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Warren Has Irked Obama Before, but Trade Deepens Their Rift

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In this Feb. 23, 2015, file photo, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. applauds as President Barack Obama makes the thumbs up sign as he arrives to speak at AARP in Washington. When Obama huffed that Warren was a "politician like everybody else" he revealed a rift that predates the current hostilities between the two Democrats over trade. Though occasional allies, Warren has been aggravating the Obama administration since her pre-Senate days when she chaired an oversight panel charged with being a watchdog over the massive federal bank bailout. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)

In this Feb. 23, 2015, file photo, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. applauds as President Barack Obama makes the thumbs up sign as he arrives to speak at AARP in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)

Jim Kuhnhenn, ASSOCIATED PRESS

 

 

WASHINGTON (AP) — When President Barack Obama huffed that Elizabeth Warren, the Massachusetts senator and established liberal star, was a “politician like everybody else” he revealed a rift that predates the current hostilities between the two Democrats over trade.

Though occasional allies, Warren has been aggravating the Obama administration since her pre-Senate days when she chaired an oversight panel charged with being a watchdog over the massive federal bank bailout.

But the dispute over Obama’s efforts to get trade negotiating authority from Congress and complete a 12-nation Pacific rim trade deal goes to the heart of a fundamental divide within the Democratic Party. It also has turned the tables in Congress where Democrats once delighted in watching Republicans struggle with their conservative tea party faction.

Now it’s Republicans who are amused and making the most of a Democratic split.

“You’ve got the energy of the Elizabeth Warren faction kind of driving the agenda” for Democrats, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Wednesday on CNBC. “I want to compliment the president — the way he took on the base, he took on Elizabeth Warren, he took on the labor unions.”

Obama’s request for negotiating authority was back on track Thursday after an embarrassing procedural loss Tuesday when only one Democrat voted with the president on a motion to begin debate on trade, even though about a dozen support his overall goal.

Democrats have long been suspicious of trade deals, blaming them for job losses and lax enforcement. Warren and her allies have dug further, building on those concerns to make a case that Obama is negotiating an agreement that is secret from the public, places U.S. sovereignty at risk and could roll back U.S. financial regulations.

“She’s absolutely wrong,” Obama said in an interview with Yahoo! that aired over the weekend. “Elizabeth is a politician like everybody else and she has a voice that she wants to get out there.”

That remark prompted Sen. Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat who has been among Warren’s top allies on the trade issue, to rebuke the president for being “disrespectful.”

“I think that the president has made this more personal than he needed to,” Brown said.

Obama on Thursday sought to defuse the tension between the two, noting that his domestic agenda is virtually the same as hers and that of other liberals, except for trade.

“The issue with respect to myself and Elizabeth has never been personal,” he said during a news conference at the presidential retreat at Camp David, Maryland. “There are a whole bunch of some of my best friends in the Senate as well as in the House, some of my earliest supporters, who disagree with me on this.”

While the Obama-Warren spat highlights the deep Democratic split over trade, the party has healed in the past after major trade fights. Mitch Stewart, a former senior adviser to Obama’s presidential campaigns and now a consultant for a pro-trade advocacy group, predicted the Obama-Warren relationship can survive the disagreement.

This dispute, however, comes at an awkward time for Hillary Rodham Clinton, who as Obama’s secretary of State once called the Trans-Pacific negotiations the “gold standard” for fair trade. Now, as a presidential candidate who feels the pressure of Warren’s national prominence, she is sounding more skeptical and her lack of endorsement has been conspicuous.

A former Harvard professor, Warren burst onto the Washington scene after the 2008 financial crisis as a vigorous advocate for consumer financial protections. She became the chair of a bipartisan Congressional Oversight Panel that kept tabs on the Troubled Asset Relief Program, the taxpayer-financed fund that helped financial institutions out of the crisis.

Then-Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner bristled at her critiques, calling them “mostly unjustified.”

“Her TARP oversight hearings often felt more like made-for-YouTube inquisitions than serious inquiries,” Geithner wrote in his book “Stress Test.” ”She was worried about the right things, but she was better at impugning our choices — as well as our integrity and our competence — than identifying any feasible alternatives.”

More recently, Warren infuriated the White House by objecting to Obama’s nomination last year of Antonio Weiss, a Lazard investment banker, to be the third-ranking official at Treasury. Warren argued he was too close to Wall Street to hold a high post at Treasury. Weiss dropped out of contention for the post and Obama appointed him to serve as a counselor to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, a post that does not require Senate confirmation.

The arrangement was not unfamiliar to Warren. She herself did not have Senate votes in 2010 to be confirmed as head of a new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, so Obama appointed her a special presidential adviser to work with Geithner at Treasury on an interim basis.

A year later, with the help of then-Obama senior adviser Pete Rouse, Warren embarked on her 2012 Senate race. Obama campaigned for her.

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Associated Press writers Charles Babington and Erica Werner contributed to this report.
Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Activism

After Wood Street Clearance, Homeless People Stay

Advocates claim about a dozen of them showed up on November 8 to support residents. One of them, Annmarie Bustamente, said their presence “definitely helped the residents block the eviction” and that the residents were “tired of displacement and said no” to a member of Oakland’s Public Works Department encouraging them to move. 

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Homeless Oakland Jessie Parker stands on Wood Street in West Oakland on November 10. The city of Oakland had planned to move Parker and dozens of others from this location between November 8 and 10, but residents refused to move and remained on site after the attempted closure operation. Photo by Zack Haber.
Homeless Oakland Jessie Parker stands on Wood Street in West Oakland on November 10. The city of Oakland had planned to move Parker and dozens of others from this location between November 8 and 10, but residents refused to move and remained on site after the attempted closure operation. Photo by Zack Haber.

By Zack Haber

On the morning of November 8, members of both Oakland’s Encampment Management Team, Public Works, and Police Department came to an area encompassing about 1/5 of a mile from Wood Street and Grand Avenue to Wood Street and 26th Street with the stated goal of clearing the location of homeless people. But after the attempted clearance, homeless people remained in the area.

“The objective was to move as many people as possible,” wrote Oakland Communications Director Karen Boyd in an e-mail. “But that could not be accomplished without the full cooperation of the community.”

“You can’t push us back any further than this,” said homeless resident Jessie Parker, a 63-year-old lifelong Oaklander who came to live on Wood Street after being shot in the leg. The injury prevented him from being able to do the physical movement required for the construction and electrical work he had done in the past. On November 4, the city put up pink notices informing him that starting in four days they would force him to vacate the area he’s lived in for about nine years, but he, like dozens of others living in vehicles, tents or makeshift homes along Wood Street, didn’t leave.

Parker’s statement references the fact that Wood Street is one of the westernmost streets in West Oakland. A little further west from where Parker lives is land owned by Caltrans under the 880 overpass where still more homeless people live, as well as a 1.5 acre plot of land belonging to a company called Gamechanger LLC. To the east are businesses and residential areas.

After about two years in delays, Gamechanger agreed to lease its land to the city for $1 a year and the city opened a Safe RV Parking site on July 7 on the company’s land through the non-profit Building Opportunities for Self Sufficiency.

In the Safe RV Parking site, residents who own RVs and trailers can legally live in them and receive services. It’s unclear how long this service will last, as the lease between GameChanger and the city can expire by November of next year. That same lease laid out plans to allow 75 RVs or trailers space to park, but while walking through the site on November 10, this writer counted 29 RVs while half of the site sat vacant. The site is not available for many residents, like Parker, who don’t have an RV or a trailer.

“I never received an offer to move in,” said Parker, who lives in a truck. “It’s for RVs only.”

The site opening has put other residents at risk of displacement who can’t or don’t want to access it. Since Oakland’s City Council unanimously passed its Encampment Management Policy in October of last year, despite protests and critical public comments during five hours of a meeting, city policy now states those living within 25 feet of such sites can face clearance.

Although their policy now allows it, the city had not attempted to move nor even encouraged people who are living near the Safe RV Parking site to leave the area until the November 8 operation. But recent communications from Justin Tombolesi, who is the constituent liaison for District 3 Councilmember Carroll Fife, have led advocates and homeless people to believe the company is now pressuring the city to force people to leave the area. In a text message to a homeless resident who lives near Wood Street, Tombolesi wrote “Gamechanger is suing the city because people are too close to the RV site.”

Gamechanger denies suing or pressuring the city. When asked if the company was suing or threatening to sue the city, the company’s lawyer, Pat Smith of Smith LLP, responded in an email, writing “Not at all — no thought of suing the city. The city is solely in charge of the site and ownership has no involvement or concern over how the city is handling things.”

In an e-mail, Boyd wrote that “No filings or actions to terminate the lease have been served upon the city,” but that the city has “spoken with legal counsel representing GameChanger’s lot regarding the city’s plans to create compliance.”

In another text message to the same resident, Tombolesi also claimed the city would allow residents living on Wood Street to move to a vacant portion of land off the street and just north of the Safe RV Parking site during the November 8 closure operation. No residents have moved into that location and residents, as well advocates who were on site that day, claim no one was invited to do so. Boyd said the city offered nine spaces in the city’s Community Cabins, and five spaces in a rapid rehousing program called The Holland. One resident accepted a space in the Community Cabins, which is a program that offers small, unheated shelter in shed-like spaces made by the Tuff Shed company.

Advocates claim about a dozen of them showed up on November 8 to support residents. One of them, Annmarie Bustamente, said their presence “definitely helped the residents block the eviction” and that the residents were “tired of displacement and said no” to a member of Oakland’s Public Works Department encouraging them to move.

Although the closure operation was originally slated to occur over three days between Monday November 8 and Wednesday November 10, no one from the city came back after the first day.

“The ability to proceed Monday impacted the entire operation,” wrote Boyd in an e-mail, “and activities for the following days were cancelled.”

Although homeless residents did not leave Wood Street, Oakland’s Police Department’s Public Information Officer Kim Armstead said the department did tow six vehicles for long expired registration on November 6 and 7 in the area in preparation for the closure.

According to Armstead, the department avoided towing vehicles that served as people’s homes, as the department, following the cities’ direction, has “agreed not to tow vehicles where there is clear evidence they are being used as shelter.” Armstead also said on November 8, OPD supported the city operation with two officers, one sergeant, and six police service techs who provided traffic control and security for city workers.

One homeless resident named Evangeline said the towing of her and her husband’s vehicle has made it difficult to go grocery shopping and to visit her mother, who just had a heart attack. The couple can’t afford to pay the fees to get the car back, so it will remain in the tow yard.

“We’re really stuck,” she said.

Although residents like Parker avoided being moved from Wood Street, it’s unclear when or if the city will come back to move them. According to Parker, a member of the non-profit Building Opportunities for Self Sufficiency has been working to secure some form of permanent housing for him, and he’s hopeful that the person will be successful.

“I’m a little older now so my peak interest is getting back into housing,” said Parker. “If I get into housing, I’m sure I won’t go back to this. I can’t take these harsh elements no more.”

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Activism

African American Sports & Entertainment Group (AASEG) helps support 25th annual turkey drive in East Oakland

Assembymember Mia Bonta said,”I am excited and fully in support of the City Council’s decision to prioritize an African American-led, Oakland rooted, development group to negotiate how we can reimagine the Coliseum site. This represents a promise of development without displacement, and amenities and entertainment that East Oakland once had and deserves again. This is also the kind of community-led, wealth building opportunity l will fight for at the state level, and I will continue to support initiatives like these here in the 18th Assembly District.”

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The African American Sports & Entertainment Group came out to support the 25th annual Community Giving Foundation Turkey drive at Verdese Carter Park in East Oakland.

Hosted by founder and organizer Marlon McWilson, the turkey drive that started in 1997 has now donated over 35,000 Turkey’s through McWilson’s foundation. In attendance were Oakland Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong, Oakland PAL, California Assembly Member Mia Bonta (AD-18) along with husband and Attorney General for the State of California Rob Bonta. Assembly Member Bonta also congratulated the AASEG on their recent unanimous 8-0 approval to enter negotiations with the City of Oakland on an Exclusive Negotiating Agreement (ENA) to purchase the city’s half interest of the coliseum land, and looks forward to working with the team.

Assembymember Mia Bonta said,”I am excited and fully in support of the City Council’s decision to prioritize an African American-led, Oakland rooted, development group to negotiate how we can reimagine the Coliseum site. This represents a promise of development without displacement, and amenities and entertainment that East Oakland once had and deserves again. This is also the kind of community-led, wealth building opportunity l will fight for at the state level, and I will continue to support initiatives like these here in the 18th Assembly District.”

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Bay Area

Get Booster Shot, Celebrate Thanksgiving Holiday Safely, State Officials Say

Officials are encouraging people who took both doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine at least six months ago to get their boosters now. People who took the one-shot Johnson & Johnson primary dose at least two months ago, should also schedule their booster shot.

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According to Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel, the booster shots are being administered under an “emergency use authorization.”
According to Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel, the booster shots are being administered under an “emergency use authorization.”

By Aldon Thomas Stiles, California Black Media

Golden State public health officials are recommending that Californians take COVID-19 booster shots to prevent a resurgence of the disease and to celebrate the holidays safely with their loved ones.

“It’s not too late to get it,” said Dr. Mark Ghaly, secretary of the California Health and Human Services Department, referring to the COVID-19 booster shot. He was speaking at a vaccine clinic in Los Angeles County last week.

“Get that added protection for the Thanksgiving gatherings you may attend,” he said.

Last week, the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) authorized the Moderna and Pfizer vaccine boosters for all adults in the United States.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) followed with an endorsement of the booster vaccine, recommending it for people over age 50, and anyone 18 and older who is at higher risk.

The CDC loosened the language for all other adults, saying anyone over age 18 “may” take the shot.

California officials say the booster shots are plenty and available throughout the state.

“If you think you will benefit from getting a booster shot, I encourage you,” said Ghaly. “Supplies are available. There are many sites across the state – thousands in fact.”

On Saturday, the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup completed a separate review of the federal government’s approval process for the booster shots and also recommended that “individuals 18 or older who have completed their primary vaccination series,” take the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna boosters.

California, Oregon, Nevada and Washington state came together last year and created the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup. The group, made up of scientists, medical professionals and public health experts, is charged with reviewing COVID-19 vaccine safety.

Over the last two weeks, COVID-19 infections across the United States have increased at a rate of nearly 33%, according to the CDC.

Officials are encouraging people who took both doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine at least six months ago to get their boosters now. People who took the one-shot Johnson & Johnson primary dose at least two months ago, should also schedule their booster shot.

“COVID-19 boosters are available to all Californians 18 [and over]! Walk-in clinics are open statewide with no appointment necessary – like this mobile clinic in Avenal. Find a clinic or pharmacy near you and get yours today,” Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office chimed in on Twitter.

Newsom has pushed hard for the vaccine booster since he received his last month.

“Great news for the rest of the country. The holidays are here — make sure to keep your immunity up and protect yourself and your loved ones. Get your booster,” Newsom tweeted on November 18.

According to Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel, the booster shots are being administered under an “emergency use authorization.”

California Black Media’s coverage of COVID-19 is supported by the California Health Care Foundation.

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