Demonstrators End Block Mayor Eric Garcetti Protest

By Stephen Oduntan

For the twenty-third day, they assembled outside Mayor Garcetti’s residence, cardboard signs and megaphones in hand. The air was crispier than when they began the crusade to “Block Garcetti” last month, but the unrelenting chant from the crowd on this warm December morning was familiar.

But when President-elect Joe Biden named former 2020 rival and South Bend, Indiana Mayor, Pete Buttigieg as his choice for the Department of Transportation yesterday, the news was welcomed with a mixture of cheers and measured triumph.

“Black Lives Matter South Bend have been criticizing Buttigieg for not having done enough as mayor to enforce accountability for police officers but as bad as he is, he’s still better than the useless mayor we have out here in Los Angeles,” said Baba Akili, an organizer with Black Lives Matter-LA.

The 72-BLM longtime activist said in an interview this morning that considering Biden did not select Garcetti for either the secretary of transportation or housing and urban development, it’s highly unlikely he’ll be picked for any cabinet position in the new administration.”

“But we have to keep up the pressure to make sure that he doesn’t get an appointment of any kind,” Akili said. 

The demonstrations have been slamming the mayor’s record on transportation, homelessness and policing and that he shouldn’t be in charge of those policies let alone any other for that matter at a federal level.

Carrying signs and waving Black Lives Matter flags, the protesters sang “Middle fingers in the air, Garcetti ain’t going nowhere,” and chanted, “We Blocked Garcetti.” 

Several of the demonstrators stood in front of the crowd of about roughly one hundred people and celebrated everyone’s contribution to the significant milestone.

Doowop Ashi, a demonstrator who identified herself as a “lone wolf out to protect the peaceful protesters of Los Angeles said her contribution to the Block Garcetti demonstration for the 17 of the 23 days she’d attended has been providing security.

“My contribution is doing what I can do in making sure that the protesters are kept safe from outside forces who are angry about our movement. They’re many people out there who are jealous and want to harm us, and so my job is to make sure everyone is safe coming and going from these protest,” she said.

“We’re not done. We’re going to continue to fight and continue to win until we reach the ultimate victory,” said Melina Abdullah to the crowd.

Abdullah, a co-founder of BLM-LA, told LA Focus that today’s gathering was the last “Block Garcetti” demonstration.

Protesters first showed up on Nov. 24.

Each day, the protesters were met by a line of at least 22 masked police officers outside the mayor’s home. 

The demonstrations were always peaceful.

But then Garcetti would later come under fire from lawmakers after viral footage circulated on social media on Sunday morning Dec. 6 showing LAPD officers swinging their batons, and striking at least two unarmed demonstrators.

In the ensuing days, LAPD officers in riot gear were no longer seen standing guard outside the mayor’s house and the surrounding street.

“This is a testament to the power of our people, to the power of being consistent and being courageous in our vision and standing up every day,” said Abdullah. “Think about the power of that. That for 23 days people gathered and met up at 8 AM, every morning in the midst of a pandemic. We stared down white supremacy in the face. We blocked this white supremacist liberal from getting a cabinet position.”

 

Trump pardons Flynn, taking direct aim at Russia probe

By ERIC TUCKER | Associated Press

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump pardoned former national security adviser Michael Flynn on Wednesday, taking direct aim in the final days of his administration at a Russia investigation that he has long insisted was motivated by political bias.

“It is my Great Honor to announce that General Michael T. Flynn has been granted a Full Pardon,” Trump tweeted. “Congratulations to @GenFlynn and his wonderful family, I know you will now have a truly fantastic Thanksgiving!”

Flynn is the second Trump associate convicted in the Russia probe to be granted clemency by the president. Trump commuted the sentence of longtime confidant Roger Stone just days before he was to report to prison. It is part of a broader effort to undo the results of an investigation that for years has shadowed his administration and yielded criminal charges against a half dozen associates.

The action voids the criminal case against Flynn just as a federal judge was weighing, skeptically, whether to grant a Justice Department request to dismiss the prosecution despite Flynn’s own guilty plea to lying to the FBI about his Russia contacts.

The move, coming as Trump winds down his single term, is likely to energize supporters who have taken up the case as a cause celebre and rallied around the retired Army lieutenant general as the victim of what they assert is an unfair prosecution. Trump himself has repeatedly spoken warmly about Flynn, even though special counsel Robert Mueller’s prosecutors once praised him as a model cooperator in their probe into ties between Russia and the 2016 Trump campaign.

The pardon is the final step in a case defined by twists and turns over the last year after the Justice Department abruptly move to dismiss the case, insisting that Flynn should have never been interviewed by the FBI in the first place, only to have U.S. District Justice Emmet Sullivan refuse the request and appoint a former judge to argue against the federal government’s position.

In the months since, a three-judge panel’s decision ordering Sullivan to dismiss the case was overturned by the full appeals court, which sent the matter back to Sullivan. At a hearing in September, Flynn lawyer Sidney Powell told the judge that she had discussed the Flynn case with Trump but also said she did not want a pardon — presumably because she wanted him to be vindicated in the courts.

Powell emerged separately in recent weeks as a public face of the Trump’s efforts to overturn the results of his election loss to President-elect Joe Biden, but the Trump legal team ultimately distanced itself from her after she advanced a series of uncorroborated conspiracy claims.

The pardon spares Flynn the possibility of any prison sentence, which Sullivan could potentially have imposed had he ultimately decided to reject the Justice Department’s dismissal request. That request was made in May after a review of the case by a federal prosecutor from St. Louis who had been specially appointed by Attorney General William Barr.

Flynn acknowledged lying during the FBI interview by saying he had not discussed with the then-Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, sanctions that had just been imposed on Russia for election interference by the outgoing Obama administration. During that conversation, Flynn urged Kislyak for Russia to be “even-keeled” in response to the punitive measures, and assured him “we can have a better conversation” about relations between the two countries after Trump became president.

The conversation alarmed the FBI, which at the time was investigating whether the Trump campaign and Russia had coordinated to sway the election’s outcome. In addition, White House officials were stating publicly that Flynn and Kislyak had not discussed sanctions.

But last May, the Justice Department abruptly reversed its position in the case. It said the FBI had no basis to interview Flynn about Kislyak, then the Russian ambassador to the United States, and that any statements he may have made were not relevant to the FBI’s broader counterintelligence probe. It cited internal FBI notes showing that agents had planned to close out their investigation into Flynn weeks earlier.

Flynn was ousted from his position in February 2017 after news broke that he had indeed discussed sanctions with Kislyak, and that former Obama administration administration officials had warned the White House that he could be vulnerable to blackmail.

Flynn was among the first of the president’s aides to admit guilt in Mueller’s investigation and cooperated extensively for months. He provided such extensive cooperation that prosecutors did not recommend any prison time and suggested that they would be fine with probation.

But on the morning he was to have been sentenced, after a stern rebuke about his behavior from Sullivan, Flynn asked for the hearing to be cut short so that he could continue cooperating and earn credit toward a more lenient sentence.

After that, though, he hired new attorneys — including Powell, a conservative commentator and outspoken critic of Mueller’s investigation — who took a far more confrontational stance to the government.

The lawyers accused prosecutors of withholding documents and evidence they said was favorable to the case and repeatedly noted that one of the two agents who interviewed Flynn was fired from the FBI for having sent derogatory text messages about Trump during the 2016 campaign.

Picture of US economy is worrisome as virus inflicts damage

Gripped by the accelerating viral outbreak, the U.S. economy is under pressure from persistent layoffs, diminished income and nervous consumers, whose spending is needed to drive a recovery from the pandemic.

A flurry of data released Wednesday suggest the spread of the virus is intensifying the threats to an economy still struggling to recover from the deep recession that struck in early spring.

The number of Americans seeking unemployment aid rose last week for a second straight week to 778,000, evidence that many employers are still slashing jobs more than eight months after the virus hit. Before the pandemic, weekly jobless claims typically amounted to only about 225,000. Layoffs are still historically high, with many businesses unable to fully reopen and some, especially restaurants and bars, facing tightened restrictions.

Consumers increased their spending last month by just 0.5%, the weakest rise since the pandemic erupted. The tepid figure suggested that on the eve of the crucial holiday shopping season, Americans remain anxious with the virus spreading and Congress failing to enact any further aid for struggling individuals, businesses, cities and states. At the same time, the government said Wednesday that income, which provides the fuel for consumer spending, fell 0.7% in October.

The spike in virus cases is heightening pressure on companies and individuals, with fear growing that the economy could suffer a “double-dip” recession as states and cities reimpose curbs on businesses. The economy, as measured by the gross domestic product, is expected to eke out a modest gain this quarter before weakening — and perhaps shrinking — early next year. Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, predicts annual GDP growth of around 2% in the October-December quarter, with the possibility of GDP turning negative in the first quarter of 2021.

Economists at JPMorgan Chase have slashed their forecast for the first quarter to a negative 1% annual GDP rate.

“This winter will be grim,” they wrote in a research note.

Zandi warned that until Congress agrees on a new stimulus plan to replace a now-expired multi-trillion-dollar aid package enacted in the spring, the threat to the economy will grow.

“The economy is going to be very uncomfortable between now and when we get the next fiscal rescue package,” Zandi said. “If lawmakers can’t get it together, it will be very difficult for the economy to avoid going back into a recession.”

Some corners of the economy still show strength, or at least resilience. Manufacturing is one. The government said Wednesday that orders for durable goods rose 1.3% in October, and sales of new homes remained steady, the latest sign that ultra-low mortgage rates and a paucity of properties for sale have spurred demand and made the housing market a rare economic bright spot.

But at the heart of the economy are the job market and consumer spending, which remain especially vulnerable to the spike in virus cases. Most economists say the distribution of an effective vaccine would likely reinvigorate growth next year. Yet they warn that any sustained recovery will also hinge on whether Congress can agree soon on a sizable aid package to carry the economy through what could be a bleak winter.

“With infections continuing to rise at an elevated pace and curbs on business operations widening, layoffs are likely to pick up over coming weeks,″ said Rubeela Farooqi, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics.

The government said he total number of people who are continuing to receive traditional state unemployment benefits dropped to 6.1 million from 6.4 million the previous week. That figure has been declining for months. It shows that more Americans are finding jobs and no longer receiving unemployment aid. But it also indicates that many jobless people have used up their state unemployment aid — which typically expires after six months.

Argentine soccer great Diego Maradona has died at age 60

  • FILE – In this June 27, 2010 file photo, Argentina head coach Diego Maradona gestures during the World Cup round of 16 soccer match between Argentina and Mexico at Soccer City in Johannesburg, South Africa. The Argentine soccer great who was among the best players ever and who led his country to the 1986 World Cup title before later struggling with cocaine use and obesity, died from a heart attack on Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020, at his home in Buenos Aires. He was 60. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, File)

  • FILE – In this Dec. 26, 2019 file photo, former soccer great Diego Maradona flashes victory signs to fans below at the Casa Rosada government house after meeting with Argentine President Alberto Fernandez in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Decades ago, Maradona held up his team’s soccer trophy at this spot on the balcony after winning the World Cup in Mexico in 1986. The Argentine soccer great who was among the best players ever and who led his country to the 1986 World Cup title before later struggling with cocaine use and obesity, died from a heart attack on Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020, at his home in Buenos Aires. He was 60. (AP Photo/Marcos Brindicci, File)

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  • FILE – In this July 25, 1984 file photo, Argentine soccer superstar Diego Armando Maradona trains with his new team, Napoli of Naples, in Castel del Piano, mountain resort in central Italy. The Argentine soccer great who was among the best players ever and who led his country to the 1986 World Cup title before later struggling with cocaine use and obesity, died from a heart attack on Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020, at his home in Buenos Aires. He was 60. (AP Photo/Massimo Sambucetti, File)

  • FILE – In this Sept. 8, 2019 file photo, former soccer great Diego Maradona gets emotional during a news conference after his presentation as the new head coach of the Gimnasia y Esgrima La Plata soccer team in La Plata, Argentina. The Argentine soccer great who was among the best players ever and who led his country to the 1986 World Cup title before later struggling with cocaine use and obesity, died from a heart attack on Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020, at his home in Buenos Aires. He was 60. (AP Photo/Marcos Brindicci, File)

  • FILE – In this June 29, 1986 file photo, Diego Maradona holds up his team’s trophy after Argentina’s 3-2 victory over West Germany at the World Cup final soccer match at Atzeca Stadium in Mexico City. The Argentine soccer great who was among the best players ever and who led his country to the 1986 World Cup title before later struggling with cocaine use and obesity, died from a heart attack on Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020, at his home in Buenos Aires. He was 60. (AP Photo/Carlo Fumagalli, File)

  • FILE – In this June 22, 1986 file photo, Argentina’s Diego Maradona, left, beats England’s goalkeeper Peter Shilton to a high ball and scores his first of two goals at the World Cup quarterfinal soccer match in Mexico City. On this day: This was the day of the “Hand of God,” when Maradona used his left fist to knock a ball past England’s Shilton. (El Grafico via AP, File)

  • FILE – In this Oct. 10, 2009 file photo, under the pouring rain, Argentina’s coach Diego Maradona looks up under the pouring rain during a 2010 World Cup qualifying soccer match against Peru, in Buenos Aires. Argentina won 2-1. The Argentine soccer great who was among the best players ever and who led his country to the 1986 World Cup title before later struggling with cocaine use and obesity, died from a heart attack on Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020, at his home in Buenos Aires. He was 60. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko, File)

  • FILE – In this Oct. 25, 1997 file photo, Diego Armando Maradona celebrates a goal on his last official soccer game with Boca Juniors in Buenos Aires, Argentina.The Argentine soccer great who was among the best players ever and who led his country to the 1986 World Cup title before later struggling with cocaine use and obesity, died from a heart attack on Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020, at his home in Buenos Aires. He was 60. (AP Photo/Eduardo Di Baia, File)

  • FILE – In this April 22, 2008 file photo, former Boca Juniors player and soccer legend Diego Armando Maradona celebrates a goal by Boca Juniors at a Copa Libertadores match against Venezuela’s Union Maracaibo in Buenos Aires. The Argentine soccer great who was among the best players ever and who led his country to the 1986 World Cup title before later struggling with cocaine use and obesity, died from a heart attack on Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020, at his home in Buenos Aires. He was 60. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko, File)

  • FILE – In this Nov. 4, 2005 file photo, Diego Armando Maradona speaks to the crowd as he is embraced by Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez during a rally against the presence of U.S. President Bush at the Summit of the Americas in Mar del Plata, Argentina. The Argentine soccer great who was among the best players ever and who led his country to the 1986 World Cup title before later struggling with cocaine use and obesity, died from a heart attack on Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020, at his home in Buenos Aires. He was 60. (AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills, File)

  • FILE – In this June 25, 1994 file photo, Diego Maradona leaves the field of play for a random drug test with a medical technician of the International Soccer Federation (FIFA) after the team’s 2-1 win over Nigeria in Foxborough, Massachusetts. The Argentine Football Association confirmed Maradona tested positive for ephedrine, a nasal decongestant that is a banned substance. The Argentine soccer great who was among the best players ever and who led his country to the 1986 World Cup title before later struggling with cocaine use and obesity, died from a heart attack on Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020, at his home in Buenos Aires. He was 60. (AP Photo/Joe Cavaretta, File)

  • FILE – In this Oct. 27, 2005 file photo released by the Cuban government’s National Information Agency (AIN), Cuban President Fidel Castro, right, meets Argentina’s former soccer star Diego Maradona on the program “Mesa Redonda” in Havana, Cuba. The Argentine soccer great who was among the best players ever and who led his country to the 1986 World Cup title before later struggling with cocaine use and obesity, died from a heart attack on Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020, at his home in Buenos Aires. He was 60. (AIN/Ismael Francisco via AP)

  • FILE – In this July 14, 1996 file photo released by Telam, Boca Juniors’ Diego Maradona, right, and teammate Claudio Caniggia kiss as they celebrate Caniggia’s goal, their team’s second against River Plate, before their 4-1 victory in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The Argentine soccer great who was among the best players ever and who led his country to the 1986 World Cup title before later struggling with cocaine use and obesity, died from a heart attack on Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020, at his home in Buenos Aires. He was 60. (Telam via AP File)

  • FILE – In this June 29, 1982 file photo, Diego Maradona is tackled by Italy’s Claudio Gentile during a World Cup second-round match between Italy and Argentina at Sarra Stadium in Barcelona, Spain. The Argentine soccer great who was among the best players ever and who led his country to the 1986 World Cup title before later struggling with cocaine use and obesity, died from a heart attack on Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020, at his home in Buenos Aires. He was 60. (AP Photo, File)

  • FILE – In this March 7, 2020 file photo, Diego Maradona, coach of Gimnasia y Esgrima, sits on the bench prior to Argentina’s soccer league match against Boca Juniors at La Bombonera stadium in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Maradona turns 60 on Friday, Oct. 30, 2020. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko, File)

  • FILE – In this June 27, 2010 file photo, Argentina head coach Diego Maradona, left, gives instructions to Argentina’s Lionel Messi during the World Cup round of 16 soccer match between Argentina and Mexico at Soccer City in Johannesburg, South Africa. The Argentine soccer great who was among the best players ever and who led his country to the 1986 World Cup title before later struggling with cocaine use and obesity, died from a heart attack on Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020, at his home in Buenos Aires. He was 60. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham, File)

  • Dorados’ Head Coach Diego Maradona waves as he takes his seat on the bench ahead of the start of Dorados’ Copa MX quarterfinal match against Pumas at Olympic University Stadium in Mexico City, Tuesday, March 12, 2019. Pumas defeated the Dorados 3-0.(AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

By DEBORA REY

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Diego Maradona, the Argentine soccer great who was among the best players ever and who led his country to the 1986 World Cup title before later struggling with cocaine use and obesity, has died. He was 60.

The office of Argentina’s president will decree three days of national mourning because of Maradona’s death on Wednesday, and the Argentine soccer association expressed its sorrow on Twitter.

Maradona died two weeks after being released from a Buenos Aires hospital following brain surgery.

Famed for the “Hand of God” goal in which he punched the ball into England’s net during the 1986 World Cup quarterfinals, Maradona captivated fans over a two-decade career with a bewitching style of play that was all his own.

Although his reputation was tarnished by his addictions and an ill-fated spell in charge of the national team, he remained idolized in soccer-mad Argentina as the “Pibe de Oro” or “Golden Boy.”

The No. 10 he wore on his jersey became synonymous with him, as it also had with Pele, the Brazilian great with whom Maradona was regularly paired as the best of all time.

Bold, fast and utterly unpredictable, Maradona was a master of attack, juggling the ball easily from one foot to the other as he raced upfield. Dodging and weaving with his low center of gravity, he shrugged off countless rivals and often scored with a devastating left foot, his most powerful weapon.

“Everything he was thinking in his head, he made it happen with his feet,” said Salvatore Bagni, who played with Maradona at Italian club Napoli.

A ballooning waistline slowed Maradona’s explosive speed later in his career and by 1991 he was snared in his first doping scandal when he admitted to a cocaine habit that haunted him until he retired in 1997, at 37.

Hospitalized near death in 2000 and again in ’04 for heart problems blamed on cocaine, he later said he overcame the drug problem. Cocaine, he once said famously, had proven to be his “toughest rival.”

But more health problems followed, despite a 2005 gastric bypass that greatly trimmed his weight. Maradona was hospitalized in early 2007 for acute hepatitis that his doctor blamed on excessive drinking and eating.

He made an unlikely return to the national team in 2008 when he was appointed Argentina coach, but after a quarterfinal exit at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, he was ousted — ultimately picking up another coaching job with the United Arab Emirates club Al Wasl.

Maradona was the fifth of eight children who grew up in a poor, gritty barrio on the Buenos Aires outskirts where he played a kind of dirt-patch soccer that launched many Argentines to international stardom.

None of them approached Maradona’s fame. In 2001, FIFA named Maradona one of the two greatest in the sport’s history, alongside Pele.

“Maradona inspires us,” said then-Argentina striker Carlos Tevez, explaining his country’s everyman fascination with Maradona at the 2006 World Cup in Germany. “He’s our idol, and an idol for the people.”

Maradona reaped titles at home and abroad, playing in the early 1980s for Argentinos Juniors and Boca Juniors before moving on to Spanish and Italian clubs. His crowning achievement came at the 1986 World Cup, captaining Argentina in its 3-2 win over West Germany in the final and decisive in a 2-1 victory against England in a feisty quarterfinal match.

Over the protests of England goalkeeper Peter Shilton, the referee let stand a goal by Maradona in which, as he admitted years later, he intentionally hit the ball with his hand in “a bit of mischief.”

But Maradona’s impact wouldn’t be confined to cheating. Four minutes later, he spectacularly weaved past four opponents from midfield to beat Shilton for what FIFA later declared the greatest goal in World Cup history.

Many Argentines saw the match as revenge for their country’s loss to Britain in the 1982 war over the Falkland Islands, which Argentines still claim as “Las Malvinas.”

“It was our way of recovering ‘Las Malvinas,’” Maradona wrote in his 2000 autobiography “I am Diego.”

“It was more than trying to win a game. We said the game had nothing to do with the war. But we knew that Argentines had died there, that they had killed them like birds. And this was our revenge. It was something bigger than us: We were defending our flag.”

It also was vindication for Maradona, who in what he later called “the greatest tragedy” of his career was cut from the squad of the 1978 World Cup — which Argentina won at home — because he was only 17.

Maradona said he was given a soccer ball soon after he could run.

“I was 3 years old and I slept hugging that ball all night,” he said.

At 10, Maradona gained fame by performing at halftime of professional matches, wowing crowds by keeping the ball airborne for minutes with his feet, chest and head. He also made his playing debut with the Argentinos Juniors youth team, leading a squad of mostly 14-year-olds through 136 unbeaten matches.

“To see him play was pure bliss, true stardom,” teammate Carlos Beltran said.

Maradona played from 1976-81 for first division club Argentinos Juniors, then went to Boca Juniors for a year before heading to Barcelona for a world-record $8 million.

In 1984, Barcelona sold him to Napoli, in Italy. He remade its fortunes almost single-handedly, taking it to the 1987 Italian league championship for its first title in 60 years.

A year after losing the 1990 World Cup final to West Germany, Maradona moved to Spanish club Sevilla, but his career was on the decline. He played five matches at Argentine club Newell’s Old Boys in 1994 before returning to Boca from 1995-97 — his final club and closest to his heart.

Drug problems overshadowed his final playing years.

Maradona failed a doping test in 1991 and was banned for 15 months, acknowledging his longtime cocaine addiction. He failed another doping test for stimulants and was thrown out of the 1994 World Cup in the United States.

In retirement, Maradona frequented Boca matches as a raucous one-man cheering section and took part in worldwide charity, sporting and exhibition events. But the already stocky forward quickly gained weight and was clearly short of breath as he huffed through friendly matches.

In 2000, in what doctors said was a brush with death, he was hospitalized in the Uruguayan resort of Punta del Este with a heart that doctors said was pumping at less than half its capacity. Blood and urine samples turned up traces of cocaine.

After another emergency hospitalization in 2004, Maradona was counseled for drug abuse and in September of that year traveled to Cuba for treatment at Havana’s Center for Mental Health. There he was visited by his friend, Cuban President Fidel Castro.

In Cuba, Maradona took to playing golf and smoking cigars. He frequently praised Castro and Argentine-born revolutionary “Che” Guevara, who fought with Castro in the Cuban revolution — even sporting a tattoo of Guevara on his right arm.

Maradona said he got clean from drugs there and started a new chapter.

In 2005, he underwent gastric bypass in Colombia, shedding nearly 50 kilograms (more than 100 pounds) before appearing as host of a wildly popular Argentine television talk show. On “10’s Night,” Maradona headed around a ball with Pele, interviewed boxer Mike Tyson and Hollywood celebrities, and taped a lengthy conversation with Castro in Cuba.

In retirement, Maradona also became more outspoken. He sniped frequently at former coaches, players — including Pele — and the pope. He joined a left-wing protest train outside the Summit of the Americas in 2005, standing alongside Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to denounce the presence of then-President George W. Bush.

His outsider status made it all the more surprising when he was chosen as Argentina coach following Alfio Basile’s resignation.

He won his first three matches but his tactics, selection and attention to detail were all questioned after a 6-1 loss to Bolivia in World Cup qualifying equaled Argentina’s worst-ever margin of defeat.

Victor Hugo Morales, Argentina’s most popular soccer broadcaster, said Maradona will ultimately be remembered for a thrilling style of play that has never been duplicated.

“He has been one of the great artists of my time. Like great masters of music and painting, he has defied our intellect and enriched the human spirit,” Morales said. “Nobody has thrilled me more and left me in such awe as Diego.”

New Report Recommends Colon Screening at age 45

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force—an independent, volunteer panel of national experts in prevention and evidence-based medicine—is officially recommending that the screening for colorectal cancer be lowered from 50 to 45 to reduce the risk of colon cancer deaths.

      Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. Despite strong evidence that screening for colorectal cancer is effective, about a quarter of people ages 50 to 75 have never been screened. “Unfortunately, not enough people in the U.S. receive this effective preventive service that has been proven to save lives,” says Task Force chair Alex Krist, M.D., M.P.H. “We hope that this recommendation to screen people ages 45 to 75 for colorectal cancer will encourage more screening and reduce people’s risk of dying from this disease.”

      Black adults get colorectal cancer more often than other populations and are more likely to die from this disease. The Task Force recognizes this disproportionate risk and encourages clinicians to offer recommended colorectal cancer screening to their Black patients beginning at age 45.

      In August, Chadwick Boseman died at the age of 43 from colorectal cancer and while his cancer was diagnosed in his late thirties, experts believe the new recommendation will save lives. 49% of young onset colorectal patients are 43-49 years old.

      Fact is, while the rates for colon and rectal cancer have been declining in adults over 50, they have been rising in adults under 50 who—like Boseman—are more likely to be diagnosed in stage III or IV, when the disease is harder to treat.

      “New science about colorectal cancer in younger people has enabled us to expand our recommendation to screen all adults starting at age 45, especially Black adults who are more likely to die from this disease,” says Task Force member Michael Barry, M.D.

      The most common colon cancer signs and symptoms are:

            Blood in your stool

            Change in bathroom habits

            Fatigue

            Anemia

            Unexplained weight loss

            Persistent cramps or low back pain

            Feeling bloated

Judge: People in Prison Can Receive $1,200 Stimulus Payments

Quinci LeGardye | California Black Media 

The first round of economic impact payments funded by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, or the CARES Act, has been opened to a new group of Americans. 

Incarcerated individuals can now apply to receive their stimulus payments of up to $1200. 

According to a June report from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), the IRS initially sent nearly 85,000 payments, totaling about $100 million, to incarcerated individuals. After the report raised concerns about the payments, the IRS decided that payments to incarcerated people were not allowed under the CARES Act and ordered that the payments sent should be returned. 

Then a class-action lawsuit was filed. Lawyers argued that denying the payments solely based on an individual’s incarcerated status was against the law. The language of the CARES Act does not explicitly say that incarcerated individuals cannot receive payments. 

On Sept. 24, Judge Phyllis Hamilton of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California ordered the Treasury Department and the IRS to reverse the decision. The previously rescinded stimulus payments now have to be returned to the incarcerated individuals. 

On Oct. 14, Hamilton also ordered the IRS to extend the deadline for incarcerated individuals covered by the lawsuit to file paperwork to receive the money to Nov. 4. People covered by the lawsuit who did not file a 2018 or 2019 tax return will have to submit a postmarked simplified Form 1040 paper return by Nov. 4 to receive the stimulus payment. 

The IRS also extended the online deadline to register for a stimulus payment for people who don’t typically file a tax return to Nov. 21. 

According to the IRS website, the government is working on an appeal to the decision. “The government has filed an appeal and request to stay the preliminary injunction. Any updates regarding the appeal will be posted on this webpage,” the IRS states. 

Under the CARES Act, stimulus payments must be made by Dec. 31. People will still have an opportunity to get the stimulus funds next year, but they won’t receive the money until they file their 2020 tax return. 

Information on how to help an incarcerated person file for a stimulus payment is available at caresactprisoncase.org. The website includes directions on where to mail the simplified return, as well as a sample Form 1040 with instructions on where to add the incarcerated individual’s personal corrections number to ensure payment is sent to the right place.

L.A. County Officials Warn Residents About Property Tax Scam

Staff

Los Angeles County Treasurer and Tax Collector Keith Knox and County Assessor Jeffrey Prang are alerting the public about a property tax scam that has been reported to a District Office of the Assessor. Unknown people are reportedly attempting to fraudulently collect in-person property tax payments at taxpayers’ homes due to COVID-19. 

“Please note that the County of Los Angeles Treasurer and Tax Collector (TTC) does not conduct in-person visits to collect property tax payments and that any attempts to collect in-person payments are fraudulent,” said Knox. “Should you be contacted at your home or hear about this in your neighborhood, do not make payment to the person requesting it and notify local law enforcement immediately. Be sure to provide a detailed description of the individual.”

L.A. County Supervisor Janice Hahn said at least one resident in the Rowland Heights area has already been impacted by the scam.

“This scam is sophisticated but do not fall for it,” Hahn said in a statement. “County officials are not going to any homes to collect property tax payments – in fact, the Treasurer Tax Collector Office is not accepting is not accepting any in-person payments at this time.”

The individuals involved in the scam may even have fake identification in addition to the tax bill for the specific homeowner being targeted. These individuals allegedly are claiming that the homeowner must pay their property taxes in-person because the COVID-19 pandemic has closed county offices to the public.

“It’s important to be cautious with anybody making unsolicited offers,” Assessor Prang said. “Appraisers sometimes will visit homes to appraise the property, but our appraisers will never ask for tax payments. This current activity is a scam and it’s important to report it to the authorities immediately.” 

Prang said that people need to be aware of the scam and not engage with anyone seeking an in-person property tax payment.

Residents are being informed that the TTC accepts payments online, by mail or over the telephone.  Details on available property tax payment options can be found at ttc.lacounty.gov.

If approached by a potential scammer, homeowners are being encouraged to get a detailed description of the individual and report it immediately to local law enforcement.

Faith Leaders Unite Behind Maxine Waters and Against Her Opponent

Stephen Oduntan, Staff

A group of more than 30 L.A. County faith leaders staged a press conference outside Citizens for Waters campaign headquarters in Hawthorne this week following recent online attacks against Rep. Maxine Waters from her rival Republican Joe Collins who is running to unseat the 15-term incumbent.

The press conference was organized by the Coalition of Los Angeles Interfaith Leaders, who praised Waters’ more than 40 years of public service tackling difficult and often controversial issues.

One by one, they stepped up to the mic and made a case for why voters should support Waters’ campaign and not allow Collins to oust the longtime Democratic lawmaker from her congressional seat in November.

“Maxine Waters has a history of being there for her community. Her opponent is somebody who just popped up off the scene. We know what a wolf looks like in sheep clothes. We can see the handwriting on the wall. We know the narrative this GOP candidate is trying to put out there. So, we just want everyone to know that we the faith leaders are praying for the congresswoman in all her goals and priorities,” said Rev. K.W. Tulloss, president of the Baptist Ministers Conference of Los Angeles and Southern California.

Pastor William D. Smart Jr. delivered a highly energetic speech.

“We’re here because no voice has been stronger,” said Smart, president and CEO of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Southern California.

 “No love has been more meaningful. No commitment has been greater. No cause has been more resounding. No articulation has been more significant. No warrior has been more engaging. No responsibility has been more dutiful. No fight has been more relevant. No congressperson [is] more dependable. No person has been more courageous. No voice has been more righteous. No clarion call has constantly answered. The divine imperative is always on Maxine Waters.”

The faith leaders took umbrage with Collins who released a scathing campaign ad attacking Waters for living in a multimillion-dollar mansion while representing a district plagued by crime and poverty.

“Do you know where I am right now? Maxine Waters’ six million-dollar mansion,” Collins says in the video ad. “Do you know where I’m not right now? Maxine Waters’ district. Maxine does not live in her district, but I do,” Collins said.

As of Thursday evening, the campaign ad had received more than 138,100 likes and more than 69,300 retweets.

Collins says he made the decision to leave the Navy so he could run for office, which he could not do while on active duty. The 34-year-old and South Los Angeles native is a huge Trump backer running in District 43—a Democratic stronghold district with a population of about 710,000 individuals. He has outlined some of his priorities for change in the district, including combatting the lack of quality education, gang activity, the sky-high crime rate, and homelessness.

But Pastor Shane B. Scott (senior pastor of Macedonia Baptist Church in Watts and the organizer of the event) said Maxine Waters’ record speaks for itself and that the 82-year-old congresswoman has championed the cause of all Americans.

“In case Mr. Collins needs to be reminded, you don’t just serve 15 terms if you’re ineffective. But rather you serve 15 terms because you have been a champion for justice. Champion for justice for all people whether they are Black, White, Asian, Latino, and Native Americans,” Scott said.

Scott also challenged the legitimacy of Collins’ Navy service record. 

“Mr. Collins,” said Scott. “We are well aware that you have been dishonorably discharged from the Navy. We are aware that you have been prohibited from using the word veteran to identify yourself. Hence on the ballot you are identified as a sailor.”

The tall, sharply dressed pastor spoke for about five minutes and offered a catalog of damaging information against Waters opponent, including allegations that he had not paid child support.

As for Collins, he took to Twitter and scoffed at the faith leaders for holding the press conference.

“I love how a few black pastors in LA got together to try and smear my name on behalf of @RepMaxineWaters. Too bad they’re too afraid to approach me like real men. Just like Maxine is too afraid to debate me. They have the real fear of God in them when it comes to Joe Collins,” he wrote in a tweet Tuesday.

To that end, Tulloss told L.A. Focus that Waters’ political opponents are ignorant of the work she has done in the community she serves.

He said, “Maxine Waters is the voice of the voiceless. And of course, anyone held in such high esteem is often demonized. Look at how the president even talks about our congresswoman.

“Repeatedly, President Trump has insulted and besmirched Waters calling her “an extraordinarily low IQ person.”

Tulloss added, “Regardless of what anyone has to say about Maxine Waters, we love and appreciate her.”

Over 100 Clergy Join Operation Unity to Fight Police Brutality

Staff

      Over 100 local clergy and members of the church community will gather at the steps of five city’s City Halls on Oct. 22 to push local politicians for tangible and effective legislation against police brutality in a day of prayer and meetings they’re calling “Operation Unity”.

      “We don’t want them to say it to us privately anymore. We want them to actually enter into an agreement that says, as long as you’re in a place of power, you’re going to work with clergy and community to make sure we move forward in accountability between community and law enforcement,” explained Pastor Michael J. Fisher of Greater Zion Church Family and organizer of Operation Unity.

      The “operation” comes on the heels of a summer of protest, where thousands of racial-justice protests occurred across the United States largely after the killing of George Floyd in May. One report from the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED) estimated from May 26 through Aug. 22, about 7,750 protests took place in 2,400 locations across all 50 states and D.C.

      For Fisher, Operation Unity is a way for communities fighting for justice to come together, especially within the black church community.

      “Black Lives Matter does things together. The LGBTQ+ community, they do it all together. The Latino nationality, they kind of move together. When it comes to the black church, we don’t,” he believes. “If we’re going to have a voice in this, we’re going to have to do it together…It’s all about unity. It’s all about us having one sound, one band, one message.”

      As much as the day is about showing a united front, the group is also ready for a solid response from elected officials promising legislation that will hold law enforcement accountable. Outside, participants will gather at the steps of City Hall at the five chosen cities to pray and sing while pastors will meet inside with city leaders to discuss and sign the “Declaration of Interdependence.” Those cities are, Long Beach (at 8 a.m.), Compton (at 9:30a.m), Inglewood (11 a.m.), South/East LA (12:30 p.m.) and Downtown LA (2 p.m.).

      This document is a pledge that promises that city leaders will formulate the legislation the community is asking for.

      “We’re really not coming to sing another song, right?” Fisher added.

      Fisher also recognizes that politicians may be more willing to work with clergy than they might be with Black Lives Matter activists who have been demanding similar action. Operation Unity is recognizing that leverage and platform and utilizing it.

      “Operation Unity is important in reestablishing the narrative that the movement for social justice was always birthed from the church, specifically the black church, the black clergy. And so this moment is reclaiming that narrative because a lot of people think that the church is dead when it comes to social justice, but we’re still yet alive.”

Democrats Bet on Kamala Harris in Upcoming Debate

Christal Mims, Staff

After a tumultuous first presidential debate between democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and President Donald Trump, democrats are placing their hope in senator and vice-presidential nominee, Kamala Harris. Harris will take on Vice President Mike Pence during their first and only debate this month.

The American people benefitted from a very clear contrast, Harris said of the first presidential debate. On one hand you have Joe talking directly into the camera, trying to bring some semblance of maturity to a conversation with a county that is in the midst of at least three major crises at a proportion that weve not experienced in generations on the other hand, you have Donald Trump who spent the whole time interrupting, bullying the moderator and lying to the American people.

A former prosecutor and participant in the democratic primaries, Harris is well-equipped to handle a debate stage – a trait that democrats are banking on to take down Pence.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has confidence in Harris and her ability to discuss key issues effectively – but also had a word of advice.

She has to modulate her responses because we know there still is a double standard alive and well when it comes to women in politics, Clinton said. She’s got to be firm and effective in rebutting any implication that comes from the other side, but to do it in a way that doesn’t scare or alienate voters.

Congresswoman Maxine Waters says that Harris ambition is the most admirable thing about her, and she shouldnt worry about the public calling her names or talking down on her simply because she is displaying the characteristics of a strong woman.

Shes prepared and she will deal with it, and she knows how to deal with it, Congresswoman Waters said. For those of us who are confident that we are capable and that we deserve opportunity, we dont let that stop us from pursuing our goals. We have missions that weve defined for ourselves and we continue to work on those missions.

Senator Bernie Sanders believes that Pence has his work cut out for him if hes going to defeat Harris in the debate.

I believe that Kamala, as somebody who has known her for a number of years, is incredibly smart, tough, and I would not want to be Vice-President (Mike) Pence in a debate with her, Sanders said.

Experts are saying that there is a weight placed on the vice-presidential debate more than ever before as the nation is anxious to see if they will be able to get a more direct and clearer standpoint from each candidate.

There is a weight that’s placed on Mike Pence and Kamala Harris to demonstrate that there is still something useful about two people meeting in the public square and having an exchange of ideas because that’s at the heart of this grand democratic experiment that we have, said Ed Lee, of Emory University’s Alben W. Barkley Forum for Debate, Deliberation and Dialogue. That usually is not placed on a vice presidential debate.

University of Georgia head debate coach Shunta Jordan thinks that anything is better than the screaming and disrespect that the U.S. witnessed during the first presidential debate.

I don’t expect either candidate to back down but am confident in saying we won’t see the disgrace and embarrassment of (Tuesday), she said. I expect to hear more argumentation and refutation. I expect to hear each candidate discuss actual policy or what needs to be the priority in America moving forward.

Many have noted that Pence is generally level-headed and will most likely not come close to the way Trump acted in the first debate. He is said to be practicing his approach to the debate and will focus on the Trump administration’s accomplishments and the key differences between his team and their democratic opponents.

Harris says that she will treat Pence with respect but will not tolerate blatant lies being told to the American people.

Im also not going to stand by quietly if he, in whatever tone of voice, delivers lies, Harris explained. Joe and I have a lot in common, and one of them is that we dont back down from a good fight if its a fight worth having.


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