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Obama Pulls in $86M for Campaign in Second Quarter

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Special to the NNPA from the AFRO-American newspapers –

Amid a fractured economy and fickled job market, President Obama outpaced fundraising projections to raise $86 million for his re-election campaign and the Democratic Party during the last three months.

Between April 1 and June 30, Obama garnered more than $47 million for his Obama for America campaign and an additional $38 million for the Democratic National Committee, which will assist with advertising efforts and voter engagement.

His campaign team had expected to raise just $60 million.

“This should end any Washington chatter about whether our grassroots base will be engaged,” Obama’s campaign manager Jim Messina said, according to USA Today. “Our people are back and energized, and there’s a new generation of supporters who have joined our organization.”

More than 550,000 supporters donated to Obama’s campaign during the second quarter, a hefty increase from the 180,000 who contributed during the same time period in 2007. The president brought in a total of $750 million over the course of his 2008 presidential campaign.

The figures, released July 13, show the president is still a strong opponent for Republicans who plan to challenge him in 2012. Collectively, Republican candidates raised $35 million.

But political analysts say the sluggish economy remains embedded in the minds of most Americans.

“He can claim…having been president during the end of the Great Recession, but the challenge to the Obama campaign is how to convince voters that he's responsible for making things better,” Charles Franklin, a political scientist at the University of Wisconsin, told USA Today. “It’s a hard argument to say, ‘I kept it from being a lot worse.’”

Of his Republican challengers, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney generated the most donations, with $18 million. Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Utah Gov. John Huntsman followed with $4.2 million and $4.1 million, respectively. Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann has not yet reported her fundraising totals for the quarter.

Secret U.S. Prison Camp in Somalia Revealed in New Report

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Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network –

In what appears to be the opening of a new U.S. war on an African front, a secret walled compound with an underground prison has become the center of interrogation of suspected terrorists in Somalia. The U.S.-run operation is on the coast of the Indian Ocean, according to a detailed expose in the current Nation magazine.

According to investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill, the site has its own airport and is guarded by Somali soldiers, but the Americans control access.

Staffed by Central Intelligence Agency operatives, this latest initiative targets the al-Shabab insurgency, an Islamist group linked to Al Qaeda and aims to build "an indigenous strike force capable of snatch operations and targeted 'combat' operations" against the Shabab, Scahill says.

Reports of CIA operatives interrogating terrorism suspects in Somalia was recently confirmed by a senior U.S. official on CNN.

Currently, Somali government forces, fortified by U.S. funds and weapons, control about 30 square miles of territory in Mogadishu while much of the rest of the city is under the control of the Shabab or warlords.

At least three U.S. citizens of Somali descent were among the suicide bombers the Shabab has deployed; at least seven other Americans have died fighting alongside the Shabab.

In a related development, Somali citizen Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame was transferred this month for trial after being held incommunicado on a U.S. Navy vessel for more than two months. Warsame’s case has ignited a legal debate over the Obama administration’s policies on capturing and detaining terror suspects.

South Sudan to Give Women Long-Denied Rights

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Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network –

Tens of thousands of South Sudanese danced and cheered as their new country formally declared its independence on July 9. Much remains to be done, however, to undo the legacy of oppression of women.

"The statistics of domestic violence cases are increasing,” said minister of gender, children and social welfare, Agnes Kwaje Lasuba. “This is unacceptable and must be stopped." She commented on a recent report of a girl beaten to death by a relative over a disputed marital gift.

“We have a lot of gender-based violence in the rural areas where men still beat their women to instill discipline", said Lasuba. “The government condemns such practice and looks forward to ensuring that those who commit such crimes are tried in court without delay."

Ms. Lasuba was in Juba, leading a 10 day capacity building workshop on traditional beliefs.

The new national Constitution provides for equal pay, benefits such as maternity leave, equal participation in public life, equal property and inheritance rights and the development of laws to combat traditional practices that are harmful to women.

Meanwhile, Northern Sudan President Omar Hassan al-Bashir said the north will launch austerity measures to compensate for the loss of oil revenues after the south's secession.

North Sudan lost 75 percent of its 500,000 barrel-a-day oil production after the south became independent last week. Oil is vital to both economies.

Black Migration Changes the Political Landscape in Many States

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By Nadra Kareem Nittle, Special to the NNPA from America’s Wire –

LOS ANGELES—African-Americans once were clustered so heavily in urban areas that the terms “Black” and “inner city” came to be used almost synonymously. According to the 2010 U.S. Census results, that time is history.

While Blacks have by no means vanished from cities, unprecedented numbers have headed for the suburbs or left the big cities of the North and headed south. As legislative districts are redrawn, nonpartisan groups and both political parties are watching how this unexpected migration will affect local and state elections.

Moreover, redistricting experts say the Black exodus from cities such as Detroit, Cleveland and Philadelphia contributed to placing Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania among the 10 states that will lose congressional seats because of reapportionment after the census. With Republican governors in 29 states, the GOP has greater influence over redistricting than Democrats.

But it is unclear whether the migration of African-American voters will change the number of congressional districts where bBack candidates can win. Rob Richie, executive director of FairVote, based in Takoma Park, Md., notes that Republicans often join civil rights leaders in supporting African-American legislative districts rather than creating politically diverse districts where the Black vote could decide close elections.

“Republicans have a political interest in concentrating the African-American vote,” Richie says. “When Blacks are concentrated, they can’t have their votes in as many districts. It’s a trade-off.”

Experts on redistricting foresee multicultural coalitions emerging in formerly all-Black communities and people of color eventually gaining more political clout in suburbs and exurbs.

In California, the independent Citizens Redistricting Commission will carve out the state’s electoral districts for the first time. Voters authorized having a nonpartisan board, not legislators, delineate these districts in passing the Voters First Act (Proposition 11) in 2008. To ensure that new districts don’t dilute black voting power, grass-roots organizations mobilized to present the commission with recommendations for keeping communitiBs of color intact. New district lines must be drawn by Aug. 15.

Although Black flight from California cities is changing demographics, experts say that is unlikely to shake up the state’s political scene.

“The 2010 census showed that there has been a drift of the Black population away from the coastal areas to more inland areas in California,” says Michelle Romero, a fellow at The Greenlining Institute, which is based in Berkeley and advocates for racial and economic justice. “But fortunately in Los Angeles, there’s the potential to build multi-ethnic coalitions of voters after this new redistricting cycle.”

From 2000 to 2010, the Black population in Los Angeles County dropped from 9.8 percent to 8.7 percent, according to census findings. In Alameda County, which includes Oakland and other San Francisco Bay areas, the drop was from 14.9 percent to 12.6 percent.

Erica Teasley Linnick, coordinator of the African American Redistricting Collaborative in Los Angeles, doesn’t view black migration from California’s urban cores as a threat to black voting power. When African-Americans leave California cities, she says, Latinos and Asians with similar political interests usually replace them.

“In Los Angeles, you’ve had coalitions coming together to vote in Tom Bradley (the city’s first black mayor) to now Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa,” says Teasley Linnick, who also notes that blacks who have moved from Los Angeles gained political representation in the city’s outlying areas. For instance, Wilmer Amina Carter, a black woman, has represented the state’s 62nd Assembly District in the Inland Empire region bordering metropolitan Los Angeles, since 2006.

Marqueece Harris-Dawson, president and CEO of Community Coalition, a social and economic advocacy group for South Los Angeles, agrees that black flight from the city will not undercut African-American voting power.

“It’s been happening over a 20-year period,” he says. “It’s not a dramatic change, so it’s not significant enough to curtail African-American political representation.”

In fact, experts say Republicans in California face new challenges underscored by the census count. Three million more Latinos moved into California between 2000 and 2010, resulting in predictions that Republicans may lose ground after new electoral districts are drawn. Analysts say Democrats could gain as many as five seats in the State Legislature, enough to form a supermajority.

The shift to having an independent panel redistrict California communities makes it difficult for Republicans to devise a redistricting strategy, according to Matt Rexroad, a GOP strategist in Sacramento.

“As always, the Republican strategy is to recruit good candidates and make sure their message resonates with voters, just like at any other time,” he says. “Sometimes, it’s worked and, well, sometimes it hasn’t.”

But what effect will black flight from California cities and the surging Latino population have on the GOP statewide? Rexroad says the Republican Party and African-American community typically share interests in redistricting.

“You’ve found Republicans and African-Americans arguing for the same district configurations,” he says. “African-Americans want their votes consolidated to win urban seats.”

This time around, however, some California activists want the black vote less concentrated to exert wider influence, Rexroad says, adding that the enormous growth of the Latino population is not necessarily bad news for Republicans. He notes that in California’s Central and Imperial valleys, for instance, Latinos tend to lean to the right.

“They’re largely responsible for Proposition 8 passing,” he says, referring to the ban on gay marriage. “They’re very conservative on social issues.”

While Republicans may not gain power where blacks have departed, blacks who have headed south will probably not be able to turn red states blue in the near future, says Herb Tyson of Tyson Innovative Government Relations Solutions in Washington, D.C.

The Black migration “doesn’t help Democrats because the South is so heavily skewed Republican you would have to have a huge representation of African-Americans to make a difference statewide,” he Tyson says.

On the other hand, in cities such as Atlanta, the black population is so large that African-Americans relocated there from throughout the nation won’t change the political landscape. The Atlanta area now has the greatest number of Blacks in the country outside of New York City. For years, Chicago held that distinction. Moreover, three-fourths of the 25 counties in which the Black population rose most over the past decade are in the South.

In Texas, the Black population grew by 22 percent, in part because of Hurricane Katrina refugees who relocated there permanently. With the Latino population also growing, by 42 percent, minorities could alter the political landscape that Republicans have controlled.

Meanwhile, five counties with the greatest number of Blacks 10 years ago—Los Angeles County, Philadelphia County, Wayne (Detroit), Cook (Chicago) and Kings (New York City)—all lost African-Americans. Democratic pollster Ron Lester stresses that populations in northeastern states dropped overall but says he doesn’t expect that to have much political impact.

“The loss has been spread around,” Lester says. “It’s a lot of college-educated voters who are leaving.”

Lester also questions the notion that population declines in northern states will benefit Republicans in that region or nationally. “In places like New York, I don’t think that’s going to them help pick up a seat in Congress,” he says. “I think that right now, you have [43] members of the Congressional Black Caucus. When redistricting is over, you’ll have the same number.”

In the historically-black District of Columbia, the African-American population decreased by 11.5 percent between 2000 and 2010. In contrast, the Black population in nearby Charles County in Maryland doubled as African-Americans departed the District.

David Bositis, senior research associate at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies in Washington, D.C., doesn’t expect the Black population decrease to have a huge impact on the city’s political scene.

“By and large, white voters have almost always had a major say in D.C. politics, so the fact that D.C. is becoming less Black isn’t really changing the politics,” Bositis says. “The exception is Marion Barry. He was the only politician in D.C. who was able to win without white support.” The former mayor is a City Council member.

Nationally, Black movement away from cities will eventually give minorities more political clout in areas where they settle, Bositis says. He adds, though, that this phenomenon will take time because the black and Latino population is on average younger than the white population.

“Certainly in the future, it’s going to represent an advantage but not immediately because younger people are not as politically active as older people are, and the white population is getting quite old,” he says.

(America’s Wire is an independent, non-profit news service run by the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education. America’s Wire is made possible by a grant from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation. For more information, visit www.americaswire.org or contact Michael K. Frisby at mike@frisbyassociates.com.)

U.S. Debt Talks Mired in Theater

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Medicare cuts, controversial executive powers could be in play as deadline nears

By Charles D. Ellison, Special to the NNPA from The Philadelphia Tribune –

WASHINGTON — While the White House and Congress clash like JoS. A. Bank-suited gladiators in a tamed scene from “Spartacus,” a rapidly approaching debt ceiling deadline looms on the horizon: Aug. 2.

Fears abound over fiscal “Apocalypse Now” — scenes of bomb runs dropping napalm on economic sanity with House Republican freshmen on the side lines yelling about “loving the smell of default in the morning.” Contrary to some opinions, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) really wants a deal. Yet, there are mixed signals emanating from the House GOP leadership helm. He’s waving his arms about, flashing his tan, and waxed polemic during a recent press conference about “… no agreement in public or in private” regarding the debt ceiling.

“It’s not like there’s some imminent deal about to happen,” goes Boehner in his trademark avuncular style and Cincinnati chest thump. “There are serious disagreements about how to deal with this very serious problem.”

But, that just means he’s instigating for an eventual deal, poking and prodding for the limits in the conversation. He still acknowledges that if the debt ceiling is not raised by Aug. 2, the nation will be in “an awful lot of jeopardy.”

Moments out on the links chuckling over putts and drives probably brought both Boehner and President Barack Obama a bit closer together in these remaining weeks before the nightmare of Greek-like chaos hits stateside. No one can be for certain. But, both of their respective offices remain tight-lipped and wary of confirming unofficial weekend meetings between the two.

“We’re not going to get into specific meetings, or read them out, or preview them, because we believe that is the right approach to increase our chances of reaching an agreement,” said White House Press Secretary Jay Carney rather dryly last week.

“If you can find people who would rather know the content of an individual meeting the president may or may not have had with a member of Congress than an actual accomplishment from Washington, I’ll buy you lunch,” Carney joked further.

Which annoys many of the Hill’s Democrats — especially progressives — even further upon hearing reports of a president calling all bluffs with plans for an even bigger deal: $4 trillion. While talks have slumbered on for months over $1 trillion in cuts for the short term and $2 trillion just to get by until the 2012 election cycle, the White House pushes a messy mountain of chips on the table with $4 trillion in proposed cuts over the next decade.

An endless loop of reports and grapevine gossip from the White House suggested many of the savings will come out of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. That seemed to align with the timing of a sudden and rather unprecedented enthusiasm in the debt ceiling talks as the president began injecting himself into the conversation out of frustration that Vice President Joe Biden’s cozy-over-tea Blair House talks weren’t going anywhere.

That’s alarming House Democrats — even while they see a political opportunity to reinsert themselves while helping Boehner rally the votes needed to offset insurgent Republican members unwilling to support a debt ceiling package.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), convinced that proposed draconian GOP cuts on Social Security and Medicare will offer vindication and a return to power in 2012, was on fire later in the week when White House budget director Jack Lew attempted to sell wolf tickets. “Don’t insult us,” blasted Pelosi in a comeback-girl pose that pushed Lew back in his committee hearing seat. “You guys don’t know how to count.”

Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD) was also jumping into the discussion, on talking point with Pelosi, as Democrats — for the first time in a while — seemed disciplined and on message. Edwards, one of many Congressional Black Caucus Members miffed with their former alum-turned-president on a number of fronts, definitely wants to have that discussion “down the line … making sure [entitlements] are stable and solvent.” She’s animate during a brief YouTube interview on Crewof42.com: “But, let’s not conflate the issues. They didn’t cause the deficit and they don’t need to be on the table.”

“The debt ceiling talks are far more than political theatre,” says Lauren Burke, a longtime CBC watcher and chief editor of Crewof42.com. “They are the first step in what may be a major and fundamental change in how the federal government treats low income citizens. That Social Security is a part of the negotiations provides a window into what the GOP is really about: moving money going to the government into private sector hands.”

But while skirmishes on the Hill erupt into uncertainty over whether or not leaders of both parties can come to agreement, there is increasing noise surrounding a nuclear option progressives are eager for the president to engage: the 14th Amendment.

Formerly a long shot, liberals in the fray are now invoking the Constitution as zealously as tea party conservatives, arguing that there shouldn’t even be a discussion or debate on the debt ceiling since it’s “unconstitutional.” Should debt ceiling negotiations fail, argue the talking head class, the President is well within his authority to simply shut the (tea) party down and impose the 14th Amendment.

Katrina vanden Heuvel, unapologetic liberal chief editor for The Nation, calls it “Obama’s best option” in a recent Washington Post op-ed. With that backdrop, President Obama may find that there is only one course left to avoid a global economic calamity: Invoke Section 4 of the 14th Amendment, which says that “‘the validity of the public debt of the United States … shall not be questioned.’ This constitutional option is one that the president alone may exercise.”

University of Baltimore law professor Garrett Epps claims he’s the first to have sparked the public flame on the topic, promoting the idea that even though “Constitutional interpretation is rarely cut and dried … a lot of executive power specialists have looked at it and taken it seriously.”

“It's not a nutty idea, let me put it that way,” contends Epps. “The situation hasn't ever arisen before to my knowledge.”

“There is a very serious argument that the debt ceiling itself is needless, and even unconstitutional,” observes Epps. “Certainly there's nothing in the Constitution providing for or requiring a debt ceiling. Many scholars argue that when Congress appropriates funds it implicitly authorizes the Treasury to borrow to pay the appropriated monies, and that a separate statute can't prevent the funds from being expended unless it explicitly repeals the appropriation.”

But, former Republican Rep. Ernest Istook (R-OK), now a Distinguished Fellow at the Heritage Foundation, profoundly disagrees. “No. The 14th Amendment does not give absolute authority to the president regarding the debt. That interpretation certainly conflicts with Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution, which gives power to Congress to borrow and determine the debt of the United States.”

Istook contends that the initial purpose of the 14th Amendment was related to post-Civil War factors, “… a way to ensure the U.S. was not going to pay the debts of the Confederacy. Not to give anyone authority over the debt. That requires a certain level of selectivity and prioritizing that only the Congress can do.”

Istook points to Sen. Pat Toomey’s (R-PA) proposed Full Faith and Credit Act legislation as a step in that direction. Toomey is looking for a way to service the debt while dramatically reining in spending.

Epps contends that if the President were to call on the Constitution as an impasse-breaker to avoid a meltdown in the global markets, it “would unquestionably be a constitutional crisis” — which could be an even worse situation.

“I would expect the only two mechanisms to solve it would be a) a move to impeach the President and/or b) the 2012 elections, which would allow the people to weigh in,” says Epps. “I don't see a way in which a presidential decision to breach the debt ceiling could make it to federal court. On the other hand, if the U.S. defaults on its obligations there will unquestionably be lawsuits against the U.S., which the U.S. will lose.”

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