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News
WKU students protest after sorority video with racial slur surfaces
 Emily Zantow  / 
 10.09.19

On the way to a philanthropy event Tuesday, sorority sisters and fraternity brothers from Western Kentucky University were met with protesters demanding removal of Alpha Xi Delta from campus over a video showing members using a racial slur.

The six-second video posted to Twitter on Aug. 30 shows some Alpha Xi Delta (AXiD) members using the N-word three times while singing part of the song “My Type” by Saweetie.

WKU spokesman Bob Skipper told the Daily News the university discovered the video the day it was posted but took “some time” to ensure the students were from WKU.

Once confirmed, sorority leadership and the chapter president met with WKU student activities staff to discuss “how the video could be considered offensive.”

He said WKU decided not to take any action because “there was no malice in the sorority’s action. They were (singing) lyrics to a song at a party, not directing insults toward anyone. This was considered an opportunity to teach and any discipline was left up to the sorority’s national organization.”

Student Government Association member Symone Taqwa Whalin said she and others decided to form a protest at the Kappa Delta Chapter “Shenanigans” fundraising event because they did not agree with how the incident was handled.

“(WKU) chose to use it as a ‘learning opportunity,’ ” Whalin said. “But we’re 18, 20, 21 years old, we had enough time to learn. If you keep pushing it back as a learning opportunity, it keeps breeding racism. … You know the implications of that word by now, even if it’s in a song.”

The video was originally posted to Snapchat by an AXiD member, but another person screen-recorded and posted it to Twitter, according to Whalin.

As of Wednesday, the video has more than 43,000 views, 700 likes and 300 retweets.

“Initially it wouldn’t have been that big of a deal if they got punished and (AXiD) were like, ‘we’re sorry for our actions,’ ” Whalin said. “(But) if WKU wants to actually show that they care about minority students, they will stop letting continuous instances of racism happen.”

She noted that four members of Delta Zeta at the University of Miami were kicked out of the sorority last year after a video uploaded to social media showed them saying the N-word while singing the song “Freaky Friday” by Chris Brown and Lil Dicky.

As the sun went down Tuesday outside the Southern Kentucky Performing Arts Center, protesters held signs that read “N-word is not your word“ and “Bob Skipper Act!” while yelling chants including “AZD seems racist to me.”

Members of the Greek community were advised not to engage with the protesters, according to Whalin, but some others passing by laughed and cursed at them.

Whalin said she also recently learned WKU did not take action over another video posted to Snapchat 10 days before the first video showing an individual member of Chi Omega using a racial slur while singing the song “Act Up” by City Girls.

Skipper confirmed WKU discovered that video the day it was posted and again found it was not made with “malice” and left any disciplinary action up to the national organization. But this time student activities staff talked about the potential offensive nature of the video with the sorority chapter president and members, not leadership.

He said both videos were cases “in which students were singing the lyrics to a song without considering how the lyrics could be considered offensive” and he’s unaware of any similar occurrences in the past.

Both national organizations for AXiD and Chi Omega did not immediately respond to phone and email requests for comment Wednesday.

Whalin said Kappa Delta members who organized the philanthropy event invited her to teach a workshop about why she protested and how the videos are a problem.


News
UAW leader: GM 'flirting with losing customers'
 Don Sergent  / 
 10.08.19

It was akin to a celebration Monday as United Auto Workers Local 2164 members manned the picket line along Interstate Drive near the General Motors Corvette Assembly Plant.

A portable sound system blared rock music and striker Denise Hogan waved a huge American flag while carrying a “UAW on Strike” sign alongside more than a dozen of her fellow workers as passing motorists honked their support.

The erstwhile assembly line workers showed little ill effects from the hardships of subsisting on $250-a-week strike pay and the uncertainties of negotiations continuing in Detroit as the UAW’s walkout against GM entered its fourth week.

The mood was in contrast to the news that negotiators had hit another impasse in their fight over treatment of temporary workers, health care and the status of plants GM has shut down.

But it was in tune with the thoughts of Jason Watson, Local 2164’s bargaining chairman.

The support from a Bowling Green community that has dropped off water and food at the picket lines and at the Local 2164 headquarters on Plum Springs Loop is evidence for Watson that the 900 local hourly workers and nearly 50,000 nationwide are making progress in their fight.

“The Bowling Green community has let us know they support us by stopping by and bringing stuff,” Watson said.

He said UAW Local 2164 has also been receiving support and donations from other unions across multiple states.

“It’s very humbling,” he said.

It’s very encouraging as the UAW tries to win bargaining points, he said.

“Consumers are the bread and butter of what we do,” Watson said. “GM is flirting with losing its customer base (by extending the negotiations).”

As car dealers see their inventories diminish and parts suppliers and other companies associated with the auto industry start to feel the pinch from a lengthy strike, Watson said GM will feel pressure to come to terms with the union.

“I think there is going to be a lot of outside pressure on the company from dealerships and others to get the deal done,” he said. “There are people out there who need parts and aren’t getting them right now.”

Pressure on car dealers hasn’t hit high gear yet, but one local GM dealer expects it to come.

“Obviously, with plants shut down there’s going to be a ripple effect,” said David Jaggers, general manager of Leachman Buick-GMC-Cadillac in Bowling Green. “It’s going to have an effect the longer it goes on.”

Jaggers said he has seen an impact on his dealership’s supply of auto parts, and he said vehicle inventories could soon dwindle.

“If they went back to work in the next week or two, the public probably wouldn’t notice much,” Jaggers said. “But if they stay out a couple more months you’ll probably see lower inventory levels at GM stores.”

For that reason alone, Jaggers hopes to see the two sides reach an agreement. “We support the UAW and their efforts to get a new contract,” he said.

Watson said pressure could build from Corvette aficionados as the rollout of the much-hyped eighth-generation Corvette with the mid-engine design is delayed.

“Dealerships have taken deposits on the mid-engine product,” Watson said. “We want to get back to work so we can make the product.”

A spokeswoman for the Corvette plant downplayed any impact on production of the sports car due to the strike.

“What we can say right now is the 2020 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray production begins in late 2019 and convertible production follows in late first quarter of 2020,” Rachel Bagshaw, communications manager for the Corvette plant, said in an email. “It’s too early to speculate on potential production timing impacts on any of our vehicles due to the UAW work stoppage.”

Watson isn’t as optimistic.

“We were still making the C7 (seventh-generation Corvette) when the strike happened,” he said. “We still have orders to fill for the C7. We can’t start making the new one until we finish those orders.”

Watson said he’s disappointed in what he called a “regressed” offer from GM that took away some concessions that had been made. A sticking point continues to be the union’s demand for a better path to full-time employment for temporary workers like the flag-waving Hogan.

She admitted to being frustrated over being stuck in a temporary status that carries lower pay and few of the benefits enjoyed by full-timers.

After losing a job she had held for 18 years, Hogan said: “I was lucky enough to start at GM. But I didn’t think I’d be temporary for three years.”

The widespread use of temporary workers like Hogan came about because of concessions the UAW made in a 2011 contract with GM, which was trying to recover from bankruptcy at the time.

Another temporary worker on the picket line, Frank Lee, said the use of temps and other concessions made in that 2011 contract are no longer needed.

“We gave up a lot in 2011,” Lee said. “It’s time to get some of that back. I’m confident we’ll prevail because it’s just right.”


News
Logan man faces life sentence after conviction in home invasion trial
 Justin Story  / 
 10.09.19

RUSSELLVILLE – A Logan County man found guilty last week of several charges stemming from a 2017 home invasion may receive a life sentence when he returns to court next week.

Stacey Joe Carter, 50, of Russellville, was convicted by a jury on all counts of an indictment charging him with first-degree burglary, first-degree robbery, convicted felon in possession of a handgun, tampering with physical evidence and third-degree criminal mischief.

The jury also convicted Carter of being a first-degree persistent felony offender, thereby enhancing the possible penalty, and recommended a life sentence, court records said.

Carter was accused of kicking open the back door of the Russellville home of Shelva Walker on July 1, 2017, holding her at gunpoint, forcing her to remove the jewelry she was wearing and stealing additional jewelry from the home.

An affidavit sworn by Russellville Police Department then-Detective Sgt. Mary Lynn Smith said Walker drove to the police department immediately after the incident to make a report.

Though the intruder wore a bandanna covering most of his face, Walker was certain Carter was the person who broke into her home.

“Walker advised Mr. Carter worked for her mowing her yard, he had borrowed money from her on numerous occasions and even borrowed her car,” Smith said in the affidavit supporting the arrest warrant, noting that Walker recognized Carter by his voice and facial features. “Walker advised that she was very familiar with Mr. Carter and knew it was him.”

The stolen items included a 3-carat diamond ring, a wedding band and three gold bracelets.

Walker, Smith, other police officers and three people connected to the robbery through Carter testified during the two-day trial in Logan Circuit Court.

“Detective Mary Lynn Smith, along with her fellow officers at RPD, put together a flawless case for my office to present to the jury,” Logan County Commonwealth’s Attorney Neil Kerr said in an emailed statement. “When you have a brave victim like Ms. Walker, and solid police work, it makes our job as prosecutors relatively simple.”

Before deliberating on a sentence, jurors heard evidence of Carter’s prior convictions for theft and burglary dating back to 1989 in Logan and Todd counties, along with multiple parole violations.

Carter will return to court Oct. 17 to be sentenced by Acting 7th Circuit Judge Jill Clark.

He has three pending cases in Logan County charging him with 17 counts of second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument, 17 counts of second-degree forgery and 14 counts of theft by deception (less than $500).


AP
White House spurns House impeachment probe as illegitimate
 
 10.09.19

WASHINGTON – The White House declared it will halt any and all cooperation with what it termed the “illegitimate” impeachment probe by House Democrats, sharpening the constitutional clash between President Donald Trump and Congress.

Trump attorneys on Tuesday sent a lengthy letter to House leaders bluntly stating White House refusal to participate in the inquiry that was given a boost by last week’s release of a whistleblower’s complaint that the president sought political favors from Ukraine.

“Given that your inquiry lacks any legitimate constitutional foundation, any pretense of fairness, or even the most elementary due process protections, the Executive Branch cannot be expected to participate in it,” White House counsel Pat Cipollone wrote.

That means no additional witnesses under administration purview will be permitted to appear in front of Congress or comply with document requests, a senior official said.

The White House is objecting that the House has not voted to begin an impeachment investigation into Trump. It also claims that Trump’s due process rights are being violated.

House intelligence committee Chairman Adam Schiff tweeted in response that Trump’s refusal to cooperate with the inquiry signals an attitude that “the president is above the law.”

“The Constitution says otherwise,” he asserted.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has insisted the House is well within its rules to conduct oversight of the executive branch under the Constitution regardless of a formal impeachment inquiry vote.

“Mr. President, you are not above the law,” Pelosi said in a statement Tuesday night. “You will be held accountable.”

The Constitution states the House has the sole power of impeachment, and that the Senate has the sole power to conduct impeachment trials. It specifies that a president can be removed from office for “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors,” if supported by a two-thirds Senate vote. But it offers little guidance beyond that on proceedings.

The White House letter marks the beginning of a new all-out strategy to counter the impeachment threat to Trump. Aides have been honing their approach after two weeks of what allies have described as a listless and unfocused response to the probe.

The president himself is sticking with the same Trump-as-victim rhetoric he has used for more than a year.

“People understand that it’s a fraud. It’s a scam. It’s a witch hunt,” he said Monday. “I think it makes it harder to do my job. But I do my job, and I do it better than anybody has done it for the first two and half years.”

Early Tuesday, Trump escalated his fight with Congress by blocking Gordon Sondland, the U.S. European Union ambassador, from testifying behind closed doors about the president’s dealings with Ukraine.

Sondland’s attorney, Robert Luskin, said his client was “profoundly disappointed” that he wouldn’t be able to testify. And Schiff said Sondland’s no-show was “yet additional strong evidence” of obstruction of Congress by Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that will only strengthen a possible impeachment case.

The House followed up Tuesday afternoon with subpoenas for Sondland’s testimony and records.

Trump is also bulking up his legal team.

Former Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy is being brought on as outside counsel, according to an administration official. Gowdy, who did not seek reelection last year, led a congressional investigation of former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and the terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya.

The whistleblower’s complaint and text messages released by another envoy portray U.S. Ambassador Sondland as a potentially important witness in allegations that the Republican president sought to dig up dirt on Democratic rival Joe Biden in Ukraine and other countries in the name of foreign policy.

Pelosi said thwarting the witness testimony on Tuesday was an “abuse of power” in itself by the president.

The White House letter to Pelosi, Schiff and other House committee chairmen, though asserting a legal argument that Trump and other officials cannot cooperate, would not be likely to win respect in court, said Stephen Vladeck, a law professor at the University of Texas.

“This letter reads to me much more like a press release prepared by the press secretary than an analysis by the White House counsel,” he said.

The White House is claiming that Trump’s constitutional rights to cross-examine witnesses and review all evidence in impeachment proceedings extend even to House investigations, not just a potential Senate trial. It also is calling on Democrats to grant Republicans in the House subpoena power to seek evidence in the president’s defense.

Elsewhere in Washington, a federal judge heard arguments Tuesday in a separate case on whether the House has actually undertaken a formal impeachment inquiry despite not having taken a vote and whether the inquiry can be characterized, under the law, as a “judicial proceeding.”

That distinction matters because while grand jury testimony is ordinarily secret, one exception authorizes a judge to disclose it in connection with a judicial proceeding. House Democrats are seeking grand jury testimony from special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation as they conduct their impeachment inquiry.

“The House under the Constitution sets its own rules, and the House has sole power over impeachment,” Douglas Letter, a lawyer for the House Judiciary Committee, told the court.