Oil and gas activity is continuing to grow even with low oil prices — that’s the takeaway from a new industry survey.Travis BubenikA drilling rig in action in the Permian Basin in 2015.In the survey of executives by the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, drillers report being able to still make money from new wells in West Texas and South Texas with oil prices below $50 per barrel. That’s because of increased efficiencies and cost-cutting, and it has led to more drilling rigs in service and increased capital spending.Oil and gas production has also increased for the second quarter in a row, at what the Dallas Fed’s Senior Economist Michael D. Plante calls a “rapid clip.”Oilfield service companies report growth as well, though at a slower pace than producers.A majority of those surveyed say employment levels and wages are holding steady, though there are some mixed reports of ups and downs in the labor market from others. On average, executives are expecting prices for West Texas crude to rise to between $53 and $54 per barrel by the end of this year. 00:00 /00:50 Share To embed this piece of audio in your site, please use this code: X Listen
– / 4A day after a suspected chemical weapons strike in Syria killed more than 70 people, world powers are trading accusations and denials as investigations into the attack continue.Experts are still evaluating exactly what happened, but there’s widespread consensus that deadly chemicals were involved in the attack on Khan Shaykhun in Idlib province.The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports that 72 people there were killed by toxic chemicals, including 20 children and 17 women.The World Health Organization has also received reports of scores of fatalities from deadly chemicals. “According to Health Cluster partners on the ground treating the patients, at least 70 people have died and hundreds more have been affected,” the WHO wrote.“Opposition activist videos show rescue workers hosing down survivors and the bodies of purported victims, showing no outward wounds,” NPR’s Alison Meuse reports from Beirut. “In one video, nine pale-faced children are loaded in the back of a truck, staring lifelessly into space.”It’s not entirely confirmed what the chemicals were, but experts suspect a powerful nerve agent. Doctors Without Borders says victims were showing symptoms consistent with a chemical “such as sarin gas or similar compounds.”In the immediate aftermath of Tuesday’s attack, international leaders — including British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and President Trump — censured Bashar Assad’s regime for the apparent use of chemical weapons against civilians.On Wednesday, Trump said the attack “crossed a lot of lines with me.”“When you kill innocent children, innocent babies, little babies, with a chemical gas that is so lethal, people were shocked to hear what gas it was, that crosses many, many lines, beyond a red line, many, many lines,” Trump said, adding, “These heinous actions by the Assad regime cannot be tolerated.”At an emergency U.N. Security Council meeting Wednesday, U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley delivered a pointed message, saying that Russia and Iran “have no interest in peace” and that the U.S. may need to act on its own.“When the United Nations consistently fails in its duty to act collectively, there are times in the life of states that we are compelled to take our own action,” she said.Envoys from Russia had a different response to the attack.“The main task now is to have an objective inquiry into what happened,” Russia’s deputy U.N. ambassador Vladimir Safronkov told the Security Council, according to The Associated Press. “Up to now all falsified reports about this incident have come from the White Helmets or the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights based in London which have been discredited long ago.”Russia has an alternate narrative of events, as Charles Maynes reports for NPR from Moscow.“Russia’s defense ministry says Syrian warplanes indeed carried out the strikes, but that civilian deaths were caused when those bombs struck a hidden ammunition depot that contained chemical weapons that belonged to terrorist groups on the ground,” Maynes says. “Russia maintains the Assad government destroyed its entire chemical arsenal under a deal Moscow brokered with the Obama administration back in 2013.”That explanation has been challenged as “completely unsustainable and completely untrue” by a British chemical weapons expert who spoke to the BBC.“Axiomatically, if you blow up Sarin, you destroy it,” he told the BBC.This blame-trading is not new in the Syrian conflict. In 2013, hundreds of civilians died in an attack on a Damascus suburb that used sarin gas. Afterward, the regime and its Russian allies claimed that rebel fighters may have used the chemical weapons. The Obama administration quickly rejected that explanation. A U.N. inspection confirmed the use of weapons, but did not attribute any blame.The use of chemical weapons is a war crime, prohibited under a number of international treaties.In 2013, after the sarin attack on Damascus, Assad’s government agreed to hand over all of its remaining chemical weapons stockpile.But in the last month alone, chemical weapons have been reportedly used at in Syria least three times, according to NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg.Ongoing investigations might confirm the type of weapon used Tuesday and who deployed it. But key questions will still remain — including where the weapons came from, and how the world will respond.Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Share
X Listen To embed this piece of audio in your site, please use this code: On Wednesday’s Houston Matters: It’s time again for the Houston Matters weekly political roundup with analysis of national, state, and local political stories with an eye for how it all might affect Houston and Texas. We discuss everything from the indictments in the Mueller investigation, to the GOP tax plan, to who might be interested in succeeded Joe Straus as Texas House Speaker, to early voting in Harris County.Also this hour: In the latest installment of The Full Menu, our group of Houston food writers discusses the increased phenomenon of eating out on (or around) Thanksgiving Day, and they discuss special meals being served at area restaurants. Plus Alexandra Zapruder talks about her book Twenty-Six Seconds: A Personal History of the Zapruder Film, detailing her family’s connection to the Kennedy assassination. 00:00 /50:48 We also offer a free daily, downloadable podcast here, on iTunes, Stitcher and various other podcasting apps. Share
Kyle Grillot/Reuters via NPRSenate Democrats say they have the votes to formally disapprove of FCC’s Internet policy that will take effect next month. Here, supporters of net neutrality protest the decision to repeal the Obama-era rule.Updated at 4:02 p.m. ETThe Senate approved a resolution Wednesday to nullify the Federal Communications Commission’s net neutrality rollback, dealing a symbolic blow to the FCC’s new rule that remains on track to take effect next month.As expected, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Me., joined Democrats in voting to overturn the FCC’s controversial decision. But two other Republicans — Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana and Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — also voted in favor of the resolution of disapproval.The outcome is unlikely to derail the FCC’s repeal of Obama-era rules that restrict Internet service providers’ ability to slow down or speed up users’ access to specific websites and apps.“Today is a monumental day,” said Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., during debate over the resolution. “Today we show the American people who sides with them, and who sides with the powerful special interests and corporate donors who are thriving under this administration.”Critics of the FCC rollback say they’re worried about consumers being forced to pay more for less consistent or slower service. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, part of the Republican majority, has said the Obama rule was “heavy-handed” and isn’t needed.The legislative victory is fleeting because the House does not intend to take similar action, but Democrats are planning to carry the political fight over internet access into the 2018 midterms.Markey described a coalition of internet voters that bridge the usual philosophical party lines when it comes to government regulation. “The grandparents, the gamers, the gearheads, the geeks, the gif-makers, the generations x, y, and z. This movement to save net neutrality is made up of every walk of American life,” he said.Republicans overwhelmingly support ending net neutrality because they want to shift regulatory power away from the federal government and towards the private market. Republicans also argue that Democrats are playing on unfounded fears that internet service providers will jack up costs and anger their consumer base. “If the Democrats want to run on regulating the Internet, I think that’s a losing strategy,” said Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., who runs the Senate GOP’s 2018 campaign operation and voted against the resolution.This issue doesn’t cut along clean party lines, said Steven Kull, who runs the Program for Public Consultation at the University of Maryland and has studied public attitudes on net neutrality. The program’s research has found that majorities of Americans support government-mandated net neutrality protections.“People are on the internet a lot and it’s a big part of their daily experience and the prospect that it will be changed in some fundamental way is disturbing to quite a lot of them,” Kull said.Fear is a great motivator for voters. Senate Democrats believe their resolution that put every Democrat on record in support of net neutrality–and most Republicans on record against it–can turn what was once considered a wonk issue, into a wedge issue this November. “People underestimate the passion of internet voters, at their peril. They are mad, and they want to know what they can do, and this vote will make things crystal clear,” he said.Republicans like Rep. Scott Taylor of Virginia think Democrats are wrong on the policy of net neutrality, and that eliminating FCC rules will expand competition and consumer choice. However, he concedes that Democrats have done a better job of selling their message to voters and says there could be consequences if Republicans don’t engage more directly with voters on an issue they care about.“It’s important Republicans have a clear and concise message to tell them why net neutrality, while it sounds good, and maybe it’s even well intended, is not the right answer for them,” Taylor said.‘Net neutrality’ doesn’t make for catchy campaign slogans, but there are indicators that voters are clocking this issue. According to data provided by Google, net neutrality regularly ranks among top political searches in each state.In Pennsylvania and Nebraska, which held their primary elections on Tuesday, it ranked second in political searches behind healthcare. “This is one of those areas where Washington DC sometimes gets in a bubble and doesn’t recognize what’s going on in the rest of the country,” said Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., who runs the Senate Democrats’ 2018 campaign operation.Kull is more skeptical that net neutrality will be a potent voter motivator this year unless people start to see changes to their internet costs, speed, or access. Voters may know soon enough: The Obama-era net neutrality rules expire June 11.Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Share
Share Carrie Kahn/NPRRudy Migdael Ramirez in Jutiapa, Guatemala.The Trump administration has one week left to meet a court-ordered deadline to reunite over 2,000 children separated at the border from their families suspected of entering the U.S. illegally.Logistically, it’s going to be tough for the government. The children were sent to dozens of different shelters and foster homes around the United States, in many cases, thousands of miles from their detained parents.Then there are dozens more parents who’ve already been deported without their children, further complicating the reunification process.Rudy Migdael Ramirez, 36, is one of those parents.He opens the chain-link lock to his concrete house outside the town of Jutiapa in southern Guatemala to show NPR around.“This is my son Rudy Jr.’s room, there’s his bicycle and all his toys,” says Ramirez of his 9-year-old. Asked why the boy doesn’t have a bed in his room, he says, it’s next door in his and his wife’s room. They’ve always all slept in the same room, he says, not wanted to be apart, even for just a few hours.Ramirez’s hazel eyes are red and swollen. “I just want them back here, with all of us sleeping together again. That’s what I ask god for. Every night I ask god for mercy,” he says overcome with tears he pauses. “It’s so painful not to have my son here, not to have my wife,” he cries.Ramirez says in early May, while they were in Guatemala, he and his wife began getting threatening phone calls from unknown people.“First they called her phone, saying they were going to kill her. Then they called mine and said they would kill all of us,” he says.Ramirez reported the calls to the police. It’s not uncommon for gangs to extort and threaten residents in Jutiapa, say local residents.The calls didn’t stop, so Ramirez says his family fled north, traveling through Mexico to the United States border. On June 8, he says, the family was attempting to cross into Texas, but somehow he and his son got separated from his wife. Soon he and Rudy Jr. were picked up by U.S. Border Patrol agents. Ramirez says he told them about the threats.“They told me, ‘why don’t you apply for asylum in Mexico or Argentina, anywhere but here,’ ” says Ramirez.The following day, around 2 in the morning, the guards came for Rudy Jr. Ramirez says his son cried and cried, and he tried to comfort him, telling him he wouldn’t go back to Guatemala without him. Rudy Jr. was sent to a shelter in New York City.Ramirez says the officer gave him a bunch of papers to sign.“I asked them if they were for my deportation, and they just laughed at me,” he says.He tried to show the officers the Guatemalan police forms he was carrying documenting the death threats. But according to Ramirez, the officer told him that the documents were not valid in the U.S. and that his son would be on the plane with him once he was deported.Rudy Jr. wasn’t on the plane. That was June 14. Ramirez hasn’t seen his son. Nor has the boy’s mother. She crossed into the U.S. a few days after her husband and son, hoping to reunite with them. She turned herself in to the Border Patrol. She’s been in detention in Texas ever since.Jodi Goodwin, her lawyer, says the mother is distraught. “Oh my God, she is beside herself. She is deathly terrified that she might get deported and [Rudy Jr.] he might get stuck here and they will give her son to somebody else,” says Goodwin.On Thursday, the Trump administration said it has reunited 364 immigrant children with their families after they were separated at the border, but hundreds of minors still remain separated ahead of the July 26 deadline.Goodwin says it’s unclear whether or how reunification will extend to parents already deported.Immigration and Customs Enforcement did not return requests for information about deported parents and how they will be reunited, nor about the Ramirez family’s case. NPR could not independently confirm their story.In the family’s Guatemalan home town, the waiting has been excruciating.In a sparse office overlooking Jutiapa’s main plaza, Oscar Folgar, an official at Guatemala’s Foreign Ministry, sees many parents going through what the Ramirez’s are experiencing.“At least 40 parents have been returned here and are waiting for their children to come back,” says Folgar. He says he does his best to try to help them locate their loved ones and give them updates on when they will return.María Mendez Ramirez, the father’s 62-year-old mother, hopes that day is soon.“It’s been two months, nearly two months since I’ve seen my baby,” she says sobbing. She says she doesn’t wish this anguish on any parent, or grandparent, and urges those leaving Jutiapa for the U.S. to reconsider their decision.This week, Ramirez got word that his wife could soon be released.As of Friday morning, she was still in detention waiting for Rudy Jr. to arrive from the shelter in New York.Relatives of the father in Guatemala said he was briefly hospitalized Thursday with symptoms of anxiety and unstable blood pressure.NPR international correspondent Carrie Kahn reported in Jutiapa, Guatemala.Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
University of Texas System regents have chosen the former chancellor of the City University of New York as the sole finalist to be the next chancellor of the 14-campus system in Texas.During a meeting Saturday in Austin, regents voted to name James B. Milliken as their choice. He was previously chancellor of the City University of New York, the nation’s largest urban university system. He is also a former president of the University of Nebraska.By state law, regents will have to wait 21 days before they can formally appoint Milliken.The Board of Regents unanimously voted to select national higher ed leader James B. Milliken as sole finalist for chancellor: https://t.co/hCxHCxu1BU— UT System (@utsystem) August 4, 2018“His experiences in higher education leadership are deep and broad, and he has very effectively guided university systems that have many of the characteristics and strategic aspirations embedded throughout UT’s academic and health institutions,” said Regents’ Chairman Sara Martinez Tucker of Milliken, in a press release. “Moreover, he has enjoyed strong support from elected officials, students, and campus leaders in his previous posts, all of whom described him as someone they could count on in times of great opportunity and challenges.”Milliken is expected to lead a system made up of 235,000 students and around 100,000 employees. The chancellor’s duties include representing the system in legislative matters and fundraising.He will replace William McRaven, who stepped down in May. Share
Share X To embed this piece of audio in your site, please use this code: 00:00 /00:48 Listen Andrew Schneider/Houston Public MediaThis file photo shows former Congressman Steve Stockman (center) entering the federal courthouse in downtown Houston for his arraignment on felony charges.Former Houston-area Congressman Steve Stockman was sentenced Wednesday to 10 years in prison on federal corruption charges.Stockman was convicted, alongside one of his associates, in a 28-count superseding indictment with mail and wire fraud, conspiracy, making false statements to the Federal Election Commission, making excessive campaign contributions, and money laundering.The former Republican congressman was also charged with filing a false tax return that concealed his receipt and personal use of the fraudulent proceeds.Stockman solicited approximately $1,250,000 in donations based on false pretenses, with a proportion of the funds paying for his own, and his associates’, personal expenses and interests.Under federal guidelines, Stockman could have received up to 14 years. “We were prepared for the worst and prayed for the best, and this was not the best, but it definitely wasn’t the worst, so, you know, it is what it is,” his wife, Patti Stockman, said outside the courthouse.Judge Lee Rosenthal took the state of Stockman’s health into account. The former congressman suffers from diabetes and related illnesses. In addition to prison time, the judge sentenced him to three years’ probation and ordered him to pay more than $1 million in restitution. Stockman plans to appeal.
In this Wednesday, July 15, 2015 photo,Jock Riggins looks over the fresh fruits and vegetables on the Fresh Stop bus, a mobile market, in Eatonville, Fla. The Fresh Stop brings fresh fruits and vegetables to communities with no supermarkets. The nations largest grocery chains have built new supermarkets in only a fraction of the neighborhoods where theyre needed most, according to an analysis of federal food stamp data by The Associated Press. (AP Photo/John Raoux)EATONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — As part of Michelle Obama’s healthy eating initiative, a group of major food retailers promised in 2011 to open or expand 1,500 grocery or convenience stores in and around neighborhoods with no supermarkets by 2016. By their own count, they’re far short.Moreover, an analysis of federal food stamp data by The Associated Press reveals that the nation’s largest chains — not just the handful involved in the first lady’s group — have since built new supermarkets in only a fraction of the neighborhoods where they’re needed most.The Partnership for a Healthier America, which also promotes good nutrition and exercise in its anti-obesity mission, considers improving access to fresh food a key part of the solution. But the AP’s research demonstrates that major grocers overwhelmingly avoid America’s food deserts instead of trying to turn a profit in high-poverty areas.Among the AP’s findings:— The nation’s top 75 food retailers opened almost 10,300 stores in new locations from 2011 to the first quarter of 2015, 2,434 of which were grocery stores. Take away convenience stores and “dollar stores,” which generally don’t sell fresh fruits, vegetables or meat, and barely more than 250 of the new supermarkets were in so-called food deserts, or neighborhoods without stores that offer fresh produce and meats.— As the largest supermarket chains have been slow to build in food deserts, dollar stores have multiplied rapidly. Three chains — Dollar General, Family Dollar and Dollar Tree — made up two-thirds of new stores in food deserts. And the dollar store sector is consolidating: Dollar Tree merged with Family Dollar this year, creating the largest dollar-store chain in the nation and, in the process, less competition and less incentive to diversify what these stores offer.— Excluding dollar stores and 7-Elevens, just 1.4 million of the more than 18 million people the USDA says lived in food deserts as of 2010 got a new supermarket in the past four years.In this Wednesday, July 15, 2015 photo, the side of the Fresh Stop mobile market bus is seen during a stop in Eatonville, Fla. The Fresh Stop brings fresh fruits and vegetables to communities with no supermarkets. The nations largest grocery chains have built new supermarkets in only a fraction of the neighborhoods where theyre needed most, according to an analysis of federal food stamp data by The Associated Press. (AP Photo/John Raoux)On top of all that, it’s difficult to say how many more people live in newer food deserts created by recent store closures.Viola Hill used to walk several times a week to a Schnucks supermarket a block away from her apartment in her struggling north St. Louis neighborhood, until that store shuttered last year. Now, she can get to a supermarket only once a month, when she pays a friend $10 to drive her to one several miles away.“I have to get enough food to last me a whole month,” said Hill, a retiree who likes to cook chicken and green beans. “It hurt us really badly when they closed because we depended on the Schnucks for medication and my food there. It was a lot of people hurt, not just me.”Schnucks officials said they were losing money on the store, which now sits boarded up with weeds growing in its parking lot.The U.S. Department of Agriculture considers a neighborhood a food desert if at least a fifth of the residents live in poverty and a third live more than a mile from a supermarket in urban areas, or more than 10 miles in rural areas, where residents are more likely to have cars.The first lady’s group’s 2014 progress report, its most recent, says the companies that made pledges have opened or renovated 602 grocery stores or other food retail locations, well below halfway toward their collective goal.The partnership counted companies as having met their commitments if the stores they opened or renovated fell within a mile of a USDA-designated food desert in a city, or within 10 miles of a rural one. The AP analyzed which of the new stores that opened lie directly within food deserts.In this Wednesday, July 15, 2015 photo, a selection of fresh fruits available on the Fresh Stop bus, am obile market, are seen in Eatonville, Fla. The Fresh Stop brings fresh fruits and vegetables to communities with no supermarkets. The nations largest grocery chains have built new supermarkets in only a fraction of the neighborhoods where theyre needed most, according to an analysis of federal food stamp data by The Associated Press. (AP Photo/John Raoux)Research has shown that a lack of access to healthy foods contributes to health problems, such as obesity and diabetes. Proximity to a supermarket can make a big difference in what people eat, especially if they don’t drive, although other factors such as food culture also play a role.Even though a neighborhood without a supermarket may have a corner grocer, the large chains have much greater leverage and economies of scale to bring a wider of variety of products at cheaper prices.Jock Riggins likes to cook and tries as often as he can to make his favorite meal of cube steak with bell peppers, rice and gravy. But getting to the supermarket nearest to his home in Eatonville, Florida, north of Orlando, requires pedaling his rusted bicycle down a clogged, six-lane road with narrow shoulders, and balancing bags of groceries in each hand on the way back.“If I don’t have my vegetables for my food I substitute with sandwiches,” said Riggins, 51, who gets by working odd jobs. “If there was a supermarket closer, I wouldn’t have to go way out on Lee Road. It would be better.”___A FOOD OASISLess than 3 miles from Eatonville is what could only be described as a food oasis. In the span of a little over a mile on a single avenue in the tony Orlando suburb of Winter Park, there are two Publix supermarkets, a Trader Joe’s, a Chamberlin’s Natural Food Market and the site of a future 40,000-square-foot Whole Foods Market. With the exception of Chamberlin’s, where the offerings are mostly organic or specialized, prices in the food oasis are cheaper than what Riggins gets in his neighborhood, and the selections are boundless by comparison.There are no fresh fruits, vegetables or meats at the Family Dollar or Poncho’s Market corner store in Eatonville, and a $3 loaf of Nature’s Own wheat bread at those stores cost $2.19 at Publix on a recent visit. The same half-gallon of milk was 11 percent more expensive at the Family Dollar than at Publix, and Poncho’s was out of milk.Some of the dollar store chains have started dipping their toes into selling fresh produce. Dollar General has opened up about 150 Dollar General Market stores that sell fresh vegetables, fruit and meat, though that format makes up only 1 percent of the chain’s 12,000-plus stores.“The dollar stores are popping up everywhere in the food deserts, but that doesn’t mean anything if the owners don’t give customers the opportunity for fresh produce,” said Norman Wilson Sr., a food desert activist who is pastor of a Pentecostal church in Orlando.In this Wednesday, July 15, 2015 photo, a customer pays for a purchase at the Fresh Stop, a mobile market, in Orlando, Fla. The Fresh Stop brings fresh fruits and vegetables to communities with no supermarkets. (AP Photo/John Raoux)Florida lawmaker Dwight Bullard introduced legislation this year with incentives to build stores in food deserts, which tend to have higher unemployment than other neighborhoods. In urban areas, food deserts also tend to have a high percentage of minorities.Bullard’s bill went nowhere.“Part of the frustration was centered around the fourth Publix I’d seen servicing the same community. … It made me scratch my head and say, ‘Geez, what about those communities where you can go blocks and blocks and blocks without seeing a real grocery store?’ It doesn’t make sense to me,” said Bullard, a Democratic state senator, whose district covering urban and rural parts of South Florida is overwhelmingly black and Hispanic.Publix spokesman Dwaine Stevens said he couldn’t comment on how store locations are decided due to their “strategic and proprietary nature.”Supermarkets often build stores close to each other to compete in an area and highlight each store’s niche, said Ira Goldstein, president of policy solutions at The Reinvestment Fund, a Philadelphia-based community development firm that has invested in grocery store construction in low-income neighborhoods. The stores typically look for neighborhoods that can support their format rather than changing their format to fit the neighborhood.“That brings choice and variety to the market but it doesn’t necessarily solve the problem in an inadequately served area,” Goldstein said.___BARRIERS TO ACCESSAgriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack believes stores that open in food deserts need to be attuned to the particulars of their communities to succeed.“You have to cater to the people who live there. You have to know who they are,” Vilsack said during a recent visit to Orlando.That’s where the large supermarket chains often run into trouble, since they have rigid formats that often miss the nuances of a community, said Jeff Brown, CEO of Brown’s Super Stores in the Philadelphia area.“They’re not selling what they should be selling because they don’t understand,” said Brown, whose company has seven stores in underserved neighborhoods.Stores that succeed generally have other amenities, such as a pharmacy, doctor’s clinic or a bank embedded in the supermarket, he said.Building stores in low-income neighborhoods comes with unique complications, according to the Food Marketing Institute, a Washington-based trade group for food retailers. A large customer base on food stamps creates erratic flows with a rush of business in the beginning of the month when food stamps are issued, but slow business at the end of the month. Insurance and security can be more costly in neighborhoods perceived to be high crime, and workers from neighborhoods with high unemployment sometimes need extra training for basic job skills.The average supermarket operates on a 1 or 2 percent profit margin and must be sustainable for at least a decade to recoup any profit, so retailers can’t afford to pick unprofitable locations, said David Fikes, vice president of consumer and community affairs for the Food Marketing Institute.The industry also is in flux. Two of its biggest players — Stop & Shop owner Ahold USA and Delhaize Group SA, the Brussels conglomerate that owns the Food Lion and Hannaford chains in the U.S. — recently announced merger plans. Safeway Inc. and Albertsons merged earlier this year, and Kroger announced last month that it would buy Roundy’s Supermarkets stores in Illinois and Wisconsin.One of the nation’s oldest large food retailers, A&P, recently returned to bankruptcy court, and SuperValu recently announced plans to spin off its Save-A-Lot stores. Even Wal-Mart warned recently that its profits would take a hit.All of that, analysts say, suggests the grocery industry isn’t likely to change its patterns for where it does business, and where it doesn’t.“We would love to have a supermarket in every neighborhood across America, whether if it’s a food desert or not,” Fikes said. “But it’s got to be sustainable for all involved.”___Follow Mike Schneider on Twitter: http://twitter.com/mikeschneiderap
By Valerie Fraling, Special to the AFRO“I don’t know about tomorrow; I just live from day to day.I don’t borrow from its sunshine for its skies may turn to gray. I don’t worry o’er the future, for I know what Jesus said. And today I’ll walk beside Him, for He knows what is ahead. Many things about tomorrow I don’t seem to understand. But, I know who holds tomorrow and I know who holds my hand. Every step is getting brighter as the golden stairs I climb; every burden’s getting lighter, every cloud is silver-lined. There the sun is always shining, there no tear will dim the eye; at the ending of the rainbow where the mountains touch the sky. Many things about tomorrow I don’t seem to understand. But, I know who holds tomorrow and I know who holds my hand. I don’t know about tomorrow; it may bring me poverty. But, the one who feeds the sparrow, is the one who stands by me. And the path that is my portion may be through the flame or flood; but His presence goes before me and I’m covered with His blood. Many things about tomorrow I don’t seem to understand. But, I know who holds tomorrow and I know who holds my hand…” Leann Rimes“Christmas is a season for kindling the fire for hospitality in the hall, the genial flame of charity in the heart.” Washington IrvingThe Christmas season was full with many parties and celebrations and an opportunity to meet and greet old and new friends in festive settings. The Modern Grannies (MG) celebration at the Hopkins Club was a benefit for Roberta’s House founded by Annette March-Grier and the March family. Guests donated gift cards for the children of Roberta’s House. My hostess MG Brenda Baker and I joined guests and MG members Mildred Harris, Victor and Lola March and their children Carmelita and Victor, Jean Mann, Anne Davis, Carolyn Chissell, Aldonna Wylie, Lynn Porter, Ellen Howard, Blanche Beckham, Marguerite Walker, Jim Haynes, Mattie and Dr. William Mumby, who was celebrating his birthday.Loud laughter erupted when they asked Dr. Mumby how old he was; with a twinkle in his eye he said,“I’m 185 years old.” Many of us remember Dr. Mumby and his sense of humor when we were students at Coppin State. He was one of the most gracious administrators on campus.The Moles hosted their holiday birthday celebration at North Oaks clubhouse celebrating December birthdays. My host Mole Dr. Charlene Cooper- Boston was one of the attendees celebrating her birthday. Stanley and Wendy Dukes catered the delicious luncheon buffet with assorted meats, salads and desserts. The rainy Saturday afternoon did not put a damper on the festive mood as guests enjoyed dancing and mingling throughout the afternoon. Among the guests were: Goldie Woods and her son and daughter Judson and June, Delores Baden, Jake Oliver, Barbara Armstrong, Jackie Golden, Edi Green, Mildred Harris, Roslyn Smith, The Hon. Angela Gibson, Charles Thomas, Terry and Deborah Owens, Andrea Amprey, Tyrone Qualls, Reggie Haysbert, Pam and Stuart Beckham, Blanche Beckham and Mr. and Mrs. Ray Skinner.I fell in love with Patti LaBelle as a teenager when she sang, “I Sold My Heart to the Junkman.” So, naturally when my Maryland Live Casino VIP host informed me that Patti LaBelle would be appearing at the new event center I immediately said yes.“Say my name Patti Patti.” Imagine my surprise when I was in the VIP room checking into the hotel; standing next to me was, you guessed it Patti LaBelle. After I recovered from the unexpected shock, she smiled and in a voice that I didn’t recognize I said hello Ms. Labelle. Later that evening she gave an outstanding 90 minute performance in true Patti fashion showing why at the age of 74, she is the simply the best.“Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.” Malcolm XSending congratulations to Helen Farrar, granddaughter of Tim and Rita Horsley Johnson, on her induction into the University of Baltimore Honor Society and to Jill Owens on receiving her Master’s degree from the University of Baltimore during the winter graduation.Happy 65th birthday to the Hon. Sheila Dixon, Paul Beckham, AFRO CEO Toni Draper, Dr. Charlene Cooper Boston, Tyrone Qualls, Walter Hill and Patrick Johnson.Sending dozens of poinsettias to Sarah Holley, James “Dickey” Harris, Bernice McDaniel, Mildred Harris and Dr. Donald Atkinson“When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy. When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.” Khalil GibranWe anticipate the joy of a new year; never thinking of the sorrow, it will bring. The loss of my mother Rev Pauline Wilkins in 2018 brought me sorrow, but the love we shared for almost 7 decades brought joy. We lost many friends in 2018. As we move into the New Year 2019, we will once again enter it with joy.We should live each day as if it may be our last. Don’t put off eating that dessert because of a few pounds. I wonder how many women passed up the delicious desserts on the Titanic. Don’t wait to call the friend or relative until another day, or taking a vacation because you want to wait until you retire. Live the best of your life now because we don’t know about tomorrow, but we know WHO holds tomorrow.“For all we know we may never meet again before you go make this moment sweet again. We won’t say good night until the last minute I’ll hold out my hand and my heart will be in it…” Nat King ColeLet’s toast it up to 2019! Happy New Year and remember Aleut a Continua (the struggle continues).
By Micha Green, AFRO Washington, D.C. Editor, firstname.lastname@example.orgSince its founding in 1802, West Point has been known for its prestige, not its diversity; however 217 years since the university’s doors opened, the esteemed military academy will graduate its largest class of African American women in the school’s history. When 34 Black women receive their degrees this weekend, they will not only be holding the weight of a distinguished degree, but of the knowledge that the ability to do such was a long time coming.This weekend 34 Black women will graduate from the United States Military Academy West Point, making for the largest class of African-American women in the school’s 217 year history. (Cadet Hallie H. Pound/U.S. Army via AP)According to “CBS News,” West Point did not graduate its first Black cadet, Henry O. Flipper, until 1877. It would be almost over 100 years later that West Point graduated its first class with women, which was in 1980. Pat Locke was the first African American woman to graduate West Point. She has been a constant mentor, providing encouragement throughout her time at the military academy, Locke told “Inside Edition” in a May 20 article.Photos of the 34 Black women graduating in West Point’s 2019 cohort are going viral, as many are revelling in the fact that so many females of color are getting degrees from a place that did not want them to attend their institution until recent history. “My hope when young Black girls see these photos is that they understand that regardless of what life presents you, you have the ability and fortitude to be a force to be reckoned with,” cadet Tiffany Welch-Baker told Because of Them We Can.“We’re gonna be going out and having to solve complex problems. And so that’s gonna take creative solutions,” Gabrielle Alford told CBS News. “It really helps if you can look up to a leader who looks like you who comes from the same background as you.” Other military leaders are excited about the diversity coming out of this year’s West Point graduating class.“We don’t want everybody in the Army to look like me,” First Captain David Bindon told CBS This Morning national correspondent Jerika Duncan. “For me, working with people who don’t look like me brings different perspectives to my approach to problems. And that helps me solve problems better.”