NAACP set to change tax status to 501(c)(4) engage politically

Amsterdam News

After being eclipsed in recent years by Color of Change, Black Lives Matter and other younger, more tech savvy and politically-pointed groups, the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization will change its tax status.

The group’s leaders said that the new tax status would allow them to be more aggressive politically.

During a call with reporters, NAACP officials announced that the civil rights group will transition from a 501(c)(3) to 501(c)(4) designation. The change will allow the organization to be more partisan and politically focused. However, the tax designation does not allow political work to be the “primary activity” of the organization.

Even though the NAACP is 108 years old, the organization is struggling to modernize and stay relevant in a rapidly-evolving, social media-driven landscape that requires speed and strategic communications skill.

In October, the NAACP named Derrick Johnson as its president; Johnson was elected by the NAACP’s board to serve for three years.

In a statement announcing Johnson as the new president, Leon Russell, the board chairman of the NAACP said, “As both a longtime member of the NAACP, and a veteran activist in his own right—having worked on the ground to advocate for the victims of Hurricane Katrina, along with championing countless other issues—Derrick also intimately understands the strengths of the Association, our challenges and the many obstacles facing Black Americans of all generations, today. I look forward to continuing to work with him in this new role.”

Russell continued: “In his time serving as our interim president and CEO, Derrick has proven himself as the strong, decisive leader we need to guide us through both our internal transition, as well as a crucial moment in our nation’s history. With new threats to communities of color emerging daily and attacks on our democracy, the NAACP must be more steadfast than ever before.”

New NAACP President Derrick Johnson is a native of Detroit, Michigan who lives in Jackson, Mississippi. He is a long-time member of the NAACP, who was elected Vice Chair earlier this year and served as the interim president after Cornell Brooks was forced out. Johnson attended Tougaloo College before earning a juris doctor degree from South Texas College of Law in Houston.

The NAACP ousted Brooks in the spring of this year, a few months before the group’s annual convention in Baltimore.

Eric Holder: Jeff Sessions has been 'racially insensitive,' 'racially unaware'

Wash Examiner

Former Attorney General Eric Holder said Attorney General Jeff Sessions is “racially insensitive” and has been “racially unaware” at times in his career.

In an interview with Politico’s “Off Message” podcast, Holder was asked if he agrees with accusations from some Democrats, such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., that Sessions has made racist comments.

“I don’t like to use that term unless you’ve got really hard and fast proof, but I think he’s done some things in his career and as attorney general that I think have been racially insensitive, and there are times when I think he’s racially unaware,” Holder said.

The former attorney general pointed specifically to Sessions’ reversal of a memo Holder issued in 2013, when he was President Obama's attorney general, that urged prosecutors to avoid mandatory minimum sentences in some low-level drug cases.

In May, Sessions issued his own memo directing federal prosecutors to seek the maximum punishments for crimes. But Holder said that by rolling back the “Holder Memo,” Sessions failed to understand the impact his new policy would have on specific communities.

“When you understand that the prior policy that I reversed had a particularly negative impact on people of color, to go back to those failed policies I think necessarily means that you’re going to have that same impact,” Holder said. “I think that shows a certain degree of racial unawareness, because if you’re aware of that, if you’re aware of the impact there, I think you’d have to think long and hard about reinstituting that which we showed did not work nearly as well as the things we’ve put in place.”

The former attorney general recalled his own experiences when he was tapped by Obama to serve in the role, and said he met with former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, who led the Justice Department under former President George W. Bush.

Holder said he was never asked to meet with Sessions, but contended that Sessions may have met with former Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who succeeded Holder in the Obama administration.

If you’re a black man, expect police brutality in System of Racism/White Supremacy

Washington Post 

By Paul Butler 

‘The police department is like a crew. It does whatever they want to do.” Those words — from an old-school hip-hop song by the group Boogie Down Productions — were the soundtrack in my head as I read “I Can’t Breathe,” journalist Matt Taibbi’s gut-wrenching account of the death and life of Eric Garner.

As the whole world knows, Garner died in 2014 after being placed in an illegal chokehold by a New York City cop who was trying to arrest him for supposedly selling a “loosie” tobacco cigarette on a Staten Island street. The book is a deep dive into every aspect of the case, including its legal impact, which is minimal, and its cultural and political impact, which has been profound.

But the most revealing stories Taibbi tells — the ones that made me put the book down because it got too heartbreaking — are about other African Americans, mostly male and poor, who were stopped and frisked, strip-searched, sexually assaulted, set up, beaten, or killed for the tragic reason that racist cops didn’t like them, or the even more tragic reason that these kinds of humiliations are ordained by U.S. law and policy.

There is Ibrahim Annan, who in 2014 got roughed up so badly by NYPD officers that he was hospitalized for three weeks and his ankle had to be surgically reconstructed. The crime the officers were trying to arrest him for? Marijuana possession. In the kind of revealing detail that makes “I Can’t Breathe” compulsively readable (after I put the book down, I would pick it right back up because I needed to know the next outrage), Taibbi tells us that the city billed Annan $700 for the ambulance that took him to the hospital.

Carnell Russ was not fortunate enough to escape with his life. In 1971, a Pine Bluff, Ark., cop shot him between the eyes after Russ asked for a receipt when the cop required him to pay a traffic ticket on the spot. The officer was acquitted by an all-white jury, but at least that cop was prosecuted, unlike NYPD officer Donald Brown, who, in 1994 in Staten Island, asphyxiated to death an unarmed black man named Ernest Sayon, setting off protests but no grand jury indictment.

All these stories relate to one another and to the Garner case, which gives “I Can’t Breathe” the feel of a police procedural. The narrative unfolds like an episode of “The Wire,” but without the comic relief — or that show’s grudging empathy for the cops. Some readers might object to Taibbi’s tone of sustained outrage; the book is not objective, if that means giving equal weight to the concerns of the police and the victims of their misconduct. Taibbi by no means portrays people subject to police abuse as saints. Garner had been found guilty of a number of crimes, although he was probably not guilty that day of the accusation that led to his death, and other victims of police brutality lived what you might call blemished lives. But Taibbi is mad as hell at the police and the politics that empowers their brutality.

Daniel Pantaleo, the NYPD officer who put Garner in the chokehold, is, in Taibbi’s account, a muscular hothead given to touching black men’s private parts. Before his encounter with Garner, he racked up more civilian complaints than the average cop, costing the NYPD thousands of dollars in settlements with people who claimed he abused their rights or planted evidence on them. That amount pales in comparison with the more than $5 million Garner’s family reportedly received in a civil settlement, but Pantaleo remains a sworn officer of the NYPD. In what passes for good news in the sordid mess, he is now confined to desk duty.

Taibbi appropriately directs the reader’s anger to others outside the usual police suspects. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio won election by campaigning to end the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk program, which a federal judge later found discriminated against African American and Latino men. De Blasio invoked his own biracial son to express his concerns about the NYPD, but he appointed as police chief William Bratton, who championed the “broken windows” concept of policing, which focuses on enforcement of low-level infractions and made it possible for the cops to repeatedly lock up Garner simply for selling untaxed cigarettes.

Even the reason selling loosies is so lucrative comes in for Taibbi’s steely rage. New York’s previous mayor, Michael Bloomberg, faced a revenue shortfall after $1 billion was spent rescuing Wall Street from the financial crisis. He had pledged not to raise taxes but still increased the municipal cigarette tax from 8 cents to $1.50 a pack, providing the city with $250 million in cash and creating a business opportunity for Garner to import cigarettes from Virginia, where they are much cheaper, and sell them in New York at a profit.

If for me the book sometimes gets too bogged down in legal procedure — and I’m a law professor — the average reader might be even less interested in New York’s “Civil Practice Laws and Rules provision 5704(a)” and the ins and outs of filing Freedom of Information Act requests to police departments. Much of the horror of U.S. criminal justice that Taibbi depicts isn’t legalistic or nuanced: It’s brute abuse of power by cops and prosecutors who know they can get away with it.

Ramsey Orta filmed the famous video of Garner’s encounter with the NYPD. He’d ignored the cops’ illegal order that he stop recording, and later that night, the police drove past his home, shining a spotlight at his window. It was a warning that Orta was a targeted man, and he didn’t help himself by selling drugs. Orta ended up with repeat arrests for crimes he had not committed and crimes he had. The night came when the cops executed a search warrant at his home, armed with cameras in addition to guns. They didn’t find any contraband in the house, but they arrested Orta and his mother anyway, filming the whole thing. A police source told the New York Daily News: “He took the video. Now we took the video.” Orta now is serving time in prison, formally for drug crimes but in reality for filming truth to the NYPD’s power.

“I Can’t Breathe” reminds us that Staten Island is America. A month after Garner’s death, an officer killed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. Several weeks later, a Cleveland cop shot to death Tamir Rice, who was 12 years old. A few months after that, Freddie Gray died in police custody in Baltimore. All black men and boys who have been treated in death more like criminals than the cops who killed them, not one of whom has gone to jail. 

I have a cop friend who invokes a standard line when the Garner case comes up: “If you can say ‘I can’t breathe,’ that means you can breathe.” My buddy intends this as an expression of solidarity with the thin blue line, but it comes across as victim blaming: Even this thug’s last words were a lie.

But Garner’s death lamentation was true. The New York medical examiner ruled the death a homicide, caused by “compression of neck (chokehold).” Taibbi suggests that Dan Donovan, then the Staten Island district attorney, engineered the grand jury process so that Pantaleo would not be charged. Donovan’s reward, from the conservative voters of Staten Island, was his election to Congress, based in part on their approval of the way he handled the investigation of Garner’s death.

Taibbi’s account is bleak. For African Americans, the criminal laws work too well and the civil rights laws not well at all. A black man has no rights that a cop is bound to respect. Even liberal politicians sell out because they are afraid of the police.

The inspiration, if any, comes from the people who resist, even if that is mainly a losing prospect. Garner’s stepfather meticulously cares for the street corner where Garner was killed. His daughter Erica emerges as the hero of the effort to make the world pay attention to what happened to her father.

Some of Garner’s associates testified to the grand jury, even though the word on the street was that cops would never be prosecuted in Garner’s death but that the police would target people who cooperated with the investigation — and the word was right on both counts. But these folks told the grand jury what happened out of a sense of justice, something people in Garner’s world almost never get back from police or prosecutors.

Gutierrez Returns From Puerto Rico, Slams Relief Response From U.S.


Back from a trip to hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico, Congressman Luis Gutierrez called the situation “disgraceful,” living conditions “inhumane” and demanded more action from the U.S. government.

Gutierrez did highlight the positive work that was done on the trip, however, saying “we delivered good stuff. Fresh fruit — things that really bring a little joy and a little smile to people’s faces.”

The congressman spent most of his time showing the crowd at O’Hare International Airport Sunday morning videos and pictures of the devastated island. He did also blast the response from U.S. officials.

“You see that?” Gutierrez asked while showing one of several pictures. “That’s his neighbor coming to him to give him a sandwich and a cup of coffee. So first responders in Puerto Rico are your neighbors.”

Gutierrez urged his colleagues in Congress to make similar visits.

“We have to counteract this false narrative that is out there and is being promoted by the President of the United States. Just last week, he gave himself a 10 out of 10. But I’m telling you, I brought the pictures, I visited.” [MORE]

In Florida, Felons [mostly Black] Want Voting Rights Back As Soon As They Complete Their Sentences


Thousands of petitions like these are circulating across Florida in an unprecedented grass-roots campaign to restore voting rights to the state's more than 1.6 million felons who have completed their sentences. This includes Grimes. At 17, she was sent to prison for a burglary. Although she has served her time, Florida law has barred her from participating in municipal and presidential elections for the past 41 years.

According to The Sentencing Project, a voting rights advocacy group, disenfranchisement laws have kept 6.1 million Americans from voting, and Florida is home to the largest concentration of them: 1.68 million, or 27 percent.

Florida's law permanently strips felons of the right to vote and other civil rights, including serving on a jury, running for public office and sitting for the state bar exam. Similar laws are on the books in Iowa, Kentucky and Virginia. The law requires that felons who have served their time and want their rights restored petition a clemency board consisting of the governor, the attorney general and two Cabinet members in a convoluted and subjective process that could take years.

Florida's law and its lengthy clemency process, born out of the Reconstruction era, have disproportionately kept African-Americans — many of whom have committed low-level offenses — disenfranchised for decades. Under Florida Gov. Rick Scott, 2,807 people have had their voting rights restored out of more than 29,611 cases the clemency board had reviewed as of Oct. 5. [MORE]

The U.S. Will Invade West Africa in 2023 After An Attack in New York — According to Pentagon War Game

 The Intercept

When the Pentagon peers into its crystal ball, the images reflected back are bleak.

On May 23, 2023, in one imagining from the U.S. military, terrorists detonate massive truck-bombs at both the New York and New Jersey ends of the Lincoln Tunnel. The twin explosions occur in the southern-most of the three underground tubes at 7:10 a.m., the beginning of rush hour when the subterranean roadway is packed with commuters making their way to work.

The attack kills 435 people and injures another 618. Eventually, we’ll come to know that it could have been much worse. The plan was to drive the trucks to “high profile targets” elsewhere in Manhattan. Somehow, though, the bombs detonated early.

This spectacular attack, which would result in the highest casualties on U.S. soil since 9/11, isn’t the hackneyed work of a Hollywood screenwriter — it is actually one of the key plot points from a recent Pentagon war game played by some of the military’s most promising strategic thinkers. This attack, and the war it sparks, provide insights into the future as envisioned by some of the U.S. military’s most important imagineers and the training of those who will be running America’s wars in the years ahead.

The “5/23” terror attack was a small but pivotal part of a simulated exercise conducted last year by students and faculty from the U.S. military’s war colleges, which are the training grounds for prospective generals and admirals. Sprawling and intricate, the 33rd annual Joint Land, Air and Sea Strategic Special Program (JLASS-SP) brought together 148 students from the U.S. Air Force’s Air War College, the Army War College, the Marine Corps War College, the Naval War College, the Eisenhower School for National Security and Resource Strategy, the National War College, and the National Defense University’s Information Resources Management College. They collaborated for several weeks of remote war-gaming conducted via “cyberspace tools, telephones and video teleconferencing,” according to Pentagon documents obtained by The Intercept. It culminated in a five-day on-site exercise at the Air Force Wargaming Institute at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama.

The materials used in JLASS-SP — obtained via the Freedom of Information Act — detail the chaotic tenure of an imaginary 46th president, Karl Maxwell McGraw, and offer a unique window into the training of the Armed Forces’ future leaders. The documents consist of hundreds of pages of summary materials, faux intelligence estimates, fictional situation reports, and updates issued while the exercise was in progress — The Intercept is publishing one of these fictional situation updates here. They are highly detailed and, at a time when the press and lawmakers are increasingly asking questions about U.S. military involvement in Africa, offer a stark assessment of the potential perils of armed action there. While it is explicitly not a national intelligence estimate, the war game, which covers the future through early 2026, is “intended to reflect a plausible depiction of major trends and influences in the world regions,” according to the files. [MORE]

Las Vegas Witness turns up dead days after Making Facebook Post claiming ‘100% more than one’ shooter


A woman by the name Kymberley Suchomel, 28, who attended the Oct. 1 Route 91 Harvest Music Festival, passed away Monday at her Apple Valley home just days after she had survived the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history unscathed, reports say.

Suchomel, who posted her eyewitness account of the Las Vegas massacre in astonishingly vivid detail to her Facebook page on Oct. 4, subsequently passed away in her home on Oct. 9 from what reports are claiming were ‘natural causes.’

Shockingly just days before her death, Suchomel posted key details about the shooting to Facebook contradicting the official narrative that Stephen Paddock is a lone gunman.

“From about 50 feet in front of us, and a little to the right, fire crackers were set off. Let me repeat that… FIRE CRACKERS WERE SET OFF. I verbally stated “some asshole just shot of fire crackers in close proximity to so many people”. I was literally pissed off. You could see Jason Aldean look to his left kind of startled by it, but he was also clearly irritated. I would say about 15 seconds later, the first volley of gunfire was released,” the eyewitness wrote.

She went on…

It was a shorter volley than any of the others, and the gunfire was not as close together either. EVERYONE looked up, down, around. We thought it was more fire crackers at first, but then Ricky reached over, told us all to put our boots on, quickly. And the volley ended. Then people started to panic. The gentlemen behind me looked at me as I was putting on my boots, half laying down, and said “calm down crazy, its just fireworks, jeez”. That is when the 2nd volley went off, Ricky yelled at us all to get down, flat, & we immediately knew there was someone shooting at us. I remember getting down, but I didn’t lay flat for some reason, thinking- oh my gosh, I need to get flatter than I am now, but my body just wouldn’t let me. That was the 2nd volley. At the end of that volley ( I am still struggling to get my boots on), we turned and tried to run, but the people behind us still weren’t moving. I yelled at the lady “RUN! ITS GUNFIRE! RUUUUUUUUUNNNNN!!!”

According to Suchomel, the shooting was ‘close’ and felt like a ‘literal hell.’

“[When] the 3rd volley hit… and it was close. Very, very close to us. I could physically see the impact of the bullets on the astro-turf, I could feel the warmth & the passing of bullets. Once that 3rd volley was over, Casie linked her arm into mine, and we decided at that moment we weren’t stopping- we were getting the Hell out of there. And I do mean Hell. We were in literal Hell. The gentlemen that mocked me stating it was just fireworks fell to the ground, and he never got back up. The lady behind me (who was now in front of me) who was terrified as I told her to run, never got back up. I actually had to physically step over her body to run (something I am still struggling with, so please don’t attack me. I was absolutely in flight-or-fight mode). There was another person to my right who also wasn’t moving. We ran. I don’t know what direction we ran, I don’t know towards which landmark we ran. We just ran. It was at this time our group got split up. Casie & I were together. Ricky, Cassie & Mendy were together.”

Soon after, according to her account, she started to panic when she had realized with ‘one-hundred percent’ certainty that there was indeed more than one shooter and that multiple gunmen were, in fact, in the crowd!

“We were rounding some sort of corner maybe- and I looked to the right and I saw this large cowboy sitting down with his legs spread, holding a blood-soaked woman. I thought to myself “we NEED to hide”, but as I looked quickly for somewhere to go, the gunfire once again got closer and closer. We couldn’t hide because they (and I do mean THEY) were chasing us. That exact moment is when I started to really panic. That is the exact moment in which I thought this was it, I was going to die, I was never going to see my family again. So, as we are running, we approach this fence where men are throwing women over, and we ran up to it as they had knocked It down, so we were able to get out. As we crossed the threshold of the venue, my mind went straight to other mass shootings and hearing the victim’s families in my head talk about how they never got to say goodbye. I did not want this for my husband (who was at work) & my grandma (who had my daughter, Scarlett). So, at 10:07 pm I called my husband [frantically] leaving him a voicemail- telling him that I loved him and was in the middle of a shooting & I wasn’t sure if I would make it out alive,” she explained.

“Next, while still running, I called my grandma to tell her the exact same thing. But the gunfire wasn’t stopping this whole time. It wasn’t ceasing. It wasn’t slowing down. And It was directly behind us, following us. Bullets were coming from every direction. Behind us, in front of us, to the side of us. But I know, I just know, that there was someone chasing us. The entire time I felt this way,” she explained “The farther we got from the venue, the closer the gunfire got. I kept looking back expecting to see the gunmen- and I say MEN because there was more than one person. There was more than one gun firing. 100% more than one.” [MORE]

Emails Show ICE Couldn't Find Enough Dangerous Non-White Immigrants To Fulfill The Adminstration's Fantasies


When you've got an official narrative to deliver, you need everyone to pitch in to keep it from falling apart. No one can say ICE didn't try. The Trump administration -- bolstered by supporting statements conjecture from DOJ and DHS officials -- has portrayed undocumented immigrants as little more than nomadic thugs. Unfortunately, there's hardly any evidence available to back up the assertion that people here illegally are more likely to commit serious criminal acts.

Back in February, shortly after Trump handed down immigration-focused executive orders, ICE went all in on arresting undocumented visitors and immigrants. Included in this push was a focus on so-called "sanctuary cities" like Austin, Texas, which had vowed to push back against Trump's anti-immigrant actions.

Emails obtained by The Intercept show ICE doing all it can to prop up Trump's "dangerous criminal" stereotyping. Unfortunately, despite all of its efforts, ICE failed to come across many dangerous criminals during its February sweeps.

On February 10, as the raids kicked off, an ICE executive in Washington sent an “URGENT” directive to the agency’s chiefs of staff around the country. “Please put together a white paper covering the three most egregious cases,” for each location, the acting chief of staff of ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations wrote in the email.

Read More

[Not Our Base] Racist House Republicans Warn Congress Not To “Bail Out” Puerto Rico

The Intercept

Nestled in the $36.5 billion disaster relief package the House of Representatives approved Thursday is $5 billion specifically for Puerto Rico to maintain basic government function after being devastated by two hurricanes, as economic activity on the island has come to a near standstill, and tax revenue collection is close to nonexistent.

That the aid has come in the form of a loan rather than a grant has been galling to defenders of Puerto Rico. But House Republicans argue it would be unfair to just “bail out” the island, including House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows who said that a grant Puerto Rico would be unfair to states that have been “fiscally responsible.”

“It’s somebody’s money,” Meadows told The Intercept after a House vote on the aid package this week. “It’s different if you could just print money and it didn’t come out of my pocket or your pocket. It comes out of the American taxpayer’s pocket…for them to suggest that it’s fair, for someone in another state to put forth money that is not just directed at relief, to bail out a government, whether it be Puerto Rico or Illinois or some other state, is not fair for a state that’s been fiscally responsible and with their taxpayers, versus one that hasn’t.”

Setting aside how appropriate the metaphor of a bailout is when Puerto Rico is still literally bailing itself out from catastrophic flooding, comparing Puerto Rico to a state has its own level of unfairness to it.

Puerto Rico is not a state, even though it is controlled by the United States and its residents are American citizens. The island’s financial troubles — the ones Meadows and others in Congress use to make the case for holding back aid — stem from an act of Congress itself. In 1996, Congress began phasing out Section 936, a tax break that lured manufacturers to the island. With no clout in Congress, Puerto Rican politicians were powerless to protect it. And, indeed, some on the island hoped that phasing out the tax break would bring the island closer to statehood.

That hasn’t happened, but the predicted financial devastation did arrive, leading to surging unemployment, stagnation and the fiscal crisis the island faced ahead of the storms.

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló originally requested over $4 billion in a letter to congressional leaders over the weekend, saying that in addition to its “immediate humanitarian crisis” the island is “on the brink of a massive liquidity crisis that will intensify in the immediate future.”

When asked why Puerto Ricans should have to repay part of their disaster relief funding, Meadows responded that a grant would never get paid back and though it’s likely a loan won’t get paid back either, a loan is what’s appropriate for a government already overburdened with debt.  

“A grant would just be money that would never get repaid,” Meadows said. “I don’t know that a loan will get repaid based on their financial conditions…and so that should be a loan because you’ve got a government that’s overburdened with debt already and so it was a temporary relief measure to make sure that they can make payroll for their government employees.”

Republicans recognize that Puerto Rico isn’t in a position to pay back debt but maintain that it’s the island’s responsibility to handle their debt. “We need to make sure Puerto Rico can stand on its own two feet,” House Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters.

“When you get yourself in debt you’ve got to find yourself a way to get out of it,” Republican Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., said. “But hurricane relief is a different story. We owe them help…I think there’s a lot more good in this bill than bad. Having said that, I share some concerns when someone gets themselves in debt, I don’t like putting that debt on someone else so I think there’s some legitimate concerns there.”

Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego of Arizona called the loan “ridiculous,” saying that the opportunity should be used to “give them the full relief” but still doesn’t consider funding to be the biggest issue at hand.

“More importantly, I’m glad that we’re getting money back to Puerto Rico but the bigger issue of Puerto Rico is the current mess that FEMA and the Department of Defense have done to the island by not being quickly responsive,” Gallego said. “That has nothing to do with funding or the aid bill, that has to do with them being bad managers.”

Hurricane Maria destroyed the island’s infrastructure, including its electrical and telecommunications systems, which has led to damage assessments in the range of $95 billion, Rosselló said. Only 17 percent of electricity has been restored and as of Friday about 63 percent of residents have access to drinking water, according to, a site the Puerto Rican government created to provide recovery updates. Few businesses have reopened and the ones that have are only operating at minimal levels. Without the loan, Puerto Rico could run out of money as early as this month.  

The relief bill also includes $18.67 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster relief fund, which will be shared by Florida, Texas, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, however FEMA deems appropriate. But the bill does include a single grant for Puerto Rico: $1.27 billion for “disaster nutrition assistance.”

Meanwhile, Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González-Colón, Puerto Rico’s sole representative in Congress, didn’t get to vote on a disaster relief bill affecting her constituents.

As for the overall debt, in order to really help Puerto Rico out, Gallego said, “we should allow them to restructure their debt like anybody else and be able to get out of the situation they’re in, like any other state or municipality does it.”

And if the federal judge currently overseeing the case agrees to entirely write down Puerto Rico’s debt, Gallego says: “Fine with me.”

President Trump initially suggested last week that Puerto Rico’s overall debt should be wiped out completely and Steny Hoyer, the second-ranking Democrat in the House, said he agrees.

“And what the president said, is that we need to make sure Puerto Rico is on a fiscally stable path,” Hoyer told reporters on Tuesday. “I agree with that, I don’t know exactly what he meant by that, but I agree with that, so that’s what we’ll try to do.”

Top photo: People walk across a flooded street in Juana Matos, Puerto Rico, on September 21, 2017 as the country faced dangerous flooding and an island-wide power outage following Hurricane Maria.

Larry Flynt offering a $10 million reward for information that could lead to the impeachment of Trump

The Hill

Hustler Magazine founder Larry Flynt is reportedly offering a $10 million reward for information that could lead to the impeachment of President Trump.

Fox Business anchor Liz Claman tweeted an image of a full-page advertisement from Flynt that offered the reward. Flynt later retweeted that tweet on his own Twitter account.

In the ad, Flynt calls Trump an “illegitimate” president who “was installed only by the quirks of our antiquated Electoral College.”

Flynt cites several reasons he believes Trump should be impeached in the ad, including Trump’s firing of former FBI Director James Comey and his withdrawal of the United States from the Paris climate change agreement.

The adult magazine founder also ripped Trump for his “unconscionable defense of the KKK and neo-Nazis after the Charlottesville riots” and argued that Trump’s “worrisome” ability to “trigger a nuclear world war” is one of the more “horrifying” reasons Trump should be impeached.

Greg Palast: I went to school with the Vegas shooter

Greg Palast

[Los Angeles] When we were at Francis Polytechnic High in Sun Valley, Steve Paddock and I were required to take electrical shop class. At Poly and our junior high, we were required to take metal shop so we could work the drill presses at the GM plant. We took drafting. Drafting like in "blueprint drawing."

Paddock. Palast. We sat next to each other at those drafting tables with our triangular rulers and #2 pencils so we could get jobs at Lockheed as draftsmen drawing blueprints of fighter jets. Or do tool-and-dye cutting to make refrigerator handles at GM where they assembled Frigidaire refrigerators and Chevys.

But we weren’t going to fly the fighter jets. Somewhere at Phillips Andover Academy, a dumbbell with an oil well for a daddy was going to go to Yale and then fly our fighter jets over Texas. We weren’t going to go to Yale. We were going to go to Vietnam. Then, when we came back, if we still had two hands, we went to GM or Lockheed.

(It’s no coincidence that much of the student population at our school was Hispanic.)

But if you went to "Bevvie" - Beverly Hills High - or Hollywood High, you didn’t take metal shop. You took Advanced Placement French. You took Advanced Placement Calculus. We didn’t have Advanced Placement French. We didn’t have French anything. We weren’t Placed, and we didn’t Advance.

Steve was a math wizard. He should have gone to UCLA, to Stanford. But our classes didn’t qualify him for anything other than LA Valley College and Cal State Northridge. Any dumbbell could get in. And it was nearly free. That’s where Steve was expected to go, and he went with his big math-whiz brain. And then Steve went to Lockheed, like we were supposed to. Until Lockheed shut down plants in 1988. Steve left, took the buy-out.

And after NAFTA, GM closed too.

Land of Opportunity? Well, tell me: who gets those opportunities?

Some of you can and some of you can’t imagine a life where you just weren’t give a fair chance. Where the smarter you are, the more painful it gets, because you have your face pressed against the window, watching THEM. THEY got the connections to Stanford. THEY get the gold mine. WE get the shaft.

This is where Paddock and Palast were bred: Sun Valley, the anus of Los Angeles. Literally. It’s where the sewerage plant is. It’s in a trench below the Hollywood Hills, where the smog settles into a kind of puke yellow soup. Here’s where LA dumps its urine and the losers they only remember when they need cheap labor and cheap soldiers when the gusanos don’t supply enough from Mexico.

I’ll take you to Sun Valley. It’s in my film, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy. In the movie, a kind of dream scene, the actress Shailene Woodley takes me back to my family’s old busted home in the weeds and then down San Fernando Road, near Steve's place. Take a look, America. Along the tracks that once led in to the GM plant, you see a bunch of campers that the union men bought for vacations. Now they live in them.

No, Steve’s brain was too big to end up on the tracks. He lived in empty apartments in crappy buildings he bought, then in a barren tract house outside Reno. I laugh when they say he was "rich." He wanted to be THEM, to have their stuff. He got close.

It’s reported that Steve was a "professional gambler." That’s another laugh. He was addicted to numbing his big brain by sitting 14 hours a day in the dark in front of video poker machines. He was a loser. Have you ever met a gambler who said they were a Professional Loser?

It’s fair to ask me: Why didn’t I end up in a hotel room with a bump-stock AR-15 and 5,000 rounds of high velocity bullets?

Because I have a job, a career, an OBSESSION: to hunt down THEM, the daddy-pampered pricks who did this to us, the grinning billionaire jackals that make a profit off the slow decomposition of the lives I grew up with.

But I’m telling you, that I know it’s a very fine line, and lots of crazy luck, that divided my path from Paddock’s.

Dear Reader: The publication that pulled this story at the last moment was plain scared — that they’d be accused of approving murder.

Paddock slaughtered good people, coldly, with intense cruelty, destroying lives and hundreds of families forever. If you think I’m making up some excuse for him, then I give up.

But also this: The editor of the Beverly Hills-based publication, a Stanford grad, could not understand that, just like veterans of the Vietnam war who suffer from PTSD even today, so too, losers of the class war can be driven mad by a PTSD that lingers, that gnaws away, their whole lives.

What happens to a dream deferred? Does it ...fester like a sore? Does it stink like rotten meat? a heavy load?

Or does it explode?

Steve, you created more horrors than your cornered life could ever justify.

But, I just have to tell you, Steve: I get it.

Black man claims he was beaten & called Nigger by Cops in Brooklyn Stationhouse After Dropping Off Child

From [HERE] A Black man is suing the city and several police officers, saying he was beaten and taunted with a racial slur in a Brooklyn stationhouse — moments after his young daughter left his side.

Lansford Watson's civil rights suit, filed Tuesday, claimed one cop called him nigger while another pointed a gun at him during a "brutal and unwarranted assault."

The trouble started on Jan. 22, after Watson dropped off his 7-year-old for an arranged visit with her mother at the 71st precinct in Crown Heights.

According to the lawsuit, an officer approached the girl and stretched out his hand. Watson said he rebuffed the cop so he could spend a few more moments with his daughter.

When the child was finally led off, Watson said multiple officers surrounded him, ordered him to leave and pushed him through double doors into a wall. Watson claimed he was punched in the body and head by at least two officers.

"One of the officers punching the plaintiff remarked 'f-----g n----r, what are you going to do now,’" the lawsuit alleged.

Watson said he dropped to his knees when another officer’s gun "trained on" him. He said he was cuffed behind his back and tossed into a cell.

The lawsuit also claims he was falsely arrested for assault, obstruction, disorderly conduct, harassment and child endangerment. The charges were dropped July 28.

A Law Department spokesman said city lawyers would "review the claims and respond accordingly."

Watson and his lawyer could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

White restaurant manager enslaved disabled black man for years, federal prosecutors say

From [HERE] A white restaurant manager accused of enslaving and abusing a mentally disabled black man has been indicted by a federal grand jury in South Carolina on a charge of forced labor.

Federal prosecutors say Bobby Paul Edwards used “force, threats of force, physical restraint, and coercion” to compel John Christopher Smith to work as a buffet cook at J&J Cafeteria in Conway, S.C., for more than five years.

Edwards, 52, was arrested this week and pleaded not guilty in open court on Wednesday, shortly after prosecutors announced the indictment, records show.

The full title of the charge is “attempt to establish peonage, slavery, involuntary servitude or human trafficking.” It carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and $250,000 in fines. If convicted, Edwards will have to pay restitution to Smith.

Edwards’s attorney Scott Bellamy didn’t immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

Though the indictment was unsealed, it remained inaccessible to the public as of Thursday morning. But details about Smith’s alleged enslavement were documented in a federal lawsuit civil attorneys filed on his behalf in late 2015.

Smith, a 39-year-old with a mild cognitive disability, had worked for more than two decades without issue at the J&J Cafeteria, washing dishes, busing tables and later cooking food at the folksy small town diner. But when Edwards took over as manager in 2010, Smith said, the job turned into a nightmare.

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Organizers behind armed Neo-Nazi Anti-Islamic protest in Houston revealed as Russian

From [HERE] Last May, nearly 100 demonstrators gathered around the Islamic Da’wah Center in downtown Houston, squaring off against one another in competing camps.

The “Stop Islamization of Texas” protest was, on its face, largely similar to any number of other tense, vitriolic demonstrations that percolated through 2016. On the one end: a crew carrying Confederate flags, #WhiteLivesMatter banners, and heavy weaponry. On the other: counter-protesters with signs decrying Islamophobia, calling for communal unity, and a bubble machine going at full blast.

Despite the presence of AR-15s, the demonstrations ended without violence. The white supremacists screaming “Fascist and proud!” dissipated, as did those supporting the Islamic center.

The organizers behind the anti-Islam protesters, however, never showed. And now, over 16 months later, we know why.

As CNN reported last week, the protest was put together by the “Heart of Texas” Facebook page – a page that was revealed last month as one of the fake accounts operated out of Russia. Unlike the November anti-Hillary Clinton, pro-secession rallies the page attempted to organize across Texas, the May protest not only brought armed protesters, but a raft of counter-protesters to face down those calling for “white power!”

At the time, there was little to differentiate the “Stop Islamization of Texas” protest from the other Islamophobic protests wracking the state, especially in Dallas. “I figured it was the same manifestation of what was happening in Dallas,” Ramon Mejia, of About Face: Veterans Against the War, told ThinkProgress.

Indeed, until CNN’s revelations, there was little to suspect that the protest wasn’t organically homegrown. After all, Donald Trump’s presidential campaign helped generate a greater Islamophobic tail-wind than any campaign prior – and given that people like Aryan Renaissance Society National Director Ken Reed showed up at the Houston protest, claiming the U.S. is “being threatened by the influx of Islam,” the protest clearly carried a distinctly American flavor.

But the revelations point to an even darker reality than the protest itself unveiled. Not only did the “Heart of Texas” page call – successfully – for protesters to bring firearms (“concealed or not!”) but Russian operatives were able to convince armed white supremacists to congregate in downtown Houston, facing off with dozens opposed to their message. Given recent events in Charlottesville, the fact that Russian operatives organized rifle-toting white nationalists into a confrontation with counter-protesters should give pause to politicians on both sides of the aisle – all the more as one of the comments on the “Heart of Texas” page called to “blow … up” the Islamic center.

“What’s relevant about the Russia thing is it absolutely validates the concern that people have that the Russians were putting out completely fabricated stories,” Faisal Shah, a lawyer for the Islamic center, told ThinkProgress. Or as Mustafaa Carroll, executive director of CAIR Texas, told Houston’s ABC affiliate, “This stuff where we see the Russians instigating – you know, that’s crazy.”

Despite the new disclosures about the “Heart of Texas” group, questions remain. For instance, an Instagram page, which posts identical material to the “Heart of Texas” page, went live just as the Russian-linked Facebook pages were taken down. Representatives from Facebook didn’t respond to queries about the Instagram account – which mirrors other Instagram accounts already removed – and questions sent to the account went unanswered.

Likewise, the Islamic Da’wah Center wasn’t exactly a well-known organization, at least internationally – which raises questions about how the “Heart of Texas” page found out about the center in the first place.

“What’s kind of remarkable is that a Russian agent would be burrowing down that deep in the weeds to find a story that’s that local, and cooking up something, fabricating something, at such a small picture, such a detailed picture,” Shah added. “It really gives an indication of the extent to which there must be a major Russian apparatus, that they’re willing to put the kind of resources to drill down that deep. So I’m actually kind of fascinated by just the depth of fake news.”

While Texas secessionists from the Texas Nationalist Movement have made multiple trips to Moscow over the past few years, attending meetings organized by a Kremlin-funded group, they have denied coordinating with the “Heart of Texas” Facebook page.

As with racial tensions and gun rights, the “Stop Islamization of Texas” protest appears the latest indication of Russian operatives targeting socio-political divides in the U.S. However, it also highlights that these tensions were extant prior – and that the protest, despite non-American organization, only pointed to the issues already at play.

“Off-the-cuff, my reaction is it doesn’t make me feel any better that the group was started in Russia, or in Timbuktu, because at the end of the day the problem is that there’s an element of society, unfortunately, that grabbed onto it,” Shah said.

Mejia, one of the counter-protesters, agreed, especially as it pertains to Islamophobic elements in the U.S. “Islamophobia and anti-Muslim bigotry exist in the U.S.,” he added. “The fact that someone outside of the country was able to capitalize on it shows what a real issue this is and the real harm present for Muslim communities with or without outside intervention.”

North Carolina gerrymandering bill pits black judges against other incumbents

From [HERE] While the North Carolina legislature is working under a tight deadline to redraw election districts that courts have struck down for discriminating against black voters, it also made time to pass a measure to gerrymander state trial courts. The bill could result in a dramatic reduction in the number of African-American judges and other judges of color.

The North Carolina House of Representatives passed a bill today that would redraw the boundaries of the state’s court districts, over the objection of judges and other stakeholders. Rep. Marcia Morey (D), a former judge, said at a North Carolina General Assembly session on Wednesday that this bill is part of the legislature’s “systematic attack on our independent judiciary.”

Jim Blaine, an aide and “right hand man” to the president of the state senate, told judges in August that the goal of the bill is to get more Republican judges on the bench.

Since November 2016, when voters chose a new liberal majority on the North Carolina Supreme Court, the legislature has considered proposals to limit the governor’s authority to appoint judges, make judicial elections partisan, pack the state supreme court, and “unpack” the court of appeals to preserve the conservative majority. These attacks occurred as the state and federal courts began standing in the way of the legislature’s agenda by protecting voting rights.

The sponsor of the bill, Rep. Justin Burr (R), was criticized for initially trying to rush judicial redistricting through the legislature, and he has since toured the state to solicit feedback on the proposal. Judges across the state have spoken out against the changes. The North Carolina Courts Commission last week asked the legislature to postpone the changes, and several judges warned that the redistricting would cause disruption that would harm the citizens relying on the courts.

Many critics of the proposal, including judges, have expressed concerns about the impact on judicial diversity. An analysis by NC Policy Watch reported that judges of color on the district courts are more likely to be “double bunked,” meaning that they are in a new district with another incumbent. The analysis found that 10 of the 12 districts that double-bunk judges are “majority Democrat,” and more than half of all judges of color are pitted against another incumbent.

“This craven attack on our courts illustrates how far an illegally-gerrymandered legislature will go to maintain power and influence,” Melissa Price Kromm, director of North Carolina Voters for Clean Elections, told ThinkProgress.

“The same legislators that have gerrymandered themselves into safe districts are now trying to eliminate the opportunity for voters to make their voices heard in the judicial branch,” she added. Kromm participated in a march to the legislature on Wednesday to oppose judicial gerrymandering.

Jim Blaine, an aide and “right hand man” to the president of the state senate, told judges in August that the goal of the bill is to get more Republican judges on the bench.

Since November 2016, when voters chose a new liberal majority on the North Carolina Supreme Court, the legislature has considered proposals to limit the governor’s authority to appoint judges, make judicial elections partisan, pack the state supreme court, and “unpack” the court of appeals to preserve the conservative majority. These attacks occurred as the state and federal courts began standing in the way of the legislature’s agenda by protecting voting rights.

The sponsor of the bill, Rep. Justin Burr (R), was criticized for initially trying to rush judicial redistricting through the legislature, and he has since toured the state to solicit feedback on the proposal. Judges across the state have spoken out against the changes. The North Carolina Courts Commission last week asked the legislature to postpone the changes, and several judges warned that the redistricting would cause disruption that would harm the citizens relying on the courts.

Many critics of the proposal, including judges, have expressed concerns about the impact on judicial diversity. An analysis by NC Policy Watch reported that judges of color on the district courts are more likely to be “double bunked,” meaning that they are in a new district with another incumbent. The analysis found that 10 of the 12 districts that double-bunk judges are “majority Democrat,” and more than half of all judges of color are pitted against another incumbent.

“This craven attack on our courts illustrates how far an illegally-gerrymandered legislature will go to maintain power and influence,” Melissa Price Kromm, director of North Carolina Voters for Clean Elections, told ThinkProgress.

“The same legislators that have gerrymandered themselves into safe districts are now trying to eliminate the opportunity for voters to make their voices heard in the judicial branch,” she added. Kromm participated in a march to the legislature on Wednesday to oppose judicial gerrymandering.

The bill is the latest of many other changes the legislature has made to the courts that could inhibit diversity on the bench. A 2013 bill ended the state’s widely-respected public financing program for judicial elections. The program — supported by judges on both sides of the aisle — offered candidates for appellate courts several hundred thousand dollars for their campaigns, if they qualified by raising a certain number of small contributions. These programs can help diverse candidates, who often lack connections to networks of wealthy campaign donors, win elections. Democracy North Carolina, an organization seeking to increase voter participation, noted that in 2011, all of the female and black appellate judges in the state had been elected with public financing.

To allow more time to reorganize judicial election districts, the legislature is also considering a bill to cancel the 2018 primary elections for North Carolina judges, as well as a bill to end judicial elections altogether and allow the legislature to appoint judges.

“Eliminating primaries for judicial elections in 2018 is about buying more time to figure out how to agree on either new and gerrymandered judicial maps or some other plan like merit selection,” Rob Schofield, policy analyst for NC Policy Watch, told the Winston-Salem Journal.

Kromm criticized the bill. “You can’t eliminate an election to grease the wheels of partisan politics,” she said.

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries: Trump is a 'racial arsonist' but not a racist

From [HERE] Rep. Hakeem Jeffries says that Donald Trump's response to the violent protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, led many Americans "to conclude that the President of the United States chose to pull the sheets off and reveal himself."

The Democratic congressman from New York made the remark Monday in an interview with Wolf Blitzer on CNN's "The Situation Room."

Jeffries was asked by Blitzer to compare the President's reaction to NFL players protesting racial injustice with Trump's response after a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville last month led to clashes and a death.

"(Trump's) reaction to Charlottesville was clearly inadequate, unacceptable, inappropriate, and for many people throughout America, led them to conclude that the President of the United States chose to pull the sheets off and reveal himself, in terms of his tendency to be a racial arsonist, fanning the flames of hatred," Jeffries said.

Jeffries told Blitzer that he doesn't believe all of Trump's supporters are racist. "That is not the case, but his behavior is deeply troubling to Americans of all race and religious backgrounds who believe in the values of tolerance, decency and diversity," Jeffries said.

"Are you suggesting he's a racist?" Blitzer asked.

"No," Jeffries said, "He's a racial arsonist. He uses race to advance his own ends -- that's troubling."

In August, Trump said that "both sides" shared blame for the violent protest in Charlottesville that left counterprotester Heather Heyer dead.

"In that context (Trump) suggested there was violence on 'all sides,' when we understand it was neo-Nazis, it was the KKK who were responsible for the loss of life of one courageous American and the damage that was done to so many others," Jeffries said.

Blitzer asked Jeffries to clarify his "pull the sheets off" comment, an apparent reference to Ku Klux Klan regalia.

Jeffries replied: "Time and time again, (Trump) has refused to distance himself from individuals like David Duke -- an avowed white supremacist -- as well as others, for reasons that many of us can't figure out."

"We know that Donald Trump has a history of fanning the flames of racial hatred using stereotypes to advance his own personal and political agenda. For five years, he perpetrated the racist lie that Barack Obama was not born in the United Stated of America and then rode that lie into the White House, which is why we're all being subjected to what we're dealing with right now," Jeffries said.

Regarding Trump's statements about players taking a knee or otherwise protesting during the national anthem, Jeffries said, "It's in this atmosphere that we find it troubling, with all that's happening in the world and in the country, Donald Trump would choose to go after a few black athletes in the NBA and the NFL."

Kansas inmate says prison force-fed Christianity to prisoners, lawsuit claims


Church and state are too cozy at the Topeka Correctional Facility, according to a convicted murderer who has spent the past 23 years inside Kansas’s prison system.

Shari Webber-Dunn — who in 1994 was handed a 40-year-minimum prison sentence for her role in the murder of her estranged husband — claims in a federal lawsuit filed last week that inmates at Kansas’s only women’s prison are subjected to an endless profusion of Christian imagery and propaganda, from the material posted on bulletin boards to the movies played in the common room.

The net effect, Webber-Dunn claims, adds up to an institutional message “imposing Christian beliefs on inmates” in a clear violation of the U.S. Constitution. The lawsuit argues the prison has created a “coercive atmosphere where inmates are pressured to spend their time in a high religious atmosphere and to participate in religious activities and prayers, thus violating the establishment clause.”

Webber-Dunn’s case is being brought by the American Humanist Association, a D.C.-based organization that says it has 34,000 members nationally and is geared toward “advancing and preserving separation of church and state and the constitutional rights of humanists, atheists, and other freethinkers.” According to the legal complaint, the inmate identifies herself as a practitioner of Thelema, a religious sect rooted in the writings of early-20th-century mystic Aleister Crowley. [MORE]