NAACP warns African-Americans against travel on American Air

In this Oct. 17, 2017, photo, civil rights activist Tamika Mallory speaks at a news conference in New York. (AP)
Updated 26 October 2017
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NAACP warns African-Americans against travel on American Air

DALLAS: The NAACP is warning African-Americans that if they fly on American Airlines, they may face discrimination or even safety issues.
American’s CEO said Wednesday that he was disappointed by the announcement and that American wants to discuss the matter with the civil rights group.
The NAACP said that for several months it has watched a pattern of disturbing incidents reported by African-American passengers. Among them were separate cases in which an NAACP official and another civil rights activist were kicked off flights.
In an interview with The Associated Press, new NAACP President Derrick Johnson said they are not boycotting American Airlines, but the sheer number of events made them feel like they had to issue a warning.
“We’re not telling people not to fly on American,” he said. “We’re just saying to individuals that here is an advisory note. We have picked up a pattern of a certain behavior of this corporation and until further notice be on alert.”
American Airlines issued a statement saying that it serves customers of all backgrounds and itself has a diverse group of employees.
In a memo to employees, CEO Doug Parker said American endorses the NAACP’s mission statement against racial discrimination.
“We do not and will not tolerate discrimination of any kind,” Parker wrote. “We have reached out to the NAACP and are eager to meet with them to listen to their issues and concerns.”
The NAACP highlighted four recent incidents in which African-American passengers said they were treated in a discriminatory way.
One involved the head of the North Carolina NAACP, the Rev. William Barber, who sued American after the airline summoned a police officer to remove him from a flight last year.
Barber said he had asked a flight attendant to tell two white passengers behind him to quiet down, but she was dismissive. After one of the white men said loudly that he didn’t like “those people” and mocked him, Barber said he stood and turned to ask the man to stop talking about him.
Barber dropped his lawsuit against American in June.
An incident last week involved Tamika Mallory, an organizer of the Women’s March on Washington in January. Mallory had changed her seat at an airport kiosk, only to be told at the gate that the seat had been assigned to another customer.
Mallory said she was treated disrespectfully by the gate agent — another African-American woman — and was outraged when a white male pilot asked if she could control herself while on the flight.
After being told she was being kicked off the plane, Mallory called the pilot a racist in a profanity-laced exchange. She took a later flight home to New York on American, then held a press conference two days later and threatened to take legal action against the airline.
The NAACP called its warning a “travel advisory,” and it’s only the second time it has issued one. The first was against Missouri, which the organization announced in August after citing reports that African-Americans were more likely than whites to be stopped by law enforcement officers there, as well as other current and past racial issues in the state.
Derek Klaus, spokesman for Visit KC, Kansas City’s convention and visitors bureau, said the region has not seen any substantial meeting or convention cancelations as a result of the advisory. But he said in an email that Kansas City has been removed from consideration for at least four future meetings.
“Where we’re noticing an impact is in the prospecting for future business, though we maintain that Kansas City is welcoming and inclusive destination,” Klaus said.
The travel advisory is part of a new, more aggressive stance for the civil rights organization, which is in the midst of reimagining itself following the rise of groups like Black Lives Matter, which have been drawing the attention of young millennials. The group ousted its previous president, Cornell William Brooks, earlier this year and hired Johnson, the vice chair of NAACP’s board of directors, as its new president on Saturday.
While the strategy itself is new, the NAACP has employed full boycotts in the past, including most recently in North Carolina where the organization is currently urging religious conferences, athletic events and musicians to avoid the state as part of a national boycott protesting the state’s conservative policies including a law limiting LGBT protections.
This followed a 15-year economic boycott of South Carolina over the flying of the Confederate battle flag on Statehouse grounds. That boycott ended with the flag’s removal in 2015 after a white nationalist killed nine black churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina.
Johnson would not say whether his organization would issue more travel adviseries in the future.
“Our goal is to advise or warn people when we identify a pattern,” Johnson said. “It is not based on an individual incident. It is truly based on what the potential is when you have a state like Missouri that created public policy that we see as adverse to African-Americans or companies that create an atmosphere that could be adverse.”
The advisory against American comes on top of several complaints of racial discrimination lodged against airlines in recent years, particularly by Muslims, some of whom have said they were booted off flights just because other passengers felt uncomfortable around them.
Last year, a college student said he was kicked off a Southwest Airlines flight and subjected to additional questioning by security officers after another passenger overheard him speaking in Arabic before takeoff. Last month, an art instructor forcibly removed from another Southwest flight said she was targeted because she is Muslim; the airline said she had claimed a life-threatening allergy to two dogs that were on the plane, but it quickly apologized for the way the situation was handled.
Airline officials are uncomfortable discussing complaints of bias, even when they believe they are unfounded. American took its time before issuing a cautious, restrained response to the NAACP charge.
Bruce Rubin, a Miami public relations professional experienced in crisis reaction, praised American’s response, including the invitation to NAACP leadership to talk. He said it was wiser than being confrontational.
The goal is “to tamp down the story instead of feeding it,” Rubin said. “There aren’t very many options when the race card gets tossed at you.”
American, based in Fort Worth, Texas, is the world’s largest airline. The NAACP describes itself as the nation’s oldest and largest nonpartisan civil rights organization.


Ireland referendum could lift strict ban on abortion

A woman carries a placard as Ireland holds a referendum on liberalising abortion laws, in Dublin, Ireland, on Friday. (REUTERS)
Updated 26 May 2018
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Ireland referendum could lift strict ban on abortion

  • Exit polls says 68 percent of voters back change
  • The country's leaders support a "yes," an outcome that would repeal a 1983 constitutional amendment

DUBLIN: Ireland’s referendum Friday represented more than a vote on whether to end the country’s strict abortion ban. It was a battle for the very soul of a traditionally conservative Roman Catholic nation that has seen a wave of liberalization in recent years.
An Irish Times exit poll released Friday night projected a landslide victory for those who want to loosen abortion laws, but official results are not expected until Saturday afternoon.
The country’s leaders support a “yes,” an outcome that would repeal a 1983 constitutional amendment requiring authorities to treat a fetus and its mother as equals under the law. They called it a once-in-a-generation opportunity to liberalize some of Europe’s strictest abortion rules.
Voters went to the polls after a campaign that aroused deep emotions on both sides. For advocates of repeal, a “yes” vote would be a landmark in Irish women’s fight for equality and the right to control their own bodies. For opponents, it would be a betrayal of Ireland’s commitment to protect the unborn.
The vote also is a key indicator of Ireland’s trajectory, three years after the country voted to allow same-sex marriages and a year after its first openly gay prime minister took office.
The newspaper exit poll indicated overwhelming support for change. The survey by pollster Ipsos-MRBI says 68 percent of voters backed repeal of the ban and 32 percent opposed it. The pollster says it interviewed some 4,000 people and the survey had a margin of error of plus or minus 1.5 percentage points. The poll is only a prediction.
Theresa Sweeney, a repeal supporter, was one of the first to arrive at a church polling station in Dublin.
“I feel like I’ve waited all of my adult life to have a say on this,” she said.
Emma Leahy said her “yes” vote comes from her firm belief that everyone should be able to make their own choice when it comes to abortion.
“For Ireland, it’s hope for the future,” she said of the referendum. “Whether you agree or disagree, it shouldn’t be the government or anyone else making that decision.”
Vera Rooney voted against repeal.
“It is a hard decision but I just feel I don’t have the right to take life,” she said. “I think life is sacred and for that reason I had to vote no.”
The referendum will decide whether the eighth amendment of the constitution is repealed or stays in place.
The amendment requires authorities to equally protect the right to life of a mother and that of a fetus, from the moment of conception. That effectively bans all abortions in Ireland, except in cases when the woman’s life is at risk. Having an illegal abortion is punishable by up to 14 years in prison, and several thousand Irish women travel each year to get abortions in neighboring Britain.
If citizens vote in favor of repeal, new abortion laws will then be discussed in parliament. The government proposes that terminations be allowed during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Later abortions would be allowed in special cases.
Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, a doctor, voted in favor of repeal.
“Not taking anything for granted of course, but quietly confident,” he said, adding that the upside of a sunny day in Ireland is that people come out to vote.
Thousands of Irish people abroad traveled home to take part in the historic referendum, and supporters of repeal gathered at Dublin Airport to give arrivals an ecstatic welcome.
Some activists held a placard reading “Thank you for making the journey so other women don’t have to” — a reference to the way Irish women seeking abortions have had to leave the country to obtain them.
Tara Flynn, who 11 years ago flew to the Netherlands for an abortion, said she planned to vote “yes” to make sure future generations of women don’t endure what she did, with feelings of isolation and shame.
She said her vote would be one for solidarity and compassion, “a vote to say, I don’t send you away anymore.”
Campaigning was not allowed Friday, but Dublin was still filled with signs and banners urging citizens to vote “yes” or “no.” Many of the anti-abortion signs showed photographs of fetuses.
Voting has already taken place on Ireland’s remote islands so that paper ballots can be taken to the mainland and counted in time.
Letters to the editor published Friday in the Irish Independent newspaper contained several emotional arguments urging voters to reject the repeal movement.
“If we vote ‘yes’ every unborn, wanted and unwanted, will have zero rights,” wrote Frances Kelleher, from Killarney. “I do not believe the smart people of Ireland want this unrestricted, abortion-on-demand bill.”