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Politics

Joe Biden’s Tax Plan Will Put The Middle Class In Peril (VIDEO)


Home Depot co-founder Ken Langone was on the FOX Business Network this week to discuss the election, specifically Joe Biden’s tax plan.

Biden keeps claiming he is only going to tax the rich, in an obvious effort to appeal to the Bernie Sanders wing of the Democrat party, but the truth is that his plan will impact the middle class negatively.

Langone explained how.

From FOX Business:

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Joe Biden’s tax plan will put middle class in ‘peril,’ Home Depot’s Langone says

Home Depot co-founder Ken Langone blasted Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s tax plan on Wednesday, saying that “the middle class will be in peril.”

Langone told “Mornings with Maria” on Wednesday that the middle class will feel the effects of Biden’s tax plan even though the former vice president has said the wealthy should pay more in taxes, and that the tax code should be more progressive and equitable. That includes eliminating loopholes that favor the rich and large corporations.

“I don’t know if there’s any of us that have done well that will have a problem with paying more taxes, but it’s a ruse to think that hitting us and us alone is going to get the job done,” Langone said.

“It won’t and the middle class will be in peril and when you take money out of the hands of the middle class, you do a dramatic impact negatively on the economy.”

“The middle class will not be exempt,” he added. “Tragically, it will punish them. It isn’t going to punish us.”

Watch the video below:

Langone makes some excellent points here but one really stands out.

Why would you raise any taxes when we’re still trying to recover from the hit the economy took under the pandemic?

We should be looking at tax cuts, not increases.

(Image:Source)

Cross posted from American Lookout.





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Health

‘Little Shop,’ Big Relief: How One Theater Safely Put on an Indoor Show


Of course, for many, coming to New Hampshire was also a chance to escape New York.

“I was excited to not have to hear the sirens every day,” Donoso said. “Where we are staying, you can see mountains for miles, so it was serene.”

The actors were also happy to be working, earning not only a salary but credit toward health insurance, which few are able to do this year. “I feel grateful to be the guinea pigs,” said Marisa Kirby, 32, who is spending her third summer at Weathervane, playing Audrey in “Little Shop” and running the intern program. “We’re lucky.”

They started slow: canceling a few preseason events scheduled in June, then allowing a company of student interns to perform outdoors for children and then indoors for no more than 20 people. (Those performances were streamed, too.)

The professional actors started out streaming musical revues, and then in August, after submitting an 84-page safety plan, they got permission from Equity to stage three fall shows in repertory. It was the theater’s inaugural fall season, which ran through Columbus Day, when the region is laden with leaf peepers.

Plenty of patrons were eager to return. “There was no question but that we would go,” said Lorain Giles, a 69-year-old retired United Church of Christ pastor. She and her husband, Bill, live in Massachusetts, but spend each summer in nearby Lunenberg, Vt., and the Weathervane is a regular part of their routine.

“We refused to live in fear,” she said. “We trusted them, and wanted to to celebrate them being open, and we were just glad to be out among other human beings.”



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Politics

Mike Pence put contempt for truth and his opponent on display, but Kamala Harris was up to the job


Mike Pence sure showed Donald Trump how it’s done during Wednesday night’s vice presidential debate. Pence put on his smug, condescending, holier-than-thou pants and interrupted nonstop. He didn’t yell and spray spittle like Trump. He just calmly, doggedly ignored time limits, ignored moderator Susan Page’s pathetic attempts to hold him to his time, and ignored the question he’d been asked. The pattern was Pence getting a question, answering something entirely different for his full time, and then simply continuing to talk for another full count—sometimes to answer the original question, sometimes to level an unrelated attack, sometimes seemingly just to dominate. And Page allowed it.

So the story of watching this debate—at least if you’re a woman who doesn’t like to be condescended to and interrupted—was sheer rage. In that context, Sen. Kamala Harris’ control and calm was unbelievable. That’s not to say she took it lying down. More than once, Harris reclaimed her time, calmly smacking Pence back for interrupting her—“Mr. Vice President, I’m speaking”—or calling directly on Page to give her equal time to what Pence had seized. And Harris reaction shots lit up Twitter, because she managed to be extremely expressive, with lots of “oh no he didn’t” moments, without showing the rage she must have felt at Pence’s lying, condescension, and dodging.





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Breaking New

Trump put on dexamethasone, steroid recommended for severe Covid-19 cases


President Donald Trump’s doctors said Sunday they had begun treating him with dexamethasone, a steroid that has shown promise for critically ill patients but may cause harm to those with less severe cases of Covid-19. 

The revelation, which came as part of an upbeat briefing on the president’s condition, raised further questions about Trump’s health as the 74-year-old wrestles with the virus that has killed more than 200,000 Americans.

Dr. Nahid Bhadelia, an infectious diseases physician at the Boston University School of Medicine, said the steroid treatment suggests that Trump has a level of inflammation that warrants the use of steroids despite the fact that the drug also suppresses the immune system. 

“That they made a conscious decision that the benefit of giving steroids outweighs the risk implies a higher degree of severity than what we knew on Friday and Saturday,” Bhadelia said in an email.

Another expert, Dr. Vin Gupta, said the doctors’ disclosures may indicate that Trump could be suffering from pneumonia.

“The treatment the doctors report they administered suggest the president has COVID pneumonia of at least mild severity,” said Gupta, a member of the faculty at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

The briefing took place outside the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, where the president has been treated since Friday. 

White House physician Dr. Sean Conley said the president’s medical team had begun treating the president with dexamethasone. The course of treatment came in response to two incidents in which Trump’s blood oxygen levels dipped below normal in recent days. 

Conley also said that Trump could be discharged as soon as Monday and said his health was improving.

Bhadelia said she generally would not discharge someone who was just put on steroids.

The Trump medical team’s announcement complicated assessments of how dire the president’s case is, particularly in light of the caginess that has surrounded details about the president’s health.

According to the World Health Organization, dexamethasone has been shown to reduce 28-day mortality in patients with severe and critical cases of Covid-19. In contrast, the organization found, it “may increase the risk of death when administered to patients with non-severe” cases of the disease. 

The WHO defined severe cases of Covid-19 as causing blood oxygen levels to fall below 90%. Healthy adults generally have blood oxygen levels of 95% or higher. Rapid breathing or other signs of respiratory distress could also cause a case to be considered severe. 

One study cited by the WHO showed that dexamethasone reduced mortality to about 22.9% compared with 25.7% for those given usual treatments. 

Trump’s doctors declined to say how low the president’s blood oxygen level has fallen, beyond saying that it has not been recorded in the low 80s. Conley said that Trump’s blood oxygen level was 98% on Sunday.  

Dr. Scott Gottlieb, who led the FDA from 2017 to 2019, said that the two drops in the president’s blood oxygen level did not suggest a strong recovery. 

“I am concerned about the O2 because that means his lungs are affected (COVID-19 is the disease part and now he has that),” Gottlieb said in an email. He added, “If they are going to discharge him tomorrow, that would mean he is virus negative. I don’t think that’s possible.”

Gottlieb added: “The low oxygen and the statement that his ‘chest imaging had findings that were consistent with his condition’ suggest he could have a pneumonia of his lungs.”

On Saturday, Conley dodged questions about whether the president had received any supplemental oxygen. Then, on Sunday, Conley said the president’s oxygen levels fell Friday and Saturday, and he revealed that the president received supplemental oxygen Friday.

It was not clear, however, whether Trump received oxygen Saturday. When asked about it Sunday, Conley deferred to the nursing staff. 

“I’d have to, I’d have to check with the nursing staff. I don’t think that — if he did it was very, very limited. But he’s not on oxygen,” Conley said. “The only oxygen that I ordered that we provided was that Friday morning, initially.”

The president’s medical team has not been forthcoming about his condition, forcing the public to read between the lines. 

“I didn’t want to give any information that might steer the course of illness in another direction, and in doing so, you know, it came off that we were trying to hide something, which wasn’t necessarily true,” Conley explained on Sunday. 

Still, it seemed curious to physicians that the president only needed supplemental oxygen one or two times, in light of the dexamethasone treatment. The National Institutes of Health Covid-19 treatment guidelines note that dexamethasone has only been shown to have positive effects in patients who require supplemental oxygen.

“Dexamethasone is an incredibly common steroid. But not at the high doses used in COVID-19 which is why the NIH recommends AGAINST using it unless the [patient] requires supplemental oxygen,” wrote Dr. Kavita Patel, a former managing director of clinical transformation at the Center for Health Policy at the Brookings Institution, in a post on Twitter on Sunday. 

“Not on oxygen for a second here or there,” she wrote.

— CNBC’s Shepard Smith contributed to this report.

Disclosure: Scott Gottlieb is a CNBC contributor and is a member of the boards of Pfizer, genetic testing start-up Tempus and biotech company Illumina. Pfizer has a manufacturing agreement with Gilead for remdesivir. Gottlieb also serves as co-chair of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings′ and Royal Caribbean‘s “Healthy Sail Panel.”

Correction: This story was updated to reflect that Sean Conley, the president’s physician, did not say whether the president received supplemental oxygen Saturday.



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Dining News

The Jarred Jerk Paste I Put on Everything


I smear the dark brown paste on everything. I pat it onto salmon filets before I slide them into the oven and sneak it between tightly stacked leaves of cabbage layered into a steamer basket. I use my hands to massage it into Brussels sprouts, roughly chopped carrots, and broccoli florets. And every time I pull the container from my fridge, I ask myself how the hell I lived so long without a jar of jerk seasoning.

I didn’t grow up eating much Jamaican food in Oakland, California. This city, awash with some of the best Ethiopian and Eritrean, Filipino, Mexican, and Laotian food in the country, has comparatively few spots offering flavors of the Caribbean. And neither of my vegetarian Jewish parents were making a whole lot of curry chicken or braised oxtails.

My introduction to jerk chicken — its skin soaked in the flavor of sweet smoke, of Scotch bonnet peppers, allspice berries, ginger, and green onion — was during my first year of college, across the Hudson river from a New York town called Kingston. That’s where I had my first meals at Top Taste, where you’ll find the best — and more or less only — jerk chicken, curry goat, and oxtails in town. The snug restaurant, painted with wide stripes of yellow and green in the colors of the Jamaican flag, and set on the corner of a sleepy residential street, sells all sorts of groceries you can’t find elsewhere in the area: ackee, saltfish, canned callaloo and Tastee Cheese in vacuum-sealed aluminum containers.

As soon as the door swung open on my first visit four years ago, I was greeted by booming dancehall coming from a boombox propped above the entrance and the smiling faces of owners Melenda Bartley and Albert Samuel Bartley, known to a stream of friends and loyal customers as Sammy. For many, Top Taste brought familiarity and reminders of faraway homes. To me, everything about the experience was new, a welcome and deeply needed change of pace and scenery from the always-boiled, never-baked food of my college dining hall. I didn’t own a car, but whenever I could convince one of my new friends to drive me there, I was at Top Taste.

Over the years, Melenda and Sammy became friends, and their restaurant felt more like home than the cement-block dorm where I slept. I’d order from the menu scrawled on a piece of neon green cardstock on the wall, and while Melenda was filling my square plastic plate with rice and peas, stew chicken, oxtails, and plantains, I’d walk around to the restaurant’s snug concrete patio, where a plume of smoke tipped off the whole neighborhood that Sammy was making a fresh tray of jerk chicken.

That chicken was like nothing I had eaten. The meat was almost blackened by the time it absorbed the smoke, and while the skin was crisp, it gave way between my teeth. The flesh was ever so slightly past the point of juiciness, the fat and connective tissue broken down over hours of gentle cooking, so that the meat melted with each bite, mixing with starchy sweet plantains, steamed cabbage and peppers, and a dot of ketchup and scorching hot sauce.

A few months into my often twice-weekly trips to Top Taste, I asked Sammy how he made his jerk chicken. He sat down next to me with his spice-smudged apron still on, and explained the process in very matter-of-fact terms: The meat gets marinated overnight in a rich jerk seasoning blend (very, very heavy on the ginger), and the next day — rain or shine — he lights a spark under the pimento wood in his old barrel grill, caked with a thick layer of seasoning from good use, and cooks the chicken until it’s done.

I’d known as soon as Sammy first walked me through his process that this wasn’t the sort of recipe I could transcribe, fold up, and stash away for safekeeping. He’d made the dish on so many occasions that each step was second nature: an inkling that more scallion, garlic, or Scotch bonnet was needed, a sniff test confirming the salt, heat, and herbage was balanced to his liking.

When I moved to the city after leaving college, I made it a point to seek out jerk chicken whenever and wherever I could, always comparing it to the meat that came off Sammy’s grill. Some restaurants in Brooklyn had plantains more plump than the ones at Top Taste. Others had the perfect rice and peas, each grain and bean whole and separate, never mushy. Many served a jerk chicken that was good — exceptional, even. But despite following every recommendation, no one’s chicken compared to Sammy’s.


I came back to Oakland to spend the first month of shelter-in-place with my family. But like so many others who up and left cities with no real plan, a month turned into three, and then four, and now here I am, writing from my childhood home six months later. When I lived in Brooklyn, I hadn’t once tried to make jerk chicken in my own kitchen, knowing when a craving really hit — which it reliably did — I could buy an Amtrak ticket for $38 and be perched comfortably at one of Top Taste’s plastic-upholstered booths by lunch. Now, I feel pangs of sadness thinking about Sammy and Melenda and the plate of jerk chicken and rice and peas I could be eating 3,000 miles away.

But on YouTube, where I spend so much of my life now, I recently came upon Terri-Ann, a Saint Lucian home cook who walks viewers through hundreds of incredibly appealing recipes. They include pandemic classics — banana bread and dalgona coffee, our old friends — but also some favorite dishes I didn’t get a chance to peek into the kitchen and watch Sammy or Melenda make on visits to Top Taste. Terri-Ann has recipes for oxtails robed in velvety gravy, flaky golden beef patties, and, to my great satisfaction, jerk chicken. In one video showing viewers how she makes her chicken, Terri-Ann pulls out a glass jar of Walkerswood Jamaican Jerk Seasoning, a pre-blended mixture of spices and herbs which she says she swears by. She plops a generous spoonful of the deep brown mixture into a bowl of chicken drumsticks, along with a big spoonful of her herby green seasoning blend and a drop or two of browning sauce for color. I hastily switched tabs and bought three jars of the seasoning blend with expedited shipping. It wouldn’t be the same, but maybe it’d do the trick.

Since then, the Walkerswood blend has become a staple in my kitchen. The spicy mixture of scallions, Scotch bonnet, allspice, nutmeg, and plenty of thyme finds its way into more or less everything I cook. It’s notably lacking in the generous heaps of grated fresh ginger I know Sammy adds to his blend, but still, it’s excellent. I live just blocks from Minto, one of few Jamaican markets in Oakland, and I regularly stop in to add new sauces and seasoning blends to my growing pantry. I have a jar of browning sauce now, and I’ve bought as many of the hot sauces I remember seeing on the tables at Top Taste as I can find. But nothing I’ve added to my pantry since coming home comes close to my jar of jerk seasoning. In addition to using it in recipes from Terri-Ann and other Caribbean and Caribbean-American YouTubers and food bloggers, I add the paste to fried rice, to tofu, to — you get it.

The boldly flavored mixture is a perfect match for chicken, but that’s where I use it least, instead opting to put it on a thick slab of salmon or slather it on vegetables before roasting. Perhaps there’s just too much dissonance when I pair it with chicken, the bar too high to meet.

I miss Sammy’s jerk chicken like I’ve never missed food before. It’s a yearning that’s become familiar during this pandemic, for those things I know I can’t have. There is no takeout order that will meet the craving, which is as much about the environment surrounding a plate of chicken as it is about the blend of spices or the kiss of smoke that permeates each bite. Those meals were colored by a sort of care and hospitality that you can’t pay for and that’s hard to even seek out. The extra steamed cabbage and carrots because Melenda knew I liked to run the mixture through a pool of curry goat gravy on my empty plate. A piece of bubblegum set on the table as I finished eating, just something to chew on during the drive back to campus. Later, Melenda would send me off with a warm slice of her homemade rum cake wrapped in aluminum foil. It sat in my coat pocket and warmed my hand as I boarded Amtrak to go back to Penn Station.

The first time I bit into a piece of baked chicken I’d marinated in the Walkerswood seasoning blend, I felt pulled in two directions: It was delicious — fragrant and hot, every spice and herb present but not overwhelming. I also felt a little disappointed, as if I’d really expected my thrown-together Wednesday night dinner to taste anything like what Sammy pulled off his smoker after hours and hours of slow cooking and constant attention. I know now, as I go on seven months without a single meal in a restaurant’s dining room or even on a reopened patio, that what’s missing isn’t a handful of grated ginger or the smoke from pimento chips (though both would improve my chicken game dramatically). What’s missing is something only a restaurant like Top Taste can provide, that can’t be found in a jar of seasoning. But right now a jar of seasoning is what I’ve got, and until I find myself in that tiny dining room again, this one is pretty damn good.



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Dining News

BCD Tofu House Founder Hee Sook Lee, Who Helped Put Korean Food on the Map, Has Died


Hee Sook Lee, who founded the popular BCD Tofu House chain of restaurants, has died at the age of 61, as reported by the Koreatown Youth and Community Center’s (KYCC) Facebook page. Lee founded BCD Tofu House in LA’s Koreatown in 1996, growing the silken tofu stew restaurant into a 13-location chain across Southern California and even into Texas, New Jersey, and New York City. In the past, BCD expanded into Seattle, Tokyo, and Seoul, though those locations are no longer open. Lee partnered with the KYCC to provide meals to low-income seniors during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Korean Americans fell in love with soontubu jjigae, or silken tofu stew, thanks largely to BCD, which was one of many soontubu specialists to open in LA during the 90s including Beverly Soon Tofu, So Kong Dong, and Tofu Village. The dish was traditionally seen as a quick business lunch, but not quite reason to open as a main attraction of a restaurant menu. But BCD reached a greater audience thanks to its namesake dish, as well as its prime locations in Koreatown along Western Avenue and eventually into a grand Wilshire Boulevard space. The restaurant’s 24/7 hours was the perfect landing spot for late night revelers and night owls looking for a hearty Korean meal for a reasonable price.

BCD Tofu in Koreatown
Matthew Kang

Lee named BCD after a district in Seoul called Buk Chang Dong where her in-laws previously owned a restaurant. Many Korean restaurants choose to specialize in one dish, such as suhllungtang (beef bone broth soup) or naengmyeon (cold Korean beef noodle soup). Lee used soontubu, a dish that wasn’t particularly popular or highly regarded in Korea, as a staple that many non-Koreans came to associate with the cuisine. Lee also made sure to focus on the health aspect of Korean cooking, using USDA organic, non-GMO tofu specifically made for BCD Tofu House. She adapted BCD’s menu to include a variety of non-traditional combinations such as soybean paste, intestines, dumplings, and vegetables to appeal to a larger customer base.

In 1998, soontubu was popular enough in the U.S. that Lee opened branches of BCD in Seoul, Seattle, and Tokyo. The LA Times wrote that Lee achieved minor celebrity status in Korea for her influence in spreading the gospel of Korean food. “I consider myself a diplomat of sorts, making Korean food known to the world,” Lee said. At the time of her Times profile in 2008, Lee said BCD was making $19 million a year and employed more than 300 people.

According to L.A. Taco writer Lisa Kwon, Lee emigrated to the U.S. in 1989 to secure a “fulfilling education” for her three sons. She studied design at Santa Monica College and the Gemological Institute of America before decided to stay in America and open a restaurant. It took a year to experiment with soontubu jjigae before settling on the recipe that would change Korean food in America forever. Lee was also involved with the Global Children Foundation, which provided relief in such countries as Guatemala, Ethiopia, and Cambodia.

Thanks to Lee’s work, Korean cuisine grew in popularity across the country. Her restaurant’s business model was endlessly imitated by other restaurateurs in communities across the U.S., such as Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Dallas, bringing the flavors of soontubu, kimchi, bulgogi, and pan-fried fish to hungry diners everywhere. Her impact and influence will continue to be felt by generations looking for an affordable, delicious Korean meal, laid out with banchan and a steaming bowl of stone-pot rice. At the moment, all of BCD’s restaurants have reopened for outdoor patio dining, in addition to continuing takeout and delivery service.

In a 2013 interview with Lee, which is posted below, the BCD founder said, “In the future, as Koreatown food culture grows, I think that culture will extend to areas where Koreans do not live.” This was indicative of BCD’s growth not only in Koreatown, but also suburban areas like Irvine, Torrance, and Rowland Heights, where the chain has opened outlets.For Lee, the ultimate validation was for people visiting her restaurants from other countries, such as Brazil, Chile, or Japan, to make BCD their one Korean meal. “When customers say the food is delicious, it makes me truly happy.”



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Breaking New

‘We have all these marches and protests, what’s next?’: Young leaders in New York put out demands for police and community reform


“We have all these marches and protests, what’s next?” Timothy Hunter, 21, one of the founding members of Strategy for Black Lives, told CNN.

Members of the group have helped organize major events in New York over the past two weeks, including last Thursday’s memorial march for George Floyd in Brooklyn. The group also participated in protests at the Barclays Center the previous weekend and marched from Foley Square to Bryant Park earlier last week.

Even as members of Strategy for Black Lives are partaking in demonstrations, the group remains focused on the future.

According to their mission statement, Strategy for Black Lives intends to “organize, educate, and engage communities to raise awareness of America’s history in the mistreatment of marginalized populations.” They came up with the NYC Organizing Communities for Accountability and Policy reform movement, which is centered around three core principles: organizing communities, accountability and policy reform. The group is committed to “a multi-pronged approach,” founding member Frantzy Luzincourt, 21, told CNN, that combines on the ground demonstrations, policy conversations and lobbying efforts.

The movement echoes the Safer NY Act, a series of bills related to police reform under consideration by the New York State Legislature.

“We have been tracking legislation and fully support the passage of the collection of bills known as the Safer NY Act,” Strategy for Black Lives wrote in a statement.

The group has created a list of specific actions regarding police reform they want to see taken by officials in their community, including New York City Police Commissioner Dermot Shea, First Deputy Commissioner Benjamin Tucker, and New York state Deputy Secretary of Public Safety Jeremy Shockett, as well as New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The group is focused on legislation that is part of the Safer NY Act, including: repealing 50-a, a law that New York officials have used to refuse to disclose records for officers involved in misconduct; the Police Statistics & Transparency (STAT Act), which would mandate that police departments across the state document all instances of enforcement of low-level offenses including demographic and geographic data; as well as legislation to curtail “unnecessary arrests for non-criminal offenses.” The group also hopes to “bring an end to qualified immunity” for police officers. They believe that no one should be free from the rule of law.
The group is also reaching out to New York state Sen. Zellnor Myrie, the legislator who was pepper sprayed and handcuffed at a demonstration last weekend, to discuss ways to assist in his legislating efforts.

“Organizing and non-violent demonstration is only part of Phase 1,” the group writes. “Phase 2 is encouraging the young people to be civically engaged and be the change agents in their local community.”

A call to action

Strategy for Black Lives was born out of a discussion between Luzincort and Patrick Reyes, 22, while they were attending a barbeque on May 26. The pair talked about the video of a white police officer, Derek Chauvin, kneeling on Floyd’s neck. Floyd died afterward in police custody. Recognizing the need for organization, both young men posted on their respective social media accounts that they wanted “to take a stand,” Luzincort told CNN.

“Once outside opens up we definitely need to take to the streets and make our voices heard against all these injustices. Black bodies seem to be dispensible… sickening. #icantbreathe,” Luzincort tweeted on May 26.

Reyes reposted the tweet on Instagram.

“HMU if you’re interested in organizing to amplify the voices of those being deliberately silenced,” he said. “COVID shouldn’t foster complacency.”

Within days, Luzincort and Reyes pulled together a network of young people of color and allies that included friends from all over the city, including Hunter and Imxn Abdul, 22. Within days, the group had convened about 30 members between the ages of 20 and 25. They began protesting, attending the demonstrations at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

When the group recognized that the protests were beginning to turn violent, they decided that strategy was critical. “Everybody’s angry and everybody’s upset, but we have to figure out how we are going to organize and strategize,” Hunter told CNN.

The Strategy for Black Lives coalition held their first strategy call a couple hours after the violence broke out at the Barclays Center on May 31. The group now has more than 1,300 followers on Instagram, and their Instagram page points users to a volunteer sign-up Google form.

“During our first call we recognized we need more than just protests, we need more than just action in terms of physical, we want policies, laws passed,” Luzincort told CNN.

Terrance Floyd, George Floyd's brother speaking and addressing the crowd at the same service.

On Thursday, Luzincort and Hunter helped organize the Thursday memorial service for Floyd and the march that followed across the Brooklyn Bridge with Terrence Floyd, George’s brother and Rev. Kevin McCall.

Dressed in uniform — black shirts with whistles and megaphones — Luzincort, Hunter and their team went early to help set up.

“We were at the forefront of something special,” Luzincort said. “It wasn’t just us organizing change, but it was us understanding the pain that George Floyd’s family has gone through.”

Reverend Kevin McCall addressing the crowd at George Floyd's Memorial Prayer Service at Cadman plaza on Thursday.

When de Blasio showed up at the demonstration at Cadman Plaza Park, Hunter said the crowd started to boo. Terrance Floyd and McCall redirected focus, telling the crowd, “We’re not here for the mayor, we’re here for George Floyd.”

“Being able to be so close to someone who wants this to be peaceful and nonviolent and make sure that people are being heard was moving,” Hunter told CNN.

Also on Thursday, Reyes attended a press conference at Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn with city officials, during which the Safer NY Act was discussed. Reyes told CNN that the entire plaza and park was packed with supporters.

According to Reyes, this gathering was different than past press conferences because it convened all types of people, not just the typical policy makers and activists. The gathering included community members who hadn’t previously been involved in these types of conversations. In the middle of a New York assembly member’s speech , a group of first responders, dressed in their scrubs, flooded the room with signs that read “Black Lives Matter,” and “I can’t breathe.”

“They are dealing with the current pandemic, but they also understand there’s another pandemic we’re dealing with as well. To see them in Brooklyn, coming out to support the movement uplifted me,” Reyes said.

A unified front

Strategy for Black Lives and its members aren’t the only young activists in NYC focused on ways to move beyond protests in creation of strategic policy plans and lobbying efforts. On Sunday, members of Black Lives Matter Greater New York led “The Blueprint,” a march in Times Square organized around the sentiment that “power without strategy is an empty threat.”

Reyes attended The Blueprint demonstration with five other Strategy for Black Lives coalition members.

“The energy was electrifying,” he told CNN, adding that it’s important to show support for other organizations doing similar work. “We’re in the sphere of collaborating,” he said.

Black Lives Matter Greater New York is also committed to working with different organizations focused on similar issues. According to Nupol Kiazolu, a member of Black Lives Matter Greater New York, the only way the Black Lives Matter movement will progress is through working together, and “moving together as a people,” she told CNN. “The ultimate goal is liberation and there’s not one way toward that.”

Kiazolu told CNN that she supports the work of Strategy for Black Lives and is glad to have Strategy for Black Lives’ backing as well.

Abdul emphasized the unity of this week’s actions. She is moved by the way that young black and brown leaders are able to lead change.

“Black and brown youth tend to doubt ourselves, that we can’t lead and we can’t make change,” Abdul told CNN. “But when our community sees people like us leading that, it makes a difference.”

Abdul has been active on social media throughout the protests, often livestreaming the demonstrations on Instagram Live. She noted that in recent days, she has received an overwhelming number of messages, with peers asking, “How can I make a difference and be on the streets with you to fight?”

“People are messaging me, ‘Are you going to an event? I need to go with you. I want to be there. I want to make change,'” she said.





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Cuomo and de Blasio can’t put their feud aside — even for coronavirus



The feuding over the handling of the pandemic has gone on for weeks, including disagreements over calling for shelter-in-place, requiring people to wear masks in public and closing playgrounds in New York City. But this latest back-and-forth between the lifelong New Yorkers and Democrats — unlike past spats about everything from workouts to napping to deer euthanasia — has real-life implications while New York struggles as the nation’s worst hot spot.

Over the years, the fighting has mostly centered on who has authority to do what in New York City, including serious topics like power over the subways and funding for key programs. The most heated point of contention came in 2015, when Cuomo used his authority to shut down the New York City subway amid a snowstorm and de Blasio didn’t find out about it until it was being announced.

The latest flashpoint between the two men: what to do with the nation’s largest school system and a disagreement over the weekend about who has the authority to make key decisions.

De Blasio told reporters on Saturday that he was closing New York City schools through the summer as a way to protect educators and children. The mayor had told a select few advisers late Friday that he was making the move, an aide said, including outside advisers like Anthony Fauci, one of the doctors leading the White House’s response to the virus.

The mayor’s announcement did not sit well with Cuomo, who used his news conference later that day to call the order “the mayor’s opinion” because, in the governor’s eyes, de Blasio does not have the authority to close the schools.

“There has been no decision on schools,” Cuomo said bluntly. “That’s his opinion, but he didn’t close them, and he can’t open them.”

Central to the disagreement is that de Blasio did not coordinate his proclamation with Cuomo, who sees the decision to close New York schools as a regional one.

De Blasio’s team fumed on Saturday after Cuomo undercut the mayor, with one de Blasio aide accusing the governor of being focused on “politics or machismo” and another implying Cuomo was behind with his decisions.

De Blasio, after making the decision on Friday, did not call Cuomo until Saturday morning, an aide to the mayor said, just a short time before he publicly announced it. The mayor did not get through to Cuomo, however, so de Blasio sent a text.

“We are where we are,” Cuomo said on Sunday after the pair’s latest skirmish.

Cuomo’s team argued over the weekend that it is the governor, not the mayor, who has the authority to reopen schools, citing an order he signed in March that initially closed schools regionally.

Melissa DeRosa, a top Cuomo aide, said on Sunday that all schools in the area are “on the same schedule” through April 29 because of that order.

The subject that caused this latest strife is bigger than the two men, though: Families across New York City, many of whom are holed up in cramped apartments, are looking to plan the next few months around whether schools reopen as they use distance learning to educate their kids.

“The schools clearly need to stay closed,” de Blasio said on Monday. “They will stay closed because the reality is … there’s not going to be a context to reopen schools with so much that we’re going to have to deal with on the health front to get to a better place and more stable place.”

New York has become the nation’s hot spot for coronavirus deaths over the last month, with the state’s nearly 10,000 deaths making up more than 40% of all deaths from the virus in the United States. The state has documented over 190,000 cases of coronavirus, while the second closest state — New Jersey — has reported more than 61,000 cases.

The seriousness of the situation was clear when some local leaders rebuked the mayor and the governor for continuing their fight amid the pandemic.

“I don’t have the time,” tweeted Eric Adams, the Brooklyn borough president. “I don’t have patience for petty back-and-forths in the middle of a deadly pandemic.”

Adams then directed a message to both men: “Cut the crap.”

From naps to workouts

While turf wars between state and local government are common across the country, the fighting between Cuomo and de Blasio is noteworthy, even given New York’s reputation for dirty politics.

Their battles have also played out on a range of bizarre topics.

In 2015, the two differed over topless women in Times Square, with the governor looking to swiftly squash the practice, while the mayor aimed to take a more deliberative approach by creating a task force on the issue.
In 2017, after the New York Daily News reported that de Blasio takes naps during the workday, Cuomo relished the chance to take a knock at the mayor — even as de Blasio denied the claim.

“I’m not a napper really,” Cuomo said in response to the story. “I never have been.”

And in 2018, the two offices openly sparred over funding for the New York City Housing Authority, with top Cuomo aides using de Blasio’s frequent trips to the YMCA in Brooklyn as a way to suggest the mayor isn’t focused on his job.
The two men’s teams even bickered over whether to euthanize a deer in Harlem in 2016.





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Breaking New

US wants to put Patriot missiles in Iraq to counter Iran as it announces humanitarian aid channel


The announcements come as the House approved a set of measures meant to curb President Donald Trump’s ability to take military action against Iran, after tensions skyrocketed in the wake of the White House move to kill Iranian general Qasem Soleimani.
Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said Thursday that the US has asked Iraq for permission to deploy a Patriot missile defense system in the wake of Iran’s response to Soleimani’s killing, a missile attack that injured dozens of US troops and left 50 with traumatic brain injuries.

“Patriot batteries, Patriot battalion is not a small organization, it’s relatively large, so the mechanics of it all have to be worked out and that is in fact ongoing,” Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley said standing alongside Esper at the Pentagon.

Momentum in Iraq seems to be toward reducing, not increasing, the US presence and capabilities there. The Iraqi parliament recently voted to have the US withdraw its troops. The Trump administration has responded by threatening to sanction Iraq and pull its foreign military funding if it does so.

New sanctions

As the US moves to bolster its regional defenses against Tehran, the US special envoy on Iran, Brian Hook, announced new sanctions on the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran and its head, Ali Akbar Salehi, as part of the Trump administration’s extended maximum pressure campaign.

Iran’s atomic energy agency played “a big role in Iran breaching its key nuclear commitments,” Hook said Thursday at the State Department. “The head of AEIO personally inaugurated the installation of new advanced centrifuges to expand its uranium enrichment capacity,” Hook claimed. “He also chaired a ceremony when Iran started injecting uranium gas into advanced IR6 centrifuge machines.”

The AEIO has been under US sanctions for much of the last 15 years, Eurasia Group analyst Henry Rome noted, and like other senior Iranian officials under US sanctions, Salehi “will likely wear the designation as a badge of honor.”

Hook also announced that the US was extending civil nuclear waivers for four projects for 60 days. The waivers allow foreign companies to work with Iran’s civil nuclear programs without facing US sanctions.

An Iranian with a student visa was detained at the Detroit airport. His lawyer says he 'gave up' after hours of questioning

In addition, the Iran envoy said the US had agreed to a banking channel through Switzerland that has already been used once to help Iranian cancer and transplant patients. Hook warned that companies seeking to use the channel to export to Iran will face “a very high bar for due diligence.”

“The Iranian regime has a history of using front companies disguised as humanitarian organizations,” Hook said, “and then when food or medicine or medical devices are then processed, the regime diverts them and then uses them for the regime elite, medicines for the regime elite, or they sell them on the black market to raise revenue for the government. They don’t make their way to the Iranian people.”

Humanitarian aid

The Swiss Humanitarian Trade Arrangement, initially announced in October, creates a secure payment channel that guarantees that companies will be paid for their exports to Iran. It is intended for commercial exports of agricultural commodities, food, medicine and medical devices. The mechanism is “in keeping with Switzerland’s humanitarian tradition,” the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs said in a statement Thursday.

The secretariat said that an initial trial run payment for a shipment of medicines was approved on January 27. Hook said one European company had met the standards to export, allowing for the delivery of the cancer and transplant drugs.

“There will be more companies that I have been talking with so that we can facilitate especially medicine and medical devices, so you can expect to see more transactions moving through this,” Hook said.

Iranian officials have accused the White House of “state terrorism” because the US pressure campaign is squeezing the Iranian economy and leading to shortages of food and medicine that affect ordinary Iranians.

The administration has begun emphasizing in recent months that it has no interest in punishing the Iranian people. “The United States is determined to ensure the Iranian people have access to food, life-saving medicines, and other humanitarian goods, despite the regime’s economic mismanagement and wasteful funding of malign activities across the region,” Secretary of Treasury Steven Mnuchin said in a statement on Thursday.



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Celebrity Entertaiment

Grammys CEO Deborah Dugan put on ‘administrative leave’



The Recording Academy has placed Deborah Dugan, its president and CEO of just six months, on administrative leave following an allegation of misconduct by a senior leader at the organization.

The move announced late Thursday comes 10 days before the 2020 Grammy Awards will be held in Los Angeles.

“In light of concerns raised to the Recording Academy Board of Trustees, including a formal allegation of misconduct by a senior female member of the Recording Academy team, the board has placed Recording Academy President and CEO Deborah Dugan on administrative leave, effective immediately,” the academy said in a statement to The Associated Press. “The board has also retained two independent third-party investigators to conduct independent investigations of the allegations.”

Dugan, the former CEO of Bono’s (RED) organization, became the first woman appointed to lead the academy.

Recording Academy Board Chair Harvey Mason Jr., the music producer who has worked with Chris Brown, Jennifer Hudson and more, will serve as interim president and CEO of the academy.

“The board determined this action to be necessary in order to restore the confidence of the Recording Academy’s membership, repair Recording Academy employee morale, and allow the Recording Academy to focus on its mission of serving all music creators,” the statement continued. “The Recording Academy Board of Trustees is committed to fostering a safe, diverse, and inclusive workplace, music industry, and society.”

Dugan succeeded Neil Portnow, who led the Grammys since 2002. Before joining (RED), the AIDS organization that launched in 2006, Dugan was president of Disney Publishing Worldwide and executive vice president at EMI/Capitol Records. She started her career as an attorney on Wall Street.

Dugan didn’t immediately reply to an email seeking comment from The Associated Press.

Before Dugan, music executive Christine Farnon held the top position at the academy for years, though she never had the title of president and CEO. She held multiple positions at the Grammys throughout her tenure, retiring in 1992 as executive vice president. Michael Greene became the first official president and CEO of the academy in 1988, leading the organization until 2002 when Portnow took over.

This year’s Grammys is set to feature performances by Ariana Grande, Billie Eilish, Demi Lovato, Aerosmith, Bonnie Raitt, Tyler, the Creator, Run-DMC, Rosalía, H.E.R. and Lizzo, who is the top nominee with eight.



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