Category Archives: In-Depth Features

Historically black colleges view Trump administration warily, but also with some optimism

Since taking office, President Trump has pledged “unwavering support” for the critical educational missions of historically black colleges and universities, invited leaders of those institutions to the White House and even dispatched his Education secretary to deliver her first commencement address of graduation season at one of the schools.

The moves, by a president who won just 8% of the black vote in November, have surprised and pleased some African American educators, who say Trump already has outpaced the steps taken by previous administrations, including that of the nation’s first black president.

While some leaders and groups associated with black colleges have welcomed the young administration’s overtures, others, notably students, remain wary of Trump and assail the White House as tone-deaf and insensitive. Those views were on display last week when Education Secretary Betsy DeVos delivered the commencement address at Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, Fla. As DeVos began to speak, students booed and turned their backs on her.

Read more at Los Angeles Times

Arkansas prepares to execute 8 men in 11 days: Justice, or an ‘assembly line of death’?

GOULD, Ark. — Patricia Washington sees a simple calculus: If you take someone’s life, you better be prepared to lose your own.

The death penalty is just, she believes — an unsurprising view in this rural town a short drive from the state prison that houses death row. Executions have come up a lot lately in conversations at Washington’s work, a tiny eatery tucked into an Exxon service station off Highway 65.

As she carried trays brimming with chicken tenders, fried okra and corn nuggets one recent morning, she reflected on some of her regulars — the prison guards.

“There’s a lot on their mind. You can see it in their eyes,” Washington said.

Starting the day after Easter, the state is scheduled to execute eight men in 11 days, and people in Gould and across Arkansas are wondering how so many executions will affect prison staffers and color perceptions of this Bible Belt state. Two men will die each day on April 17, 20, 24 and 27.

Read more at Los Angeles Times

Meet Indivisible, the young progressives leading the resistance to President Trump

The idea started with a public Google document.

In the weeks after Donald Trump won last year’s presidential election and Republicans kept control of Congress, Sarah Dohl, along with a handful of friends and former Capitol Hill colleagues, wanted Americans — mostly distraught Democrats — to know their voices could still be heard.

Not expecting much, they published online a 26-page document in mid-December, outlining a succinct idea: resist.

Its title, “Indivisible: A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda,” quickly drew interest. George Takei, the actor who starred in the television series “Star Trek,” tweeted it to his 2.2 million followers. So, too, did former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, who worked in the Clinton administration.

Read more at Los Angeles Times

From legalizing marijuana at the ballot box to legalizing it by legislation, lawmakers look to cash in

When Massachusetts voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot measure in November to legalize recreational marijuana, Josh Miller saw this as a sign that his time had finally arrived.

The Rhode Island state senator has a reputation among colleagues as a cannabis crusader — a battle that, so far, he’s lost. For the last three years, Miller introduced legislation to legalize recreational pot, and for the last three years, his efforts have died in committee hearing rooms.

But now, in a turnaround, some of Miller’s colleagues are signaling an interest in legalized weed — and raking in the tax dollars that come with it.

“We now have the wind at our backs,” said Miller, who introduced his latest pro-pot bill last week. “Seeing our next door neighbor legalize it should help us — a lot.”

Read more at Los Angeles Times

Here’s what Colorado’s governor has to tell other states about legalizing marijuana

CORONADO, Calif. – Four years ago, in the hours after Colorado became one of the first states to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, Gov. John Hickenlooper sounded a cautionary, if humorous, note: “Don’t break out the Cheetos or Goldfish too quickly.”

State voters overwhelmingly approved the measure, and Hickenlooper found himself wrestling with how to implement a law he had opposed.

Now, with other states passing similar measures, the Democrat has settled into an unexpected role — a kind of marijuana counselor to his peers. Governors call him up, he said, to ask for advice on pot.

“You don’t get to choose what your legacy is,” he said.

In the weeks before Californians voted to legalize recreational cannabis last month, Gov. Jerry Brown called Hickenlooper for consultation. Like Hickenlooper, Brown did not endorse the effort.

Read more at Los Angeles Times

Democrats chase votes in Nevada’s rural outposts, far beyond Las Vegas’ glamour

PAHRUMP, Nev. — Along pothole-pocked Route 160, campaign signs for Hillary Clinton appear every few miles, erected among gravel and weeds beneath towering billboards for fireworks and R.V. resorts.

Such support for a Democrat is unusual in this community known for its deep conservatism, where residents sometimes shop at Wal-Mart with pistols holstered to their hips.

Continue reading Democrats chase votes in Nevada’s rural outposts, far beyond Las Vegas’ glamour

Amid Ferguson unrest, Antonio French finds a national following

FERGUSON, Mo. – Antonio French sat in the front passenger seat of an air-conditioned sedan parked behind vandalized and boarded-up Red’s BBQ on West Florissant Avenue, scrolling through his iPhone, reading a barrage of tweets, emails and text messages.

Nods of appreciation and media interview requests have kept his phone vibrating these last few weeks.

“It’s been like a blur,” said French, in a respite from the muggy afternoon air. “We’ve been out here every day trying to maintain some focus.”

It’s a new reality for the St. Louis native and alderman.

In the two weeks since a white police officer shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old black man, French has become a pinnacle figure in what’s evolved into a national call for justice.

Read more at the Los Angeles Times

Guns become a way of life for many in rural Colorado

Howllowpoint Gun Shop Owner Erin Jerant helps mount a scope on a hunting rifle for Justin Noga, right, as friend Ricky Kelly looks on in Walsenburg. Jerant says she has known the two since they were young enough to sit on the store's countertops. (AAron Ontiveroz, The Denver Post)
Howllowpoint Gun Shop Owner Erin Jerant helps mount a scope on a hunting rifle for Justin Noga, right, as friend Ricky Kelly looks on in Walsenburg. Jerant says she has known the two since they were young enough to sit on the store’s countertops. (AAron Ontiveroz, The Denver Post)

OTERO COUNTY, Colo. — Mac Holder takes a seat on the bench of a weathered wooden shooting table roughly 50 yards in front of a silver beer can impaled upright by a stake.

Here at the firing range of his family’s pheasant and quail ranch on the outskirts of Rocky Ford, dozens of spent shotgun shells litter the parched ground around him. But on this recent afternoon, in his grip is a black Rock River AR-15 outfitted with a 30-round ammunition magazine. Holder pulls back and releases the charging handle, pushing a round into the chamber. He then tucks the butt of the semiautomatic gun into his left shoulder and leans forward, staring down the scope mounted on top. Nine ear-splitting shots pierce the gentle breeze.

“It’s a fun gun. It has low recoil. If you just like to shoot for practice, it’s a great gun,” says Holder, 28, after firing the weapon. “I’ve had it for nine years, keep it locked up and never had any problems with it.”

Far from the gold dome of the state Capitol, and the state’s more populated Front Range, generations of Colorado families like Holder’s have grown up with firearms.

Read more at The Denver Post

Gary Flakes, convicted in 1997 deaths of two teens, running for Colorado Springs council

Gary Flakes, who was convicted of being an accessory to murder in the 1997 shotgun slayings of two teenage boys in the Cheyenne Meadows neighborhood, announced he is running for Colorado Springs City Council. (Christian Murdock, The Gazette)
Gary Flakes, who was convicted of being an accessory to murder in the 1997 shotgun slayings of two teenage boys in the Cheyenne Meadows neighborhood, announced he is running for Colorado Springs City Council. (Christian Murdock, The Gazette)

COLORADO SPRINGS — Two pairs of teenage boys who didn’t know each other crossed paths the night of Valentine’s Day 1997.

It was a little after 11:30 that night when Andy Westbay, 13, and Scott Hawrysiak, 15, started their walk of less than two blocks along Canoe Creek Drive to Hawrysiak’s home after playing video games at a friend’s house.

Meanwhile, a white Mazda hatchback carrying Gary Flakes, 16, Jeron Grant, 17, and a loaded 12-gauge shotgun drove down the quiet residential street on Colorado Springs’ southwest side.