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First Lady Michelle Obama: 'The Blood of Africa Runs Through My Veins'

First Lady Michelle Obama
by Zenitha Prince

(TriceEdney) - Michelle Obama engaged in some “real talk” on the issue of female education at the Summit of the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders July 30. “As an African American woman, this conversation is deeply personal to me,” Obama said. Citing her ancestry and her husband, President Barack Obama’s close ties to Kenya, where his father and other family are from, the first lady added, “The roots of my family tree are in Africa . . . . The blood of Africa runs through my veins, and I care deeply about Africa’s future.”

Obama referenced some “heartbreaking” statistics on the issue of girls’ education: 62 million girls worldwide are not in school, including nearly 30 million girls in Sub-Saharan Africa. And even for those girls who get the chance to attend school, they do so at their peril. This was made clear recently in Pakistan, where Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head by Taliban gunmen, and in Nigeria where more than 300 girls were kidnapped from their school dormitory by Islamist terrorists. In fact, according to a 2014 report from the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack, the desire to block girls from being educated is one of the leading reasons behind attacks on schools worldwide.

Obama said most of the solutions to this undermining of girls’ education have focused on resources – more schools, teachers, better infrastructure, etc. – but a key component has been overlooked. “I could give a perfectly fine speech today about increasing investments in girls’ education around the world,” the first lady said. “But I said I wanted to be honest. And if I do that, we all know that the problem here isn’t only about resources, it’s also about attitudes and beliefs. It’s about whether fathers and mothers think their daughters are as worthy of an education as their sons. It’s about whether societies cling to outdated laws and traditions that oppress and exclude women, or whether they view women as full citizens entitled to fundamental rights.”

Michelle ObamaFirst lady Michelle Obama speaks to participants of the Presidential Summit for the Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders in Washington, Wednesday, July 30, 2014.

Obama urged the young African leaders to advocate on behalf of women and to challenge practices such as female genital mutilation, forced child marriages, human trafficking, rape and domestic violence. “While I have great respect for cultural differences, I think we can all agree that [these] practices . . . are not legitimate cultural practices, they are serious human rights violations and have no place in any country on this Earth,” she said, eliciting applause. “These practices have no place in our shared future, because we all know that our future lies in our people – in their talent, their ambition, their drive. And no country can ever truly flourish if it stifles the potential of its women and deprives itself of the contributions of half of its citizens.”

The Obama administration last month launched an initiative, Let Girls Learn; led by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), that committed $230 million for new programs to support education around the world. Several of Hollywood’s biggest actors, singers and athletes also got behind the project, appearing in an online PSA that offers examples of how girls’ education benefits society. “A threat to girls’ education anywhere is a threat to progress everywhere,” “Modern Family” star Julie Bowen said in the two-minute video.

Obama also used her life as an example of the things that are possible when women are treated as equals and supported by the males in society. “See, what I want you all to understand is that I am who I am today because of the people in my family – particularly the men in my family – who valued me and invested in me from the day I was born,” she said.

“My ancestors came here in chains. My parents and grandparents knew the sting of segregation and discrimination. Yet I attended some of the best universities in this country. I had career opportunities beyond my wildest dreams. And today, I live in the White House, a building . . . that was constructed by slaves,” Obama later added. “Today, I watch my daughters – two beautiful African-American girls – walking our dogs in the shadow of the Oval Office. And today, I have the privilege of serving and representing the United States of America across the globe.

“So my story and the story of my country is the story of the impossible getting done. And I know that can be your story and that can be Africa’s story too.”

Report: Voting Rights Discrimination Alive and Well Nationwide

Voters displaying voting rights posters
By Zenitha Prince

(TriceEdney) - Forty-nine years after the signing of the Voting Rights Act and one year after the Supreme Court’s Shelby County v. Holder decision gutted a vital protection of that act, a new report from the National Commission on Voting Rights found frequent and ongoing voting rights discrimination.

The high court’s decision in Shelby invalidated Sections 4 and 5 of the Voting Rights Act, or VRA, sections which required federal approval of election law changes in certain jurisdictions with a history of discrimination. That decision does not reflect the reality at the ballot box, voting advocates said.

“It (the report) challenges the Supreme Court’s rationale in the Shelby case that improvements in minority citizens’ rate of voting and registration and the success of minority candidates indicated that the coverage formula for protecting minority voters was unconstitutionally outdated,” Barbara Arnwine, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the lead organization supporting the commission, said during a press call Aug. 6.

“The findings actually show that contrary to the Court’s assertions, voting discrimination is still rampant, and that the states and localities previously covered by Sections 4 and 5, the VRA provision struck down by the Court, continue to implement voting laws and procedures that disproportionately affect African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans and Native Americans,” she said.

The report, “Protecting Minority Voters: Our Work Is Not Done” examined the record of voting rights enforcement and elections laws in the U.S. since 1995.

In that time, the report found:

•There were at least 332 successful voting rights lawsuits and denials of Section 5 preclearance by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and another 10 non-litigation settlements from 1995 through 2013.

•Discriminatory redistricting plans and at-large elections were the most common forms of discrimination, prompting the most successful lawsuits under Section 2 of the VRA. However, there were also 48 successful lawsuits and 10 non-litigation settlements relating to language translation and assistance.

•States in the South and Southwest that were previously covered under Section 5 had the worst records of blocking free access to the ballot box, with Texas, Louisiana, South Carolina and Georgia ranking as the most frequent and egregious offenders. In fact, 72 percent of successful Section 2 claims were in jurisdictions previously covered by Section 5, Arnwine said.

The Commission was formed in 2013 in response to the Supreme Court’s ruling in Shelby, just as previous iterations of the Commission were pulled together to amass a record on voting rights that helped Congress in its reauthorizations of the VRA.

“The new reconstituted commission took up the charge from the Supreme Court that we need to look at the current data to [recalibrate] the current need for the Voting Rights Act and Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act,” said Marcia Johnson-Blanco, co-director of the Lawyers’ Committee’s Voting Rights Project.

The commission, comprised of The Lawyers’ Committee and more than a dozen other partners, conducted 25 regional and state-based hearings between June 2013 and May. Almost 500 witnesses testified at the hearings on matters related to racial voting discrimination and election administration issues.

The report highlights those testimonies, analyses restrictive state voting laws and practices that make it harder for minorities to vote and even assesses the impact Shelby has had on protecting voting rights.

For example, the report notes, due to Shelby, the Justice Department is no longer deploying federal observers to monitor elections in formerly covered states. The federal observer program provided an important deterrence against voter discrimination with 10,702 observers deployed from 1995 to 2012.

National Commission on Voting Rights members hoped their report will inform legislative and other actions to restore the VRA.

“I believe that the report that we are releasing today provides clear evidence of the continued need for strong voting rights legislation to protect the rights of all Americans to cast a free and unfettered ballot,” said NAACP Vice Chair Leon Russell, a National Commission on Voting Rights commissioner. “These efforts are current and ongoing.”

U. S. Media Fall Short in Covering African Summitt

By George White News Analysis

(TriceEdney) – For decades, the mainstream American media has depicted Africa as a tortured continent beset by disease, famine and poverty. That image hasn’t changed despite dramatic changes sweeping the region – rapid economic growth, cutting-edge innovation and shifting perceptions of Africa in the rest of the world.

For the Obama Administration and the African Union (AU), a coalition of 54 states on the continent, the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, D.C. last week was an opportunity to help expand the narrative beyond the story of American aid, to reflect the current opportunities of investment and trade.

Journalists from around the world assembled in the nation’s capital to hear the opportunity stories. Among the American-based news media, it was those either managed by nonprofits or owned by African Americans or African immigrants that proved the best at providing context as well as coverage.

Consider this excerpt from a report on Aug. 4, the first day of the week-long summit, in Mshale, a Minneapolis-based news outlet founded by a Kenyan immigrant.

“White House officials say the American interests in Africa are immense. The continent is home to some of the world’s fastest growing economies and a rapidly expanding middle class. The U.S. is also competing for those consumers with China, which surpassed the United States in 2009 as Africa’s largest trading partner.”

However, the Mshale report also noted that it would be difficult for the mainstream American media to establish a new narrative on Africa, as long as global headlines are dominated by news from other regions.

“Even as Obama immerses himself in talks on regional security, democracy building and business investment in Africa, the world’s attention – and much of his own – will be on an extraordinary array of urgent overseas crises. Among them: Gaza clashes, Russia’s provocation in Ukraine and mounting extremism in Iraq, to name just a few.”

That point was observed by Uchenna Ekwo, a Nigerian journalist working in the U.S. for a non-profit organization. In a column, he concluded that a more expansive Africa narrative “is not important to Western media” after witnessing President Obama and reporters at a press conference that was designed to highlight the achievements of the summit. During the question and answer session, Obama called on reporters from the Associated Press, ABC News, Bloomberg, NBC News and the Nairobi-based The Standard.

“In the end,” Ekwo noted, “only one question by Nairobi’s Standard newspaper specifically referenced Africa and the Summit that necessitated the press conference in the first place... Nothing exemplifies the ignominy of Africa in international policy agenda than for the president of the United States to hold a press conference to discuss the outcome of a three day summit that literally uprooted Africa to Washington D.C., only for reporters to divert the attention of the president to other issues.”

Meanwhile, African-American media focused on trade and investment opportunities on the continent. The Washington Informer, for example, produced an article that quoted U.S. Rep. Karen Bass, a stalwart supporter of trade policies that promote African development. Newsone produced a video roundtable dubbed, “What you missed from the U.S.-Africa Summit.” Black Enterprise magazine had two reporters at the summit and produced several reports.

Some African-American owned media posted coverage produced by other outlets. For example, The Africa Channel curated a wide range of summit reports on its home page. Many African-American newspapers – the Afro American chain and the San Diego Voice among them – posted summit reports produced by the National Newspaper Publishers Association, which serves the black press.

Media owned or founded by African immigrants also devoted extensive coverage to the summit. For example, a report on an Obama pledge of $14 billion in commitments from U.S. companies for Africa is one of a half-dozen stories on the summit posted on the website of Arise News, a global broadcast team with offices in London, New York and Washington D.C.

As for analysis, the New York-based Sahara Reporters published a commentary by Sonala Olumhense on the alphabet soup of economic development initiatives related to Africa –NEPAD (New Partnership for Africa’s Development), the ACP-EU Partnership Agreement (African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States and the European Union) and the current MDGs (Milennium Development Goals) among them.

Olumhense’s point: “ is not a shortage of conferences or summits or resolutions that Africa suffers from. The principal challenge is that the philosophy of democracy, and the accountability that underpins it, has yet to be accepted by most of Africa’s so-called leaders. They love to wield power, but resent the responsibility that comes with it.”

African immigrant media also covered some of the many summit “side events.” For example, the New Jersey-based African Sun Times produced a report on a forum on civil society organizations in Africa, an event attended by Presidents Mahama of Ghana and Kikwete of Tanzania, Secretary of State John Kerry and Dr. Nkosazana Diamini-Zuma, chairperson of the African Union Commission, which conducts the work of the AU.

To be sure, the African Union Commission (AUC) recognized the potential of the African immigrant press and the African-American media to provide a broader and more nuanced narrative on Africa before the summit began. The AUC had scheduled an Aug. 4 town hall meeting with African immigrant and African-American media “to not only raise awareness of AUC activities, but also engage the Diaspora journalists and the international media interested in covering... the development agenda of the continent.” Before the planned gathering, the AUC cancelled that forum but currently has plans to organize such a session in New York, during the United Nations General Assembly in September.

However, without a news exchange involving African media on the continent and diaspora media in the U.S., it will be difficult to expand the dissemination of news related to economic development on the continent.

Many African-American news organizations have expressed interest in expanding their African coverage. For example, the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), which represents more than 200 African-American newspapers, has expressed an interest in doing so despite the fact that NNPA members do not have the resources to assign reporters to cover African affairs.

“We have to come up with creative ways of covering Africa,” said NNPA Chairman Cloves C. Campbell, Jr. in a statement, “because the Motherland is too important for us to ignore.”

African immigrant media also face technology challenges -- many outlets are limited to newspapers, and lack a web platform.

Without correspondents or Internet presence, it is difficult for diaspora African media in the United States to discover and relay information on encouraging developments, such as the elections monitoring and the oil and gas industry watchdog activities of the International Institute of ICT Journalism, or the agribusiness promise of the Songhai Centres for development in West African states.

To be sure, news media based in Africa is also seeking to improve its coverage of business and government corruption. Media mogul Michael Bloomberg plans to aid this effort with his recently announced Bloomberg Media Initiative Africa, a three-year, $10 million pan-African program to build media capacity to improve business coverage and help advance government accountability. Bloomberg also demonstrated his interest in Africa by co-sponsoring the day-long U.S.-Africa Business Forum, a major summit event.

Nigerian banker and philanthropist Tony Elumelu was among those participating at the business forum. The Wall Street Journal published his summit-related op-ed in advance of the week-long conference. During a brief press conference at the summit, he was asked about his entrepreneurship development programs. However, his most animated comment was in response to a question about the media coverage of African development.

“Much of the coverage of Africa is so negative and imbalanced,” he said. “This discourages many from investing. We have to do a better job of telling and sharing our story.”

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National Outrage Over Police Shooting in Missouri, President Obama Weighs In by Hazel Trice Edney

Michael Brown (Shooting Victim) (TriceEdney) - They were like shots heard around the nation - the shots from a police revolver that killed 18-year-old unarmed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., on Saturday - only two days before he was to start his freshman semester in college.

Within 24 hours outrage had boiled over into protests in the streets of the small town, a suburb of St. Louis. Protests continued all week.
Angry protestors take to the streets
Angry protestors take to the street after the police shooting of unarmed Michael Brown, 18.
PHOTO: Wiley Price/St. Louis American Newspaper

Also, police, continuing questionable behavior, have responded in riot gear, shooting rubber bullets, spraying tear gas iin the direction of even peaceful protests and people sitting or standing in their own yards. Even reporters have been arrested as they seek to cover the unfolding events.

The NAACP, the National Action Network and the National Bar Association have taken stands. And the Federal Bureau of Investigation has opened an official probe into the killing. Even President Obama weighed in this week:

"The death of Michael Brown is heartbreaking, and Michelle and I send our deepest condolences to his family and his community at this very difficult time. As Attorney General Holder has indicated, the Department of Justice is investigating the situation along with local officials, and they will continue to direct resources to the case as needed. I know the events of the past few days have prompted strong passions, but as details unfold, I urge everyone in Ferguson, Missouri, and across the country, to remember this young man through reflection and understanding. We should comfort each other and talk with one another in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds. Along with our prayers, that’s what Michael and his family, and our broader American community, deserve," the President said in a statement distributed by the White House.

His call for calm is being backed by civil rights leaders.

“The death of yet another African-American at the hands of those sworn to protect and serve the community where he lived is heartbreaking. Michael Brown was preparing to begin college, and now his family is preparing to bury their child – his life cut short in a tragic encounter with the police,” stated NAACP President/CEO Cornell William Brooks. “As the NAACP’s Missouri State Conference and St. Louis Branches seek answers about the circumstances surrounding Michael Brown’s death, the National office will remain vigilant until accountability and justice are served for the countless individuals who lose their lives to misguided police practices throughout the country. Even as we call for accountability by those charged with protecting the community, we call on the community to act -collectively and calmly until we secure justice for the family of Michael Brown."

It is a déjà vu situation in which similar killings of unarmed Blacks have become commonplace around the nation. The killings of Trayvon Martin, 17, by George Zimmerman in Sanford, Florida; Jordan Davis, 17, by Michael Dunn in Jacksonville, Florida; Johnathan Ferrell, 24, in Charlotte, N.C., also shot by police under questionable circumstances; and Renisha McBride, 19, by Theodore Wafer in Dearborn Heights, Mich. are among the most recent highly publicized killings of unarmed youth.

But, nothing has historically raised the ire of Black communities like the shooting of yet another unarmed Black youth at the hands of a police officer. The killing of Brown, a recent high school graduate, touched that national nerve this week.

Events are fuzzy and still under investigation. According to widespread reports, Brown and a friend were walking in the street on the way to his grandmother’s house when they were approached by a police officer.

Despite police claims that an altercation and struggle ensued, eyewitness accounts said one thing is clear. That is that the unarmed teen was shot once before dropping to his knees with his hands raised; then was shot several more times by the officer, whose name was undisclosed as of Monday’s press deadline.

“You don’t do a dog like that,” said Brown's mother, Lesley McSpadden, in an exclusive interview with NewsOne reporter Brittany Noble. “They didn’t let me identify him or anything,” she said. “It was some girls down there that had recorded the whole thing, took pictures, and she showed [me] a picture on her phone. She said ‘ain’t this your son’ and I just bawled even harder…just to see my son laying there like this for no apparent reason.”

Anger spilled into the street’s late Sunday as a peaceful vigil became disorderly on both sides. CNN showed video of citizens breaking a store window, looting and banging on police cars. One police officer was caught on camera describing the people as "animals".

The Rev. Al Sharpton, president/CEO of the National Action Network says he will be heading to St. Louis upon the request of Brown’s grandfather, Leslie McSpadden. Sharpton was to visit with the family on Tuesday this week.

“He has asked me to come to St. Louis in light of the police killing of his grandson to assist the family in achieving a fair investigation and justice. I assured him that National Action Network will stand with the family, as we have done for families around the country and assist in any way that we can,” Sharpton said. “I am dispatching Rev. De-Ves Toon of our National Action Network field department to St. Louis immediately to prepare for my visit, and to work with groups in the area as we pursue justice in the tradition of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.”

Meanwhile, the anger has mounted across the nation as has the deaths. Sharpton is also in the midst of a justice fight in the July 17 chokehold death of Eric Garner, a 43-year-old Staten Island father of six who died after being choked by New York Police officers who were detaining him. The videotaped assault showed Garner repeatedly saying he could not breathe before falling unconscious under the excessive force of the police officers.

Sharpton and Garner’s family announced on Saturday plans for a “We Will Not Go Back” march and rally, set for Saturday, August 23. The demonstration, seeking justice for Garner, will be held on the 25th anniversary of the murder of Yusuf Hawkins, an unarmed Black teen who was shot twice in the chest and killed while walking with friends through the White neighborhood of Bensonhurst, in Brooklyn, N.Y. in 1973. The four were attacked by a White mob.

Although police brutality and profiling have been historically commonplace in Black communities, National Bar Association (NBA) President Pamela Meanes indicated that apparent cover ups and withholding of information is often complicating investigations and justice in such cases.

The headline on an NBA statement read, “The National Bar Association Calls for a U.S. Department of Justice Investigation into Deaths Involving Police in St. Louis, Missouri and Staten Island, New York and Dallas, San Antonio and Houston, Texas.”

The release continued, “The City of San Antonio has a practice of not releasing copies of autopsy reports in such shootings, causing many to question the city's investigation process. With these and other similar trends in mind, the NBA firmly believes that whenever there is a shooting involving a police officer, an outside agency must be called in to handle the subsequent investigation in the interest of fairness and transparency.”

At its annual convention in Atlanta last week, the NBA conducted a Town Hall Meeting on Police Brutality. The organization then announced it would “send an open records request to the largest 25 cities in the United States seeking information regarding the number of unarmed individuals who have been killed and/or injured while pursued or in police custody.”

The organization will then release the results to the Department of Justice and “demand investigations be launched to put an end to any wrongful conduct,” Meanes said. As tension mounts in the Michael Brown case, a second Town Hall meeting by the NBA was scheduled for Tuesday this week.

“The NBA fears that with no immediate intervention the situation will worsen,” Meanes said. "We will not tolerate another person being victimized by someone whose job is to protect and serve…We will and must be the voice of the voiceless."

Ferguson Shooting Called America's ‘Tipping Point’ Amidst Demands for Officer’s Arrest

Police officers face down protestors in Ferguson
Police officers face down protestors in Ferguson on Saturday night. PHOTO: Lawrence Bryant / St. Louis American
by Hazel Trice Edney

(TriceEdney) – Arrest him. That is the outcry that continues among crowds of peaceful protestors and rioters in Ferguson, Mo. this week, following the police killing of unarmed teenager Michael Brown.

As the police officer Darren Wilson remains protected on paid leave, one action appears to be the hope for calm. That action is what Brown’s mother, Lesley McSpadden, described as justice: “Arresting this man and making him accountable for his actions,” she said.

“The shooters must be held accountable for killing our children,” says Brown family attorney Benjamin Crump, in an interview with the Trice Edney News Wire. “When you have a Michael Brown, we have to say it’s not right to execute our children in broad daylight whose hands and arms are up. Despite everything, once his hands are up, you don’t keep shooting… This is the universal sign of surrender,” Crump said.

President Obama - breaking from his vacation - spoke again from the White House this week, obviously steering clear of an opinion in the case, but seeking to express empathy with the racial divide:

"In too many communities, too many young men of color are left behind and seen only as objects of fear. Through initiatives like My Brother’s Keeper, I'm personally committed to changing both perception and reality. And already we're making some significant progress as people of goodwill of all races are ready to chip in. But that requires that we build and not tear down. And that requires we listen and not just shout. That's how we're going to move forward together, by trying to unite each other and understand each other, and not simply divide ourselves from one another. We're going to have to hold tight to those values in the days ahead. That's how we bring about justice, and that's how we bring about peace," Obama said.

Attorney General Eric Holder was scheduled to visit Ferguson this week as the Department of Justice and the FBI continue to investigate.

“Hands up! Don’t shoot!” has been the clarion cry for protesters, many who walk with their hands raised to illustrate the ultimate injustice that has hit Black communities around the nation – mainly the killing of unarmed Black men. Some have worn t-shirts or carried signs saying, "I'm Michael Brown", denoting that the shooting could happen to any Black man in America. Across the nation, people are showing signs of agreement that Officer Darren Wilson must be arrested for peace to begin.

Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson has claimed Brown was killed after a struggle over the officer’s gun and that Wilson was treated for a facial wound after the shooting. Jackson also released video showing a man appearing to be Brown shoving a store clerk as he leaves a story with a pack of cigars. Sparking even more outrage, Jackson conceded later that Wilson only drove up and confronted Brown and a friend “because they obstructing traffic by walking in the middle of the street.”

Preliminary autopsy reports by famed forensic pathologist Michael Baden – hired by Brown’s family – says he was shot at least six times with most bullets apparently entering into the front of his body, four in his right arm and two in his head, according to Baden speaking on a press conference aired live on Monday. At least one of the bullets could have entered from the back of the arm, he said. The fatal and what appears to be final shot entered the top of the head, indicating that Brown was leaning forward when he was hit, supporting eye witness testimony that he was trying to surrender or falling. Preliminary analysis also indicates that Brown may have been at least eight feet away from the officer when he was shot multiple times, in what many have described as an “execution”.

Two additional autopsies are underway, one by the St. Louis County Police Department and the other by the U. S. Department of Justice.

From the protestors’ perspective, on any given day in a Black neighborhood, if someone is killed and the police knows who did it, the suspect is regularly arrested on the spot and an investigation follows.

Yet, in Ferguson, more than a week since the August 9 shooting in broad daylight, federal and city investigations are underway, but no arrest has been made and protestors are wondering how, when, and whether Michael Brown will ever get justice.

This is part of what’s fueling the rage that has continued to build. Their anger is exacerbated by the sight of the same police officers perceived to be protecting Brown’s killer and by the fact that they are being asked to suppress their rage in the face of a perceived injustice. It is also exacerbated by statistics in cities across the country showing racial divides through economic and social oppression as well as unequal justice on a regular basis.

These ingredients have erupted into nightly chaos in Ferguson with a mixture of peaceful protests, Molotov cocktails (improvised fire bombs), gun fire, tear gas, looting, arrests, and police in riot gear and military vehicles.

Some of the more violent behavior is reportedly coming from some who have come in from other cities. But, the mass unrest in Ferguson – a predominately Black suburb under largely White political rule – has become what some believe is a “tipping point” that will ultimate lead to change in police-community relationships around the country.

In interviews with the Trice Edney News Wire, civil rights leaders say they believe only justice will bring calm.

“It is a tipping point as was the murder of Trayvon Martin,” says pioneer civil rights leader Julian Bond. “Will it stop the murders of black young men? No, but it will serve as a marker, as has other deaths. Emmett Till's death is still with us; this one will be with us too.”

“I think it’s a tipping points that’s going to at least cause a conversation to ensue,” says the Rev. Markel Hutchins, 37, a civil rights activist who once headed the Atlanta-based National Youth Connection, described as a modern-day SNCC (Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee). “I think what we see in Ferguson today is a powder keg that has exploded.”

Also on Monday this week, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon had deployed the Missouri National Guard to assist the Missouri State Highway Patrol amidst escalating tensions. The Highway patrol, under the command of Captain Ron Johnson, a Black man, was appointed by Gov. Nixon to oversee security in the city given the community distrust of the vastly White police force.

But even amidst weekend marches, rallies and church services with national civil rights leaders Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, and Johnson giving moving speeches, the fact that an unarmed teenager was killed while apparently fleeing and then surrendering with his hands raised - is too much for many to bear. The nightly chaos and resistance to the midnight to 5 a.m. curfew has continued even amidst peaceful protests – all undergirded with the demand for an arrest.

“I think that the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri is a sign that the Black community has had enough and they are going to take matters into their own hands… I think that finally mothers and fathers are saying, ‘What about my son?’” says Harvard Law Professor Charles Ogletree, founding director of the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice at Harvard. “I think that the protests that we’re seeing in Ferguson is just a tipping point of what we’re going to see – not just in Ferguson – but around the country.”

The only way to circumvent the escalation, Ogletree says, is to “Indict the police officer, have a jury decide what happened and I think that will tell a lot about what’s happening in America today. There really is no justification for what happened to Michael Brown.”

Police Shoot and Kill Unarmed Black Men With No Meaningful Repercussions

By Frederick H. Lowe

(TriceEdney) - Police in five cities have conducted summary executions of five unarmed Black men for minor incidents or for seeking help, which the cops ratchet up to capital crimes, deserving of a death sentence meted out by them.

The latest police shooting death of an unarmed, mentally ill Black man occurred Monday night in Los Angeles.
Ezell Ford was lying face down as he had been ordered to do by LAPD officers, according to eyewitnesses who dispute the police department's version of the story. The police, however, shot Ford three times in the back, and he died later in a hospital from his wounds.
Police tell a different story. They said they stopped Ford because he was making "suspicious movements." What made the movements suspicious is not explained.
Ezell Ford
He did not have a gun or the police would have mentioned it. Ford allegedly attempted to grab a gun from one of the cops. His partner fired his weapon, according to the LAPD. The other cop fired his backup gun. The cops were not identified.
Michael Brown When the murder of Ford occurred, the nation was still fixated on the police murder of Michael Brown, an 18 year-old who lived in the St. Louis, Mo., suburb of Ferguson.
Brown was walking in the street, a crime that meets all the criteria for capital punishment in Ferguson. Ferguson police said a cop, which the department initially refused to identify, ordered Brown to walk on the sidewalk. Jon Belmar, the department's police chief, alleged that Brown assaulted the cop and one shot was fired inside the patrol car.

The cop, identified as 28-year-old Darren Wilson, then shot the unarmed Brown several more times and his dead body was left lying in the street for four and a half hours.
Witnesses said, however, Brown had raised his arms in the air when he was shot to death on August 9.
President Barack Obama was so disturbed by Brown's death that he sent the teenager's family a message. President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama called Brown's death heartbreaking and the first couple sent their deepest condolences to Brown's family and to the community.

The president also said that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has indicated that the U.S. Justice Department is investigating the shooting death along with local authorities.
Eric Garner
The police murder of an unarmed Brown comes on the heels of the murder of Eric Garner, a 43 year-old father and grandfather, at the hands of the New York City Police.

Daniel Pantaleo, a member of the NYPD, murdered Garner, by using an illegal chokehold to kill Garner. The New York Medical Examiner ruled that Garner's death, which occurred in Staten Island on July 17, a homicide.
Garner's murder was video recorded and went viral over the Internet. Ramsey Orta, 22, recorded the video. The cops, however, took their revenge, arresting Orta on weapons charges. They also arrested his wife in a separate incident.

Orta claims police set him up. When police initially searched him, they did not find a gun. "I would be stupid to walk around with a gun after being in the spotlight, " he said.
In another deadly police shooting of an unarmed black man, Beavercreek, Ohio, police shot to death 22-year-old John Crawford in the toy department of a Wal-mart store. Crawford was holding a pellet gun.
A customer panicked and said Crawford was waving "what appeared to be an AR-15 at children and others." Police officers Sean Williams and Sgt. David Darkow murdered Crawford by shooting him in the stomach. The Montgomery County's coroner's office in Dayton, Ohio, ruled that Crawford's death was a homicide.

A resulting customer stampede caused by police gun fire also killed Angela Williams, 37, a shopper who was an innocent bystander. Williams suffered an unspecified medical emergency.

All the cases are tragic, but the police murder of Jonathan Ferrell, which occurred in September 2013, falls into its own category.
The 24 year-old Ferrell was involved in a one car accident in Charlotte-Mecklenburg, N.C. He went to the nearest home for help and knocked on the door. In response, the woman homeowner, like the man in the Beavercreek Wal-mart store, panicked. She called 911 and said Ferrell was breaking into her home.

When Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officers arrived, the unarmed Ferrell thought they were there to help. It turned out he was dead wrong. Ferrell approached the cops with outstretched arms. Randall Kerrick, a cop, pulled his gun and shot Ferrell 10 times, killing him instantly.

In most, if not all of the cases, in which police murder unarmed Black men, the police claim they feared for their lives, a police department mantra. In most cases, the deadly shooting occurred as a result of struggle, but police know how to provoke struggles, which gives them a reason to fire their guns.

High Crime Means More Police Jobs

Ben Haith, a blogger, brings up another reason. Haith said that some police departments believe if there is less criminal activity in the Black community, they will lose their jobs.

He gave as an example former members of Boston Fire Department. They set 216 fires that destroyed $22 million worth of property between 1982 and 1986 in the hope that the fire department would re-hire them after widespread layoffs in 1980s. Members of the arson ring, all ex-firefighters, were sentenced from five to 40 years in prison, according to several newspaper reports.

Police, however, are not as on guard when it comes to Whites.

Last June, Jerad and Amanda Miller, members of the White supremacist Patriot movement, shot to death three people, including two Las Vegas cops. The couple then took the cops' weapons.

The Millers had been supporters of Nevada rancher Cliven "I know the Negro" Bundy, a one-time Fox News favorite. Fox News has blasted New York Mayor Bill de Blasio's handling of the Garner murder.

On his Facebook page, Jerad Miller wrote about his tangles with law enforcement and the unfairness of the nation's drug laws.

Since vigils and marches have had little, if any, effect on the police murders of Black men, the African-American community needs to develop a much more aggressive strategy.

U.S. Jewish Leader Henry Siegman to Israel: Stop Killing Palestinians and End the Occupation

Interview Part one

Interview Part two

Black Leaders Call for Review of Police Misconduct Against Blacks

By Hazel Trice Edney

(TriceEdney) - Calling it a “Unified Statement of Action to Promote Reform and Stop Police Abuse” civil rights leaders this week released a statement in the wake of the police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. The statement calls for a string of actions, including a federal review of police abuse of Black people.

The strongest statement yet from the civil rights community, the statement looks beyond the unrest currently raging in Ferguson.

“As national civil and human rights organizations and leaders committed to the protection of the rights of African Americans and all Americans, we come together as a unified collective to urgently impress upon elected officials, law enforcement, the legal profession, businesses and all those in this nation interested in social justice, that we must not allow the killing of Michael Brown and other unarmed individuals across this nation to be in vain. As organizational leaders we represent millions across this country who are, as the old saying goes – ‘sick and tired of being sick and tired,” the statement says. “Beyond Ferguson, we must similarly demand mutual respect from law enforcement and elected officials toward other affected communities where lives have been tragically lost and endangered. As we call for immediate and short term remedies to address the challenges in Ferguson, we know that more must be done to prevent future abuses across the nation. Nothing will be resolved until there is systemic change throughout this nation in the implicit and explicit bias against people of color and particularly African American youth who are routinely targeted by law enforcement even within their own communities.”

The statement is signed by civil rights leaders, representing more than a dozen organizations. It gives 14 recommendations. Those who signed the letter include Barbara Arnwine of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, who led the effort; Marc Morial of the National Urban League; Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition; Clayola Brown of the A. Phillip Randolph Institute; Judith Browne Dianis of the Advancement Project; Laura Murphy of the American Civil Liberties Union; Rev. Lennox Yearwood of the Hip Hop Caucus; Wade Henderson of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights; Rev. Al Sharpton of the National Action Network; Cornell William Brooks of the NAACP; Sherrilyn Ifill of the NAACP-Legal Defense Fund; Melanie Campbell of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation and Pamela Meanes of the National Bar Association.

The following are the recommendations:

• An independent and comprehensive federal investigation by the Department of Justice of the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed African American teenager shot by police in Ferguson, Missouri;

• A comprehensive federal review and reporting of all police killings, accompanied by immediate action to address the unjustified use of lethal and excessive force by police officers in jurisdictions throughout this country against unarmed people of color;

• A comprehensive federal review and reporting of excessive use of force generally against youth and people of color and the development of national use of force standards;

• A comprehensive federal review and reporting of racially disproportionate policing, examining rates of stops, frisks, searches, and arrests by race, including a federal review of police departments’ data collection practices and capabilities;

• A comprehensive federal review and reporting of police departments’ racial profiling and racially bias practices, as well as any related policies and trainings;

• A final update and release of the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) June 2003 Guidance Regarding the Use of Race by Federal Law Enforcement Agencies (hereinafter “Guidance”), with substantive reforms including updates that would 1) make the Guidance enforceable 2) apply the Guidance to state and local law enforcement who work in partnership with the federal government or receive federal funding; 3) close the loopholes for the border and national security; 4) cover surveillance activities; 5) prohibit profiling based on religion, national origin, and sexual orientation;

• Required racial bias training and guidance against the use of force for state and local law enforcement that receive grants,

• The required use of police officer Body-Worn Cameras (BWC) to record every police-civilian encounter in accordance with and policy requiring civilian notification and applicable laws, including during SWAT deployments, along with rigorous standards regarding the retention, use, access, and disclosure of data captured by such systems;

• The universal use of dash cameras in police vehicles;

• Concrete steps to ensure that federal military weapons do not end up in the hands of local law enforcement and, if they do, to prevent the misuse of those weapons in communities of color;

• On the ground community training to educate residents of their rights when dealing with law enforcement;

• The elimination of the “broken windows” policing policy initiated in the 1980’s which encourages overly aggressive police encounters for minor offenses and the promotion of community-based policing;

• Greater and more effective community oversight over the local law enforcement and policing tactics; and

• The establishment of a law enforcement commission to review policing tactics that would include in its composition leaders/experts from civil rights advocacy groups who represent the most impacted communities.

The statement also encourages African-Americans to “work toward immediate and long-term change” by voting and ensuring that “our elected officials are responsive to our demands”.

It concludes, “African Americans, like so many in this country, have suffered, bled and died for this country. Not only do we deserve and demand that we be respected in the communities in which we live, we will not be silent, and instead encourage every concerned citizen to work with us to fulfill the promise of this nation - LIFE, Liberty and the Equality of opportunity for all.”

Black Agents Can Sue U.S. Secret Service

This African-American Secret Service agent is featured on the agency's website in an announcement claiming "Commitment to Diversity". PHOTO:
By Frederick H. Lowe

(TriceEdney) - A lawsuit filed by current and former African-American U.S. Secret Service Agents can proceed as a class-action, a federal court ruled on Friday after rejecting an appeal by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to overturn a lower court decision.

The U.S. Secret Service is one of 22 different departments under Homeland Security. The U. S. Secret Service is best-known for protecting the president and fighting counterfeiters.

In the appeal, titled In Re: Jeh Charles Johnson, secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Petitioner, government lawyers argued the plaintiffs did not meet the requirements of a class action under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, however, refused to overturn a District Court decision that certified the case as a class-action.

"We shall not at this time review the order of the district court certifying the class," wrote Senior U.S. Appeals Court Judge Douglas Howard Ginsburg.

Cate Stetson, a Washington D.C. attorney, argued the plaintiffs' appeal. "This is a great victory for the agents and a major defeat for the government," Stetson, told The NorthStar News & Analysis. "The court clearly saw the Secret Service's arguments for what they were ---unsupported theories presented in an effort to further delay resolution of this important case." A trial date has not been set. Last week's decision involved 14 years of litigation.

The 120 agents, who comprise the class, charged in a lawsuit that the Secret Service discriminated against them in pay and promotions because of their race, violations of the Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act 1991.

"The named plaintiffs in this suit are current and former African-American special agents who bid for but did not receive GS-14 or GS-15 promotions under the MPP or Merit Promotion Plan in the period 1995 to 2005," in an 18-page opinion filed by Judge Ginsburg." They allege both that the Secret Service engaged in a pattern or practice of racial discrimination in making promotions and that the MPP had a disparate impact upon African-American special agents."

Stetson, an attorney with the law firm of Hogan Lovells US LLP., said some African-American special agents were promoted to GS-14 or GS-15, but not as many as there should have been. Stetson is a partner in Hogan Lovells Washington, D.C. office, and she is co-director of the firm's Appellate practice.

"Most were clustered around GS-13 and that is where they hit the ceiling. An agent had to be GS-13 to apply for GS-14," she said.

As of Jan. 1, 2014, a GS-14 with 10 pay grade steps earns $111,203 annually. A GS-15 with 10 pay grade steps earns $130,810 annually, compared to a GS-13 with 10 pay grade steps who earns $94,108 annually.

Miko Peled is a peace activist who dares to say in public what others still choose to deny. Born in Jerusalem in 1961 into a well known Zionist family. Peled says Israel is another Aparthied government.

Is Hamas a terrorist organization? According to the State Department Hamas is on the Terrorist List. Back in the 1980's Nelson Mandela was on the State Department's Terrorist List, as the United States supported the Apartheid government of South Africa. Not until the Anti-Apartheid movement gained notoriety, the United States has to change its position on South Africa's racist government.

Peled as the questions, is Israel a racist state, is Zionism a racist ideology, and a colonialist ideology that must be brought to an end like apartheid, and replaced with a real democracy. There is a part two to this video.

Fifty Years After Civil Rights Act: A Land of Opportunity

by William Spriggs

(TriceEdney) - Fifty years ago this week, the U.S. Senate passed the version of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that would be passed by the House and signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson. The bill faced a filibuster of 14 hours and 13 minutes by the late Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia.

Between the passage by the Senate and debate by the House, three young civil rights workers—Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman and James Earl Chaney—disappeared into the night on June 21, 1964, driving in the rural area near Philadelphia, Miss. Schwerner, Goodman and Chaney were later found dead, having been murdered for trying to register African American voters in Mississippi.

On Monday, this week, the AFL-CIO supported a Moral Monday protest in North Carolina revisiting many of the issues America faced in 1964, and meant to be addressed by the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Many things have changed since then. Too many things have not.

The Senate debated the Civil Rights Act for 60 working days, including Saturday sessions. Rarely today does Congress meet to carefully craft legislation lifting the lives of people. An important purpose of the act was to ensure economic freedoms for African Americans, especially the right to hold a job. In the 1960s, major American newspaper want ads openly advertised for segregated job openings. Those cold hard lines denied access to earning a living. Today, Senate Republicans filibuster votes to raise the minimum wage, and House Republicans refuse to debate it. That cold hard line leaves more than 2.6 million Americans working full time, year round but living in poverty, and America’s poor families with workers are unable to earn enough to get out of poverty.

North Carolina is a state where a child born into poverty has less than a 6 percent chance of moving up to the top 20 percent of the income pile. In the Wilson area, a poor child has only a 3.9 percent chance of moving up above middle. This is not because of single parent households, individual irresponsibility or the water people in North Carolina drink. The problem is that North Carolina has policies that trap people who fall down into poverty.

Lose a job? In North Carolina, the average unemployment benefit will replace only 35 percent of your pay, ranking 30th out of 53 unemployment systems in the United States and its territories, and you only have a 35 percent chance you will get any benefit at all, ranking 51st out of 53. If you are a single mother, then your combined Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families benefit will just get you to the level of extreme poverty (50 percent of the poverty line), ranking 43rd out of 51 (the 50 states and the District of Columbia).

Hunt for a job, and you will be in one of the states where the minimum wage remains at the federal level of $7.25 an hour, making you a minority among American workers, since most now live in states where democracy is working to lift the minimum wage to more decent levels. Or, try landing a job that has paid sick days, health insurance and retirement benefits—meaning a union job; the share of jobs protected by a collective bargaining agreement in North Carolina stands at less than 4.8 percent, ranking 48th out of the 51.

At the August 1963 March for Jobs and Freedom, labor and civil rights leader A. Philip Randolph famously remarked: “Yes, we want all public accommodations open to all citizens, but those accommodations will mean little to those who cannot afford to use them.”

North Carolina and its radical Republican governor and legislature are hastily passing laws not to put government on the side of the people, but to put people at the servitude of the 1 percent. They have been limiting access to unemployment insurance, standing in the way of accepting federal support to extend access to health insurance to the working poor and in the way of lifting the minimum wage. And, to make sure that no one objects to their hijacking of democracy, they are taking actions to limit voting and to deny access to the state capitol for people to exercise their 1st Amendment “right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

So, while the Civil Rights Act of 1964 sought the end of race-based laws, the state of North Carolina is trapping people into poverty.

Black Men Prime Cop Targets

Sean Bell
by Zenitha Prince

(TriceEdney) - Sean Bell, unarmed, hours away from becoming a husband when he was slaughtered by police in a 50-bullet fusillade in November 2006, in Queens, N.Y. Ariston Waiters, 19, of Union City, Ga.; unarmed, shot twice in the back and killed by a police officer in December 2011. Ramarley Graham, an unarmed Bronx teen chased into his grandmother’s home and killed by police in the bathroom in February 2012. Kendrec McDade, an unarmed, 19-year-old shot seven times and then handcuffed on the ground by Pasadena, Calif., police, the result of a fake 911 call in March 2012. Trayvon Martin, Renisha McBride, Johnathan Ferrell, Eric Garner…and now, Michael Brown.

The list of names, faces, families in mourning grows longer, representing a persistent ill that has plagued the African-American community—death at the hands of police, security officers and vigilantes.

“We are not in a war. A war means that both sides pick up arms against each other,” said Raymond Winbush, director, Institute of Urban Research at Morgan State University. “[Rather,] Black people are experiencing a slow form of genocide…. There’s just, in general, this devaluing of Black life.”

In 2012, the last year for which data is available, more than 300 African Americans died at the hands of police officers, according to the FBI. And a report by the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement estimates that in the United States one Black person dies by extrajudicial killing every 28 hours.

“They are killing us at the rate of one every 28 hours. That surpasses what was happening 100 years ago when Black people were being lynched every two days,” Winbush said.
Michael Brown’s death is one of those modern-day “lynchings,” many in the Black community believe.

On Aug. 9, shortly after noon, Michael Brown and a friend were walking near the Canfield Green Apartments when an officer pulled up beside them. What happened next is a matter of debate. St. Louis County Chief of Police Jon Belmar, in a statement sent to the AFRO, said when the officer tried to exit his vehicle, Brown allegedly pushed the police officer back into his vehicle and tried to take his weapon, whereupon he was shot.Eyewitnesses disagree, however, saying it was the officer who pulled Brown by his neck into the car window and shot him. The officer then exited the vehicle and, though Brown was kneeling on the ground, unarmed and with hands raised in surrender, shot him several more times.

The 18-year-old’s death drew residents onto the streets in protest, which has grown in size and ferocity in the ensuing days as protestors allegedly kicked police cars, threw bottles and looted nearby stores.

“Tensions are high and things are really tense because people are understandably angry and upset,” said Chawn Saddam Kweli, national chief of staff of the New Black Panther Party, who was on hand for the protests. “What they are trying to term a riot is a rebellion,” he added. “They (residents) are lashing out because they feel they will not get justice in the White courts.”

Contributing to that rage, Kweli said, is the consensus that Brown was a “good boy,” who had set his eyes on a straight path. In fact, he was supposed to start college on Aug. 11, two days after his death. “We should be celebrating my son’s going to college but we’re planning a funeral,” Brown’s mother, Lesley McSpadden, told the Rev. Al Sharpton in an interview on MSNBC.

Her father, Les McSpadden, called his grandson’s death an “execution,” which was part of an ongoing pogrom against young men of color. “It’s a shame that these Black kids in St. Louis and, I’m sure, around the world, they might as well walk around with a target on their back,” he said.

Kweli agreed, saying Brown’s death—and the residents’ reactions—were symptomatic of persistent racial tensions in Ferguson, and several Congressional Black Caucus members sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder requesting that the Department of Justice launch an independent investigation in light of that history.

“There’s a high rate of profiling and targeting of African Americans in Ferguson,” Kweli said.

But the situation also encapsulates a broader problem, which is the marginalization and criminalization of Black men and women. “We may not like to say this, but White people, particularly police, don’t see us as human; they see us as animals,” Winbush, the Morgan State professor, said.

That dehumanization begins in childhood, social experts said. In a research project published in the {Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,} UCLA professor Phillip Goff and associates examined how college students and police officers estimated the ages of children who they were told had committed crimes. In both groups, participants tended to overestimate the ages of Black children compared with non-Black ones, implying that Black children were seen as “significantly less innocent” than others.

And that skewed images of Blacks—often as thugs and gang members—is also perpetuated by the media. For example, some news outlets have reported protestors as chanting, “Kill the Police,” when really they were saying a popular refrain among Black activists, “No Justice; No Peace,” Kweli and others said. And, some news outlets have shown a photo of Brown with his fingers extended, which some have interpreted as a “gang sign,” prompting a Twitter protest. Black men and women posted side-by-side images of themselves—one depicting them as everyday, upstanding Janes and Joes, and the other as the stereotypical gangsters and thugs, accompanied by the hashtag, #IfTheyGunnedMeDown.

One way to ensure those misperceptions of Blacks do not result in more police killings is to station more Black or hometown officers in communities of color, Winbush and Kweli suggested. White and/or non-native police officers in places like Ferguson are regarded by residents “like a foreign occupying force because they are disconnected from the people,” Kweli said.

Cedric Alexander, president of The National Association of Black Law Enforcement Executives, was less willing to blame racism or other bias for the use of lethal force against African Americans. He warned that each situation should be judged individually and urged Ferguson residents and observers to “wait until the investigation is complete before any conclusions are drawn so that we can be fair to Mr. Brown and his family and to the police.”

Alexander said there are good and bad people everywhere. “The key here is to have well-trained police and a community that makes an effort to work with the police. Police and community have a shared responsibility in moving forward from this,” he added.

Winbush questioned why African-American communities seem to be the only ones asked to restrain their reactions, especially in light of persistent injustices. “It is funny how in the media people are questioning why Ferguson residents are reacting the way they are as if there is no reason…. It is almost like you’re supposed to sit there and take it,” he said.

But the insurrection in Ferguson is an “appropriate response and consequence” of the unjust killing of a young Black man, the professor added.

“We have to do something in retaliation so that police think twice before shooting another young Black man,” Winbush said. “It’s like the bully in the schoolyard—you have to, one day, turn around and fight or they will keep on being a bully.”

Meanwhile, President Obama sent his condolences to Brown’s family and confirmed the Department of Justice would be investigating the matter. He also, like many others, urged Ferguson residents to curb their violent reactions.

“I know the events of the past few days have prompted strong passions, but as details unfold, I urge everyone in Ferguson, Missouri, and across the country, to remember this young man through reflection and understanding,” the president said. “We should comfort each other and talk with one another in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds. Along with our prayers, that’s what Michael and his family, and our broader American community, deserve.” © 1997, 2014