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Monday, December 05, 2022

SO THIS IS WHAT AFRICA HAS BEEN DOING

Republican FORCED to answer BRUTAL question about Trump live on air

The Crypto Industry Struggles for a Way Forward

The Crypto Industry Struggles for a Way Forward

“The implosion of the exchange FTX shows how an industry built in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis has drifted far from its original ideals.

Pablo Delcan

Not long after several Wall Street banks collapsed in 2008, a nine-page document circulated on an obscure mailing list, proposing a new kind of financial system that wouldn’t rely on any “trusted third party.”

The paper was the basis for what became the cryptocurrency industry. Using sweeping, idealistic language, its adherents vowed to conduct business in a transparent and egalitarian way, rejecting the high-risk practices of a small number of powerful financial firms that caused the Great Recession.

But last month, the actions of a single crypto firm — the $32 billion exchange FTX — plunged the emerging industry into its own version of a 2008-style crisis. Once considered a safe marketplace for people to trade virtual currencies, FTX filed for bankruptcy after the crypto equivalent of a bank run, forcing industry executives, investors and enthusiasts to grapple with how a technology meant to correct the shortcomings of traditional finance ended up replicating them.

Executives who just a year ago were reveling amid crypto’s seemingly unstoppable growth are now scrambling to prove that they can learn from the mistakes and recapture the industry’s early ideals. Binance, the world’s largest exchange, announced last month that it would release more information about its finances and recruit independent auditors to review those disclosures. Coinbase, the biggest U.S. crypto exchange, proclaimed that it was committed to a “decentralized system where you don’t have to trust us.”

Many crypto advocates are pushing for more drastic reforms, urging investors not to store their digital holdings with big companies and instead turn to more experimental platforms run solely by code.

But for all the promises of change, FTX’s collapse shows how far crypto remains from fulfilling its original aims and gaining widespread acceptance. Consumer distrust has mounted this year amid major financial losses, criminal investigations and an increasingly skeptical regulatory climate in Washington. At a conference last month, Changpeng Zhao, Binance’s chief executive, saidthat FTX’s implosion would set the industry back by years.

Numerous video screens showing Sam Bankman-Fried.
FTX, which was founded and led by the entrepreneur Sam Bankman-Fried, filed for bankruptcy in November. Its collapse has set off a 2008-style crisis for the crypto industry.Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times

The exchange’s downfall compounded months of losses in the virtual currency market set off by a devastating crash in the spring that unfolded amid a broader pullback from risky assets. The upheaval sent some prominent crypto firms into bankruptcy. Bitcoin, the original and most popular cryptocurrency, has been trading at less than $17,000, down about 75 percent from its high of nearly $70,000 almost exactly a year ago.

“You start to go though these problems, and they stack up one after the other after the other,” said John Reed Stark, a former Securities and Exchange Commission official who has become an outspoken crypto critic. “More and more people are seeing this for the scam that it is.”

The crypto industry has bounced back after previous crashes, attracting big-name investors who poured even more money into experimental companies. But FTX’s collapse has been widely described as the worst moment in the industry’s short history.

The origins of crypto date to 2008, when a mysterious figure known as Satoshi Nakamoto published a white paper on Bitcoin, laying out a detailed vision for what became cryptocurrencies. The paper outlined Bitcoin’s technological foundation, which was a publicly viewable ledger called a blockchain where transactions would be recorded for all to see.

Early enthusiasts thought Bitcoin could become the foundation of a more transparent, egalitarian financial system. Many of the paper’s supporters were libertarians who had grown disillusioned with traditional finance, especially the concentration of power among a small number of companies.

At first, crypto’s primary use was criminal. Thieves and drug dealers used Bitcoin to transfer large amounts of money without relying on a bank or another intermediary to process transactions.

But over the years, law enforcement got better at tracking crypto crime, and the technology evolved to allow more sophisticated financial applications, like borrowing and lending. People who started their careers on Wall Street — including FTX’s founder, Sam Bankman-Fried, who worked at the trading firm Jane Street — got involved in the nascent industry, looking to profit from the technology.

As the industry grew, it started assuming some of the same characteristics as the Wall Street institutions that it was designed to replace. Crypto trading became increasingly centralized, with a large portion of transactions taking place on a handful of big exchanges, including Binance, FTX and Coinbase. In the months leading up to FTX’s collapse, the trading volume of cryptocurrencies on Binance alone was greater than the combined totals of its seven closest competitors, according to an industry data tracker.

Changpeng Zhao, wearing a black shirt.
Changpeng Zhao, the chief executive of Binance, has said that FTX’s collapse would set the industry back by years.Costas Baltas/Reuters

The original vision of crypto “was an attempt to rewrite the rules of finance on a global basis,” said Charley Cooper, managing director at the blockchain company R3. “And here we are again — we’re in an even more centralized industry than we’d see in banking.”

Cryptocurrencies soared in value last year and into 2022 — until May. That was when a popular cryptocurrency called Luna crashed, sending the crypto economy into free-fall. Two major lending companies, Celsius Network and Voyager Digital, filed for bankruptcy. Enthusiasts lamented the onset of a “crypto winter” of depressed prices and fading enthusiasm.

Amid the crisis, FTX was considered a relatively trustworthy force. Based in the Bahamas, the company served as a marketplace for people to buy and sell cryptocurrencies, offering high-risk but popular trading options that are illegal in the United States. Mr. Bankman-Fried, 30, who had built FTX into a $32 billion company, bailed out struggling firms and built a reputation as a benevolent figure willing to extend a lifeline to colleagues.

Then last month, a run on deposits exposed an $8 billion hole in FTX’s accounts. The company filed for bankruptcy within a week. The Securities and Exchange Commission and the Justice Department opened investigations, focused on whether FTX illegally lent its users’ funds to Alameda Research, a crypto hedge fund that Mr. Bankman-Fried also founded and owned.

The implosion has been described as a “Lehman moment” for crypto, a reference to the investment bank whose implosion helped set off the 2008 financial crisis. Other companies with ties to FTX started to teeter. Last Monday, the crypto lender BlockFi, one of the companies that FTX had bailed out in the spring, filed for bankruptcy, citing its entanglements with Mr. Bankman-Fried.

Some prominent figures in crypto have tried spinning FTX’s downfall as a positive development, arguing that it will redirect energy toward finding practical uses for the technology.

Gary Gensler, wearing a dark jacket and light shirt, at the S.E.C. headquarters, with a view of the U.S. Capitol behind him.
Gary Gensler, the chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission, has vowed to pursue crypto companies for violations of securities law.Shuran Huang for The New York Times

“For us, this is actually a great moment,” said Jeremy Allaire, the chief executive of the crypto payments company Circle. “We’re delivering real value, and the people who focused on building giant speculative trading casinos are not so happy.”

Binance operates essentially the same type of business as FTX, but Mr. Zhao, the chief executive, has recently been careful to differentiate himself from Mr. Bankman-Fried, calling his one-time rival a liar and criticizing FTX’s most dangerous practices. On Nov. 25, Binance announced a new “proof of reserves system,” promising to keep users informed about the amount of cryptocurrency in its accounts and to dispel fears that it might be vulnerable to the type of run on deposits that destroyed FTX. (But Binance’s plans were heavily criticized for lacking  key information.)

Coinbase has also tried to alleviate fears of a collapse, publishing a blog postthat said it always holds the same amount of money that customers deposited. “There can’t be a ‘run on the bank’ at Coinbase,” the post said.

Still, the mere existence of large companies like Binance, Coinbase and FTX is antithetical to the ideals of crypto, some industry experts argue. Since FTX’s collapse, some crypto enthusiasts have flocked to smaller firms in the experimental field of decentralized finance, which allows traders to borrow, lend and conduct transactions without banks or brokers, relying instead on a publicly viewable system governed by code.

But DeFi has its own problems, including vulnerability to hackers, who have drained billions of dollars this year from the experimental projects.

“They’ve based it on clunky technology that is very inefficient,” said Hilary Allen, a finance expert at American University. “They’re operationally very fragile.”

Scrutiny in Washington has also intensified. Gary Gensler, the chair of the S.E.C., has vowed to pursue crypto companies for violations of securities law. The House Financial Services Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on Dec. 13 examining FTX’s collapse.

Mr. Bankman-Fried has been asked to testify. In interviews with The New York Times, he has at times seemed agonized over FTX’s bankruptcy — and at times been strikingly flippant.

“You know,” he said in one interview, “the crypto winter has been officially extended.”

Wasn’t that a bit of an understatement? “Yep,” he replied. “Alas.”

Saturday, December 03, 2022

White House rebukes Trump’s suggestion to suspend Constitution over 2020 election

White House rebukes Trump’s suggestion to suspend Constitution over 2020 election

The White House rebuked former president Donald Trump for suggesting suspending the Constitution over his baseless claims of fraud in the 2020 presidential election. (Thomas Simonetti for The Washington Post)

“The White House issued a stern rebuke on Saturday after former president Donald Trump suggested suspending the Constitution in his ongoing crusade to discredit the results of the 2020 election.

“Attacking the Constitution and all it stands for is anathema to the soul of our nation and should be universally condemned,” White House spokesman Andrew Bates said in a statement, calling the Constitution a “sacrosanct document.”

“You cannot only love America when you win,” he added.

Trump’s message on the Truth Social platform reiterated the baseless claims he has made since 2020 that the election was stolen. But he went further by suggesting that the country abandon one of its founding documents.

“A Massive Fraud of this type and magnitude allows for the termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution,” Trump wrote.

The post came a day after Twitter’s new owner, Elon Musk, claimed he would expose how Twitter engaged in “free speech suppression” in the run-up to the 2020 election. But his “Twitter Files” did not show that the tech giant bent to the will of Democrats.

“UNPRECEDENTED FRAUD REQUIRES UNPRECEDENTED CURE!” Trump followed up in another post on Saturday afternoon on Truth Social.

Trump, who last month announced he would run again for president, helped launch Truth Social after he was banned from Twitter following the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol. Musk has said he would allow Trump back on Twitter but the former president has not rejoined the platform.

Trump’s sustained and unfounded attacks on the 2020 election result culminated in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack by his supporters on the U.S. Capitol. Many GOP candidates also echoed his false claims ahead of this year’s midterms, but lost their efforts to win key state posts.

In the weeks since the election, Trump has continued to press the lie that the 2020 election was rigged as he has announced his next White House bid.

The Democratic National Committee condemned his comments on Saturday, as did several other politicians.

“Trump’s words and actions are unacceptable, they stoke hatred and political violence, and they are dangerous,” Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) wrote in a tweet.

“Trump just called for the suspension of the Constitution and it is the final straw for zero republicans, especially the ones who call themselves ‘constitutional conservatives,’” Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) wrote on Twitter.

As he has done before, the former president also baited GOP leaders into weighing in on his claims.

“I wonder what Mitch McConnell, the RINOS, and all of the weak Republicans who couldn’t get the Presidential Election of 2020 approved and out of the way fast enough, are thinking now?” he wrote Saturday in a subsequent Truth Social post.“

Trump calls for the termination of the Constitution in Truth Social post | CNN Politics

Trump calls for the termination of the Constitution in Truth Social post

honig trump vpx split
CNN  —  none

"Former President Donald Trump called for the termination of the Constitution to overturn the 2020 election and reinstate him to power Saturday in a continuation of his election denialism and pushing of fringe conspiracy theories. 

“Do you throw the Presidential Election Results of 2020 OUT and declare the RIGHTFUL WINNER, or do you have a NEW ELECTION? A Massive Fraud of this type and magnitude allows for the termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution,” Trump wrote in a post on the social network Truth Social and accused “Big Tech” of working closely with Democrats. “Our great ‘Founders’ did not want, and would not condone, False & Fraudulent Elections!”

Trump’s post came after the release of internal Twitter emails showing deliberation in 2020 over a New York Post story about material found on Hunter Biden’s laptop. 

White House spokesman Andrew Bates said Saturday that Trump’s remarks are “anathema to the soul of our nation, and should be universally condemned.”

“You cannot only love America when you win,” Bates said in a statement. “The American Constitution is a sacrosanct document that for over 200 years has guaranteed that freedom and the rule of law prevail in our great country. The Constitution brings the American people together – regardless of party – and elected leaders swear to uphold it. It’s the ultimate monument to all of the Americans who have given their lives to defeat self-serving despots that abused their power and trampled on fundamental rights.”

Employees on Twitter’s legal, policy and communications teams debated – and at times disagreed – over whether to restrict the article under the company’s hacked materials policy. The debate took place weeks before the 2020 election, when Joe Biden, Hunter Biden’s father, was running against then-President Trump.

Trump announced his third presidential bid last month and is still widely considered the leader of the Republican Party. Party leaders had hoped that the former president would drop his election denialism rhetoric after lackluster results in the midterms. 

Earlier this week Trump expressed support for the rioters behind the deadly January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol, saying in a video played during a fundraiser that “People have been treated unconstitutionally in my opinion and very, very unfairly, and we’re going to get to the bottom of it.” 

In a September interview, Trump said he was “financially supporting” some January 6 defendants and promised he would issue pardons and a government apology to those being prosecuted if he were reelected.

He has also come under fire for having dinner at his Mar-a-lago resort with known White nationalist and Holocaust denier Nick Fuentes and rapper Kanye West, who has recently made a slew of antisemitic remarks. 

CNN’s Brian Fung and Arlette Saenz contributed to this report."

Trump calls for the termination of the Constitution in Truth Social post | CNN Politics

In Georgia, a Heated Senate Race Stirs Mixed Emotions in Black Voters - The New York Times

In Georgia, a Heated Senate Race Stirs Mixed Emotions in Black Voters

"The contest might have been a showcase of Black political power in the Deep South. But many Black voters say Herschel Walker’s turbulent campaign has marred the moment.

Georgia has never had two Black major-party nominees compete for the Senate. The race has prompted interest and sensitive debates among Black voters.
Nicole Craine for The New York Times

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ATLANTA — The line of voters circled around the East Point Library on a recent Thursday evening, giving Dacia Davis, a 45-year-old human resources coordinator braced against the chill, plenty of time to contemplate the historic significance of the ballot waiting for her inside.

Two African American men — Herschel Walker, a Republican, and Raphael Warnock, the Democratic incumbent — are vying for a Senate seat in the Deep South, in a runoff contest, a process designed decades ago to thwart Black candidates. The winner in Tuesday’s election will serve in an institution that has been overwhelmingly white throughout its history: Nearly 2,000 people have served in the U.S. Senate, and only 11 of them have been Black.

But a race that may seem like a triumph for Black political power has stirred a complicated mix of emotions for Ms. Davis and many other Black Georgians. Mr. Walker’s troubled candidacy has clouded their pride with suspicions, dismay, offense and even embarrassment.

In conversations with more than two dozen Black voters across Georgia, many said they did not see Mr. Walker, who has taken a conciliatory approach to matters of race, as representing the interests of Black people. Far more than a victory for racial representation, they cast the election in terms of now-familiar political stakes: a chance to keep a Republican backed by Donald Trump from gaining power and working to reverse policies they care about.

“It is a very historic moment,” said Ms. Davis, a supporter of Mr. Warnock. “But it is sort of like a bittersweet moment.” Sure, two Black men are running for Senate, she added, but many Black voters disagree with how Mr. Walker “views the nation and also other African American people.”

Dacia Davis says the Senate race between Herschel Walker and Raphael Warnock has been “bittersweet.”
Nicole Craine for The New York Times

Polls suggest Ms. Davis’s views are widely held. A CNN poll released on Friday found Mr. Walker winning just 3 percent of Black voters, who make up about one-third of Georgia’s electorate. That is less support than Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, won when he defeated Stacey Abrams in the governor’s race last month, according to AP VoteCast, a survey of Georgia voters.

Those numbers do not spell the end of Mr. Walker’s bid. Mr. Warnock led Mr. Walker only narrowly among all voters in the CNN survey. A strong turnout among white Republicans across the state could lift Mr. Walker to victory. 

Still, Republicans had hoped Mr. Walker would make inroads with Black Georgians. Encouraged by signs that Black voters, particularly Black men, have been softening to Republican messages in recent years, the party has made attempts to speak more directly to Black voters and recruit Black candidates. Mr. Walker looked to some like the best possible shot of taking back a seat Mr. Warnock won in a stunning Democratic surge just two years ago.

It became a matchup layered with meaning: Mr. Walker and Mr. Warnock both earned acclaim by succeeding in fields central to Southern Black culture. They represent what were, for the longest time, two of the few paths for Black men to gain social status and financial security in America: religion and athletics. Sunday morning and Sunday afternoon.

Senator Warnock is the pastor of Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, preaching from the same pulpit Martin Luther King Jr. once occupied.

In the 1980s, Mr. Walker led the University of Georgia football team to a national championship and won the Heisman Trophy before embarking on a professional football career.

Mr. Walker, center, with supporters in Peachtree City, Ga., last month.
Nicole Craine for The New York Times

But skepticism of Mr. Walker — and the motives of those, including Mr. Trump, who backed his bid — seemed to override the power of football fandom, even in Georgia.

What to Know About Georgia’s Senate Runoff

Another runoff in Georgia. The contest between Senator Raphael Warnock, a Democrat, and his Republican opponent, Herschel Walker, will be decided in a Dec. 6 runoff. It will be the state’s third Senate runoff in two years. Here’s a look at the race:

Timothy Woodson, a 69-year-old veteran and financial manager in Columbus, Ga., a city west of Atlanta near the Alabama border, was among those who were quick to praise Mr. Walker as a player, recounting Mr. Walker’s prowess on the field.

But as Mr. Woodson, a Democrat, stood on the front steps of his home in his majority Black, middle-class neighborhood, he said he saw Mr. Walker’s candidacy as a political ploy engineered by Mr. Trump in an attempt to win Black voters.

“I saw through all the politics,” he said. “I know why Herschel was picked. And I know who picked him, and I’m not with that.”

“Insulting” was the word Deron Simmons, a 44-year-old social worker, used as he left a polling center in College Park, a suburb just outside Atlanta.

“As a man, he is who he is, like everybody has their issues — mental health issues, life circumstances — I am not going to call him an embarrassment,” said Mr. Simmons, an independent who has voted for both Republicans and Democrats. “But he’s definitely not someone who should be representing, in the political field, my vote or anybody else’s vote.”

Mr. Walker has repeatedly been hit with damaging news reports about past accusations of domestic violence and erratic behavior tied to a history of mental illness. He was found to have exaggerated his business acumen and fabricated his past as a law enforcement officer. Two former girlfriends said he had urged them to end pregnancies even though he supports a ban on abortion. (He denied both claims.) After news reports, he acknowledged children that he fathered out of wedlock and had not mentioned during the campaign.

On Thursday, a woman said that in 2005, Mr. Walker had put his hands on her throat and chest and had swung his fist at her as she ducked out of the way after she had caught him with another woman. The Walker campaign did not comment on the claim.

Deron Simmons is an independent who has voted for both Republicans and Democrats in the past. He called Mr. Walker’s candidacy “insulting.”
Nicole Craine for The New York Times

For many of his Black supporters, Mr. Walker’s history represents an appealing story of redemption. They frequently mention his Christian beliefs and his rise to fame from small-town Georgia. They are more likely to refer to the history being made. Georgia has never had two Black major-party nominees compete for the Senate, according to Charles S. Bullock III, a political scientist at the University of Georgia.

(Georgia’s runoff rule, requiring another election when no candidate gets 50 percent of the vote, was created in the 1960s to keep Black politicians from winning in crowded races.)

Vivian Childs, 70, a minister and a Republican who ran for a House seat in a largely rural district in southwestern Georgia, said she thought Mr. Walker’s bid challenged everyone who had ever told her that the color of her skin limited her opportunities.

“This race right here proves it,” she said. “You have two Black men running for one of the highest seats in office — don’t dare let anyone tell you that where you are today is where you are going to land tomorrow.”

Vanessa Torres, 36, an Atlanta business manager who voted for Mr. Walker, said she believed Mr. Walker had been discriminated against because of his history of mental health issues. But Mr. Walker overcame them, she added.

“That says a lot to me — it says that you can come back from anything,” she said after she had cast her ballot at a library in suburban Atlanta.

Both candidates have at some point in their campaigns tailored their messaging to Black voters. Mr. Warnock has directly reached out to Black communities, underlining his ties to them. Mr. Walker has aimed to downplay the role of race in American life, often saying to his crowds of mostly white supporters, “We’re all mutts.”

Neither Mr. Walker’s nor Mr. Warnock’s campaigns provided comment for this article.

Mr. Walker has made the argument that Mr. Warnock is a “slick” preacher, a hypocrite who preaches grace and forgiveness but refuses to extend it to his political opponents. The Walker campaign frequently highlights Mr. Warnock’s custody dispute with his ex-wife.

Watching two prominent Black men air personal attacks under a national spotlight has been difficult for some Black Georgians, mindful that racial and ethnic groups are often judged by their most prominent members, and negative images could reflect poorly on the whole.

“We’ve come too far for us to be fighting in public,” said Roselyn Duncan, 60, a Brooklyn native who moved to Georgia in 2004. “You keep certain things at home. You fight behind closed doors.”

Waple Griffin said she was tired of divisive rhetoric on crime: “We need to come together and make it right for everybody.”
Nicole Buchanan for The New York Times

It was particularly difficult to watch one contentious stretch of the campaign, as accusations of absentee parenting dominated headlines and elevated a host of negative stereotypes about Black men and fatherhood, said Fred Hicks, who runs Black Men Decide, a nonpartisan group in Atlanta that aims to increase political involvement among Black men.

“It hit us hard, right,” Mr. Hicks said. “I think every Black man who was handling his business and involved with his kids felt a little bit of shame.”

The race has prompted other sensitive conversations about class, religion and education in Black communities that have changed rapidly amid Georgia’s population growth. Mr. Warnock, though raised in public housing, now carries the markers of Atlanta’s Black elite: a degree from Morehouse College, a private, historically Black college, and membership in Alpha Phi Alpha, an exclusive Black fraternity. His oratorical skills have been refined over years of sermons at Ebenezer.

Mr. Walker did not graduate from college; he left early to pursue professional football. He made millions as a player before retiring and parlaying his celebrity into ownership of a food-distribution company.

Mr. Walker has endured harsh criticism for his freewheeling campaign style. His sentences often take a circuitous route before reaching an endpoint, sometimes baffling audiences. He has waxed poetic about the relative merits of werewolves versus vampires. His thick, rural Georgia accent can be difficult for transplants to decipher.

Senator Raphael Warnock greeted John Evans, 90, left, during a campaign stop in Monroe, Ga., last month.
Nicole Craine for The New York Times

Kimberlyn Carter, a Democratic operative in Georgia, said she often felt that debates about the race were tinged with classism that could backfire against her party.

“We want to be careful about making sure that in some of our conversations, that we’re not leaning into a type of Black elitism that says that a person who holds degrees is better than a person who’s maybe held a football,” she said.

For many Black voters, bread-and-butter policy issues outweighed all the complicated subtext. They did not believe Mr. Walker would protect their interests.

Geneva McKelvey, 65, voted for Mr. Warnock on Monday at the Columbus municipal center, across the street from the library where she works. She said health care policies for seniors and education were two issues that mattered most to her. She wanted to see Georgia’s next senator do more to reduce crime rates in cities like Columbus, by offering more programs for young Black people.

Waple Griffin, 61, a clinician at the Fulton County Board of Education in Atlanta, said she was tired of Republicans’ campaigning on crime in what she saw as an attempt to split Black and Hispanic voters.

“We need to come together and make it right for everybody,” said Ms. Griffin, an independent.

She said she had voted for Mr. Warnock because he had experience working with Republicans.

A Chatham County Black Voters Matter volunteer preparing for a day of outreach at churches and shelters in downtown Savannah, Ga., last month.
Audra Melton for The New York Times

Despite Mr. Walker’s challenges, some voters still feel pride in watching two Black candidates compete for such a lofty office.

As he waited, Ladell Fortune, 42, a music teacher, was thumbing through sheet music for “A Joyous Carol of the Bells.” His class had a Christmas concert coming up.

It was his second time attempting to vote while facing long lines, he said, but that had not deterred him from participating.

“It is definitely historic and something that my eyes have never seen in my lifetime,” he said of the race. “It’s a proud moment to be able to stand in the cold knowing the sacrifices that were made by my people, so that I could have this opportunity.”


In Georgia, a Heated Senate Race Stirs Mixed Emotions in Black Voters - The New York Times