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Kardashian Gossip and iPhone 6 Rumors Abound, But 276 Kidnapped Nigerian Girls Barely Makes Waves #BringBackOurGirls

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Take a deep breath, this isn’t going to be another “journalism is in the toilet” soapbox. That’s not to say our industry is without problems. Dedicated readers and newsroom veterans alike are more than aware that journalism has seen its share of rough patches in the U.S. with declining circulations and declining advertising revenue often blamed on the internet’s rising star.

Online journalism is here to stay and it carries exponential influence. It’s exciting to watch the internet unfold and venture into new forms of visual storytelling and build on its strength of breaking imminent news, which newspapers could never do. The internet has become a place where young, aspiring journalists, including bloggers, can hone their skills and become literary rock stars without a single job interview or to ever step into a newsroom. I am grateful the internet can preserve the industry and reach readers like never before.

But like a bright young man wasting his potential in school in exchange for being the class clown to earn a cheap laugh, I take issue with the industry straying so far from its core principles just to be a flash in the pan. The slow coverage of the 223 girls abducted in Chibok, Nigeria made my blood boil with each day that passed. (Reportedly, more than 300 girls were kidnapped and 53 escaped, dropping the total number of missing girls to 276.) I would search the web to no satisfaction for updates and take several expletive breaks as I tried to comprehend just #WTF is happening! In the midst of this crisis, on days when I simply wanted to check my email and see what news would brush past me as I clicked toward my destination, I was utterly disappointed. Increasingly, I find myself more inundated with rotten and temporary “news” headlines virtually devoid of any redeeming substance than I do about the contemporary issues that are shaping our world.

This latest egregious mistake in journalism has left me longing to see the internet evolve to its next stage as quickly as possible. My personal disgust for the suppressed information about the kidnapping of 276 girls from Chibok, Nigeria cannot be masked, nor my contempt for the editors who make strategic decisions everyday about how and where content is placed, but couldn’t find room for 276 valuable lives. In suburban white America, it would only take 275 less kidnappings in one town to galvanize our nation or possibly earn a sidebar in a nationally-syndicated newspaper. We’ve seen this before.

More than two weeks have passed since the story first broke of 276 girls kidnapped from their all-girl school. The story was submerged and remained that way until recently. I asked myself, “submerged under what … and why?” The Los Angeles Clippers and Donald Sterling controversy came days later. Could America only handle one major black controversy at a time? And if so, if I dare to parallel these two stories, why do harmful words matter more than harmful actions? Nigerians are known for their familiarity and admiration of Western culture. I’ve never met a Nigerian who didn’t pride him or herself on understanding the West. These abducted girls deserve an answer as to why they didn’t matter to us when their situation was so timely. Only now has their story begun to permeate the news circuit.

The urgency of the plight of these young women is real. Their fates are unknown. Their families worry and do what they can to pressure Nigerian officials to do more to recover their children. Dozens of Nigerians are trying to move boulders and we treat them as if they are alone. As leaders in the world community and citizens, Americans have immeasurable power in persuading – if not forcing – international authorities to do right by their people. If my counterparts in internet news have forgotten that the Net (network) is intended to connect, then it is in readers’ hands to wake them up. Their power to change and to turn the boulders in Nigeria into mere rocks is real.

News editors are not solely to blame if readers realize that they are equally powerful. Truth-be-told, as much as news stories can be humanizing and educational, journalism is a profit-driven industry with a voracious appetite right now – and it’s simply trying to eat like any corporation. When international tragedies strike like it did with 276 innocent Nigerian girls, we owe it to ourselves, our children, and humanity to click, post, and text the stories that really matter. Readers have to let editors know what matters the most rather than continue to allow the powers that be turn it the other way.

Until then, I foresee more Kardashians in online “news”, iPhone rumors will again be recycled … and I will mentally regurgitate. Perhaps I shouldn’t wait and instead look for the obvious silver lining. I hear there’s a “scandalous” new #selfie of James Franco. How’s that for substance?

Corey Arvin is Associate Editor of Black Voice News and a winner of the national Scripps Howard Award for Web Reporting. His column is published every Wednesday and Friday. He can be reached at Corey@Blackvoicenews.com.

Television’s New 'Carl Sagan'

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As someone who was a fan of the original Cosmos series, hosted by the late Dr. Carl Sagan, I was excited to see what Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson would do with the concept. If you never watched Sagan’s PBS series in the 1980s, it was an introduction to the universe. It was an attempt – successful I might add – to make science not only interesting by accessible.

Tyson, an African American scientist who has become a familiar face to many, is a worthy heir to Sagan. Working with the former executive producer of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Brannon Braga, Tyson tackles some of the most important issues of science – and life – such as the age of the universe and planet Earth, but also the struggles that have taken place throughout history against ignorance, prejudice and superstition.

He and the series are very respectful of different religious views and introduce a broader sense of the history of science than we normally receive. By way of example, early in the series he acknowledges the immense contributions to science made in the Muslim world, a fact that is often dismissed by those who wish to suggest that the Muslim world has offered little.

One of the most unusual features of the series is to note which station is broadcasting it: Fox, on Sunday evenings (and National Geographic on Mondays). The messages coming across from Cosmos are antithetical to most of what one associates with the Fox network. Tyson is prepared, for example, to openly and respectfully challenge those religious fundamentalists who claim that the Earth is between 5,000-6,000 years old, whereas the actual age is around 4.5 billion years. He also helped the viewer understand that in the process of studying the age of the Earth, scientists were also able to uncover the danger of lead in the environment which ultimately led to its removal from fuels. These are not tidbits that one would expect on a Fox series and I keep wondering how long the series will air.

Tyson was quite open in acknowledging his deep admiration of the late Carl Sagan. In fact, as a teen-ager, Tyson met Sagan and spent time with him on one day in Ithaca, N.Y. Tyson understands, as did Sagan, that science is too important to leave with the scientists. In fact, science can be explained in a way that is comprehensible to the larger public. In making it comprehensible, Tyson – like Sagan before him – have placed a mighty instrument into the hands of the public. It is through that instrument that the everyday person can not only grasp many of the challenges facing humanity, but they can also be part of creating the answers in order to save the planet.

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a racial justice, labor and global justice activist and writer. He is the author of “They’re Bankrupting Us” – And Twenty Other Myths about Unions. Follow him on Facebook and at www.billfletcherjr.com.

$90 Million-Plus Lost to Foreclosure Scams

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Earlier this month, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette charged an organization known as Freedom by Faith Ministries with defrauding more than 100 consumers in Southeast Michigan. The alleged crime: foreclosure rescue scams.

Unfortunately, the circumstances that led to the Michigan lawsuit represent a continuation of a disturbing trend of profiteers seeking to financially exploit the misfortunes of troubled homeowners. The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) in 2013 found more than 40,000 complaints of foreclosure fraud occurred nationwide and together totaled losses to homeowners of more than $90 million.

Each year from 2010 through 2012, more than 18,000 foreclosure fraud complaints were filed beyond the 9,000 complaints received in 2009.

Foreclosure scammers typically demand large, upfront cash payments from troubled homeowners and advise homeowners to stop making mortgage payments. They also dupe their victims into sharing important personal information such as Social Security and bank account numbers. After payment is received, the scammers do little or no work to obtain a loan modification for the homeowners. In the process, homeowners fall deeper into delinquency and also lose valuable time that could have yielded better results.

Free services of a HUD-certified housing counselor are available nationwide to help negotiate with mortgage servicers. Many times these housing counselors facilitate securing options to avoid foreclosure such as home modifications, refinance, forbearance, short sales and more.

A new research report, Foreclosure Rescue, Inc. by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law finds that foreclosure scams are beginning to take new forms while still fraudulently taking money from distressed homeowners. Some scammers falsely claim government affiliation while others include improper involvement of legal and real estate professionals

For example, in West Palm Beach, Fla., foreclosure rescue “consultants” held seminars to teach people how to make money off of distressed homeowners. In Atlanta, attorneys were reported to have been randomly solicited to sign up as “partners” or “affiliates” of foreclosure rescue operations. And in Long Island, N.Y., legitimate housing counselors unknowingly gave fraud actors powers of attorney to presumably talk to banks on behalf of homeowners.

“African-American and Latino homeowners, already victimized by targeted predatory lending, have been victimized by scams at disproportionate rates compared to their percentage of the population,” said Yolanda McGill, manager of the Loan Modification Scam Prevention Network for the Lawyers’ Committee.

When a troubled homeowner’s race is taken into account, stark racial differences emerge. White homeowners represent 78 percent of the nation’s homeowners and together account for less than half – 47 percent – of complaints filed. By contrast, Both Black and Latino homeowners combined represent 16 percent of the nation’s homeowners, their combined fraud complaints are nearly the same number as those filed by Whites: 44 percent.

“Senior homeowners also are victimized at high rates and their average loss is higher than other groups,” explained McGill. “The Lawyers’ Committee and our federal state and community partners continue to fight back and put these scammers out of business, including through litigation.”

The Lawyers’ Committee litigation includes 14 lawsuits against loan scam operators whose collective efforts affected more than 400 troubled homeowners. The lawsuits sought both monetary and injunctive relief. So far, 50 scam operations have been shut down and more than $500,000 has been recovered on behalf of homeowners. Additionally, those found guilty have been banned from future participation in mortgage assistance relief servicers.

As the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau continues its complaint resolution and the Lawyers’ Committee continues its litigation, Foreclosure Rescue, Inc. recommendations call for more policy reforms, including:

 

  • Allowing homeowners to pursue private rights of actions;
  • Enacting state laws that broaden fraud definitions to include any stage of the scam process;
  • and Incorporating explicit government warnings to consumers regarding potential scammers and how to avoid fraud.

 

Created in the summer of 1963 by President John F. Kennedy at an initial meeting of 244 lawyers, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is a nonpartisan, nonprofit providing legal services to address racial discrimination. Anyone desiring more information on state and national resources for foreclosure fraud should visit www.preventloanscams.org.

To file an online mortgage complaint with CFPB, visit www.consumerfinance.gov.

Charlene Crowell is a communications manager with the Center for Responsible Lending. She can be reached at Charlene.crowell@responsiblelending.org.

Progressives Should Campaign Against the Supreme Court

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(NNPA) When I first heard the news, my response was one of both outrage and a calm lack of surprise. I knew that there was a very real chance that the Supreme Court, in its McCutcheon v Federal Election Commission decision, would make it even more difficult to have limits on campaign spending. I suppose that I did not want to believe it. Thus, when the decision was issued, I found myself both resigned and furious at the same time.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s majority has made a mockery of right-wing allegations that it is liberals who have been engaged in so-called judicial activism. The conservative majority of the Supreme Court has gone out of its way to ensure the political supremacy of what the Occupy Movement called the 1 percent – the plutocrats.

There have been discussions ever since the Supreme Court’s notorious decision in the Citizens United case that there is need for a Constitutional amendment that addresses campaign finance. We now have an even more urgent need for such an amendment in light of the court’s further opening of the gates to super-money.

So, what do we do?

The first and most immediate step must be the formation of a very broad coalition to take initial steps towards securing such a Constitutional amendment. This coalition needs to make the midterm 2014 elections about the super-rich and money in elections. In that sense, candidates need to be running against the Supreme Court. Progressive candidates need to make the McCutcheon decision their battle-cry and use it to demonstrate the extent to which the 1 percent is moving at breakneck pace to derail any pretense of democracy. And they must commit to fighting for a Constitutional amendment to remove corruption from the electoral process.

The McCutcheon decision must be understood in tandem with the voter suppression efforts that we have been witnessing over the past eight years. These are steps that are being taken to hold back the future, that is, to deflate the power of the growing majority in the U.S.A. that is seeking broad and significant social and economic changes. To the extent to which people of color, youth, seniors, veterans, and others are blocked from voting and to the extent to which the faucets are opened for the super-rich to contribute inordinate amounts of money to the candidates that they now own, elections lose any meaning other than being a veneer over a very clever dictatorship of wealth.

The time has come to refocus the November elections on what is really at stake: the greed and avarice that now feels completely comfortable showing its face in public.

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a racial justice, labor and global justice writer and activist. He is a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies and the author of “They’re Bankrupting Us” – And Twenty Other Myths about Unions. Follow him on Facebook and atwww.billfletcherjr.com.

Whitewashing Republican Support of Civil Rights

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(NNPA) One of the best kept secrets over the past 50 years is that, proportionately, Republicans in Congress supported passage of the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act by a much wider margin than Democrats.

As CNN.com reported, “The Guardian’s Harry J. Enten broke down the vote, showing that more than 80% of Republicans in both houses voted in favor of the bill, compared with more than 60% of Democrats. When you account for geography, according to Enten’s article, 90% of lawmakers from states that were in the union during the Civil War supported the bill compared with less than 10% of lawmakers from states that were in the Confederacy.”

This is from a report from CNN, not FOX, the network despised by liberals.

There was another interesting tidbit in the CNN report:

“Ohio’s Republican Rep. William McCulloch had a conservative track record – he opposed foreign and federal education aid and supported gun rights and school prayer. His district (the same one now represented by House Speaker John Boehner) had a small African-American population. So he had little to gain politically by supporting the Civil Rights Act.”

“Yet he became a critical leader in getting the bill passed.

“His ancestors opposed slavery even before the Civil War, and he’d made a deal with President Kennedy to see the bill through to passage.”

The article noted, “’The Constitution doesn’t say that whites alone shall have our most basic rights, but that we all shall have them,’ McCulloch would say to fellow legislators.”

But you would not know any of this if you relied on the official ceremonies at the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library last week marking the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights. The three-day summit at the University of Texas featured President Obama and former presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

Other speakers included Black Democrats such as Julian Bond, the former NAACP chairman; Congressman John Lewis of Atlanta, and former UN Ambassador Andy Young, among others. (To see a full list of speakers, go to: http://www.civilrightssummit.org/program/.)

How can you have a discussion of Civil Rights and not have one Black Republican? How could you not have Robert J. Brown, top aide to President Nixon and one of Dr. King’s closest confidants?

What about former Eighth District Court of Appeals Judge Sara J. Harper? Last year, she was inducted into the Ohio Civil Rights Hall of Fame. She was also the first Black to graduate from Case Western Reserve University’s Law School. Is it really that easy to overlook the first Black National Security Adviser and Secretary of State, Colin Powell? Really?

They even had my good friend, former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour as one of their speakers (a White southern male). So, they had White Republicans, but no Black Republicans. WOW!

As George Orwell wrote his book, 1984, “He who controls the present, controls the past. He who controls the past, controls the future.”

If the summit were your sole source of information, you would think no Black Republicans were involved in the Civil Rights Movement. Arthur Fletcher is known as “the father of affirmative action.” Though he is deceased, his work lives on – and should have been recognized.

Former Secretary of Transportation Bill Coleman was a proud Black Republican but just as proud of his support for civil rights. And so was former Senator Ed Brooke of Massachusetts. The list goes on and on – except at the LBJ ceremonies in Austin.

Am I the only one that noticed this intentional rewriting of history?

As usual, the media has been woefully and willfully negligent in not covering this angle. These supposedly bastions of journalistic integrity such as The Root and The Grio have caught a bad case of laryngitis. Melissa Perry and Joy Reid on MSNBC have suddenly forgotten how to speak English.

The LBJ library and Democrats should be ashamed of themselves for prostituting the real bi-partisan history of the Civil Rights Movement. This should have been one event that was truly reflective of the real history of America – the good and the bad.

Slavery and racism are still the biggest blemishes on American history; but because we are Americans and showed resolve, we also have one helluva story of redemption to tell. We have come a long way from the days of slavery and Jim Crow. We have Blacks making millions of dollars in sports, music, business, science, and education. Blacks have been to the moon and back. We even have a Black president.

In the very moment when we should have been celebrating the journey America has taken, we have been forced to reflect upon the willful deceit propagated upon the true history of our nation.

Raynard Jackson is president & CEO of Raynard Jackson & Associates, LLC., a Washington, D.C.-based public relations/government affairs firm. He is also the author of: “Writing Wrongs: My Political Journey in Black and Write. He can be reached through his Web site, www.raynardjackson.com. You can also follow him on Twitter at raynard1223.

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