07 30 2016
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  • Russian hackers likely responsible for hacking attack on Clinton HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Giddy if exhausted, Hillary Clinton embarked on a post-convention Rust Belt bus tour just hours after becoming the first female presidential nominee of a major political party. The celebratory mood quickly evaporated amid fresh revelations that hackers had breached a program used by her campaign and Republican nominee Donald Trump promised to sharpen his barbs. "Remember this," Trump said during a rally Friday in Colorado Springs, Colorado. "Trump is going to be no more Mr. Nice Guy." And for the first time he encouraged his supporters' anti-Clinton chants of "lock her up." "I've been saying let's just beat her on Nov. 8," Trump said, "but you know what? I'm starting to agree with you." About an hour later, Clinton aides acknowledged that a hacking attack that exposed Democratic Party emails also reached into a computer system used by her own campaign. The FBI said it was working to determine the "accuracy, nature and scope" of the cyberattacks. Campaign spokesman Nick Merrill said the newly disclosed breach affected a Democratic National Committee data analytics program used by the campaign and other organizations. Outside experts found no evidence that the campaign's "internal systems have been compromised," Merrill said, but he gave no details on the program or nature of the attacks. Partnerships with modern e-commerce companies can allow sophisticated tracking, categorization and identification of website visitors and voters. President Barack Obama and cybersecurity experts have said Russia was almost certainly responsible for the DNC hack. The House Democratic campaign committee reported Friday that its information had been accessed. The developments followed the leaking of DNC emails earlier in the week that pointed to a pro-Clinton bias by party officials during her primary contest against Bernie Sanders. In the furor that followed, party chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Shultz resigned just as Democrats launched their convention. Clinton and her running mate, Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, will attempt to return attention to their positive economic message on Saturday, with campaign stops through economically struggling areas of Pennsylvania and Ohio. "When we take that oath of office next January, we know we can make life better. We know we can create more good jobs," she told voters gathered at an outside market in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Clinton cited an economic analysis by economist Mark Zandi, a former economic adviser to 2008 Republican presidential nominee John McCain, that found more than 10 million jobs could be created in her first term if her economic proposals were put in place. Zandi's analysis of Trump's plans found they would cost the country 3.5 million jobs and lead to a "lengthy recession." Joined on the bus tour by her husband, Bill Clinton, Kaine and his wife, Anne Holton, Clinton stopped at a toy and plastics manufacturer in Hatfield, Pennsylvania, where she and Kaine cast Trump as a con artist out for his own gain. "We don't resent success in America but we do resent people who take advantage of others in order to line their own pockets," Clinton said. Trump is also focusing on Ohio and Pennsylvania, two states where he might make headway with blue-collar white men. That group of voters has eluded Clinton and may be a hard sell after a Democratic convention that heavily celebrated racial and gender diversity. Clinton is playing up economic opportunity, diversity and national security. Democrats hammered home those themes this week with an array of politicians, celebrities, gun-violence victims, law enforcement officers and activists of all races and sexual orientation. Their goal is to turn out the coalition of minority, female and young voters that twice elected Obama while offsetting expected losses among the white men drawn to Trump's message. Democrats continued contrasting their optimistic message with the more troubled vision of the state of the nation presented by Trump and others at the GOP convention a week earlier. Kaine called the "very dark and negative" event a "journey through Donald Trump's mind." "That's a very frightening place," he told thousands of supporters in Philadelphia. Clinton told voters that they faced a "stark choice," calling the coming election the most important one in her lifetime. "This is a moment of reckoning for our country. I don't recognize the country that Donald Trump describes," she said.___Lemire reported from Colorado Springs, Colorado. Associated Press writer Eric Tucker in Washington contributed to this report.
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  • SEATTLE (AP) — Genetically modified wheat not approved for sale or commercial production in the United States has been found growing in a field in Washington state, agriculture officials said Friday, posing a possible risk to trade with countries concerned about engineered food. The Food and Drug Administration says genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, are safe and little scientific concern exists about the safety of those on the market. But critics say not enough is known about their risks, and they want GMOs labeled so people know what's in their food. Several Asian countries temporarily banned U.S. wheat imports after genetically modified wheat was found unexpectedly in a field on an Oregon farm in 2013. It also popped up in a field at a university research center in Montana in 2014. It wasn't immediately clear how altered wheat cropped up in Washington. But the U.S. Agriculture Department said there is no evidence it has entered the market. If it did, the FDA concluded that "it is unlikely that the wheat would present any safety concerns if present in the food supply," the department said. A farmer discovered 22 plants in an unplanted field, and the wheat was developed to be resistant to the herbicide known as Roundup, created by seed giant Monsanto, the USDA said. An agency spokeswoman did not know where in the state it was found. Federal officials said they were working with the farmer to ensure that none of the modified wheat is sold. Out of caution, the agency said it is holding and testing the farmer's full wheat harvest, but so far it has not found GMOs. The plants are a type of wheat that had been evaluated in limited field trials in the Pacific Northwest from 1998 to 2001 but never commercialized, Monsanto said in a statement. It said the type found in Washington state is similar to the one discovered in Oregon three years ago; it has the same inserted DNA but in a different location. No variety of genetically engineered wheat has been approved for commercial use or production in the U.S. GMOs are plants or animals that have had genes copied from other plants or animals inserted into their DNA. Most genetically engineered crops are corn and soybeans eaten by livestock or made into popular processed food ingredients like cornstarch, soybean oil or high fructose corn syrup. Only a handful of modified fruits and vegetables are available, including Hawaiian papaya, some zucchini and squash and a small percentage of sweet corn. The FDA also has approved for consumption a genetically engineered salmon that would grow faster than traditional salmon, but it's not yet available in grocery stores. South Korea said Friday that it will inspect U.S. wheat imports for genetically modified wheat, the Yonhap News Agency reported. The Ministry of Food and Drug Safety said it has asked the USDA for information on the unapproved wheat and inspection methods. The USDA said it has validated a test that Monsanto developed for the herbicide-resistant wheat, which would be available to trading partners. "Trading partners will get the tests. I believe that once they have those in place, they'll continue buying," said Glen Squires, CEO of the Washington Grain Commission, a state agency that represents wheat farmers. "We don't anticipate any major disruptions." The USDA also said it has beefed up oversight of genetically engineered field trials and now requires developers to apply for a permit for those involving GMO wheat starting this year. In 2014, genetically modified wheat plants were found at a university research center in Huntley, Montana, where it was legally tested by Monsanto in the early 2000s. The plants in eastern Oregon were found in a field that had never conducted such tests, and the USDA closed its investigation two years ago unable to determine how the wheat got there. Different strains were found in each state. The Washington Association of Wheat Growers and the Washington State Agriculture Department referred questions to federal authorities.
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  • Six current or former state employees were charged Friday with misconduct and other crimes in the Flint water crisis 
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  • Hillary Clinton cast herself as a unifier for divided times, an experienced leader steeled for a volatile world 
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ATT store in NYC

A man uses a cell phone as he walks past an AT&T store in New York, July 11, 2013. (Mark Lennihan/AP)

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – A group that advocates for economic inclusion and fair contracting for Black-owned media recently filed a $10 billion lawsuit alleging racial discrimination against AT&T and DirecTV.

The National Association of African American Owned Media (NAAAOM) filed the lawsuit for an unnamed company that “owns seven original content, high definition television networks (channels), six of which were launched to public in 2009 and one in 2012” and according to the complaint “is the only 100 percent African American-owned video programming producer and multi-channel operator/owner in the United States.”

The suit alleges that AT&T and DirecTV violated a federal statute (Title 42 U.S. Code 1981) found in the Civil Rights Act of 1866, a law that was originally designed to protect freed slaves from discrimination as they joined the labor market and entered business contracts.

Marty Richter, a spokesman for AT&T, called the allegations ‘outlandish’ and ‘completely baseless,’ and said that the company spent $15.5 billion with diverse suppliers last year.”

Skip Miller, the lead trial counsel for the plaintiff and partner with the Miller Barondess, LLP law firm in Los Angeles, said his firm is going up against one of the largest corporations in the United States with vast resources, but it’s a lawsuit like any other lawsuit.

“The real deal is the money, that’s what this is about,” said Mark DeVitre, president of NAAAOM. “It’s about economic inclusion in mainstream America. The First Amendment requires diversity.”

According to the lawsuit, AT&T and DirecTV, collectively pay White-owned media companies approximately $16 billion combined, every year for channel carriage license fees, but don’t pay anything to 100 percent African American-owned media companies.

Even though AT&T executives admitted that they have a “black problem” to the company, according to the lawsuit, they have largely adopted a “wait and see” approach, refusing to increase the amount of business they do with the Black media company, unless it has a negative impact on their merger with DirecTV.

“They [AT&T], just said, ‘No,’” said Miller.  “‘We know you have good programming, but we don’t want to deal with you.’”

AT&T carries one of the unnamed company’s seven channels, but instead of paying carriage fees to the company, the telephone and media conglomerate requires that the company pay AT&T hundreds of thousands of dollars per year for the programming.

“Ultimately, AT&T stated that it would consider entering into a carriage agreement with the Company only if AT&T’s and DirecTV’s lack of 100 percent African-American owned channels interferes with approval of the acquisition,” states the complaint filed on December 3. “Otherwise, AT&T would continue to refuse to contract with the Company for its suite of channels, and would shut out the Company from its billions in channel carriage license fees and advertising and expenditures.”

The suit also alleges that AT&T and other White-owned media companies donate money to nationally-recognized civil rights groups in an effort to “buy” their support, actions the complaint calls “window dressing and a deceptive practice.”

“They can get up there say, ‘We support the Urban League.’ Those are all good organizations,” said Miller. “But what does that have to do with the media business?”

DeVitre said those contributions don’t have anything to do with getting African American voices and viewpoints on television.

According to the legal document, 100 percent African American-owned media receive less than $1.5 million of the approximately $4 billion that AT&T spends on advertising, every year.

“Likewise, DirecTV allegedly spends less than $1.5 million of its $2 billion in advertising costs each year on 100% African American-owned business,” according to the suit.

That amounts to fourteen thousandths of 1 percent spent annually with 100 percent African American-owned media.

The NAAAOM complaint stated: “This is an economic atrocity, illustrating the scope and magnitude of the racial discrimination in contracting by AT & T and DirecTV.”The suit alleges that AT&T’s racial discrimination in contracting will continue to perpetuate the economic exclusion of 100 percent African American-owned media from American television.

“But for AT&T’s and DirecTV’s refusal to contract with the Company, the Company would receive approximately $328 million in annual license fees for its seven channels – calculated using a conservative license fee of fifteen center per subscriber per month for each channel for AT & T’s and DirecTV’s combined 26 million subscribers. If Defendants contracted in good faith, the Company would also receive an estimated $100 million per year, per network, in national advertising sales revenue, or a total of $700 million per year,” according to the complaint.

Miller said it would be hard for his client to survive without doing business with AT&T and access to their roughly 26 million subscribers after the DirecTV deal, which would account for nearly 30 percent of the pay TV market. The proposed AT&T/DirecTV deal and the Comcast/NBC Universal deal have received lukewarm receptions from industry watchers.

DeVitre said that AT&T’s refusal to increase the business they do with 100 percent Black-owned companies is a form of economic genocide for African American-owned media, a sector that continues to shrink instead of grow.

DeVitre continued: “These companies either have to give away a tremendous amount of equity or make exorbitant ‘ransom’ payments in order to get carried and you can end up bankrupting yourself with this stuff or losing control of your own company and the system is designed to keep perpetuating it.”

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