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After Attacks, Malawi President Retracts Negative View of Women in Pants

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

(GIN) – Malawian President Bingu wa Mutharika has stepped back from remarks earlier this month criticizing women for wearing pants or miniskirts. The remarks triggered an outbreak of beatings and of tearing clothes off women over their choice of attire.

In a 15 minute national address, President Mutharika condemned the recent attacks on women mainly by vendors who claimed that the President had ordered it.

“Women who want to wear trousers should do so as you will be protected from thugs, vendors and terrorists,” the president said in a local language, Chichewa. “I will not allow anyone to go on the streets and start undressing women and girls wearing trousers because that is criminal.”

On Friday, Jan. 20, hundreds of girls and women, among them prominent politicians, protested the attacks while wearing pants or miniskirts and T-shirts emblazoned with such slogans as: “Real men don’t harass women.” A recording of Bob Marley’s “No Woman, No Cry” got a loud cheer when it was played during the protest. Men also took part.

Even the President’s VP chimed in with support for the protestors. “Some of us have spent our entire life fighting for the freedom of women,” Vice President Joyce Banda told the protesters. “It’s shocking some men want to take us back to bondage.”

During the reign of Malawi’s first President Kamuzu Banda, women were not allowed to wear trousers and miniskirts until 1993 when Kamuzu was about to leave power.

South African Schools to Drop Zulu and Xhosa Languages, Stirring Debate

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

(GIN) – South African Model C primary schools have been quietly removing Zulu and Xhosa languages from their curriculum leaving English and Afrikaans, popularly known as “the oppressors’ language” during the apartheid era as the medium of Instruction.

The move was described as “tragic” by academics even though Afrikaans appears to be the next dominant idiom after English.

Officially, students should be taught in their mother tongue from Grades 1 to 3, but a survey by the Sunday Times newspaper found this was not happening. In fact, by the time they got to 12th year, most pupils were opting for Afrikaans as their first additional language after English with 68,455 choosing Afrikaans, 10,943 choosing Zulu and 1,547 choosing Xhosa.

A letter from Mntomuhle Khawula of the Inkatha Freedom Party and an education advisor, was particularly critical: “Exclusion of African languages (isiZulu and isiXhosa) in some former Model C Primary schools is systematically discriminating and singling out certain racial groups.”

“We cannot sideline our African languages because not only is it an insult to those who speak it but it’s reviving the struggle of languages like it happened many years ago with Bantu education, we need to find a curriculum that will accommodate each and every language.”

Bobby Soobrayan, director of basic education, countered: “It is misleading to say that because of government policy, schools are scrapping African languages in favor of Afrikaans…” However, he added, “Because school governing bodies determine the language policy, some schools choose to offer Afrikaans as the first additional language.”

Soobrayan insisted: “What we want to see is every pupil being competent in an African language when they leave school.

Know Before You Owe

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By William Reed, NNPA Columnist –

Dez Bryant provides a good economic example of what is happening to Blacks across America. In heavy debt after leveraging his first-year salary to pay for “bling-lifestyle” amenities, during the National Football League (NFL) lockout, the 24-year-old wide receiver had to turn to payday lenders to help him keep up his game. Desmond Demond “Dez” Bryant started spending on his salary as a NFL player for the Dallas Cowboys when he was drafted in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft.

During the 18 months before Bryant signed with the Dallas Cowboys, he bought at least seven men’s watches and two more for women. He paid $65,500 for a diamond cross made of white gold and $60,000 for a custom charm. He ordered a set of dog tags made of white gold and diamonds, and all sorts of other rings, earrings, bracelets and necklaces in various shades of gold. Bryant got it all through a line of credit with the understanding that he’d settle up once he signed the pro contract that paid him $8.5 million.

While we hold them out to be “successful”, most people don’t know that a third of NFL players live paycheck to paycheck. Or, that by the time NFL players have been retired for two years, 78 percent have gone bankrupt or are under financial stress because of joblessness or divorce. Within five years of retirement, 60 percent of former NFL players are broke.

We all don’t have to be buying gold grills; but Bryant shows how cash and credit poses problems for not only rich Black athletes but, normal folks in the hood as well. More people are using payday lenders to secure essentials critical to daily life, and pay for medical emergencies, tuition fees and house bills that include water and electricity. There are more payday lending stores than McDonald’s and Starbucks combined. Payday lending has grown into a $40 billion industry.

The popularity of the short-term loan product has grown significantly since the early 1990s. America has 23,000 payday loan stores and there seems to be an increasing demand for them. Nearly 20 million Americans use payday lenders that charge, on average, $16 for a $100 two-week loan.

If you have a job, it’s easy to get one of these high-interest loans. No credit check, car title or other collateral is needed. All you generally need is some proof you have a steady job, a driver’s license and a checking account. Usually, you’re asked to write a post-dated personal check payable to the lender for the amount you want to borrow, plus a fee. You either repay the loan before your next payday or the lender cashes your check.

Prudent thinking is recommended before you sign up for a “payday” type of loan. If you’re having trouble paying the rent, mortgage payment or other monthly bills, talk to current creditors to develop a new payment plan. If you must pursue a payday loan; shop several lenders, find the best loan, then read the loan application/contract carefully and correct any errors. Never make inaccurate statements about your financial condition. Walk away from any lender who offers to falsify information or asks you to sign a loan application where spaces have been left blank. Understand what you sign – be sure that the terms of the loan as written in your contract match what the lender has told you.

On the other hand, it would be wise to look at opportunities to participate in ownership and the profits of payday loan stores and kiosk locations. Half of America’s payday loan stores are owned by independent entrepreneurs who put together approximately $25,000 to open their store. Payday operators can expect to break even in 15 months if they are able to plan and pay out $8,000 a month to pay rent, utilities, one to two employees, signage, advertising, payroll taxes, software, computers, and office supplies and are able to build up to a portfolio of $60,000 in loans.

William Reed is president of the Business Exchange Network and available for speaking/seminar projects via the BaileyGroup.org

Tax Refunds: Yours to Keep, Not Lose to High-Cost Lenders

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By Charlene Crowell, NNPA Columnist –

Each year as W-2s begin arriving in mailboxes, commercials start promoting a range of services to ‘help’ consumers with tax preparation. These advertisements beckon consumers to take advantage of convenient and worry-free services.

In reality, however, many tax season services are less about convenience and more about taking a hefty portion of refunds consumers have already earned. Each year, high cost tax-related services drain an estimated $11 billion from the pockets of 30 million households with moderate and low-incomes. Two of the most prevalent and high-cost financial ‘services’ are Refund Anticipation Loans (RALs) and Refund Anticipation Checks (RACs).

A RAL is a high-cost, short-term loan secured by the taxpayer’s expected refund. Interest rates on a typical RAL are about 150 percent. The fee for the RAL is in addition to the fee for tax preparation. Other add-on fees such as electronic filing, applications, and fees to cash the loan check, wind-up with many taxpayers spending more than 10 percent of their refund, just to get their own money a few days sooner.

According to FINRA Investor Education Foundation, a national survey of self-reported RAL users showed that while 13 percent of African-Americans reporting using a RAL in the last five years, just six percent of whites did.

Similarly, RACs, temporary bank accounts opened for the sole purpose of receiving tax refunds, are another costly loan. Once the refund is deposited, the lender issues the consumer a paper check or prepaid debit card and then closes the account. RAC fees vary, but as with RALs, consumers often elect to have the tax preparation costs deducted from their refund. RAC customers are also charged checking cashing and other add-on fees for this short-term loan.

Consumers most vulnerable to the lure of expensive RALs and RACs are either unbanked or under-banked but are also eligible for the federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). For 2011 and depending upon family size, the maximum EITC will range from $464 to $5,751. Anyone desiring to learn whether they qualify for this tax credit should visit IRS online at: http://www.irs.gov/individuals/article/0,,id=96406,00.html.

According to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), African-Americans alone account for 36.9 percent of the unbanked – consumers without a personal account with either a bank or credit union. Further, Latino and African-American communities together represent more than 60 percent of the nation’s unbanked households

Consumers with bank accounts who turn to non-bank fringe services for day-to-day money management are ‘under-banked’ households. Under-banked households pay more for basic transaction and credit financial services, and additionally are more vulnerable to loss or theft. These families also, according to FDIC, often struggle to build credit histories and achieve financial security.

Rather than wasting a portion of tax refunds on RALs or RACs, consumers would be better served by accessing one of the free tax services available. These locations can be found online at: http://rspnsb.li/wxAmeA. Local IRS offices are available to assist or direct consumers to qualified preparers. Other nonprofit, social service agencies or those serving older residents can also offer referrals to qualified low and no-cost tax assistance.

Most importantly, anyone who hires someone to assist them with their returns should be aware that IRS holds the tax filer accountable for their selection of a preparer. Every qualified tax preparer must sign the return and also enter their assigned Preparer Tax Identification Number. Tax preparers are also required to give taxpayers a copy of their own returns.

Tax refunds represent monies owed. Every consumer is entitled to keep as much of it as possible.

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

CBC Will Kick Off Voter Protection Tour in March

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By Lauren Victoria Burke, Writer, Politic365
Special to the NNPA from the Washington Informer –

The Congressional Black Caucus will launch a multi-city “voter protection” tour that will kick-off the weekend of March 3 near the 47th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday.”

“We intend to launch our voter protection tour, which will consist of field hearings and community gatherings, during the same weekend as the annual pilgrimage to Selma, Alabama,” said Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO).

Each year, the Faith and Politics Institute holds a Congressional Civil Rights Pilgrimage to Alabama. The weekend includes a tour of historic civil rights sites and ends with a walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge. It has been attended over the years by 150 members of Congress including several Republicans. Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) is the Pilgrimage’s Chairman. This year the twelve year-old event begins on March 2.

“We think that what John Lewis and others did at the Edmund Pettus [Bridge] is still very relevant in light of what we are dealing with now in terms of the seemingly organized effort to reduce minority participation in the upcoming election,” Cleaver added.

Cleaver confirmed the tour will kickoff that weekend of the annual pilgrimage.

On March 7, 1965, John Lewis led 700 protest marchers across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. When the marchers stopped to pray after police ordered them to disperse, they were tear-gassed and beaten by Alabama State Troopers in an incident now known as “Bloody Sunday.” Lewis’ skull was fractured in the clash.

The CBC voter protection tour will consist of about 10 cities. The cities most likely to be stops on the tour are Atlanta, Cleveland and Dallas. By filing time, Cleaver did not wish to confirm locations just yet. CBC Member Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL) did confirm that one of the stops will be in Florida, a key battleground state during the 2012 Presidential race.

Interestingly enough, Wilson’s Republican colleague in the CBC, Rep. Allen West (R-FL), told Politic365 that he did not attend the meeting where this was discussed and was not aware of the plans.

The CBC will team up with the NAACP for the tour and one major sponsor that will be named in the near future.

“Every black elected official around the country and in the area is where we are going to stop. We are not able to announce it today but we will have at least one major partner,” Cleaver told Politic365.

Republican legislatures around the country have altered state voter laws over the last year. Many say the changes have more to do with suppressing the turnout of minority voters and low income Americans than with preventing fraud. Republican controlled legislatures in Georgia, Tennessee, Florida, Wisconsin, Ohio and West Virginia have cut the number of days citizens can vote early. Republican Florida Gov. Rick Scott reduced early voting from 14 days to 8 and Republican Governor of Ohio John Kasich reduced the early voting days from 35 to 16.

Last October the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University released a study on the new voter ID laws that stated that “as many as many as 10% of eligible voters do not have, and will not get, the documents required by strict voter ID laws.” The study also indicated that 5 million voters could be impacted by the new laws.

Because of past discrimination, new voter ID laws in Texas and South Carolina are required to undergo what’s called “pre-clearance” review by the Department of Justice. The Justice Department blocked a new voter ID law in South Carolina on December 21st saying it discriminated against minority voters.

The CBC has met with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus regarding partnering in some way on the voter protection/voter suppression tour. As of this time no formal plans with the CHC have been set.

The CBC had a five city “Jobs for the People” tour in August of 2011 that gained national attention and reportedly secured nearly 3,000 jobs for attendee

 

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