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What’s so special about ‘religious belief’?

A sign explains the local state of emergency because of a measles outbreak at the Rockland County Health Department in Pomona, N.Y., in March....

Waxahachie Global High students ‘go global’ with early college admissions, scholarships

Boasting a record of academic achievement, Waxahachie Global High School proudly announced three seniors received early college admissions and scholarships worth thousands of dollars....

Florida woman goes all out in baby shoot with dissertation after...

Anyone would expect a baby reveal photoshoot to be of a real baby, but a Florida woman put her own spin to maternal baby...

Color of Change demands Comcast withdraw its Supreme Court challenge to...

Color of Change is going after Comcast NBCUniversal for petitioning the Supreme Court to challenge the integrity of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, our oldest civil rights statute. (Color of Change logo) (Image by John Hain from Pixabay)One of the country’s most premiere civil rights advocacy organizations is chiming in on the fight to protect a civil rights laws that came into existence as a result of the end of slavery. Color of Change, founded in 2005, has issued a petition asking the public to push Comcast NBC Universal to withdraw its Supreme Court challenge to the Civil Rights Act of 1866.READ MORE: Exclusive: Buttigieg on Byron Allen’s Comcast case “It matters whose running the DOJ”The media company has been in litigation with Entertainment Studios and its CEO, billionaire Byron Allen regarding alleged racial discriminatory business practices, designed to exclude people of color from economic parity.READ MORE: NAACP blasts Comcast and DOJ for attacking civil rights protections for Black peopleImmediately after slavery, to combat the emerging “Black Codes,” the national government took steps to ensure that former slaves (now citizens) and their children would be able to participate in the liberties that any white citizens enjoy. This would be the origins of The Civil Rights Act of 1866, laws that continue to protect Blacks to this day in business, real estate and various other ways.The nonprofit suggests that if the public does not raise their voice in protest, many would lose the protection that are currently afforded to Black people in business matters.The petition reads:“Such a decision would strike down centuries of civil rights progress. Without this landmark legislation, grounds of racial discrimination in business matters will be lost in legal technicalities, causing tremendous harm to Black people, Black businesses, and Black economic equality.”Color of Change is going after Comcast NBCUniversal for petitioning the Supreme Court to challenge the integrity of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, our oldest civil rights statute. (Color of Change logo)“Comcast is standing on the wrong side of history and siding with a Department of Justice that has been openly hostile toward the civil rights of Black people. Black people already face extensive barriers in accessing justice and economic equality in this country, and this petition would serve only to let corporations off the hook for their discriminatory practices.”READ MORE: Killer Mike demands Black people stand with Byron Allen in discrimination fight against Comcast going to the Supreme CourtColor of Change would be one of many voices feverishly working to bring awareness to this important move against racial equality. Others included the Los Angeles Urban League , the NAACP , rapper Killer Mike and Berkeley College constitutional law expert, Erwin Chemerinsky.If you are interested in supporting this fight to protect the country’s oldest civil rights statute, sign the Color of Change petition here.  

Police Crack Down on Vaping, Surfacing Stockpiles of Illicit Cartridges

The tip came to Minnesota police officers in July via a confidential informant: In a suburb in Anoka County, the informant said, a man had been quietly selling thousands of vaping cartridges laced with marijuana from his home.When authorities entered the man’s condominium last week, they found a staggeringly large stash of vaping cartridges, believed to be one of the biggest busts in the country. Close to 29,000 cartridges were tucked away inside a Cadillac Escalade. Another 30,000 were stacked in a garage. Some were packaged in black boxes with colorful lettering, cheerful images of Fred Flintstone and names of candylike flavors like mai tai, strawberry shortcake and Fruity Pebbles.They were the sorts of vaping products that have been identified as possible culprits in a perplexing lung illness that has sickened at least 800 people across the country and killed at least 16.As health officials grapple with a public health crisis they are struggling to understand, police departments are in the midst of a swift crackdown on vaping products containing THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. In the Phoenix area, authorities recently raided three homes over eight days, seizing hundreds of THC cartridges at each. In Wisconsin, detectives arrested two young brothers accused of running a large-scale THC cartridge assembly operation inside a condo. And in Nebraska, sheriff’s deputies found a stash of cartridges in a car parked at a truck stop.Until recently, some police departments busy fighting a national opioid epidemic had considered illegal vaping products a nuisance, but not a lethal threat. Police departments had taken small steps to root out illegal cartridges, but as more teenagers and young adults have begun vaping THC, sometimes with deadly consequences, authorities say they are now paying close attention.“It’s become an absolute priority,” said Sheriff Paul Penzone of Maricopa County, Arizona, where deputies have made undercover purchases from vaping cartridge dealers and tried to disrupt a sprawling supply chain.The effort to crack down on illicit vaping products has been laden with complications. Police say they have been stunned by the growth in popularity and variety of vaping devices. Enforcement can be difficult because vaping THC is not accompanied by the distinctive — and often incriminating — smell of marijuana. And police officers have had to learn the difference between vaping cartridges for THC, which are illegal for recreational use in most states, and devices for vaping nicotine, which are legally sold at many drugstores and gas stations.Story continuesAuthorities are also still tracing a vast and shadowy distribution network in which empty cartridges are filled with THC-laced liquid in “pen factories,” packaged with boxes available online and often shipped across state lines in trucks or rental cars.“It is something we’re trying to get our hands around,” said L.J. Fusaro, the chief of police in Groton, Connecticut, where officers confiscated 435 THC cartridges in a bust this year. “As of late, it’s really become of interest to law enforcement because of the harm that’s come to folks, particularly our youth.”In August, Illinois health officials announced the first vaping-related death in the nation. In the weeks after, more deaths in Kansas, California and Indiana were tied to the ailment, and that number has continued to grow. Illicit THC-filled vaping cartridges with labels like “Dank Vapes” could be culprits, according to health officials, but it is still unknown what is making people ill.In police circles, efforts have turned to trying to get a handle on the universe of vaping products — a wide, disparate array of sources of cartridges and a murky and fragmented distribution network for them.Law enforcement officials have found a flourishing black market of vaping cartridges that are made in small operations, often in a house or apartment. The cartridges are filled with THC oil and often diluted with substances that are dangerous to inhale, like vitamin E acetate, one of the products that health officials suspect has caused lung damage. Then they are sold on the street or online for roughly $20 each.In recent years, police have sometimes struggled to classify vaping materials in official reports and to decide which criminal charges should apply to them.“We started recognizing it as commanders from across the state were calling us, trying to figure out how to report them to us, because they didn’t fit into a category,” said Brian Marquart, the statewide gang and drug coordinator at the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.Authorities have tracked down illegal vaping operations through elaborate police investigation — but also fortuitous traffic stops.In Indiana, 50,000 cartridges worth $1 million were found on a box truck traveling from California to Indianapolis after the driver was pulled over in March for following another vehicle too closely. In Nebraska, the State Patrol has netted three seizures of illegal vaping products in recent weeks, including the discovery of thousands of THC cartridges in the bed of a white pickup truck that made an improper lane change west of Lincoln.Some boxes of cartridges have been found in plain sight — a reflection, perhaps, of the relative newness of efforts to crack down on THC cartridges and of states’ differing laws on marijuana.“It’s not like it’s unmarked and heat-sealed and hidden in a false compartment,” Capt. Jason Scott of the Nebraska State Patrol said. “It’s usually just right out in the open.”Other cases have involved lengthy and intense investigations. In the Minnesota case, an undercover officer from a drug task force bought vaping products from Valentin V. Andonii, 22, then followed him to his home, leading to the discovery of nearly 77,000 cartridges.Alyssa Jones, a lawyer for Andonii, declined to comment on two felony drug charges her client faces, each of which could carry a 30-year prison term if he is convicted.Federal officials have also targeted illegal vaping, though local and state law enforcement agencies said they have mostly been operating on their own. In Ohio, three people were indicted in May after Drug Enforcement Administration agents found thousands of THC vaping cartridges. And last year in North Carolina, federal agents arrested a man accused of selling a synthetic marijuana vaping product.The threat of THC-laced vaping cartridges still pales in comparison to the pervasive presence of opioids, which killed more than 47,000 people in overdoses in 2017. Some police departments may have been so busy battling heroin, fentanyl and other drugs that they did not view THC vaping as a threat until very recently.“Honestly, I think we kind of missed the boat a little bit because we’ve been dealing with opioids,” said Fusaro of the Groton, Connecticut, police. “In some respects, we didn’t see this coming.”In places like Phoenix, where Penzone’s deputies recently confiscated 1,100 cartridges, there is a growing sense of just how pervasive illegal vaping has become and just how hard it will be to choke off the supply.“Through e-cartridges, we now have a pathway where our children can ingest literally any drug,” Penzone said. “That creates a whole new challenge for us that we’ve never seen in the past.”This article originally appeared in The New York Times.© 2019 The New York Times Company

Lifesouth Community Blood Center Brings Awareness to Sickle Cell

Sickle Cell is a devastating disease that causes a lack of oxygen to the blood. While hundreds of blood donations in our area have helped...

Black Journalists’ scholarship winner merges two passions: research and writing

University at Buffalo freshman Gabriella S. Hall has always had a passion for writing, but while still a senior at City Honors School, she developed...

How Angola saved its former colonizer Portugal from bankruptcy in 2011

On November 11, 1975, the southern African state of Angola became independent after 14 years of armed resistance to Portuguese colonial rule. Three major movements...

College athletes in America may be allowed to profit from their...

TUNE IN TO a college football match in America, and you might think that you were watching a professional rather than an amateur sport. The biggest stadiums routinely fill over 100,000 seats. Corporate sponsorships are common. Television broadcasts are supersaturated with ads for expensive pick-up trucks and beers. All told, America’s college athletic departments brought in a combined $18.1bn of revenue in 2017, up from $9.8bn in 2007. Despite the popularity of their output, college athletes receive no remuneration. The National College Athletic Association (NCAA), which governs college sports, has long forbidden its players to receive any compensation. These ordinances have always been controversial. But after years of legal challenges and intense public scrutiny, the NCAA’s clampdown on paying jocks is at last starting to crack. Get our daily newsletter Upgrade your inbox and get our Daily Dispatch and Editor's Picks. On September 10th California passed a bill which would allow athletes at colleges in the state with lucrative sports programmes to hire agents and earn money on the side through sponsorship deals or autograph sales. The bill still needs to be signed by the governor, and would not come into effect until 2023. Similar legislation is being considered in other states and at the federal level. Some lawmakers would like to go one step further. Senator Bernie Sanders, a presidential candidate, put it plainly when he tweeted: “College athletes are workers. Pay them.” Yet treating athletes as employees could create complications. Title IX, a federal law, prevents colleges from discriminating between students by sex. Would this mean that colleges would have to pay their female basketball players as much as males, for example, even if the men bring in more revenue? Richard Borghesi, an economist at the University of South Florida-Sarasota, has written a pair of papers looking at how much top athletes would make if they were paid according to their ability to generate revenue for their colleges. In addition to ticket and merchandise sales, college athletes also play a role in soliciting donations from rich alumni. Taking these factors into account, Mr Borghesi estimates that the top 10% of football and 16% of basketball players would be paid around $400,000 and $250,000 a year respectively. The NCAA opposes California’s efforts. The association notes that college athletes already receive compensation in the form of scholarships, and argues that any further remuneration would jeopardise the integrity of what is meant to be an amateur endeavour. The NCAA has also threatened to ban Californian colleges from competing in national championships. Although the NCAA’s objections may have been valid at some point, they make little sense today. The two most lucrative college sports, American football and basketball, are highly competitive. Many universities are willing to bend over backwards to enroll talented players. And the argument that university athletics remains amateur would hardly earn passing marks in even an introductory college course. ■

Officers who killed Stephon Clark receive permission to return to duty

SACRAMENTO, CA - MARCH 26: Sequita Thompson, (C) grandmother of Stephon Clark who was shot and killed by Sacramento police, cries during a news conference with civil rights attorney Ben Crump on March 26, 2018 in Sacramento, California. The family of Stephon Clark, an unarmed black man who was shot and killed by Sacramento police officers, have hired civil rights attorney Ben Crump to represent the Clark family in a wrongful death suit against the Sacramento police department. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)In a disappointing but not surprising turn of events, the two Sacramento officers who fatally shot Stephon Clark will not face federal charges and are now free to return to duty.In a statement released Thursday, the Sacramento Police Department outlined how it had conducted what it believed to be a thorough investigation of the officer-involved shooting of an unarmed Black man that took place on March 18, 2018, and concluded that the use of deadly force in the case was lawful.READ MORE: Stephon Clark’s children awarded multi-million dollar settlement from City of SacramentoBack in March, after a nearly year-long investigation, the California attorney general’s office also declined to issue state criminal charges. At the time, Attorney General Xavier Becerra said there was significant evidence to corroborate that the officers had reason to believe their lives were in danger when Clark began advancing toward them holding what they thought to be a gun. But despite this belief, investigators only found a cellphone.“Although no policy violations occurred in this incident or in the events leading up to it, we are committed to implementing strategies that may prevent similar tragedies in the future,” Sacramento Police Chief Daniel Hahn said in a statement. “Our internal investigation concluded that there were no violations of department policy or training. The officers involved in this case will return to full, active duty.”That same day of this announced, the FBI also came to a similar decision, saying it didn’t find enough evidence to pursue federal criminal civil rights charges against the officers.READ MORE: Prosecution rests in Amber Guyger murder trial while defense team now prepares to get the former Dallas officer offREAD MORE: California governor signs ‘Stephon Clark’s Law’ changing use of deadly force by police rules for policeIn January, Clark’s family – specifically his parents, grandparents and children – filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city of Sacramento, seeking damages in excess of $20 million.The suit also names Terrence Mercadal and Jared Robinet, the two officers who gunned Clark down in his grandparents’ backyard back.“Both Officers Terrence Mercadal and Jared Robinet did not give [Clark] a verbal warning that deadly force would be used prior to shooting [Clark] multiple times, despite it being feasible to do so and they did not issue appropriate commands to [Clark)],” reads the 31-page suit filed by attorneys Dale Galipo, Brian Panish and Ben Crump.Thursday, Clark’s brother, Stevante Clark, posted on Facebook that he was in a meeting with federal and local authorities, stating, “These people have failed when it comes to (accountability).”

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