Category: Breaking News Written by Perry Bacon Jr, The Grio
When Republican-led state legislatures and governors passed controversial voting bills throughout 2011 and earlier this year, the provisions at first appeared a major impediment to President Obama winning re-election. Many of the laws were adopted in key states, including Florida, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, and liberal groups estimated they could prevent millions across the country from voting and would disproportionately affect blacks, Latinos and the elderly, who are less likely to have some of the forms of identification required by the laws.
But a strong alliance of activist organizations, the Obama administration and progressive media has largely blunted the impact of the laws, which range from requiring photo identification to vote to imposing fines on voter registration groups for turning in forms late. In nearly every battleground state, Democrats have successfully cast the laws as discriminatory and unnecessary and won in court, keeping in place largely the same voting laws that existed when Obama won in 2008.
Pennsylvania is the only close electoral state where a law requiring a photo identification to vote remains in place, and Mitt Romney has largely stopped competing there in the face of Obama’s strong, stable lead. And the Keystone State is now easing its requirements to get a new photo identification in the face of a court challenge.
To be sure, Democrats have not defeated all the voting changes, nearly all of which were backed by Republicans. In Pennsylvania, elderly voters who have voted for years there now have to obtain new forms to cast ballots. Four other states don’t allow anyone without a photo ID to vote, meaning thousands of people could still be disenfranchised if they don’t get an identification before Nov. 6.
A judge this week upheld a Republican-backed provision in Florida that limits early voting to eight days, six fewer than in 2008 and eliminates the Sunday before Election Day, when many black churches organize their congregations to vote after services.
But the Democrats have largely won the legal battle over the last two years, and that’s surprising in part because they started out with a major disadvantage: the U.S. Supreme Court and the American public have supported some of the GOP agenda on voting.
In 2008, the court upheld a photo ID law in Indiana, with then-Justice John Paul Stevens, normally part of the court’s liberal wing, joining five conservatives in support of it over the objection of progressive groups. A Washington Post poll last month found that 74 percent of Americans support a photo identification requirement before one can vote, mirroring other results that have shown even many Democrats and African-Americans back these provisions.
But an unusual coalition has emerged successfully against the laws. From the Obama administration, Attorney General Eric Holder, previously known more as a Washington insider and legal expert than civil rights crusader, started an aggressive campaign against the laws last year, likening them to Jim Crow-era discrimination.
Civil rights groups such as the NAACP and voting advocacy organizations like Rock the Vote and the League of Women voters have joined forces, finding the laws a threat in different ways. They worked around the Supreme Court ruling by filing lawsuits against these laws by citing constitutional protections in many of the individual states.
White Democrats joined black ones in opposing these provisions, turning a group of laws passed with little public notice in 2011 into a national sensation. While Obama has said little about them (and some of his campaign officials privately said the laws are as likely to affect conservative, elderly voters, many of whom don’t have driver’s licenses, as liberal-leaning minorities and college students), Bill Clinton spoke out against them at the Democratic National Convention. They were condemned in an episode of HBO’s “Newsroom” and frequently on both MSNBC and CNN.
And the united opposition to the laws among Democrat activists has pushed the party’s governors, such as North Carolina’s Bev Purdue, to veto these photo ID laws in spite of their popular support.
And even Republican-appointed judges have sided against the laws in some of the lawsuits.
This strong elite opposition to the laws has resulted in them being struck down across the country. Using his power under the Voting Rights Act, Holder has blocked the implementation of photo identification laws in Texas and South Carolina, two states that are not electorally important but where a combined 30 million people live. And a three-judge panel that included a justice nominated by George W. Bush affirmed Holder’s opposition to the Texas law in ruling.
“Simply put, many Hispanics and African Americans who voted in the last election will, because of the burdens imposed by SB 14, likely be unable to vote in the next election,” the judges wrote.
In March, a state court judge in Wisconsin struck down the state’s law requiring a photo identification to vote after a lawsuit from the Milwaukee chapter of the NAACP and the League of Women Voters. Two months later, in Florida, a federal judge struck down a GOP-backed law that imposed fines of up to $1,000 for groups who register new voters if they didn’t turn in the registration reforms within two days, eight fewer than the state had allowed before. Rock the Vote, which organizes young people to vote, had been among the groups to file suit against the law.
The Obama campaign itself won a lawsuit against a Republican-backed law in Ohio that would have eliminated early voting in the last three days before the election. And in Pennsylvania, the state’s Supreme Court has ordered a lower-court judge to review the photo ID provision and could strike it down if the justices feel the law is too significant a barrier to voting there.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 26 September 2012 09:20
Category: Breaking News Written by The Root
(The Root) -- Next to his convention speeches and inaugural address, one of President Obama's most memorable speeches to date has been the one he delivered on fatherhood. On the Father's Day before the 2008 election, he won applause from conservative corners, and some high-profile criticism from others, for his candid discussion of the need for more accountability from fathers.
"If we are honest with ourselves, we'll admit that what too many fathers ... are is missing -- missing from too many lives and too many homes. They have abandoned their responsibilities, acting like boys instead of men. And the foundations of our families are weaker because of it. You and I know how true this is in the African-American community," said then-Sen. Obama.
Some compared the speech to President Clinton's infamous "Sister Souljah moment," an attempt by then-candidate Obama to prove himself as someone willing to provoke the ire of a few liberals in an effort to woo some independents by embracing a conservative talking point. But as his first term draws to a close, the number of black children raised in homes without fathers remains very high. Those statistics raise the question of what, if anything, the first black president could be doing to address such a crisis, since his administration hasn't appeared to do much so far.
In a candid one-on-one interview with The Root, White House Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett discussed the president's position on the issue of parental personal responsibility. Jarrett reiterated the administration's commitment to the family planning organization Planned Parenthood, which honored her during a brunch co-sponsored by BET as part of the festivities taking place at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's Annual Legislative Conference last week in Washington, D.C.
But when asked why the president and his administration have not talked specifically about the importance of family planning within the black community, and whether they ever will, Jarrett replied, "I think he intended to include responsibility in family planning along with everything else," referring to the president's previous comments on responsibility and accountability in parenting.
"He believes very strongly in a woman's right to choose," she continued. "He has supported that since day 1, and I think that ultimately, the responsibility rests with the woman that bears the child. But his thought is that, obviously, the father has to have a lot to do with that as well."
When pressed further, she added, "Frankly, I had never thought of him being specific on that issue. I think his goal was to make a broader issue [when he has spoken of parental responsibility], so I can't comment for him today about what he'd do in a second term on that. I frankly had not thought about that before."
An Obvious Knowledge Gap
To be clear, family planning is not synonymous with abortion but is merely, as the name suggests, planning in advance how many children your family will include. Education and access to resources and services, such as birth control, are keys to effective family planning -- something with which low-income women and women of color struggle.
For sure, the president has been specific about the social and economic ramifications produced by absentee fatherhood, which is a common result of a lack of family planning. "We know the statistics: that children who grow up without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime, nine times more likely to drop out of schools and 20 times more likely to end up in prison," he said in his 2008 Father's Day speech.
Likewise, President Obama's administration has not shied away from fighting on behalf of Planned Parenthood, a position that has resulted in one of the greatest political battles of recent years.
So it is odd that his administration would shy away from making a specific case for why the family planning services that groups like Planned Parenthood provide are so vital to the black community. The latest data confirm that there is a knowledge gap in the black community regarding family planning, with black women having the highest rates of unintended pregnancies of any group in the country.
A Perception Problem Persists
All of this is happening while Planned Parenthood has struggled to improve its image and outreach within the black community in recent years. Jarrett does not agree with that assessment and told us, "I wouldn't concede that Planned Parenthood is viewed negatively. There are many, many people in the African-American community who rely on the services of Planned Parenthood day in and day out, and it provides an essential service to so many low-income women who can't afford them on their own."
But Jasmine Burnett, a consultant who has worked with family planning organizations, including Planned Parenthood, on their outreach to black women, said that the group "absolutely" has a perception problem. "There is a perception in the black community that Planned Parenthood only provides abortions," though such services account for only 3 percent of what the organization does.
Burnett added that Planned Parenthood has also struggled to confront its past. Its founder, Margaret Sanger, expressed some racist ideology that nearly a century later is still being exploited by conservative opponents of Planned Parenthood and still scares some black Americans into believing that the organization is a tool for harm within the black community rather than a tool for providing essential women's health services such as breast-cancer screenings.
According to Burnett, the organization has at times made the mistake of downplaying such fears instead of acknowledging the concerns. "There needs to be a more concerted effort from Planned Parenthood to [talk about] Margaret Sanger and say what her past was in the eugenics movement and the impact that has when they enter into black communities, and to lead with that so people don't think they are trying to avoid the issue," Burnett said.
Planned Parenthood has begun diversifying its staff and communications to reach a broader audience, but Burnett said that President Obama could be one of the most effective messengers when it comes to family planning, particularly in getting the issue to resonate with black men. "The president could talk about prevention and personal responsibility as it pertains to family planning," she said, adding that the message should be conveyed that the responsibility for planning a family does not rest just with women. But perhaps even more important, she said, is conveying that the responsibility begins before conception in the choices you make.
The Immeasurable Power of the Bully Pulpit
Certainly no one is encouraging the president of the United States to pass out birth control to people. But if he and his wife expressed to the countless young black men and women who look up to them that part of their own long-term success stemmed from having college degrees -- but the other part stemmed from their choice to wait to have their two children until they were emotionally and financially able to support them -- the message could go a long way. Much as the first couple's willingness to take an AIDS test in Africa spurred others to do the same, a message of responsible family planning might also leave a lasting legacy.
In response to a query from The Root, an official from the Obama administration noted that black people make up 20 percent of Title X patients, who are traditionally from low-income communities, seeking affordable care from government-subsidized family planning clinics. The administration further noted that this fall, the Mobile County Health Department in Alabama will implement the family planning program SIHLE, which is aimed at young African-American females.
The administration also touted its record defending and expanding comprehensive sexual-education programs in public schools, after years of an emphasis on abstinence-only education during the last Bush administration -- an emphasis that experts blamed for a rise in teen pregnancies in the U.S. during that time. However, recent Washington Post analysis found abstinence-only programs regaining some funding and prominence over the last year.
There could be any number of reasons that the president and his team have shied away from tackling family planning in the black community in a more proactive manner -- among them, fear of stepping on the toes of one of his most loyal voter demographics: black voters.
Talking about anything even tangentially related to sex is rarely easy, particularly for black Americans, many of whom come from religious backgrounds. At her appearance as a supporter of Planned Parenthood during the group's CBCF luncheon, Nia Long credited her own free-spirited upbringing with her child-rearing approach. The actress -- who shared that scripts for sequels to two of her most beloved films, Love Jones and The Best Man, are in the works -- told The Root that her parents never shied away from discussing the birds and the bees with her, and she said she won't with her sons, either. "As soon as I think anything's going on, there will be a big sit-down and a box of condoms!"
Long, who has faced criticism for her choice to have children before marrying and appearing to celebrate it in her recent appearance on the cover of Essence magazine, was emphatic that she is a proponent of proper family planning. She noted that while she has never married, she has been conscious of making choices that are conscientious and ensure that her children are safe and secure, both emotionally and financially. She also added that she has a wonderful and involved co-parent for her children, so she is not doing it alone.
"I think women need to be responsible before making the choice [to become a parent] and do it for the right reasons. If you're going to have a baby to save a relationship, that doesn't work. If you're going to have a baby to collect a check from someone else, that's not the right thing. You have to be responsible and be able to stand on your own," said Long.
Jarrett expressed a similar sentiment about the approach to parenthood, saying that she spoke with her own daughter about being accountable and making responsible choices. Jarrett reiterated a message of responsibility on behalf of the president, saying, "I think his conversation about responsibility applies very broadly, and I think it's important that we all recognize that making a decision to bring a child into this world is a very serious decision and there should be thoughtfulness that goes into it." She was quick to note this, however: "I don't think it's for the president to tell people what choices they [should] make when they want to have children. There are many people who don't believe in birth control, and he respects their decision."
Yet the first lady has embraced a campaign to encourage Americans to eat healthier and claim more personal responsibility in their eating habits, while respecting the rights of Americans ultimately to make their own dietary choices. Mrs. Obama could have taken a more passive approach -- simply eating healthily as an example, but never giving people the actual tools or encouragement to do so. But the White House ultimately recognized that having the first lady lend her voice and political capital to the importance of a healthy diet and exercise could save lives. Having her and her husband do the same on the issue of family planning could save black families.
Perhaps, if given a second term, they will feel empowered with the political courage and capital to do so .
Last Updated on Wednesday, 26 September 2012 09:00
Category: Breaking News Written by Huffingtonpost
When Michigan state officials discussed a proposed lease of Detroit's Belle Isle park with a dubious City Council Tuesday, the eight (of nine) present members reiterated they weren't ready to agree to it.
Council members, who have been discussing the plan announced jointly by Governor Snyder and Mayor Bing for the state Department of Natural Resources to lease the park from the city for 30 years, also said it was worth hearing other proposals and that they wanted more specifics in the contract.
"There's no urgency. Belle Isle is not about to sink into the Detroit River if we don't approve the lease," Council President Charles Pugh said.
The state would not pay to lease Belle Isle but rather, would assume the costs of maintenance and operation which is estimated to save the city $275 million over the 30-year period. Funds would come from the State Park Endowment, State Park Improvement and Recreation Passport funds. Motor vehicles entering the park would need the $10 annual "passport" to enter any state parks.
Council members expressed concern over the lack of details provided about how much money will be allocated to the park. As a preliminary figure, DNR Director Keith Creagh said the state may provide $20 million in bonds for park improvements.
The state said that at a minimum the DNR will spend more, including grants and partnerships, than the current $6.2 million annually on operations, maintenance, redevelopment and security.
Security was another of the issues that gave Council pause. Councilwoman Saunteel Jenkins wanted the lease to outline how many state troopers and rangers would be used at the park rather than just saying they cooperate on a security plan.
"It sounds good but it doent mean anything," she said.
Council President Pro Tem thought park rangers and other employees from outside Detroit would not be sensitive to the residents who used what would be the largest urban state park.
Belle Isle would possible be able to retain some of its features that set it apart from other state parks. Rodney Stokes, who works with Synder on Belle Isle and placemaking after stints at the DNR and Detroit's Recreation Department, said Belle Isle could potentially keep its longer hours.
Council pushed for the hiring Detroit residents for Belle Isle positions, which the state said it could not guarantee.
Another Council concern was the length of the lease and the two near-automatic renewals which would mean it would potentially be in effect for 90 years.
"I don't think it's going to take us 30 years to not be broke," said Councilman Ken Cockrel. "This city could be fiscally stable in five years."
Pugh said a 10-year lease was more reasonable.
Councilman Kwame Kenyatta boycotted the meeting in protest and Councilwoman JoAnn Watson, who has been one of the most vocal critics of the proposed lease, said earlier Tuesday she was ready to vote against it.
"It's an offense... to be giving away something because you can't keep it clean," she said after Creagh talked about the DNR's role in picking up trash and maintaining restrooms, instead of fixing the park's management. "It's an insult to the citizens of Detroit."
But others were more amenable. Council President Pro Tem Gary Brown said he was in favor of the concept of leasing Belle Isle, but not until questions had been answered and changes had been made to the document.
Creagh said they should all refrain from the "short-sighted" view of worrying about specific dollar amounts in the lease and rather focus on the state demonstrating the results it promises.
But Council members continued to return to the metaphor of buying a car. You wouldn't lease a car without knowing the terms, they said.
Deputy Mayor Kirk Lewis joined state officials in pressing for the need for the lease.
"The state park system has been in existence for 93 years and city of Detroit citizens have been paying into that without getting something back for it," he said. "We're trying to look at an opportunity to raise the standards and the quality of life for the citizens of Detroit."
Last Updated on Wednesday, 26 September 2012 09:00
Category: Breaking News Written by Huffington Post
Despite what the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says about the unemployment rate among blacks, and the U.S. Census' report on how the median income has dropped, market-research firm Nielsen and the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) contend that African Americans still have plenty worth taking to the bank.
In a follow up to their 2011 "State of the African-American Consumer" report, a landmark survey, which projected that black buying power will reach $1.1 trillion by the year 2015, Nielsen and NNPA explored the factors responsible for driving that cash.
In short: "Dynamic influencing factors -- such as technology, social media and online connectivity -- enable the Black consumer segment to leverage its collective power and influence," the report says. That means that as a group, African Americans have a set of spending habits and brand loyalty that advertisers love.
But the jury's still out on who really benefits in the end.
From mobile phone use to the role advertising plays, here's a closer look at what this year's "African-American Consumers: Still Vital, Still Growing" report found.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 25 September 2012 12:33
Category: Breaking News Written by Huffington Post
WASHINGTON -- Concern is mounting among some Senate Democrats that President Barack Obama will make a deal with Senate Republicans during the lame-duck session that would result in changes to the benefit structure of Social Security.
One of the most progressive voices in the caucus, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), said he was heartened to hear Obama tell the AARP last week that he'd be open to raising the cap on income that's taxed for purposes of paying into the Social Security trust fund. Sanders also applauded the president for taking off of the table any reform language that resulted in the "slashing" of benefits (several Social Security advocates, disagreeing with Sanders, said they were worried such language was counterproductive, as it opens the door for cuts that could be deemed minor).
But the Vermont Independent worried that all of this could be posturing for the lame-duck session immediately after the election, when lawmakers are expected to rush to find another "grand bargain" on tax and entitlement reform to stave off the so-called fiscal cliff.
"That's exactly what's going to happen," Sanders said of Social Security being on the proverbial table, "Unless someone of us stops it -- and a number of us are working very hard on this -- that's exactly what will happen. Everything being equal, unless we stop it, what will happen is there will be a quote-unquote grand bargain after the election in which the White House, some Democrats will sit down with Republicans, they will move to a chained CPI."
Chained CPI, or consumer price index, is an alternative measure of calculating inflation that would lessen the cost of living increases for Social Security payments. When the president and Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) attempted to craft a deal on the debt ceiling last summer, Obama offered the chained CPI as a concession.
Sanders is one of 29 Senators who have signed a letter to "oppose including Social Security cuts for future or current beneficiaries in any deficit reduction package." In addition Sanders has supported legislation that would enact the proposal that Obama put forward as a candidate for president in 2008, which entails putting in place a payroll tax on income over $250,000, in the process creating a gap between the current cap of $110,100 and that new level.
Obama's openness to the tax proposal at the AARP forum prompted Sanders to call The Huffington Post to try and get the president's commitment to that approach.
"When he says that he's willing to look at changing the cap, that's not good enough," said Sanders. "Four years ago, he told us that, in fact, that was a proper solution, and he was right. I've introduced legislation to do just that ... I think we've got to make sure that we reduce the wiggle room for the president, and he has got to make a very simple statement that, 'If reelected, I will not cut Social Security.'"
By Monday morning, the Obama campaign had moved slightly in the opposite direction, with top adviser David Axelrod refusing to unveil any specifics about what the president had planned for Social Security reform.
"[T]he approach has to be a balanced one," Axelrod told MSNBC's "Morning Joe." "We've had discussions in the past. And the question is, can you raise the cap some? Right now Social Security cuts off at a lower point. Can you raise the cap so people in the upper incomes are paying a little more into the program? And do you adjust the growth of the program? That's a discussion worth having. But again, we have to approach it in a balanced way. We're not going to cut our way to prosperity. We're not going to cut our way to more secure entitlement programs -- Social Security and Medicare. We have to have a balance."
So what is the president's proposal, asked Time magazine's Mark Halperin.
"Mark, I'll tell you what: When you get elected to the United States Senate and sit at that table -- this is not the time," replied Axelrod.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 25 September 2012 12:28
Category: News Briefs Written by Fox 2 News
FARMINGTON HILLS, Mich. (WJBK) -
Several ramps leading to eastbound I-696 are closed Tuesday morning as crews work to clear an overturned tanker.
Traffic has been slowed since the tanker crashed into a ditch near Halstead Road around 1:15 p.m. Monday afternoon.
Crews temporarily closed all lanes early Tuesday morning, but then decided to wait until after rush hour to tow the tanker.
The following ramps will remain closed until the clean-up process is finished:
Northbound I-275 ramp to Eastbound I-696
Eastbound I-96 ramp to Eastbound I-696
Ramps from M-5 to Eastbound I-696
Crews plan to tow the tanker away after 9 a.m.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 25 September 2012 10:04
Category: News Briefs Written by WWJ
DETROIT - Young men and women who have dropped out of school but now want to return to school to earn their high school diploma are getting a second chance this week.
The Education Achievement Authority of Michigan is offering a new program to young people ages 16 to 19 a chance to finish high school that combines attending an EAA high school two afternoons a week with online classes offered in partnership with the Michigan Virtual University.
Returning students can enroll in the program from 1:00 to 2:30 p.m. any day from Monday, September 24 through Wednesday, October 3 at any of the six EAA high schools; Denby, Southeastern, Pershing, Mumford, Ford and Central. Returning students are asked to bring a school transcript, report card or any information that will be helpful in course selection that will lead to graduation.
Students who enroll in the program will attend one of the EAA high schools from 3:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. twice a week on either Monday and Wednesday or Tuesday and Thursday. In addition, students will be expected to spend time every day at home working on their online classes. Netbooks and access to the Internet will be provided to eligible students, if needed.
To learn more, visit www.enrolleaa.org.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 25 September 2012 09:21
Category: News Briefs Written by WWJ
INKSTER (WWJ) - Inkster police are asking for the public’s help in finding a man who broke into a liquor store. It happened early Monday morning at the Hours of Liquor store located on Middlebelt Road.
Police said the suspect broke in through the roof, stole money and liquor and caused thousands of dollars of damage
Investigators believe the perpetrator is the man seen in the three security camera images above.
Anyone who recognizes the suspect or who has any information about this crime is asked to call Inkster police 313-563-9850 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800- SPEAK-UP. As always, tipsters contacting Crime Stoppers may remain anonymous.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 25 September 2012 09:00
Category: Breaking News Written by WWJ
Last Updated on Tuesday, 25 September 2012 09:00
Category: Breaking News Written by AJ Williams, Chronicle Web Editor
Tony Soave was the focal point in the first day of testimony in the Kwame Kilpatrick Corruption Trial. Kilpatrick’s former bodyguards testified that Kilpatrick used Soave’s jets many times to fly across the country. They continued to say that Soave seemed like a friend to the former mayor, flying him and his family to Florida, Bermuda with Bobby Ferguson and others. A New York trip was also mentioned where Kilpatrick shopped with Christine Beatty.
However, according to court documents, Soave is now stating that he was forced to give Kilpatrick free jet trips, courtside Piston tickets and other items in order for him to retain his large city contracts. According to Soave’s spokesperson, her client can’t make any comment, as he’s set to testify later on in the trial.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 25 September 2012 13:40
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