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George Curry

Donald Trump's Baseless Challenge to Obama's U.S. Citizenship

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(NNPA) Donald Trump, who is again flirting with the possibility of running for president on the Republican ticket, has garnered widespread publicity by repeating thoroughly discredited claims that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States and therefore is ineligible to be president of the United States. He has hired private investigators to look into whether Obama was born in Hawaii.

Trump should save his money. There is no doubt that Obama was born in the United States. The only people who refuse to accept this truth are ignorant, brain dead or decline to let facts get in way of their right-wing politics. In this case, Donald Trump might fit all three categories.

In a letter to the New York Times, Trump wrote, “There is a very large segment of our society who believe [sic] that Barack Obama, indeed, was not born in the United States.”

For the record, Barack Hussein Obama was born at 7:24 p.m. on August 4, 1961 in Honolulu. His parents were Stanley Ann Dunham and Barack Hussein Obama, Sr.

What is the source of this information?

Obama’s official birth certificate that was issued by Hawaii’s Department of Health. The birth was registered August 8, 1961 and the “Certification of Live Birth” notes that Obama’s mother was Caucasian and his father was African.

In addition to the official birth document, Obama’s entrance into the world was recorded in both local newspapaers, the August 13 Honolulu Advertiser and the August 14 Honolulu Star-Bulletin.

On MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Trump said on April 7: “Well, guess what? His grandparents probably put in a thing because everybody wanted to become a United States citizen, more so than today to be honest with you, because they were more proud in those days. But for purposes of hospitalization and welfare, you want to become an American citizen. So, the grandparents living in Honolulu, living in Hawaii, probably put it in. It’s a very simple explanation.”

It may be a simple explanation, but it is a wrong one.

The Honolulu Advertiser noted, “In November 2008, the Advertiser reported that the first mention of the future president appeared in a Sunday Advertiser birth announcement that ran on Aug. 13, 1961:

‘Mr. and Mrs. Barack H. Obama, 6085 Kalanianaole Hgy., son, Aug.4.’

“The identical announcement ran the following day in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin.

“Birthers wave off those birth announcements, saying that Obama family members 48 years ago could have phoned in false information to both newspapers.

“Such vital statistics, however, were not sent to the newspaper by the general public but by the Health Department, which received the information directly from hospitals, [Health Department spokeswoman Janice] Okubo said.”

Trump was also wrong about relatives on the father’s side.

He asserted in his letter to the New York Times, “His grandmother from Kenya stated on tape, that he was born in Kenya and she was there to watch the birth. His family is fighting over which hospital in Hawaii he was born in – they just don’t know.”

Not true, according to FactCheck.org, a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania whose goal is to “reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics.” It noted, “He [Trump] claims the president’s grandmother says Obama was born in Kenya. In fact, the recording to which he refers shows Sarah Obama repeatedly saying through a translator: ‘He was born in America.’” The site further confirmed that the future president was born in Honolulu’s Kapiolani Maternity & Gynecological Hospital.

In an April 7th interview on The Today Show, Trump charged, “He [Obama] doesn’t have a birth certificate or he hasn’t shown it. He has what’s called a certificate of live birth. That’s something easy to get…A certificate of live birth is not even signed by anybody. I saw his. I read it very carefully. It doesn’t have a serial number, doesn’t have a signature…”

Again, any apprentice should have known better.

FactCheck.org stated, “Had Trump looked at our 2008 article, he would see the signature stamp of Alvin Onaka, certifying the document is ‘a true copy or abstract of the record on file,’ issued to Obama June 7, 2007 as he was preparing to run for president. Furthermore, the serial number (actually a ‘certificate’ number) shows quite clearly in our photos. The number is 151 1961-010641, for whatever that’s worth.”

It added, “Trump is also mistaken about what legally qualifies as a ‘birth certificate,’ which is actually a broad generic term with no specific legal meaning. The U.S. Department of State uses the term ‘certified birth certificate’ to refer to exactly what Obama produced, which Hawaii calls a ‘Certification of Live Birth.’ The State Department accepts a state-certified photocopy of a hospital-generated document, as was commonly used in the past. But Hawaii, like many states, now uses computer-printed documents instead, and Hawaii’s form also meets State Department standards for establishing citizenship.”

Ironically, when pressed for a copy of his birth certificate, Trump also produced a “Certificate of Birth.” It shows that Donald John Trump was born at 10:54 a.m. on June 14, 1947 at Jamaica Hospital in Queens, N.Y.

In an interview on Good Morning America, Trump claimed, “…He [Obama] grew up and nobody knew him…Nobody ever comes forward. Nobody knows who he is until later in life. It’s very strange. The whole thing is very strange.”

What is strange is that Trump never saw the many television programs and newspaper articles about Obama’s early years in Hawaii.

For example, the Maui News published a story January 21, 2009 in which it quoted Aimee Yatsushiro, who was a student teacher in Obama’s kindergarten class. She remembered 5-year-old Obama as a “cute, likable, heavy build child.” Katherine Nakamoto, who retired as a teacher at Noelani Elementary School, said, “We called him Barack…He was very well mannered, respectful, confident and independent.”

Trump struck out at every turn.

FactCheck.org stated, “If Donald worked for us, we’d have to say: ‘Donald, you’re fired – for incompetence.’”

George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine and the NNPA News Service, is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. He can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge.

Reverend Al Sampson: An Uncelebrated Warrior

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(NNPA) This is the first major civil rights organization of our culture that has given me an honorary opportunity with this particular gift.

The speaker was Reverend Al Sampson, a longtime civil rights activist and pastor of Fenwood United Methodist Church in Chicago. The gift he was referring to was Reverend Al Sharpton’s National Action Network’s decision to honor Rev. Sampson along with former Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) President Charles Steele, Jr.; Barbara Shaw, board chair of the National Council of Negro Women, and me with a Rev. Dr. William A. Jones Justice Award. The awards were presented by the Social Justice Initiative of NAN.

Rev. Sampson, who was ordained by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. two years prior to the civil rights leader’s assassination, was a movement stalwart. If you pick up any authoritative book on the modern civil rights movement, there will be at least one reference to Sampson, usually more.

Throughout his acceptance speech at the NAN convention that ended over the weekend, Sampson joked about all of the civil rights organizations that have never recognized his contributions. Beneath the laughter, however, there was deep pain. Not pain out of any need for public accolades, but pain that grew out of being ignored while others with lesser roles in the movement were allowed to take bows in public.

Jesse Jackson and I came out of North Carolina, Sampon noted. He was a transfer student [from the University of Illinois to North Carolina A&T University]. We were part of the Black State Legislature for a week. We passed a public accommodations bill. But PUSH never gave me an award.

In her book, My Life with Martin Luther King, Jr., Coretta Scott King recalled an incident in Chicago when a teenage gang member who had come to visit Dr. King complained about SCLC allowing whites to participate in the movement. She wrote, “Al told them that there were a lot of white people who were helping our Cause and that some had even died for us.”

Bearing the Cross, the Pulitzer Prize-winning book by David A. Garrow, recounted how outspoken Sampson was as a young civil rights organizer with SCLC. Writing about tension between local residents of Natchez, Miss. and SCLC organizers, Garrow wrote: “The breach had become more irreparable when SCLC’s Al Sampson ‘had denounced the local leadership in general and the NAACP by name, as unreliable, untrustworthy, and incapable’ at an October 18 mass meeting.”

Before joining SCLC, Sampson had been executive secretary of the Atlanta branch of the NAACP. “The NAACP, I’m the only person, along with Albert Dunn and Charles Wells, that got arrested in Atlanta, Ga.,” Sampson said. Constance Baker Motley [who wrote the original complaint in Brown v. Board of Education and later became the first Black woman judge appointed to the federal bench] was my attorney. Burke Marshall was the special counsel for the Justice Department and I’m the first person in America to testify for the United States Civil Rights Bill on the [segregationist restaurant owner and later Georgia governor] Lester Maddox Pickrick Restaurant case... But the NAACP ain’t never gave me no award.” Sampson did more than take on Maddox, who closed his restaurant after passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act to avoid serving African-American customers.

Taylor Branch, author of a civil rights trilogy that won a Pulitzer Prize, wrote about the imprisonment of Sampson in Mississippi’s notorious Parchman Prison Farm, 200 miles north of the Mississippi Delta. In one of his books, At Canaan’s Edge, Branch wrote, “Prisoners smuggled out word that guards were beating the known leaders including SCLC’s Rev. Al Sampson and that the 409 Natchez inmates were stripped, force-fed laxatives, and chilled by night fans.” Later in the book, Branch described how Sampson, Rev. Archie Hargraves and Bill Clark formed “a human shield around three terrified Puerto Rican men” in Chicago who had been cornered by a street gang.

In Coretta’s book – she got a book, My Life with Martin Luther King – she mentions James Orange, James Bevel and myself living with Dr. King on the West Side of Chicago, on 16th and Hamlin, Sampson said. I’m all up in the book. But they built a development for him last week and flew Marty King in – that’s alright. But I was on the property, in the building, documented by the mama but they didn’t invite me.

SNCC was formed at a meeting on the campus of Shaw University while Sampson was enrolled there. I gave SNCC the keys to Tucker Hall at Shaw University because they didn’t have no meeting place, Sampson said. I would have been a member of SNCC but I was already president of the NAACP on campus. They had a reunion last summer. They didn’t invite me and they didn’t give me no award.

Once NAN made the decision to honor Sampson, he took extra precaution.

I didn’t sleep much last night, he told the audience in New York. I’ve been behaving myself the last two days because I didn’t want Brother Richardson [Board Chairman W. Franklyn Richardson] or Al Sharpton to take my award from me.

Although Sampson kept everyone at the ceremony laughing, ignoring his role in the movement was no joke.

George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine and the NNPA News Service, is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. He can be reached through his website, www.georgecurry.com. You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge.

Thousands Being Killed in Ivory Coast as World Looks Elsewhere

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While the world’s attention is fixed primarily on turmoil in Libya, Syria, and Yemen, thousands of Ivorians are being murdered in fighting that pits supporters of Côte d’Ivoire incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo against challenger Alassane Ouattara. Both men claim to have won the disputed election in a country already torn by a nine-year civil war.

President Obama, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and the United Nations have recognized Ouattara as the duly elected president of Côte d’Ivoire, which is French for Ivory Coast. What’s loosely referred to as the international community has accused Gbagbo of assorted human rights violations, including killing some of his political opponents.

Recently, however, the U.N. was forced to acknowledge that both sides have been guilty of killing civilians. Aid workers said that as many as 1,000 people were killed by Ouattara’s forces in Duekoue, a Gbagbo stronghold in western Côte d’Ivoire.

Amid conflicting reports coming out of Abidjan, the commercial capital of the country, it is difficult to know for certain what is going on there. Charles Steele, Jr,, former president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and I visited Abidjan two months ago and were stunned to see how widespread news reports failed to mirror the reality we witnessed on the ground.

One-sided reporting is reflected in reporters, who routinely refer to Gbagbo as the nation’s “strongman” and Ouattara as the “internationally recognized” president. As I have written in this space, few reporters have read the Ivorian constitution that puts into place a two-step process that determines how national leaders are elected.

Under Article 32 and Article 94 of the Ivorian constitution, ballots are tallied and results are announced by the Independent Electoral Commission. The second and less publicized step is the final declaration of winners made by the Constitutional Council, the equivalent of the United States Supreme Court.

In the case of the disputed presidential election, Ouattara was declared the winner of a run-off on November 28, 2010 by the Independent Electoral Commission, a decision that the U.S., France, and the European Union cited as the basis of their support for the challenger.

Pierre Sane, the Paris-based former general secretary of Amnesty International, notes that the so-called Independent Electoral Commission is anything but independent. Of the 31 members, 20 are from rebel groups and their political supporters.

“One way or the other, the‘Independent Commission’ is in point of fact controlled by the opposition,” Sane wrote in an analysis. “Its chairman is a senior member of the opposition coalition, and a former PDCI minister in the Gbagbo cabinet.”

After examining challenged ballots, the Constitutional Council declared Gbagbo the winner by a margin of 51.45 percent to 48.55.

Sarkozy, among others, cried foul because of the seven justices, four are appointed by Gbagbo and three are appointed by the president of the National Assembly. Sarkozy should be one of the last people to complain because, as he knows, the Ivorian constitution is modeled after the French constitution.

In a January interview with me, Gbagbo said the Ivorian judicial system is not unlike the one in the U.S. where the president appoints Supreme Court justices, subject to Senate confirmation.

On March 9, when most of the world was looking at dramatic events in Libya, President Obama issued a three-paragraph statement deploring violence in Côte d’Ivoire that he blamed on “security forces loyal to former President Laurent Gbagbo.”

He added, “As we have said since the election results in Côte d’Ivoire were certified, the people of Côte d’Ivoire elected Alassane Ouattara as their President and Laurent Gbagbo lost the election. Former President Gbagbo’s efforts to hold on to power at the expense of his own country are an insult to the universal rights of his people, and the democracy that Côte d’Ivoire deserves… It is time for former President Gbagbo to heed the will of his people, and to complete a peaceful transition of power to President Ouattara.”

President Obama is wrong. It’s time for the United States, France, and even some African countries to stop trying to force their will on a sovereign country. Democracy can often be a messy process and the U.S. can’t intervene in every country that elects a leader it opposes. Clearly, mistakes have been made by supporters of both Gbagbo and Ouattara. Regardless of which side one favors, Ivorians followed their constitution in choosing Gbagbo over his challenger and that process should be respected.

Considering the sharp political divisions in Côte d’Ivoire, it is unlikely that either Ouattara or Gbagbo could be an effective leader under current circumstances. Therefore, the so-called international community should stop favoring one candidate over the other and instead call for an immediate halt to the killing. Once that’s accomplished, a new election should be held with each candidate obliged to honor the outcome.

George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine and the NNPA News Service, is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. He can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge.

The U.S. Switches Back and Forth on Gaddafi

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(NNPA) The United States’ relationship with Moammar Gaddafi has vacillated over the years, at one time viewing him as a mad dog leader, then accepting him into the international community as a member in good standing and more recently, depicting him as an outcast while participating in coordinated multi-national air strikes on Libya.

In a recent speech to the nation on Monday night, President Obama defended his decision to join France, the United Nations and now NATO in launching air strikes on the African country to protect civilians.

The mass protests that led to the downfall of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak after 35 years in power and the 23-year tenure of Tunisia President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali have inspired protests throughout Northern Africa and the Middle East – including in Libya, Bahrain, and Yemen – and have underscored the United States’ inconsistent foreign policy.

While professing support for democracy around the world, the U.S. has openly supported dictators who routinely exploited and killed their own people, as was the case in Egypt under Mubarak and is the case in Bahrain under King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa. In those and other instances, the U.S. turned a deft ear to human rights violations because the leaders of those countries were allied with America in the fight against international terrorism.

In the case of Gaddafi, he has been considered both friend and foe.

Libya, a mostly desert country about four times the size of California, was divided into three different provinces, each with deep tribal tension, until a Gaddafi-led revolution ousted its former king in 1969. Even Gaddafi’s severest critics concede that he has used Libya’s newly-discovered oil wealth to uplift the poor, improving hospitals, and schools.

Detractors say he runs an oppressive regime where political opponents are victims of public hangings.

Gaddafi became an international pariah 25 years ago. In 1986, the Reagan administration accused Libyan agents of bombing a disco in Berlin, Germany in which two American soldiers were killed. Reagan retaliated by bombing Libya. In the process, dozens of innocent civilians were killed, including Gaddafi’s adopted infant daughter.

Two years later, Libya experienced the wrath of the international community after it was suspected of bombing Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland that resulted in the deaths of 270 people. In 1992, the United Nations applied sanctions against Libya for failing to turn over two suspects in the bombing.

Beginning in 1998, when it became the first nation to issue an international arrest warrant for Osama bin Laden, Libya took a series of high-profile actions to repair its tarnished international reputation.

In 1999, Gaddafi turned over two suspects in the Pan Am bombing, prompting the U.N. to lift economic sanctions against Libya. Two years later, when the two suspects were found guilty of murder, Gaddafi condemned the Sept. 11 attacks and urged his fellow citizens to donate blood to the victims.

The U.N. made additional concessions in 2003 by lifting travel and weapons bans against Libya after it formally accepted responsibility for the Pan Am bombing. Libya paid more than $2 billion to settle claims by the victims’ families.

In another step toward regaining international respectability, Libya disbanded its nuclear program and provided the CIA with information that helped uncover a nuclear underground market in Europe.

President George W. Bush, eyeing Libya as a potential partner in the war against terrorism, lifted most U.S. trade sanctions in 2004.

Describing the newly-thawed relationship, the Los Angeles Times, which spells the Libyan leader’s last name differently from most news outlets, observed: “As it struggles to combat Islamic terrorist networks, the Bush administration has quietly built an intelligence alliance with Libyan leader Moammar Kadafi, a onetime bitter enemy the U.S. had tried for years to isolate, topple or kill.

“Kadafi has helped the U.S. pursue Al Qaeda’s network in North Africa by turning radicals over to neighboring pro-Western governments. He has also provided information to the CIA on Libyan nationals with alleged ties to international terrorists.”

The newspaper continued, “In turn, the U.S. has handed over to Tripoli some anti-Kadafi Libyans captured in its campaign against terrorism. And Kadafi’s agents have been allowed into the Guantanamo Bay detention camp in Cuba to interrogate Libyans being held there.”

The international media’s obsession with highlighting only war, disease, poverty, and national disasters in Africa, means that many Americans don’t know about the progress being made in expanding democracy on the continent.

The leaders of Egypt and Libya have been in power more than three decades. However, two-thirds of the 54 countries in Africa have leaders that have been in power 15 years or less.

According to a 2008 poll of 19 African countries by www.afrobarometer.org, 29 percent of those polled rated their country as a full democracy, 30 percent of the respondents described their country as a democracy with minor problems, 25 percent labeled their country as a democracy with major problems and only 11 percent said they either didn’t live in a democracy or didn’t know the status of their nation.

The major fear among some African leaders is that having joined in the air strikes against Libya, the Obama administration may now use that as an excuse to support military intervention in other African counties, providing a further setback to sovereignty and self-governance on the continent.

George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine and the NNPA News Service, is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. He can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge.

The Misinformation Campaign Against Public Employees

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(NNPA) After listening to the governor of Wisconsin and financially illiterate journalists, its easy to gain the impression that city, county, state, and federal employees are overpaid slouches who benefit from hefty pension and generous retirement benefits funded by unsuspecting taxpayers.

Such a conclusion, however, is grossly inaccurate.

Many of the misperceptions about government workers stem from the heated debate in Wisconsin over whether the state should limit the collective bargaining power of state employees. One constant refrain is that public employees are overpaid.

According to an analysis of recent census data by the New York Times, public employees enjoy a pay advantage over those working in the private sector, but not because of the reasons cited by opponents of collective bargaining.

“The Times’s analysis found that over all, median wages for state workers exceeded that of private sector workers in all but three states – Indiana, Missouri, and New Hampshire,” the newspaper reported. “Those numbers, however, can be deceptive. State workers tend to be more highly educated than those in the private sector: More than half of state workers have college degrees, compared to just over one-quarter of those in the private sector. Researchers have also said that states tend to employ few high school dropouts.”

In Wisconsin, the epicenter for the debate over public employees, government pay exceeds private sector pay by 22 percent. But, more than 60 percent of state workers hold college degrees.

Public workers are paid four to 11 percent less than private-sector workers with similar education, job tenure, and other characteristics, according to the Center for State & Local Government Excellence.

The Center on Budget and Policy reports that teachers make up the largest share of local and state government workers, totalling 6.9 million, followed by protective services (law enforcement officers and fire fighters) with 2.5 million, higher education (2 million) and health (1.4 million).

Some experts project that pension shortfalls will reach as high as $3.2 trillion this fiscal year. However, Dean Baker of the Center for Economic Policy & Research, dismisses that likelihood.

“….It is worth noting that the size of the shortfall in many of these funds has likely already been reduced as a result of the fact that the stock market has continued to recover from its downturn in 2008 and 2009,” he said.

Part of the debate over public employees is based on raw politics.

“In many states, Republicans who came to power in the November elections, often by defeating union-backed Democrats, are taking aim not only at union wages, but union power as they face budget gaps in the years ahead,” the New York Times reported.

Wisconsin is one of those states.

“On paper, Wisconsin might seem an unlikely candidate for an assault on unions,” a story in the February 18 New York Times observed. “Like many other states, it has grappled with large spending gaps during the economic downturn, but its projected deficits for the next two years are nowhere near the worst in the country – more like the middle of the pact. Its 7.5 percent unemployment rate is below the national average. Its pension fund is considered one of the healthiest in the nation, and it is not suffering from huge shortfalls that other states are facing.”

Perhaps the most misleading aspect of the debate is that Wisconsin is giving state employees something that they have not earned.

David Cay Johnson destroys that myth in a column posted on www.tax.com.

“When it comes to improving public understanding of tax policy, nothing has been more troubling than the deeply flawed coverage of the Wisconsin state employees’ fight over collective bargaining,” he writes. “Economic nonsense is being reported as fact in most of the news reports on the Wisconsin dispute, the product of a breakdown of skepticism among journalists multiplied by their lack of understanding of basic economic principles.”

He continued, “Gov. Scott Walker says he wants state workers covered by collective bargaining agreements to ‘contribute more’ to their pension and health insurance plans. Accepting Gov. Walker’s assertions as fact, and failing to check, created the impression that somehow the workers are getting something extra, a gift from taxpayers. They are not.

“Out of every dollar that funds Wisconsin’s pension and health insurance plans for state workers, 100 cents comes from the state workers. How can that be? Because the ‘contributions’ consist of money that employees chose as deferred wages – as pensions when they retire – rather than take immediately in cash. The same is true with the health care plan. If this were not so a serious crime would be taking place, the gift of public funds rather than payment for services.”

Johnson provides this simple analysis: “…State workers are not being asked to simply ‘contribute more’ to Wisconsin’s retirement system (or as the argument goes, ‘pay their fair share’ of retirement costs as do employees in Wisconsin’s private sector who still have pensions and health insurance). They are being asked to accept a cut in their salaries so that the state of Wisconsin can use the money to fill the hole left by tax cuts and reduced audits of corporations in Wisconsin.”

George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine and the NNPA News Service, is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. He can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge.

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