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MANDEL NGAN

Rep. Ayanna Pressley Defends Voting Rights For Ex Cons

"Don’t dare invoke one of the darkest days of terrorism in MY city to stoke fear and derail a meaningful conversation."

A conversation about restoring voting rights to ex-cons has been bubbling. There are some who think if a person has been convicted, sentenced and did their time, they should be able to vote. Others think voting is a privilege that should only be granted to citizens who don't have a record or non-violent offenders.

Democratic Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley took to Twitter recently to blast political pundits, members of the media and anyone she thinks is attempting to manipulate the conversation about restoring voting rights as a ploy to give terrorists, such as the Boston Marathon Bomber, a right in the nation's democracy.

"Don’t dare invoke one of the darkest days of terrorism in MY city to stoke fear and derail a meaningful conversation about fundamental rights and what justice looks like for the 1000s of black and brown folks who are stripped of their liberty and civic participation for minor offenses," Pressley tweeted.

Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders was recently asked his thoughts on restoring voting rights to felons, and the senator from Vermont said picking away at who is more deserving of voting rights is a slippery slope.

“I think the right to vote is inherent in our democracy — yes, even for terrible people,” Sanders responded. “Because once you start chipping away, you say, ‘Well, that guy committed a terrible crime, not going to let him vote,’ or, ‘That person did that, not going to let that person vote.’ You’re running down a slippery slope. So I believe that people commit crimes, they pay the price. When they get out of jail, I believe they certainly should have the right to vote.”

Florida made history when it announced it would restore the voting rights to its former felons. However, the GOP-ruled house recently voted ex-cons must pay court fines and fees prior to being able to vote, which many prison reform advocates believe undermine the initiative.

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A volunteer distributes food at CAMBA's Beyond Hunger Emergency Food Pantry on February 18, 2014 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. The non-profit agency assists low-income residents and those affected by food stamp cuts. Currently the food pantry sees up to 4,500 individuals per month with the numbers rising. As Congress prepares to cut billions of dollars more from the food stamp program, food pantries around the country are preparing for an influx of those needing their assistance.
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SNAP Changes Place Nearly 700,000 People At Risk Of Losing Food Stamps

In a report by USA TODAY, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) assisted over 40 million Americans in 2017. Two years later, the program faces changes that may result in the loss of food stamps for 688,000 people. According to NBC News, the Trump administration will revamp the mandate that recipients work a certain amount of hours to be eligible for food assistance.

Those within the age range of 18 to 49 and have no children or are able-bodied were previously mandated to work no less than 20 hours a week in order to qualify. Now, as states were once allowed to excuse this requirement due to increased unemployment rates in certain states, the Trump administration will no longer allow states to practice this method. NPR notes Americans within that age range tallied at four million in 2016. The new mandate will only allow states to waiver a recipient's unemployment situation if that state's unemployment rate is six percent.

"We're taking action to reform our SNAP program in order to restore the dignity of work to a sizable segment of our population and be respectful of the taxpayers who fund the program," Sonny Perdue, Agriculture Secretary, said. "Americans are generous people who believe it is their responsibility to help their fellow citizens when they encounter a difficult stretch. That's the commitment behind SNAP, but, like other welfare programs, it was never intended to be a way of life."

Analysts state the government could save close to $5 billion through this new legislation. Out of the 2.9 million adults that fall into this category that utilize SNAP, 2.1 million are unemployed.

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Cory Booker Outlines $100 Billion Plan To Support HBCUs

In an effort to continue the support of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), revealed a plan to do just that. According to The Hill, Booker shared on Tuesday (Dec. 3) a $100 billion investment agenda that'll focus its funds on the education departments in the form of grants, revamp infrastructure, and stand at the forefront of pushing policies that'll combat climate change.

"I am here today because of the power of these institutions to uplift and bring about opportunity to Black Americans," Booker said. "As president, I will redouble our efforts to support and invest in HBCUs across the country—my mother and father wouldn't have it any other way." His parents attended Fisk University and North Carolina Central University (NCCU).

Part of the proposal also aims to bolster HBCUs' Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) programs and support the Debt-Free College Act. The legislation has the potential to allow students at HBCUs, MSIs (minority-serving institutions), or public colleges to receive a higher education debt-free through public funding.

Another point of the plan aims to "provide $30 billion in grants to upgrade infrastructure, including facilities and technology, at HBCUs and MSIs to ensure all students have access to a world-class education in world-class facilities."

Read more of the plan's points here.

As the son of two proud HBCU grads (@FISK1866 and @NCCU!), I'm proud to announce that today my campaign is proposing the boldest-ever plan to invest in HBCUs: https://t.co/j7kpKmGRjV

— Cory Booker (@CoryBooker) December 3, 2019

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Texas Appeals Court Grants Stay Of Execution For Rodney Reed Stay

A Texas Criminal Appeals Court granted Rodney Reed a stay of execution on Friday (Nov. 15). The decision came hours after the state’s parole board recommended that Reed’s lethal injection be delayed by 120-days.

Reed was scheduled to be lethally injected on Nov. 20. Although the court decision means that he no longer has an execution date, the parole board failed to approve a request to commute Reed's sentence to life in prison, the Washington Post reports.

The 51-year-old Texas native has spent that last two decades on death row for the1996 rape and murder of Stacey Stites. Reed has filed numerous appeals over the years but his story only recently went viral catching the attention of lawmakers and celebrities including Rihanna, Oprah, Beyonce, T.I., Kim Kardashian West, the latter of whom was visiting with Reed when his execution was delayed.

Reed, who has long maintained his innocence, says Stite's was killed by her fiance, Jimmy Fennell. Fennell’s lawyer Robert Phillips “laughed off” Reed’s allegations, according to numerous reports.

Fennell served 10 years in prison for the attempted kidnapping and rape of another woman while working as a police officer in 2007. He was briefly suspected in Stite’s murder. Authorities turned their attention to Reed after his DNA was found inside Stites, from what he contends was a consensual relationship. Reed, who is black, believes that race played a part in the case because Stites was a white woman. He was convicted by an all-white jury.

Reed’s legal team has also provided evidence to prove his innocence, including new witnesses.

"We’re happy that we’re going to have an opportunity to present the compelling evidence that Rodney Reed didn’t commit the crime," Bryce Benjet of the Innocence Project, who took on Reed’s case, told The Texas Tribune. "The Court of Criminal Appeals recognized the substance of this case and the need for a special hearing where all the evidence can be considered."

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