• ‘Everyone in Pittsburgh Is Equally Revolted’
  • HuffPost Ends Its Write-for-Free Contributor Pages
  • Get ‘Out,’ Trump Tells CNN’s Acosta
  • ‘Un-Presidential,’ ‘Un-American,’ Reporters Say
  • Trump Falsely Claims Gains Among Blacks
  • Figures Manipulated Against Muslims, Report Says
  • El Salvador’s Mass Graves: S—holes Made-in-U.S.A.
  • No Discipline for Suburban Chicago Cops Who Shoot
  • Story of Serena’s Delivery Becomes Wake-Up Call
  • Short Takes
Image affixed to letter of protest from Pittsburgh foundations

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‘Everyone in Pittsburgh Is Equally Revolted’

An editorial in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette scolding those who have called President Trump’s remarks racist — ordered by the publisher — has prompted an extraordinary backlash from members of the publisher’s family, two of the biggest foundations in the city, the newspaper union and members of the newsroom.

The editorial, which also appeared in the Toledo Blade, is a silly mix of deflection and distortion that provides cover for racist rhetoric while masquerading as a defense of decency,” Grant Oliphant, president of The Heinz Endowments, and Maxwell King, president and CEO of the Pittsburgh Foundation, wrote in an op-ed published Thursday. “It is unworthy of a proud paper and an embarrassment to Pittsburgh. . . .”

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Members of the Block Family, which owns the Post-Gazette and the Toledo Blade, said in a letter published Thursday, “The editorial ‘Reason as Racism,’ published on Martin Luther King Day, printed without the Post-Gazette editorial board’s consensus, and attempting to justify blatant racism, is a violation” of the legacy of the late William Block Sr. “Since 1927, our family has been involved with the Post-Gazette, shaped primarily by the nearly six decades of William Block Sr.’s socially conscious leadership,” their letter, signed by 16 people, began.

Tony Norman

Tony Norman, an African American Post-Gazette columnist, said of the editorial by telephone, “Everyone in Pittsburgh is equally revolted and horrified by it. For me, it’s been horrifying and embarrassing because people will think I’m collectively contributing to it or sitting by passively.” Norman was a member of the editorial board until December 2016, but was still listed with it.

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The editorial in question, which ran Monday in the Post-Gazette, was written by a staff member at the Toledo Blade, which shares John Robinson Block as publisher.

It began, “Calling someone a racist is the new McCarthyism. The charge is pernicious. The accuser doesn’t need to prove it. It simply hangs over the accused like a great human stain.

“It has become not a descriptive term for a person who believes in the superiority of one race over another, but a term of malice and libel — almost beyond refutation, as the words ‘communist’ or ‘communist sympathizer’ were in the 1950s.

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“Moreover, the accuser somehow covers himself in an immunity of superiority. If I call you a racist, I probably will not be called one. And, finally, having chosen the ultimate epithet, I have dodged the obligation to converse or build.

John Robinson Block

“If Donald Trump is called a racist for saying some nations are ‘shithole countries,’ does that help pass a ‘Dreamers’ bill to keep gifted young people in this nation — people who have something to give the United States and are undocumented only because they were brought here by their parents illegally?

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“That’s the goal, is it not? To save the Dreamers? That’s what the White House meeting last week was about. It’s what the whole week was about, until we went down the ‘racist’ rabbit hole. . . .”

Also among those rejecting that logic was the Pittsburgh Black Media Federation. “The editorial helped to spread and condone the idea of racism. That is unfortunate because an independent, responsible press is charged with lifting every voice,” it said in a statement.

“Journalists with the Pittsburgh Black Media Federation have traveled to Haiti, African nations, and other parts of the African diaspora to find and report stories that take readers and viewers beyond the stereotype of who the people are in these countries.

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“It saddens us to know that the American president’s coarse language and thoughts contribute to the bias — and that the Post-Gazette editorial attempts to give cover to this racism. . . .”

In addition to those protests, “A letter was also sent to the P-G by several former employees who said the editorial did not represent the ‘Post-Gazette we knew,’ “ according to Charlie Deitch, writing Wednesday in the Pittsburgh City Paper. “In addition, current P-G writer and former CP editor Chris Potter . . . has removed his byline from his stories in protest. . . .”

The story was headlined, “In 2013, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette publisher John Robinson Block said people of color needed to pull themselves up ‘by their bootstraps,’ according to one of his own papers. . . .”

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Moreover, according to David Uberti, writing for splinternews.com, “The Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh, which represents about 150 employees in the Post-Gazette newsroom, begged to differ in a letter submitted to the editor. Reporter Julian Routh tweeted Wednesday night that Block had nixed the newsroom’s collective response, which called the editorial ‘a blight on the 231 years of service the Post-Gazette has provided its readers.’ . . . ”

Josh Axelrod, Mediafile: Pittsburgh Newspaper’s Pro-Trump Editorial Offends Everyone, Including Own Newsroom

Michael Calderone, Politico: Editorial backing Trump in ‘shithole’ controversy sparks outrage

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Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: In wake of Trump editorial, lieutenant governor candidate refuses to seek PG endorsement

Dan Simpson, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Presidential insults aren’t helpful

HuffPost Ends Its Write-for-Free Contributor Pages

HuffPost is replacing its contributor pages, Editor-in-Chief Lydia Polgreen wrote on Thursday, an innovation controversial when they began in 2005 and criticized as a way to receive content without having to pay their providers.

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Instead, “we are launching two new sections: Opinion and Personal,” Polgreen wrote.

“The new Opinion section will feature a mix of regular columnists and one-off guest writers, commissioned by our Opinion editors to produce smart, authentic, timely and rigorous op-eds. Our goal is to help our audience better understand the breakneck news cycle, and shed light on stories that aren’t getting enough attention. We will feature these columnists’ bylines prominently across the site, so that you will come to recognize a set of smart, reliable voices you can come back to again and again. . . .”

These writers will be paid, a spokeswoman said.

Of the former “contributor” pages, Polgreen wrote, “The platform, which launched in May 2005, was a revolutionary idea at the time: give a megaphone to lots of people — some famous, some completely unknown — to tell their stories. At that time, social networks barely existed. Facebook was a nascent dating site for college students. Twitter had not been invented. The platforms where so many people now share their views, like LinkedIn, Medium and others, were far in the future.

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“Looking back, it’s difficult to find a notable personality who hasn’t blogged on HuffPost at some point or another. Presidential candidate Barack Obama used HuffPost to address the controversy around his pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Jennifer Aniston broke the internet by taking on body-shamers. Even Oprah got in the mix.

“But the real achievement of the platform was giving a spotlight to a huge number of people who weren’t previously afforded one. . . .”

Founder Arianna Huffington, who left the site in 2016, responded to critics by saying that contributors had the option of not submitting to the site if they did not want to write for free, and that the lack of payment was not an issue for many.

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Get ‘Out,’ Trump Tells CNN’s Acosta


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‘Un-Presidential,’ ‘Un-American,’ Reporters Say

On just day two of his new assignment as Chief White House Correspondent, Jim Acosta was told to get ‘out’ by President Donald Trump, furthering the feud in the relationship between the reporter and the president,” CNN reported on Tuesday.

“ ‘Did you say that you wanted more people to come in from Norway?’ Acosta asked.

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“ ‘I want them to come in from everywhere. Everywhere,’ the president responded.

“ ‘Just Caucasian or white countries, sir? Or do you want people from other parts of the world? Where there are people of color,’ Acosta pushed.

“President Trump says, ‘out,’ pointing away.”

On a panel on press freedom under Trump at the Newseum on Wednesday, Acosta said of Trump’s showing him the door, “I consider that a badge of honor.”

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The panel, held in conjunction with the Committee to Protect Journalists, was assembled to discuss the state of press freedom in the United States. The panelists were Acosta, Melinda Henneberger, editorial writer and columnist, Kansas City Star; John Roberts, chief White House correspondent, Fox News Channel; and April Ryan, White House correspondent, American Urban Radio Networks. Gene Policinski, COO and newly named president of the Newseum Institute, moderated.

The journalists said they had never seen the news media so attacked as under Donald J. Trump, first as candidate, then as president. They called that dangerous for the republic; expressed alarm that the president’s attacks had made inroads with the general public; and warned that the First Amendment was under assault.

Too much of society no longer understands the role of journalists, seeing reporters as partisans with an “agenda” for one side or the other, they said.

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The Cuban-born Acosta recalled seeing T-shirts during Trump rallies advocating the lynching of journalists. “That is un-American,” Acosta said, raising the specter that, as in other countries, journalists could be killed for doing their jobs.

Jim Acosta

“The day we see that [a dead journalist] on the side of a road is the day that we have become something less than the United States of America,” the correspondent said. He and Ryan said they have received death threats.

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As if to further stir the pot, Trump released his long-promised “Fake News Awards,” honoring “the most corrupt & biased of the Mainstream Media,” as he phrased it on Twitter. The tweet came as the panel proceeded, prompting the journalists to check their smartphones as they spoke.

President Trump — who gleefully questioned President Barack Obama’s birthplace for years without evidence, long insisted on the guilt of the Central Park Five despite exonerating proof and claimed that millions of illegal ballots cost him the popular vote in 2016 — wanted to have a word with the American public about accuracy in reporting,” Matt Flegenheimer and Michael M. Grynbaum wrote for the New York Times.

“Why is he doing this now?” Ryan asked from the panel, noting the more pressing issues of a prospective nuclear confrontation with North Korea and negotiations to avert an imminent shutdown of the federal government.

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“It’s not a joke.” Ryan also said, “It’s ugly and it’s just going to the lowest levels of who we are as a society.”

Acosta, who had labeled the president’s treatment of reporters “unpresidential,” responded to the naming of CNN as one of the “Fake News Awards” winners.

Acosta recounted the deployment of CNN correspondents around the globe, often risking their lives in war zones, and declared, “It’s an insult to every journalist around the world to even be handing out Fake News Awards. . . .The President is the king of fake news,” Acosta said, citing Trump’s birther history, his labeling of Mexicans as rapists and criminals, his claim that millions of ballots were cast illegally in November 2016 and his declaration that the crowds at his inauguration were the largest ever.

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Acosta also asked when the White House had ever acknowledged a mistake, as media outlets have.

‘Mr. President, are you a racist?’ Trump dodges questions after ‘s—-hole’ comments from CNBC.

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Trump’s racial remarks provided sparks for some of the latest confrontations between the president and the Fourth Estate. On Friday, following up on Trump’s statement behind closed doors that Haiti, El Salvador and Africa were “shithole” places and that the United States should look to countries such as Norway for immigrants, Ryan asked the president if he was a racist.

Trump ignored the question, but Ryan said she had to endure blowback from a member of a contingent of black ministers and other African American leaders present for Trump’s signing of a proclamation hailing Jan. 15 as Martin Luther King Day.

“Here come the vultures,” someone said as the press entered the Roosevelt Room Another pointed a water bottle at Ryan disapprovingly.

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“I said, ‘This is about the First Amendment,’ “ Ryan said she told the man. While Trump has a right not to answer her question, she has an obligation to ask it. Ryan conceded, “It’s a sad day when you have to ask a sitting president, ‘Are you a racist?’ “

Acosta followed up on Ryan’s question Monday. After being ordered “out” by Trump, “We then went to the Roosevelt Room where WH aides obstructed us from asking questions,” Acosta tweeted.

This anti-press attitude filters down to Trump’s supporters, according to the panelists. Henneberger said she gets “a lot of vitriol, a lot of anger” in Middle America. “They want to tell me how I’m a threat to America. . . . They like the way listening to him makes them feel. They like the entertainment value, the spectacle. . . .”

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Part of the problem, she said, is “the public’s lack of understanding about what our role is.” Fox News labels Acosta a “leading Trump critic,” for example, rather than a reporter. Trump’s followers will only regret it were Trump to achieve his goal of weakening the press, Henneberger said. “There will be a golden age of corruption.”

Roberts, originally from Canada, said that in the United States, “politics has become a zero-sum game. I win because you lose. It’s the politics of polarization.” It is also contrary to the character of the United States that attracted him.

April Ryan

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Ryan called for more education in grade schools about the Constitution and the First Amendment.

Henneberger urged members of the public to support journalism by subscribing to their local newspapers in print or online.

Acosta said he wished news organizations would stand together when the rights of one are denied, as has been the case with Acosta at the White House.

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Two politicians spoke up on the free-press issue this week. Writing Tuesday in the Washington Post. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., warned, “The phrase ‘fake news’ — granted legitimacy by an American president — is being used by autocrats to silence reporters, undermine political opponents, stave off media scrutiny and mislead citizens. [The Committee to Protect Journalists] documented 21 cases in 2017 in which journalists were jailed on ‘fake news’ charges. . . . “

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), issued a long denunciation of President Donald Trump on the Senate floor Wednesday and defended the American free press,” as Jon Levine wrote for the Wrap.

“ ‘It is past time to stop excusing, or ignoring, or worse, endorsing these attacks on the truth,’ said Flake. ‘For if we compromise the truth for the sake of our politics, we are lost.’

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“ ‘Trump routinely attacks the media, who he has called the ‘enemy of the people.’ Flake also said that Trump was channeling Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin when he made such statements.

“ ‘Mr. President, it is a testament to the condition of our democracy that our own president uses words infamously spoken by Joseph Stalin to describe his enemies,’ Flake said. . . .”

Rekha Basu, Des Moines Register: It’s on all of us to call out racism, even if we’ve benefited from it in the past

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Ricardo Bilton, Nieman Lab: Americans say greater access to news sources is actually making it harder to stay informed

Jack A. Chambless, Orlando Sentinel: Why do we want people from Africa and Haiti? Good question

Editorial, Plain Dealer, Cleveland: Republicans need to take a stand against President Trump’s bigoted remarks

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Doug George-Kanentiio, indianz.com: Native people are no stranger to Trump’s ethnic slurs

Tim Giago, indianz.com: Indian Country in danger as long as Donald Trump remains in office

Renée Graham, Boston Globe: Racists don’t care about your resume

John Gurda, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: In Mother Africa, lessons for all her children (Jan.3)

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Melinda Henneberger, Kansas City Star: Trump’s s—-hole outburst makes me never want to talk s—- again

Zahara Hill, Ebony: Don Lemon Is Visibly Irked Explaining Racism to MLK’s Nephew on MLK Day

Indira A.R. Lakshmanan, Boston Globe: The rap sheet on Trump’s racism

Gyasi Ross, HuffPost: “Shithole Country” Comment or Not it’s Not Worth Debating: Native People Know Trump’s BEEN a Racist

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Albor Ruiz, Al Día, Philadelphia: Trump’s Sickening Coarseness and Racism

April Simpson, Current.org: Report: Most Americans don’t cite NPR, PBS as objective

Trump Falsely Claims Gains Among Blacks

Even as he is embroiled in an immigration policy debate that has focused on whether he used vulgar language to describe Haiti and African countries, President Trump is claiming that he is delivering for black Americans — and that they are repaying him with their support,” Linda Qiu reported Wednesday for the New York Times.

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“In a Twitter post on Tuesday morning, Mr. Trump said that ‘unemployment for Black Americans is the lowest ever recorded’ and ‘Trump approval ratings with black Americans has doubled.’ He appeared to credit the comments to a segment on ‘Fox & Friends,’ the morning program on Fox News.

“The tweet — half misleading and half downright false — demonstrates how inaccurate information can trickle to the president’s social media, which is then . . . viewed by millions of people on Twitter and Facebook.

“ ‘Believe it or not, through all this negative coverage, they did a survey of 600,000 people about how black America views this president. His numbers have actually doubled,’ Brian Kilmeade, a ‘Fox & Friends’ host, said during the segment that was broadcast Tuesday morning.

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“Mr. Kilmeade was almost certainly referring to a distorted finding from SurveyMonkey, an online polling company. Since Mr. Trump’s inauguration, the company has conducted 602,134 interviews with adults of every race group — not just ‘black America,’ as Mr. Kilmeade said.

“SurveyMonkey’s results, provided to The New York Times, show that Mr. Trump’s approval ratings among black Americans actually declined from 20 percent in February 2017, his first full month in office, to 15 percent in December. (This is consistent with polling from the Pew Research Center and Reuters.) . . .”

Figures Manipulated Against Muslims, Report Says

A new report from the departments of Justice and Homeland Security found that three of every four defendants convicted of international terrorism charges from September 11, 2001 to December 31, 2016 were born outside the United States,” Trevor Aaronson reported Tuesday for the Intercept. “President Donald Trump mandated the creation of the report as part of the same executive order that instituted the second iteration of the so-called Muslim ban.

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“The data in the report, released today, would appear to support Trump’s policies of limiting immigration from Muslim-majority nations out of national security concerns. However, the report appears to rely on a dataset that has been carefully selected to support the Trump administration’s anti-Muslim policies. . . .”

A protest against U.S. involvement in the Salvadoran Civil War in Chicago in March 1989 (Linda Hess Miller/Creative Commons Attribution 3.0)

El Salvador’s Mass Graves: S—holes Made-in-U.S.A.

My journalist’s hiking boots still have leftover feces and dirt from the ultimate shitholes of El Salvador: its mass graves,” Roberto Lovato, a writer and journalist based at the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto, wrote Friday for Latino Rebels.

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“Many of the thousands of graves that my sources there have mapped were dug by U.S.-trained and funded security forces in the 80s. Most of the rest were dug more recently by [L.A.-based] gangs steadily deported to El Salvador by U.S. immigration authorities since the 90s.

President Trump’s characterization of Africa, Haiti and El Salvador as ‘shitholes’ disturbed me, but I wasn’t sure why. The comments were made during a discussion about the temporary protected status for hundreds of thousands of Salvadoran, Haitian and other immigrants Trump had just rescinded.

“In search for an answer, I went home and pulled out and studied my boots, which were tattered after too many visits to mass graves, mass graves with the remains of Salvadorans — in El Salvador, in Mexico and in the deserts of south Texas. Wearing my hiking boots during visits to numerous sites along this chain of devalued life led me to the conclusion that mass graves were the ultimate shitholes.

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“What made me most uncomfortable was less about Mr. Trump’s choice of word than how he used it: he mistook the shithole part for the whole country. Trump’s rhetorical fallacy feels like a cover-up, a distraction from the fact that El Salvador’s mass graves contain fingerprints and other evidence that point to the United States as an accomplice to the mass murder and violence that created them. Viewed from this perspective, Trump’s ‘shithole’ comment said in words what all US presidents have said with their policies towards countries like Haiti and El Salvador. . . .”

No Discipline for Suburban Chicago Cops Who Shoot

Since 2005, there have been at least 113 police shootings in suburban Cook County,” Ill., according to “Taking Cover: How Cops Escape Discipline for Shootings in Suburban Chicago,” a joint project of the Better Government Association and WBEZ-FM released this month.

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“Not a single officer involved in those shootings was disciplined, fired or charged criminally, a year-long investigation by the Better Government Association and WBEZ found. What’s more, almost none of those shootings [was] even reviewed for misconduct.

“While Chicago has come under scrutiny for its controversial police shootings, a process is in place to examine them for policy violations. That doesn’t exist in Cook County suburbs, where police shot unarmed suspects, innocent bystanders and even each other. . . . “

Commenting on the series, the Chicago Sun-Times editorialized Tuesday, “The Illinois Legislature should require an independent review by an outside agency whenever there is a police-involved shooting in a suburb, an inquiry that goes beyond the question of whether the shooting was criminal. The state, perhaps acting through the Illinois Law Enforcement Training & Standards Board, also should draw up rules governing the use of force that would apply to police statewide.

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“In some instances when a police officer pulls out a gun, there might have been a way to defuse a situation instead. A police officer who feels threatened should know when to call for backup rather than get into a situation that seems to call for a gun.

“Even when using a gun is justified, police must be trained to know how to avoid injuring innocent bystanders. . . .”

Vogue’s February issue

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Story of Serena’s Delivery Becomes Wake-Up Call

Though she usually competes as a singles player on the court, tennis champion and Vogue cover star Serena Williams is a team player when it comes to the parenting world,” Julia Curley wrote Monday for NBC’s “Today” show.

“After revealing her post-delivery medical scare in Vogue’s February issue, Williams took to Facebook on Monday to share her concern about women’s healthcare and to thank fans for their inspiring response to her personal story.

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“ ‘I didn’t expect that sharing our family’s story of Olympia’s birth and all of (my) complications after giving birth would start such an outpouring of discussion from women — especially black women — who have faced similar complications and women whose problems go unaddressed,’ Williams captioned an adorably playful video of her 4-month-old daughter, Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr.

“Williams cited a Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report stating that black women are three to four times more likely to suffer a pregnancy-related death than white women.

“ ‘We have a lot of work to do as a nation and I hope my story can inspire a conversation that gets us to close this gap,’ Williams wrote. ‘Let me be clear: EVERY mother, regardless of race, or background deserves to have a healthy pregnancy and childbirth. I personally want all women of all colors to have the best experience they can have.’ . . .”

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Jamila Perritt, M.D., M.P.H., Glamour: Serena Williams’ Childbirth Experience Should Be a Wake-up Call About the Medical Treatment New Moms Are Getting—Especially Women of Color

Annie Waldman with Nermeen Shaikh and Amy Goodman, Democracy Now!: Serena Williams Reveals Near-Deadly Birth Experience, Underscoring Growing Risks for Black Mothers (video)

Short Takes

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In a rare occurrence, three black journalists were in the White House press pool Wednesday: Toluse Olorunnipa of Bloomberg News, left, Ayesha Rascoe of Reuters and Darlene Superville of the Associated Press.

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Shasha Dai

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Richard Prince’s Journal-isms originates from Washington. It began in print before most of us knew what the internet was, and it would like to be referred to as a “column.” Any views expressed in the column are those of the person or organization quoted and not those of any other entity.

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Journal-isms is originally published on journal-isms.com. Reprinted on The Root by permission.