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Denzel Washington, Ron Howard, Ashanti, LeBron James Launch PSA for Boys and Girls Clubs of America

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Special to the NNPA from the AFRO-American newspapers –

Celebrity alumni of the Boys and Girls Clubs of America flocked to Washington, D.C. to launch a new PSA campaign, which targets childhood obesity, dropout rates and youth violence.

Oscar-winning actor Denzel Washington, the club’s national spokesman and a Boys and Girls Clubs of America alum, led the debut of the organization’s campaign film, “Great Futures Start Here,” directed by Academy Award winner Ron Howard.

“We are very fortunate indeed to have Ron Howard on our Boys and Girls Club team,” Washington said at the event.

The video features 21 alumni of the organization, including co-spokesperson Jennifer Lopez, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Shaquille O’Neal, Kerry Washington, Cuba Gooding Jr. and more.

According to the website, 4.1 million young people are Boys and Girls Clubs of America members. There are nearly 4,000 chartered locations with a staff of 50,000 nationwide. The organization states that 64 percent of participants come from minority families.

Although Howard was not a member of the organization, he said he was honored to be called on by Washington to direct the PSA.

“I don’t have Boys and Girls club in my personal history,” he said. “When Denzel told me about doing this PSA, it was kind of a great moment…I do believe in what the Boys and Girls Club offers.”

Beyonce’s single “I Was Here” from her album “A” was selected as music for the video.

South Africans Eye Louisiana for New Gas to Liquid Plant

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Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network –

Southwest Louisiana may be on its way to becoming the home for a state of the art gas-to-liquid (GTL) plant built by the South African petrochemicals giant Sasol.

Sasol will launch a feasibility study of the GTL venture in Calcasieu Parish during the next 18 months. The GTL complex, if built, would be funded by a capital investment of $8- to $10-billion and could create up to 850 permanent positions and up to approximately 5,500 jobs during peak construction periods.

Construction could start as early as 2013.

Speaking at a recent press conference with Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a Sasol spokesman said: "We believe Sasol's proprietary GTL technology can help unlock the potential of Louisiana's clean and abundant natural gas resources and contribute to an affordable, reliable and high quality fuel supply for the United States.”

Calcasieu, a predominantly African-American parish whose name comes from the Atakapan word, "quelqueshue", meaning "crying eagle," is already the home of 53 industrial facilities, mostly petrochemical plants.

Residents have three times the national average of dioxin in their bodies although the federal agency for toxic substances does not consider it a health risk. It was the subject of a report called “Breathing Poison” by a coalition of green activist groups and a documentary “Blue Vinyl” in 2002.

Students Rally for Niagara University Professor, Prime Minister of Somalia

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By Amanda Galster, Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network –

Dr. Abdiweli Ali, head of the Somali government and an associate professor of Economics at Niagara University in Buffalo, New York, was welcomed back to campus recently where he will promote awareness of the evolving situation in Somalia.

Dr. Brian Murphy, Chair of the Communications Studies Department said: “It’s not every day that a university has a Prime Minister of a nation.”

Dr. Ali’s number one challenge will be to improve the security of the nation. Through political outreach, he hopes to bring back law and order and reconcile the community. Another challenge is the humanitarian crisis. Six states have been declared famine states, making up half of the population of Somalia - four million people.

“We cannot take this journey alone,” he told the students. Meanwhile, with the rainy season just around the corner, the United Nations refugee agency has scaled up its presence in Mogadishu and Somalia’s border regions, providing food and medical assistance.

Dr. Ali holds a master of public administration from Harvard University, a certificate of Taxation from Harvard Law School, and a master of economics from Vanderbilt University. He completed his Ph.D. in Economics at George Mason University and, in 1998 and 1999, was a Joel Leff Fellow of Political Economy at Kennedy School of Government of Harvard University.

How Will Consumer Confidence Affect Year-end Spending?

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By Charlene Crowell, NNPA Columnist –

As September draws to a close, the holiday season will soon be upon us. It is also the traditional time when consumer spending surges make the annual difference between retailers reaching profits or red ink. But according to a recent consumer study conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates on behalf of BankRate.com, many consumers have already begun tightening household budgets.

“Forty percent of Americans say they have cut back on spending over the past 60 days due to the roller-coaster stock market or concerns about the economy”, says Greg McBride, Bankrate’s senior financial analyst. “This type of widespread cutback in consumer spending, if sustained for any length of time, is how recessions are born.”

Beyond consumer spending, the study also compared consumer comfort levels today against those of 12 months ago in four other measures: debt, savings, job security and net worth.

If you’re feeling as if your total assets are fewer than you’d prefer, there are many others holding that same opinion. Across all education levels, consumers said their net worth is lower today than a year ago.

Older Americans ages 50-64 are feeling the most financial stress. Half on this age group are less comfortable today with their savings than last year. They have also the most likely to have already cut back on spending.

Although consumers earning $75,000 or more were found more comfortable with their savings levels, they too are spending less.

When consumers considered their personal debts, over half surveyed– 51 cent – found they were about the same as last year. This finding suggests that while consumer may manage debts, becoming debt-free for half of Americans is long-term goal, not a short one.

Job security was perhaps the worst measure. More than half – 60 percent – job security is as elusive now as it was last year. Conversely, only 16 percent felt their jobs were safer today.

David Denslow, Jr., a distinguished service professor in the Department of Economics at the University of Florida and a research economist for the Bureau of Economic and Business Research offered his interpretation on lingering job insecurity.

“This increased concern ranges from dropouts to college graduates, from the less-skilled to higher earners, from the young to those approaching retirement. And it is remarkable for the beginning of the third year after the official end of a recession. The third years of the previous two recoveries saw rapid job gains. This time may be different.”

In the face of questionable job security, lingering debts, meager savings and lower net worth – the usual merry tone of the holidays may offer less cheer. The economy has taken the form of Ebenezer Scrooge.

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

Reversing the Alarming HIV Increase Among Black Gay Men, Part 2

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By Rod McCullom, Special to the NNPA from the Black AIDS Institute –

The second of a two-part series examining the high rates of new HIV infection among Black gay and bisexual men. Part 1 described the new data detailing the dramatic increases in new infections, examined some of the reasons driving the numbers and described the CDC's new social-marketing initiative, designed to encourage testing among Black MSM.

In light of the persistent increase in new infections among MSM (men who have sex with men)--and despite the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's new testing initiative--a consensus has emerged among prominent Black gay men who have leadership positions in HIV/AIDS policy, prevention and public health: A larger investment is needed from public and private sources, as well as a more "holistic" approach to Black gay men's sexual health.

"It's a question of dollars," says A. Cornelius Baker, senior policy adviser of the Washington, D.C.-based National Black Gay Men's Advocacy Coalition (NBGMAC), which delivered a forceful set of recommendations in response to the CDC's incidence report. Across the federal bureaucracy, "there is not a sufficient investment in line with the scope of the epidemic in Black and Latino gay populations," he says.

"The CDC must increase funding to organizations providing services to young MSM and transgender [people] of color from $9 million to $14 million," says Baker, who is also board chair of the Black AIDS Institute. "Five years after its initial commitment, the numbers are worse, and their investment remains at $9 million. That makes no sense."

Among NBGMAC's additional recommendations: increased funding, capacity building in Black gay organizations, continuing HIV education for medical professionals, high-level consultations with Black gay men and research on how to lower the viral load in MSM communities of color.

Extending Advantages, Reducing Stigma

Other prominent MSM agree with NBGMAC's call for a more comprehensive approach to the multiple health, economic and social disparities that Black MSM experience, particularly those in the under-30 demographic, which is experiencing the greatest increase in new infections.

"I'm 25 years old and part of that 13-to-29 demographic, but many of my contemporaries [do not] have some of my advantages," says Daniel Driffin, a prevention specialist at the Atlanta-based National AIDS & Education Services for Minorities. "I have full-time employment, a college degree and health insurance. Many younger brothas are jobless, homeless, uninsured or have low literacy rates. Some of them [engage in] 'survival sex' to provide for some basic needs. If we begin to tackle those issues, we can influence health-disparity rates."

Kali Lindsey, senior director of federal policy at Harlem United, believes that the outreach to Black MSM should address "not only sexual health but physical and emotional decisions as well that drive our sexual behavior."

He continues: "We also have to stop letting our community off the hook. More than half of our gay men do not disclose same-sex behavior to their primary care physicians. That means that we are missing many opportunities to have key conversations about sexual health. We can't accept that anymore."

"We have to get comfortable discussing sexuality," says Venton Jones, senior program associate for communications for NBGMAC, "in our Facebook discussions, faith settings, with medical providers and in our communities. That is critical for the Black community."

NBGMAC's statement of recommendations also called attention to a study by the National Medical Association that found many of its members--almost exclusively Black doctors--were "not willing to recommend HIV testing because of social stigmas."

"That's shameful," says Baker. "Whatever the discomfort some Black doctors may have in talking about sex, they have to get over it. Our people have been through a helluva lot, from slavery to segregation. And they're uncomfortable talking about sex?"

Baker offers an anecdote from his experience with a pediatrician when he was a teenager. "He said, 'I get the sense that you might like boys; is that okay for me to say?' Then we had a conversation, and he took care of my sexual health. The conversation was loving and respectful. He took his responsibility as an adult and a caretaker [seriously], and guided me on a path to being 50 years old and still alive. Our institutions have to do the same thing. We haven't shown youth that there's a better way to live."

Rod McCullom has written and produced for ABC News and NBC, and his reporting and analysis have appeared in Ebony, the Advocate, ColorLines and other media. McCullom blogs on politics, pop culture and Black gay news at rod20.com.

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