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Texas Democrats Leave the State in an Effort to Block GOP-Backed Voting Restrictions

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Update 7/13/21 1:00 PM:

Texas Republicans have voted to send law enforcement to find and arrest Texas Democrats who left the state.  Chairman of the House Administration Committee, Rep. Will Metcalf, R-Conroe, moved to issue a “call of the House” in an attempt to regain quorum. The motion passed 76-4 and was followed by another motion requesting the “sergeant at arms, or officers appointed by him, send for all absentees … under warrant of arrest if necessary.” That motion also passed 76-4, the four representing the four Texas Democrats who were present, Reps. Ryan Guillen of Rio Grande City, Tracy King of Batesville, Eddie Morales Jr. of Eagle Pass, and John Turner of Dallas. This comes after Gov. Abbott threatened to do the same and also stated those who left should be removed from their committee leadership positions.  A motion was proposed to remove the missing representatives but did not get a passing vote and some representatives said they cannot be removed based on current chamber rules.

 

Original 7/13/21 13:30 AM:

What We Know:

On Monday, Texas Democrats left the state to stop restrictive voting bills from being pushed out by state Republicans.

  • Texas Democratic House of Representatives took charter jets and landed at Dulles International Airport on Monday evening. At least 51 members were said to be on the flights, with about seven members arriving later. They left the state with hopes to “deny Republicans the quorum needed to conduct business in the chamber.” Per House rules, two-thirds of the 150 members have to be present in order to conduct business, such as passing new bills.

  • State Democrats want Congress to pass federal legislation that will stop the changes that the state Republicans are forcing with House Bill 3. This bill is similar to the one that was proposed back in May that prompted Democrats to stage a walkout. Due to the walkout that included 62 Democrats, Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX) had to move the bill to the current special session. Democrats then tried passing their “For the People Act” as a response to bills forcing stricter voting laws but fell short of the 60 votes needed to pass it.
  • According to NBC News, House Bill 3, as well as the Senate Bill 1, “would add identification requirements for mail voting, ban some early voting options, create criminal penalties for breaking election codes, and empower partisan poll watchers.” These requirements would ultimately affect people of color and those disabled who live in the state, increasing the chances of Democratic votes in the area to decrease.
  • Democratic Rep. Gina Hinojosa, daughter of Texas Democratic Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa, claimed that this move by Republicans is centered around former President Donald Trump’s voter fraud claim regarding the 2020 election. Many states that Trump lost in the election are pushing the need for harsher voting laws. Georgia and Arizona, along with Texas which he won, have the highest number of restrictive bills they want to pass and Republicans hold the majority in all three state legislatures.
  • Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer (D-TX) stated that “democracy is on the line” and he didn’t see any chance of both parties negotiating over the bill. He believes that Republicans are “hellbent on having it their way.” Abbott criticized the representatives that left and said that they are inflicting harm on the people of Texas who voted for them.

“Texas Democrats’ decision to break a quorum of the Texas Legislature and abandon the Texas State Capitol inflicts harm on the very Texans who elected them to serve! As they fly across the country on cushy private planes, they leave undone issues that can help their districts and our state,” said Abbott.

  • Democratic leaders released a joint statement standing by their actions. They also held a press conference this morning expressing their refusal to let the Republican-led legislature enforce legislation they deem dangerous and would cause harm to Texan’s freedom to vote. Democrats hope this move will cause Republicans to finally sit down with them and develop a compromise over the voting bill. Democrats also believe Republicans are pushing these new laws because they are scared of losing their position in power.

“Republicans are attacking our voting rights for one reason: they know their days in power are numbered, so they’re trying to cling to power the only way they can — by stopping us from voting. Texas Democrats have stood strong in the face of these attacks all year, and we will not let up. We will keep holding the line for our democracy and the voice of every single Texan,” said Gilberto Hinojosa.

  • Many applauded the move made by the Texas Democrats. Vice President Kamala Harris said that the group showed “extraordinary courage and commitment.” She believes they are moving down the path that many who fought for voting rights, also went down. Harris called the act of fighting for voting rights “American as apple pie.”
  • Breaking quorum is extremely rare in the country. Senate Democrats broke quorum in 2003 over a redistricting policy, but the policy was passed months later. In order to block voting on the new legislation, Democrats will have to stay away from the state until the special session ends, which could take up to 30 days. The session began on Thursday, which means Democrats may not return back to the state until next month.

Per Texas Constitution, since the legislature needs two-thirds of lawmakers present in chambers, those not in attendance can be arrested and forced back to the state. The House is scheduled to meet on Tuesday. The Department of Public Safety and state Republican leaders may be prompted to assist in the quick return of the Democratic lawmakers.

Article contributed to by Danita Gibbs and Tiffanie Lanelle

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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.

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Race and equity collide amid Biden travel ban in Africa over omicron variant

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In remarks from the White House on Monday, President Biden emphasized the need for vaccine boosters as a new strain of COVID-19 makes its way to the United States.

President Joe Biden on Monday said that the new omicron variant of the coronavirus is “a cause for concern, not a cause for panicâ€� during presidential remarks on Monday at the White House.  

The president said any plans to face the current virus mutation and any new COVID-19 threats will be met with a push for vaccines and boosters — not by “shutdowns and lockdowns.â€�  

From the Roosevelt Room with Vice President Kamala Harris and Dr. Anthony Fauci by his side, President Biden responded to questions about his call for travel restrictions to eight African nations that took effect Monday. 

U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the Omicron COVID-19 variant following a meeting with his COVID-19 response team, including U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris (L) and Anthony Fauci (R), Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and Chief Medical Advisor to the President, at the White House on November 29, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

“Travel restrictions slow the spread [of omicron] although it does not prevent it,â€� said the president as he stood in front of a festive holiday garland around a fireplace. He added, “sooner or later we will get it (Omicron)â€� in the United States. 

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, however, wants the travel ban lifted against the Sub-Saharan African nations after scientists in his nation first identified the presence of the omicron variant. President Ramaphosa called the travel restrictions to his country and others “scientifically unjustifiedâ€� and “disappointing.â€� 

Officials in Africa are upset and expressed feeling penalized for simply having the science and technology to determine the new variant before other nations, including the United States.

Dr. Ayoade Alakija, chair of the African Union’s Africa Vaccine Delivery Alliance, also slammed the travel bans on southern African nations as a singling out of Africa. “This is discriminatory and xenophobia and it is wrong,” Dr. Alakija said in an interview with the BBC.

“The only thing the prohibition on travel will do is to further damage the economies of the affected countries and undermine their ability to respond to, and recover from, the pandemic,� said Ramaphosa.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa (Photo: Filip Singer/Getty Images)

Here in the U.S., activist and civil rights icon Reverend Jesse Jackson Sr. took to Twitter over the holiday to call on the United States and other world leaders to “helpâ€� African and poor nations, not punish them. 

“Africans are 1/8th of the human race. For [years] the US imported Africans & exported cotton. The U.S. & World are in Africa’s debt … We need less bans &more vaccine,� Jackson tweeted.

National Urban League President Marc Morial told theGrio on Monday that he “strongly� believes that the U.S. and other western nations have an obligation to make “many more vaccines� available to Africa “and other emerging nations as the vaccine is the best weapon against the pandemic.�

During his remarks, President Biden acknowledged that “vaccinating the world is just one more tool� to combat the pandemic, emphasizing that the United States “shipped for free more vaccines to other countries than all other countries in the world combined.�

Providing hard numbers, the president said that 275 million vaccines have been sent from the U.S. to 110 countries. He called on other world governments to step up as well.

After meeting with the White House COVID-19 Response Team, President Biden gave credit to the scientists and technologies in South Africa for identifying the omicron variant.

Despite criticisms the Biden administration has received for its travel restrictions in Africa, Morial of the National Urban League told theGrio that he believes “the travel ban is necessary.�

“I cannot second guess health professionals on the need for it,â€� he said. Morial did, however, acknowledge that there are potential economic impacts that “can’t be ignored due to this ban.â€� 

“An extended ban could impact business and leisure travel to the U.S. from these countries and of course these countries could in turn ban travel by U.S. citizens,� he added.

In this Oct. 18, 2019, file photo a JetBlue Airways flight flies in to Salt Lake City International Airport in Salt Lake City. JetBlue says it plans to increase the number of seats it will fill on planes starting in December. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

President Biden said the best prevention against any form of COVID is to be fully vaccinated and get a booster shot. 

In the United States, over 80,000 locations coast to coast are offering free boosters and vaccinations to prevent death and severe disease or disability. 

Research is underway on the effectiveness of the current vaccines against the new strain. In the event that the current vaccine is not effective against the new variant, or any other variant that comes, the Biden administration is working with Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson “to develop a contingency plan if needed� for a vaccine.

Concern over the omicron variant and decisions that have been made so far regarding U.S. travel in southern Africa comes as the United States is seeing an uptick in COVID-19 cases. 

Dr. Anthony Fauci told theGrio that “the vaccines are waning� and therefore the nation is seeing more vaccinated people being hospitalized with COVID infections. The president’s chief medical advisor is urging the nation to get boosters right away, especially as Americans go indoors and as they come together during the winter months and holidays.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a recent White House press briefing. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

“It is a complicated situation,� Fauci told theGrio, as the nation approaches 100,000 infections per day. The infections are driven not exclusively but “predominately� by people who are not vaccinated, he said. Dr. Fauci said roughly about 30% of the adult population are not vaccinated. In total, 60 million Americans who are eligible for vaccinations are not yet inoculated.

Emphasizing the urgency to get a booster shot, Fauci said it has even greater effectiveness than the initial doses. 

When it comes to the omicron variant and the Black community, doctors are weighing in with concerns about equity.

�Pervasive racial inequities are as problematic for the uptake of booster vaccines as they were for the initial doses. These inequities are predominantly attributable to gaps in access to primary healthcare,� Dr. Alison Galvani of the Yale Center for Infectious Disease told TheGrio.

“If you don’t have a primary care provider recommending the booster vaccine, you are less likely to receive one�

Unfortunately, omicron will likely have a disproportionately negative impact on communities of color, especially Black Americans, as is consistent with almost every other disease outside of COVID-19.

EMS medics transport a man with possible Covid-19 symptoms to the hospital on August 07, 2020 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

But Dr. Gigi El-Bayoumi, founding director of the Rodham Institute and a professor of medicine at George Washington University, told theGrio that although the mutations that omicron exhibits are concerning, “we are still learning whether or not it will be as infectious as the delta variant.�

“We have had other variants such as alpha and gamma that did not prove to have the same devastating impact that the original covid and variant delta has had.

“However, like any rapidly developing story, it is important that the public understand that as new information becomes available, there will be updates,� Dr. El-Bayoumi added.

El-Bayoumi said there is “promisingâ€� new treatment that appears to kill viral replication and reduces both death and hospitalization “when given at the first onset of COVID symptoms.â€� 

However, she cautioned that there are “theoretical concernsâ€� about the medication’s potential impact on human DNA. 

An often overlooked but growing concern of the pandemic is its impact beyond the coronavirus itself. A recently published report by the DC Department of Health, found five major concerns: Delayed Preventative and Chronic Disease Care; Long-term Effects of COVID-19 Infection; Economic Impact and Job Loss; Mental Health Stress, Social Isolation, Trauma, and Grief; and Loss of Academic, Social, and Emotional Growth in Children.

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The post Race and equity collide amid Biden travel ban in Africa over omicron variant appeared first on TheGrio.

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Former Alabama track star, Olympian Emmit King killed in shootout

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King, 62, was a sprinter and a member of the U.S. relay team for the Summer Olympics in 1984

A former University of Alabama track star and Olympian was killed in a shootout with another man, authorities say.

The Jefferson County Coroner’s Office on Monday identified Emmit King and Willie Albert Wells as the two men who died after exchanging gunfire in Bessemer on Sunday, AL.com reported.

Emmit King thegrio.com
U.S. athlete Carl Lewis raises his arms in victory as he wins the 100-meter final ahead of third-place Emmit King, left, at the U.S. Olympic track and field trials at the Coliseum in Los Angeles, June 18, 1984. (Credit: (AP Photo/Lennox McLendon, File)

King, 62, was a sprinter and a member of the U.S. relay team for the Summer Olympics in 1984 and 1988, but he didn’t compete.

He ran for Jefferson State Community College and for the University of Alabama, where he became the 1983 NCAA national champion in the 100 meters. That same year, he won the bronze in the 100 meters at the first World Championships.

Authorities said King and Wells, 60, knew each other and were arguing outside a house Sunday afternoon when they both pulled out guns and fired. Wells was pronounced dead at the scene, and King died later at a hospital.

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Virgil Abloh’s final Louis Vuitton collection to be presented Tuesday

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The fashion designer passed away at age 41 after a two-year battle with a rare form of cancer.

Following the passing of Virgil Abloh, the beloved menswear designer for Louis Vuitton and founder and CEO of Off-White, the French fashion house will “pay tribute to the life and legacy of a creative genius” by showing his spring-summer 2022 collection this week in Miami.

Abloh passed away at age 41 after a two-year battle with a rare form of cancer called cardiac angiosarcoma, theGrio reported

Louis Vuitton announced on social media that it will show Abloh’s final menswear collection Nov. 30 at 5:30 p.m. EST. The spring-summer 2022 show will “pay tribute to the life and legacy of a creative genius.”

“It is with profound sorrow that I learned of the passing of Virgil Abloh,” said Michael Burke, Louis Vuitton’s chairman and CEO, in a statement shared on Instagram. “Virgil was not only a friend, great collaborator, creative genius, visionary and disruptor, but also one of the best cultural communicators of our times. He paved the way for future generations.”

Paper Magazine, Sprout By HP
DJ Virgil Abloh attends Paper Magazine, Sprout By HP

“As a devoted supporter of his community through his charities and passions, he was an eternal optimist who believed anything was possible In this same spirit, we at Louis Vuitton will proudly continue to celebrate his legacy with a final show in Miami, per his wishes. I am honored to have called him my friend. My deepest thoughts are with his wife, children, parents, family and the entire community that was touched by his greatness.”

In 2018, Abloh was named men’s artistic director for Louis Vuitton – the first African American to helm a line at the company.

“It is an honor for me to accept the position of men’s artistic director for Louis Vuitton,” Abloh said at the time. “I find the heritage and creative integrity of the house are key inspirations and will look to reference them both while drawing parallels to modern times.â€�

Abloh was a frequent Kanye West collaborator and worked with myriad A-List celebrities, many of whom paid tribute to LV’s artistic director on social media following news of his death on Sunday.

As reported by theGrio, Ye dedicated his latest Sunday Service concert to Abloh, his longtime friend, protégé and artistic director, with a rendition of Adele’s “Easy on Me� performed by the Sunday Service choir.

Pharrell Williams wrote on Instagram that his “heart is broken� following Abloh’s death.

“Virgil you were a kind, generous, thoughtful creative genius,� he wrote, adding that Abloh’s “work as a human� and “work as a spiritual being will live forever.�

“Sending love and light to your wife, children, family and day ones,� he continued, “you’re with the Master now, shine.�

“��🕊Rest In Peace Great One! Such a Visionary!��🕊,� wrote R&B superstar Kelly Rowland. “Sending my love and prayers to his family!���

“Rip Virgil prayers to your family thank you for always supporting the youth always kind we just spoke bro smh,� rapper Offset tweeted.

Abloh is survived by his wife, children, sister and parents. Information about a memorial service was not immediately available.

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The post Virgil Abloh’s final Louis Vuitton collection to be presented Tuesday appeared first on TheGrio.

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