Could cannabis be the new gambling for Native Americans? So far, tribes are being shut out

At the end of a road off scenic Highway 79, in rural San Diego County, a building that once let visitors try their hand at slot machines and poker tables is now a shop that sells cannabis flower and marijuana-infused truffles.

The Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel opened the Mountain Source cannabis store about two weeks ago, in the front part of a failed casino that tribal leaders abandoned in 2014. The back part of the casino, overlooking Lake Henshaw, will be used for marijuana testing and to bake cannabis edibles. And the surrounding land, a hilly stretch covering more than two acres, is dotted by white-walled marijuana greenhouses, with more cultivation space under construction.

  • David Chelette, left, board member of Santa Ysabel Botanical Facility, and Dave Vialpando, executive director Santa Ysabel Tribal Cannabis Regulatory Agency, stand in the Mountain Source dispensary operated by the Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel on Highway 79 in Santa Ysabel on Wednesday, February 6, 2019. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Some of the greenhouses at the Santa Ysabel Botanical Facility, operated by the Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel on Highway 79 in Santa Ysabel on Wednesday, February 6, 2019. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

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  • A sign points the way to the Mountain Source dispensary operated by the Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel on Highway 79 in Santa Ysabel on Wednesday, February 6, 2019. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Gorilla Pure Kush is just one of the many varieties of marijuana for sale at the Mountain Source dispensary, operated by the Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel on Highway 79 in Santa Ysabel on Wednesday, February 6, 2019. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Greenhouses under construction at the Santa Ysabel Botanical Facility and just outside of the Mountain Source dispensary operated by the Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel on Highway 79 in Santa Ysabel on Wednesday, February 6, 2019. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Some of the various cannabis items for sale at the Mountain Source dispensary, operated by the Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel on Highway 79 in Santa Ysabel on Wednesday, February 6, 2019. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • A sign at the entrance of the Santa Ysabel Smoke Shop and Mountain Source dispensary, both operated by the Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel on Highway 79 in Santa Ysabel on Wednesday, February 6, 2019. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Some of the greenhouses at the Santa Ysabel Botanical Facility and just outside of the Mountain Source dispensary operated by the Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel on Highway 79 in Santa Ysabel on Wednesday, February 6, 2019. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • A billboard on Highway 79 in Santa Ysabel advertises the Santa Ysabel Smoke Shop and Mountain Source dispensary, operated by the Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel, on Wednesday, February 6, 2019. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Some of the various cannabis items for sale at the Mountain Source dispensary, operated by the Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel on Highway 79 in Santa Ysabel on Wednesday, February 6, 2019. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Some of the greenhouses at the Santa Ysabel Botanical Facility and just outside of the Mountain Source dispensary operated by the Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel on Highway 79 in Santa Ysabel on Wednesday, February 6, 2019. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Some of the various cannabis items for sale at the Mountain Source dispensary, operated by the Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel on Highway 79 in Santa Ysabel on Wednesday, February 6, 2019. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Some of the greenhouses at the Santa Ysabel Botanical Facility and just outside of the Mountain Source dispensary operated by the Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel on Highway 79 in Santa Ysabel on Wednesday, February 6, 2019. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Greenhouses under construction at the Santa Ysabel Botanical Facility, and just outside of the Mountain Source dispensary, operated by the Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel on Highway 79 in Santa Ysabel on Wednesday, February 6, 2019. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • David Chelette, left, board member of Santa Ysabel Botanical Facility, stands in the Mountain Source dispensary facility on Highway 79 in Santa Ysabel on Wednesday, February 6, 2019. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • A sign of regulations outside the Mountain Source dispensary operated by the Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel on Highway 79 in Santa Ysabel on Wednesday, February 6, 2019. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Some of the various cannabis items for sale at the Mountain Source dispensary, operated by the Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel on Highway 79 in Santa Ysabel on Wednesday, February 6, 2019. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

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The tribe got into the cannabis business as a way to stay “economically alive,” said Dave Vialpando, who heads up the Santa Ysabel Tribal Cannabis Regulatory Agency. But, while Santa Ysabel is developing a marijuana campus that could very well pull the tribe out of poverty, a major obstacle remains:

It’s unclear if they’ll ever be able to legally sell their products off the reservation.

While tribes are free to grow and sell cannabis on their sovereign land now that recreational marijuana is legal in California, there’s no path in state law for Native Americans to join the regulated market. That means tribes are cut off from the much larger nascent industry that’s open to every sanctioned marijuana farmer not in Indian County.

“It’s a long pattern in this state,” Vialpando said. “There’s a history of marginalizing tribes. There’s a history of not wanting to engage with tribes.”

So far, all proposed compromises have fallen flat.

Many tribal leaders aren’t willing to waive their nation’s hard-won rights to self governance — and, some would argue, their identity — by agreeing to be treated like businesses instead of governments.

But even when tribes try to get state licenses on tribal lands, their efforts, so far, aren’t working. California law requires local jurisdictions to approve cannabis businesses before the state will issue its approval, and cities and counties near tribal lands insist — correctly — that they have no authority over tribal land.  To date, none of the three agencies that license cannabis businesses in California have issued permits for projects in Indian Country, though they said they’re reviewing applications.

Meanwhile, non-tribal cannabis business owners push back against carving out any exceptions that, in their eyes, might give Native Americans an unfair advantage in the market.

Supporters are counting on help from newly seated Gov. Gavin Newsom, who supported legalized marijuana as a tool for social justice. And they’re hoping the fourth time might be the charm when it comes to a legislative fix, with a goal to reintroduce a thrice-failed bill that would let tribes formalize their own marijuana regulatory system.

“We should have solved this by now,” said Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Oakland, who authored beleaguered Assembly Bill 924. “Our tribes absolutely deserve a right to participate in the same legal cannabis market as other stakeholders.”

A need for opportunity

California is home to 109 federally recognized Native American tribes, with the most populous in Los Angeles, San Diego, San Bernardino, Orange and Riverside counties.

Two centuries of slaughter, land theft and discrimination have left California’s Native Americans with lower median incomes and education levels coupled with higher rates of poverty and unemployment than the general population.

Tribes saw opportunities for jobs and long-term revenue in 1987, when the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Riverside County-based Cabazon and Morongo Indians, who sued for the right to continue high-stakes bingo and poker games on their reservations. That ruling gave birth to Indian gaming, which is now a $7 billion annual industry in California.

Just over half of the state’s tribes operate casinos, but only 16 are full Vegas-style resorts. And 47 of the state’s 109 tribes have no casinos at all, with some reservations still struggling to provide running water and electricity.

“Not all tribes are rich from gaming,” Vialpando said.

His Santa Ysabel tribe has hustled for years to find a steady revenue stream that might sustain the community. A symbol of that struggle greets everyone who enters the reservation; one of the first things a visitor sees is a once-important tribal hall and gym that, today, is caving in on itself.

Pinning their hopes on gaming, the tribe in 2007 broke ground on the Santa Ysabel Resort and Casino. That’s also when the recession hit, and leaders couldn’t get funding to add lodging. In February 2014, with the project $50 million in debt, leaders made the difficult choice to shutter the casino.

Santa Ysabel found itself back among the ranks of the state’s rural tribes who have land, skills and ambition, but no clear way to put them to use in a way that might provide for the community.

Then came marijuana.

Federal change sets the stage

With a growing number of states legalizing cannabis, tribes took notice a few years ago ago when federal regulators paved the way for marijuana projects in Indian Country.

The Cole Memo, issued by Deputy Attorney General James Cole in August 2013, stopped officials from enforcing federal laws on cannabis businesses operating in states where marijuana was legal as long as those businesses were taking steps to keep their product from getting to kids and the black market. In October 2014, Monty Wilkinson, director of the United States Attorneys, issued a memo that extended those protections to Native American nations.

In many ways, it’s a marriage that makes sense. Indigenous people have long relied on herbal remedies, and some have used cannabis as a sacrament. Native Americans do struggle with disproportionately high rates of substance abuse, though Vialpando pointed out that legally regulated cannabis has been associated with lowering community-wide rates of alcoholism and opioid addiction.

After the Wilkinson memo, a number of California tribes legalized medical cannabis on their reservations. Some also launched grow and retail operations. But for tribes that dived most aggressively into the cannabis business, the honeymoon was short lived.

In summer 2015, federal authorities raided cannabis operations on land owned by the Pit River and Alturas tribes in Modoc County, seizing more than 10,000 marijuana plants. That fall, Mendocino County Sheriff’s deputies raided a cannabis farm owned by the Pinoleville Pomo Nation.

Authorities argued that those tribes weren’t in line with the state’s medical marijuana laws of that time, which prohibited for-profit operations. With thousands of growers and retailers across the state ignoring that notoriously lax mandate, some tribes felt unfairly targeted.

That same year, Santa Ysabel also opened some of its 15,000 acres to outside cannabis growers. But the tribe proceeded cautiously, said Vialpando, a former police officer, state narcotics supervisor and gaming regulator. Tribal leaders drafted dozens of pages of regulations that mirrored or stepped up rules from other states. They met with county and federal authorities, inviting them to inspect their facilities and offering up access to security tapes.

Three years later, with eight companies now growing cannabis on the reservation, Vialpando said they haven’t had a single call for police services.

Santa Ysabel leaders believed they were well positioned to expand if and when California launched its legal recreational cannabis market. Then voters passed Proposition 64.

Left out in California

The November 2016 measure to legalize cannabis didn’t include a single mention of how Native American tribes fit into the new marketplace.

“When tribes in California, who have used the cannabis plant as a form of medicine for thousands of years, were completely omitted from Prop. 64, it fell in line in large part with how tribes are treated in this state,” said Los Angeles attorney Ariel Clark, who’s half Native American and 10 years ago shifted his specialty from tribal law to cannabis law.

In the final version of the state’s cannabis regulations, which took effect in January, regulators included a section that said tribes could participate in the licensed industry if they agree to “submit a written waiver of sovereign immunity” to the Bureau of Cannabis Control. That includes giving state regulators access to cannabis-oriented property and records on tribal lands. And it still called for approval from the tribe’s neighboring county or city.

For many tribes, who’ve already seen much of their sovereignty stripped away over the years, Clark said the idea that they should waiving immunity is a “non-starter.”

“A tribe can make a choice that will have reverberations in Indian Country across the United States,” Clark said. Besides, she added, “That’s not the only pathway.”

Washington, Oregon and Nevada, for example, all passed bills that allow tribes to negotiate compacts with the state that let them regulate cannabis operations much like they oversee gaming. Tribes typically agree to meet or exceed state safety standards and charge taxes equal to the state rate on outside sales, so they don’t have an unfair price advantage over non-tribal competitors. But those tribes don’t have to waive their rights to self governance, and they get to keep the tax revenue they generate to reinvest in their communities.

Three times, Assemblyman Bonta has proposed a bill to create similar rules in California, and each time he’s run into objections from people on both sides of the political aisle. Barring a compromise, Bonta said he doesn’t plan to reintroduce the bill this legislative session.

Santa Ysabel — along with many of the other 23 tribes who’ve joined the California Native American Cannabis Association — is positioned to sign such a compact if made legal in California.


Dave Vialpando, executive director of the Santa Ysabel Tribal Cannabis Regulatory Agency, talks about the various issues the tribe has faced in the cannabis industry as he stands in the Mountain Source dispensary operated by the Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel on Highway 79 in Santa Ysabel on Wednesday, February 6, 2019. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

The tribe has had stringent cannabis testing requirements and a track-and-trace system in place longer than their non-tribal competitors in California, Vialpando explained. An armed guard checks IDs before allowing access to the reservation’s gated campus. The tribe also has carried over checks and balances from the gaming world that aren’t required in the cannabis industry, such as independent financial audits. And they charge a tribal tax for cannabis sales that’s on with most municipal cannabis tax rates, though the tribe remains exempt from state and federal taxes.

The Santa Ysabel Botanical Facility already employs nearly as many people as the casino did, with around 100 workers focused on cannabis. The cannabis grows use only a fifth as much water as the casino once consumed. And leaders partner with a tribal member to turn cannabis waste into nutrient-rich compost that can be sold off reservation.

“Honestly, I feel like they’ve got it more together than anybody else,” said Gem Montes with the Inland Empire chapter of the cannabis advocacy group NORML.

Other tribes have toured Santa Ysabel in hopes of replicating their model.

Vialpando said he hopes that one day state regulators will accept his standing invitation to visit.

“Tribes are willing to work with the state,” he said. “But the message is, ‘You’re not welcome.’”

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Airbus abandons iconic A380 superjumbo, lacking clients

By ANGELA CHARLTON and JON GAMBRELL

TOULOUSE, France  — European plane maker Airbus said Thursday it will stop making its superjumbo A380 in 2021 for lack of customers, abandoning the world’s biggest passenger jet and one of the aviation industry’s most ambitious and most troubled endeavors.

Barely a decade after the double-deck, 500-plus-seat plane started carrying passengers, Airbus said that key client Emirates is cutting back its orders, and as a result, “we have no substantial A380 backlog and hence no basis to sustain production.”

The decision could affect up to 3,500 jobs and already cost plane maker 463 million euros (about $523 million) in losses in 2018, Airbus said.

The company, a European economic powerhouse, is also girding for serious disruption to its cross-continental manufacturing from a likely chaotic British exit from the EU next month. CEO Tom Enders, however, said Thursday that “We are getting signals that make me a little more optimistic that we’ll see a more orderly Brexit.” He wouldn’t elaborate.

The end of the young yet iconic jet is a boon for rival Boeing and an embarrassing symbolic blow for Airbus. A pall of mourning hung in the atmosphere Thursday at its headquarters in the southern French city of Toulouse — but there was also a hint of relief after years of straining to keep the A380 alive.

“It’s a painful decision for us,” Enders said. “We’ve invested a lot of effort, a lot of resources, a lot of sweat … but we need to be realistic.”

It’s also sad news for Emirates, which has the A380 as the backbone of its fleet, based out of Dubai, the world’s busiest airport for international travel.

When it started taking on passengers in 2008, the A380 was hailed for its roominess, large windows, high ceilings and quieter engines. Some carriers put in showers, lounges, duty free shops and bars on both decks.

Airbus had hoped the A380 would squeeze out Boeing’s 747 and revolutionize air travel as more people take to the skies.

Instead, airlines have been cautious about committing to the costly plane, so huge that airports had to build new runways and modify terminals to accommodate it. The double-decker planes started flying in 2008.

The A380 had troubles from the start, including tensions between Airbus’ French and German management and protracted production delays and cost overruns. Those prompted a company restructuring that cost thousands of jobs.

Among early detractors of the A380 was analyst Richard Aboulafia of Washington-based Teal Group, who said its demise “was inevitable.”

“But thanks to the strength of the market right now, and the strength of Airbus’s other products, the damage will not have a huge impact on the industry,” he told The Associated Press. “For Boeing, it has been a very long time since they needed to worry about the A380 as a competitive factor.”

Airbus reported net profit of 3.1 billion euros over last year, up from 2.4 billion euros in 2017.

But it also reported losses: In addition to the A380 hit, Airbus reported a charge of 436 million euros on the A400M, used by several European militaries — and another 123 million-euro charge for complying with ethics rules as the company faces fraud investigations in the U.S., Britain and France.

Airbus also acknowledged Thursday that a recent data breach apparently targeted intellectual property. Guillaume Faury, head of Airbus commercial aircraft and future CEO of the overall group, said the company is taking technical and legal measures in response.

Airbus said it forecasts similar profits in 2019, in line with growth in the world economy and air traffic.

It promised airlines that it would still maintain the more than 230 A380s currently in flight, with Faury calling it a “benchmark” for the company even as its death is being programmed.

Emirates said Thursday it had struck a deal valued at $21.4 billion with Airbus to replace some A380s with A350 wide-bodies and smaller A330 planes.

Emirates has long been the largest operator of the A380. Before Thursday’s announcement, it had 162 of the jets on order.

“While we are disappointed to have to give up our order, and sad that the program could not be sustained, we accept that this is the reality of the situation,” Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, the chairman and CEO of Emirates, said in a statement. “For us, the A380 is a wonderful aircraft loved by our customers and our crew. It is a differentiator for Emirates. We have shown how people can truly fly better on the A380.”

Industry experts initially expected A380s to long outlast the Boeing 747, which is celebrating its 50th birthday this year.

But airlines seem to increasingly favor more mid-size planes for regional routes, notably in Asia, instead of the hulking A380s or even 747s, increasingly used as a cargo plane.

 

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Parkland massacre survivors privately mourning anniversary

By TERRY SPENCER

PARKLAND, Fla.  — The communities and families terrorized by the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre will spend Thursday’s anniversary visiting graves, packing meals for the needy and contributing to other service projects as they quietly remember the 14 students and three staff members who lost their lives.

Victims’ families say they will mourn out of the public eye. The Parkland school will be on a half-day schedule: Stoneman Douglas students will serve breakfast to first responders and will be dismissed nearly three hours before the time the shooting began, about 2:20 p.m. Many say they will avoid school altogether. Students at other Broward County schools will also work on service projects and observe a moment of silence.

A ceremony honoring the victims will be held in a park near the school where students also will prepare meals for disadvantaged children. A nondenominational, temporary temple will open in neighboring Coral Springs, where half the school’s students live. Visitors will be allowed to mourn, contemplate, leave mementos and write message on its walls. The temple will remain open until May, when it will be burned in a purification ceremony.

THE FAMILIES

For the victims’ families, there is no day without pain, so while Thursday may cut a bit deeper, in some ways it won’t be any different than the previous 364 days. The families remain outspoken in their demand that school Superintendent Robert Runcie be fired and against the reinstatement of suspended Sheriff Scott Israel, saying their inaction and mistakes allowed the shooting to happen. Still, most who have spoken publicly say they plan to spend Thursday quietly.

Jaime Guttenberg’s family, for example, will visit her grave, while Nick Dworet’s will go to the beach where his ashes were scattered in the ocean. Athletic Director Chris Hixon’s family is preparing for a race in his honor on Saturday.

“We are going to simply reflect and remember,” said Tony Montalto, president of the victims’ families’ organization, Stand With Parkland. “That is the best thing.”

Montalto’s 14-year-old daughter Gina died in the shooting.

THE SCHOOL

Stoneman Douglas students will mark the tragedy by working on service projects. They can also receive mental health counseling and visit therapy dogs. Volunteers will provide massages and manicures. Security will be heightened at Stoneman Douglas and throughout the district. Maintenance workers will be kept out of Broward schools to avoid banging and loud noises that might upset students and teachers.

Mickey Pope, the district’s chief of student-support services, said the staff worked with mental health counselors, community groups, the victims’ families and others for four months to devise a plan that they believe will honor those killed and allow students and staff to mourn.

Many Stoneman Douglas students are skipping school Thursday. For some it’s too emotional; others don’t want to be in the spotlight.

Jessie Frengut, a senior, said she and friends, including one wounded in the attack, are going to a farm to spend time with animals trained to comfort people with post-traumatic stress disorder.

“It will just be better for us if we do something on our own,” she said.

Alexis Grogan, a junior, said she’ll spend the day picking up beach trash, dedicating her work to those who died.

“I survived something and I don’t want to waste what I call a second chance at life because those who have passed don’t get that,” she said. “We have to make a difference for them.”

THE TEMPLE

San Francisco-area artist David Best began building temples honoring the dead in 2000 at Nevada’s Burning Man festival after a protege died in a motorcycle accident. He has since built them worldwide, including in Northern Ireland for those killed in political strife and in Nepal for the 2015 earthquake victims. Like those structures, the Stoneman Douglas temple will be burned.

This creation, “The Temple of Time,” represents the indefinite period it will take for the community to come to grips with the slayings. Best rejected naming it “The Temple of Healing” because he said that is impossible for the victims and their families.

It’s an Asian design with a spire roof that has intricate designs cut into it.

“It is a big, ornate structure that someone will come and put their faith in. I am the carpenter; I don’t write the doctrine,” Best said. “Each person can come in with whatever they have.”

Best’s regular volunteers — 26 of them came to Florida from around the country — scrambled last week to finish the approximately 1,600-square-foot (150-square-meter) temple. Community members donated their time to help.

Plywood sheets and cedar beams were piled everywhere as the building took shape, meeting Florida’s stringent hurricane code even though it will be burned before the storm season starts. Most construction materials and other expenses are being paid by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s public arts foundation, but neither Best nor his workers are paid.

“The initial reaction (people have) is, ‘This is really crazy, why are you burning this? It is really beautiful.’ But at the end of the period it usually makes sense to everyone,” said volunteer Paul Walker, an English artist who now lives in San Francisco. “The fire is very therapeutic.”

Associated Press Writer Kelli Kennedy in Miami contributed to this report.

Find all The Associated Press’ coverage marking one year since the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, at https://apnews.com/ParklandFloridaschoolshooting

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Red faced over blackface and the politics of forgiveness

Serious question: Is it ever OK for a white person to wear blackface? To mock, ridicule or dehumanize, the answer is obviously no. But what about as a tribute to someone you genuinely admire, even love?

Anthony Sabatini is under pressure to resign his seat in the Florida Legislature after it was revealed he dressed up for his high school homecoming celebration as his best friend, Brandon Evans, who happens to be African American. “I’m going to be you, you’re going to be me”, said Evans, who painted his face white to represent Sabatini. Ted Danson famously appeared in blackface at a Friar’s Club Roast of then-girlfriend Whoopi Goldberg. Neither of these “costumes” were meant to be malicious.

For the record, I have never worn blackface in public or in private. Frankly, I barely tan. Occasionally my face will turn red, mostly from embarrassment after reading one of my old newspaper columns. I don’t say this to claim moral superiority to any of the politicians or celebrities currently in hot water over blackface photos of them resurfacing after 20 or 30 years, or in the case of actor Liam Neeson, his voluntary confession of racial animus following the rape of a good friend by a black man.

As the whitest of white men, I suffer no psychic wound when some dimwit somewhere corks his or her face for Halloween, the firehouse talent show or fraternity initiation ritual. I am constantly surprised how many people still make this choice. Michael Ertel, until very recently Florida’s secretary of state, dressed in blackface to mock Hurricane Katrina victims. That was in 2005, not 1905. Every year, a sheriff, a sorority brat or a candidate for something lands in the news when a blackface photo shows up on the web, usually posted on their own social media page, as if they were expecting the world to join in their hilarity. What part of 2019 do these people not understand?

But what part of history and context do the cyber-Torquemadas not understand who believe there is no statute of limitations on other people’s blunders? Are Al Jolson and Anthony Sabatini guilty of the same ethical lapse as Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam? Jolson’s “Mammy” act was a theatrical convention employed for more than a century, while Anthony Sabatini was celebrating his friendship with Brandon Evans. Is there no room for shades of grey when discussing blackface, or is everything black and white?

The Democratic governor and attorney general of Virginia are both currently trying to spin their way out of trouble after offensive photos from their past emerged. The governor has denied he appears in a photograph in blackface or a Klansman’s hood, but admitted he had darkened his skin to impersonate Michael Jackson. Attorney General Mark Herring called for Northam to resign, but then days later acknowledged he had also darkened his skin to impersonate rapper Kurtis Blow. Hypocrite? Racist? Rap fan? Or all three? With two prominent Democrats in the soup on race, Republicans raced to the TV cameras and Twitter accounts to point fingers.

“See? It’s not just us!” is the subtext, and not very sub. And they’re right. The fight against racism begins again with every baby that’s born.

Republicans relish the Virginia soap opera because they have been so often cast by Democrats as bigots and even white supremacists. Sean Hannity is forever reminding Fox News viewers that longtime Democratic West Virginia Sen. Robert Bird was a Klansman, true, and that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed “by Republicans,” which is sort of true. The Civil Rights Act cleared the House, 335 to 85, and the Senate by 112 to 24. Both parties had an oar in the water to pass this milestone bill, with Southern Democrat Lyndon Johnson serving as coxswain. Still, it is true Republicans overwhelmingly supported the Civil Rights Act back in ’64.

But what happened after?

Pretty much all the GOP “yeas” were run out of the party. Those that stayed were marginalized. Senators Jacob Javits, Kenneth Keating, Leverett Saltonstall, Karl Mundt, et al. became RINOs or “Rockefeller Republicans,” while the Dixiecrat Democrats such as Jesse Helms and Strom Thurmond became Republicans. In 1964, the Party of Lincoln nominated Barry Goldwater as its standard bearer.

Goldwater was a no vote.

Five former Confederate states flipped to the Republicans for the first time since Reconstruction. The formerly solid Democratic South has been the solid Republican South ever since. There are very few, if any, Nelson Rockefellers or Jacob Javitses in today’s Republican Party. Before Sean Hannity takes too deep a bow for the GOP’s enlightened past, he might want to ask about the present.

Progressive Democrats might want to take a pause before dislocating their shoulders while patting themselves on the back for their enlightenment on race matters. The left has long accommodated and encouraged professional race-baiters, demagogues and blatant anti-Semites in order to win elections. It’s not just the right that sends out dog whistles to the fringes of their base.

How politicians view race and how they vote matters greatly, because they have the power to pass laws that take our property away, take our rights away and put us in prison. This is why it matters if the Confederate stars and bars fly over courthouses, state capitols and police precincts. This is why we care when they appear in blackface. Entertainers and celebrities have their own power, the power to influence, no small thing. Jimmy Kimmel, Jimmy Fallon, Billy Crystal, Robert Downey Jr., Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, George M. Cohan, Eddie Cantor and even Charlie McCarthy (Edgar Bergen’s dummy) appeared on stage or in films or on TV in blackface. But that’s art, right? Who’s to judge? For years, the n-word has been an entertainment career killer, unless you rap, in which case you could win a Grammy. Ultimately, the audience makes that call, just as voters ultimately judge politicians.

At the turn of the 20th century, the great vaudevillian Bert Williams painted his face black — and he was black. Nearly forgotten today, 100 years ago Williams was an entertainment superstar, described by W.C. Fields as “the funniest man I ever saw, and the saddest,” his sadness the result of cruelties imposed on him because of the color of his skin.

This is what makes blackface and anything touching on race so treacherous. One man’s funny is another man’s offensive. One man’s homage is another man’s denigration. One culture’s traditions are another culture’s oppression. To navigate this historic minefield requires context, subtlety, nuance and a desire to be kind, all qualities rarely seen in public life today.

Doug McIntyre’s column appears Sundays. He can be reached at: Doug@DougMcIntyre.com.

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Reducing gun violence, charter school accountability, top voter concerns in education, poll says

By Laura Fay | LA School Report

School safety and college affordability are the most pressing issues in education, California voters said in a ew poll.

The top priority overall was reducing gun violence in schools, with more than half of respondents saying it was “very important.” But voters with children as well as those ages 18-49 and those earning less than $35,000 a year rated college affordability as more important. The annual poll, conducted since 2012, was led by researchers at the University of Southern California Rossier School of Education and the independent research group Policy Analysis for California Education.

“This poll sends an unmistakable message from voters to policymakers: Do something about gun violence,” Karen Symms Gallagher, USC Rossier’s dean, said in a statement. “We have the means and the expertise to prevent future tragedies, including through the improvement of social and emotional health. This is some of the most important work that policymakers can do, if they can put in the time and energy the public wants them to.”

1. Overall, reducing gun violence in schools is the key issue for the most Californians.Although the chances of a student being shot at school are extremely small, 56 percent of people polled rated reducing gun violence at schools as a 10 on a 10-point scale, meaning “very important.” The next most important item was college affordability, which 45 percent rated a 10. (The survey asked voters to rate each issue by importance, not rank them.)

Since last February’s shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, school violence and how to prevent it have dominated headlines. Some observers have said the emotional pull of such events causes them to play an outsized role in policymaking.

Respondents overwhelmingly support increasing public mental health options, having more active shooter drills in schools and installing metal detectors in schools.

Generally, voters oppose arming teachers, with 63 percent saying they somewhat oppose or strongly oppose the idea, though opinion was split on party lines — 55 percent of Republicans and just 19 percent of Democrats support the idea. Democrats were more likely to support banning and confiscating assault rifles or other high-capacity firearms (81 percent vs. 50 percent of Republicans).

2. With strikes looming large, most Californians support teachers’ right to strike.The poll was conducted Jan. 3-9, a few days before Los Angeles teachers launched a 6-day walkout. A majority (64 percent) of Californians polled said they support teachers’ right to strike, while 24 percent said they opposed it. Support was slightly higher (67 percent) when the question included the idea that teachers strike “to demand better compensation and benefits.”

Teachers in Oakland, California, voted this week to authorize a strike if their union does not reach an agreement with the district soon. Oakland teachers have been working without a contract since 2017, and pay is a central part of the negotiation.

3. Voters are more concerned about holding charter schools accountable than expanding them.The survey asked about expanding charter schools in two different ways, asking some voters about the importance of “Expanding school choice through public charter schools” and others about “Increasing the number of public charter schools.” Regardless of the wording of the question, respondents rated it as the least important priority.

Moreover, holding public charter schools accountable was sixth on the list of priorities, ahead of improving school discipline, increasing early education access and improving services for English language learners.

The findings come as state leaders vow to take a closer look at charters. Earlier this week Gov. Gavin Newsom asked state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond to convene a panel of experts to evaluate the effects of charter schools in the state, in response to demands from United Teachers Los Angeles during negotiations to end the strike in the state’s largest district.

4. A majority support changing the property tax law to benefit schools and local government.Overall, 55 percent of respondents said they support a change in the state’s property taxlaw that would reassess business property values every year in order to increase tax revenue to support local government and schools. The proposal could be on the ballot in 2020.

The increase in revenue from that change could be especially beneficial to Los Angeles Unified, which is searching for sustainable funding sources after approving an $840 million contract with its teachers union. The district already faces skyrocketing long-term debt.

5. Voters are divided on the new governor’s pre-K agenda.Gov. Gavin Newsom has said he will prioritize early education for California children. When asked about Newsom’s “cradle-to-college” priorities, just 10 percent of voters said expanding preschool programs for children ages 3 to 5 was their top priority, and 12 percent said providing prenatal care and programs for children 0 to 3 was most important. On the other hand, 31 percent said their top priority was improving K-12 education and 25 percent said keeping higher education affordable was most important.

Voters were more inclined to say they support universal preschool in the state (48 percent) than targeted programs that would benefit only children from “families who are struggling” (37 percent).

The poll included 2,000 California voters in a survey conducted online from Jan. 3-9, led by researchers at the University of Southern California Rossier School of Education (Julie A. Marsh and Morgan Polikoff) and Policy Analysis for California Education (Heather J. Hough and David Plank), and was conducted by Tulchin Research.

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Police seek help in locating missing infant last seen in Culver City

CULVER CITY — Police searched Friday for a missing 6-month-old boy whose incarcerated parents’ last known address was a family shelter in Culver City.

The Los Angeles County Department of Child and Family Services reported Jacsun Manson missing on Jan. 25, according to Culver City police Lt. Troy Dunlap.

“Jacsun’s parents were recently arrested by the Los Angeles Police Department,” he said. “At the time of their arrest, the parents were not with Jacsun.”

According to witnesses, the infant was last seen on Dec. 31 with his parents, prior to when they were taken into custody, Dunlap said.


Jacsun’s parents Adam Manson and Kiana Williams were arrested Jan. 3, 2019, after being found in a stolen car. The infant was last seen with the parents on Dec. 31, 2018. (Images courtesy of the Culver City Police Department)

The parents — identified as Adam Manson and Kiana Williams — were arrested Jan. 3 after being found in a stolen car and are jailed in Los Angeles County, he said.

Manson was released from custody because he used an alias — he has variously gone by the last names of Owens and Jackson — but was rearrested on Feb. 2, after investigators learned his true identity, Dunlap said.

Investigators have questioned the pair — who are both being held without bail — but have not been able to confirm information they’ve given to detectives trying to locate their son, Dunlap said.

“Essentially they have not been cooperative,” Dunlap said, adding that the couple was remanded to custody by judge in family court because they wouldn’t divulge Jacsun’s location.

“There’s several stories, several incidents where they say Jacsun was, where he should have been, and none of those have worked out for us,” Dunlap told ABC7.

Investigators suspect that the parents previously stole a different car that has not been recovered, the lieutenant said. The blue 2006 Chrysler PT Cruiser was missing a bumper and has likely had its license plates removed, he said.

“The family was seen in this vehicle, and are known to frequent (the area) of Slauson Avenue and Crenshaw Boulevard” in the Hyde Park section of South Los Angeles, Dunlap said.

Anyone with information regarding the child’s whereabouts was urged to call (310) 253-6318 to speak with Culver City police Detective Raya.

After hours, calls should be directed to the watch commander at (310) 253-6202.

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Flames from San Francisco gas explosion damage 5 buildings

By JANIE HAR

SAN FRANCISCO  — A gas explosion in San Francisco shot a tower of flames into the sky and burned five buildings including one of the city’s popular restaurants before firefighters brought the blaze under control. There were no injuries.

Wednesday’s explosion and fire sent panicked residents and workers in the city’s Inner Richmond neighborhood fleeing into the streets as flames shot above the rooftops of nearby three-story buildings.

“We just felt the shaking, and the next thing we knew, people were banging on the door to tell people it’s time to start evacuating,” said resident Nick Jalali, 28, who was cooking at home when the electricity cut out.

Utility crews put out the fire about three hours after private construction workers cut a natural gas line, which ignited the fire, San Francisco Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White said. Authorities initially said five workers were missing, but the entire construction crew was found safe, and no other injuries were reported.

Hayes-White said the construction crew was apparently working on fiber-optic wires.

Five buildings were damaged, including a building housing Hong Kong Lounge II, a reservations-required dim sum restaurant that is a fixture on the city’s “best of” lists. The fire began on the street in front of the restaurant.

Officials evacuated several nearby buildings, including a medical clinic and apartments, Hayes-White said. Vehicles on a busy street were rerouted as authorities cordoned off the bustling neighborhood.

Caroline Gasparini, 24, who lives kitty-corner from where the fire was, said she and her housemate were in their living room when the windows started rattling. She looked up to see flames reflected in the glass.

“We went into crisis mode,” Gasparini said. “We grabbed our shoes, grabbed our laptops and grabbed our passports and just left.”

Gasparini said they saw employees of the burning restaurant run out the back door and people fleeing down the block.

Firefighters worked to keep the fire from spreading while Pacific Gas & Electric crews tried to shut off the natural gas line.

“It’s complicated,” Hayes-White said of stopping the flow of gas through the damaged pipe. Though she later acknowledged that “as a fire chief and a resident, yes, I would have liked to see it mitigated.”

PG&E spokeswoman Melissa Subbotin said state excavation rules required crews to hand dig around multiple subsurface pipelines of various sizes before they were eventually able to “squeeze” a four-inch plastic line.

She said since the fire was contained to a limited area, the utility had to weigh the threat from the fire with the risk that would come from more drastic action.

“Had we turned the gas off to a transmission system, we would have shut off gas to nearly the entire city of San Francisco,” she said. “The objective of this was to turn the gas off safely and as quickly as possible.”

Subbotin said PG&E would shut off a transmission line in an earthquake.

PG&E spokesman Paul Doherty stressed that the workers who cut the gas line are not affiliated with the utility, which is under heightened scrutiny over its natural gas pipelines. A PG&E pipeline exploded under a neighborhood south of San Francisco in 2010, killing eight people and wiping out a neighborhood in suburban San Bruno.

A U.S. judge PG&E $3 million for a conviction on six felony charges of failing to properly maintain the pipeline and the utility remains under a federal judge’s watch in that case.

Associated Press writers Paul Elias, Olga R. Rodriguez and Juliet Williams in San Francisco contributed to this report.

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Bargain Hunter: New year, new savings at Hollywood & Highland

Hollywood & Highland in Los Angeles has updated its VIP Access program, which offers deals, discounts and complimentary items at 25 of its shops, restaurants and entertainment venues, through Dec. 31. For example, with the card you may receive $20 off of a $100 purchase at Guess, free tiramisu with a dinner purchase at Trastevere Ristorante Italiano and free bowling and shoe rental with a $10 food or drink purchase at Lucky Strike Live. Pick up the card for free at the L.A. Visitors Center, 6801 Hollywood Blvd., Level 2. For more information, go to http://hollywoodandhighland.com/vip-access-card.

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Trump to meet North Korean leader Feb. 27-28 in Vietnam

By DEB RIECHMANN

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump will hold a two-day summit with North Korea leader Kim Jong Un Feb. 27-28 in Vietnam to continue his efforts to persuade Kim to give up his nuclear weapons.

Trump has said his outreach to Kim and their first meeting last June in Singapore opened a path to peace. But there is not yet a concrete plan for how denuclearization could be implemented.

Denuclearizing North Korea is something that has eluded the U.S. for more than two decades, since it was first learned that North Korea was close to acquiring the means for nuclear weapons.

“As part of a bold new diplomacy, we continue our historic push for peace on the Korean Peninsula,” Trump said Tuesday in his State of the Union address.

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told Congress last week that U.S. intelligence officials do not believe Kim will eliminate his nuclear weapons or the capacity to build more because he believes they are key to the survival of the regime. Satellite video taken since the June summit has indicated North Korea is continuing to produce nuclear materials at its weapons factories.

Last year, North Korea released American detainees, suspended nuclear and long-range missile tests and dismantled a nuclear test site and parts of a rocket launch facility without the presence of outside experts.

It has repeatedly demanded that the United States reciprocate with measures such as sanctions relief, but Washington has called for North Korea to take steps such as providing a detailed account of its nuclear and missile facilities that would be inspected and dismantled under a potential deal.

At the second Trump-Kim summit, some experts say North Korea is likely to seek to trade the destruction of its main Yongbyon nuclear complex for a U.S. promise to formally declare the end of the 1950-53 Korean War, open a liaison office in Pyongyang and allow the North to resume some lucrative economic projects with South Korea.

“Our hostages have come home, nuclear testing has stopped, and there has not been a missile launch in more than 15 months,” Trump said. “If I had not been elected president of the United States, we would right now, in my opinion, be in a major war with North Korea.

“Much work remains to be done, but my relationship with Kim Jong Un is a good one,” he said in announcing their second meeting.

Trump also asserted that, “If I had not been elected president of the United States, we would right now, in my opinion, be in a major war with North Korea.”

“That was real eye-roller,” Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer told CNN Wednesday. He criticized Trump’s foreign policy as engaged in “patting dictators on the back.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Fox Business News the U.S. is “very hopeful” Kim “will fulfill his commitment, the one that he made back in June in Singapore, to denuclearize his country.”

Stephen Biegun, Pompeo’s special representative for North Korea, acknowledged that many issues make it especially complicated for the two countries to “embark on a diplomatic initiative of this magnitude.” Biegun was in Pyongyang on Tuesday.

The Vietnamese city where the two leaders will meet was not announced. The country, however, is keen to project itself on the world stage. It is a single-party communist state that boasts of tight political control and a tough security apparatus similar to Singapore’s.

Where Singapore leans West, generally appreciative of U.S. influence in Asia, Vietnam leans East. Even with its edgy relationship with China, it has a long fraternal history with Asia’s communist states. This is friendly ground for Kim and closer than Singapore.

On a related issue, the State Department said this week that the U.S. and South Korea have reached a tentative agreement on sharing the costs of keeping 28,500 American troops in South Korea, but no final deal has been signed to replace the existing agreement, which expired at the end of 2018. South Korea pays more than $800 million a year, but Trump has demanded that Seoul pay 50 percent more.

News that a tentative agreement has been reached offers relief to those who worried Trump would use the lack of a deal as a reason to pull U.S. troops out of South Korea as part of negotiations with Kim. North Korea has claimed that the presence of American troops in the South is proof that the U.S. has hostile intentions in the region.

Trump said after his first meeting with Kim in June that while he’d like to bring troops home, “that’s not part of the equation right now.”

Associated Press writer Grant Peck in Bangkok contributed to this report.

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Paris building fire claims 10 lives; arson suspected

By THOMAS ADAMSON and ANGELA CHARLTON

PARIS — Paris’ deadliest fire in over a decade claimed 10 lives Tuesday, sending fleeing residents to the roof as flames engulfed their apartment building before dawn.

A 40-year-old female resident of the building, said to have a history of psychiatric problems, was arrested as police opened an investigation into voluntary arson resulting in death. French officials said she was drunk when she was apprehended on the street near the eight-story building in the quiet neighborhood.

It is the deadliest fire in Paris since the April 2005 hotel fire near the capital’s famed Opera that killed 24 people.

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner was on the scene Tuesday morning, as plumes of smoke speckled the sky.

“I want to salute the huge mobilization of the Paris firefighters,” he said. “More than 250 people arrived immediately and, throughout the night, saved over 50 people in truly exceptional conditions.”

Firefighters rescued some people from the roof as well as others who had clambered out of windows to escape the flames.

Castaner said the blaze that started on the second floor had been extinguished, and that more than 30 people were being treated for “relatively” light injuries.

“I heard a woman screaming in the street, crying and screaming for help,” said witness Jacqueline Ravier, who lives across the street. She saw a young man blackened by smoke and a woman motionless on the ground. She said flames were shooting out for hours from the top of the building and smoke-covered victims were fleeing.

She said shaken residents were brought to her building and the one next door while firefighters continued to fight the flames.

City fire service spokesman Clement Cognon told The Associated Press that firefighters went door-to-door to ensure there are no more victims and to prevent residual fires.

“The situation was already dramatic when the firefighters arrived,” Cognon said.

Emergency workers are also seeking to shore up the building that was badly damaged after flames shot out of windows stretching across the upper floors, in images of the operation released by the fire service.

Castaner told reporters at the scene that authorities suspect the blaze was criminal in nature and that the detained female resident had “a history of psychiatric problems.”

A judicial official, who spoke on condition of anonymity as an investigation was ongoing, told AP that the suspect was drunk at the moment of her pre-dawn arrest. She is currently in police custody.

Among the injured were at least eight firefighters, according to the Paris firefighters.

The building is on rue Erlanger in the 16th arrondissement, one of the calmest and priciest districts of Paris. It is close to the popular Bois de Boulogne park and about a kilometer (less than a mile) from the Roland Garros stadium that hosts the French Open tennis tournament and near the Parc des Princes stadium that’s home to Paris Saint-Germain, the country’s top soccer team.

Paris police said the street was blocked off and neighboring buildings were also evacuated as the firefighters worked to put out the blaze.

French President Emmanuel Macron took to Twitter to express that “France wakes up with emotion after the fire in rue Erlanger in Paris last night.”

The fire comes a month after a deadly explosion and blaze linked to a gas leak in a Paris bakery.

In September 2015, there was a fire in a northern Parisian neighborhood that left eight dead.

Nicolas Garriga and Lori Hinnant in Paris contributed.

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