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Kracker proud to revisit old days as retro tour hits town - Detroit Free Press

Berkley Information from Google News - 6 hours 10 min ago

Detroit Free Press

Kracker proud to revisit old days as retro tour hits town
Detroit Free Press
Uncle Kracker is happy to tell you straight up: This summer's tour is all about the good old days. It's been 15 years since the Mt. Clemens-bred musician born Matt Shafer released his debut album, “Double Wide,” after a decade under the wing of friend ...

Categories: Berkley Area News

These 8 Cities Are About To Become Better Places To Live

Huffington Post News - 6 hours 24 min ago

WASHINGTON - Bloomberg Philanthropies on Wednesday announced the first eight cities it has selected to participate in a new pilot program to improve life in America's cities.

Chattanooga, Tennessee; Louisville, Kentucky; Kansas City, Missouri; Mesa, Arizona; Tulsa, Oklahoma; Jackson, Mississippi; Seattle and New Orleans will be the first to benefit from the What Works Cities Initiative. The project intends to spend $42 million over three years to help U.S. cities address issues like economic development, public health, crime and transportation.

Bloomberg Philanthropies handles all the charitable giving of former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I).

Whats Works Cities officially launched in April, and received applications from cities in 41 states during the first six weeks. A total of 100 cities will be admitted on a rolling basis through 2017. 

A major aim of the project is to help cities better use the data they already collect and to share it more effectively with the public.

"The basic idea is that cities are collecting an incredible amount of data, and traditionally, governments have kept that data behind closed doors," said Jim Anderson, head of government innovation programs at Bloomberg Philanthropies. "But over the last decade, there's been a movement to get that data out into people's hands and let citizens better understand what's happening in their cities."

As an example, Anderson pointed to Louisville, which launched a program to see where citizens had the most difficulty breathing by attaching GPS trackers to asthma inhalers. Having collected this data, he said, Louisville can now better map and address sources of air pollution. 

Bloomberg Philanthropies has partnered with subject matter experts like the nonprofit Sunlight Foundation, a leading organization promoting government transparency and accountability, and the Johns Hopkins Center for Government Excellence, which seeks to help governments improve their use of data. 

"These first eight cities are really diverse in their experiences, yet the common thread is that they have leadership that's raring to get this work started," said Beth Blauer, CGE's executive director. "There's such enthusiasm for improving people's lives with data."

Jackson Mayor Tony Yarber (D) said his city plans to use the information it has started collecting to improve everything from property values to the annual city budget.

"My background is education, and we use data a lot in schools, so I wanted to bring this into the mayor's office when I was elected," Yarber told HuffPost. "The days of saying 'But this is how we've always done it' are over. Starting now, we're going to explain why we do things and how." 

A trove of new data is also helping Jackson handle a crisis of blighted properties that are too run-down and unsafe for habitation, and often get abandoned by their owners. "The dilapidated housing piece is huge, and we spend a lot of energy trying to boost property values and clean up properties," Yarber said. "But sometimes it can feel like we're spinning our wheels."

"So how do we make sure the work we're doing is sustainable and really lasting?" he continued. "The only way is by measuring and collecting all kinds of data."

For Bloomberg and its partner groups, the data component of the What Works Cities project is aimed in large part at developing model programs, so that a city doesn't have to reinvent the wheel each time it faces a problem like a water shortage or a spike in violent crime.

"There's a big appetite for understanding what's working in other places," said Anderson. "The cities we're selecting for this program don't suffer from the old 'if it wasn't invented here ...' syndrome."

This kind of cross-pollination, both within cities and between them, is a major long-term goal of What Works Cities.

Blauer described the way New Orleans is already using its acclaimed BlightStats program, which tracks the status of blighted properties, as a model for other projects.

"They're borrowing the skills from BlightStats, and they're trying to apply it to their violence reduction program," she explained. "Now the question is, how do we invest in those building blocks so you can take any problem and put it through a system and get results?"

For a place like Jackson, which struggles with high poverty rates and a steadily declining population, the prospect of being held up as a model of data-driven innovation is inspiring.

"I'd love for people to be able to look at Jackson and see a model of how to create an infrastructure master plan and a new innovative economy," Yarber said. "We want to put the goals in front of people, so they can watch what's happening to the city in real time."

-- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

Categories: Political News and Opinion

Friends Of Joe Biden Worry A Run For President Could Bruise His Legacy

Huffington Post News - Tue, 08/04/2015 - 10:52pm

In a sign of the conflicting pressures surrounding Mr. Biden, the vice president has told people that the terminal brain cancer of Beau Biden, who died in May, had caused him to consider resigning the vice presidency to take care of his grieving family, though those aware of the vice president’s thinking say that idea never became too serious.

-- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

Categories: Political News and Opinion

Express shuttle service to Metro Airport on hold - Detroit Free Press

Berkley Information from Google News - Tue, 08/04/2015 - 10:46pm

Detroit Free Press

Express shuttle service to Metro Airport on hold
Detroit Free Press
Plans to launch express shuttle bus service to Detroit Metro Airport from Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties are on hold. No bids from potential vendors were received by Friday's deadline for the Regional Transportation Authority of Southeast Michigan ...

Categories: Berkley Area News

Colleges Where Students Are The Most Engaged In Community Service, According To Princeton Review

Huffington Post News - Tue, 08/04/2015 - 10:26pm

Brandeis University is considered the college where students are the most engaged in community service, according to the latest Princeton Review rankings. 

Loyola University of Maryland, Boston College and Creighton University, all religiously-affiliated schools, follow Brandeis among the top four in Princeton Review's ranking for 2015-16. 

It should be no surprise to people familiar with Brandeis, a private university with a deep connection to social justice causes. The school is named after Louis D. Brandeis, the first first Jewish Justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, known for progressive views

Brandeis, based in Waltham, Massachusetts, has its own Department of Community Service and Brandeis Service Corps. The school hands out awards based on how many hundreds of hours of community service the students perform, and holds a social justice pre-orientation program

Princeton Review's ranking, released Monday, is based on surveys of students at 380 colleges and universities. 

View the 10 top colleges where students are the most into community service in the list below.


-- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

Categories: Political News and Opinion

Obama's Iran Deal Gets A Lift On The Hill Thanks To A Foreign Sales Pitch

Huffington Post News - Tue, 08/04/2015 - 10:21pm

WASHINGTON -- Proponents of a nuclear deal with Iran got a boost Tuesday when a trio of on-the-fence Democratic senators announced they would support the agreement when it comes up for a vote in September.

What helped tip the scales for Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) was not a persuasive speech from President Barack Obama, the meticulous testimony of Secretary of State John Kerry, or the nuclear physics insights of the Beethoven-haired Department of Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. It was a briefing held earlier in the day by foreign officials from other countries party to the deal.

At roughly 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday in the capital, ambassadors to the United States from the P5+1 nations (England, France, Russia, China, Germany) met with roughly 30 senators to discuss the contours of the deal. According to multiple Senate sources, all of whom would only speak on condition of anonymity, the presentation proved surprisingly convincing. The ambassadors fielded a variety of questions. But the conversation lingered largely on a hypothetical: What would happen if the agreement fell through?

According to one Senate Democratic aide, the ambassadors were emphatic that this would amount to a forfeiture of a successful diplomatic endgame.

"They said international sanctions were aimed at getting Iran to the table, and if we fritter away this chance, you couldn’t keep that coalition of support," said the aide. "Frankly, there are a lot of countries out there that want to buy Iranian oil."

Said another aide, summarizing what was relayed at the meeting: "These countries will not come together again in search for the best deal. This is the best deal."

The Obama administration has made similar arguments in its lobbying campaign to support the Iran deal. But there was a different type of persuasion, as it came from other P5+1 members, according to another Democratic Senate aide. For lawmakers, it was a veritable from-the-horse's-mouth confirmation of their theories and suspicions. Boxer specifically cited the presentation in announcing that she would support the deal.

“It was very important to hear from them that they believed if we walked away, it would play right into the hands of the hard-liners in Iran, Iran would build a nuclear weapon, they’d have lots of money from everybody else but America, and it’d be a very dangerous situation,” she told the Los Angeles Times.

But while news was good for supporters of the Iran nuclear deal in the Senate, setbacks were experienced in the House. Reps. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), Ted Deutch (D-Penn.) and Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) all announced their opposition, arguing that the deal would prove ineffective in curbing Iran's nuclear program and would funnel money toward its terrorist-sponsoring activities. Early reports suggested Israel would proactively try to convince his fellow House Democrats to join him. But a spokesperson for the congressman told The Huffington Post, "He won’t be whipping but he will be expressing his opposition."

The flurry of activity foreshadowed what promises to be a high-drama August recess. Already, Democratic leadership in each chamber has encouraged members to come out one way or the other on the deal before leaving town to avoid having a target on their backs from proponents and critics. But 22 of those members, including the second-ranking Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), are currently in Israel on a trip sponsored by the American Israel Education Foundation, an AIPAC affiliated-group. There, they will likely meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, arguably the most outspoken critic of the nuclear deal with Iran.

A senior House Democratic aide said none of the members who came out in opposition on Tuesday were surprising defections. And though roughly $11 million has already been spent in an ad campaign trying to torpedo the deal (with millions more to come), backers of the deal continued to exude confidence that they would have the votes to sustain a presidential veto of a bill that effectively kills the nuclear deal.

The Obama administration, for its part, plans to continue what can only be described as a flood-the-zone lobbying campaign in hopes of bolstering the ranks. Another Senate briefing is scheduled for Wednesday with one of the deal's negotiators, Wendy Sherman. A separate briefing is scheduled for Senate Foreign Relations Committee members with Yukiya Amano, the director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which will lead the Iran nuclear program monitoring should the deal stay intact. On Tuesday, the president, along with Vice President Joe Biden, United States National Security Advisor Susan Rice and top foreign policy aide Ben Rhodes met with American Jewish community leaders at the White House. According to a source briefed on the exchange, the president did most of the talking, and the private case he made mirrored the public one.

"He went through it in a very lawyerly and detailed fashion and made his case and then went through the alternatives and refuted them," said the source. "Obviously he didn't convert the opponents in the room, but he forced the opponents to rethink the manner of their opposition."

The big press will come in a speech from Obama at American University, the site of John F. Kennedy's “Strategy for Peace” speech 52 years ago calling for a nuclear test ban treaty with the Soviet Union. According to a White House official, Obama will use the occasion to "frame the congressional decision about whether to block the implementation of a deal that prevents Iran from getting a nuclear weapon as the most consequential foreign policy debate since the decision to go to war in Iraq."

Hill aides said they had not seen this type of arm-twisting and bully-pulpit use since the selling of Obamacare back in 2010 -- which makes it all the more peculiar that it was five foreign officials that proved so consequential on Tuesday. Asked why more Democratic lawmakers didn't buy the concept that foreign policy was a prerogative best left to the president, the top House aide replied: "Believe it or not, members of Congress believe they are omnipotent, all-powerful. They believe they should weigh in on everything. So that’s not a persuasive argument."

With reporting by Jessica Schulberg. 

-- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

Categories: Political News and Opinion

Elite Israeli Ex-Security Chiefs Tell Bibi To Accept Iran Deal

Huffington Post News - Tue, 08/04/2015 - 9:52pm

Many Israeli ex-generals and former security chiefs have signed a petition urging Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to accept the nuclear deal between world powers and Iran, which he strongly opposes.

-- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

Categories: Political News and Opinion

School millages defeated in Pontiac, Madison Heights - Detroit Free Press

Berkley Information from Google News - Tue, 08/04/2015 - 9:35pm

Detroit Free Press

School millages defeated in Pontiac, Madison Heights
Detroit Free Press
Two big millage votes in Oakland County went down to defeat Tuesday as voters went to the polls all over the metro area. DETROIT FREE PRESS. 2015 Michigan Primary Election Results - Detroit Free Press. Madison Heights voters overwhelmingly rejected ...

Categories: Berkley Area News

MSP asking for help identifying arson suspects - WNEM Saginaw

Berkley Information from Google News - Tue, 08/04/2015 - 9:03pm

WNEM Saginaw

MSP asking for help identifying arson suspects
WNEM Saginaw
Michigan State police are asking for help identifying two people from a forensic artist sketch. MOREAdditional LinksPoll. The two people of interest in a recent arson in Saginaw. The first person of interest is a black man, medium complexion ...

Categories: Berkley Area News

After Cincinnati: The Enemy is Within

Huffington Post News - Tue, 08/04/2015 - 8:25pm

As part of the media stories about the latest death after a confrontation with the police, this time just a mile from the campus of the University of Cincinnati, one comment keeps popping up.

People ask, in what low regard do these policemen hold their -- mostly black -- victims, that they end up shooting to kill them so rapidly and frequently?

Actually, it is important -- and more illuminating -- to ask another question; In what low regard do these policemen (and they are generally men) hold themselves that they shoot to kill the victims so rapidly and frequently? Are they so terrified and underprepared to deal with their fellow citizens that they quickly resort to to lethal force?

In what low regard do these policemen hold themselves that they shoot to kill so rapidly?

Self esteem issues?

In a purely human context, quite independent of any racism issues, this is the only explanation that makes sense. Indeed, the phrase "he feared for his life" invariably comes up in the police department's defense of their shooter, whether or not there was any sign of imminent danger.

What follows logically from that conclusion is that it is to a society's great detriment if it puts people who have very low self-esteem into uniform at all. It does not help that training to join the police force is often inadequate in terms of rigor and duration -- just a few months in some places.

What makes all this much worse is the fact that the laws of the United States are far too flexible with regard to the rights police have to use deadly force.

U.S. police have the right to shoot to kill if they "feel" threatened, the lowest standard imaginable.

As things stand, scandalous as it is, policemen have the right to shoot to kill -- not just to incapacitate someone by shooting at a limb (which should be more than enough for an adequate response under the circumstances) -- if they merely feel threatened. That is the lowest standard imaginable.

Gun culture

Why is it that conservatives only care about "feelings" when it comes to guns? They would brandish that word as intolerably "liberal" in any other context.

The fact that the infamous stand-your-ground laws (in Florida and elsewhere) have the same standard of "feeling" threatened says it all. As deplorable as the laws are which allowed George Zimmerman to kill Trayvon Martin and go unpunished for the crime, they do not concern professionals in uniform.

It is hard to imagine why the standards for police in the use of deadly force are not considerably more rigorous and restrictive. That certainly is the case in other civilized societies.

True, police work is not easy in any society. And it is certainly much riskier in the United States, where guns -- due to the machinations of those same conservatives -- are so easily available to anybody and everybody, regardless of whether they are qualified to own a gun or not.

Where this turns into a real problem is when that gun culture, including those in uniform, is paired with socio-economic circumstances.

Economic angst

In the United States as in other industrialized societies, the white working class -- especially men -- has been doing worse than treading water for some decades now. While the upper crust of white society got ever richer, blue collar workers -- quite a few of them policemen -- felt ever more frustrated.

For them, the American Dream is long gone. Measured against their aspirations, it has now turned into a full-blown disappointment.

America's blue-collar policemen are taking out economic and social anger on minority men and women.

Just as it is said that other societies have their fair share of mentally sick people, the difference in the case of the United States is that these individuals have such an easy access to guns. That results in many more people dying at their hands than elsewhere.

By the same token, policemen everywhere have to contend with issues like self-esteem. What makes this fact of life far less problematic elsewhere is that other advanced societies have far tougher standards on the use of deadly force by police. As a result, far fewer people die there, at the hands of what is likely to be an equally frustrated police force.

Lashing out at citizens

As cases such as the arrest and subsequent death of Sandra Bland in Houston, en route to a new job, made plain, the broader trend in society -- that women do better in school (which puts them into a better position for a career in the future than many males) -- does not help the self-esteem of policemen. It only adds to their frustration.

In 2015 so far, 570 people have been killed by U.S. police. Four officers have been charged.

Deep-seated anger at women -- and especially black women -- is part of the overwrought response on the part of the U.S. police to what most often are minor infractions.

The numbers are a true clarion call: In 2015, 570 people have been killed by police officers. Four of the officers have been charged.

That is conclusive evidence that it was a very unwise choice of the United States -- supposedly a country that is dedicated to restraining state power, not unleashing it -- to be so free with the deadly use of force that police are allowed to exercise.

-- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

Categories: Political News and Opinion

Bernie Sanders Is Narrowing The Gap With Hillary Clinton In The Granite State

Huffington Post News - Tue, 08/04/2015 - 8:19pm

Bernie Sanders is closing in on Hillary Clinton, according to new polling from New Hampshire.

In a WMUR/University of New Hampshire poll released Tuesday, the Vermont senator is in a statistical tie with the Democratic presidential frontrunner, trailing her by six percentage points, which is just within the poll’s margin of error.

Among Democratic voters surveyed, 36 percent responded that they would vote for Sanders, while 42 percent said Clinton. Sanders leads Clinton in likeability and whether or not the candidate “best represents Democrats like themselves.”

Sanders and Clinton are virtually tied in terms of net electability, polling at 30 percent and 32 percent, respectively. Net electability measures the difference between the percentage of people who would vote for the candidate and the percentage of people who would not vote for him/her.

About five percent of respondents said they supported Vice President Joe Biden. In recent weeks, speculation that Biden might run has kicked into high gear, as sources close to Biden claim that he is weighing another presidential bid. Biden is expected to make a final decision by September. 

While the new poll is likely to boost the hopes of Sanders supporters, the numbers remain mostly unchanged from other New Hampshire polls in recent months, which show Sanders narrowing his gap with Clinton but still trailing. And despite his growing support, 68 percent of those surveyed said Clinton would win the New Hampshire primary in February, while only 17 percent said Sanders. A majority of respondents said that Clinton also has the best chance of winning the general election and that she has the “right experience to be president.”

Sanders faces an uphill battle in challenging Clinton on the national level. According to HuffPost Pollster’s aggregate of national polling data, Sanders would get about 20 percent of the vote nationally, compared to Clinton’s 56 percent. This is a slight increase from last month, when he was polling at less than 15 percent nationally. 

The WMUR poll surveyed 722 New Hampshire residents via phone between July 22 and July 30, including 276 likely Democratic primary voters.

Also on HuffPost: 

-- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

Categories: Political News and Opinion

Southfield fire chief called Milford home - Detroit Free Press

Berkley Information from Google News - Tue, 08/04/2015 - 7:56pm

Detroit Free Press

Southfield fire chief called Milford home
Detroit Free Press
Milford Fire Chief Larry Waligora knew exactly what to do when he walked into Town & Country Cleaners and saw a fellow chief's shirts hanging near his own. "I gave (employees) a Milford Fire Department patch and asked them to put it over the Southfield ...

and more »

Categories: Berkley Area News

Obama Urges Entrepreneur Diversity At White House Demo Day

Huffington Post News - Tue, 08/04/2015 - 7:30pm

Calling attention to the low numbers of women and minorities heading startups, President Barack Obama on Tuesday called for increased diversity among entrepreneurs.

More than 30 startups exhibited their work at the first White House Demo Day, which was held as part of Obama's Startup America initiative to support emerging ideas and innovation.

"We’re taking full advantage of this moment by tapping all the talent America has to offer, no matter who they are or where they set up shop," Obama said.

That message is particularly resonant among the country's startups. Only 3 percent of venture-funded companies are headed by a woman, according to a 2014 Babson College study. Just 1 percent are led by African-Americans.

"Capital is tough to come by, but it’s even tougher if you're not in one of a handful of cities that have a well-developed venture capital presence," Obama said. "Sometimes it’s harder if you're a woman or an underrepresented minority who all too often have to fight just to get a seat at the table."

Despite this reality, studies have shown that venture capital-backed startups with at least one female founder are more successful than male-only ones.

“The next Steve Jobs might be named Stephanie. Or Esteban," Obama said. 

It seems that some companies are beginning to take notice. Intel announced in June a $125 million investment in startups led by women and minorities.

Other private companies are following its example. Major venture capital firms including Andreessen Horowitz, Insight Venture Partners, and Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers have committed to ramping up efforts to attract women and minority candidates, and bringing them into their portfolios.

Obama also announced a 10-city expansion of TechHire, which promotes initiatives like coding boot camps, events that will help cities give entrepreneurs easier access to licenses and permits, and the further development of the National Science Foundation's innovation program.

 "We hope that these efforts are going to open up new opportunities for all of our entrepreneurs -- all of our would-be entrepreneurs," Obama said. "And in the months ahead, I look forward to seeing more folks across this country -- investors, accelerators, universities, civic leaders, corporate giants, growing startups -- all take new steps to build on these actions." 

-- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

Categories: Political News and Opinion

A Cop Killed A White Teen And The #AllLivesMatter Crowd Said Nothing

Huffington Post News - Tue, 08/04/2015 - 7:19pm

On the evening of July 26, Zachary Hammond pulled into the parking lot of a Hardee's in Seneca, South Carolina. Seated next to him was a young woman who had arranged to meet someone there to sell a bag of weed. It's unclear what Hammond knew about the transaction, but neither the 19-year-old nor his passenger had any idea that the buyer was actually an undercover police officer. Moments later, another officer fatally shot Hammond.

What we know about how Hammond ended up dead in a minor marijuana sting depends on whom you believe.

Police say a uniformed officer, on hand to support the undercover cop, was approaching Hammond's vehicle. There's disagreement about what happened next. Seneca Police Chief John Covington says Hammond drove the car at the officer, who, fearing for his life, fired twice into the vehicle, shooting a fatal round into Hammond's upper torso. Eric Bland, a lawyer for Hammond's family, says that the officer shot Hammond twice from behind and that an autopsy supports this claim. More than a week after the shooting, Oconee County coroner Karl Addis -- one of the few people who should know for sure -- has still not said publicly which direction the bullets came from.

Wherever the bullets struck Hammond, police say they were fired from near point-blank range through the open driver's side window. This detail has raised particular concern amid a string of police killings in which the official law enforcement narrative has not always held up.

As in those previous incidents, Hammond's family is left with painful questions: Was the car headed directly at the officer, or, as Hammond's father has suggested, did the officer shoot because his son was beginning to flee? Was the officer truly in danger? Or does the fact that he was so close to the vehicle when he fired indicate otherwise? Will the dashcam video, reportedly turned over to state investigators and requested by local news outlets, offer any answers?

These questions sound familiar because they've been asked before. Many of us have gotten used to asking them. We've gotten used to the confusion and disbelief around a life taken so abruptly, used to the frustration of hearing an officer's claim that the only choice was to shoot. Police have released minimal information about Hammond's killing, but with familiar questions have so far come familiar answers.

While aspects of Hammond's case evoke memories of other police shootings over the past year, one element does not: Hammond was white, as is the still-unidentified officer who shot him.

When so much national focus has recently been on the police killings of black Americans, Hammond's race is one reason -- though not the only reason -- you may not have heard his story until now.

Hammond's whiteness has certainly factored into the response to his death. No public outcry has questioned the media's use of family photos that appear to show a younger boy, still wearing braces. No wave of Internet denizens has scoured the victim's social media profiles in search of ways to somehow blame him for his own death. Nobody appears to have called for a discussion of white-on-white crime. No stories have been written about whether Hammond's parents had criminal records or asked if he was ever in trouble at school. At least not yet.

These points are no consolation to a dead 19-year-old. But they differ from the reality of what black people routinely face in similar situations.

Hammond's death also highlights a truth many white Americans seem reluctant to face: that police violence can affect anyone -- their white friends, cousins, brothers, sisters, even themselves. Though bad policing may take a disproportionate toll on communities of color, the calls for reform now being voiced loudest by people of color would benefit all of us.

Many people in the Black Lives Matter movement have been saying this since the beginning, which is why, in the absence of much mainstream media coverage, black Twitter has taken the most active role in making sure Hammond's name and story are heard.

Seneca, SC Cop Fatally Shot Teen, #ZacharyHammond, In Back, Not In Self-Defense, Family Says

— deray mckesson (@deray) August 3, 2015

He won't be labeled a thug but that doesn't mean police aren't grossly out of line. Stop killing us. #ZacharyHammond

— Rookie Of The Year (@mericanViolence) August 4, 2015

ANOTHER TEENAGE BABY KILLED BY POLICE shot in the back, barely 19. this is madness :( #RIP #ZacharyHammond

— liza sabater (@blogdiva) August 4, 2015

There are hundreds of tweets like this. Some simply speak to the tragedy of Hammond's death. Others find irony in the fact that the only significant response is coming from those who have been accused -- largely by white people -- of divisiveness in their efforts to call attention to the value of black lives. Their words now stand in stark contrast to what many of their white peers are doing: absolutely nothing.

Where are all the #AllLivesMatter people when it comes to #ZacharyHammond? All y'all looking funny in the light.

— Matthew A. Cherry (@MatthewACherry) August 4, 2015

If the snide retort to #BlackLivesMatter is that #AllLivesMatter -- a shallow rejoinder that misses the point entirely -- the resounding silence around Hammond's death exposes these complaints for what they often are: narrow-minded attempts to squelch honest discussions about the black experience. If these people truly believe that all lives matter, they should speak out about Hammond's death, just as they should have spoken out about the questionable deaths of Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Natasha McKenna or Ryan Bolinger, a white man killed by Iowa police in June.

Of the white people who have taken notice of Hammond's death, some have suggested that his case flies in the face of one of the core tenets of the Black Lives Matter movement. If police misconduct is a racial issue, they ask, how do black activists explain the shooting of a white person?

While advocates for reform do see police violence as reinforcing racial inequality, they also denounce controversial law enforcement tactics that have harmed many white people. Data compiled by The Guardian shows why police killings are both a national issue and a racial issue. Police in the U.S. have killed more white people in the first seven months of 2015 than people of any other race -- at least 335 so far. Adjust these numbers by population, and we see that police are killing black people at a rate more than twice that of whites. Beyond these limited death statistics are the broader studies that show police are more likely to subject black suspects to force, abuse and harassment -- which, again, doesn't mean white people don't also face frequent mistreatment.

Others have argued that the media or black people are actually to blame for Hammond's case not receiving more coverage -- that both parties are interested in covering police misconduct only to drive some sort of racial division. After all, how else can we explain that Hammond's case has received no national coverage, despite the fact that it looks similar to the July 19 killing of Samuel DuBose, a black man shot in his car by a University of Cincinnati police officer?

One reason is that video has not been released in Hammond's case, and there's nothing cable news loves more than a shockingly violent clip to play on loop.

Second, the media certainly are aware of the racial context responsible for propelling police shootings to the forefront of the national debate. News outlets cover stories that highlight such issues of race -- often those in which a white officer has killed a black suspect -- because they involve legitimate concerns worthy of closer examination, not to create racial tension. The fact that these cases keep emerging with such troubling regularity, even amid heightened scrutiny of law enforcement, has only fueled this narrative.

There is no such racial narrative in Hammond's case, but there is a third, more basic difference surrounding his death.

White America's apathetic response to the killing of a young white man is not just evident on Twitter. It also appears to be the prevalent attitude in the mostly white town of Seneca and in surrounding Oconee County, which is almost 90 percent white. The community there has not organized protests or demonstrations. They haven't held rallies or vigils -- or at least any that have been well-attended enough to attract even local news coverage. The national media aren't likely to parachute into a local story when nobody there, apart from Hammond's parents, seems to think it is a story.

Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised that white Americans have, for the most part, collectively shrugged at police violence. Polls have repeatedly shown that white people are much more likely to have confidence in the police, suggesting that they're either more willing to believe that officers are justified in their actions or that the system can be trusted to sort it out if they're not. As Ebony's Jamilah Lemieux notes, speaking up about Hammond now would create a conflict for many of those people:

#ZacharyHammond isn't going to get the outrage he deserves because it would force folks to admit their consistent defense of police is wrong

— jamilah (@JamilahLemieux) August 3, 2015

So Hammond's tragic death may not end up catalyzing white support for police reform. But the people now calling attention to it are proving once again that Black Lives Matter is built on the opposite of racism and a broader belief that every life matters -- a concept clearly not supported by the hashtag #AllLivesMatter.

The people shining a spotlight on Zachary Hammond have once again unmasked #AllLivesMatter as an essentially hollow response to a movement that many people somehow still fail to understand. 

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Categories: Political News and Opinion

Father Of Theater Shooting Victim Now Sits In Son's Row At Movies

Huffington Post News - Tue, 08/04/2015 - 7:19pm

Tom Sullivan of Aurora, Colorado, said his murdered son Alex was his best friend and "every father's dream," and told jurors on Tuesday he often returns to the movie theater and sits next to the empty seat where Alex was killed in the 2012 massacre.

Alex was celebrating his 27th birthday with friends at a midnight screening of a Batman film at a cinema in the Denver suburb. Twelve people died in the July 2012 attack by James Holmes, and 70 were wounded.

"He was every father's dream ... I took him everywhere," Sullivan said of his son, his voice shaking with emotion.

The retired postal worker said he and Alex, who worked as a bartender and was known as "Sully" to his pals, often attended concerts and college basketball and football games together. After Alex turned 21, he joined his dad for gambling trips to Las Vegas.

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Prosecutor Rich Orman asked Sullivan if the family had returned to the Century 16 multiplex since Holmes' rampage, and if they did anything there to commemorate Alex.

"Yes," Sullivan replied, saying they made sure they saw shows playing in the theater where the shooting took place.

"We go up and we sit in Alex's row, and we're sitting in row 12 and we leave seat 12 open for Alex, and ... we sit next to him," he told the court, his voice breaking again.

Several victims sitting in the public gallery wiped away tears as Sullivan spoke, and some hugged him when he came down from the witness stand.

The jury is hearing from victims after finding on Monday that mitigating factors in the case do not outweigh aggravating ones. This decision makes the death penalty an option.

They will then deliberate again on whether Holmes should be executed by lethal injection. If they are not unanimous on the death penalty, he will serve life with no chance of parole.

After hearing hundreds of witnesses during a trial that began in late April, lead prosecutor George Brauchler said the jurors will now learn more about a handful of Holmes' victims, and get "just the faintest whiffs of the impact on those that are left behind.

"This is done so that you can have a complete picture," Brauchler said. "And when this phase is over, probably tomorrow, you can go back, factor this in ... and come back and render the only appropriate sentence in this case, and that is death."

Defense attorney Rebekka Higgs said the panel would have to live with their decision for the rest of their lives.

Were they convinced beyond a reasonable doubt, Higgs asked, that death was the appropriate sentence for someone who suffered a "psychotic break" that led to the deaths?

"Or is life without the possibility of parole for this young man, who has an illness that he didn't ask for, an illness that he struggled to fix, is life in a prison cell without ever being released a sufficient punishment? And we say yes."

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Don't Like The New Climate Rules? Thank Congress.

Huffington Post News - Tue, 08/04/2015 - 6:57pm

WASHINGTON -- Critics of the Obama administration's new rules for power plant emissions have been quick to describe them as "government overreach" and "flagrantly unlawful." What they don't say is that congressional inaction and a mandate from the Supreme Court drove the regulatory process to this point.

The new rules limiting the emission of planet-warming greenhouse gases from power plants, which the Environmental Protection Agency finalized on Monday, were written under the Clean Air Act, a law originally adopted in 1970 to regulate sources of air pollution.

From Obama's first days in office, his administration stressed that it did not want to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, describing it as a non-ideal way to address this type of pollution. But legal mechanisms were already in the works to force the Obama administration to do exactly that if Congress declined to issue new, greenhouse-gas-specific rules.

Some historical context is helpful for understanding why and exactly how the new rules came to be.

There are many significant dates when it comes to the history of regulating emissions. You could start in 1965, when President Lyndon B. Johnson told Congress that "a steady increase in carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels" was altering the composition of the atmosphere. You could start in 1988, when former NASA scientist James Hansen warned the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee it was "time to stop waffling so much and say that the evidence is pretty strong that the greenhouse effect is here." Or you could start in 1993, when President Bill Clinton tried, unsuccessfully, to put a tax on energy consumption in an effort to curb pollution.

But we'll flash forward to the more recent history: the 2000 election. During the election, both Democratic candidate Al Gore and Republican candidate George W. Bush campaigned in favor of regulating carbon dioxide emissions. "We will require all power plants to meet clean-air standards in order to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide within a reasonable period of time," Bush said in September 2000.

Bush went on to become president, and a few months after taking office, he reversed his position: he would not regulate emissions, citing rising energy prices and "the incomplete state of scientific knowledge of the causes of, and solutions to, global climate change." Bush's approach to climate change throughout his presidency consisted of waffling on the causes of climate change -- even as scientific studies demonstrated with mounting certainty that the burning of fossil fuels was the primary culprit -- and promoting voluntary, rather than mandatory, actions to cut emissions.

A pair of senators stepped in to try to fill the void, as John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) introduced the bipartisan Climate Stewardship Act in January 2003. The bill aimed to reduce the emission of carbon and five other greenhouse gases to 1990 levels by 2016, using a cap-and-trade system.

''The United States is responsible for 25 percent of the worldwide greenhouse gas emissions,'' McCain said at the time. ''It is time for the United States government to do its part to address this global problem, and a discussion of mandatory reductions is the form of leadership that is required.'' The Senate voted on the bill in October 2003, but it failed by a vote of 43 to 55. Reps. Wayne Gilchrest (R-Md.) and John Olver (D-Mass.) also introduced unsuccessful companion legislation in the House. 

McCain and Lieberman reintroduced their legislation in 2005, but it again failed to gain traction. And Lieberman -- by then, an independent -- tried again with Sen. John Warner (R-Va.) in 2007, introducing the Climate Security Act, a cap-and-trade bill they estimated would reduce emissions 70 percent by 2050. That bill, too, failed to muster enough votes to pass.

But as all this action -- well, inaction -- was happening in Congress and the White House, a lawsuit from Massachusetts and a group of other states seeking to force the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from new motor vehicles under the Clean Air Act made its way to the Supreme Court. The court ruled in April 2007  that the Clean Air Act obligated the EPA to regulate any type of air pollution that "may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare," opening the door to the limits on greenhouse gases.

But there were some hurdles. First, the EPA had to determine that greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change are an endangerment to human health. And the Bush EPA did reach that conclusion.

Yet the White House declined to acknowledge it, even going so far as to refuse to open an email containing the finding so the administration wouldn't have to act on it. In July 2008, the White House extended the public comment period on the issue until the last days of the Bush presidency, effectively punting it to the next administration.

Shortly after Obama took office, the new EPA moved forward with completing the assessment. Obama's first EPA chief, Lisa Jackson, issued the endangerment finding in April 2009, which she said would "trigger the beginnings of regulation of CO2 for this country." New rules for emissions from automobiles soon followed.

But the Obama administration maintained that it preferred a new, carbon-specific law from Congress over regulating power plant emissions under the Clean Air Act. The 1970 law wasn’t crafted with climate change in mind. A new law from Congress would be more flexible and specific to greenhouse gases, the administration argued. 

There was a brief moment in 2009 when it seemed like a new law might happen. The House passed its own climate-specific legislation in June 2009, the Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy and Security Act. By all accounts, the bill was more flexible than EPA regulations and included a number of incentives to make it easier for major polluters to comply. 

The administration threw its weight behind that bill -- though whether the Obama administration tried hard enough or made climate enough of a priority is something I'll leave for activists and historians to debate.

But action stalled when it hit the Senate. A "tripartisan" attempt at climate legislation from Lieberman, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) fell apart in April 2010, amid bickering over legislative priorities. By July 2010, then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) snuffed out any remaining hope that a carbon cap would pass that year, concluding that they did not have the votes to make it happen.

"We always viewed the [rule-making under the Clean Air Act ] as 'Plan B,'" said Heather Zichal, who served as a top environmental adviser to Obama until October 2013. "We were very forward-leaning, trying to work directly with Congress, trying to identify, in the very early years, Republicans in the Senate in particular we could work with."

As Obama entered his second term with little prospect for a climate bill, the administration turned its efforts to regulations through the EPA. "He knew this was something that was very import to his legacy," said Zichal. "Therefore, the push from him to his staff was to go figure out what is the best thing we can do."

Obama officially kicked off the power plant regulations in a speech in June 2013 directing EPA to issue the rules. "We limit the amount of toxic chemicals like mercury and sulfur and arsenic in our air or our water, but power plants can still dump unlimited amounts of carbon pollution into the air for free. That’s not right, that’s not safe, and it needs to stop," said Obama. "So today, for the sake of our children, and the health and safety of all Americans, I’m directing the Environmental Protection Agency to put an end to the limitless dumping of carbon pollution from our power plants, and complete new pollution standards for both new and existing power plants."

 Beyond that, the Supreme Court ruling and the EPA's own endangerment finding legally compelled the agency to act. "Once they made the endangerment finding, they had to move forward under the Clean Air Act," explained Vicki Arroyo, executive director of the Georgetown Climate Center. "They had this authority, and this administration has clearly embraced it, given that a more comprehensive and tailored approach was defeated. They pledged to move forward with this, and that's what they did."

Yet that won't shield the administration from the inevitable lawsuits over the rules issued on Monday, which include standards for both new plants and plants already in operation that are responsible for approximately 40 percent of U.S. emissions. 

But it does likely mean that suits questioning the Obama administration EPA's very authority to issue the rules won't get very far, despite the flurry of press releases and announcements issued Monday. However, suits over the how the 1,560-page rule for existing power plants is constructed, the compliance timeline and the specifics of state requirements stand more of a chance of affecting the rule's trajectory.

Environmental advocates remain confident that the rules will go forward. "EPA is the expert agency Congress has tasked with reducing air pollution," said Joanne Spalding, managing attorney at the Sierra Club, in a call with reporters. "The Supreme Court has already said that Congress charged EPA with the job of regulating carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, just as it regulates other air pollutants." 

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Anti-Pot Hard-Liner Chris Christie Says Drug War Is A 'Failure'

Huffington Post News - Tue, 08/04/2015 - 6:56pm

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) said on Monday that the war on drugs has been a "failure" -- even though he has vowed to enact a federal crackdown on marijuana, a substance that has been a primary target of the drug war for decades.

"This is a disease and the war on drugs has been a failure -- well-intentioned, but a failure," Christie said at a presidential forum in New Hampshire on Monday. He went on to say that the country should "embrace" people who are addicted to drugs and alcohol, offering them a chance at rehabilitation rather than incarceration.

Christie's remark about the war on drugs reflects the views of many lawmakers and drug policy reformers alike. But critics of the two-term governor and 2016 presidential hopeful say that his record of forceful anti-marijuana rhetoric suggests he may be missing the point.

"Governor Christie is right that the war on drugs is a failure," Dan Riffle, director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project, told The Huffington Post. "But what he apparently doesn’t realize is there are more arrests and prosecutions for marijuana than for any other drug. The war on drugs begins and ends with marijuana." 

Marijuana offenses account for roughly half of all drug-related offenses, and most of those are for simple possession. According to a recent report on marijuana arrests from the American Civil Liberties Union, of the more than 8 million marijuana arrests between 2001 and 2010, 88 percent were for just being in possession of the drug. The report also found significant racial disparities in the arrest patterns. While both black and white Americans use marijuana at about the same rates, blacks were nearly four times more likely than whites, on average, to be arrested for marijuana during the years examined.

In 2011, according to the FBI's uniform crime report, there were more arrests in the U.S. for marijuana possession than for all violent crimes combined.

While the U.S. accounts for just 5 percent of the world’s population, it's home to a full 25 percent of the world’s prisoners. The harsh sentences for nonviolent drug possession and distribution crimes are part of the reason that figure is so high. In 1980, there were roughly 40,000 drug offenders in U.S. prisons, according to research from the Sentencing Project, a prison sentencing reform group. By 2011, the number of drug offenders serving prison sentences had ballooned to more than 500,000 -- most of whom were not high-level operators and did not have prior criminal records.

It's hard to calculate the human toll of all those incarcerations, some of them years or decades long. But by some national estimates, it costs state and local governments between $10 billion and $20 billion a year just to maintain the prohibition on marijuana.

Christie, who is one of more than a dozen Republicans vying for the party's presidential nomination, has made no secret of his opposition to cannabis. Although he said this week that he has "no problem" with medical marijuana when prescribed by a doctor, he has opposed even his own state's limited medical marijuana program and has called similar laws in 22 other states a "front" for full recreational legalization. He has characterized taxes generated from the sale of marijuana as "blood money." He threatened to veto a decriminalization measure in his home state. And earlier this year, in no uncertain terms, he said that if elected president, he would "crack down and not permit" recreational cannabis in states that have legalized it.

To date, four states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for adult use -- although D.C. still bans sales of the drug. As many as 10 more states are expected to consider legalization in the next several years.

But marijuana, be it medical or recreational, remains prohibited under federal law, and states rely on guidance from the Department of Justice urging federal prosecutors to refrain from targeting state-legal operations -- something Christie evidently wants to reverse, at least when it comes to recreational legalization.

"Instead of embracing the 'tough on drugs' rhetoric that got us into the war on drugs, Christie needs to join with the majority of Americans who recognize that taxing and regulating marijuana is a smarter way to deal with marijuana," Riffle said.

Indeed, as multiple recent polls have found, a majority of Americans do not support the kind of hard-line federal crackdown Christie favors. Some of those dissenters are in Christie's own party. While most GOP voters still do not support marijuana legalization, a recent Pew survey found that 54 percent of Republicans believe individual states should be able to allow marijuana use without federal interference if they choose. And among younger Republicans, there is strong majority support for legalizing marijuana. 

Also on HuffPost:

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Senator Sanders Sends a Message. Who Gets It? Immigrant's Insight

Huffington Post News - Tue, 08/04/2015 - 6:54pm

Who's Afraid of Bernie Sanders?

Senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders sends a powerful message asking some simple questions:

• Why is the US - the wealthiest nation in the world - behind some other countries in meeting the needs of its hard-working middle class?

• Why doesn't every American have access to healthcare as a basic right?

• Why can't every qualified American get a higher education?

• Why can't we have full employment at a decent living wage?

• Why can't working parents afford high-quality childcare?

While the US is cutting numerous social programs, many other countries are moving in the opposite direction, so his questions resonate widely.

Senator Sanders maintains that the poor status of many Americans results from bad policies, such as outrageous tax loopholes for billionaires and large corporations. For example, the top tax rate is less than half of what it was during the postwar economic boom and the real minimum wage has fallen dramatically since the 1960s.

The solution may lie in selecting the best tried-and-tested social programs functioning in Great Britain, Norway, Italy - or those with even better controls on costs and service, such as in Japan, France, Germany, Canada and Denmark, the senator believes.

His plan of addressing wealth and income inequality is about closing the loopholes to the 1-percenters class. Should we be afraid?

Why the Scare?

Many Americans fear the very word "socialism," and for obvious reasons: memories of the Cold War and the Iron Curtain have been fueling this emotion of fear for years, capitalizing on the originally rugged mentality of the pioneer country which has become a mighty power due to the capitalism. Evolving like all systems do, this untamed capitalism seems to have turned the tables on its own creators, the American people, and the widening gap between the rich and the poor exacerbates the unfortunate conditions of the poor. Some, including Senator Sanders, seek a way out by looking at what other democracies have successfully implemented, borrowing from their basic people-care/social-justice ideas.

I, for one, am not scared of those ideas--only of their potentially poor implementation. Like countless others who made a dash for freedom emigrating from the socialist societies - the USSR, its East European satellites, China, Vietnam, or Cuba - I know that these countries have all been but different flavors of the "big brother" socialism of the Soviet Union. So today, we are instinctively averse to many things even remotely considered "socialist." And this is why.

What "Extreme" Socialism Is

Branding Senator Sanders as "socialist" scares many people. But in his case there's nothing to be afraid of--because his definition of socialism means preserving free market and civil liberties and adding a higher level of social justice. His vision of socialism is far removed from the best-known kind of socialism which I call "extreme": the system implemented in the world's "evil empire."

The original socialist ideas drew on the attraction of early Christianity and took various forms. They were finally fortified by the studies of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, which were balanced - until vulgarized by Vladimir Lenin and further compromised by Joseph Stalin. Stalin managed to implement his primitive ideas of socialism, "extreme" socialism: total control over economy and people's lives. The triumph of these ideas-in-action lasted for over 70 years, and the huge monster of the USSR locked 286 million people behind the Iron Curtain, feeding them a special diet of quasi-socialist mentality, or Soviet national pride. Now, that was scary! I know it first-hand: I'm a survivor!

Immigrants' Family Solution

While I was working on a book about outstanding immigrant women, the issues of flight from "extreme" socialist regimes came up frequently enough for me to make a point about it here.

Consider the case of Rosa de la Cruz, a prominent art philanthropist, (pictured at left, with author), and an exile from Cuban Castro regime. She fled with her family after the regime started expropriating money/property not only from the rich but from all.

De la Cruz family was recently recognized by the Town & Country as one of the 50 Most Powerful Families. In our interview, however, Rosa set the record straight:

I am not impressed by wealth... Some folks are more materialistic, but we place spiritual over materialistic... Unfortunately, the US is turning into an anti-intellectual society. So we need to take more care of educating the young and influencing their perception of life, creativity and the world art.

Consistent with these ideas of social justice, Rosa de la Cruz came up with a new philanthropic concept, complete with new premises, way of implementation, and funding. A special 30,000-square-foot three-story house for her stunning collection is functioning as free museum and free art education institution for the young in Miami, Florida.

My point is that being affluent or of moderate means can perfectly coexist with progressive thinking, and the immigrant family found the super solution to express their social-justice attitudes -- without being "extreme" socialists like Fidel Castro.

Got It?

Everyone needs to know what modern socialism is really all about - to keep them from jumping to false conclusions. Let's review the situation.

Clearly, the problem with applying the European model of social justice is the fact that America is not Europe: in a number of ways, the New World is more traditionally-thinking than the old one. Senator Sanders, the most left-wing presidential candidate, calls himself a socialist, not a revolutionary, but the bad rap regarding socialism is here to stay--which leaves him but slim chances for American presidency.

Among his Democratic Party rivals, polls show Hillary Clinton consistently beating Republicans and someone who can hold the White House--despite being a woman, and not because she's a Clinton. She may want to incorporate some of Senator Sanders' ideas--and offer a customized, naturally American implementation of better social justice--which will make the nation happier. She is sophisticated enough to attempt that!

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Cops Save Man From Oncoming Train At The Last Second

Huffington Post News - Tue, 08/04/2015 - 6:51pm

These are some rail heroes!

Two California officers saved a driver's life Monday by dragging him from his car moments before a speeding train collided with it, according to ABC News. The driver had crashed into a pole before coming to a stop on tracks in Sunnyvale, south of San Francisco. Officers with the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office were just blocks away and raced to the rescue.

A witness captured the harrowing scene as it unfolded: Deputy Lance Whitted pulled the man in his 20s out of his stalled vehicle thugh the window. The two began running, but when the dazed motorist fell, Whitted dragged him to safety. Seconds later, Caltrain engine 385, a commuter train, smashed into his vehicle.

Deputy Erik Rueppel, Whitted's partner, had been flagging down the train to buy some time, according to the New York Daily News.

Meet Deputies Whitted & Rueppel. They pulled a man to safety and saved a life. #heroes #thank you @SMCSheriff

— Caltrain (@Caltrain_News) August 4, 2015

"This is what we’re trained to do," Whitted told KGO. "Luckily, we were at the right place at the right time."

Caltrain called the officers heroes, thanking them for their service. The driver escaped with minor injuries and no one on the commuter train was hurt. 

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What President Obama Didn't Say to the People of Africa

Huffington Post News - Tue, 08/04/2015 - 6:25pm

With much fanfare, President Obama addressed the African Union last week in Addis Ababa. His speech highlighted that with Africa's population forecast to "double to some two billion people" there is an urgent need for the continent to "generate millions more jobs than it's doing right now." The importance of this comment cannot be overstated. Sub-Saharan Africa's population is projected to increase from approximately 900 million currently to about 2 billion by 2050, according to UN estimates. Such growth rates are some of the highest the world has ever seen, and yet are occurring in some of its poorest and most undeveloped areas. Thirty-three of the world's least developed countries are in sub-Saharan Africa. Seventy percent of its population lives on less than $2 per day and around 48 percent lives in extreme poverty on under $1.25 per day, according to World Bank data. Due to the early stages of the continent's demographic transition, the population is very young. Fertility rates of some five children per woman combined with falling child mortality rates mean that children and adolescents dominate the populations. Some 42 percent of the sub-Saharan African population is under 15 years old. According to UNICEF estimates, by 2050, two in every five children born in the world will be African.

So Obama is right in emphasizing that Africa needs to create a huge number of jobs. But where are these jobs going to come from? The majority of sub-Saharan Africa's population lives in rural areas where agriculture is the primary economic activity. Africa's agricultural sector already exhibits low productivity and small lot sizes. The reasons for this low productivity are much debated, but efforts to improve it over the past decade have had little aggregate impact. Consequently, most of the increase in population will need to find jobs in the manufacturing and services sectors. In order to do this on a sustainable basis while generating incomes that lift people out of poverty, tradable goods manufacturing must become the principal driver of Africa's growth and employment.

Tradable goods manufacturing is essential to modernizing an economy, as seen from the successful development cases of Japan, Taiwan, Korea and Singapore. China, Indonesia, Malaysia and, to a lesser extent, India also now pursue export-led growth strategies. But Africa's manufacturing industry starts from a small base. Its share of global manufacturing value added and manufacturing exports are 1.1 percent and 1.3 percent respectively, half of which is from South Africa. In 2010, Africa's share of manufacturing in GDP is 10 percent, the same value as in the 1970s. Manufactured exports per person are about one-tenth of developing country average.

Transport infrastructure without goods to be transported will never generate a return. Downstream industries without a competitive supply base will fail.

Manufacturing today predominantly comprises global supply chains where production is allocated to wherever factor inputs are cheapest and most productive. For African nations to take part in the manufacture of globally tradable goods they need to develop cost competitive industry, initially overcoming their lack of local scale with low cost inputs, especially labor. Infrastructure bottlenecks must be addressed. They will need to access new technologies, most probably through foreign investment, and create the human capital that can master these technologies.

However, in most African countries the conditions for such a structural transformation from an agricultural to a predominantly manufacturing economy are not in place. Critical factor inputs for manufacturing are lacking or too expensive. African governments are insufficiently focused on promoting export-orientated industry. The successful Asian development experience suggests that governments, in collaboration with private sector experts, need first to assess their current and potential manufacturing base. Policy must then relentlessly promote the manufacturing sector along with simultaneous investment and development of the multiple factor inputs on which the sector relies. Targeted industries must be supported with finance and specific policies that allow time for them to develop scale and competitiveness. Policy coordination is paramount. We have seen that education without jobs achieves little. Factories without power can never be competitive. Transport infrastructure without goods to be transported will never generate a return. Downstream industries without a competitive supply base will fail.

Many argue that the self-interested leaders of African nations condemn any attempt to create competitive manufacturing economies to the fate that befell the poorly implemented import substitution policies of the 1960s. But surely there must be one or two African leaders who have the vision to take their country down the proven path of modernization via the development of a tradable goods manufacturing sector, providing a precedent for others to follow. If so, the U.S. and other Western nations should support such efforts wholeheartedly. As the refugee crisis on Europe's borders clearly demonstrates, the continued exclusion of Africans from the global economy is not an option.

Earlier on WorldPost:

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