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City of Houston Blames Race Not Job for Black Firefighter's Death, Denies Family Her Death Benefits

Houston, we have a problem. This family has suffered enough.

For 21 years, Margaret Roberts served her city as a firefighter. She put her life on the line almost daily and wanted to retire after fulfilling her duties.


Roberts was well-respected among family members and neighbors. According to loved ones, she was a "joy to be around." But she would never see retirement.

Her diagnosis of multiple myeloma, an aggressive cancer usually affiliated with firefighters and Sept. 11th victims, in 2013 forced her to leave and go to on disability. She later died from the disease in January 2017.

An investigative report by ABC 13 discovered that the city of Houston had failed to give her mourning family her death benefits. Apparently, the city did not believe her cancer was work-related; even after Houston Fire Department Chief Sam Pena wrote two letters to the Texas state pension system and The 100 Club so that her grieving family could get the benefits she deserved, the city still denied the claim. Pena stated in both letters that Roberts developed myeloma as a direct result of her time on the squad and he wrote, "Declared a Line of Duty Death."

Officials claimed Roberts' illness and subsequent death was because of her race, weight and family history.

"The city saw the opportunity to re-dispute the claim starting all over again," said Mike Sprain, the Roberts family attorney.

The Conversation (4)
Dawn20 Jul, 2018
Wait a minute. Race played no part in the deaths, no murders, of many unarmed Blacks by police; But race is the reason that this firefighter died? Whoa... Ironic.
John Hoade20 Jul, 2018
They know that too much time in the sun without sunscreen causes skin cancer. Fire Fighters spend a lot of time in the sun. The city needs to do the right thing!

Laquan McDonald Reduced to 'Second Class Citizen,' Says Family

The light sentence given to the officer who killed McDonald, "suggests to us that there are no laws on the books for a Black man that a white man is bound to honor," said his great-uncle.

Hours of testimony at Jason Van Dyke's sentencing on Friday ended in shock for one family, and relief and happiness for the other.

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Senator Holds Airlines Accountable When Servicing Customers With Disabilities

U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) is working to stop wheelchairs from getting damaged during air travel.

TWITTER

U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) is leading the charge for better airline management of customers' motorized wheelchairs. Duckworth has been confined to a wheelchair since her helicopter was shot down in Iraq and she lost both of her legs.

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California Defies Trump's Order NOT to Pay Furloughed Workers Unemployment

Over 55 percent of civil service employees in the state are people of color.

Screenshot from ABC 7

President Donald Trump signed legislation on Wednesday that said all furloughed workers would receive back pay once the government reopens. However, the Trump administration has ordered states not to provide unemployment coverage to federal workers who have been required to work without pay during the partial government shutdown.

California Governor Gavin Newsom said on Thursday the U.S. Department of Labor sent states a letter with that mandate, according to NPR. The Department of Labor said the roughly 420,000 federal employees who are "essential" cannot file for unemployment as they are "generally ineligible."

It also reported 10,454 initial claims by federal workers for the week that ended Jan. 5, doubling the previous week's figure. Thousands more have applied since, state officials said.

Newsom said the decision by the Department of Labor's decision was "jaw-dropping."

"So, the good news is, we're going to do it, and shame on them," he said.

"From a moral perspective, there is no debate on this issue and we will blow back aggressively on the Department of Labor."

The California Employment Development Department (EDD) reports unemployment claims for one week during the shutdown are up 600 percent from the same time last year. The state has over 245,000 federal employees.

Over 55 percent of civil service employees in the state are people of color, and they are over 35 percent of the country's federal workforce.

Newsom encouraged people to continue to apply while the state figured out how to get the money. He estimated benefits that would last up to 26 weeks and provided a few hundred extra dollars a month. He said he knows it doesn't fix everything, but hopefully it helps.

His message to Trump: "Let us states do the job you can't seem to do yourself."

Some state officials said they had asked utilities and other companies to extend mercy to federal employees, and the federal Office of Personnel Management published sample letters that furloughed employees could send to creditors to ask for patience.

Texas has received more than 2,900 claims from federal workers since the shutdown began on Dec. 22, while Ohio is approaching 700. Kansas reported 445 filings, and Alabama was closing in on 500. Montana said it had logged almost 1,500.

Trump tweeted on Friday that he would be making a "major announcement" on Saturday about the government shutdown.

A senior administration official told CNN that Trump plans to offer Democrats another proposal to end the shutdown.

Reader Question: How are people you know that are furloughed workers surviving?

Black Student in Kansas Sues School District for Racial Discrimination

The dance team's choreographer told Camille Sturdivant that her skin was "too dark" to perform because she "clashed" with uniforms.

Camille Sturdivant has filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against the Blue Valley School District for the abuse she was subjected to as a member of the high school dance team.

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Viral Video of Daycare Employee Mistreating a Black Child Spurs Investigation

A Black toddler was subjected to having her hair pulled and being pushed by the employee.

My Little Playhouse Learning Center

In a video that has now gone viral on Instagram and Facebook, a woman is shown pushing and pulling the hair of a toddler at a daycare center.

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Rep. Ocasio-Cortez Makes C-SPAN History With Speech on Government Shutdown

"This shutdown is about the erosion of American democracy and the subversion of our most basic governmental norms," said Ocasio-Cortez.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's (D-N.Y.) first speech on the floor of the House of Representatives broke a C-SPAN online viewing record for House speeches.

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