Wednesday, November 13, 2019

23 Years a Slave: Restaurant Owner Gets Bullshit Sentence for Enslaving Intellectually Disabled Black Man

A South Carolina restauranteur was sentenced to prison after admitting he used violence, threats, and intimidation to force a black man to work more than 100 hours a week with no pay in a stunning case of throwback slavery.
On Monday, U.S. District Court Judge R. Bryan Harwell sentenced 54-year-old Bobby Paul Edwards to 10 years in federal prison after he pleaded guilty to one count of forced labor, according to a press release from the Department of Justice. Prosecutors say that Edwards, who managed his family’s restaurant, forced Chris Smith, an intellectually disabled black man, to work for free and live in a small room behind the restaurant. Court documents show that Edwards physically abused Smith for at least 17 years, including whipping Smith with a belt, beating him with pots and pans and even burning him with hot grease.
In 1996, when Smith was only 12 years old, he accepted a job at J&J Cafeteria in Conway, S.C., WPDE reports. Six years later, Edwards took over as manager and stopped paying Smith. Over the next 17 years, Edwards would torture, imprison and withhold pay from Smith, claiming that his pay was kept in an “account” that was inaccessible to Smith.
federal lawsuit filed on Smith’s behalf claims that Smith worked 18 hours a day, six days a week. On Sundays, he only had to work 11 hours. During his entire 23 years of enslavement at J&J, Smith claims he never had a work break or a day off. Forced to live in a “cockroach-infested” apartment behind the business, Smith alleges that Edwards’ family never tried to intervene.
“They knew,” said Smith. “All of ‘em knew. They knew what he was doing.”
When Smith’s family would try to check on him, Edwards would lock Smith in the kitchen or even in the freezer. On the rare occasion that Smith indicated displeasure or tried to escape, he was hit in the head with a frying pan, burned with hot tongs, beaten with belt-buckles and called the n-word repeatedly. Customers reported that they sometimes heard Smith being beaten and screaming for his life.
“I wanted to get out of there a long time ago. But I didn’t have nobody I could go to,” Smith explained. “I couldn’t go anywhere. I couldn’t see none of my family so that was that...That’s the main basic thing I wanted to see was my mom [to] come see me.”
Geneane Caines, who was friends with the Edwards family, was a frequent customer at J&J and her daughter, who worked at the eatery, told her how Edwards abused Smith. Once, while eating at the restaurant, she noticed signs of abuse.
“Chris came out of the kitchen and put some food down on the bar,” Caines told WPDE. “He leaned one way over and when he did, I could see [a scar] on his neck.”
After looking into the situation, Caines reported Edwards to the Department of Social Services, who rescued Smith. Caines also alerted Abdullah Mustafa, President of the Conway chapter of the NAACP. They helped Smith get on his feet and Caines allowed Smith to stay in her home for two months.
Edwards was sentenced to 10 years after pleading guilty to one count of forced labor. He was also ordered to pay $272,952.96 in restitution. (Or as Merriam-Webster correctly defines it: “Reparations.”)
“For stealing his victim’s freedom and wages, Mr. Edwards has earned every day of his sentence,” said U.S. Attorney Sherri A. Lydon for the District of South Carolina. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office will not tolerate forced or exploitative labor in South Carolina, and we are grateful to the watchful citizen and our partners in law enforcement who put a stop to this particularly cruel violence.”
The next day, Lydon, an ever-vigilant protector of the people, prosecuted 28-year-old Erron Jordan. Jordan was stopped by a Conway police officer because his window tint was too dark. After cops noticed the “odor of marijuana,” police found a small amount of illegal drugs, prescription pills and a firearm in the car.
Jordan was sentenced to 12 years in prison and three years of supervised probation.
Jordan has never been convicted of a violent offense.
Oh, “Justice” Department, you almost had me.
If you or your loved ones would like to dine at J&J Cafeteria, it is open 14 hours a day, seven days a week.
It is still owned by the Edwards family.

University Lawyer Resigns After Blurting Out the N-Word... During a Lecture About Fighting On-Campus Hate

An attorney for a Texas institution of higher learning tendered her resignation after she was criticized for using the top-ranked* racial epithet during a lecture to students. While the Bill of Rights, the Founding Fathers, social studies teachers and 99.9999 percent of law professors somehow manage to avoid the slur, this particular lawyer insisted that it was “impossible” to discuss the concept of protected speech without using the word “nigger.”
Seriously, that’s her defense.
On Thursday, Caitlin Sewell, the University of North Texas System’s assistant general counsel spoke at the UNT event, “When Hate Comes to Campus.” While teaching the students about protected speech, Sewell searched for a useful but relevant analogy and decided to use an offensive term that everyone could understand—the most offensive of them all.
The North Texas Daily reports:
“If I said something offensive … you know, you can say a lot of offensive things in here because it’s impossible to talk about the First Amendment without saying horrible things,” Sewell said. “Um, you know, ‘You’re just a dumb n—-r and I hate you.’ That alone, that’s protected speech.”
However, SGA Senator Daniel Ojo said afterwards that Sewell continued with her example and used the term “f-word” in an attempt to censor herself, but didn’t seem to worry about using the n-word.
“So, you didn’t censor the n-word, but you definitely censored f—,” Ojo said. “Like, what’s more damaging to people? There is no word that I can say to describe a white person that is completely damaging to their character… that has like big historical context to it that can damage someone, but there are a plethora of words that can describe and damage minor marginalized students.”

To be fair, “fuck” is different from “nigger.” No demure Texas lady would dare use the connotation for sexual intercourse in mixed company. But how was she supposed to make educated college students understand what happens “when hate comes to campus” without bringing the most hateful word imaginable to their campus?
In a statement, UNT Chancellor Lesa Roe and UNT President Neal Smatresk said although they understood Sewell’s point, the nigger speech contained references that “are never condoned.”
Sewell, who has worked for the Denton, Texas, institution since 2017, resigned effective immediately, explaining that she has “never used that word in public before. The sewer-mouthed Sewell apologized and said: “I wish I had censored that word—it came out without thought.”
Sure, Caitlin.
“F-word that racist devil bitch,” said one student who I made up for this analogy. “I hate her.”

Elizabeth Warren Wants To Punish Companies Like Exxon For Lying To Federal Agencies

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren is taking on big oil’s legacy of climate misinformation in her latest presidential plan, proposing to punish companies that knowingly mislead or lie to federal agencies with steep fines and jail time.
Warren’s plan has at least one visible target: ExxonMobil. The oil giant’s own scientists confirmed in the 1970s and ‘80s that fossil fuels have contributed to global warming. Then the company shuttered its climate research and embraced a public relations campaign to spread doubt about climate science and fund climate change denial.
“My plan to End Washington Corruption prevents companies like Exxon from using industry-funded fake research to mislead federal regulators,” Warren wrote in a new plan released on Tuesday morning. “And if bad actors like Exxon break the rules and deliberately lie to government agencies, my plan will treat them the same way the law treats someone who lies in court – by subjecting them to potential prosecution for perjury.”
Warren’s latest plan formally merges her climate agenda with her anti-corruption proposals, which have been the centerpiece of her presidential campaign. She has already proposed spending at least $3 trillion on climate action, including banning fossil fuel development on public lands, tackling environmental justice as part of the Green New Deal, and embracing many of former presidential candidate Jay Inslee’s ideas for cutting climate pollution in the building, transportation, and electricity sectors.
Warren’s attack on Exxon comes on the heels of recent Congressional hearings digging into the company’s sketchy climate history. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, one of the most high-profile progressives in Congress, repeatedly grilled former Exxon scientists about their climate work. And the New York Attorney General recently took Exxon to trial, alleging the company misled investors about its climate risk; the New York Supreme Court has not yet issued a verdict in the case. Last month, the Massachusetts Attorney General sued Exxon for misleading both investors and consumers about climate change.
Exxon declined to comment on Warren's plan. Instead Scott Silvestri, a company spokesman, outlined Exxon's past funding of climate work, how its scientists have participated in global climate assessments and have produced nearly 150 papers on the subject. The company's website, meanwhile, refers to the climate attacks as "an orchestrated campaign that seeks to delegitimize ExxonMobil and misinterpret our climate change position and research."
Under the plan, Warren proposes creating a new “corporate perjury” law to hold companies accountable for submitting misinformation to federal regulators, such as in the public comment period for a new rulemaking. Companies that violate the law could face criminal liability, resulting in upwards of $250,000 in fines or jail time for the people who submitted the deceitful information.
She also recommends banning “federal agencies and courts from considering non-peer-reviewed, industry-funded research.” So if a company submits research for proposed rulemaking, it would have to disclose how it was funded, whether the funders influenced the research, and detail the relationship between funders and researchers. Research with conflict of interest would likely be excluded from the rulemaking, as well as from any future court challenges to that rule.
Warren proposes creating a national Office of the Public Advocate to make it easier for the public to engage in the federal rulemaking process.

Donald Trump's company is to pay the Scottish Government £225,000 to cover its legal bills after the US president's firm was defeated in a long-running and acrimonious court battle over a windfarm development near his inaugural Scottish golf resort.

Donald Trump's company is to pay the Scottish Government £225,000 to cover its legal bills after the US president's firm was defeated in a long-running and acrimonious court battle over a windfarm development near his inaugural Scottish golf resort.

The firm behind Mr Trump’s Aberdeenshire property pursued a three year-long battle to block the offshore renewable energy scheme, a fight which saw Mr Trump appear before the Scottish Parliament and led to his company taking its case to the UK's highest court. However, it ended in failure.
Now, nearly four years after Mr Trump's company lost in the Supreme Court, and close to nine months after the Court of Session ruled it was liable for the Scottish Government's costs, the terms of the outstanding legal bill have been agreed, The Scotsman can reveal.
A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: “We can confirm that settlement has now been reached - and this has removed the need for the expenses to be determined by the auditor of the Court of Session.
“Expenses amounting to £225,000 will now be paid to Scottish ministers by the petitioners.”
The settlement will see the Scottish Government receive the money from Trump International Golf Club Scotland Limited, the corporate entity behind the Trump International Scotland resort in Balmedie.
Had the matter reached the auditor of the Court of Session - an independent office holder appointed by Scottish ministers on nomination by the Lord Advocate - an additional fee would have applied to the expenses.
Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie said : “Trump has attempted to avoid any responsibility over the impact of his developments and bullied anyone who has tried to stand in his way, so I’m delighted his business is being forced to compensate Scotland for his failed legal challenges.
“Hopefully this high-profile case will encourage all developers to consult, include and listen to communities rather than bully them.”
Trump International Golf Club Scotland’s latest accounts, published last month by Companies House, show that it posted annual losses of £1.07m in 2018, marking the seventh consecutive year it had failed to turn a profit. Its cumulative losses total more than £9.4m, and it is reliant on interest free loans from Mr Trump worth £40.6m.
The development has long been a source of contention between the Scottish Government and the 73-year-old, who argued it would spoil the view from his golf course.
Mr Trump appeared at Holyrood in April 2012 where he claimed wind energy would lead to the “almost total destruction” of the nation's tourism industry and cause “tremendous damage” to the landscape.
At one point, while being questioned by MSPs over the need for “clinical evidence” instead of opinions, he responded: “First of all, I am the evidence. You know what? I think that I am a lot more of an expert than the people who you would like me to hire, who are doing it to make a paycheck. I am considered a world-class expert in tourism.”
When consent for the offshore development was granted the following March, Mr Trump said he would put his future plans for the resort “on hold” - iit has since secured planning permission for an expansion which will create a second golf course and 550 housing units.
Speaking at the time the windfarm was given the greenlight, Mr described it as a “purely political decision,” and one he would contest.
"We will spend whatever monies are necessary to see to it that these huge and unsightly industrial wind turbines are never constructed,” he promised.
Two months later, Mr Trump instructed his lawyers to take the matter of the North Sea scheme to court.
In an op-ed for the Mail on Sunday newspaper published the same month, he condemned the then First Minister Alex Salmond as “Mad Alex,” and vowed to spend whatever it took to protect the course and the memory of his mother, who hailed from the Hebridean island of Lewis.
“I am going to fight him for as long as it takes - to hell if I have to - and spend as much as it takes to block this useless and grotesque blot on our heritage,” Mr Trump wrote.
“By exposing the fallacy and dan­ger of wind turbines, I will be hon­ouring Mary MacLeod's memory in an even more important way than building the greatest golf course anywhere in the world.”
However, his company was unsuccessful in its attempts, with its initial petition dismissed in February 2014 followed by a second challenge which was rejected the following June.
Mr Trump’s company went on to mount a legal challenge in the Supreme Court. He argued that planning consent for the windfarm was so imprecise as to make it legally invalid. However, judges rejected the legal challenge in a unanimous ruling in December 2015.
In February this year, civil appeal judges Lord Menzies, Lord Malcolm and Lord Drummond Young in the Court of Session ruled that Mr Trump’s firm should pay the legal bills incurred.
The 11 turbine wind power development off the Aberdeen coast began operating last July. Power from the European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre, which was developed by Swedish energy group, Vattenfall, is being exported to the National Grid. Its turbines are among the most powerful in the world, with a total generating capacity of 93.2 MW.
Welcoming confirmation of the settlement, Dr Richard Dixon, director of Friends of the Earth Scotland, congratulated the Scottish Government for “resisting repeated attempts” to stop the “popular and much needed” renewable scheme.
He added: “A positive gesture would be for this money recouped from Donald Trump to be committed into programmes which support the growth in community-owned renewables.
“Scotland needs to continue its growth in clean, reliable renewable energy as we transition away from fossil fuels to a zero carbon economy. “
The latest development comes less than a week after Mr Trump was ordered by a New York judge to pay £1.6m for misusing funds from his charity to finance his 2016 political campaign.
Letitia James, New York’s attorney general, said Mr Trump had admitted to "personally misusing funds at the Trump Foundation,” which closed down last year. However, Mr Trump accused her of "deliberately mischaracterising this settlement for political purposes.”

Bernie Sanders returned $470 from the only billionaire who donated to his campaign

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has made it clear his 2020 campaign isn't funded by billionaires.
Except for a little while, it was. Marta Thoma Hall, the wife of a billionaire inventor, gave $470 to Sanders' campaign this summer — and when Sanders' team realized, they promptly returned it, Forbes reports.
Hall's husband David Hall, who "doesn't have as much of an interest in politics," holds a patent on a self-driving car sensor, and his stake in the Velodyne company has recently been valued at over $1 billion, Forbes writes. That essentially makes Hall a billionaire too — and the only one Forbes could find who donated to Sanders' campaign. She's also given around $500 to some other Democratic contenders, including Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), and says she wasn't even aware of the $2,800 individual limit on single campaign donations.
Sanders' campaign, meanwhile, makes it clear his website is "paid for by Bernie 2020 (not the billionaires). He's also publicly claimed billionaires "shouldn't exist." So when Forbes asked why there was a billionaire on his donor list, a Sanders spokesperson thanked the publication and said it would be "returning Ms. Hall's contributions."
Hall found the return of her money "disappointing," she said. "I don't understand why they would do that. That's ridiculous," she told Forbes. Still, one has to respect the adherence to the brand. 

Elizabeth Warren Proposes Federal Ban On Industry-Funded ‘Junk Science’

Democratic presidential front-runner Elizabeth Warren called for a ban on federal agencies and courts using industry-funded “junk science.”
The policy memo was part of a broad campaign proposal to limit the influence of big business on regulations, but it came as a direct rebuke of the Trump administration’s latest effort to limit the research that regulators use to write rules. 
In a Medium post published Tuesday morning, the senator from Massachusetts vowed to enact rules requiring industry players who submit non-peer-reviewed research to agencies or courts to disclose who funded the studies. Any studies found to present conflicts of interest “will be excluded from the rulemaking process and will be inadmissible in any subsequent court challenges unless the research has passed rigorous, independent peer review,” Warren wrote. 
The plan calls for establishing a White House Office of the Public Advocate to oversee the implementation of the rules. 
The proposal depends on the passage of the Anti-Corruption and Public Integrity Act, sweeping legislation that Warren introduced in August. 
Warren pitched the proposal as a way to prevent companies like Exxon Mobil and its network of front groups from shaping rules on climate-changing pollution by obscuring scientific consensus with contrarian research papers that serve its financial interests. The proposal comes as the oil giant is facing mounting lawsuits over its decades of seeding doubt over carbon dioxide’s role in heating the planet even as its own scientists confirmed that reality in internal documents.
It’s not a playbook the fossil-fuel industry wrote. Tobacco companies infamously used the same tactics ― and, in some cases, the same public relations firms ― to delay regulations on cigarettes, not by debunking the link between smoking and diseases such as lung cancer, but by presenting a false picture of uncertainty over the science.  
“It’s bad enough that the companies peddle misinformation on purpose,” Warren wrote. “But the consequence is even worse when it comes to new regulations.”
The policy, if Warren were elected, would mark a dramatic reversal from the Trump administration. President Donald Trump, who rejects scientists’ calls to rapidly transition the United States off oil, appointed industry-linked climate science deniers to key advisory positions as he gutted federal rules to curb pollution.
In October 2017, the Environmental Protection Agency banned scientists who received funding from the agency from serving on its advisory boards, clearing the way for industry-friendly researchers to dominate the critical oversight panels. In April 2018, the agency proposed a new rule barring its regulators from using peer-reviewed research that grants anonymity to subjects, a standard practice in public health studies. The EPA said in September it planned to advance the so-called “transparency rule” in early 2020. 
But on Monday night, The New York Times reported that the EPA planned to widen the scope of the proposal, requiring scientists to disclose all of their raw data, including confidential medical records, before the agency can consider the academics’ conclusions. 
“Over and over again with the Trump administration, we have seen their enthusiasm for attacking the science that underlies some of our most critical environmental rules,” said Kristy Dahl, a senior climate scientist at the nonpartisan Union of Concerned Scientists. “There’s a clear effort to put science on the sidelines, to ignore the latest science and to essentially deceive the public about the state of the science.” 
A public advocate position, she said without commenting directly on the Warren proposal, could help restore public trust in the federal rulemaking process. 

A Shocking Number Of Americans Know Someone Who Died Due To Unaffordable Care — The high costs of the U.S. health care system are killing people, a new survey concludes.

In the last five years, 34 million Americans watched as someone they knew died because they couldn’t afford medical treatment, according to a survey report that Gallup and West Health published Tuesday.
That means 13% of Americans personally knew someone who died who didn’t get the medical care they knew they needed because they couldn’t afford it.
Reflecting the deep disparities in the economy and the health care system endured by racial minorities and low-income people, nonwhites and the people who earn the least money were about twice as likely to report knowing someone who died under these circumstances, the survey reveals.
Twenty percent of nonwhite respondents reported knowing someone who died because of unaffordable health care, twice the share of white people. Similarly, 19% of those living in households with incomes below $40,000 annually had this experience, compared with 11% of those earning $40,000 to $100,000 and 9% of those with higher incomes.
Americans older than 65 were the least likely to report knowing someone in this situation, perhaps reflecting Medicare’s universal coverage of retirees. Among adults ages 18 to 44, 17% said they knew someone who died because of high health care costs, more than the 12% of those 45 to 64 and 7% of people older than 65.
“It’s outrageous in the United States that so many people have lost a family member or friend simply because the cost of health care is so high,” Tim Lash, chief strategy officer for West Health, said in a news release. “It is a tragic statement on the state of health care in America.” The polling company Gallup and West Health, a consortium of nonprofits focused on lowering health care costs for older Americans, polled 1,099 U.S. adults in all 50 states and the District of Columbia in September.
The Affordable Care Act reduced the national uninsured rate to a historic low via a Medicaid expansion, the availability of private health insurance coverage regardless of preexisting conditions and the creation of subsidies for low- and middle-income people. Last year, 8.5% of U.S. residents, or about 28 million people, were uninsured, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
But that law didn’t stop U.S. health care providers and drugmakers from charging the highest prices in the world. In addition, a growing number of Americans who have private health insurance face high out-of-pocket costs, such as deductibles that require the insured to spend thousands of dollars out of pocket before coverage benefits kick in.
Those are among the reasons why 45% of Americans were “underinsured” last year, meaning patients are left responsible for a larger share of their medical expenses than they can afford, according to a survey by the Commonwealth Fund, a New York-based research institute. Among those underinsured Americans, 41% delayed medical care because of cost and 47% reported trouble paying medical bills.
High bills for medical care not covered by insurance led Americans to borrow $88 billion from February 2018 to February 2019, a separate Gallup-West Health survey report published in March shows. Almost 6 in 10 of Americans who filed for bankruptcy from 2013 to 2016 cited medical bills as a factor, according to survey results reported this year in the American Journal of Public Health.