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Democrats Sue for Trump Tax Returns

WASHINGTON INFORMER — The chair of the House Ways and Means Committee filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the IRS and the Treasury Department to gain access to President Donald Trump’s tax returns.

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President Donald Trump

The chair of the House Ways and Means Committee filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the IRS and the Treasury Department to gain access to President Donald Trump’s tax returns.

The suit, which was filed by Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.) and now heads to federal courts, comes after an initial request in April to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and the IRS over the tax records.

Trump claims has claimed since the 2016 presidential campaign that he cannot release his returns publicly because he is currently under audit by the IRS.

Mnuchin told Neal in a letter last month that the request for the president’s tax returns “lacks a legitimate legislative purpose.”

This article originally appeared in the Washington Informer

#NNPA BlackPress

If You’re Poor in America, Debtor’s Prison is Real

NNPA NEWSWIRE — The people who are jailed or threatened with jail often are the most vulnerable Americans living paycheck to paycheck, one emergency away from financial catastrophe, according to a 2018 report from the American Civil Liberties Union.

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Few tools are as coercive or as effective as the threat of incarceration, ACLU report authors said. (Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA)
Few tools are as coercive or as effective as the threat of incarceration, ACLU report authors said. (Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA)

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

Despite a centuries-old Supreme Court ruling that outlawed the practice, debtor’s prison remains very much alive in America, experts told NNPA Newswire. Being poor is challenging enough, but some states, like Missouri, have continued to punish those of lesser means.

A federal class-action suit claims thousands of those living in Missouri were jailed because they couldn’t pay off fines – essentially, a debtor’s prison and conundrum for the poor.

Pro Publica reported that four years after the suit was filed, the plaintiffs are still waiting, and wondering if the deck is stacked against them.

The report details the plight of Tonya DeBerry, who, in January 2014, was driving through an unincorporated area of St. Louis County, Missouri, when a police officer pulled her over for having expired license plates.

“After discovering that DeBerry, 51, had several outstanding traffic tickets from three jurisdictions, the officer handcuffed her and took her to jail,” according to Pro Publica.

“To be released, she was told, she would have to pay hundreds of dollars in fines she owed the county, according to her account in a federal lawsuit. However, even after her family came up with the money, DeBerry wasn’t released from custody.

Because DeBerry still owed fines and fees to the cities in Ferguson and Jennings, she remained jailed and her attorney likened it to “being held for ransom.”

“The crisis that is going on in Missouri is taking place all around the country. It is a rising issue amongst people who cannot afford to pay court fees and, or fines,” said Attorney Dameka L. Davis of the Davis Legal Center in Hollywood, Fla.

“I believe the more appropriate action is to implement programs and services that are free or offer a person to do community service in lieu of paying fines or fees,” Davis said.

“Our system is perpetuating a money-based system, which in turn systematically affects minorities and people of color,” she said.

Matt C. Pinsker, an adjunct professor of Homeland Security and Criminal Justice in the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University, said the problem runs deeper than in Missouri.

“The American people would be horrified if they knew of just how many laws still exist which send poor people to prison over their inability to pay fines, court costs, and related expenses,” Pinsker said.

“It is a tragedy and absurdity that we will essentially have debtors’ prisons here in the United States of America,” he said.

In DeBerry’s case, Pro Publica reported that after the Michael Brown killing, “the city slowly stopped jailing people for not being able to pay fines as the news media showed the victims were primarily black and the Justice Department made clear that what Ferguson had been doing was wrong.”

Still, the lawsuit remains unresolved with the city seeking dismissal.

In 2018, the American Civil Liberties Union detailed more than 1,000 cases in 26 states in which judges, acting on the request of a collection company, issued warrants for people they claimed owed money for “ordinary debts, such as student loans, medical expenses, unpaid rent and utility bills.”

The ACLU said it’s a system that breeds coercion and abuse.

The report concluded that, “with little government oversight, debt collectors, backed by arrest warrants and wielding bounced check demand letters, can frighten people into paying money that may not even be owed.”

Few tools are as coercive or as effective as the threat of incarceration, ACLU report authors said.

As an example, one 75-year-old woman subsisting on $800 monthly Social Security checks, went without her medications in order to pay the fees she believed were required to avoid jail time for bouncing a check.

And as one lawyer in Texas, who has sought arrests of student loan borrowers who are in arrears, said, “It’s easier to settle when the debtor is under arrest,” the report’s authors found.

The people who are jailed or threatened with jail often are the most vulnerable Americans living paycheck to paycheck, one emergency away from financial catastrophe, the report said.

Many were struggling to recover after the loss of a job, mounting medical bills, the death of a family member, a divorce, or an illness.

“They included retirees or people with disabilities who are unable to work. Some were subsisting solely on Social Security, unemployment insurance, disability benefits, or veterans’ benefits – income that is legally protected from outstanding debt judgments,” the report’s authors wrote.

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REPORT: Black Men Are Biggest Beneficiaries of the First Step Act

NNPA NEWSWIRE — More than 1,000 individuals incarcerated in federal prisons were granted sentence reductions in the four months since the First Step Act was signed into law, according to the United States Sentencing Commission (USSC).

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“To be clear, the First Step Act is a win for criminal justice reform. But the Republicans who wrote the law never meant for it to reduce the sentences of hundreds of prisoners. They never intended for it to address the racist war on drugs,” said Michael Harriot in a piece for The Root. (Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA)
“To be clear, the First Step Act is a win for criminal justice reform. But the Republicans who wrote the law never meant for it to reduce the sentences of hundreds of prisoners. They never intended for it to address the racist war on drugs,” said Michael Harriot in a piece for The Root. (Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA)

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

The First Step Act, which replaced a federal “three strikes” rule that imposed a life sentence for three or more convictions – with a 25-year sentence, is benefiting thousands of incarcerated Black men, according to a new report.

More than 1,000 individuals incarcerated in federal prisons were granted sentence reductions in the four months since the First Step Act was signed into law, according to the United States Sentencing Commission (USSC).

Their sentences were reduced by a mean of 73 months or 29.4 percent, as a result of the resentencing provisions allowed under the Act which, in addition to shortening mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenses, applied resentencing to be applied retroactively to individuals convicted of crack cocaine offenses before 2010 – when the federal government reduced disparities between crack and powder cocaine offenses.

The USSC found that over a quarter of the 1,051 resentencing motions were granted by federal courts in Florida, South Carolina and Virginia.

Over 91 percent of the individuals whose sentences were shortened were African American and 98 percent were male, the USSC said.

The average age of those granted resentencing motions was 45 – and the average age at the time of the original sentence was 32.

“The 2010 re-set of the crack-powder cocaine disparity, under the Fair Sentencing Act passed that year, disparity was aimed at tackling the disproportionate racial impact on nonviolent drug offenders,” according to the Criminal Justice Network’s Crime Report.

Signed into law by President Donald Trump in December, the First Step Act reportedly was the first major overhaul of the nation’s sentencing regime in decades.

“More ambitious overhaul plans had been stalled in Congress, despite widespread bipartisan support,” according to the Criminal Justice Network.

In writing about the latest report on the First Step Act for The Root, Michael Harriot said people should hold off in praising the GOP for reducing sentencing disparities until they understand that the provision that “released these hundreds of black inmates was not included in the first draft of the First Step Act.”

It did not address the crack vs. cocaine disparity. It didn’t address drug sentencing. It didn’t address sentencing reform at all,” Harriot said.

“These amendments were only included when dozens of organizations like the Color of Change and the Prison Policy Initiative urged Democratic lawmakers to vote against the bill unless Republicans agreed to include prison and sentencing reform initiatives,” he said.

Harriot said conservative senators eventually agreed, much to the dismay of hardcore right-wingers like Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.).

“To be clear, the First Step Act is a win for criminal justice reform. But the Republicans who wrote the law never meant for it to reduce the sentences of hundreds of prisoners. They never intended for it to address the racist war on drugs,” he said.

“Even though some people insist that we must  ‘give the president his due,’ the reason hundreds of black people have been removed from America’s system of mass incarceration is that a Democratic senator wrote a bill, a Democratic president signed it and Democrats forced Donald Trump and a Republican-controlled Congress to make it retroactive,” Harriot said.

In a recent Op-Ed, CNN host Van Jones, who worked with lawmakers on Criminal Justice Reform and the co-founder of the #cut50, a bipartisan criminal justice initiative of the Dream Corps., indicated that he’s pleased with the progress of the First Step Act.

“This time last year, practically no one believed that a bipartisan breakthrough of this scale and magnitude was even possible,” wrote Jones, who was on hand for the signing of the legislation.

“For those of us who continue to believe and fight for a victory on what was once considered to be a lost cause, celebrating the First Step Act is something we experience with a great deal of pride,” Jones said.

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Law

PRESS ROOM: Law Students Help End Fees in Nevada for Youth

OAKLAND POST — Heavy lifting done by two Berkeley Law students from Nevada — Savannah Reid and Dagen Downard — has led to a new law that, starting today July 1, prevents families in Nevada from being billed thousands of dollars in fees when their children under age 18 wind up in the state’s juve­nile delinquency system.

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By Gretchen Kell

Heavy lifting done by two Berkeley Law students from Nevada — Savannah Reid and Dagen Downard — has led to a new law that, starting today July 1, prevents families in Nevada from being billed thousands of dollars in fees when their children under age 18 wind up in the state’s juve­nile delinquency system.

Until now, parents and guardians in Nevada were charged hourly rates for a pub­lic defender, as much as $30 a day for their children’s food, clothing and medical care and up to $200 a month for super­vision when they’re on proba­tion.

In June, Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak signed Assembly Bill 439 after it was unanimously passed by both houses of the Nevada Legislature. Nevada is the second state nationwide, after California, to repeal these fees.

“It’s very rare for students in law school to be so instrumen­tal in making a new law that impacts so many people. They identified the problem, con­sulted widely with key people in Nevada, and wrote that bill from start to finish,” said attor­ney Stephanie Campos-Bui in a Berkeley Law story by Sarah Weld. Campos-Bui, a Berkeley Law alumna, is a supervising attorney for the law school’s Policy Advocacy Clinic.

In the clinic, Reid, Downard and other students pursue non-litigation strategies to address systemic racial, economic and social injustice. The clinic’s extensive research in states and counties nationwide has found that these juvenile de­linquency system fees dis­proportionately harm poor families and families of color, and that collecting them is not cost-effective.

Interdisciplinary teams of law and public policy stu­dents learn valuable skills at the clinic that include public speaking, legal writing and research, drafting legislation, quickly adapting to changing situations and learning how to talk to people with different views.

Reid, who is from Las Vegas, says her experience working on the bill was invaluable, adding that “being able to testify in front of the legislature as a law student will forever be one of the highlights of my law school career.”

This article originally appeared in the Oakland Post
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CFPB turns its back on fair lending enforcement and reporting

NNPA NEWSWIRE — More than 50 years ago, this nation enacted legal guarantees that fair housing would be available to all Americans. Despite this federal assurance, however, a disturbing and ongoing stream of reports and lawsuits remind us that we are still on an aspirational journey. Aggressive enforcement of fair housing and other anti-discriminatory laws are supposed to bring punishments for violators, and restitution for those harmed.

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This June a coalition of 158 state and national advocates filed written comments against another recent deregulatory move planned by the CFPB. This effort would exempt hundreds of lenders from providing vital data that tracks the market and consumer access to credit.
This June a coalition of 158 state and national advocates filed written comments against another recent deregulatory move planned by the CFPB. This effort would exempt hundreds of lenders from providing vital data that tracks the market and consumer access to credit.

By Charlene Crowell, Deputy Communications Director with the Center for Responsible Lending and NNPA Newswire Contributor

More than 50 years ago, this nation enacted legal guarantees that fair housing would be available to all Americans. Despite this federal assurance, however, a disturbing and ongoing stream of reports and lawsuits remind us that we are still on an aspirational journey. Aggressive enforcement of fair housing and other anti-discriminatory laws are supposed to bring punishments for violators, and restitution for those harmed.

But as with so many justice issues –either financial or criminal, what really happens in life seems a world away from the African American experience.

Since its inception, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) mandate was to protect consumers from discriminatory lending as well as to ensure fair access to credit. In addition to violations of the Fair Housing Act, CFPB also has the authority to refer potential violations of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) to the Justice Department.

Despite these and other enforcement options, CFPB’s most recent fair lending report to Congress acknowledged a full year without any fair lending enforcement actions.

Charlene Crowell is the deputy communications director with the Center for Responsible Lending. She can be reached at Charlene.crowell@responsiblelending.org

This June a coalition of 158 state and national advocates filed written comments against another recent deregulatory move planned by the CFPB. This effort would exempt hundreds of lenders from providing vital data that tracks the market and consumer access to credit.

“The Bureau must refer to the Justice Department (DOJ) a matter when it has reason to believe that a creditor has engaged in a pattern or practice of lending discrimination in violation of ECOA,” acknowledged the report. “In 2018, the Bureau did not refer any ECOA violations to the Justice Department…In 2018, the Bureau opened and continued a number of fair-lending-related investigations, however, it did not bring fair lending-related enforcement actions”, the June 2019 report continued.

While CFPB turned away from fair lending, several 2018 lawsuits were filed mostly by private and nonprofit advocates. Their collective actions realized large settlements, fair lending reports and continued documentation of illegal breaches.

For example, nearly a year ago, New York’s Suffolk County Federal Credit Union signed a $1 billion settlement rather than go to trial on discriminatory charges. The settlement resolved a case filed two years earlier, in 2016 that alleged Black and Latino consumers were denied mortgage approvals at a higher rate than that of the credit union’s white customers.

Later that same year, in a regulatory examination of Citigroup, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) found that consumers of color were not receiving the same mortgage rate discounts reserved for its large-deposit customers. That case was referred to the Justice Department.

Another 2018 discriminatory case involved lawsuits with several major banks on behalf of consumers in two Maryland counties, Montgomery and Price George. The case alleged that as early as the mid- 2000s, consumers of color were steered into higher-cost, non-prime mortgages – a violation of the Fair Housing Act.

Some might contend that this sample summary might not be fair to CFPB and its mission.

To such questioning minds, I would add that this June a coalition of 158 state and national advocates filed written comments against another recent deregulatory move planned by the CFPB. This effort would exempt hundreds of lenders from providing vital data that tracks the market and consumer access to credit.

Every year, the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA) report makes public details of the past year’s mortgage market. It is the only national report that includes the race and ethnicity of mortgage applicants, types of loan approvals as well as denials. Most importantly, the actual behavior of lenders – both banks and nonbanks record the total number of loans involved.

By exempting so many lenders, the highly anticipated report would lose valuable clarity and irrefutable data.

Among the organizations signing these comments were: NAACP, The Leadership Conference for Civil and Human Rights, the National Fair Housing Alliance, and the Center for Responsible Lending.

“A large loss of HMDA reporting will create a distorted view of lending trends in these underserved areas and will make it more difficult for stakeholders to determine if revitalization efforts are succeeding,” wrote the housing advocates. “The overall impact of raising the threshold will be to frustrate HMDA’s purposes of determining whether credit needs are being met and whether public investment has succeeded in rejuvenating the housing and lending markets in struggling neighborhoods.”

The coalition comments also include a litany of CFPB actions that have occurred since 2017, all with anti-consumer effects:

  • Failure to issue any violations of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act;
  • Declared its intent to ignore the Disparate Impact standard, a long-standing legal test that holds the effects of discrimination, not the intent are legal violations;
  • Publicly praised the repeal of anti-discrimination auto lending guidance;
  • Sided with payday lenders in their challenge of the Bureau’s payday rule promulgated under the previous director;
  • Stripped the Bureau’s fair lending office of its supervisory and enforcement powers; and
  • Relegated the development of regulation on fair lending for minority and women-owned businesses to a low-level concern.

In many ways, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has failed to live up to its name and reneged on its mission.

“This lack of enforcement demonstrates our journey towards fair lending still has miles to travel,” said Melissa Stegman, a CRL Senior Policy Counsel. “CFPB was created to protect consumers without exception.”

Charlene Crowell is the deputy communications director with the Center for Responsible Lending. She can be reached at Charlene.crowell@responsiblelending.org.

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Waters to Facebook: Today’s Hearing is Only the First Step in Our Oversight and Legislative Process

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “Facebook has proposed backing Libra tokens with government currencies and government guaranteed securities, and holding them in a so-called Libra Reserve, to be governed by Facebook and its partners. Ownership of government assets on such a massive scale without proper oversight threatens to concentrate government influence in the hands of a few elites. Ultimately, if Facebook’s plans come to fruition, the company and its partners will wield immense economic power that could destabilize currencies and governments.”

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Congresswoman Maxine Waters has emerged as one of the strongest legislators, community organizers, and champions for women, children, seniors, veterans, people of color, and the poor. She was elected in November 2018 to her fifteenth term in the U.S. House of Representatives where she proudly represents California’s diverse and dynamic 43rd Congressional District.

WASHINGTON – Today, Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), Chairwoman of the House Committee on Financial Services, delivered the following opening statement at a full Committee hearing entitled, “Examining Facebook’s Proposed Cryptocurrency and Its Impact on Consumers, Investors, and the American Financial System.”

As Prepared for Delivery

Today we are here for a hearing on Facebook’s proposed digital currency, Libra, and digital wallet, Calibra, and their impacts on consumers, investors and the financial system. Our first witness is David Marcus, Calibra’s CEO. Following his testimony, a panel of experts will share their views on Facebook’s plans.

I have serious concerns with Facebook’s plans to create a digital currency and digital wallet and its efforts to enlist partners that expand its reach, like Mastercard, Paypal, Visa, Uber, Lyft, and Spotify. Facebook is apparently trying to create a new global financial system that is intended to rival the U.S. dollar. This venture is slated to be based in Switzerland, which has a history as a monetary haven for criminals and shady corporations. Facebook’s plans raise serious privacy, trading, national security, and monetary policy concerns, not only for Facebook’s over 2 billion users, who will have immediate access to these products, but also for consumers, investors and the global economy.

In addition, Facebook has proposed backing Libra tokens with government currencies and government guaranteed securities, and holding them in a so-called Libra Reserve, to be governed by Facebook and its partners. Ownership of government assets on such a massive scale without proper oversight threatens to concentrate government influence in the hands of a few elites. Ultimately, if Facebook’s plans come to fruition, the company and its partners will wield immense economic power that could destabilize currencies and governments.

Facebook’s proposed entry into financial services is all the more troubling because it has already harmed vast numbers of people on a scale similar to Wells Fargo, and demonstrated a pattern of failing to keep consumer data private on a scale similar to Equifax. Facebook remains under a 2011 consent order from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for deceiving consumers and failing to keep consumer data private. In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which Facebook provided 50 million users’ private data to a political consulting firm, the company will reportedly pay a record $5 billion fine to the FTC for data privacy failures. In addition, Facebook has allegedly: insecurely stored user passwords dating back to 2012; paid unsuspecting teenagers to download spyware; experienced a hack of nearly 50 million accounts; and experienced a software bug that granted third party access to 6.8 million users’ photos. It has also been sued by HUD and civil rights groups for violations of the Fair Housing Act in what amounts to modern day redlining. Facebook also allowed malicious Russian state actors to purchase and target ads in a campaign to influence the 2016 election.

I am also concerned about the lack of diversity in Facebook’s upper ranks, and fear that if these plans go forward, women and minorities and women- and minority-owned businesses may be excluded from participating fully.

In light of these and other concerns, my colleagues and I wrote to Facebook earlier this month to call on it to cease implementation of its plans until regulators and Congress can examine the issues associated with a large technology company developing a digital currency and take action. The Independent Community Bankers of America and others support this commonsense step.

Facebook’s plans also raise larger concerns about Big Tech’s expansion into financial services, as it appears to inappropriately mix commerce and banking activities. So, today we will discuss a draft bill, the Keep Big Tech Out of Finance Act, which would prevent large platform utilities like Facebook from becoming financial institutions and block them from creating their own currencies.

Today’s hearing is only the first step in our oversight and legislative process. I look forward to hearing from our witnesses.

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African American News & Issues

Living Legend: Honorable John W. Peavy, Jr.

AFRICAN AMERICAN NEWS & ISSUES — Judge John W. Peavy, Jr. was born on April 28, 1942 in Houston, Texas to Malinda Terrell Peavy and John W. Peavy, Sr. Peavy graduated from Phyllis Wheatley High School in 1960, where he began his lifelong engagement in local politics as a member of the Young Democrats of Harris County. He then enrolled at Howard University in Washington, D.C., where he earned his B.A. degree in business administration with an emphasis in accountancy in 1964. Peavy worked for Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson’s office as an undergraduate student, and later as a White House staffer during Johnson’s presidency. In 1967, Peavy received his J.D. degree from the Howard University School of Law.

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Judge John W. Peavy, Jr. (Photo by: thehistorymakers.org)

By Afram News

Judge John W. Peavy, Jr. was born on April 28, 1942 in Houston, Texas to Malinda Terrell Peavy and John W. Peavy, Sr. Peavy graduated from Phyllis Wheatley High School in 1960, where he began his lifelong engagement in local politics as a member of the Young Democrats of Harris County. He then enrolled at Howard University in Washington, D.C., where he earned his B.A. degree in business administration with an emphasis in accountancy in 1964. Peavy worked for Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson’s office as an undergraduate student, and later as a White House staffer during Johnson’s presidency. In 1967, Peavy received his J.D. degree from the Howard University School of Law.

Upon graduating from law school, Peavy returned to Houston, and opened a private law practice focused on criminal and civil cases. In 1967, he joined the Harris County Community Action Association as an associate senior coordinator; and, in 1969, he became an executive assistant to Harris County Judge William Elliot. He then worked as an expert for the American Bar Association’s Project Home, where he handled real estate cases for the NAACP. Funded by the Ford Foundation, the program provided legal and technical assistance to federal housing programs. Peavy also served on the Houston City Council. In 1973, Judge William Elliott appointed Peavy as justice of the peace for a newly formed, majority-black district in Harris County. He was later elected for a full term in 1974, serving until 1977 when he was appointed by Governor Dolph Briscoe as judge of the 246th District Court. There, he presided over family law cases, and helped reform the family court system through his endorsement of mediation programs within the court system in 1985. In 1990, Peavy was placed in charge of family law courts for all of Harris County. Peavy retired from his district court judgeship in 1994.

Peavy was a member of the Houston Area Urban League, the NAACP, Houston Area Urban League, and the U.S.-China Friendship Association. He also served as the director of the Contemporary Arts Museum in Houston, Texas. In 2018, Peavy was honored with a historic portrait at the Harris County District Civil Courthouse.

Peavy and his wife, Diane Massey, have four children.

Source: thehistorymakers.org

This article originally appeared in the African American News & Issues.

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