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We Must Reclaim the Value of Life by Rev. Al Sharpton

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Rev. Al Sharpton
For decades now, I have traveled across this nation to listen, learn and absorb the concerns and frustrations of the community. I’ve marched with victims of police brutality, consoled families who have viciously lost loved ones and called for transparency and proper judicial proceedings for those that have been wrongfully victimized by our system.

But after years of civil rights activism, and after years of countless troubling incidents, never before have I been as outraged as I am today. On November 16, a 15-year-old girl in the Bronx, NY was walking home from school when a stray bullet struck her in the back of the head. The alleged shooter, described by mainstream media as a ‘baby-faced 16-year-old’ is now held without bail, along with four others – all 23 and younger – who authorities say coerced the young shooter to pull the trigger.

Last month, a Decatur High School junior football varsity player in Atlanta was laid to rest after falling victim to a drive-by shooting. In Baton Rouge, LA, a 16-year-old was shot and killed as two ‘men’ struggled over a handgun in early October. The shooter in this case – a 22-year-old - who is now charged with negligent homicide. And a few weeks ago, a Spelman College sophomore was hit and killed by a stray bullet while walking on campus. Sadly, the list of innocent victims appears to have no end in sight.

The level of gun usage and the epidemic of violence in communities across the country has hit an astronomical level. According to the Violence Policy Center, firearms are the second most frequent cause of death overall for Americans aged 15-24. If we are not fed up and outraged already, the time to stand up and do something is NOW. We cannot sit idly by and watch our innocent children die so senselessly. Nor can we run from the underlying issues that lead some young people to pick up a gun in the first place, and in turn, ruin their own lives.

On November 23, National Action Network, along with community members from around the nation led a first ever National Day of Outrage. We will simultaneously convened in cities like Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Atlanta, Philadelphia and many in between. As parents, aunts, uncles, cousins and more join together to honor their lost loved ones, concerned citizens, elected officials and community activists called for an end to the unprecedented and frightening national epidemic.

We all watched the graphic videotape of the beating death of 16-yearold Chicago Fenger High School honor student Derrion Albert. But what many not realize is that this high school remains a ‘war zone’ where children simply seeking an education to advance themselves do not feel secure even in a classroom. How can we urge our kids to strive for higher achievement when we fail to provide them with the basic tools of development?  And what can we expect for the future of the United States when our most precious citizens are arming themselves and engaging in warfare on streets in virtually every state.

Unfortunately, the excessive and exponentially growing outburst of violence is not confined to children and teenagers. Last month, a 92-yearold grandmother was watching TV inside her Bronx home when a stray bullet ended her fruitful life. The plight of violence in urban communities is horrendous, worrisome and simply out of control. It is our babies, sons, daughters, grandparents and loved ones that are losing in every sense of the word. I am outraged; the community is outraged. But together we can work to find a sustainable solution so that none of us will have to watch another horrific video, witness another tragic shooting or lose another precious soul. We must reclaim the value of life for the sake of our own lives.

Moderate Democrats Enjoy Too Much Clout

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George E. Curry, NNPA Columnist
In their zeal to reach the 60-vote margin needed to end an expected Republican filibuster of the health care bill now snaking its way through the United States Senate, Democrats are courting four moderate or conservative party members opposed to the public option provision at the expense of the majority of Senators – and the nation –who favor such an alternative.

Essentially, a public option is a government-sponsored insurance plan, similar to Medicare, that would compete with private insurers in hopes of driving down the cost of premiums.  Even though the plan advanced by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (DNev.) allows states to opt-out of the plan, a handful of Democrats still oppose the bill.

We’ve seen this scene before: The Obama administration, obsessed over gaining Republican support for its stimulus plan, made sure that the concerns of Maine Senator Olympia Snowe were addressed before pushing the legislation through Congress.  Now, we’re having a replay. The difference this time, however, is that less progressive Democrats seem to be in the driver’s seat.

This became clear when a procedural vote was held Saturday night to allow the bill to reach the Senate floor for debate and amendments. Senators Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, Democrats from two of the poorest states in the nation, held out until the last minute before siding with their party.

On a strict party-line vote, Democrats prevailed 60-39. In addition to the two wavering lawmakers, Senators Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Joseph Lieberman, an independent from Connecticut who usually caucuses with Democrats, stated that although they went along with the procedural vote, neither would support a health reform bill that includes the public option. Two other Democrats, Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Evan Bayh of Indiana, may also balk.

As Senate Majority Leader Reid tries to garner support for final passage, he and other leaders are huddling with the wayward Democrats and Maine’s two senators in hopes of fashioning a compromise that will win them over.  The one favored by Olympia Snowe features a trigger mechanism that would be activated when private insurers fail to provide affordable choices.  Like President Obama – who has vacillated from calling the public option essential to health care reform and later dismissing it as a “slither” of a larger process – Senator Dick Durbin, the assistant majority leader, is apparently willing to capitulate to the vocal minority in his party.

In an appearance on “Meet the Press,” he said, “There are many variations on the theme. We are open because we want to pass this bill.” But at what cost?

Almost overlooked in the debate is that most Americans, upset with rising health premiums and mounting restrictions, favor a public option.

A recent USA/Today/Gallup poll found that 50 percent of the public favors a public option and 46 percent oppose it. A CNN poll found even stronger support, with 61 percent in favor of an insurance option administered by the federal government and 38 percent opposed.

Although moderates and centrists are at the center of this debate, progressives are finally pushing back, letting Reid and the Obama administration know that their support is not automatic.

“I don’t want four Democratic senators dictating to the other 56 of us and to the country, when the public option has this much support, that it’s not going to be in it,” Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Senator Roland Burris of Illinois and Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont, said they will not vote for any bill without the public option.  “The overwhelming majority of Americans want to be able to choose between a strong public option and a private insurance plan,” Sanders said.  “Without that competition, there is very little in this bill that would keep health insurance premiums from escalating rapidly. This legislation cannot simply be a huge subsidy to private insurance companies that will get millions of new customers and be able to raise their rates as high as they want.”

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office predicts that because the public option will be restricted to those who are not covered by their company’s insurance plan, only 3 to 4 million people will participate in the plan. And because the pool being insured is likely to have a higher percentage of sicker people, the premiums might actually be higher than those charged by private companies.  Some health care reform advocates don’t feel the legislation goes far enough, arguing that it’s not true health reform if states have the option of rejecting coverage for their residents.  After the Senate vote Saturday, Harry Reid said, “We can only see the finish line. We have not yet crossed it.”

If Democrats end up crossing the finish line without a robust public option, it will be a Pyrrhic victory.  George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine and the NNPA News Service, is a key note 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.

Maybe Tomorrow

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By Ghost WRighter –

This is Ghost WRighter. In our last episode of “Maybe Tomorrow” a fierce battle was waged in the Inland Empire.  We saw the demented C.A. Demonicus licking his wounds at his over whelming defeat to The Judge. Since that time C.A. Demonicus, having been persuaded by his mindless minions called the Negatoids, decides to mount another ferocious attack upon The Judge and the kingdom of Berdoo.  Wherever he journeyed C.A.

Demonicus was constantly surrounded by his three loyal lackeys. The first lackey was Bitterina.

The second lackey who possessed split personalities was known as Dr.  Pouticus/Mr. Whine. The third lackey was the Malevolent Mistress Diarrhea from the land of Noise.

In his desire to expand the evil empire of Gloom-Doom C.A. Demonicus set out with his two of his three loyal lackeys to spread their vile message of despair and impending disaster.  First they descended upon a cathedral where there new recruit, “Z”, had a scheduled contest with Radioman. After persuading “Z” not to participate, they further infuriated the locals with bad attitudes and dubious actions.

Then they journeyed to the Home of Neighborly Service, where they proceeded to act very un-neighborly. At the Home, Bitterina was in rare form as she sparred with the Countess Marquezza.

Because of these confrontations ensuing conflicts erupted throughout the kingdom of Berdoo. Radioman went down to defeat at the hands of “Z” and his horde of fire breathing dragons.  With the help of her immense ground force the Countess Marquezza prevailed in an intense clash with Bitterina.

In the final battle for control of the kingdom of Berdoo C.A. Demonicus was last seen, once again, licking his wounds at his overwhelming defeat to The Judge after suffering a bitter beat down at the hands of the people.  There are still questions left to be resolved. Will “Z’ fall victim to the allure of the Dark Side? Will Dr.

Pouticus/Mr. Whine and the Malevolent Mistress Diarrhea flush there ideas down the toilet with the rest of their crap? Will the demented C.A.  Demonicus give up his foolish craving for power and control of the kingdom of Berdoo?

These questions and more will be answered in the further adventures of “Maybe Tomorrow.”

Obama in China, China in Africa

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Julianne Malveaux, NNPA Columnist
President Obama has taken his populist style to China with a town hall meeting with students in Shanghai that was also streamed on the Internet. Meanwhile, journalists and others in China chafe against restrictions that prevent their free speech and unfettered use of the Internet.

While the President is to be hailed for “taking it to the people” in China, the more substantive aspects of his visit will need to address the economic tension between the United States and China. China would have us participate in trade agreements that limit tariffs on Chinese goods, but the Obama Administration, its hands full with domestic economic issues, has not yet tackled issues of trade policy. Further, the administration can count on opposition from protectionists and free trade opponents in Congress.  It is difficult to deny China’s growing influence on the world stage. It is the third-largest trading nation, emits the most carbon gasses (to the detriment of the rest of the world), and actually has the most cell phone subscribers in the world.

The growing middle class and increasing prosperity have been amazing, but there is still enormous poverty in China, and human rights is much further down on its government’s list of priorities than economic growth.

Even as President Barack Obama travels to China for an official state visit, Chinese economic leaders are just returning from Egypt, where a two-day forum on China-Africa Cooperation was held. China has agreed to increase aid to Africa, reduce or cancel debts on African countries, and make increased investments in the African economy.  Is this a good or bad thing?

Some African leaders say they pay too high a price for the $10 billion in cheap loans they will get because of this new initiative.  They say the pattern of trade is that African raw materials go to China and cheap Chinese finished goods flood Africa.  In addition, some Chinese investment comes at a high price – last year China invested $9 billion in Congolese infrastructure, and got control of mining deposits in return. Investments in oil and gas fields isn’t free – China adds control of some of Nigeria’s, Cameroon’s and Gabon’s oil reserve in exchange for their petrochemical companies’ significant investment.  In fairness to China, its interest in Africa is not new, but dates back more than five decades. It is only now, as the Chinese economy expands so rapidly, that they have fully engaged in the African continent.  Bilateral trade between the two countries was $107 billion in 2008. Trade has risen by more than 30 percent in the past eight years. African imports are free from tariffs in China.

Still, as China expands its reach in the African continent, some in the US are alarmed about its meaning in both economic and strategic terms. Can African countries ever truly be independent if they have no economic independence? If foreign powers own critical natural resources, how does it affect African countries’ ability to grow? Is the United States being shortsighted in limiting our own involvement in African economics? We’ve attempted to address the underdevelopment of the African continent with AGOA (the African Growth and Opportunity Act), but many describe that legislation as good but insufficient.  We shouldn’t necessarily compete with China for influence in Africa, but it would be to our strategic detriment if China were the dominant foreign power on African soil.

The issue of China’s African involvement is not likely to come up in conversations with president Obama this week, nor should it, necessarily. But President Obama may be too magnanimous when he says, “the notion that we must be adversaries is not predestined”. There are economic issues that must be resolved, and in these matters there are often clear winners and losers. Despite the reality of globalization, no nation can afford fully free trade when it imperils its own workers from finding and keeping employment. China’s failure to revalue the yuan, pegged to a weaker dollar, undermines US economic viability. And as China’s influence grows, in Africa and elsewhere, what does that mean for the influence of the United States?

Julianne Malveaux is president of Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, N.C.

Nurturing the "Grand" in Grandchildren Over the Holidays

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With the holidays fast approaching, it is important to remember that a grandparent’s love and support have positive impact on children, particularly in the early years of a child’s life.  According to the Foundation for Grandparenting, when kids develop a strong bond with their grandparents, they feel more stable and even do better in school. This is especially important for African American children because they are more likely than any other ethnic group to live with grandparents. Researchers have also found that these relationships between older and younger generations have long-term benefits for grandparents and grandchildren.

There are at least 56 million grandparents in the country, with the U.S. Census Bureau reporting that more than 4.5 million children live with their grandparents. The report also indicates that African American grandparents are more likely to be their grandchildren’s primary caregivers compared to other ethnic groups.  First 5 California recognizes the important role African American grandparents play in the lives of young children. Below are helpful tips on how grandparents can support their grandchildren in their early years.  Read to y our Grandchildren November is Child Literacy Month and a perfect time for grandparents to make reading a priority when spending time with their grandchildren. First 5 California encourages grandparents to take their grandchildren to the public library, participate in storytelling activities and take books home to read together. Take advantage of the holiday season and read your grandchildren some holiday classics like “’Twas the Night Before Christmas” and “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” Keep in mind the following tips to make reading a daily part of your grandchild’s life year-round.

Infants
Reading aloud provides special bonding time for grandparents and infants. Babies enjoy hearing the sound of a familiar voice while the words, pictures and stories stimulate their brain.

Toddlers
Reading improves a toddler’s listening and speaking skills, and helps him or her begin to understand words and phrases. Toddlers enjoy hearing the same story repeated many times as this helps them make connections between words and pictures.

Preschoolers
As children prepare to enter school for the first time, regular reading habits can give them an extra boost.  That’s because reading builds confidence as well as vocabulary skills, which are both important for school success. Make visits to the library a regular part of your activities with your grandchildren, and let them choose several books on their favorite topics.

Pass on Traditions
The African American culture is steeped in wonderful traditions especially over the holidays, and sharing stories helps develop a child’s mental, verbal and communication skills.  Share holiday family stories with your grandchildren. Remember, children love to hear what their parents and grandparents were like as kids!

Provide kids with wisdom and guidance – grandma and grandpa can be great role models.  Describe the “good old days” in ways that help kids understand their own life and the world around them.  Good Nutri tion and Exercise The holiday season is often a busy time of year with parties and family gatherings – and that means lots of food. African American holiday meals are deeply rooted in tradition, but many of the dishes are high in fat, salt and sugar. When cooking, try to limit these ingredients or substitute them for healthier alternatives.

As a grandparent, encourage your grandchildren to eat well-balanced, nutritious meals and get regular exercise to ensure they remain healthy throughout the holidays. This is important because African American children statistically suffer more from childhood obesity than non-African American children. Obesity not only affects a child’s well-being, but it also contributes to future health problems such as asthma, high blood pressure, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.  First 5 California encourages all grandparents and other caregivers to learn about local resources that can help young children. For more information, call 1-800-KIDS-025 or visit www.first5california.com/parents.

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