2019 at 5:00 AM|Send Blog · Share on Facebook · Bookmark on Delicious
HOUSTON (AP) - Supporters of a Texas death row inmate who is facing lethal injection in less than two weeks for a murder he says he didn't commit are mounting a final push in the courts and on social media to stop his execution, which is being called into question by lawmakers, pastors, celebrities and the European Union.
Rodney Reed is set to be executed on Nov. 20 for the killing of 19-year-old Stacey Stites near the Central Texas city of Bastrop. Prosecutors have steadfastly insisted that Reed raped and strangled Stites as she made her way to work at a supermarket around 3:30 a.m. on April 23, 1996.
Reed, 51, has long maintained he didn't kill Stites and that her fiance, former police officer Jimmy Fennell, was the real killer. Reed says Fennell was angry because Stites, who was white, was having an affair with Reed, who is black. In recent weeks, Reed's attorneys have presented affidavits in support of this, including one by a former prison inmate who claims Fennell bragged about killing Stites and referred to Reed by a racial slur. Reed's lawyers say other recent affidavits corroborate the relationship between Stites and Reed.
Reed's efforts to stop his execution have received support from such celebrities as Rihanna, Dr. Phil and Kim Kardashian West, who last month in a tweet asked Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to "do the right thing."
Reed's attorney and his brother, Rodrick Reed, believe race played a role in the case, pointing out that an all-white jury convicted Reed and that the case touched on "old tropes" about interracial relationships.
Reed's attorneys in August filed a federal lawsuit to compel DNA testing of crime scene evidence. His lawyers say the testing, which has been fought for years by prosecutors, could identify someone else as the murderer. The lawsuit is still pending.
"To execute Mr. Reed would be a grave miscarriage of justice," said Bryce Benjet, an attorney with the Innocence Project, which is representing Reed.
But prosecutors say Reed's semen was found in the victim, his claims of an affair with Stites were not proven at trial, Fennell was cleared as a suspect and Reed had a history of committing other sexual assaults. At Reed's trial, prosecutors presented evidence that Reed had assaulted five other women and a 12-year-old girl. Reed's lawyers have denied these accusations.
"Our office is dedicated to seeing that no innocent person is punished. This is simply not such a case and we owe it to Ms. Stites' family, friends and the many other victims of Mr. Reed to see that justice is done at last," Lisa Tanner, with the Texas Attorney General's Office, said in a statement.
Fennell's attorney, Bob Phillips, said his client vehemently denies killing Stites and that he was heartbroken by her death.
"All the evidence makes it plain as day that Rodney Reed is the killer and these fantastic 11th hour attempts to implicate Jimmy are the same song, 200th verse," Phillips said.
Reed's attorneys allege his conviction was based on flawed evidence. They say the prosecution's claim that the semen found on Stites pointed to a sexual assault has no basis in scientific literature. They also say a review by defense experts puts Stites' likely time of death hours before she left for work, when she was in her apartment with Fennell.
Reed's attorneys allege Fennell had a propensity for sexual assault and violence, which they say was confirmed by his conviction after Stites' death on a sexual assault charge from when he was a police officer.
Phillips said Fennell, who was paroled last year, has turned his life around and now helps substance abusers.
Arthur Snow, who was in the white supremacist Aryan Brotherhood when he served time in prison with Fennell, said in an Oct. 29 affidavit that Fennell told him with pride that he had killed Stites, whom he spoke of "with a lot of hatred and resentment," because she had been having an affair with a black man. That conversation happened in about 2010, Snow said.
Snow had then been a member of the Aryan Brotherhood. But he said in the affidavit that he has since let go of some of his prejudices - with the arrival of grandchildren, he has "started to look at the world differently" - and that he came forward after reading about Reed's case over the years. He said it weighed on his conscience.
"I realized that Rodney Reed was sitting in prison for a murder that Jimmy Fennell had confessed to me that he had committed," Snow said. "I had planned to come forward back then, but never did."
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals last month denied Reed's request for a stay of his execution. An appeal is pending with the U.S. Supreme Court.
Reed's lawyers have asked Abbott to grant a 30-day reprieve and to review a possible commutation of his sentence.
On Tuesday, 26 Texas lawmakers - 13 Democrats and 13 Republicans - sent Abbott a letter asking for a reprieve. The European Union ambassador to the U.S. has also asked Abbott to intervene.
An online petition asking Abbott to stop Reed's execution has garnered significant support.
Abbott's office didn't immediately reply to an email seeking comment. He has granted just one reprieve to stop an execution since he came to office in January 2015.
"I believe with all of the support that we have been receiving, it should send a strong and powerful message to the governor and to the world as to my brother's innocence. I am very hopeful that justice will be done in this case, not just for my brother, but for Stacey Stites as well," said Rodrick Reed.
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