Alabama to vote on bill banning abortion

Abortion is being debated in the Alabama statehouse (pictured) as well as at 15 others across the USThe Alabama state legislature

Alabama lawmakers are expected to vote on a bill to outlaw abortion outright in the state, which would become the strictest such law in the US if passed.

The state Senate began debating the measure on Tuesday, and must decide whether to allow exemptions for cases of rape or incest.

The bill was passed 74-3 this month in the state House of Representatives.

Activists hope it will challenge a landmark Supreme Court ruling that legalised abortion in the US.

What next?

A final vote could come on Tuesday evening.

Republican Governor Kay Ivey has not said whether she would sign it, but she is seen as a strong opponent of abortion.

Democrats plan to mount a filibuster to block the bill, but have only eight seats in the 35-member chamber.

Republican lawmaker Terri Collins, sponsor of the legislation, said: “Our bill says that baby in the womb is a person.”

Democratic state Senator Bobby Singleton said the bill “criminalises doctors” and is an attempt by men “to tell women what to do with their bodies”.

As the Senate debated whether to an exception for rape and incest, Democrat Rodger Smitherman said: “We’re telling a 12 year old girl who, through incest and rape is pregnant and we are telling her that she doesn’t have a choice.”

What does the bill do?

It goes further than legislation passed recently elsewhere in the US to ban abortion after a foetal heartbeat can be detected, usually around six weeks into a pregnancy.

Under the Alabama measure, provision of abortion at any stage in pregnancy would be a class A felony.

Doctors could face 10 years in prison for attempting to terminate a pregnancy and 99 years for actually carrying out the procedure.

A woman who receives an abortion would not be held criminally liable.

The bill would allow abortion in cases where the mother’s life is at serious risk.

Its text says more foetuses have been aborted than people killed in “Stalin’s gulags, Cambodian killing fields”.

anti-abortion activist in PhiladelphiaAn anti-abortion activist in Philadelphia

Why now?

Supporters of the legislation have welcomed an inevitable challenge in federal court if the measure becomes law.

The bill’s architects expect it will be defeated in the lower courts, but hope it will end up before the Supreme Court.

Their aim ultimately is to overturn Roe v Wade, the 1973 ruling that recognised a woman’s constitutional right to end a pregnancy.

Emboldened by the addition of two Trump-nominated conservative justices, anti-abortion activists are eager to take one of the most divisive issues in America back to the highest court in the land.

Eric Johnston, founded the Alabama Pro-Life Coalition that helped draft the bill, told NPR: “The dynamic has changed.

“The judges have changed, a lot of changes over that time, and so I think we’re at the point where we need to take a bigger and a bolder step.”

What’s the national picture?

If signed, the Alabama measure would become one of more than 300 laws challenging abortion access in the US.

Its passage comes amid a wave of anti-abortion measures in Republican-controlled state capitols around the nation.

Legislation to restrict abortion has been introduced in 16 of America’s 50 states this year alone, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which advocates for more abortion access.

The flurry of measures has led these activists to warn that a swathe of US territory could become an “abortion desert.”

At the other end of the political spectrum, a Democratic-sponsored bill in Virginia that would have allowed third-trimester abortions up until the point of childbirth failed to make it out of committee.

US: Convicted ringleader in Texas dragging death to be executed

John William King was convicted of killing James Byrd Jr in 1998 by dragging the Texas black man behind a truck for 5km.

  • This undated photo provided by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice shows John William King [Handout/Texas Department of Criminal Justice/AP Photo]
This undated photo provided by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice shows John William King 

A white supremacist convicted of killing James Byrd Jr in 1998 by dragging the 49-year-old black man behind a truck in one of the most notorious hate crimes in modern times is scheduled to be executed in Texas on Wednesday.

John William “Bill” King, 44, is scheduled to be killed by lethal injection at the state’s death chamber in Huntsville at 6pm local time (23:00GMT).

King along with Shawn Berry and Lawrence Brewer were accused of kidnapping Byrd while he hitchhiked in Jasper, Texas, on June 7, 1998.

Prosecutors said the men dragged him behind their 1982 gray Ford pickup truck for three miles (5 km) before dumping his body in front of an African-American church.

A “KKK” engraved lighter was among the evidence police found at the scene, court documents showed.

Hate crimes

The gruesome killing spurred the passing of the James Byrd Jr Hate Crimes Act, strengthening punishments for hate crimes in Texas.

US man pleads guilty to hate crimes in Charlottesville car attack

The murder, along with the killing of Matthew Shepard, a gay University of Wyoming student who was beaten and left to die tied to a fence, was also the genesis of the federal hate crimes prevention act passed in 2009.

King was found guilty of capital murder and sentenced to death in 1999.

He was a member of a white supremacist gang and spoke of starting a race war while in prison for a previous crime.

Ricky Jason wears a photograph of James Byrd Jr outside the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Huntsville Unit before the execution of Lawrence Russell Brewer [File: David J Phillip/AP Photo]

He also talked about initiating new members by having them kidnap and murder black people, court documents showed.

“Regardless of the outcome of this, we have made history,” King wrote in a letter to Brewer obtained by jail officials after they were convicted of killing Byrd, CNN reported.

“Death before dishonour. Sieg Heil!” the letter continued, using a Nazi salute.

‘You can’t fight murder with murder’

King has always maintained his innocence, saying that he left the two other men before Byrd was killed.

His lawyers filed an appeal to the US Supreme Court after a Texas appeals court denied a request to halt the execution on Monday.

Berry and Brewer were also convicted of murder.

Berry was sentenced to life in prison while Brewer, also a white supremacist, was sentenced to death.

Some of Byrd’s family members have said they would have rather seen the men spend the rest of their lives in prison.

“You can’t fight murder with murder,” his son Ross Byrd told Reuters the night before Brewer’s execution in 2011.

King will be the third inmate in Texas and the United States to be executed in 2019, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Louisiana officer’s son, Holden Matthews, arrested over black church fires

Holden MatthewsHolden Matthews was reportedly turned over to state officials by his own father, a police deputy

The son of a police deputy has been arrested as the suspect in three fires at black churches in southern Louisiana, officials say.

Holden Matthews, 21, was arrested on Wednesday and charged with three counts of arson on religious buildings.

The burnings did not result in deaths or injuries, but evoked painful memories of the civil rights era.

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said the “evil acts” dredged up “a very dark past of intimidation and fear”.

The Democrat said the alleged arson was perpetrated by a “depraved individual”, adding: “Hate is not a Louisiana value.”

Holden Matthews

Louisiana State Fire Marshal Butch Browning told reporters on Thursday that each of the three counts against the suspect carries a sentence of up to 15 years in prison.

St Landry Parish Sheriff Bobby Guidroz said Mr Matthews’ father, sheriff’s deputy Roy Matthews, “knew nothing about his son’s activity” and “broke down” when he was informed.

The deputy then helped facilitate his son’s arrest by getting him to an area where police could detain him “without incident”, Sheriff Guidroz said.

Officials said Mr Matthews had complied with police during the arrest. He had no criminal record or history of violence.

Sherriff Guidroz speaks at news conferenceSherriff Guidroz said Holden Matthews’ father was “in terrible shape” upon learning his son was a suspect

The fire marshal said investigators are vetting “several motives”, but had learned Mr Matthews was involved with a type of music known as black metal that, he added, had historical associations with church burnings.

His Facebook page lists him as the lead singer and songwriter of a heavy metal band called Vodka Vultures.

Mr Matthews had also commented on posts about neo-Nazi black metal musician Kristian “Varg” Vikernes, who was jailed in 1994 for murder and church burning in Norway, the Daily Beast reported.

Black metal music, an extreme subgenre of heavy metal, often contains references to Satanism and pagan beliefs. Some extremists within the genre, like Vikernes, are also proponents of white nationalism.

“When Matthews was developed as a suspect we saw an immediate threat to public safety,” Mr Browning said. “We felt other crimes were imminent.”

“There were extraordinary means taken to bring safety to this community,” he added, without elaborating.

Debris after a church fireDebris at one of the church fires in Louisiana’s St. Landry Parish

The fires took place in Opelousas (population 16,000) on 26 March, 2 April and 4 April. The suspect lives in the community.

St Mary Baptist Church, the Greater Union Baptist Church and the Mount Pleasant Baptist Church were razed by the conflagrations.

The FBI is now investigating whether the incidents were “bias-motivated”, but would not comment further.

Rev Gerald Toussaint of Mount Pleasant Missionary Baptist Church, speaking on behalf of the targeted churches, said the future was “bright” as the difficult time brought the community together in new ways.

“It started out as a dark moment in our lives, but in the rebuilding process, you’re going to see some things in our future that’s going to be very bright for our churches.”

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) called the church burnings incidents of “domestic terrorism” against people of colour.

Greater Union Baptist Church Pastor Harry Richard told CBS his grandfather helped found the church over a century ago and the fire had damaged his family’s history.

“He left a legacy for me, and I was trying to fulfil that to the best of my ability.”

State and local police, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) were also involved in the investigation.

Officials said they have no reason to believe the fires are related to another incident of suspected arson on 31 March at a predominantly white church a few hours away from the community.

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Dozier School for Boys: Dozens more suspected graves found

Excavators have found up to another 27 suspected graves near the grounds of a notorious reform school in Florida.

Workers hired to clear up a fuel storage site detected new “anomalies” buried near the state-run Dozier School for Boys, officials said.

The school became infamous for the alleged abuse and murder of children over its 111-year history.

It was one of the largest institutions for young offenders in the US, eventually closing in 2011.

If confirmed, the latest finds would bring the total number of known burials on the campus to 82 – although researchers believe more than 100 children could have died at Dozier School.

Contractor New South Associates was preparing to clean up pollution in Marianna, Florida, using ground-penetrating radar in March when workers found what could be more burial sites near the school.

Their report, obtained by Florida newspaper the Tampa Bay Times, said the possible graves did not follow any pattern.

“This randomness might be expected in a clandestine or informal cemetery,” the report says.

A map showing the town of Marianna, Florida

New South recommended treating the area as a graveyard until a more thorough investigation could be conducted.

Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis has asked state authorities to “develop a path forward” to understand the findings.

A group of former students known as the White House Boys first brought claims of abuse at the institution to the public eye in the 2000s.

“We’ve been trying to tell the state of Florida that there’s more bodies out there for a long time,” Bryant Middleton told the Tampa Bay Times.

Another former Dozier School student, Terry Burns, told Action News that if they scanned the entire campus, “I guarantee they will find another 200 to 300 dead boys buried on them grounds”.

dozier

Virginia’s First Lady Apologizes for Handing COTTON to Black Students!

H10 va pamela and ralph northam

The incident came as Governor Ralph Northam, a Democrat, continues to resist mounting calls from within his own party to step down after claims he posed for a racist photo seen in his 1984 medical school yearbook page depicting a man wearing blackface next to a man wearing a Ku Klux Klan outfit. Northam has denied that he is in the photo, but he did admit to wearing blackface on another occasion that same year and apologized.

After the latest incident, Leah Dozier Walker, the mother of one of the students handed cotton by first lady Pam Northam, said in a statement, “The governor and Mrs. Northam have asked the residents of the commonwealth to forgive them for their racially insensitive past actions. But the actions of Mrs. Northam, just last week, do not lead me to believe that this governor’s office has taken seriously the harm and hurt they have caused African Americans in Virginia or that they are deserving of our forgiveness.”

North Carolina Orders New Congressional Election Due to GOP Voting Fraud

FEB 22, 2019

H1 nc new elections

The North Carolina State Board of Elections has thrown out the results of November’s congressional race in the 9th District and ordered a new election, after more evidence came to light of a Republican effort to tamper with absentee ballots. The race had pitted Republican Mark Harris against Democrat Dan McCready. Harris initially appeared to be the narrow winner, but the race was never certified. For months Harris, who is a Baptist preacher, had insisted his campaign did nothing illegal, but on Thursday he called for a new election. This came a day after Harris’s own son—Assistant U.S. Attorney John Harris—testified that he had warned his father about hiring a longtime political operative who had a record of illegally collecting absentee ballots and in some cases filling them out in favor of Republican candidates. North Carolina’s Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper praised the board’s decision, saying it “sends a strong message that election fraud must not be tolerated.” President Trump—who has repeatedly warned about Democrats stealing elections—has yet to comment about the latest news from North Carolina.

Southern U.S., Atlanta School Cheating Scandal: The Untold Story of Corporate Greed & Criminalization of Teachers

FEBRUARY 13, 2019

As teacher strikes in Denver and Los Angeles join a wave of recent labor actions bringing attention to the plight of the American public school system, we take a fresh look at one of the largest public school scandals in U.S. history. Public schools in Atlanta, Georgia, were thrown into chaos in 2015 when 11 former educators were convicted in 2015 of racketeering and other charges for allegedly facilitating a massive cheating operation on standardized tests. Prosecutors said the teachers were forced to modify incorrect answers and students were even allowed to fix their responses during exams. The case has fueled criticism of the education system’s reliance on standardized testing, and elicited calls of racism. Thirty-four of the 35 educators indicted in the scandal were African-American. We speak with Shani Robinson, one of the 11 convicted teachers, who has written a new book on the cheating scandal with journalist Anna Simonton. It’s titled “None of the Above: The Untold Story of the Atlanta Public Schools Cheating Scandal, Corporate Greed, and the Criminalization of Educators.”