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At Last Haiti Gets a Government

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By Tony Best, Special to the NNPA from the New York Carib News –

After almost five months of delays, Haiti has gotten a full operational government headed by Dr. Garry Conille, gynecologist and former United Nations official in Africa. And as if that news wasn’t good enough for President Michel Martelly, the newly elected President of the Creole-speaking Caribbean nation, the UN Security Council has voted unanimously to extend the mandate of the military mission in the Caribbean country, albeit at lower levels.

With Haitians at home and abroad taking a wait-and-see attitude towards the new Conille Administration, the Chamber of Deputies in Port-au-Prince endorsed a 17-member cabinet and the policy platform outlined by the new Prime Minister. The 81 favorable votes and the seven abstentions gave the government the kind of solid support it needs to get programs through the legislature. But the vote didn’t eliminate all of the questions about Conille, especially about his loyalty to Haitians, given his relationship with former U.S. President Bill Clinton, the UN representative who co-chairs the panel that supervises the multi-billion dollar reconstruction of the nation. The panel was established after last year’s devastating earthquake, which left at least 220,000 people dead and more than half million homeless victims still living in tent cities, almost two years after the 2010 disaster.

“There are some people in the Haitian community who wonder about his commitment to Haitians, in view of his links with former President Clinton,” said Ricoh Dupuis, manager of Radio Soleil in Brooklyn. They worry because Clinton is co-chair of the reconstruction panel and the Prime Minister is the other chairman.” The vote in the Chamber of Deputies came after a 14-hour debate which many had feared could lead to further delays in the installation of the government over the allocation of ministerial posts. Some elected officials were said to be jockeying for appointment to the cabinet. But the stamp of approval came despite the failed aspirations of some of the elected representatives.

The Senate also approved Conille’s political program and the cabinet. P.J. Patterson, Caricom’s representative in Haiti and a former Prime Minister of Jamaica, had previously expressed regret that the efforts to appoint a head of government were slowing down the reconstruction program. But there was more positive news for President Martelly. The Security Council voted in New York on Friday to extend the UN military and police presence in Haiti, MINUSTAH, for another year but agreed that the troop levels should be reduced by about 2,800, going from 13,300 to 10,581. The decision to keep the troops in Haiti was in a response to pleas by both Martelly and Valere Amos, UN Under-Secretary-General for humanitarian affairs and coordinator of disaster relief, who wanted a continued UN Military presence in Haiti.

As President Martell explained to the UN, the recovery efforts had at times “stumbled” but they were still needed for the foreseeable future. Amos took a broader view, insisting that “the earthquakes in Haiti and Pakistan have raised questions about how quickly we are getting to the people who need assistance and how to make that assistance more effective. The donor countries want to know about the effectiveness of the humanitarian responses. That’s why we have a reform agenda across the humanitarian system.” With about 60 percent of the several billions of dollars pledged by the international community to rebuild the earthquake ravaged nation paid up, the UN Security Council obviously agreed with Martelly and Amos that it would have been a mistake for the UN to pull out now.

That decision met with approval from the Haitian Diaspora in New York, Florida and elsewhere. Immigrants had demonstrated near the UN in September and earlier this month after some highly publicized incidents of sexual assault, alleged wanton destruction of public property, the introduction of Cholera into the country and the hanging of a young man, allegedly by UN troops. “We welcome the decision to reduce the troops levels because there wasn’t a need for them,” said Harry Fouche’, a former Haitian Consul-General in New York.

“The scandals involving the UN troops and the introduction of cholera into the country by UN forces from Nepal were tragic and couldn’t be condoned.” UN troops from Uruguay were caught on tape raping a young Haitian man; soldiers from the Pacific were withdrawn after being accused of sexual assaults of women and Nigerian soldiers were said to have abused their authority in Haiti. Assessing conditions, Ban Ki-Moon, UN Secretary-General told reporters recently in New York that the “situation in Haiti remains fragile and we must be aware of reversals that could cause a new crisis.” But he was quick to insist that “Haiti’s future stability and prosperity will continue to depend on the political will of its leaders and citizen.” Several Caribbean leaders or their foreign ministers have urged the UN to step up its reconstruction efforts in Haiti. One of them was T. Brent Symonette, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, who called on the “international community to be generous in contributing to the Haitian Recovery Fund and very specifically we call on donor states to honor their pledges, some of which remain dishearteningly outstanding.”

Report Finds Waste in Money, Lives in Somali War

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Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network –

A new report published by the Washington-based Center for American Progress provides detailed evidence of the exorbitant amount of money and millions of lives lost in the ongoing strife in Somalia – all without producing positive change.

Specifically, in the past 20 years, the war with western powers has taken as many as 1.5 million lives and cost about $55 billion. Some 750 fatalities were recorded among the Ugandan and Burundian troops that comprise the Africa Union Mission in Somalia.

The international bill for piracy is estimated at $22 billion. Humanitarian and development aid is said to have totalled $13 billion, and the Somali diaspora is believed to have sent $11.2 billion in remittances to their families trapped in the East African country since the collapse of the Siad Barre regime in 1991.

The overall outlay for Somalia may seem “modest” in comparison with the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, “but what’s remarkable is how little we have to show for it,” write co-authors Bronwyn Bruton and John Norris in the report called “Twenty Years of Collapse and Counting.”

“By and large, the U.S. government ends up spending far more time and money responding to crises or tinkering with tactical responses than preventing crises or nurturing effective peace building efforts,” commented the authors.

Additionally, wrote the authors, “this accounting makes clear that Western policymakers are wildly uneven in their approach to Somalia. They are willing to spend vast sums in some areas such as dealing with piracy, while in other areas they take an approach bordering on malignant neglect.”

The full report can be found on www.amercanprogress.org

Medicaid Cuts Hurt African-Americans, Latinos Most of All

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Special to the NNPA from The Washington Informer –

Major cuts to Medicaid would have a disproportionately harsh effect on African-Americans and Latinos, according to a new report released recently by a coalition of major health, civil rights and consumer groups.

The report, "Medicaid: A Lifeline for Blacks and Latinos with Serious Health Care Needs," reveals that making cuts to Medicaid fails to reduce costs, instead it shifts the burden to states, families, hospitals and the uninsured. In fact, in some cases, the report notes, cutting assistance for treatment can actually increase costs over the long run.

"As policymakers consider sharp cutbacks in the Medicaid program, this report brings an important potential consequence of their actions to the table – that cutting Medicaid will likely hit hardest at communities of color and, in particular, those who depend on the program to manage and treat their chronic illnesses," said Ralph B. Everett, president and CEO of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies.

Among African -Americans, according to the report's findings, those relying on Medicaid for ongoing medical treatment amount to more than one in five individuals with cancer (21.9 percent, an estimated 141,000 people), nearly one in four diabetics (24.4 percent, 778,000), well over a third of chronic lung disease sufferers (37.0 percent, 1.4 million), and more than one in five who suffer from heart disease or have had a stroke (21.6 percent, 1.9 million).

For Latinos, those relying on Medicaid include nearly one in four who have cancer (24.5 percent, or nearly 105,000 people) , more than one-quarter of diabetics (25.6 percent, 692,000), nearly two in five chronic lung disease patients (39.8 percent, 1.4 million), and nearly a quarter of those being treated for heart disease or stroke (23.2 percent, 1.4 million).

"There are critical disparities in the delivery of health care to black and Latino communities, which contributes to a higher incidence and greater severity of chronic and serious health conditions in those communities," said Ron Pollack, Executive Director of Families USA. "That medical reality, combined with the fact that these communities tend to have lower incomes, means that Medicaid is a vital lifeline in protecting the health and well-being of these Americans."

Families USA, The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, the American Diabetes Association, the American Lung Association, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the National Council of La Raza, the National Medical Association, and the National Urban League Policy Institute collaborated to produce the report.

New NAACP Program Targets Childhood Obesity

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By Ben Wrobel, Guest Writer, Special to the NNPA from the Atlanta Voice –

WASHINGTON — With a few steps to the left and a few steps to the right, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin recently demonstrated the NAACP's renewed focus on healthy living and childhood obesity. Benjamin danced the "Cupid Shuffle" with students from Washington, D.C.'s Ward 7 and Ward 8, two areas with the highest obesity rates in the city.

The exercise took place during the NAACP's launch event for its Childhood Obesity Advocacy Guide at the historic Thurgood Marshall Center.

"It is no secret that if not eradicated, childhood obesity will be one of the many causes of premature deaths and chronic disease for our children," said NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous.

"The NAACP treasures the lives of our children and will stand with communities to fight against any systemic or environmental barriers that inhibit one's opportunity to live a healthy life."

Jealous and NAACP Director of Health Programs Shavon Arline introduced the guide along with a panel of health experts, including Benjamin. The guide provides direction for combating childhood obesity in three highlighted policy areas: external environment, food environments and school-based policies.

It calls for more recreational areas, increased access to healthy, affordable food in order to combat "food deserts" and a renewed focus on healthy policies in schools, such as more physical activity and nutritious food options.

"The three advocacy approaches were chosen for the guide because they are the primary policy areas that affect childhood obesity," Arline said.

"They also serve as some of the most appealing causes around which to mobilize communities, particularly because the issues are easy to identify and affect community members in tangible and direct ways."

"With active units in every state throughout the United States, we believe we are well equipped to engage community and state leaders in this fight to save this and the next generation," Arline added.

Childhood obesity is a major issue in communities of color, where children are more likely to be obese and live in unsafe communities where there are few opportunities for physical activity and limited access to healthy food.

In the United States today, 38 percent of Latino children and 34.9 percent of African-American children are overweight or obese, compared with 30.7 percent of white children.

"We are emphasizing good eating habits, lots of exercise, lots of play. We want Americans to have fun, and to enjoy being active," Benjamin said. "We are intending to create communities and environments where the healthy choices are the easy choices, and the affordable choices."

Joining the NAACP leaders were CommonHealth Action President and co-founder Natalie S. Burke, whose organization co-wrote the report, and John Govea, senior program officer of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which funded the report.

Democratic National Committee Names Hinton Diversity Chief

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By Herbert L. White, Special to the NNPA from The Charlotte Post –

The Democratic National Committee has a new diversity chief.

Greg Hinton will become chief diversity officer of the organizations starting Oct. 24, making him the first ever for the national party. Hinton, chief diversity officer of US Cellular and a Chicago native, will advise the Democratic National Convention Committee and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee on diversity staffing and minority procurement for the 2012 convention in Charlotte.

“Diversity in hiring, contracting and procurement has always been of utmost importance to the Democratic Party and I’m proud to serve in this role to help maintain that commitment,” Hinton said in a statement. “Our party is stronger because of our diversity, and in this new role I will be working to make sure we are harnessing our diverse experiences and points of view in the most effective way possible. I am honored to be doing this work on behalf of the President (Barack Obama) and the Democratic Party and believe this new position is a reflection of the party’s strong commitment to diversity and inclusion.”

Hinton’s appointment was made at the recommendation of the DNC’s Budget and Finance Committee. The DNCC and DCCC also took roles to fill the position after controversy over the role of minority vendors at the convention. Hinton’s job will be developing diversity goals and implementation.

“We’re thrilled to have Greg Hinton join the DNC as the chief diversity officer,” DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz said. “The Democratic Party has long been dedicated to including talented people who reflect the diversity of our great country, and Greg will bring his talents to bear as we make sure we are living up to that commitment. I’m proud we’re taking this critical step forward and look forward to working closely with Greg as we strive to take our values of inclusion and strength through diversity to the next level.”

In addition to US Cellular, Hinton has worked at Abbott Labs and Pepsi General Bottlers as well as the health care and nonprofit fields, developing and implementing inclusion programs for supplier diversity and human resources.

“Our whole team at the DCCC is excited to have Greg Hinton join us and continue our strong commitment to diversity,” DCCC Chairman Steve Israel said. This new position is a reflection of the Democratic Party’s continuing and unyielding belief that diversity is a strength and we look forward to Greg’s work to help us honor that tradition.”

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BVN National News Wire