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Is Criticism of President Obama by Blacks a Betrayal?

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Professor Cornel West and talk show host Tavis Smiley do seem to think so; they have embarked on a nationwide tour to showcase what they see as Obama not doing enough for Black folks.

By Yussuf J. Simmonds, Special to the NNPA from the Los Angeles Sentinel –

As they embark on a nationwide tour, Professor Cornel West and Tavis Smiley have said that they will highlight hardships in communities across the nation, especially the Black and poor communities. The bus tour, which is drawing large crowds and media attention, is focused on the President's policies that West and Smiley believes are not inclusive of Blacks. Furthermore, they believe that the President does not have a Black agenda, and the question is should he? After all, supporters say that President Obama is not the president of Black America; he is the president of all of America.

Some Black lawmakers are said to be beginning a campaign to address the staggering unemployment rate among African Americans, an issue that has become a growing source of tension between members of the Congressional Black Caucus and the Obama administration. Lack of jobs for Blacks has created tension between Black lawmakers and President Obama.

Smiley and West will be kicking off the bus tour right in the heart of Chicago's Black community, the President's 'front yard.' And although West states, "it is not an anti-Obama tour," it does appear to highlight what they say is lack of effort by both the President and Congress to address the needs of the Americans who have been hardest hit by the recession. West has received criticism for speaking out against Obama.

Not too long ago, a colleague of Smiley, Tom Joyner, called those who criticize the President "haters" and that they needed to be quiet because he (President Obama) doesn't need the Black vote to be split.

Also, Rev. Al Sharpton had sharply criticized the motivations and integrity of those who questioned President Obama's willingness to meet with the CBC to discuss targeted jobs legislation.

Then former Princeton Professor Melissa Harris-Perry recently referred to Professor West's critique of the Obama administration as, "a self-aggrandizing, victimology sermon deceptively wrapped in the discourse of prophetic witness..."

It appears that a very troubling pattern has developed within certain segments of the Black community. There's a concerted effort by some to silence those who are offering honest, sincere, and well thought through analysis and criticism of the Obama administration particularly as it relates to the conditions of Black and poor masses. Especially, as they say that statistics show 97 percent of Black people voted for Obama.

The following is a BET.com interview with West prior to the tour.

BET.com: Why are you embarking on the poverty tour and whose idea was it?

West: Tavis Smiley and I had been talking for a year about how to dramatize the poverty and humanize our perception of poor people in America. This is especially so for the Black poor. Poverty has been criminalized, poor people demonized and what we want to do is dramatize poverty and humanize our perception of poor people to overturn what has been in place for so long. When he came up with this idea for the tour I thought it was a magnificent idea.

BET.com: What are some of the stops on the tour?

West: We're going to an Indian reservation in Wisconsin, we're going to hit the brown barrios, the Asian poor communities, White poor communities, the Black hoods and we're ending in Memphis to keep alive the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.'s fundamental commitment to sanitation workers there, and of course his assassination.

BET.com: How are you going to share your observations and some of the things you'll see while on the tour?

West: We've got an embedded reporter from The Washington Post, camera people who'll be keeping track and of course, you'll be able to follow most every second of it on the Internet on the tavistalks.com and smileyandwest.com. And there will be documentary filmmakers so we can keep the story going after. I think we're going to see great dignity, great suffering and great resiliency.

What may be getting lost in the conversation is that honest criticism is not betrayal; it is part of the democratic process. It is democracy at its best ... or worst ... depending on who is criticizing whom.

Democrats Clyburn, Becerra Only Minorities on U.S. Debt Committee

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Republicans Have No Minority or Woman Appointees—All White Males

Special to the NNPA from the AFRO-American newspapers –

During her last round of picks for the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (“Debt Supercommittee”) intended to help solve the nation’s debt crisis, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi appointed Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C) and Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.), adding diversity to the important panel. The Democrats are also represented by the only woman on the committee, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA).

The 12-member bipartisan panel will have until November to decide how the country should save $1.5 trillion over the next 10 years, Bloomberg Businessweek reported.

Pelosi (D-CA) said the debt super committee would have three main goals: To focus economic growth and job creation to reduce debt; make financial decisions regarding investments, cuts and revenues; and offer recommendations to help reduce the country’s dependence credit.

“Because the work of this committee will affect all Americans, I called last week for its deliberations to be transparent; the committee should conduct its proceedings in the open,” Pelosi said in an Aug. 11 press release.

While the 12-member panel is split evenly between Republicans and Democrats, seven votes must be made to send a final recommendation to Congress for consideration—which means at least one lawmaker must back the plan of the opposing party.

“It's not going to be simple to come to a deal,” said Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.

Clyburn is currently the third-ranking member of the House Democratic Leadership, with experience on the Appropriations Committee. Pelosi in a statement called Clyburn a “vigorous spokesperson for jobs and economic development.”

Fresh Threats in Zimbabwe Aimed at Foreign-Owned Companies

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By Fungai Maboreke, Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network –

As the country marked Heroes Day on Aug. 8, President Robert Mugabe renewed threats against companies from Western countries that have imposed targeted sanctions on him and key ZANU PF officials.

The U.S. and European Union slapped sanctions on Mugabe and his supporters because of human rights abuses.

According to Reuters, Mugabe told thousands who attended the commemoration of liberation heroes: "We can't continue to receive the battering of sanctions without hitting back. We have to hit back."

"We will have to discriminate against countries that have imposed sanctions against us. Why do we need companies like Rio Tinto? If they are to continue mining, then the sanctions must go," he said.

He has previously called for a boycott of products from foreign countries who back the sanctions, which he says have hurt the country's shaky economy

UK Riots in Black Community Stir Response Worldwide

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By Fungai Maboreke, Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network –

The spectacle of anarchy unfolding in Britain’s low income neighborhoods of Black Africans, South Asians and others, has prompted mixed reactions of worry and concern from African, Caribbean and Asian communities around the world.

Widespread riots have been viewed on the internet, with looting, burning buildings and vehicles and attacks against civilians and even the police.

The disturbances were reportedly triggered by the death of a Black London man and father of 4, Mark Duggan, 29, believed to have been caught in a crossfire of police shooting in a raid called Operation Trident.

A peaceful vigil in North London’s Tottenham neighborhood, led by the family of Mark Duggan, turned violent when police apparently failed to meet with the Duggan family and supporters. Now, similar incidents have been reported in Birmingham and Liverpool, which forced the Metropolitan Police to deploy at least 16 000 riot police officers in riot gear to deal with it.

In Zimbabwe, President Robert Mugabe joined a chorus of international critics of the UK saying, “Britain I understand is on fire, London especially and we hope they can extinguish their fire, pay attention to their internal problems and to that fire which is now blazing all over, and leave us alone.”

Black activist Lee Jasper from Brixton said the riots could be traced to alienated youth, low paying or no jobs, lack of opportunities and “crap” housing. He accused the government of cutting youth projects and suggested re-investing millions of pounds recovered from criminal assets.

FTC Field Hearings Tell the Tricks, Traps of Auto Financing

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54 Percent of Black Customers Charged Dealer Kickbacks

By Charlene Crowell, NNPA Columnist –

August 11, 2011 August is back-to-school time; but it is also the time when car dealers tempt consumers with commercials that advertise slashed prices and seemingly too-good-to-be true deals to reduce inventories. Before taking a test drive, consumers would do themselves a financial favor by learning about the tricks and traps that are built into the financing of many auto sales.

For example, consumers usually do not realize that a dealer can “mark up” the interest rate on a car loan, over a lower rate a buyer may qualify for. Dealers say this increase compensates them for the time they spend in putting the financial deal together. As the dealer is not required to disclose the markup, it leads to the creation of a loan with terms that are most lucrative to dealers – instead of the consumers.

According to research by the Center for Responsible Lending (CRL), dealer markups will cause Americans who bought cars in 2009 to pay an extra $25.8 billion over the lives of their loans. Earlier research by the National Consumer Law Center (NCLC) estimated that more than 54 percent of African Americans are charged dealer kickbacks, compared to only 31 percent for white customers – even after accounting for differences in credit risk. The extra cost to a buyer was significant too: NCLC found that in Washington, D.C., the same transaction that would cost White customers $255; but Black consumers, $857.

In recent years, NCLC’s findings led to settlements of class action lawsuits against the lending arms of major auto manufacturers including Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Nissan and Toyota. These settlement terms limited the markup auto dealers could charge; but those caps have all expired now. Further, those caps still provided extensive discretion for dealers to mark up interest rates for some customers over others. So the problem of dealer markups remains today.

During the formation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the auto dealers fought hard to gain an exemption from oversight. However the debate did give legislators more awareness about common auto lending and sales abuses. As a result, Congress provided the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) with stronger powers to oversee auto dealers.

These new powers led the FTC to begin a series of roundtable discussions this year that focused on abuses in auto sales and finance. Open to the public and webcasted, the first of these roundtables took place in Detroit in April, focusing on consumer protection issues involving dealership sales and financing. On August 2-3 in San Antonio, the roundtable examined the particular auto sales and financing issues of military consumers, financial literacy and fair lending. A third roundtable is planned for later this year.

“The Roundtables have been effective in showing the kinds of hidden charges and hidden incentives that cost consumers,” said Chris Kukla, a roundtable participant and Senior Counsel for Government Affairs at CRL. “The forums have also brought to light many abusive practices that clearly go beyond ‘a few bad apple’. We hope that this will lead the FTC to take strong and swift action to eliminate the abuses in the auto market.”

The ongoing abuse in auto lending is one more illustration of how existing fair lending laws have yet to fully or consistently benefit people of color. Regardless of whether a financial product is a payday loan, mortgage, or auto loan, every American has a right to be treated fairly. Our financial transactions should be transparent with full disclosure of all terms and costs.

To learn more about auto financing, visit CRL at: http://www.responsiblelending.org/other-consumer-loans/auto-financing.

If you or someone you know would like to comment on auto sales or finance, register your concerns directly with FTC at: http://rspnsb.li/oVYNbw.

Charlene Crowell is the Center for Responsible Lending’s communications manager for state policy and outreach. She can be reached at: Charlene.crowell@responsiblelending.org.

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