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Abortion Restrictions are on the Ballot in Colorado and Louisiana

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Supreme Court Strikes Down Restrictive Louisiana Abortion Law

Just as the American public’s access to abortions becomes a concern following Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation to the Supreme Court, citizens in Colorado and Louisiana prepare to vote on the hot topic in this upcoming election.

What We Know:

  • Citizens in Louisiana will vote on Amendment 1, “No Right to Abortion in Constitution Amendment”, which will determine whether or not the state’s constitution allows for the right to an abortion. If the ballot measure is passed, the Amendment would add to the constitution’s Declaration of Rights: “To protect human life, nothing in this constitution shall be construed to secure or protect a right to abortion or require the funding of abortion.”
  • Mary Ziegler, a professor at the Florida State University College of Law, shared with CBS News her speculation that the ballot measure was purely political, stating that “no one is realistically expecting anyone in the Louisiana Supreme Court to find a right to abortion in the state’s constitution, but it is a way for Republicans to signal how they feel about things and get voters excited.” The ballot measure is reflective of Louisiana’s existing pro-life stance on abortion, and is a good indicator on how the state plans to act if Roe v. Wade is overturned by the federal court.
  • In Colorado voters will encounter Provision 115, a measure that aims to ban abortion procedures after the 22-week gestational period. The state, which is currently among one of the few to not impose restrictions based on gestational periods, would completely alter its reputation if the ballot measure in passed. Colorado’s Department of Health reports that 11% of abortion procedures are performed on out-of-state patients.
  • According to CBS News, a slight majority of voters polled disapprove of the measure, however, they have raised over $7million as opposed to the $500,000 raised by the provisions’ supporters.

As the fate of Roe v. Wade lies in the hands of a newly evolved conservative Supreme Court, states are swiftly preparing to reclaim control over their abortion laws in case the nationwide rule is lifted.

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Alex Haynes is Editor-At-Large/NYC Editor at Urban Newsroom, Executive Editor at UNR's Black Alerts and the host of Boss Mornings and Unmuted Nation. Alex joined Urban Newsroom in 2010 and contributes regular op-ed and editorial pieces while advising the columnist and contributing staff.

Headlines

Texas Governor Signs Voting Restrictions Bill into Law

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Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday signed into law a bill that bans 24-hour and drive-thru voting, imposes new hurdles on mail-in ballots and empowers partisan poll watchers.

What We Know:

  • Texas joins Florida and Georgia, in enacting new restrictive voting measures, instigated by former president Donald Trump’s lies about widespread voter fraud.  At least 10 other states are considering similar laws in their state houses.  Opponents of SB1 said its provisions will disproportionately restrict voting access for marginalized voters, particularly black and brown people of color and those with disabilities.
  • Democrats in Texas fled the Capitol in Austin for weeks in an effort to stymie the bill — first preventing the passage of a similar measure at the end of the state’s regular legislative session in May, then forcing Abbott to call two special sessions to tackle what the governor called “election integrity.”  The election overhaul in Texas comes as Republicans seek to hold onto power in a rapidly changing state where people of color make up virtually all of the population growth — and that growth is concentrated in large cities that tend to vote Democratic.
  • The new law directly targets Harris County, the home of Houston (22.6% Black), which last year offered drive-thru voting and 24-hour early voting. The bill restricts the hours counties can offer early voting to between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. while also prohibiting tactics that aide voter participation and engagement.  In the 2020 general election, Harris County used a garage at the Toyota Center, enabling voters to vote from their cars amid the global COVID-19 pandemic.

“SB 1 is an appalling, anti-democracy effort by Texas Republicans to construct barriers to voting for people they believe will not support them. What makes this bill and similar ones Republicans are pushing across the country even more un-American is that Republicans are using the ‘Big Lie’ about the 2020 election as a pretext to support them. The reality is that these bills have nothing to do with election integrity or security, but rather are discriminatory measures making it harder for all people to vote. These bills will have a disproportionate impact on communities of color.” –Eric Holder, US attorney general for US President Barack Obama

  • Senate Bill 1 also blocks counties from sending unsolicited mail-in voting applications, even to those over the age of 65, who are immediately eligible to vote-by-mail, per law.  The rules include restrictions for those who previously helped persons with disabilities and enables partisan poll watching, a tactic long used by republicans and white supremacists to intimidate Black people from voting.

 

This is a breaking news story and will be updated.

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Entertainment

R. Kelly Sex Trafficking Trial begins in Brooklyn today

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R. Kelly, the R&B singer who has long faced allegations of sexual abuse, will appear in a Brooklyn courthouse Wednesday for the second week of a high-profile federal sex trafficking trial.

What We Know:

  • The singer’s alleged pattern of abuse drew intense public scrutiny with the rise of the #MeToo movement, leading to the #MuteRKelly social media campaign, boycotts of his hit records, protests across the country and, perhaps most notably, “Surviving R. Kelly,” a Lifetime documentary series featuring testimony from several accusers.
  • R. Kelly, 54, whose real name is Robert Sylvester Kelly, denies any wrongdoing. He is best known for tracks such as “I Believe I Can Fly” and “Bump N’ Grind.”

Charges

  • R. Kelly was charged in July 2019 with racketeering based on sexual exploitation of children, kidnapping, forced labor and Mann Act violations — charges involving the coercion and transportation of women and girls in interstate commerce to engage in illegal sexual activity, according to a Department of Justice news release.
  • The singer, his entourage and his employees — managers, bodyguards, drivers, personal assistants, runners for Kelly — allegedly recruited women and girls to engage in illegal sexual activity with him and arranged for victims to travel to concerts and other events across the U.S., according to court documents.

“For two decades the enterprise at the direction of R. Kelly preyed upon young women and teenagers whose dreams of meeting a superstar soon turned into a nightmare of rape, child pornography and forced labor,” Angel M. Melendez, special agent in charge from Homeland Security Investigations, said when the charges were announced.

  • Federal prosecutors allege that Kelly forced his victims to follow various “rules.” They were not allowed to leave their room without his permission (including to go to the bathroom or eat), and they were required to call him “Daddy,” according to court documents.
  • The charges involve six women and girls.
  • The trial in Brooklyn is the second time R. Kelly has been prosecuted. He was acquitted on child pornography charges in 2008, when he was 41.

Defense

  • R. Kelly, who has been in federal custody since 2019, pleaded not guilty to racketeering, bribery, coercion, enticement and sex trafficking.

  • He also has pleaded not guilty to sex-related charges in Illinois and Minnesota.

Judge

  • Donnelly was nominated to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York in January 2015 by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the U.S. Senate that October.

  • She worked for decades in the Manhattan district attorney’s office, where she successfully prosecuted the security systems company Tyco International in a high-profile corporate fraud case.

  • Donnelly made national headlines in early 2017 after she blocked part of former President Donald Trump’s ban on refugees and visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries.

Jurors

  • The jury is made up of seven men and five women. They were selected and sworn in last week, the court said.

  • Donnelly screened dozens of potential jurors. She asked them if they believed they could stay impartial despite the negative publicity that has trailed R. Kelly since he was arrested in 2019.

  • The Associated Press reported that some prospective jurors told Donnelly they were aware of the singer mainly because of his 1996 hit “I Believe I Can Fly,” and many reportedly said they knew little — or nothing at all — about the case.

  • The jury-selection process lasted three days. R. Kelly could be seen on a video feed sitting at the defense table, dressed in a suit and wearing glasses.

 

Cameras are not allowed in this federal trial, download the Black News Alerts app for updates.

 

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Business

Judge Rules in Favor of Norwegian Cruise Line, Allows for Proof of Vaccination in Florida

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Judge Kathleen Williams ruled it unconstitutional for businesses to ban a customer requirement of receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.

What We Know:

  • The U.S. District judge also granted Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) a preliminary injunction that temporarily blocks the “vaccine passport ban.” In May, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed Senate Bill 2006 into action, which limited the government’s ability to impose mask requirements and other social distancing measures. Senate Bill 2006 also restricts businesses from asking customers for proof of vaccination.
  • Last month, NCL filed a case against the State of Florida. The company initially asserted that the ban jeopardized the health and safety of passengers and crew members. Norwegian Cruise Line company additionally mentioned one could consider the ban and infringement on the First Amendment free speech guarantee. Officials took it a step further on Aug. 6 by asking Williams to block the state law.
  • Williams said the “First Amendment, applicable to the States through the Fourteenth Amendment,” does not allow states to create laws that abridge freedom of speech. In addition, she declared a state could not restrict expression because of its message, ideas, content, or subject matter.
  • Judge Williams even stated that Florida did not provide “a valid evidentiary, factual, or legal predicate” for prohibiting citizens from showing vaccination proof. Furthermore, she affirmed that NCL demonstrated that public health might be affected if it suspends a vaccination requirement.
  • In response to the Aug. 8 ruling, president and CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, Frank Del Rio, wrote in a statement that the company’s lengths to keep the vaccine requirement in place proves its dedication to safe sailings. He also reported that NCL believes that “the safest and most prudent way” to resume operations is with 100% fully vaccinates guests and workers, as the ruling declared.

Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Gem will depart from the Port of Miami on Aug. 15. It will be  NCL’s first ship to set sail from Florida since the cruise industry shut down in March 2020.

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