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Postal Service Undeterred by Superstorm Sandy

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(NNPA) I have lived through several hurricanes and major storms. When you do not know whether your roof will hold together or whether you will get flooded out (and our basement was flooded in the 2011 hurricane), the anxiety is indescribable. Thus, when the government warns people to stay inside and off the streets, if you are in touch with reality, you take that seriously.

So, it was with great surprise that in the middle of Superstorm Sandy that I saw a postal van. Yes, the U.S. Postal Service, despite the federal government being closed on Monday, was somehow operating. The mail was delivered to us. Airline flights were being cancelled; subways had ceased operations; buses were not moving…and we still got our mail.

I had two immediate thoughts on seeing the postal van. The first was to applaud the courage of postal workers. I actually think about this regularly. They are really not joking when they talk about “neither ran, nor sleet…” will stop them. Here you had a letter carrier driving in the middle of a hurricane to make sure that we received our mail.

The second thought was quite different: What will happen if the postal service is dismantled and privatized? Let’s be clear: The agenda of the Republicans and of some Democrats is the privatization of the postal service. When you keep under-funding the postal service and making service cuts, it eventually creates a level of despair and frustration that will push the public to embrace privatization. This approach is called economic strangulation. This economic strangulation is what we have been witnessing, and not just recently. The act of cutting the hours of post offices, cutting employees, and reducing other services does not build popular confidence.

And, so I stood watching the postal van wondering what would happen if the postal service was privatized. Would a private contractor really care about delivering the mail under harsh conditions? Could we count on workers going beyond the call of duty? That is the real issue in privatization. It is not just that privatized facilities – of any sort – seek to reduce certain costs by cutting the wages and benefits of workers. No, it is more than that. Privatization changes the relationship of the workforce to the job that must be done, i.e., it changes their relationship to the public. The owners of these privatizing companies are not particularly interested in serving the public. They are interesting in making a profit. Their slogan would not be anything approaching “Neither rain, nor sleet…” will stop postal delivery. It will be more something like “As long as I can make an extra buck delivering the mail it will be coming at you.”

So, if you have been sitting on the sidelines while the future of the postal service has been discussed, think again, and just ask yourself whether you care whether you receive the mail that the Constitution promises. In watching the postal van drive off I hoped that this would not be the last time that I would see such dedication displayed.

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies, the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum and the author of “They’re Bankrupting Us” – And Twenty Other Myths about Unions. He can be reached at papaq54@hotmail.com.

Bogus Climate Change Charges

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(NNPA) The environmental activist community slowly started during the Nixon administration. It morphed into a replacement for the anti-Vietnam War movement. Groups such as the Sierra Club and Greenpeace saw a new angle to this. They wanted to recruit the civil rights activists into this cause. I remember Attorney General Janet Reno (in the Clinton administration) declaring to seek environmental justice. The groups quickly changed this to environmental racism. They are basically the same thing. The former says things are unequal in the fair implementation of environmental stewardship. The latter states the reason for the inequity.

We started looking into this since it was an incredible charge. After about a year of researching, surveying and interviewing people in authority, we came to the conclusion that to say violating environmental regulations or laws was solely the cause of racial hatred was a bit extreme. In fact, it was a ploy to put fear into people and gain support against targeted corporations.

The National Black Chamber of Commerce (NBCC) decided to challenge such claims and actually demand proof. Hearings after hearings, debates after debates and speeches at various conventions soon turned the tide. The late Arthur A. Fletcher, when he chaired the Office of Civil Rights, did a review of the Environmental Protection Agency and found it to be, in fact, in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. Thus, it was the “kettle calling the skillet black.” The poverty pimps and other extremists soon backed off and started looking for other causes.

Vice President Al Gore was outdone. He started a new approach. The problem wasn’t necessarily environment racism but global warming. That is what is happening and we are going to become endangered by it. He delivered speeches, held seminars and gathered many of the aforementioned individuals to start changing “global warming.” He is still shouting this today. Whenever there is a hurricane, big blizzard, drought, tornadoes, etc. there is Al Gore shouting global warming. He was even awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for his “work” proving global warming exists. Recently, he has emerged again claiming Superstorm Sandy was the result of global warming.

Actually, there is no sound science to support the claims of global warming. If you look at the last 10 years, there has been a sizeable drop in hurricanes/cyclones around the world. When we had congressional hearings on the claim, they would always end in a demand for irrefutable proof, i.e. scientific data and facts. It would never come.

The EPA would and still does “cook their books” when doing surveys and holding panels. For example, they will organize a panel to provide input by representatives of various organizations. These representatives represent organizations or institutions that receive grants and even unsolicited financial support from the EPA. They aren’t going to cut off their funding so their statements are nothing but conflicts of interest.

They love to beat up on our federal government and the citizens of the United States, saying we are polluters of the world. However, they are reticent when it comes to noting the environmental recklessness of such nations as China, Russia, India, Brazil and other growing industrial nations. The truth is the United States has come a very long way in improving our carbon footprint. The Clean Air Act has been a success in limiting our pollution levels. The threat is coming from these growing industrial empires that don’t have a governmental agency trying to stop their growth.

The cap and trade bill that this current EPA was trying to force upon American industry would have been an economic catastrophe. We proved it to Congress that it was a job killer and a major transfer of wealth from the United States to foreign nations that could care less about our future. It was defeated and now the EPA is coming back with individual rules that are nothing but pieces of the cap and trade bill. They are trying to sneak it in without constitutional legislation.

In regards to climate change, that is a no brainer. Certainly the climate changes as time goes on – sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse. So far, there is no pattern that seems to be very detrimental to our earth. There is an ebb and flow and it takes time to see any significant detrimental trend. It is like Stevie Wonder wrote, “When you believe in things you don’t understand; you suffer. Superstition ain’t the way.” Climate change is an important subject and we should constantly monitor these trends and interpret them with good and absolute data. Factual information will always trump scare tactics. There is no need to deliberately make us suffer and force noticeable pain on our lives and livelihoods.

Harry C. Alford is the co-founder, president/CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce®. Website: www.nationalbcc.org. Email: halford@nationalbcc.org.

Support Mark Takano, California's 41st Congressional District

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On Monday, President Obama endorsed Mark Takano who is running for a seat in the U.S. Congress in California’s 41st district. With your vote, Mark will join me in Washington and fight for those in Riverside County and the Inland Empire.

This is an historic election because we have the opportunity and responsibility to re-elect President Obama and launch a successful second term that will allow the President to complete the work he’s started – to focus on jobs, economic growth and protecting social programs including Medicare, Social Security, and services for veterans and students.

President Obama cannot be successful if we don’t do our part to bring leaders like Mark Takano to the U.S. Congress that will work with the President. We need 25 seats to win back the Congress but that can’t happen unless you vote for Mark.

While Mark’s Republican opponent has played nice, he will be forced to join his conservative colleagues in setting an agenda that will oppose the President at all cost. This will not be good for you nor will it be good for America.

From the time when I was in the State Assembly and held town hall meetings on the State of Blacks in the Inland Empire, I’ve been proud to work with leaders like Assemblymember Amina Carter and Mark Takano to ensure our government responds to the needs of those in Riverside and beyond.

With a vote for Mark Takano, you send a leader to Congress prepared to fight for you each and everyday. Join Mark in winning back the U.S. Congress and supporting an agenda that moves us all forward.

Rep. Karen Bass is Member of the U. S. Congress representing California's 33rd congressional district. She made history when the California Assembly elected her to be its 67th Speaker and its first African American women leader.

State, County and District School Chiefs Unite to Support Prop. 30

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Torlakson, Delgado, Deasy Lead Coalition to Prevent Further Cuts to Schools

CERRITOS -- State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, Los Angeles County Superintendent Art Delgado and Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent John Deasy today joined school superintendents from throughout Southern California in urging Californians to prevent further education cuts by supporting Proposition 30.

“We’re here because California’s schools are in a state of financial emergency – and we need every Californian to come to their aid,” Torlakson said. “Today, we stand together as education leaders and say with one, united voice: `Stop the cuts to education – vote yes on 30.’ ”

Superintendents from more than a dozen school systems across the region – including Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties – discussed the huge toll $20 billion in cuts to school budgets in recent years have already taken – and the further harm that would take place unless voters approve Prop. 30 and prevent $5.4 billion in additional cuts this school year.

“If Prop. 30 fails, it will be a disaster for the Los Angeles Unified School District,” Deasy said. “We would be threatened with having to close the school year three weeks early, which would have a tremendously negative impact on all our students.”

Los Angeles County Superintendent Delgado agreed, adding: “Voters have a clear choice this November on whether to invest in our California children or to continue the current trend of the underfunding of our schools that now puts our state among the lowest in the nation in funding support of our education system.”

"These are unprecedented times for education in California. At no time in history have we had such high expectations for our schools and students with diminishing resources to meet them,” said ABC Unified Superintendent Mary Sieu. “Our District has cut $30 million in the past four years. There's no doubt that an immediate investment in education is necessary to prevent more harm to the next generation of students."

“My concern is for the future of our children as well as the future of California. Without proper funding to ensure college and career readiness for our students, they will be less competitive in the job market and in university placement,” said Sandra Thorstenson, Superintendent of the Whittier Union High School District. “If Prop 30 does not pass it will create a $5 billion hole in the public education budget on top of the draconian cuts schools have endured since 2008. This would have an unconscionable impact on our children and on our society.”

Also Joining Torlakson and others at the news conference were:

• Chaffey Joint Union High School District Superintendent Mat Holton
• Lynwood Unified School District Superintendent Edward Velasquez
• Montebello Unified School District Superintendent Robert Henke
• Romoland School District Superintendent Anthony Rosilez
• Saddleback Valley Unified School District Superintendent Clint Harwick
• San Bernardino City Unified School District Superintendent Dale Marsden
• Val Verde Unified School District Superintendent Juan Lopez
• Kent Taylor, State Administrator, Inglewood Unified School District
• Josh Pechthalt, President, California Federation of Teachers
• ABC Unified School Board President Olympia Chen

Torlakson said that California’s schools have earned a vote of confidence. He noted that despite the ongoing effects of massive funding reductions, graduation rates and test scores are on the rise. And for the first time, a majority of public schools have reached or exceeded the state’s academic performance goals.

Supporters of the measure noted that with the passage of Proposition 30, we will begin to restore our ability to give every student the finest education possible. Through a modest tax increase on the wealthiest Californians, and a very small increase in the state sales tax, Proposition 30 will ask the people who can best afford to invest in our future to do so, in order that all may benefit.

Torlakson added that schools across the state are engaged in ongoing efforts to improve technology, teaching methods, and help more children graduate ready for college and a career.

“There’s much more to do,” Torlakson said. “And California’s schools – and the dedicated teachers, school employees and administrators who have made them their life’s work – are eager to take on these challenges. But they cannot do this alone.”

President Obama Deserves Our Vote

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Dr. Benjamin Chavis, Jr.(NNPA) In just a few days, millions of Americans will vote in the November 6 national elections. In those states where there is early voting, millions have already voted. There is a clear choice between President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. At the end of the day it is reduced to the question of “going forward” or “retreating backward” in clear terms of the social, economic, and political empowerment of people who historically have been marginalized and discriminated against because of race, ethnicity or class. It is about the politics of inclusion versus the politics of exclusion. This election is more than a political struggle between the 99 percent and the 1 percent on the quest for wealth and economic control. The consequential future of America and the world is at stake.

For millions of African Americans, the importance of reelecting President Barack Obama cannot be overstated. Given the state of Black America in 2012, the thought of going backward in our society should not even be an option. We have come too far and made too much sacrifice and progress to turn around now because of what appears to be formidable opposition to our interests and future. There is still time to reawaken those of us who have fallen asleep or who have become apathetic at this is another critical moment in our long struggle for freedom, justice, equality and empowerment.

We have to ensure that we mobilize our family members and everyone in our communities about the importance of making sure that every eligible person will actually vote between now and November 6. Every hour of every day now needs to be focused on Getting-Out-The-Vote (GOTV). It is time to pool all our organizational resources to stage the largest grassroots voter turnout in history. The African American church community should be at the forefront of our GOTV nonpartisan work. I am expressing my own personal views about this election in hopes to raise the level of awareness and consciousness of others who may be mistakenly taking this election for granted. It does matter who wins. Not voting is an unforgivable sin.

On September 22, President Obama reminded us of the 150 year anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation document that President Lincoln issued in 1862 to take effect on January 1, 1863. Why is this an important reminder today in 2012? It is very important not to ever forget the history of slavery, Jim Crow and systematic denials of equal justice and freedom not only to African people, but also all people who have had to struggle to make advancement and progress against formidable odds and historical circumstances.

President Obama emphasized, “One hundred and fifty years after that historic even, we recognize an important milestone in the American story and reflect on the progress we have made toward realizing our Nation’s founding promise of liberty and justice for all. Though it would take decades of struggle before African Americans were granted equal treatment and protection under the law, the Emancipation Proclamation marked a courageous step forward in fulfilling that essential task.

“It affirmed that the Civil War was a war fought not only for the preservation of our union, but for freedom itself. The Emancipation Proclamation stands among the documents of human freedom. As we commemorate this 150th anniversary, let us rededicate ourselves to the timeless principles it championed and celebrate the millions of Americans who have fought for liberty and equality in the generations since.”

Each generation has to rise to its particular challenge of history. Today, we have both an opportunity and a responsibility to keep pushing forward. For Black Americans, voting is sacred and we dare not take this election lightly. For all of those who have become cynical instead of being vibrant, enthusiastic and active, we have to remind them of the past and of the present. Hundreds of millions of dollars have spent to suppress our vote and on negative deceptive television and radio ads, all designed to confuse, confound, and to immobilize people in our communities. The worst form of suppression, however, is self-suppression and a sense of hopelessness. I am optimistic but know we still have a lot of work to do over the next days ahead.

Mitt Romney, in my view, represents the exclusive views and the ideology of the past. President Barack Obama is not only the hope for the future, but also he is doing a good job in the present in the face of fierce opposition and huge wealth stacked against him. This is exactly the moment that our ancestors prayed for and gave of their sacrifice and blood. Let’s stand up together in this moment of decision. Let’s have a record turnout in every precinct in every state. Let’s defy the odds once again. Let’s vote for freedom, justice, equality and empowerment of all. Let’s re-elect President Barack H. Obama.

Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. is President of the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network (HSAN) and Education Online Services Corporation. He can be reached at drbenjamin.chavis@gmail.com

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