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Biden pledges to close US racial wage gap on anniversary of Tulsa massacre

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Washington Correspondent US president Joe Biden pledged to close the United States’ racial wealth gap as he visited the site of the Tulsa race massacre in Oklahoma yesterday.

In a visit to mark the 100-year anniversary of the events of June 1st, 1921, when hundreds of black residents were killed and businesses destroyed by a white mob, Mr Biden spoke in emotional terms about the massacre that left the Greenwood area of the city in ruins.

Outlining how Tulsa was once a thriving commercial district, he described the events of 100 years ago, when “hell was unleashed”. “One night changed everything,” he said, describing in detail how a white mob singled out black individuals and families for murder, and bodies were dumped in mass graves.

“Smoke darkened the Tulsa sky, rising from 35 blocks of Greenwood that were left in ash and ember, razed in rumble. In less than 24 hours, 1,100 black homes and businesses were lost. Insurance companies rejected claims of damage. Ten thousand people were left destitute and homeless, placed in internment camps.”

Viola Fletcher (centre left) and Hughes Van Ellis (centre right), survivors of the 1921 Tulsa race massacre, attend a soil collection ceremony to honour the remaining unknown victims of the massacre. Photograph: Joshua Rashaad McFadden/The New York Times
Viola Fletcher (centre left) and Hughes Van Ellis (centre right), survivors of the 1921 Tulsa race massacre, attend a soil collection ceremony to honour the remaining unknown victims of the massacre. Photograph: Joshua Rashaad McFadden/The New York Times

“My fellow Americans, this was not a riot, this was a massacre,” he said, a reference to the fact that the event was for a long time referred to as the Tulsa riots. “For too long, forgotten by our history. As soon as it happened there was a clear effort to erase it from our collective memory. For a long time schools in Tulsa didn’t even teach it, let alone schools elsewhere.”

But, he said: “Just because history was silent it did not mean it did not take place.”

“Some injustices are so heinous that they cannot be buried,” he said, noting that he was the first president in 100 years to visit the site. “We can’t just choose to learn what we want to know and not what we should know. We should know the good, the bad, everything. That’s what great nations do. They come to terms with their dark sides.”

Ahead of his address, Mr Biden toured the Greenwood cultural centre and met with three survivors of the massacre – Viola Fletcher, Hughes Van Ellis and Lessie Benningfield Randle, aged between 101 and 107.

Racial inequality

Mr Biden also outlined measures his administration would take to address the racial inequality that persists in the United States.

Noting that the percentage of black home ownership is lower today than 50 years ago, he said: “That’s wrong, and we’re committing to change that.” He announced a new initiative to address the home appraisal system in order to combat housing discrimination.

He also committed to increase the number of federal contracts awarded to small businesses from disadvantaged communities, noting that black entrepreneurs get fewer opportunities than white Americans.

The White House also highlighted measures contained within Mr Biden’s infrastructure plan, including a new $10 billion (€8 billion) revitalisation fund and $15 billion in grants to improve transportation in disadvantaged areas.

He also referenced recent efforts by Republican-controlled state legislatures to limit voting access in elections. Quoting the late civil rights leader John Lewis, who described the right to vote as “precious,” Mr Biden said: “this sacred right is under an intense assault that I have never seen. It’s simply un-American.”

He also tapped vice president Kamala Harris to lead efforts to tackle the issue of voting rights.

Hope and history

The president concluded his speech by quoting Seamus Heaney’s The Cure at Troy. Referencing the line “hope and history rhyme,” he concluded: “Let’s make it rhyme.”

The location of Mr Biden’s announcements about rebooting the black economy was richly symbolic. The Greenwood area of Tulsa was once known as “black Wall Street” before the attacks of 1921, which destroyed the once-thriving commercial centre.

Meanwhile, the president is due to host Republican senator Shelley Moore Capito on Wednesday in the White House for talks on his proposed infrastructure plan, in a bid to secure bipartisan support for his proposal. While Mr Biden has already reduced the price tag of his proposed plan from $2.3 trillion to $1.7 trillion, senate Republicans have unveiled a $928 billion counterproposal, with negotiations continuing.

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Germany’s flood zones spared severe storms on Saturday

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In the west of the country, the fire brigade reported a quiet night in the flood areas in Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine Westphalia.

The situation remains tense, however, with local thunderstorms forecast in some parts of Germany from midday on Sunday — most likely south of the Danube.

Further heavy rain and hail were also possible again, according to the German Weather Service (DWD), which publishes storm warnings.

READ ALSO: WEATHER: German flood zones at risk of further storms

The latest storms came just days after parts of the country were hit by devastating floods after torrential rains that ravaged entire villages and left 180 people dead, hundreds injured and with many still missing.

The flooding also caused damage in Belgium, where 37 people died, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Switzerland.



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Prosecutors allege R Kelly had sexual contact with under-age boy

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US prosecutors in R Kelly’s sex trafficking case say he had sexual contact with an under-age boy in addition to girls, and the government wants jurors in his upcoming sex-trafficking trial to hear those claims.

Federal prosecutors aired a wide-ranging raft of additional allegations – but not new charges – against the R&B singer in a court filing on Friday.

Jury selection is due to start August 9th in a New York federal court for Kelly, who denies ever abusing anyone.

The Grammy Award-winning singer is charged with leading what prosecutors call a criminal enterprise of managers, bodyguards and other employees who allegedly helped him to recruit women and girls for sex and pornography and to exercise control over them.

The charges involve six different women and girls, who are not named in court filings.

Now, prosecutors would also like jurors to hear about more than a dozen other people whom the government alleges that Kelly sexually or physically abused, threatened or otherwise mistreated.

Among them, the government says, was a 17-year-old boy and aspiring musician whom Kelly met at a McDonald’s in December 2006 and later invited to his Chicago studio.

According to the prosecutors’ court filing, after asking the boy what he would do to make it in the music business, Kelly propositioned and had sexual contact with him while he was still under-age.

And when Kelly was about to go on trial on child pornography charges in Chicago in 2008, the same youth told the singer he had access to a juror, and Kelly asked him to contact the juror and vouch he was a “good guy”, prosecutors wrote.

The filing does not say whether the youth did so. Kelly was acquitted in that case.

The boy also introduced Kelly to a 16- or 17-year-old male friend, with whom prosecutors say the singer began a sexual relationship several years later.

Kelly also filmed the two youths in sexual encounters with other people, including some of Kelly’s girlfriends, according to the filing.

Prosecutors wrote that the accounts of the boys and others would help show that the actual charges “were not isolated events and were part of a larger pattern”.

The multiplatinum-selling singer, born Robert Sylvester Kelly, is known for work including the 1996 hit I Believe I Can Fly and the cult classic Trapped In The Closet, a multi-part tale of sexual betrayal and intrigue.

Kelly’s private life has drawn scrutiny since the 1990s, and he currently is also facing sex-related charges in Illinois and Minnesota. He has pleaded not guilty.– AP

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Fears mount in western Germany as fresh rain falls

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For some areas, the German Weather Service has forecast heavy showers or storms, bringing between 30 and 40 litres per square metre.

Amid further rainfall on Saturday afternoon, evacuation services to emergency accommodation were offered to communities in Rheinland-Palatinate who had been particularly badly affected by the flooding, German news site Merkur reported.

“The people will have to make the decision themselves,” said Begona Hermann, head of the relief teams in the west German state, explaining that the forecast rainfall was not expected to be as severe as that which devastated parts of Germany last week.  

READ ALSO: German floods death toll hits 180, with 150 still missing

However, even lower levels of rainfall could still be a problem because sewage and drainage systems were not working properly because of the flooding.

Earlier on Saturday, police requested all volunteers working on the clean-up operation in the Ahr area to leave as quickly as possible for their own safety because of the difficult conditions.

This came after the police and the crisis management team asked the public not to travel to Rhineland-Palatinate to help out because there were too many people there.

“The population’s willingness to help continues to be undiminished and overwhelming,” read a Kassel police statement on Saturday. Due to the large number of volunteers who came to help out, however, roads in the area are now congested, it said.

Heavy machinery required for road and bridge construction, and for the restoration of the area’s water supply, was getting stuck in traffic jams, the press release said.

Vehicles for removing rubbish and construction debris, as well as emergency and rescue vehicles, were also unable to get through.



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