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Cultural discrimination questioned in class action by French police

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Class-action lawsuits claim French police often discriminate against French police

On Wednesday, in a first for France, six NGOs filed a class action complaint against the French government for perceived racial discrimination by police officers carrying out identification checks.

Organizations such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International say that in ID scans, French police use ethnic discrimination to harass Black citizens and Arab descendants.

In order to ensure that ethnic discrimination does not decide who is detained by the police, they presented Prime Minister Jean Castex and France’s interior and justice ministers with formal legal notification of demands for specific action and deep law enforcement changes.

Antoine Lyon-Caen, the lead prosecutor in the lawsuit, said that the court suit would not blame particular police officers, but “the system itself that generates discriminatory practice through its laws, habits, culture.”

“The response, the reactions, the remedies, the measures must be systemic, given the shortcomings of the state (concern) and systemic practise,” Lyon-Caen said at a news conference with NGOs taking action. They comprise three French grassroots organisations and the Open Society Rights Project.

For years, the problem of ethnic discrimination by the French police has been festering, including, though not limited to, the phenomenon of officers carrying out identification tests on young people who are mostly black or of Arab origin who living in deprived housing projects.

In a two-stage litigation process, serving notice is the compulsory first step. The law offers four months for the French authorities to speak to the NGOs about how they should fulfil the demands. According to one of the attorneys, Slim Ben Achour, if the people behind the complaint are left unsatisfied, the matter will go to arbitration.

It’s France’s first class-action discrimination case focused on race or claimed racial heritage. The NGOs are using a little-used French legislation from 2016 that requires organisations to take such a legal move.

It’s groundbreaking, and we’re going to be referring to hundreds of thousands, maybe a million people.” In a phone interview, Ben Achour told The Associated Press.” NGOs was taking class action on behalf of ethnic minorities, who are predominantly French residents of the second or third generation.

“The group is black and brown,” said Ben Achour.

If the talks made progress, he added, the four-month timeframe for finding a deal may be extended.

For many in France, the misuse of identity checks has acted as an example of wider perceived bias within police ranks, with opponents alleging that the authorities have left corruption unregulated or whitewashed.

A video of a recent event shared online attracted a rebuke from President Emmanuel Macron, who called “unbearable” racial discrimination. Police authorities say that when they arrive in residential housing developments, officers themselves feel under threat. Officers got stuck during a spate of confrontational events and had fireworks and other things hurled at them.

Instead of monetary disruption, NGOs are pursuing reforms, especially changes in the law regulating identity checks. They contend that the legislation is too vague and does not allow for police oversight so it is hard to track the conduct of the officers involved, whilst the people stopped are left embarrassed and often furious.

The groups want, among other demands, an end to the long-standing tradition of assessing police success through the amount of citations given or arrests made, arguing that benchmarks will facilitate unfounded identity checks.

There are about 50 witnesses of the case, both police officers and persons exposed to abusive inspections, whose accounts are extracted in the 145-page notice letters. The NGO quotes one unidentified person who has talked for years about receiving numerous police tests every day.

A police officer stationed in a tough suburb of Paris who is not associated with the case told the AP that, while in civilian clothes, he is frequently subjected to ID checks.

I’m a person of colour when I’m not in uniform,” said the officer, who asked to remain anonymous in accordance with police rules and because of the sensitive nature of the topic.” The police need a legal justification for their acts, “but they do checks (based on) heads 80 percent of the time,” indicating how a person looks.

The head of the Group House for Supportive Growth, Omer Mas Capitolin, a grassroots NGO involved in the legal action, called it a “mechanical reflex” for the French police to stop non-whites, a tactic he claimed is dangerous to the individual being inspected and eventually to the relationships they are supposed to protect between officers and members of the public.

“It lowers your self-esteem when you’re always checked,” and you become a “second-class citizen,” Mas Capitolin said. “Victims in this country are afraid to file complaints even if they know what happened is not normal,” he said, because they fear local police fallout.

He credited the case of George Floyd, the Black American who, when a white police officer pushed his knee into Floyd’s throat, died last year in Minneapolis, with lifting his consciousness and being a force for reform in France.

Issa Coulibaly, the head of Pazapas-Belleville, another group taking part in the lawsuit, said, “These are practises that affect the whole society.” Like a downward spiral, profiling hurts the “feeling of belonging” of young people to the life of the country and “reinforces other people’s prejudices.”

NGOs also made it known that they do not suspect particular policemen of being racist.

There is so much of that world. They never think that there’s a crisis,’ said the prosecutor, Ben Achour.

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Minnesota Supreme Court defers ruling on Minneapolis police

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Minnesota Supreme Court defers ruling on Minneapolis police

By STEVE KARNOWSKI

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Minnesota Supreme Court issued a narrow ruling Thursday in the fight over a ballot question about the future of policing in Minneapolis, but it didn’t settle the bigger question of whether the public will get to vote on the issue.

Chief Justice Lorie Gildea’s ruling lifted a small part of a lower court’s order that rejected the ballot language approved by the City Council, saying that elections officials don’t have to include notes with ballots instructing people not to vote on the question and that any votes won’t be counted.

The order didn’t address the main issue in dispute — whether voters will get to decide on a proposed charter amendment that would replace the Minneapolis Police Department with a new Department of Public Safety that “could include” police officers “if necessary.”

The proposal has its roots in the “defund the police” movement that gained steam after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody last summer, but it leaves critical details about the new agency to be determined later.

The Supreme Court was under pressure to rule quickly because early and absentee voting opens Friday in the Minneapolis municipal elections, and ballots have already been printed.

Terrance Moore, an attorney for the Yes 4 Minneapolis campaign, which spearheaded the proposal, said he expects a ruling on the bigger question to come at some point later. The city attorney’s office agreed that the high court has yet to rule on the main issues.

Joe Anthony, an attorney for former City Council member Don Samuels and two other people who challenged the ballot language as misleading, called the order “a little mysterious.” He noted the lower court injunction barring counting and reporting votes was left in place, at least for the moment. There are a few possibilities for what could happen next, he said, including the Supreme Court taking time for fuller arguments, then deciding by Nov. 2 whether the votes cast would count.

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Biden and UK, Australia leaders announce partnership to blunt China’s influence

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Biden and UK, Australia leaders announce partnership to blunt China's influence

(NewsNation Now) — President Joe Biden has announced a new partnership with the United Kingdom and Australia that some believe is aimed at standing up to China.

The first goal of the alliance, dubbed “AUUKUS,” is to get Australia a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines. The fleet would not have nuclear weapons.

Biden, Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia and Prime Minister Boris Johnson of the United Kingdom pledged to uphold their obligations under nuclear proliferation treaties.

“We all recognize the imperative of ensuring peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific over the long term,” said Biden, who added that the new alliance reflects a broader trend of key European partners playing a role in the Indo-Pacific. “We need to be able to address both the current strategic environment in the region and how it may evolve.”

The new security alliance is likely to be seen as a provocative move by China, which has repeatedly lashed out at Biden as he’s sought to refocus U.S. foreign policy on the Pacific in the early going of his presidency.

“This is a very good development,” Gordon G. Chang, the author of “The Coming Collapse of China” and “The Great U.S.-China Tech War,” said on “On Balance” Wednesday. “If you’re in Beijing right now, you’re going to be a little bit worried about what happened today because it was not just the submarines, but it was also the announcement of the security pact among the United States, Australia and the UK.”

The three countries have agreed to share information in areas including artificial intelligence, cyber and underwater defense capabilities.

To date, the only country that the United States has shared nuclear propulsion technology with is Britain. Morrison said Australia is not seeking to develop a nuclear weapons program and information sharing would be limited to helping it develop a submarine fleet.

The Australian prime minister said plans for the nuclear-powered submarines would be developed over the next 18 months and the vessels would be built in Adelaide, Australia.

“I do think it’s a little bit late, but nonetheless, we should be doing this now because we know that the timeline of China has been accelerated recently,” Chang said.

The announcement of the new security alliance comes as the U.S.-China relationship has deteriorated. Beijing has taken exception to Biden administration officials repeatedly calling out China over human rights abuses in Xianjing province, the crackdown on democracy activists in Hong Kong, and cybersecurity breaches originating from China, as well as Beijing’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and what the White House has labeled as “coercive and unfair” trade practices.

Even as White House officials have repeatedly spoken out about China, administration officials say they want to work with Beijing on areas of common interest, including curbing the pandemic and climate change.

None of the leaders mentioned China in their remarks Wednesday.

“I think that he’s (Biden) got this old mentality that you shouldn’t anger the Chinese,” Chang said. “But what this does is, it makes Beijing more bold because it realizes that Biden is afraid of talking about the real issue. We should be saying this out loud. China, China, China.”

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Veteran from same unit as fallen Wentzville Marine speaks out

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Veteran from same unit as fallen Wentzville Marine speaks out

ST. PETERS, Mo. – Fort Zumwalt South High School honored the life of 20-year-old Marine Lance Corporal Jared Schmitz before Friday night’s football game with a moment of silence and holding a Marine Corps flag during the national anthem. 

Schmitz graduated from Fort Zumwalt South High School in 2019. He was one of 13 U.S. service members killed in an attack at the airport in Kabul from ISIS-K.

Schmitz was supposed to turn 21 in February, he was just seven months old when 9/11 happened and the war he fought in, started.

Afghanistan veteran James Wright said he served in the same unit as Schmitz, but 10 years prior.

“I didn’t know who he was, but what I do know is that he’s a brother of mine, it hits close to home,” he said through his tears.

“It’s just gut-wrenching to know that even though we don’t know each other now, one way or another the things that we do and the way that we carry ourselves through the Marine Corps, it passes down to the next generation.”

But Wright said that is not the only connection. Wright has been helping his interpreter from his 2010-2011 deployment in Afghanistan get his Special Immigrant VISA and get out of Afghanistan and become a US citizen.

Wright said his interpreter, his wife, and three daughters were able to get safely to the airport in Kabul all because of the Marines in a specific unit, which happened to be the one Schmitz served in. 

Wright said the gate that was attacked at the airport, was the same gate his interpreter and family went through just five days before, because of the help of Schmitz and fellow Marines.

“His actions actually benefitted a family coming to America, where their lives and this family lives and this history for years to come is because of the selfless act and the job that he did over there,” he said.

The interpreter and family landed in America Thursday, the same day Schmitz was killed.

“This is an opportunity to show a family that his loss, did have an outcome that was beneficial for him being there,” he said. “I know that my linguist is very grateful for him.”

Wright said he wants Schmitz family to know he is there for them. “I want to thank them for raising a fine young man,” he said. “I want to let them know that they aren’t forgotten, we do care and we know what they are going through and know that his death was not in vain.”

Wright lives about an hour and a half south of Wentzville, where Schmitz is from and said he believes he is the closest Marine to the family that served in the same unit as Schmitz. 

“If they have any questions, just from experience and being over there, I would be more than happy to go to them and sit down and talk to them if that’s what they wish.”

“They might not feel it, but like I said before, our community is very small and we’re all feeling it. They have a support group behind them in the thousands, and I don’t know a single person that wouldn’t drop everything and be at their beck and call. If they need me, I’m there.”

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Can kids be harmed wearing masks to protect against COVID?

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Can kids be harmed wearing masks to protect against COVID?

Can kids be harmed wearing masks to protect against COVID?

No, there is no scientific evidence showing masks cause harm to kids’ health despite baseless claims suggesting otherwise.

The claims are circulating on social media and elsewhere just as virus outbreaks are hitting many reopened U.S. schools — particularly those without mask mandates.

Among the unfounded arguments: Masks can foster germs if they become moist or cause unhealthy levels of carbon dioxide. But experts say washing masks routinely keeps them safe and clean.

Some argue that young children miss important visual and social cues that enhance learning and development when their classmates and teachers are wearing masks. But others note that children with vision or hearing impairment learn to adapt and that other kids can, too.

“We don’t know for sure that masks have no developmental effects but we do know that there are adverse effects from not trying to stop transmission,’ said Dr. Emily Levy, a critical care and infection control expert at Mayo Clinic Children’s Center.

There’s strong evidence masking children in schools can reduce COVID-19 transmission to other children and adults.

Across 166 schools in Maricopa County, Arizona, COVID-19 outbreaks are two times more common at those without mask mandates, said Dr. Rebecca Sunenshine, medical director of the county’s public health department.

Studies from school districts in other states including North Carolina have also found that masking can greatly reduce COVID-19 transmission rates, especially when it’s combined with physical distancing and other prevention measures.

“One thing that we know about prevention, about infection control is that there isn’t a single intervention that will win the day,’ said Dr. Joshua Schaffzin, director of infection prevention and control at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.

But he noted there’s plenty of evidence that masking is a key component in making schools safer.

To avoid skin irritation, doctors suggest washing masks regularly, making sure they fit properly and picking masks made with soft, breathable fabric.

___

The AP is answering your questions about the coronavirus in this series. Submit them at: [email protected]

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An Italian Masterpiece from the 17th Century Found in a Random New York Church

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An Italian Masterpiece from the 17th Century Found in a Random New York Church
The 17th century masterpiece had been hanging in the church since the 1960s. WABC

In a stroke of good fortune, an Italian Baroque painting by the artist Cesare Dandini was discovered in New Rochelle, New York early last year by an unsuspecting Iona College art history professor. The academic, Tom Ruggio, recently recounted his story, saying that as soon as he laid eyes on the canvas, he was certain that “a quest had begun.” While visiting the Church of the Holy Family, a place of worship located close to Iona College, Ruggio was stunned to lay eyes on a painting that was very much like similar ones in churches he’d seen when visiting Italy. Upon closer investigation, Ruggio became certain that the painting was authentic.

“I realized immediately it was an Italian Baroque painting,” Ruggio told ABC7. “And I sort of did a double take, why is it here? I immediately got up and started to take some bad pictures with my cellphone.” Using his art history connections, Ruggio sent the images to colleagues in Italy and Manhattan, who determined that the canvas was one in a series of paintings completed by Dandini in the 1630s. The painting, entitled Holy Family with the Infant St. John, features beautifully rendered Biblical figures.

The “central figures are the Virgin Mary and the Christ child,” Ruggio explained. “We’ve got Joseph and we have the infant St. John. Saint John the Baptist.” For years, experts and art enthusiasts believed that the painting had been missing, but it was in the Church of the Holy Family for more than six decades. For the next three months, the painting will be on display at Iona College.

How did the painting get to the church? “The former pastor Monsignor Fitzgerald went over to I believe London and was going through different galleries because he wanted to get paintings for over the door here and on the other side of the church,” Dennis Keane, a Monsignor with the Church of the Holy Family, explained. “He purchased two of these paintings in a gallery, but we don’t know the name of the gallery.”

An Italian Masterpiece from the 17th Century Found in a Random New York Church

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Trailblazing Chinese American WWII hero and Philly police commander dies at 93

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Philadelphia PD Anthony Wong

Anthony Wong, a trailblazing retired Philadelphia Police Department commander, died last week at 93 years old.

The details: Wong, a World War II and Korean War hero who was the son of Chinese immigrants, passed peacefully surrounded by family on Sept. 8, according to his obituary on Stretch Funeral Home.

  • He was the highest-ranking Chinese American in the history of the Philadelphia Police Department,” Jim Trainor, Wong’s son-in-law who is also a member of the department, told CBS Philadelphia. “I would say he broke all barriers when it came to Asians coming into the police department.”
  • Wong joined the Philadelphia PD in 1953 after serving in the United States Army in two wars. He was the only Chinese American officer in the department at the time.
  • He mentored thousands of cadets in the department and attained the rank of Chief Inspector before his retirement 18 years ago.
  • What a terrific father figure for me, friend, mentor,” Trainor said. “My 33rd year in the police department, he’s guided me the whole way. He’s been with me the whole way.”

His services: Wong had served in various areas of policing, including Narcotics and Vice Enforcement. He was a two-time commanding officer of the Training Bureau and also commanded the Patrol Bureau, Emergency Planning and Community Relations Division during his service. 

  • He endured so much to be able to kick the door open for so many and keep it open,” Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said in a statement. “What an amazing accomplishment and we thank him for his service.”
  • Wong joined the police department to serve as a bridge between the authorities and the Asian community in order to help Asians gain access to government and agency services.
  • “[Being a police officer] provides the opportunity to prevent suffering,” Wong said in his speech at the Students for Asian Affairs in 1993, Daily Pennsylvania reported. “I also wanted to [reach out] to the Asian community. They don’t always have the access they need to government agencies and services.”
  • Wong had also served on the board of directors of the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation (PCDC), which he was also a co-founder of, and On Lok House, a senior citizen center in Philadelphia.

Featured Image via Stretch Funeral Home

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Lowry: Why Democrats won’t be able to pay for ambitions

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Lowry: Why Democrats won’t be able to pay for ambitions

Benjamin Franklin was right about death and taxes, but new taxes only become inevitable when a Democrat is elected president.

The House Ways and Means Committee released an outline of tax proposals to offset President Biden’s jaw-dropping spending plans, and it’s the expected assortment of tax increases on business and the affluent that Democrats like to pretend can fund a social welfare state of the sort that Bernie Sanders has long pined and advocated for.

The individual tax rate would increase from 37% to 39.6%, the capital gains rate from 20% to 25%, and the corporate tax rate from 21% to 26.5 %, among sundry other provisions befitting the hideously complex U.S. tax regime.

It’s a sign of the scope of Biden plans that the committee version represents a step back from his tax proposals, yet still clocks in at an enormous $2.2 trillion in estimated new revenue over ten years.

The corporate taxes are particularly noxious. Democrats love the politics of taxing corporations, based on the lazy and wrongheaded idea that the corporate tax is the way to stick it to executives and shareholders. To the contrary, if businesses are taxed at a higher rate, they have less resources available for the capital investments that improve worker productivity over time. This ultimately means lower wages for workers.

According to the Tax Foundation, a top corporate rate of 28% would once again give the U.S. the highest rate in the OECD at 32.3% once state level corporate taxes are factored in as well.

What’s the sense in instantly making the business environment in the United States less favorable and giving a competitive advantage to foreign countries?

While the Way and Means draft rejects Biden proposals such as taking the capital gains rate all the way up to 39%(!), it does everything it can to try to hold anyone making less than $400,000 harmless. As The Washington Post puts it, “The efforts are designed to avoid even the appearance of affecting middle- and lower-income households.”

This is where the Democrats are willing to talk the talk about a cradle-to-grave welfare state, but not walk the walk. There can be no European-style welfare state, at least not sustainably so, without European-style taxes.
The dirty secret about the Scandinavian countries that the left constantly holds up as a model is that they aren’t afraid to tax the middle class. These alleged models of social justice tax more than we do and tax much more broadly, realizing that taxing the rich and corporations isn’t enough to fund extensive and generous social programs.

The Tax Foundation calculates that if the U.S. had a tax system comparable to Denmark, we would be taxing all income over $70,000 at 55.9%, Denmark’s top rate.

The Ways and Means tax hikes would, sure enough, create Denmark-like rates. But the rates wouldn’t reach down into the middle class. In fact, Democrats from high tax states are determined to raise the cap on federal tax deductions for state and local taxes to reduce the tax bite on their relatively affluent constituents.

Maybe don’t increase taxes in the first place?

Indeed, rather than trying to spend historic amounts of money while their slender majorities last, it’d be better for the country if Democrats sought to fund their priorities by reallocating dollars within the already vast federal budget. But standing the aforementioned Benjamin Franklin on his head, they believe that a trillion saved is a trillion wasted.


Rich Lowry is editor of the National Review.

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Rochester woman mourns child’s father killed in Wis. quadruple homicide

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Rochester woman mourns child’s father killed in Wis. quadruple homicide

ROCHESTER, Minn. — Mackenzie Fjerstad was at her home in Rochester, Minnesota, surrounded by family and friends, when she found out her 2-year-old daughter Maelahni was never going to be with her father again.

Fjerstad, 22, learned Monday afternoon, Sept. 13, that her ex-boyfriend and Maelahni’s father, Matthew Pettus, was one of four people found fatally shot Sunday, Sept. 12, in an abandoned SUV in a cornfield in Dunn County, Wis.

“I just broke,” Fjerstad said. “I just broke down bawling. I’ve never felt this type of pain before. Ever.”

Pettus, 26, and the three other victims — his sister Jasmine Christine Sturm, 30, of St. Paul; Nitosha Lee Flug-Presley, 30, of Stillwater, Minnesota, and Loyace Foreman III, 35, of St. Paul — were found in the SUV by a farmer Sunday afternoon. The night before, they had been 65 miles west at a bar in St. Paul, where Pettus was living, Dunn County Sheriff Kevin Bygd said during a news conference on Tuesday, Sept. 14.

Authorities believe the four “were randomly brought to” Dunn County.

Bygd said there is no connection between the victims and Dunn County, and at this time there are no indications the motive behind the killings involved drugs or organized crime activity.

Fjerstad met Pettus in Rochester in 2017 while in line at a Taco Bell drive-thru. Pettus was working there and the two were flirting while she was waiting for her food, she said.

Matthew Pettus, 26, of St. Paul, with his daughter, Maelahni. (Courtesy of Mackenzie Fjerstad)

“I did a Facebook status like, ‘Oh, whoever the Taco Bell drive-thru guy is is pretty cute,’” she said. “And then he found me on Facebook a week later.”

That started a three-year relationship that led to the birth of their daughter in 2019. They separated in 2020 and Pettus moved to St. Paul, but that didn’t stop him from being an active part of Maelahni’s life.

“He was great. He was always supportive. He was always making sure she had more than she needed. He would take her unnecessarily shopping,” Fjerstad said. “He always wanted to do something with her … He just always made sure she had everything she needed and she loves him so much.

“It definitely made me feel lucky that I was blessed with my child’s father actually wanting to be there.”

Fjerstad also described Pettus as a “stubborn” person, but also welcoming to others. Pettus did have a criminal record in Olmsted County.

“He struggled with a lot of things, but no matter what, he tried. And he was there,” Fjerstad said.

Pettus’ sister, Jasmine Sturm, also played an involved role when it came to her niece.

“(Maelahni) loved her auntie,” Fjerstad said. “Every time she saw her, she would get excited. Jasmine did everything she could to help me, too. She would take Maelahni sometimes on weekends and just take her out.”

Even after they separated, Fjerstad said she was comfortable reaching out to Pettus and always wanted him to be a part of her and Maelahni’s lives.

“No matter what happened, I knew that I could call him and cry to him about something that didn’t even involve him or my child,” she said. “He was there … He was my first love. I’ve always cared about him and I told him ‘No matter what, I’m always going to care about you and always have a love for you. You’re the father of my child. I don’t want anything to happen to you.’”

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NASCAR Cup Series returns to Watkins Glen in late August 2022

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NASCAR Cup Series returns to Watkins Glen in late August 2022

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (WETM) – The NASCAR Cup Series will return to Watkins Glen International and New York State on Sunday, August 21, two weeks later than the race’s typical weekend.

The race was announced as part of the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series schedule and will be the second-to-last NASCAR Cup Series regular season race of the season.

“The on-track intensity is going ramp up even more for next year’s race,” WGI President Michael Printup said. “Moving our race to later in August means the drivers will be in desperation mode to secure one of the few remaining chances at the championship. Dreams will be made, and title hopes dashed, on the twists and turns at The Glen.”

The race at Watkins Glen will lead up to the regular season finale at Daytona International Speedway to set up the Playoff field of 16 drivers.

Schedules for the NASCAR Xfinity Series, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and ARCA Menards Series 2022 seasons will be announced in the near future. In addition, start times and television network information for Cup Series races will be also announced at a later date.

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Concert series hosted at Laclede’s Landing

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Concert series hosted at Laclede’s Landing

ST. LOUIS – Local promoter Jamo Presents is hosting a concert series in partnership with the STLmade campaign.

The concerts will take place at Laclede’s Landing on the St. Louis Riverfront from Sept. 16 to Oct. 10. The list of acts includes:

  • Sean Canan’s Voodoo Players
  • Talib Kweli + Reggie Son and NandoSTL
  • Cherub
  • The Dead South
  • Keller Williams’ Grateful Grass ft. The Hillbenders
  • Marquise Knox’s #iknowtheblues Festival
  • Aaron Kamm and the One Drops

For more information about the dates and times for the events, visit here.

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