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Texas Governor Signs Voting Restrictions Bill into Law



Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday signed into law a bill that bans 24-hour and drive-thru voting, imposes new hurdles on mail-in ballots and empowers partisan poll watchers.

What We Know:

  • Texas joins Florida and Georgia, in enacting new restrictive voting measures, instigated by former president Donald Trump’s lies about widespread voter fraud.  At least 10 other states are considering similar laws in their state houses.  Opponents of SB1 said its provisions will disproportionately restrict voting access for marginalized voters, particularly black and brown people of color and those with disabilities.
  • Democrats in Texas fled the Capitol in Austin for weeks in an effort to stymie the bill — first preventing the passage of a similar measure at the end of the state’s regular legislative session in May, then forcing Abbott to call two special sessions to tackle what the governor called “election integrity.”  The election overhaul in Texas comes as Republicans seek to hold onto power in a rapidly changing state where people of color make up virtually all of the population growth — and that growth is concentrated in large cities that tend to vote Democratic.
  • The new law directly targets Harris County, the home of Houston (22.6% Black), which last year offered drive-thru voting and 24-hour early voting. The bill restricts the hours counties can offer early voting to between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. while also prohibiting tactics that aide voter participation and engagement.  In the 2020 general election, Harris County used a garage at the Toyota Center, enabling voters to vote from their cars amid the global COVID-19 pandemic.

“SB 1 is an appalling, anti-democracy effort by Texas Republicans to construct barriers to voting for people they believe will not support them. What makes this bill and similar ones Republicans are pushing across the country even more un-American is that Republicans are using the ‘Big Lie’ about the 2020 election as a pretext to support them. The reality is that these bills have nothing to do with election integrity or security, but rather are discriminatory measures making it harder for all people to vote. These bills will have a disproportionate impact on communities of color.” –Eric Holder, US attorney general for US President Barack Obama

  • Senate Bill 1 also blocks counties from sending unsolicited mail-in voting applications, even to those over the age of 65, who are immediately eligible to vote-by-mail, per law.  The rules include restrictions for those who previously helped persons with disabilities and enables partisan poll watching, a tactic long used by republicans and white supremacists to intimidate Black people from voting.


This is a breaking news story and will be updated.



Alex Haynes is Editor-At-Large/NYC Editor at Urban Newsroom, Executive Editor at UNR's Black Alerts and the host of Boss Mornings and Unmuted Nation. Alex joined Urban Newsroom in 2010 and contributes regular op-ed and editorial pieces while advising the columnist and contributing staff.


Omicron variant in Europe before South African scientists detected it, alerted authorities



Omicron has reportedly spread to about 20 countries

The new omicron variant of the coronavirus was reportedly first detected by Dutch health authorities in western Europe before cases were confirmed in South Africa. 

A World Health Organization panel named the new COVID variant “omicron� and classified it as a highly transmissible virus of concern, the same category that includes the delta variant, the world’s most prevalent, theGrio reported. The panel said early evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection.

UK Covid Face Mask Rules Tightened Over Omicron Variant Fear
(Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)

The omicron variant was first identified in samples from individuals in Europe on Nov.19 and 23, according to the RIVM health institute, as reported by CBS. Days later, reports emerged on Friday (Nov. 26) that several passengers who came from South Africa tested positive for the new variant, prompting the U.S. government to ban travel from eight African countries. 

Australia, Thailand, and Sri Lanka have also banned travel from South Africa and its neighboring nations due to the omicron variant, theGRIO reported. Britain, Canada, and the European Union have also instituted travel bans on Southern Africa. However, while the variant has also been detected in Australia, Canada, Denmark, and the Netherlands, no travel bans have been enacted for those countries. 

“It is not yet clear whether the people concerned [in the earlier cases] have also been to southern Africa,” the RIVM said, adding that local health services have started contact tracing.

“In the coming period, various studies will be conducted into the distribution of the omicron variant in the Netherlands,” the institute said.

Meanwhile, Cyril Ramaphosa, the president of South Africa, has called the travel bans imposed on his country “scientifically unjustified.â€� 

Matshidiso Moeti, an official from the World Health Organization, also criticized the travel bans, which, so far, only target Africa, saying: “With the omicron variant now detected in several regions of the world, putting in place travel bans that target Africa attacks global solidarity.� 

“COVID-19 constantly exploits our divisions,� Moeti added. “We will only get the better of the virus if we work together for solutions.�

South Africa reportedly has 25% of its citizens inoculated against COVID-19, according to the report.

The 27-nation European Union imposed a temporary ban on air travel from southern Africa, and stocks tumbled in Asia, Europe, and the United States. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped more than 1,000 points. The S&P 500 index was down 2.3%, on pace for its worst day since February. The price of oil plunged nearly 13%.

Health officials in Belgium and Germany confirmed that the variant emerged in those countries before South Africa made headlines over the new coronavirus strain. The first omicron cases were reported in Japan and France on Tuesday.

Per the report, omicron has spread to about 20 countries.

Dr. Anthony Fauci has predicted that the omicron virus will “change rapidly� as it spreads globally.

“Confirmed cases as of yesterday were 205 in 18 countries, and just this morning, that’s gone up to 226 in 20 countries — and I think you’re going to expect to see those numbers change rapidly,� Fauci said Tuesday.

Fauci said the current COVID vaccine will provide some protection against this new variant. 

“Although these mutations suggest a diminution of protection and a degree of immune evasion, you still from the experience that we have with [the] Delta [strain] can make a reasonable conclusion that you would not eliminate all protection against this particular variant,� he said.

All three major vaccine manufacturers are reportedly studying the omicron variant to ultimately manufacture a vaccine or booster. 

“The companies currently estimate that it would take a few months to prototype and manufacture a modified vaccine or booster,â€� said White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients.

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Miss Kentucky Elle Smith crowned Miss USA 2021



She is scheduled to represent the US in Israel to compete for the title of Miss Universe on Dec. 12.

Kentucky news reporter Elle Smith has been crowned Miss USA.

Smith, who works as a broadcast news reporter for Louisville’s WHAS-TV, was crowned Miss USA by last year’s winner, Asya Branch, at the River Spirit Casino Resort in Tulsa, Oklahoma on Monday.

Smith slayed during the swimsuit and evening gown competition, and the audience loved her response to how businesses can be more environmentally conscious.

Elle Smith YouTube screenshot
Miss Kentucky Elle Smith becomes Miss USA (YouTube Screenshot)

“I think we’ve got to look at it from a macro level and also a micro level,” she said. “At a macro level, countries need to switch to green energy. I think that’s something we can all agree on. But then at the micro-level, we all know how to reduce, reuse, recycle. Those are things we can implement in our daily lives.”

Smith, a 2020 graduate of the University of Kentucky, works as a multimedia journalist for Louisville ABC affiliate WHAS11. She is the second Miss Kentucky to become Miss USA. Tara Conner won the title in 2006.

Prior to her win, Smith reflected on her Miss USA journey in a post on social media.

“A little over a year ago, I sat in bed and watched Miss USA. I remember watching @andreiagibau @sthephaniemariemiranda @mariahclayton_ and so many more incredible women grace the stage, and thinking, ‘I want to be on that stage. I want to be like them,’ ” she wrote on Instagram.

“I made that dream reality,” she added. “Now, it’s game time.”

Smith won the Miss Kentucky competition in May. It was her first pageant. She has dreamed of being a beauty queen since high school but had to wait until she had a “big-girl job” in order to afford it. 

“A Miss USA, her job is to connect with people,” Smith said in a recent interview with WHAS11. “She should be able to speak with a 3-year-old, she should be able to speak with a 90-year-old veteran or the CEO of a business, and we do that every single day at work.

You’re speaking to a wide range of personalities and meeting different people with different perspectives, and so I think that’s the big thing that I take from work and then translate it to Miss Kentucky USA, which I hope I can translate to Miss USA.”

It was not made immediately clear whether Smith will continue with her job as a journalist, but she will soon head to Israel to compete for the title of Miss Universe on Dec. 12. That’s if no further travel bans are instituted due to the spread of the omicron coronavirus variant.

Israel is barring the entry of tourists for the next two weeks as researchers work to find out more.

But despite a contestant testing positive for COVID-19, organizers said the international pageant will take place as planned, CNN reports.

“The Miss Universe Organization is working with Israeli officials to continue to get our contestants and staff into the country safely for the competition,” the group said.

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Landlords less likely to reply to applicants with Black, LatinX names



The survey tracked over 25,000 interactions across the country between property managers and fake renters using names associated with non-White identities.

A new study has confirmed that landlords across the United States are less likely to respond to rental applicants who have Black or LatinX-sounding names. 

The survey was conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research, and its results were reported by Bloomberg. It tracked more than 25,000 interactions between property managers and fictitious renters with names that are more often associated with white, Black and Hispanic identities. The fictitious applicants interacted with more than 8,400 property managers in 50 of the largest U.S. cities. 

A nationwide study has confirmed that landlords across the U.S. are less likely to respond to rental applicants who have Black or LatinX-sounding names. (Photo: AdobeStock)

The fake renters with white-sounding names received a 60% response rate, compared to 57% for the Hispanic-sounding identities, and 54% for African-American sounding names. Additionally, “inquiries sent from African-American identities received response rates that were approximately 12% lower (than response rates to comparison white identities) in the Midwest and in the Northeast, 7.9% lower in the West and 7.6% lower in the South.â€�

The report cited a project from the Othering & Belonging Institute at Berkeley University, which noted that out of every metropolitan region in the United States with more than 200,000 residents, 81% of those communities were more segregated in 2019 than in 1990. 

Cities in the rust belt are among the top 10 most segregated, a roster that includes Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Milwaukee and Miami.

“We find the strongest discriminatory constraints facing African Americans in Chicago, IL, Los Angeles, CA, and Louisville, KY,” the report reads. “We find the strongest constraints facing Hispanic/LatinX renters in Louisville, KY, Houston, TX, and Providence, RI.â€�  

Residential segregation caused by housing discrimination means that fewer children of color have access to opportunities afforded to mostly white neighborhoods, which results in lower lifelong earnings. “Housing discrimination can have a critical impact on residential location choices and access to opportunity,� the report stated.

Further, it notes that segregated cities are found to have systematically lower rates of school performance and lower wage rates. 

The study reveals that there is direct evidence linking discrimination faced by renters of color and the income gap.

Further, Bloomberg’s report explains that the discrimination trend is not limited to rental markets, but that homes owned by people of color are “persistently undervalued,â€� further contributing to the racial wealth gap. 

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