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Questions for Sudan Amidst South Succession

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By Saeed Shabazz, Special to the NNPA from The Final Call –

UNITED NATIONS - The news reports concerning Africa's newest nation, South Sudan, seem to change with the wind. But one thing is for sure, South Sudan gained its official independence July 9 and eyes will be on the capital Juba that day, particularly to see if Northern Sudanese President Omar Hassan Al-Bashir showed up.

President Al-Bashir has a warrant against him from the International Criminal Court, issued in 2009 on charges of alleged war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide for alleged atrocities in the Western region of Darfur. He has categorically denied the charges, saying the ICC is a tool of neo-colonialism. Some are saying the ICC charges were a bargaining chip, used as leverage by Western nations to marginalize President Al-Bashir and to weaken his opposition to secession by the South.

A referendum vote on secession was a big part of the 2005 comprehensive Peace Agreement, which ended two decades of civil war that began in 1983, between Northern Sudan and Southern Sudan.

The Sudan Tribune reported June 28 that an official invite had been extended to President Al-Bashir, despite threats from Western leaders, such as President Barack Obama, French President Nicholas Sarkozy, and British Prime Minister David Cameron that they would not participate in Juba if President Al-Bashir was present.

On June 29, the Associated Press reported officials in South Sudan want the U.S. to remove economic sanctions against the North in place since 1997, when then-President Bill Clinton said Sudan supported terrorists such as Osama Bin Laden.

AP revealed the vice president of South Sudan spent three weeks in the U.S. recently in discussions with the Obama administration and ambassadors representing the United Nations Security Council, attempting to get them to realize U.S. sanctions against the Northern regime in Khartoum serve no real purpose today. Since the peace agreement, North and South have shared oil revenues equally, with the lion's-share of the 500,000 barrels a day coming from the South, according to the European Coalition on Oil in Sudan, a group of organizations who say they want to ensure equitable distribution of Sudan's oil wealth.

But, according to the finance minister in Khartoum, the result of the South's secession will be a 36.5 percent drop in revenue. A recent press briefing by a senior U.S. State Department official alluded to the need for agreement between North and South. “They are so intertwined economically that they can hurt each other and hurt themselves very badly, whether it's oil, new currencies, trade or border issues,” said the State Department.

The official then poured salt on the wound, saying the only path for Khartoum was to find peace in Darfur to get back into the good graces of the international community because the North has “major economical adjustments to make.”

Observers say Washington has opposed Northern Sudan receiving support from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund as a state sponsor of terrorism. News sources in Washington say the administration is preparing to remove Sudan from its blacklist of nation's sponsoring terrorism, but that is contingent on the Al-Bashir government pulling of its army from the contested border region Abyei.

On June 20, the North and South signed an interim agreement in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where the African Union is headquartered, to demilitarize Abyei.

The U.N. Security Council, on June 27, passed a unanimous resolution that establishes a 4,200 Ethiopian peacekeeping force known as UNISFA (United Nations Interim Force for Abyei). The peacekeeping force would monitor redeployment of the Sudan Armed Forces and the southern Sudan People's Liberation Army from the Abyei region, roughly the size of Connecticut.

The resolution charges the interim force with facilitating delivery of humanitarian aid and the free movement of relief workers. UNISFA troops would also provide security for the region's oil infrastructure.

Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said her government “welcomed the agreement,” but said nothing about lifting sanctions against Khartoum.

Guineans Fuming Over Media's Treatment of Alleged Victim in Strauss-Kahn Case

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

When former Socialist candidate for the presidency, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, was released from house arrest when new evidence challenged the charges against him for the attempted rape of an African hotel maid at a luxury hotel in NYC, the move enraged many of her fellow countrymen.

Strauss-Kahn (known as “DSK”) was released on allegations that the victim – a young Muslim woman from Guinea - might have lied to the Grand Jury and misrepresented certain facts.

Strauss Kahn had been held in detention since his arrest May 15th while seated in a plane bound for his home country France.

Mamoudou Diallo, eldest brother to the Guinean hotel maid, disputed the accusations against his sister that included headlines in the New York Post calling her a prostitute. "They're nothing but lies, all to discredit my sister,” he said bitterly. A lawsuit has been filed against the Post, alleging slander.

The alleged victim of sexual assault comes from the village of Thiacoule, 280 miles from the capital, Conakry. It is a staunch Muslim community, which survives on communal farming and cattle. She was described as a hard worker.

Thierno Maadjo Sow, president of the Guinean Organization for Human Rights asserted that, "In this case it's all about the strong against the weak."

"Even if they find something compromising about this young lady, that doesn't prove that nothing happened and that Strauss-Kahn didn't try to do something he shouldn't have," added Souleymane Bah, a communications expert.

“What matters most in this case is this: is DSK guilty yes or no? Did he try to rape this young woman yes or no? It's this question we need to find an answer to," Bah said. Strauss-Kahn still faces charges that he sexually assaulted the young woman.

Meanwhile, in France, a 32-year-old French author, Tristane Banon, has filed new charges against DSK. Her mother is a prominent member of the French Socialist party. Banon claims Strauss-Kahn tried to rape her when she interviewed him in 2002.

Chicago to Hold Banks Responsible for Foreclosed Property

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By J. Coyden Palmer, Special to the NNPA from The Chicago Crusader –

In an effort to combat the problem of abandoned properties in Chicago neighborhoods, the City Council approved an ordinance that will hold lending institutions responsible for the upkeep of properties foreclosed upon. The move comes as community groups have become increasingly vocal over the last few weeks because of an upsurge in crime during the summer months. Residents say the abandoned buildings create a crime haven for drug dealers, gang members and squatters. The buildings also cost taxpayers. As of last year the, city spent $15 million for general upkeep, demolition and board-ups of abandoned properties. “All too often, communities are devastated by foreclosures as vacant properties fall into disrepair and the City takes on an unnecessary financial burden,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said. “This ordinance will help protect neighborhoods hit hard by these difficult economic times. This issue affects every part of the city… but is concentrated in communities that need all the help they can get to stay afloat.”

Council members say they too have grown tired of fielding complaints from constituents about bank properties not being taken care of. Several aldermen said the problem has gotten so out of control, due to the bad economy, they have had to assign a staff member full-time for just this one issue. “I’ve had to call my ward superintendent several times to have him clean out yards and talk with my police commanders when we have squatters going in buildings. This ordinance will work to ensure that entire communities are not left behind when individual properties are foreclosed upon,” said the alderman who introduced the ordinance, Pat Dowell. “Banks will be responsible for keeping vacant properties from deteriorating while the foreclosure is in process, keeping them secure and keeping our neighborhoods intact.”

The issue of vacant buildings and squatters is a serious one. This past winter, two firefighters were killed and a dozen more injured as they battled a blaze on the South Side. Investigators believe the fire was started by homeless people who were using the heat to keep warm on a cold winter night. Vacant buildings also create other problems, according to Action Now, a community-based group that focuses on social issues in Chicago neighborhoods. Marsha Godard, a representative for the group, worked with Dowell to address the foreclosure issue. A resident of North Lawndale, Godard said vacant buildings pull down the morale of the neighborhood, in addition to creating health problems.

“It’s an eyesore to the community to have grass as tall as me,” said Godard, who added there are four abandoned buildings on her block alone. “It’s not a good feeling when I go home and I feel bad because in this neighborhood you can’t even let your kids go outside to play because you are fearful they can be pulled into one of the vacant properties and beaten, raped or killed. And because of the economy, you can’t move anywhere, so you are stuck in this environment.”

Godard said abandon buildings also become nests for rats, roaches, possums and she has even had a raccoon as a neighbor. She said the wildlife creates health concerns for not just humans, but for pets as well. On her block, neighbors have taken it upon themselves as a community to try to keep the abandoned properties clean. But even that is difficult. “The gang members come and just take over. They drink and just throw their beer and wine bottles all over other people’s property so we are constantly cleaning.”

Currently, lenders and lien holders of vacant properties are responsible for maintenance only after they own a foreclosed property. The ordinance amends the current municipal code. Owners will be required to implement routine maintenance on properties such as boarding entrances to a building; responding to complaints relating to the building; cutting grass and shoveling snow or face fines from

Proposed Federal Budget Cuts Could End HUD Counseling

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By Charlene Crowell, NNPA Columnist –

As President Obama and Congress strive to resolve different priorities in the nation’s 2012 federal budget, some are proposing an end to the only federal program that provides valuable housing counseling to millions of Americans. Majority members of a House subcommittee seek to zero out the $87.5 million program offering at-risk services has helped serve more than 11 million Americans since 2006. The range of services offered benefit homebuyers, homeowners, renters, and the homeless.

Housing advocates are also warning against the likely scams that will result from the service void.

If allowed to be axed from the new budget, not only will thousands of people not be served; but thousands of housing counselors will be laid off and some local agencies could close their doors. Most importantly, the homeowners now facing foreclosure will no longer have qualified, reliable and free services in their local communities.

In response, housing advocates have only a few days to organize and present an online petition supporting preservation of the counseling services. Although, at press time, over 2,000 people had signed the petition begun by the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, (http://www.change.org/petitions/tell-congress-restore-housing-counseling-to-keep-people-in-their-homes), many more signatures will be required to overcome the proposed cut.

While many foreclosures have occurred in urban areas, there are signs that future scams will occur in suburbs as well. Just a few days ago, Supreme Court Justices in Nassau County, New York froze the multi-million dollar assets of two companies that demanded upfront fees in exchange for a promise to secure mortgage modifications. Reportedly, the firms took money from more than 1,000 families across the country.

In suburban Bucks County, Pennsylvania, Marci Polokoff, a counselor told her suburban paper, The Courier Times, “One of my biggest concerns, knowing all this funding is going away, [is that] a lot of scams are probably going to pick up because people aren’t going to get the free services that were out there. They’re grasping for straws trying to find somebody to help them. They’re not going to be educated not to [fall for scams].”

The According to the Coalition of HUD Housing Counseling Intermediaries, the need for housing services already exceeds current funding levels. A significant number of those served were senior homeowners. HUD data shows that 430,000 seniors were counseled on reverse mortgages as an option to preserve their financial independence.

Research from the Center for Responsible Lending confirms that from January 2007-2009, 2.5 million foreclosures were completed and an additional 5.7 million homes are in imminent risk of foreclosure. Additionally, the Federal Reserve Board, National Council on Aging, the Urban Institute, and the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard have all concluded that housing counseling is an important prevention against further foreclosures.

Currently, free federally-funded housing counseling services administered by local service agencies offer:

*Pre-purchase counseling and education for first-time homebuyers
*Post-purchase counseling and education for homeowners
*Reverse mortgage counseling for senior homeowners
*Renter counseling, including for families transitioning out of homeownership
*Counseling for homeless individuals and families seeking shelter or other transitional housing

With demonstrated consumer needs matched by respected research findings, it is indeed odd that some in Congress would prefer cutting proven services. But, this development is also an important reminder that ours is a participatory democracy. As citizens, we must stand up and speak to preserve what works for our nation.

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.

Crisis at B-CU, Florida's Largest HBCU: Part I

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Compiled by the Florida Courier Staff –

The surprising termination of Bethune-Cookman University (B-CU) Head Basketball Coach Clifford Reed – after the most successful basketball season at the school in 30 years – is the latest of a series of personnel decisions by B-CU President Trudie Kibbe Reed that has the school lurching from management of one crisis to another.

Here’s what’s happened at B-CU in just the last month:

— After terminating seven instructors in 2009, the Reed administration was placed on the American Association of University Professors’ (AAUP) list of “censured administrations,” which means that conditions for academic freedom and tenure are unsatisfactory at a college or university. B-CU is now one of only 47 institutions nationwide on the censure list.

The AAUP found that “in many instances critical to academic freedom and tenure, the university had no published procedures, and where it did, the (Reed) administration often failed to follow them, producing a chilling effect on academic freedom.” Notably, Reed’s administration had been previously censured by AAUP under similar circumstances in 2004, when she was president of Philander Smith College in Little Rock, Ark. There, she fired an instructor for insubordination.

B-CU responded dismissively to the AAUP report.

"This (AAUP) report, which concerns the termination of seven faculty members by B-CU in 2009, contains many errors and false assertions and presents a one-sided view of the manner in which the university handled the matters in question,” said Pamela G. Browne, the school’s general counsel, in a statement.

The university released its own report written by civil rights attorney David Honig that justified the terminations and cited support for its decision by the Rev. Al Sharpton, the National Council of Negro Women and Adora Obi Nweze, president of the Florida State Conference of NAACP Branches.

— Four of the former B-CU professors of the seven Reed fired – Russell Mootry, Trebor Negron, Smart Uhakheme and John Ukawuilulu – filed a lawsuit rebutting allegations that they were having sexual relations off-campus with female students for years. Mootry had taught at the school for some 30 years. Their lawsuit alleges that Reed and the university defamed them, breached their employment contract and tenure provisions, and wrongfully terminated them. They also claim that Reed and the school fired them in retaliation for making her aware of violations of law that were happening under her watch, including alleged embezzlement, theft, and vendor kickbacks.

B-CU was just served with the lawsuit last week and has yet to respond. In its response to AAUP, the university claims that the professors were threats to student safety and were terminated legally and accordingly.

— Last week, B-CU lost the best baseball coach in school history and its entire coaching staff to another historically Black college or university (HBCU). Mervyl Melendez resigned to go Alabama State University – and took his championship staff with him.

Melendez was 379-320 in 12 seasons as head coach and led the B-CU Wildcats to 11 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) titles and NCAA tournament appearances, including six straight regional games.

He also played for the Wildcats. He is the school’s all-time leader in doubles and batting average. Melendez made the first HBCU All-American Team in 1996. He was an All-MEAC and All-MEAC Tournament selection in 1995 and 1996. His parting from B-CU was more amicable than the others.

"Mervyl is pound-for-pound one of the best coaches I have ever been around," said B-CU Director of Athletics Lynn W. Thompson in a statement, "but he is a far greater husband, father, and teacher than that. It has truly been an honor to watch him bloom into a legend, and I wish him well in his search for life's next challenge. We truly hate to see him leave the campus, but he can never leave our family."

Melendez said Alabama State made “an offer I couldn’t refuse,” including a commitment to make financial resources available to improve its baseball program. Alabama State also has a new baseball facility.

— The Alvin Wyatt lawsuit continues and is in the fact-finding phase. The school fired former head football coach Alvin “Shine’’ Wyatt, Sr. at the end of the 2009 season immediately after B-CU lost badly to archrival Florida A&M University (FAMU) at the Florida Classic in Orlando.

Soon thereafter, Wyatt filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against B-CU. Court records indicate that Wyatt has asked the trial court to set a date for a jury trial. He also has moved aggressively to have Reed and B-CU’s top leadership answer questions under oath before a court reporter, a procedure known as a “deposition.” Court records also show that on May 25, B-CU submitted an offer to Wyatt to settle the case.

Wyatt, a Jacksonville native, played for the Wildcats from 1966 to 1969, where he was an all-conference and All-American player. He has the school career records in interceptions (34) and a 100-yard kickoff return. His five interceptions in a single game is still a school record.

After earning his degree from the former Bethune-Cookman College in 1970, he was drafted by the NFL’s Oakland Raiders in 1970. He spent four years in pro football before returning to B-CC in 1975 as an assistant coach under former Miami Dolphin Larry Little.

Wyatt was later named defensive coordinator and helped the Wildcats win the MEAC title in 1984. In 1988, Wyatt's defense helped B-CC gain a share of the MEAC title with FAMU and Delaware State.

He became B-CC's ninth head coach in 1996, won a MEAC title in 2002, and in 2008 became the school’s all-time winningest coach, passing the legendary Rudolph “Bunky” Matthews.

Wyatt also was a girls basketball coach for 18 years, compiling a 260-200 record and winning two MEAC titles.

School successes
During Reed’s tenure, B-CU has had major and minor successes.

Bethune-Cookman College became a university in 2007 and was reaccredited in 2010, which means it meets all university academic and operational standards. New campus facilities are being built.

Students in science, math and engineering recently won first place in robotics in a regional competition. The university was approved to institute a new master’s degree in integrated environmental science. It has successfully applied for modest grants – $50,000 from Home Depot for campus improvements, $64,000 to partner with the local health department to push healthy lifestyles.

But still, on-campus and courtroom drama continues.

No Hollywood ending
Coach Reed and his son, star point guard C.J. Reed, had been lauded nationwide for leading the Wildcats to their first winning season since joining Division I in 1980-81. B-CU went 21-13 overall and 13-3 in the MEAC, winning the regular season crown.

The Wildcats made their first-ever postseason appearance with a trip to the National Invitational Tournament, losing to Virginia Tech in the opening round. Reed was MEAC Coach and National Association of Black Coaches, Coach of the Year for Region 15. C.J. was named MEAC Player of the Year, HBCU Player of the Year and HBCU First Team All-American.

It all came crashing down Monday when B-CU announced in a 51-word press release that after an internal administrative review, Coach Reed would not return, his contract would not be renewed, and his employment was terminated effective immediately.

Why the termination?
The reason depends on whom you ask. The university says it’s because Coach Reed refused to cooperate with a criminal investigation surrounding a rape allegation against his players – with his son as the prime suspect. Coach Reed’s defenders say that as a father, he was required to help his son avail himself of his constitutional right to retain legal counsel when the son became the focus of the criminal investigation.

The salacious facts as listed in a Daytona Beach Police Department (DBPD) report are not in dispute.

A B-CU female athlete accused C.J. Reed of getting her drunk and either raping her himself or allowing four other unknown males to rape her, and taking her to a B-CU men’s locker room where an unknown male washed her off.

The allegation against C.J. Reed was made more than a month after the alleged incident and was prompted when the young woman’s coach saw a passion mark – a “hickey” – on her neck. She started crying and told her coach that she had been raped some 30 days before, according to the police report.

When DBPD investigators pressed her after she made her original police report, the young woman admitted that she had had a months-long consensual sexual relationship with C.J. as well as with one of his teammates, and that she was also having sex with her hometown boyfriend when she returned to South Florida. C.J. and his teammate each knew they were having sex with the young woman.

The young woman asked police to terminate their investigation and no criminal charges were ever filed.

No comment
When asked about the termination, Coach Reed told the Florida Courier, “I have no comment. I was terminated. I thank God for the support that I had and the school for the opportunity.”

The coach added, “It’s time to move on. God will bless me. My life doesn’t stop. I will continue to work hard and be a man of character and discipline. I put mine up against anyone that I have worked for or with.”

Player and coach
Like Wyatt, Coach Reed has deep roots at Bethune-Cookman.

A junior college transfer, Clifford Reed played two seasons for the Wildcats (1990-1991), averaging 21 points per game for his career. He led the Wildcats in scoring in both seasons and made a single-game school record eight three-point field goals and is 17th on the school’s career scoring list. He earned his bachelor’s degree in physical education in 1991.

Reed spent 14 seasons coaching the Wildcats. He was an assistant coach before taking over with 11 games remaining in the 2000-2001 season, going 6-5. In nine-plus seasons as head coach, Reed went 125-166, including three straight winning seasons dating back to 2008-2009.

His son, C.J, is now sixth on the school’s all-time career scoring list.

B-CU responses limited
When contacted by the Florida Courier, B-CU President Reed said, "I'm on vacation and I'm away and out of operation right now and I really ask you to help me and respect my vacation. I am really out of commission for doing university business right now. I won't be back until the 20th.

“Just to let you know, I've had some upper respiratory problems, came here and got another infection and so I'm just on bed rest. You can call Meredith Rodriguez; she will be glad to help you or my vice president Hiram Powell. Just call my office and ask them to transfer you to Dr. Powell or Meredith. Meredith is our P.R. person."

The representative answering the phone at Powell’s office said he is out of the country. Athletic Director Thompson did not return the Florida Courier’s phone calls or voicemail messages.

Rodriguez said that the Clifford Reed incident is an internal personnel matter and is under investigation and that therefore the university cannot comment at this time.

Next week: B-CU and due process.

Florida Courier reporters Andreas Butler, Ashley Thomas, James Harper and Jenise Morgan all contributed to this report.

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