Petition: Stop the cuts to Food Stamps

The Trump administration recently announced changes to SNAP that will cause hundreds of thousands of people to lose access to their “food stamp” benefits. Will you sign the petition to urge Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue to stop these attacks on families who depend on SNAP?

USDA’s newly proposed rules for SNAP will cut food stamp benefits for hundreds of thousands of hungry people. We demand that you stop these proposed changes before they take effect on April 1, 2020.

According to Feeding America, “SNAP provides families with their basic nutritional needs to get them through temporary hard times. It helps people get back on their feet and on the road to a better life.”

But the Trump administration has been working for the last three years to undermine SNAP as part of their agenda to limit access to public assistance programs.

This newly announced attack on SNAP is especially outrageous, because Congress rejected these proposed changes to the program during the Farm Bill debate last year. The House rejected them in a bipartisan vote of 330-83, and the Senate voted down a similar amendment 68-30.

But now, Sonny Perdue, Trump’s secretary of agriculture, is moving forward with these changes through an undemocratic “executive order” that targets very poor people struggling to work—many of whom are homeless, living in small towns and rural communities with little or no access to employment, or have health conditions that prevent them from working.

Click here to add your name to this petition, and then pass it along to your friends.

Thank you.

—Matthew Hildreth, RuralOrganizing.org

Florida: 145 graves of an African-American cemetery found under school

Superintendent Jeff Eakins speaks at a podium about the findings Jeff Eakins said many of those buried at the site were children

The graves of 145 people have been discovered under a high school in Tampa, in the US state of Florida.

They are part of Ridgewood Cemetery, a mid-20th Century cemetery for the poor.

The coffins – buried 3-5ft (1-1.5m) deep – were discovered using ground-penetrating radar after the school was alerted about the possible location of the cemetery.

Records indicate more than 250 people were buried there, most of them African Americans, the school district said.

Up to 77 of them were infants or small children.

The city opened Ridgewood in 1942 and sold it off to a private company in 1957. The school district acquired the land in 1959, opening King High School in 1960.

Today, the site consists of open land and the school’s agricultural building.

Plans are being made to have the building removed, according to school district Superintendent Jeff Eakins.

“We want to make sure that the folks buried at this site are honoured,” he said.

While the radar used can’t confirm what exactly is under the surface, the patterns of the findings matched historical records of the cemetery.

As for the graves that have not been accounted for, some may have been moved or not picked up by the radar because they have deteriorated or, in the case of children, their small size.

“I am sick of this. This hurts deeply,” Yvette Lewis, president of the local branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, was quoted as saying by the Tampa Bay Times.

“It was hate toward people who looked like me. It deeply saddens me that people can hate you this much, that they can treat you less than.”

Prince Andrew: Standard Chartered bank cuts ties with duke’s scheme

Prince Andrew

Standard Chartered has become the second corporate partner to sever ties with the Duke of York’s business mentoring initiative, Pitch@Palace.

The bank joined accountancy firm KPMG in pulling support for the scheme.

It said it was not renewing its sponsorship for “commercial reasons”.

Several businesses and universities are reviewing their association with Prince Andrew following a BBC interview about his links to convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

Sources have told the BBC the decisions by Standard Chartered and KPMG were made before the interview.

‘Very serious questions’

Meanwhile, Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn were asked about whether Prince Andrew was “fit for purpose” during their head-to-head debate on ITV on Tuesday evening.

The Labour leader said there were “very, very serious questions that must be answered and nobody should be above the law”.

The prime minister said: “I think all our sympathies should be, obviously, with the victims of Jeffrey Epstein and the law must certainly take its course.”

Boris Johnson says monarchy “beyond reproach”

In his Newsnight interview, broadcast on Saturday, the Queen’s third child said he still did not regret his friendship with US financier Epstein – who took his own life in August while awaiting trial on sex-trafficking charges in the US.

The interview has provoked a backlash, with businesses, charities and other institutions announcing that they were reviewing their association with the prince.

In addition to Standard Chartered and KPMG ending their support for Pitch@Palace:

  • Pharmaceuticals company AstraZeneca and Hult International Business School are reviewing their partnerships with the business scheme
  • Outward Bound, the charity the Duke of Edinburgh was patron of for 65 years, has called a board meeting to discuss the prince’s patronage
  • London Metropolitan University said it will consider the prince’s role as its patron, saying it “opposes all forms of discrimination, abuse and human trafficking”
  • University of Huddersfield students are calling for the prince to be sacked as their chancellor

On Monday, the Huddersfield students’ union panel passed a motion to lobby the prince to resign as their chancellor.

The university has since said that it listens to its students’ views and will “now be consulting with them over the coming weeks”.

Prince Andrew on Epstein: ‘There was no indication, absolutely no indication’

The duke has stood by his decision to speak out, after critics labelled the interview a “car crash”.

But speaking on the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme on Tuesday, Huddersfield student Tristan Smith criticised the prince over his friendship with Epstein.

He accused Prince Andrew of “trying to dismiss” the row and failing to recognise Epstein’s victims.

Meanwhile, a woman who has accused Epstein of sexually abusing her as a 15-year-old has urged Prince Andrew to share information about his former friend.

The accuser, identified as “Jane Doe 15”, did not accuse Prince Andrew of any wrongdoing but called on him and others to come forward and give a statement under oath.

Image caption“Jane Doe 15”, left, gave a press conference with lawyer Gloria Allred

Elsewhere, former home secretary Jacqui Smith alleged that Prince Andrew made racist comments to her during a state dinner.

“I have to say the conversation left us slack-jawed with the things that he felt it was appropriate to say,” she told the LBC election podcast.

And Rohan Silva, who was an adviser to former prime minister David Cameron, also accused the prince of using a racial slur in his presence.

A Buckingham Palace spokesman strenuously denied the claims, adding that Prince Andrew “does not tolerate racism in any form”.

There is no wholesale repudiation of Prince Andrew’s public role.

But whether as a result of the interview he gave, or because of the continuing swirl of allegations, there is a falling away of support for the prince, both corporate and political.

The former Labour lord chancellor and justice secretary, Lord Falconer, told BBC Radio 4’s PM programme that he thought the time had come for Prince Andrew to step away from public duties.

Those close to Prince Andrew say that a withdrawal from public life is not under consideration.

But if support continues to seep from him, it will undermine his public position.

‘Human tragedy’

There was also further reaction to the prince’s BBC appearance.

Actress Rose McGowan – one of the most prominent figures of the #MeToo movement – told the Victoria Derbyshire programme she thought it was not a truthful interview.

“It’s also certainly not the mark of someone who is an empathetic character who cares about victims in any way,” she added.

The actress also said she wished more questions had been asked about Epstein’s alleged victims.

“We can’t forget there is human tragedy behind this… This has serious repercussions, serious ramifications and serious pain that is involved in this story.”

However, Alastair Campbell – Tony Blair’s ex-communications chief – said that although he thought the interview was a “mistake”, it was not “as bad as it is now being defined”.

Mr Campbell, who was another high-profile Briton to be named in Epstein’s 97-page “black book” of contacts, also told the Today programme that he met the financier on a visit to the US for a funeral and found him to be “a bit creepy”.

Prince Andrew’s BBC interview followed allegations by Virginia Giuffre, known at the time as Virginia Roberts, who claims the prince had sex with her on three occasions – the first when she was aged 17.

Prince Andrew “categorically” denied having had sexual contact with her.

In an extraordinary interview, which you can watch in full on BBC iPlayer in the UK or YouTube elsewhere in the world, the duke said:

  • He had investigations carried out to establish whether a photograph of him with Ms Giuffre was faked, but they were inconclusive
  • He would testify under oath if “push came to shove” and his lawyers advised him to
  • He was unaware of an arrest warrant against Epstein when he invited him to Princess Beatrice’s 18th birthday party at Windsor Castle
  • He does not regret his friendship with Epstein because of “the opportunities I was given to learn” from him about trade and business
  • Speaking out about his relationship with the financier had become almost “a mental health issue” for him

Trump backers Jon Voight and James Patterson honoured with national medal

Voight is one of Trump’s few vocal Hollywood supporters, and has hailed him as ‘the greatest president of this century’.

Jon Voight poses before the premiere of Maleficent: Mistress of Evil in Los Angeles [File: Mario Anzuoni/Reuters]
Jon Voight poses before the premiere of Maleficent: Mistress of Evil in Los Angeles

Oscar-winning actor Jon Voight, singer and musician Alison Krauss and mystery writer James Patterson are among the artists and philanthropists being honoured by President Donald Trump for their contributions to the arts or the humanities, the first recipients of prestigious national medals since Trump took office.

The White House announced four recipients of the National Medal of Arts and four of the National Humanities Medal in a statement on Sunday night.

Voight is one of Trump’s few vocal Hollywood backers, and has hailed him as “the greatest president of this century”.

Trump is also honouring the musicians of the US military, who frequently entertain at White House events.

He will award the medals during a ceremony at the White House on Thursday.

While the honours had been an annual affair during past administrations, they have not been awarded since Trump’s inauguration in January 2017.

The most recent arts or humanities medals were bestowed by President Barack Obama in September 2016.

The recipients of the National Medal of Arts are:

  • Alison Krauss, the bluegrass-country singer and musician, “for making extraordinary contributions to American music”. The White House misspelled her name in its release.
  • Sharon Percy Rockefeller “for being a renowned champion of the arts, generous supporter of charity, and a pioneer of new ideas and approaches in the field of public policy”.
  • The Musicians of the United States Military “for personifying excellence in music and service to country”.
  • Jon Voight “for his exceptional capacity as an actor to portray deeply complex characters”. He starred in Midnight Cowboy, the 1969 film that won an Academy Award for Best Picture, and he won the Best Actor Oscar for 1978’s Coming Home. He appears in the Showtime series Ray Donovan.

The recipients of the National Humanities Medal are:

  • The Claremont Institute “for championing the Nation’s founding principles and enriching American minds”.
  • Teresa Lozano Long “for supporting the arts and improving educational opportunities” through scholarships and philanthropy.
  • Patrick O’Connell, the chef at The Inn at Little Washington, “for being one of the greatest chefs of our time”.
  • James Patterson “for being one of the most successful American authors of our time”. He wrote a book about Jeffrey Epstein, the disgraced financier who killed himself while awaiting trial on charges of sexually abusing teenage girls. The book includes several references to Trump, including an account of the men’s falling out.

The National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities solicit candidates for the medals and compile proposed winners.

The White House, which sometimes adds its own nominees, traditionally approves and announces them before a presidential ceremony.

Trump has had an uneasy if not hostile relationship with many in the arts and the humanities who oppose his policies and have denounced his presidency.

He has been largely shunned by Hollywood and has skipped events like the annual Kennedy Center gala that is one of Washington’s premier social gatherings after some honourees said they would not attend if Trump was part of the ceremony.

Trump defends Biden over North Korea’s ‘rabid dog’ jibe

Joe Biden and Donald TrumpJoe Biden is seen as Donald Trump’s biggest rival in the Democratic race for the 2020 presidential election nomination

As the race for the 2020 presidential election gathers pace, the bitter war of words between US President Donald Trump and his main political rival Joe Biden is expected to escalate.

Seen as the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, Mr Biden has been the main target of Mr Trump’s verbal broadsides so far.

But some insults, it seems, go too far, even for President Trump.

On Sunday Mr Trump tweeted a rare, albeit backhanded, defence of Mr Biden in response to a vicious verbal attack by North Korea.

The surprising tweet was addressed to “Mr Chairman”, an apparent reference to North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un.

In the tweet, Mr Trump said although Mr Biden was “sleepy and very slow”, he was “not a rabid dog”, as North Korea had called him.

The president’s comments were included in a retweet of a conservative commentator’s post about North Korea’s attack on Mr Biden.

North Korea had lambasted Mr Biden for having the “temerity to dare slander the dignity” of its leader, Mr Kim.

“Rabid dogs like Biden can hurt lots of people if they are allowed to run about,” a statement, carried North Korea’s official KCNA news agency, said on Thursday. “They must be beaten to death with a stick.”

Watch the moment Donald Trump met King Jong-un and stepped foot inside North Korea

It is not clear what drew the ire of North Korea, though Mr Biden has been critical of the Trump-Kim summits this year and last.

In response to the North Korean jibe, Mr Biden said he saw such insults “as a badge of honour”.

In contrast, Mr Trump’s relationship with Mr Kim has been more amicable as he seeks to convince North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons through summitry rather than threats.

Mr Trump has lavished Mr Kim with compliments, describing him as “very sharp” and a “real leader”.

Mr Biden, on the other hand, has frequently been on the receiving end of Mr Trump’s jibes.

The impeachment inquiry, which centres on whether Mr Trump withheld military aid from Ukraine in exchange for an investigation into Mr Biden and his son, has intensified their long-running feud.

BBC: Obama tips his hand

Analysis box by Anthony Zurcher, North America reporter

Obama has studiously avoided weighing in on the large field of Democratic candidates vying for the party’s 2020 presidential nomination. Behind closed doors on Friday, however, he tipped his hand a bit.

Sanders is preaching political revolution. Warren is urging “big systemic change”. The former president clearly had those two frontrunners in mind when he suggested such aggressive talk risks alienating the kind of middle-of-the-road voters necessary to defeat Donald Trump next year.

This shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. Obama, despite being labelled a radical socialist by his conservative critics, governed as a pragmatic moderate. That created a fair amount of consternation of among progressives in his party, who thought he was one of their own when elected. Some view his presidency as a missed opportunity to enact fundamental structural reforms in the wake of the 2008 economic crisis.

This time around, they’re throwing their support behind Warren and Sanders and won’t appreciate being indirectly lectured by the former president.

The moderate-progressive division within the Democratic Party is very real, and it has the potential for combustion. Obama may not be picking a favourite candidate, but it looks like he’s picking sides.


Others not involved in the race for the nomination were more blunt.

In a tweet, Peter Daou, a former aide to Hillary Clinton, wrote: “Saying ‘Americans are moderate than these wild leftists’ is basically conceding that the far-right propaganda machine has prevailed.”

Presentational white spaceIn a later tweet, Mr Daou included the hashtag #TooFarLeft, which was widely used by other social media users who disagreed with Mr Obama.

The Democratic race is still in flux as the first of the state-by-state votes that will decide which of the contenders challenges Mr Trump for the White House looms in Iowa in February.

Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Indiana, topped the latest poll of likely Democratic voters in Iowa.

Some Democrats are concerned that Mr Biden, a moderate who was vice-president to Mr Obama, will struggle to beat Mr Trump, prompting a flurry of latecomers to join the race.

Former US President Barack Obama speaks to guests at the Obama Foundation SummitBarack Obama said most “ordinary Americans” didn’t want to completely tear down the system

In recent days Deval Patrick, the two-time former governor of Massachusetts, entered the field amid speculation that former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg may follow suit.

But Democratic hopes of electoral success in 2020 were boosted on Saturday after Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards secured a second term as Louisiana governor.

US election 2020: Democrats respond to Obama’s warning

Bernie Sanders: “When I talk about raising the minimum wage to a living wage, I’m not tearing down the system. We’re fighting for justice.”

Elizabeth Warren (L), Bernie Sanders (C) and Julian Castro (R) are all contending for the Democratic presidential nomination

Elizabeth Warren (L), Bernie Sanders (C) and Julián Castro (R) are all contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination

Democratic presidential candidates have given their reaction to a warning by former President Barack Obama against moving too far left in politics.

Mr Obama’s rare intervention into the Democratic race was a talking point at campaign events on Saturday.

Some Democrats called for unity, while others defended their policy agenda.

Nearly 20 candidates remain in the running and there is much debate over the best approach to taking on President Trump next year.

Speaking at a fundraising forum in Washington, the former president – considered a moderate – cautioned candidates against pursuing polices that were not “rooted in reality”.

Mr Obama, who was in office from 2009 to 2017, said “ordinary Americans” didn’t want to “completely tear down the system”.

“This is still a country that is less revolutionary than it is interested in improvement,” Mr Obama said to an audience of wealthy donors on Friday.

Watch former US President Barack Obama talk about “woke” culture

The remarks represented Mr Obama’s most pointed intervention yet in a crowded race featuring 18 candidates.

Former vice-president Joe Biden and senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders are leading the pack, but Mr Obama is yet to publicly back a candidate.

How did candidates respond to Mr Obama?

Although none of the Democratic candidates explicitly rebuked Mr Obama’s comments, Mr Sanders mounted the strongest defence of his policy platform.

Answering questions on a forum aired by Univision, a Spanish-language TV network, he was asked whether Mr Obama was “right” to say voters didn’t want systemic change.

Mr Sanders, who describes himself as a democratic socialist and progressive, laughed and said: “Well, it depends on what you mean by tear down the system.”

Democratic presidential hopeful, Vermont Senator, Bernie Sanders speaks at the California Democratic Party 2019 Senator Bernie Sanders insisted that he was “fighting for justice”, not seeking to tear down the system

“The agenda that we have is an agenda supported by the vast majority of working people,” he said. “When I talk about raising the minimum wage to a living wage, I’m not tearing down the system. We’re fighting for justice.”

Elizabeth Warren, another left-leaning frontrunner, struck a more conciliatory tone, choosing to praise Mr Obama’s trademark health care policy, the Affordable Care Act.

“I so admire what President Obama did,” Ms Warren said at a campaign event in Iowa, the New York Times reported.

“He is the one who led the way on health care and got health care coverage for tens of millions of Americans when nobody thought that was possible.”

Senator Elizabeth Warren speaks at the Holiday Inn in Concord, New HampshireElizabeth Warren said she admired Barack Obama’s health care achievements

New Jersey Senator Cory Booker said the party ought to be focusing its energy on defeating Republican President Donald Trump, not internal political squabbles.

“Let’s stop tearing each other down, let’s stop drawing artificial lines,” he said.

Unlike Mr Obama, Julián Castro, a former mayor of San Antonio, Texas, said he was confident any Democratic candidate would beat President Trump, regardless of their political persuasion.

Democratic presidential candidate Julian Castro speaks at the Liberty and Justice Celebration at the Wells Fargo ArenaJulián Castro said he was confident any Democratic candidate would beat Donald Trump

“Their vision for the future of the country is much better and will be more popular than Donald Trump’s,” Mr Castro, former housing secretary in the Obama administration, said.