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San Francisco Police Under Fire for Racist Texts

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In this Feb. 27, 2014 file photo, San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr speaks during a news conference at the Hall of Justice in San Francisco. The original charges were shocking enough: six San Francisco police officers were accused of stealing from suspects living in seedy residential hotels. Then federal prosecutors released racist, homophobic and ethnically insensitive email and text messages exchanged among more than a dozen officers, prompting the San Francisco district attorney to launch a wide-ranging investigation of the police department while considering dismissing up to 3,000 criminal cases involving the officers. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)

In this Feb. 27, 2014 file photo, San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr speaks during a news conference at the Hall of Justice in San Francisco.  (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)

Paul Elias, ASSOCIATED PRESS

 
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Just the original charges were shocking: Six San Francisco police officers were accused of stealing from drug dealers. Then federal prosecutors released racist and homophobic text messages.

Those texts have now turned a small-time police corruption case into a racially charged scandal, thrusting a diverse and liberal city into the national debate over policing in minority communities.

“We now know this can happen in San Francisco,” San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon said. “We’re certainly not immune to the problems that we have seen in Baltimore, Staten Island, South Carolina.”

The San Francisco turmoil comes amid growing tensions between police departments and communities of color. Large, sometimes violent protests over police treatment of black suspects have occurred in several cities over the last two years.

That has put police under a microscope. Three Fort Lauderdale, Florida, police officers were fired last month and a fourth resigned after they were found to have exchanged racist messages about colleagues and the predominantly black neighborhood they patrolled.

In San Francisco, Police Chief Greg Suhr has moved to fire eight officers, two of whom have since retired. Six others also are facing some kind of discipline.

The district attorney, meanwhile, is looking into whether the department’s racial problems run deeper than the officers implicated.

“In the process of looking at the text messages, increasingly I became uneasy that this may not be localized to the 14 officers that were being reported, but that we may have some systemic issues,” Gascon said.

San Francisco Police spokesman Albie Esparza says the department supports the district attorney’s examination, but disputes any suggestion that the police force of 2,100 sworn officers may suffer from systemic racism.

“This was an isolated incident,” Esparza said. “To say it’s systemic is unfounded.”

The San Francisco police department hasn’t faced widespread allegations of discrimination since Officers for Justice, a group of minority officers, sued the department in 1973. After the Department of Justice joined the lawsuit, the department settled the case in 1979 and agreed to hire more minorities and women. Nearly half of the sworn officers are minorities today.

News of the racist texts prompted outrage among community leaders. The Rev. Amos Brown, president of the NAACP’s San Francisco chapter and minister at Third Baptist Church, said he wasn’t surprised.

“We have seen this. We have lived this. We have breathed this discrimination,” he said.

Lawyers for several implicated officers characterized the text messages as “banter” and failed attempts at humor. In one, Sgt. Yulanda Williams was called racist and sexist names by one of the texting officers when she was promoted to sergeant in 2011.

“We really have not moved as forward as we thought,” she said. “I’m not prepared to say this was an isolated incident. This is just the tip of the iceberg.”

At least one of the accused officers, Michael Robinson, is white and openly gay. Another, Sgt. Ian Furminger, is white. Police officials have so far declined to release the racial composition of the other implicated officers.

Officer Rain Daugherty said in a lawsuit filed Monday to halt his termination that he is “deeply ashamed” of the texts he wrote and that they are “unreflective of his strong commitment to exemplary community policing of all San Francisco’s diverse citizens.” Daugherty argues that he and the other officers shouldn’t be fired because the department obtained the inflammatory texts in December 2012 but didn’t start the disciplinary process until two years later.

The department says the texts were part of the corruption investigation and couldn’t be disclosed to administrators until the criminal cases concluded.

It all started at the Henry Hotel in San Francisco’s gritty Tenderloin neighborhood.

Hotel residents arrested in police raids began complaining in late 2010 to their public defenders that officers had entered their rooms without warrants and, on occasion, stole their valuables.

Public defender Jeff Adachi and his staff then obtained and sifted through 18 months of video surveillance captured by the hotel’s security cameras. The videos showed officers entering the building then leaving with bags and other items that were never accounted for in evidence logs or court proceedings. The video also appeared to show officers entering rooms without warrants or permission from the residents.

The public defenders used the videos to confront and contradict officers’ testimony, leading to several criminal cases being dismissed. Adachi also called a news conference to announce his findings, releasing the incriminating videos.

Taking note, federal authorities launched an investigation and charged six police officers with corruption and related charges. Investigators twice searched Furminger’s cellphone, unearthing numerous offensive and racist texts with fellow officers. They included slurs against blacks, Mexicans, Filipinos and gays, and feature officers repeatedly using the phrase “white power.”

Furminger is currently serving a 41-month prison sentence in a Colorado prison. He is appealing his conviction, and his attorney Mark Goldrosen declined comment.

In a court filing, Furminger denied that he was “a virulent racist and homophobe.” The court filing said Furminger’s “close friends include many persons of different races and different sexual orientation.”

___

AP writer Terence Chea contributed to this report from San Francisco.
Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Community

CDC Recommends All Adults Get Tested for Hepatitis B

The U.S. Centers for Control and Prevention have issued a new recommendation urging all adults to receive screening for hepatitis B at least once in their lifetime. The agency describes hepatitis B (HBV) as a liver infection caused by the HBV virus. It can progress to liver cancer and other serious illnesses. CDC officials said as many as 2.4 million people live with HBV, and most might not know they have it.

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As many as 2.4 million people are living with hepatitis B, according to the CDC/iStock
As many as 2.4 million people are living with hepatitis B, according to the CDC/iStock

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

The U.S. Centers for Control and Prevention have issued a new recommendation urging all adults to receive screening for hepatitis B at least once in their lifetime.

The agency describes hepatitis B (HBV) as a liver infection caused by the HBV virus. It can progress to liver cancer and other serious illnesses.

CDC officials said as many as 2.4 million people live with HBV, and most might not know they have it.

A severe infection could lead to chronic HBV, which could increase a person’s risk of getting cancer or cirrhosis.

Further, the CDC said those diagnosed with chronic or long-term HBV are up to 85% more likely to succumb to an early death.

“Chronic HBV infection can lead to substantial morbidity and mortality but is detectable before the development of severe liver disease using reliable and inexpensive screening tests,” CDC officials stated.

Even though the number of people with HBV has decreased significantly in the last 30 years, the Office of Minority Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says it is still a problem for African Americans.

That office reported that, in 2020, non-Hispanic blacks would be 1.4 times more likely to die from viral hepatitis than non-Hispanic whites.

Also, non-Hispanic blacks were almost twice as likely to die from hepatitis C as white individuals.

Further, while having comparable case rates for HBV in 2020, non-Hispanic blacks were 2.5 times more likely to die from HBV than non-Hispanic whites.

Medical officials noted that HBV spreads through contact with infected blood or bodily fluids, which can occur through sex, injecting drugs, or during pregnancy or delivery.

The CDC previously issued a recommendation in 2008, when it urged testing for high-risk individuals.

In its most recent recommendation, the agency said that adults over 18 must be tested at least once.

The agency declared that pregnant individuals should also undergo screening during each pregnancy, regardless of whether they’ve received a vaccine or have been previously tested.

Additionally, incarcerated individuals, those with multiple sex partners, or people with a history of hepatitis C should test periodically, the CDC said.

The agency warned that symptoms of acute HBV could include fever, fatigue, abdominal pain, dark urine, and jaundice.

Symptoms could take several months or longer to present and last for months.

The CDC’s latest report further notes the following:

  • It’s estimated more than half of people who have the hepatitis B virus (HBV) don’t know they’re infected. Without treatment and monitoring, HBV infection can lead to deadly health outcomes, including liver damage and liver cancer.
  • The report updates and expands previous guidelines for HBV screening and testing by recommending screening for all U.S. adults and expanding continual periodic risk-based testing to include more groups, activities, exposures, and conditions.
  • Providers should implement the new CDC hepatitis B screening and testing recommendations to ensure all adults are screened for HBV infection with the triple-panel at least once in their lifetimes and that people who are not vaccinated for hepatitis B – but are at increased risk of HBV infection – receive periodic testing.

“Although a curative treatment is not yet available, early diagnosis and treatment of chronic HBV infections reduce the risk for cirrhosis, liver cancer, and death,” CDC officials noted in the report.

“Along with vaccination strategies, universal screening of adults and appropriate testing of persons at increased risk for HBV infection will improve health outcomes, reduce the prevalence of HBV infection in the United States, and advance viral hepatitis elimination goals.”

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Energy

Biden Reveals He’ll Deliver Eulogy for Former President Jimmy Carter

President Jimmy Carter served in the Navy during World War II, and his administration created the U.S. Department of Energy and Education. During his one term, Carter conducted the 1978 Camp David Peace Talks that led to a historic agreement between Israel and its Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egypt’s President Anwar Sadat. The 98-year-old is the longest-lived President and the one with the longest post-presidency.

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President Joe Biden with former President Jimmy Carter
President Joe Biden with former President Jimmy Carter

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

President Jimmy Carter served in the Navy during World War II, and his administration created the U.S. Department of Energy and Education.

During his one term, Carter conducted the 1978 Camp David Peace Talks that led to a historic agreement between Israel and its Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egypt’s President Anwar Sadat.

The 98-year-old is the longest-lived President and the one with the longest post-presidency.

On Tuesday, March 14, nearly a month after entering hospice care, it’s been revealed that Carter had asked President Joe Biden to deliver his eulogy.

Biden told donors at a fundraiser about his “recent” visit to see the 39th president, whom he has known since he was a young Delaware senator supporting Carter’s 1976 presidential campaign.

“He asked me to do his eulogy,” Biden said before stopping himself from saying more. “Excuse me; I shouldn’t say that.”

Even though the Carter Center in Atlanta and the former President’s family haven’t said much about his health, Biden mentioned that Carter was diagnosed with cancer in 2015 and then got better.

“I spent time with Jimmy Carter, and it’s finally caught up with him, but they found a way to keep him going for a lot longer than they anticipated because they found a breakthrough,” Biden said.

Carter’s family reportedly has confirmed that a state funeral for the former President will occur in Washington after he dies.

“If people had listened to Jimmy Carter, there wouldn’t be an oil crisis right now,” Twitter user @mikesouthbch wrote.

“He ruled America with kindness and compassion. Nothing you ever see from any Republican.”

Despite a tumultuous presidency from 1976 to 1980 that concluded after the Iranian government released the 55 remaining American hostages there as Carter was exiting the White House following his losing his re-election bid in a landslide to Ronald Reagan.

Carter would become one of the most beloved ex-Presidents in American history, certainly more popular than when he traversed the oval office.

The one-time Georgia peanut farmer and his wife, Rosalyn, have spent their lives helping those in need.

For more than 30 years, Habitat for Humanity officials said the Carters had worked alongside nearly 103,000 volunteers in 14 countries to build, renovate and repair 4,331 homes.

“They’ve inspired millions across the globe with their dedication and rallied thousands of volunteers and even celebrities to take part in our mission, helping Habitat for Humanity become internationally recognized for our work to build decent and affordable housing,” the organization wrote on its website.

The Associated Press noted that Biden’s presidency represented a turnabout for Carter’s political standing.

He served just one term and lost in a landslide to Republican Ronald Reagan in 1980, prompting top Democrats to keep their distance, at least publicly, for decades after he left the White House, the outlet reported.

Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama did not have close relationships with Carter. And the longshot presidential candidates who sometimes ventured to see Carter over the years typically did so privately.

“But as the Carters’ global humanitarian work and advocacy of democracy via The Carter Center garnered new respect, Democratic politicians began publicly circulating back to south Georgia ahead of the 2020 election cycle. And with Biden’s election, Carter again found a genuine friend and ally in the Oval Office,” the AP wrote.

“I remember President Carter’s many talks with ordinary people during that trip, and how he tried to reduce the stigma of HIV/AIDS and help people from all walks of life feel that their lives had value,” Dr. Helene Gayle, the President of Spelman College and a board member of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, wrote in a statement posted to the Gates Foundation website.

“We spoke with commercial sex workers in Kenya and Nigeria about HIV/AIDS prevention and condom use. While President Carter came from a very traditional, religious Christian background, he was entirely nonjudgmental and really wanted to communicate to these women that their lives were worth protecting from HIV/AIDS,” Gayle continued.

“He even gave a sermon at the church of the then-president of Nigeria, and from the pulpit, he talked openly and honestly about condoms and safe sex without judgment or recrimination.”

Gayle added that from world leaders to migrant farmers, Carter’s ability to connect with people remains remarkable.

She called him down-to-earth and approachable.

“And because of his global stature as a former president, he can meet with people at the highest levels of government, capture their attention, and make the case for investing in local, regional, and global health,” Gayle exclaimed.

“He has elevated the significance of global health around the world. And he has been incredibly persistent and diligent around the issue of Guinea worm eradication, helping to lead that campaign to the threshold of success.”

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Business

Biden Celebrates Robust Job Market in Spite of Higher Unemployment Rate Among Blacks

America’s employers added 311,000 jobs last month, surpassing the 208,000 experts predicted. Further, the last two years saw more jobs created since 1940, a sign that the country has recovered soundly from the COVID-19 recession. In January, employers added 504,000 jobs, and then 300,000+ last month, robust gains that pointed to high demand for labor. However, despite the solid report, the African American job market remained problematic.

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According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the overall unemployment rate rose to 3.6% in February from 3.4% the prior month. Women over 20 saw an unemployment rate slightly rise to 3.2% from 3.1%. Unemployment rates for Black women climbed to 5.1% from 4.7%. Among Hispanic women, it jumped to 4.8% from 4.4%. The Black unemployment rate peaked at 5.7%, up from 5.4% in January. But, President Biden said he was excited about overall progress.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the overall unemployment rate rose to 3.6% in February from 3.4% the prior month. Women over 20 saw an unemployment rate slightly rise to 3.2% from 3.1%. Unemployment rates for Black women climbed to 5.1% from 4.7%. Among Hispanic women, it jumped to 4.8% from 4.4%. The Black unemployment rate peaked at 5.7%, up from 5.4% in January. But, President Biden said he was excited about overall progress.

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

America’s employers added 311,000 jobs last month, surpassing the 208,000 experts predicted.

Further, the last two years saw more jobs created since 1940, a sign that the country has recovered soundly from the COVID-19 recession.

In January, employers added 504,000 jobs, and then 300,000+ last month, robust gains that pointed to high demand for labor.

However, despite the solid report, the African American job market remained problematic.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the overall unemployment rate rose to 3.6% in February from 3.4% the prior month.

Women over 20 saw an unemployment rate slightly rise to 3.2% from 3.1%.

Unemployment rates for Black women climbed to 5.1% from 4.7%.

Among Hispanic women, it jumped to 4.8% from 4.4%.

The Black unemployment rate peaked at 5.7%, up from 5.4% in January.

But, President Biden said he was excited about overall progress.

“I’m happy to report that our economy has created over 300,000 new jobs last month, and that’s on top of a half a million jobs we added the month before,” a celebratory President Joe Biden exclaimed.

“All told, we’ve created more than 12 million jobs since I took office, nearly 800,000 of them manufacturing jobs.

“That means, overall, we’ve created more jobs in two years than any administration has created in the first four years.”

Biden said he believes his administration’s economic plan is working.

The President asserted that when he took office, the economy was reeling.

“And 18 million people were unemployed, on unemployment insurance, compared to less than 2 million today,” he stated.

“Unemployment was 6.3 percent, and the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office predicted it wouldn’t get below 4 percent until 2026.

“Because of our economic plan, unemployment has been below 4 percent for 14 straight months since January 2022.”

In February, the unemployment rate remained near the lowest level in a half-century.

“That’s really good news. People who were staying out of the job market are now getting back into the job market,” the President noted.

“They’re coming off the sidelines. They’re getting back into the job market. And today’s job numbers are clear: Our economy is moving in the right direction.”

Biden declared that jobs are available, and Americans are working again and becoming more optimistic about the future.

He called right-wing Republicans the biggest threat to America’s economic recovery.

“The reckless talk, my MAGA friends. This is not your — as you’ve heard me say, it’s not your father’s Republican party,” Biden railed.

“But the Republicans in the United States Congress, what they want to do with regard to the debt limit. You know, they’re threatening to default on our national debt. Planning to default, as some Republicans seem to be doing, puts us much at risk.”

He continued:

“I believe we should be building on our progress, not go backward. So, I urge our extreme MAGA Republican friends in Congress to put the threats aside. Instead, join me in continuing the progress we’ve built. We’ve got a lot more to do, so let’s finish the job.”

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