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Justice Department Will Sue N.C. Over New Voting Laws

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Eric Holder

by Freddie Allen
NNPA Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – Stepping up efforts to combat voting laws that discriminate against Blacks, Attorney General Eric Holder announced plans to sue North Carolina over restrictive, new voting laws that critics say will suppress the minority vote.

In a press statement, Holder said: “The North Carolina law includes troubling new restrictions, such as provisions that will significantly reduce early voting days; eliminate same-day registration during early voting; impose a restrictive photo identification requirement for in-person voting; and prohibit the counting of otherwise legitimate provisional ballots that are mistakenly cast in the right county, but in the wrong precinct.”

He said that the Justice Department expects to show that the clear and intended effects of these changes would contract the electorate and result in unequal access to participation in the political process on account of race.

Holder said North Carolina took the actions in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Shelby County v. Holder.

“Just months after North Carolina saw the highest overall turnout in sheer numbers in its history – in November 2012 – and within days of the Supreme Court’s Shelby County decision to strike down key provisions of the Voting Rights Act – the state legislature took aggressive steps to curtail the voting rights of African Americans,” Holder stated. “This is an intentional attempt to break a system that was working. It defies common sense.”

In August, the Justice Department filed a suit against Texas over similar, restrictive voter ID regulations and redistricting plans that would dilute minority voting power.

Holder also warned that it will go after other states that violate the spirit of the Voting Rights Act.

“The Justice Department will never hesitate to do all that we must to protect the Constitutionally-guaranteed civil rights of all Americans,” he said. The new voting laws in North Carolina require strict enforcement of photo identification to cast ballots in the state.

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law reported that Blacks account for 36 percent of North Carolina voters who lack a state-issued ID card. Even though nearly 60 percent of voters in the state opted to vote early in 2012, the new law also cuts early voting days in half. More than 70 percent of Black voters in the state took advantage of early voting opportunities.

The law also eliminates same-day registration during the early voting period. According to the Lawyer’s Committee, Blacks accounted for 34 percent of same-day registrants.

“The southern strategy of the well-funded, nationally-coordinated, ultra right that the only way that they can hold on to their power at the national, state, and local level is to drastically suppress voting rights for minorities,” said William Barber, president of the North Carolina branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Color People. “We need every resource of the civil rights community and the U.S. government to help us expose the national conspiracy behind this movement to suppress targeted constituencies, particularly in the new southern electorate.”

Barber continued: “As the good people of North Carolina learn more about the origins and true aims of the hodge podge of voter suppression tactics we have seen, we are confident that they and the courts will join us in saying that ‘we must go forward together and not one step back.’”

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory said that the new voting law was common sense, despite reports by that suggested the type of fraud that would be prevented by photo ID requirements is rare.

Testifying before the North Carolina Assembly Committee on voter ID, Keesha Gaskins; senior counsel with the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University said that, “more than 21 million votes have been cast in North Carolina over the past 12 years. During that time only one case of voter impersonation occurred.”

In that one case, Gaskins said, North Carolina’s election system and law enforcement agencies identified the problem and took appropriate action.

Barber said that the far right created the myth of rampant voter fraud and repeated it over and over and over again in order to manipulate public consciousness and to engage in regressive legislation.

The type of fraud that would be prevented by restrictive voter ID requirements is so rare that in a 2012 study on voter fraud, The Brennan Center for Justice reported that “It is more likely that an individual will be struck by lightning than that he will impersonate another voter at the polls.”

Barber lambasted the bill saying that “It tramples on the blood of our martyrs desecrates the graves of freedoms tramples and in the 21st century lines up with extreme racially-driven philosophy of interposition and nullification.”

In Shelby v. Holder, the United States Supreme Court ruled that Section 4 was unconstitutional effectively gutting Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires districts with a proven history of discrimination to get pre-approval from the Justice Department or a federal court before making changes in their voting laws.

Civil rights groups praised the Justice Department’s planned lawsuit against new North Carolina voting laws that would disproportionately affect Black, Latino and poor voters in the state.

“It is extremely important that the United States Justice Department is using the power under the rest of the Voting Rights Act to combat this type of voter suppression in North Carolina,” said Penda Hair, co-director of the Advancement Project, a multi-racial civil rights organization founded by a team of veteran civil rights lawyers in 1999.

Hair added: “The law was intentionally designed to focus with laser-like specification on those aspects of voting that would that would most hurt people of color.”

In a statement following Holder’s announcement, Barbara Arnwine, executive director of The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law said: “What was once a bad photo ID bill that was making its way through the North Carolina legislature became a compendium of even worse voting policy that was thrown together once the State saw its chance to avoid Section 5 review under the Voting Rights Act after the Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby County v. Holder.”

Arnwine continued: “North Carolina’s own data demonstrates that this law will have a clear discriminatory impact on African-Americans and other minority voters, and the Department of Justice was absolutely correct to challenge this law. The Department’s action sends an important message to other states that they should expect a fight if and when they attempt to roll back the clock on voting opportunities.”

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Afro

Black Congressional Leadership Grills JUUL Executives

THE AFRO — Federal and local regulations have attempted to curb youth usage, primarily focusing on policing retailers for sales to minors and proscribing flavors and formulas particularly appealing or solely appealing to children. When the FDA announced that new products entering the market would be subject to additional scrutiny, products already at market were given amnesty through a grandfather date.

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Carol McGruder and Dr. Valerie Yerger representing AATCLC at the 2 part-hearing
Carol McGruder and Dr. Valerie Yerger representing AATCLC at the 2 part-hearing
By Afro Staff

“We are as committed, as ever, to combating youth usage, but don’t take our word for it, look at our actions,” JUUL Labs said in a statement.

“We are looking at your actions, and they are deeply troubling,” Cummings told James Monsees, the billionaire co-founder and product officer of JUUL Labs. “Kids are especially attracted to flavored tobacco products,” Cummings continued.

Federal and local regulations have attempted to curb youth usage, primarily focusing on policing retailers for sales to minors and proscribing flavors and formulas particularly appealing or solely appealing to children. When the FDA announced that new products entering the market would be subject to additional scrutiny, products already at market were given amnesty through a grandfather date.

Questions remain unanswered by JUUL about what was the business’s mindset when a wide variety of JUUL products flooded the market just before the grandfather date elapsed.

“What’s very disturbing about this, and problematic, is that it seems that you were looking to circumvent FDA regulation,” Representative Ayanna Pressley (MA-D) told James Monsees, the billionaire co-founder and product officer of JUUL Labs. “And that’s what’s troublesome about this paper trail and what you’re corroborating here, today.”

Pressley’s questioning centered on whether or not JUUL juices and vaping paraphernalia were “rushed,” as Pressley put it, to market in order to avoid tightening regulations on a rapidly expanding nicotine delivery market.

“Because JUUL did not want to quote ‘imply that they are going away,’ the next line acknowledges that many may not be available by the end of this year,” Pressley continued, questioning whether JUUL Labs was pushing a wide variety of flavors and nicotine concentrations on retailers, knowing ahead of time some such products were doomed to fail.

Congressional Oversight is calling the rise in youth nicotine use an “epidemic,” and activists like The African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council (AATCLC) are applauding industry leaders coming under heightened scrutiny.

“JUUL has been making power plays all over the country to engage top Black leaders and lobbyists to clear JUUL’s path to Black nicotine addicted smokers,” AATCLC said in a press release finding Cummings “standing strong for public health policy that protects Black folks too.”

This article originally appeared in The Afro.

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Committee Chairs Request Information from Consumer Bureau on Efforts to Protect Student Loan Borrowers

NNPA NEWSWIRE — Former Student Loan Ombudsman Seth Frotman asserted in his August 2018 resignation letter that CFPB leadership “has abandoned the very consumers it is tasked by Congress with protecting.” The position of Student Loan Ombudsman has been vacant since Frotman resigned in August 2018.

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Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), Chairwoman of the House Financial Services Committee
Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), is the Chairwoman of the House Committee of Financial Services

Chairs Also Request Documents from Education Department, Loan Servicers

WASHINGTON – Today, Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA), and Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-MD), sent a letter to Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Kathleen Kraninger requesting information and records concerning the CFPB’s efforts to protect consumers from unlawful student loan servicing practices.

In the letter, the Chairs raise concerns that “…the Consumer Bureau has taken actions that weaken its ability to fulfill its mission to protect student loan borrowers,” and that the agency is “…providing potentially harmful and conflicting advice to student loan borrowers.”  The Chairs request records from the Consumer Bureau by no later than September 9, 2019.

Former Student Loan Ombudsman Seth Frotman asserted in his August 2018 resignation letter that CFPB leadership “has abandoned the very consumers it is tasked by Congress with protecting.” The position of Student Loan Ombudsman has been vacant since Frotman resigned in August 2018.

The Chairs also sent a letter to Betsy DeVos expressing deep concern over the Education Department’s failure to protect students and families from student loan companies. The letter addresses recent reports that the Department is shielding student loan servicing companies from state law enforcement and undermining the CFPB’s oversight of these companies. In March 2019, an independent watchdog found that the Department failed to establish policies to properly conduct oversight of student loan servicing companies.

“As Chairs of Committees with oversight responsibilities over the student loan industry, we are very concerned by reports that under your leadership, the Department of Education has failed to adequately oversee student loan servicers,” the Chairs wrote. “Reports indicate that improper practices by these servicers—including inaccurate determination of monthly payments, forbearance steering, and other practices—directly impact millions of Americans and have ripple effects on their families, communities, and the economy as a whole.”

In addition, the Chairs sent letters today to federally contracted loan servicers seeking information about their operations, including any strategies or policies that push students into more expensive repayment options.

The full text of the letter to the CFPB is available here.

The full text of the letter to the Education Department is available here.

The full text of the letter to Navient is available here.

The full text of the letter to Nelnet is available here.

The full text of the letter to Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency is available here.

Congresswoman Maxine Waters

Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), Ranking Member of the House Committee on Financial Services
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Ohio State Sen. Cecil Thomas: Tracie Hunter’s Conviction is Unlawful

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “No one is above the law, including judges and prosecutors,” Thomas said. However, in an Aug. 13 letter to Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost and Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, Thomas said Hunter’s prosecution and subsequent conviction violated the law.

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“The judge refused a motion for a retrial after he refused to poll the jury, in clear violation of the law and at the request of my attorney,” Tracie Hunter told NNPA Newswire during the annual National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) annual convention in Cincinnati.
“The judge refused a motion for a retrial after he refused to poll the jury, in clear violation of the law and at the request of my attorney,” Tracie Hunter told NNPA Newswire during the annual National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) annual convention in Cincinnati.

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

Former Judge Tracie Hunter, who became Hamilton County Ohio’s first black juvenile court judge, is receiving support from Ohio State Senator Cecil Thomas, who argues that her conviction should be overturned.

Thomas said Hunter didn’t receive a fair trial and that she appears to have been the victim of corruption.

After being convicted of providing confidential documents to her brother in an attempt to help save his job as a corrections officer and exhausting her appeals, Hunter was literally dragged off to jail last month.

“No one is above the law, including judges and prosecutors,” said Thomas. However, in an Aug. 13 letter to Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost and Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, Thomas said Hunter’s prosecution and subsequent conviction violated the law.

On Sept. 17, 2013, Prosecutor Joe Deters filed a motion requesting special prosecutors for the case against Hunter.

On that same day, Judge Beth Myers filed an entry with the Hamilton County Clerk of Courts appointing special prosecutors, to fully investigate Hunter.

“By filing the motion without due diligence, Judge Myers subsequently appointed Prosecutor Joe Deters’ lawyers and friends who have represented [Deters] in personal litigation,” said Thomas.

One of the attorneys is a partner in the law firm that represented Deters in his divorce, the senator noted, adding, “There are numerous examples that will show just how close these attorneys are to Deters.”

When publicly questioned regarding the appointments, Myers said she “dealt with things as they were presented to me. I will continue to do that,” according to Thomas.

Deters has maintained that he didn’t recommend the appointments and that they were done strictly by the Common Pleas Court. However, Thomas said the appointed lawyers have twice referenced Deters’ role in the appointments.

“Joe Deters requested a special prosecutor because he had a conflict. As such, by law, his only participation is to make the request and provide reasoning,” Thomas said.

“Judge Myers’ role is to decide whether to honor the request and if so, to appoint with the assurance that there are no conflicts,” he said.

“It appears neither Deters nor Myers followed the law to assure Judge Hunter received a fair trial, free of any biases and [Myers] appears to have played a role in unlawfully securing a public contract,” Thomas said.

By appointing Deters’ lawyers, any reasonable person can conclude there are inherent conflicts, Thomas continued.

“First, the mere personal relationship speaks for itself. Second, by honoring his recommendation to hire his personal lawyers, in essence, [Myers] played a role in using her public office to secure a public contract of approximately $700,000 for the personal lawyers of another public official,” Thomas said.

A spokeswoman for the Hamilton County Prosecutor’s Office said they hadn’t seen the complaint.

Yost’s office declined to comment.

As Thomas submitted his letter, attorneys for Hunter formally asked that she be released.

The judge who carried out her sentence is reportedly waiting for the special prosecutor in the case to respond before deciding.

Hunter, who’s also a church pastor in Cincinnati, has had the support of so many including The Coalition for a Just Hamilton County which is composed of members from the Interdenominational Ministry Alliance; the Cincinnati Chapter of the NAACP; the local chapter of Al Sharpton’s National Action Network; the Black United Front; the Southern Christian Leadership Council; the Nation of Islam and others.

“They’ve tried to stop me from telling my truth and all I have is my truth,” she told NNPA Newswire in June.

She said she had mostly refrained from giving interviews because the local media has only used sound bites to try and embarrass her.

“I’ve lost hope in the justice system which is why I became a judge in the first place,” Hunter said. “I’ve not lost faith in God even though they’ve tried to drive me out of this city.”

Stacy M. Brown

A Little About Me: I'm the co-author of Blind Faith: The Miraculous Journey of Lula Hardaway and her son, Stevie Wonder (Simon & Schuster) and Michael Jackson: The Man Behind The Mask, An Insider's Account of the King of Pop (Select Books Publishing, Inc.)

My work can often be found in the Washington Informer, Baltimore Times, Philadelphia Tribune, Pocono Record, the New York Post, and Black Press USA.
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COMMENTARY: What goes up must come down

DAYTONA TIMES — There is much to object to about No. 45’s presidency – his hateful racial rhetoric, his attacks on women and people of color, his appointment of extremely young and inexperienced members of the federal judiciary, his rollback of environmental protections, his attacks on public education, and more.

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By Julianne Malveaux

There is much to object to about No. 45’s presidency – his hateful racial rhetoric, his attacks on women and people of color, his appointment of extremely young and inexperienced members of the federal judiciary, his rollback of environmental protections, his attacks on public education, and more.

But his economic stewardship, an arena he claims to have mastered, is as repulsive as his noneconomic stewardship. Many of his minions have, albeit gently, criticized the ways he has managed the economy. His trade wars, especially with China, may stand at the top of the list.

China won’t pay

He says that China will pay when he, most recently, announced that he would impose a ten percent tariff on $300 billion worth of imports from China.  The Chinese won’t pay. U.S. consumers will. And U.S. producers and manufacturers will also pay when China retaliates against us, as they have promised to do.

To be sure, China has been a “bad actor” in trade relationships with the United States. But No. 45’s intemperate and ill-advised tantrum will not only affect many in the United States –including farmers, manufacturers, and consumers – but may also play a role in slowing down the world economy.

For the first time in a decade, the Federal Reserve has reduced the interest rate by a quarter-point. Cutting the interest rate during the early recovery from the Great Recession was an effective way to lower the cost of money and, theoretically, put more money into the economy for expansion.

No trickle-down

In reality, cheaper money didn’t trickle down to homeowners or consumers, but it did generate GDP growth. Now growth is slowing, partly because of Trump’s trade wars, and partly because his tax cuts have not trickled down, and people don’t have as much money to spend as they’d like. Interest rate cuts are a clear sign that our nation’s bankers are not confident that economic expansion will continue to be robust.

Many of No. 45’s allies tout low unemployment rates as evidence of economic strength. And the July 3.7 percent unemployment rate, unchanged from June is indeed a ten-year low. The Black unemployment rate is at an all-time low. And last month, 164,000 more jobs were created, labor force participation rose, and the number of discouraged workers declined.

Why no celebration?

Firstly, because wage growth is slow. In a tight labor market, with low unemployment rates, wages should be increasing by more than the 3 percent annual rate they are growing at now.

Further, although there is slight improvement in labor force participation, and fewer workers holding part-time work for economic reasons, tepid wage growth suggests that while jobs are available, they aren’t necessarily good-paying jobs.

Slow wage growth and a slowing economy are likely to lead to a new recession. Economist Heather Boushey says that increasing inequality makes a recession more possible than it otherwise might be.

And this administration does not mind increasing inequality. Most recently, they have proposed cuts to food stamp programs that will leave at least three million people – low-income workers and their children, people with disabilities and some older Americans, vulnerable to hunger. The Senate just passed a budget that will increase military spending by more than $750 billion and will cut spending on food.

Less to spend

Economic expansion depends on people spending money, and too many have little to spend. The food stamp cuts give some even less. Increased prices of goods imported from China gives them less to spend. And the administration team that touts economic strength on the one hand is undermining both growth and poverty alleviation, on the other.

What goes up must come down. Can the No. 45 economic team manipulate the economy to continue expansion through the 2020 election, or will attacks on the poor result in less spending, less expansion, and an economic catastrophe?


Julianne Malveaux is a Washington, D.C.-based economist and writer. Her latest book, “Are We Better Off? Race, Obama and Public Policy,” is available at www.juliannemalveaux.com.

This article originally appeared in the Daytona Times.

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Congressman John Lewis to Receive Thurgood Marshall Award From American Bar Association

OAKLAND POST — The American Bar Association will present Congressman John Lewis with the Thurgood Marshall Award at its annual meeting in San Francisco, Sat., August 10.

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Civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) (Freddie Allen/AMG/NNPA)
https://blackpressusa.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/John-Lewis.jpg

By Conway Jones

The American Bar Association will present Congressman John Lewis with the Thurgood Marshall Award at its annual meeting in San Francisco, Sat., August 10.

The Thurgood Marshall Award honors U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, who epitomized individual commitment, in word and action, to the cause of civil rights in this country.

Congressman Lewis is one of the original 13 Freedom Riders, a founding member and chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and the only one of the “Big Six” civil rights leaders who organized the 1964 March on Washington still living, He is a 17 term congressional leader, and one of only two Lifetime Achievement recipients of the John F. Kennedy Profiles in Courage Award.

“Congressman John Lewis is one of our most revered elder statesmen. His sacrifices for civil rights, justice and equality are unparalleled,” said Robert L. Harris, Esq., former president of the National Bar Association.

This article originally appeared in the Oakland Post

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Mayor Bottoms Urges Immediate Senate Action on Gun Safety Legislation

ATLANTA DAILY WORLD — Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms joined 214 bipartisan mayors from across the nation signing on to a letter from The United States Conference of Mayors urging immediate action from the federal government on gun safety legislation.

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Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. (Photo by: Itoro N. Umontuen/The Atlanta Voice)
By ADW News

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms joined 214 bipartisan mayors from across the nation signing on to a letter from The United States Conference of Mayors urging immediate action from the federal government on gun safety legislation.

“Public servants—from the local level to Washington—have an obligation to protect the lives of those we are entrusted to serve,” said Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. “We need strong leadership willing to take the necessary measures to prevent heinous, senseless acts of violence. If we are truly serious about preventing one more family from knowing the pain of losing someone to another gun tragedy, we need Congress to enact commonsense gun safety legislation immediately.”

With over 250 mass shootings in 2019, the United States Conference of Mayors is urging the nation’s leaders to work with Congress, the Administration, and others to develop holistic remedies to the scourge of gun violence.

Read the full letter at this link.

This article originally appeared in the Atlanta Daily World

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