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#EndorseThis: Flint Pastor Stops Trump When He Goes Off Script

Want to be featured in our daily #EndorseThis column? Here’s an idea: Invite Donald Trump to your hometown to deliver an explicitly apolitical address to your parishioners, then discipline him when he (predictably) strays from the script.

That’s what Rev. Faith Green Timmons of Flint, MI did Wednesday, and boy was it about time.

One video clip of Trump’s speech at Bethel United Methodist Church begins during Trump’s criticism of the North American Free Trade Agreement, and then of Hillary Clinton. In no time, Timmons enters stage left, interrupting Trump’s speech to remind him to stay away from politics.

“Mr. Trump, I invited you here to thank us for what we’ve done in Flint, not give a political speech,” she said to Trump, who, interrupted in the middle of another pre-written speech, wrapped up quickly after that.

“Oh, oh, OK, OK, OK. That’s good,” Trump said. “Then I’m going to go back onto Flint, OK.”

“I thought he wanted to see that we gave out food and water, and when his statement went beyond what he originally said, I asked him to stick to what he was originally going to say,” Timmons told the Detroit Free Press afterwards. “He’s welcome to come and see what we’re doing in Flint. We’re doing well. We’re helping those in need. And I wanted him to see the best of Flint.”

Timmons also admonished congregants who heckled Trump.

Donald Trump is not the kind of presidential candidate to let a pastor go unanswered. So this morning, he launched into a Trumpian damage control routine, saying Timmons had planned the interruption and that she was “a nervous mess.”

“Something was up because I noticed she was so nervous when she introduced me,” he told Fox & Friends on Thursday morning. “Everyone plays their games, it doesn’t bother me.”

In a now-deleted Facebook post before the event, Timmons had written, “HE WILL NOT USE US, WE will EDUCATE HIM!!!” After the event, she followed up: “Had he stuck to what his camp claimed he came to do we would not have had a problem! – Good night.”

Why the heckling from attendees of Trump’s speech? According to NPR’s Scott Detrow, they were asking Trump about a lawsuit filed by the Nixon Justice Department (and later settled in secret) alleging that Trump discriminated against black applicants to his apartment buildings in the ’70s.

Photo: MSNBC/ Talking Points Memo

What Did The Flint Crisis Really… Cost?

By Dan Whitcomb

The social costs stemming from dangerous levels of lead in the drinking water of Flint, Michigan, such as the effect on children’s health, amount to $395 million, according to an analysis by a professor at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health.

The total takes into account some 8,000 children believed exposed to lead poisoning in Flint since April 2014, when the financially struggling city, under the control of a state-appointed emergency manager, switched its water source from Detroit’s municipal system to the Flint River to save money.

The river water was more corrosive than the Detroit system’s and caused more lead to leach from Flint’s aging pipes. Lead can be toxic and children are especially vulnerable. The city switched back last October.

The crisis has prompted lawsuits by parents in Flint, which has a population of about 100,000, who say their children have shown dangerously high levels of lead in their blood.

The study calculated the lifetime economic losses expected to be suffered for every exposed child. The U.S. lead health standard has been lowered repeatedly since the 1960s, but according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention no safe level has been identified.

“We should never ignore the human costs of lead poisoning,” study author Peter Muennig, an associate professor at the university, said in a statement released with his analysis, published in a letter to the journal Health Affairs.

“Even relatively low levels of exposure may rob children of IQ points and predispose them to violent behavior later in life,” Muennig said.

Overall societal costs of all low-level lead exposures in the United States – measured as lost economic productivity, welfare use and criminal justice system costs – was over $4.5 billion last year, according to the study.

In July six state employees in Michigan were criminally charged in connection with the case. Some critics have called for high-ranking state officials, including Governor Rick Snyder, to be charged. Snyder said in April he believed he had not done anything criminally wrong.

 

(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Leslie Adler)

Photo: The top of the Flint Water Plant tower is seen in Flint, Michigan February 7, 2016.   REUTERS/Rebecca Cook/Files

Michigan Prosecutor Charges Six In Flint Water Scandal

DETROIT (Reuters) – The Michigan Attorney General’s Office said on Thursday it will bring a second round of criminal charges related to the investigation into dangerous lead levels in the city of Flint‘s drinking water.

Attorney General Bill Schuette’s office said in a brief media advisory the charges would be announced on Friday morning. Office spokeswoman Andrea Bitely said she could provide no further information on the upcoming announcement, including specific charges and the identities of those being charged.

Flint, with a population of about 100,000, was under control of a state-appointed emergency manager in 2014 when it switched its water source from Detroit’s municipal system to the FlintRiver to save money. The city switched back in October 2015.

The river water was more corrosive than the Detroit system’s and caused more lead to leach from its aging pipes. Lead can be toxic, and children are especially vulnerable. The crisis has prompted lawsuits by parents who say their children have shown dangerously high levels of lead in their blood.

Three state and local officials were criminally charged in April in connection with the investigation.Flint utilities administrator Michael Glasgow subsequently agreed to cooperate with investigators as part of a deal that had him plead no contest to a misdemeanor charge while a more serious felony charge was dismissed.

Michigan Department of Environmental Quality officials Stephen Busch and Michael Prysby were charged with five and six counts, respectively, including misconduct in office, tampering with evidence and violation of the Michigan Safe Drinking Water Act. Both pleaded not guilty.

Additionally, Schuette last month sued French water company Veolia Environnement SA and Houston-based engineering services firm Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam for “botching” their roles in the city’s drinking water crisis.

(Reporting by Curtis Skinner in San Francisco; Additional reporting by Ben Klayman in Detroit; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

Sometimes, Race Is More Distraction Than Explanation

Dear white people:

As you no doubt know, the water crisis in Flint, Mich., returned to the headlines last week with news that the state attorney general is charging three government officials for their alleged roles in the debacle. It makes this a convenient moment to deal with something that has irked me about the way this disaster is framed.

Namely, the fact that people who look like you often get left out of it.

Consider some of the headlines:

The Racist Roots of Flint’s Water Crisis — Huffington Post

How A Racist System Has Poisoned The Water in Flint — The Root

A Question of Environmental Racism — The New York Times

As has been reported repeatedly, Flint is a majority black city with a 41 percent poverty rate, so critics ask if the water would have been so blithely poisoned, and if it would have taken media so long to notice, had the victims been mostly white.

It’s a sensible question, but whenever I hear it, I engage in a little thought experiment. I try to imagine what happened in Flint happening in Bowie, a city in Maryland where blacks outnumber whites, but the median household income is more than $100,000 a year and the poverty rate is about 3 percent. I can’t.

Then I try to imagine it happening in Morgantown, West Virginia, where whites outnumber blacks, the median household income is about $32,000 a year, and the poverty rate approaches 40 percent — and I find that I easily can. It helps that Bowie is a few minutes from Washington, D.C., while Morgantown is more than an hour from the nearest city of any size.

My point is neither that race carries no weight nor that it had no impact on what happened in Flint. No, my point is only that sometimes, race is more distraction than explanation. Indeed, that’s the story of our lives.

To be white in America is to have been sold a bill of goods that there exists between you and people of color a gap of morality, behavior, intelligence and fundamental humanity. Forces of money and power have often used that perceived gap to con people like you into acting against their own self-interest.

In the Civil War, white men too poor to own slaves died in grotesque numbers to protect the “right” of a few plutocrats to continue that despicable practice. In the Industrial Revolution, white workers agitating for a living wage were kept in line by the threat that their jobs would be given to “Negroes.” In the Depression, white families mired in poverty were mollified by signs reading “Whites Only.”

You have to wonder what would happen if white people — particularly, those of modest means — ever saw that gap for the fiction it is? What if they ever realized you don’t need common color to reach common ground? What if all of us were less reflexive in using race as our prism, just because it’s handy?

You see, for as much as Flint is a story about how we treat people of color, it is also — I would say more so — a story about how we treat the poor, the way we render them invisible. That was also the story of Hurricane Katrina. Remember news media’s shock at discovering there were Americans too poor to escape a killer storm?

Granted, there is a discussion to be had about how poverty is constructed in this country; the black poverty rate is higher than any other with the exception of Native Americans, and that’s no coincidence. But it’s equally true that, once you are poor, the array of slights and indignities to which you are subjected is remarkably consistent across that racial gap.

That fact should induce you — and all of us — to reconsider the de facto primacy we assign this arbitrary marker of identity. After all, 37 percent of the people in Flint are white.

But that’s done nothing to make their water clean.

(Leonard Pitts is a columnist for The Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, Fla., 33132. Readers may contact him via e-mail at lpitts@miamiherald.com.)

(c) 2016 THE MIAMI HERALD DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.

Photo: The top of the Flint Water Plant tower is seen in Flint, Michigan in this February 7, 2016 file photo. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook/Files